How Do Muslims Prepare a Body Before a Funeral?

The right side of the body is washed first before a funeral.
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Muslims follow specific steps when preparing a body for an Islamic funeral. Before they conduct any prayers, the body is carefully washed and wrapped according to how the Prophet Muhammad recommends in the Quran. These practices show respect for the deceased and reverence for Islam.

1 Washing

Ideally, the person who washes the body is someone the deceased specifically chose for the task while she was alive. In every case, the person who conducts the washing should be considered pious and trustworthy. While the body is being washed with warm water and soap, the deceased's genitals should remain covered. First the stomach should be pressed on to remove any impurities from the system, and then the body is washed with a clean cloth. The Islamic Society of North America says the body should always be washed an odd number of times.

2 Grooming

After being washed, a body is groomed only minimally before an Islamic funeral. The hair of both men and women should be washed, and combed or brushed. If a woman has braids in, they must be loosened, and her hair is rebraided into three separate braids after being cleaned and brushed. Because grooming should remain humble, no cosmetics are used and the nails are not cut. Only non-alcoholic perfumes are used on the body.

3 Wrapping

Muslim bodies are wrapped in a Kafan, sometimes called a shroud. The cloth that is used is clean, white cotton. For men, three large pieces of fabric are traditionally used, while five pieces of cloth are used to wrap a female body. The entire body is covered with the Kafan, including the face; ripped pieces of the material are used as ties around the body to secure the larger pieces in place.

4 Gender Considerations

A male always washes and grooms a male body in preparation for burial, and a female washes and grooms a female body. An exception is in the case of a married couple, in which case one spouse may take care of the other's body. When the deceased is a child, any adult may wash and groom the body, regardless of gender.

Lara Webster has been writing professionally since 2009. Her work has been featured on Relationships in the Raw, The Nursery Book, Spark Trust and several travel-related websites. Webster holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in mass communication and media studies, both from San Diego State University.