Jan 6th, 2021
As Muslims, we believe that our Creator has honored mankind with many unique characteristics and blessings, and bestowed upon humankind a dignity that makes us a special creation. We are unique amongst the creation in both our body and our soul, as the Quran states, “And We have honored the Children of Adam” [17:70]. Part of that sanctity is demonstrated in how we treat our dead: as the vessel of our soul, it is honored and taken care of with the same dignity as if it were alive. The Prophet Muḥammad (SAW) instructed us to bury all corpses with dignity, and said, “Breaking the bones of a dead body is just as heinous as breaking the bones of a living person” [Abū Dawūd].
Based on these texts and more, it is of the principles of our faith that we take care of our deceased by giving specific rites to the bodies of our loved ones. These rites include: washing the body, shrouding it in clean garments, offering a special prayer over it, and then burying it in a demarcated graveyard. Each one of these rites is a solemn ceremony entrusted to the community, and brings comfort to the family and friends of the deceased.
Our faith does allow exceptions in dire situations, and we do understand that this COVID crisis we are in has occasionally made some aspects of these rituals difficult. Islamic law allows for concessions when needed. However, in no single country in the world is it mandatory to cremate the bodies of those who pass away as a result of the virus, and neither the World Health Organization nor any reputable medical association has recommended this drastic procedure.
In light of this, we urge all communities and governments around the globe to allow people to practice their respected faith-based rituals to the greatest extent possible on all COVID-related deaths. Allowing religious communities to follow their traditions will grant them some closure and comfort during difficult times; depriving them of such practices will exacerbate the pain of families who have lost a loved one. Today, the world is a dynamic, multi-cultural and multi-religious population, and honoring religious sensibilities will help maintain a healthy civil society.
Lastly, we pray to our Creator to lift from us this plague and calamity, and to protect all of our lands and societies from evil.