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Rules Related to a Dying Person - Part I

By: Ayatollah Tabatabai



One thing that a human being forgets despite being reminded repeatedly is death. Allah (S) has said in the Holy Qur'an:

"Every soul shall taste death" (Ali Imran, 3:185 )

One should try to keep in mind the fact that his or her life may come to an end at any time, sometimes without warning. We have seen young and old die before us, and consequently it is important that we should be well prepared to leave this world at all times.

Everyone tries to ensure that their journey through life is pleasant, by working hard to provide for themselves and their family as many worldly comforts as possible. Surprisingly, very few of the same people spare a thought to acquiring the comforts of the life after death. The span of our lives in this world is a blink of the eye compared to the length of the next life and only a very thoughtless person will not work tirelessly to make provisions for that life. An example is given to illustrate this fact.

Consider why you go to school and to higher education. You go to obtain enough knowledge and skills so that you may be able to earn your livelihood. The harder you work at your studies, the better your prospects. Similarly, you are in this world to perform the actions that will determine your status in the next world, and you must work hard.

You do your homework and observe school rules so that your stay in school is comfortable, but your aim is always to pass the final exams. Similarly, you acquire knowledge and wealth to make your stay in this world comfortable, but your aim has to be to obtain Allah's pleasure and reward.

The following words have been used extensively in the notes: therefore, their definitions have been given below. Wajib: Obligatory on every Baligh person. Wajibe Kifai: Obligatory on everyone who is Baligh, but if one person does it, then the others are freed from the responsibility. Ehtiyate Wajib: An obligatory precaution. Haraam: Forbidden to all Muslims. Mustahab: Recommended to perform. Makrooh: Not recommended to perform (undesirable, disliked by Allah).

What To Do Just Before Death


The time just before death is known as Ehtezaar or Sakaraat. The following action is Wajib

It is Wajib to lay a dying person on their back with the face and soles of feet facing Qiblah, if possible. The following actions are Mustahab

The people near the dying person should make him recite and understand Kalimae Shahadatayn, Kalimae Faraj, the names of the Twelve Imams (A) and other beliefs. This should be done to the last breath. According to Hadith, he whose last words are "La ilaha Illallah" shall enter Jannat.

To recite Surae Yasin, Wasaffat, Ahzab, Ayatul Kursi, 54th Ayat of Surae A'raaf, last 3 ayats of Surae Baqarah and to recite Holy Qur'an as much as possible near the head of a dying person. This will help the soul to depart peacefully.

If a dying person is in difficulty, he should be kept in a place he regularly said his prayers. It is better to also recite Du'ae Adeela in these cases. The following actions are Makrooh.

To leave the dying person alone. To lay hands on his body or to keep anything on his stomach. For those in the state of Haidh (Menses) or Janabat to stay near the dying person. To talk a lot or cry too much.

What To Do Just After Death:


The following actions are Wajibe Kifai:

Administering Ghusl, Kafan, Salaatul Mayyit and Burial. If nobody attends to these duties, everybody would be sinning. Committees are usually appointed to administer Ghusl and Kafan. The following action is Ehtiyate Wajib:

Before beginning the above rituals, permission of the Wali (Guardian) of the deceased be obtained. The following actions are Mustahab:

To close his lips, eyes and mouth; to keep his arms and legs straight and to cover the whole body with a sheet of cloth. To have sufficient lighting if it is dark. To inform and insist on Mu'mineen to take part in the burial. The following actions are Makrooh:

To leave the dead body alone. For those in the state of Haidh (Menses) or Janabat to go near the dead body. To delay the rituals before burial.

The Procedure Of Ghusl


It is Wajibe Kifai to give the body of every dead Muslim the Ghusls or ritual baths. Only in the case of a child miscarried before four months in the womb is Ghusl not necessary.

The people doing the Ghusl must not disclose any defects that they noticed on the dead body and Allah writes off the sins of these people in such a way as if they were born on the same day.

Three Ghusls must be administered to the corpse:

The first Ghusl is with Aabe-Sidr (water mixed with the leaves of the berry tree), the second with Aabe-Kaafur (water mixed with camphor) and the third with Aabe-Khalis (pure water). The following rules are relevant to the water used:

The leaves of the berry plant or camphor must not be in such a quantity as to change the colour of the water, so that the water mixtures become Aabe-Muzaf (impure water); nor so little that it cannot be distinguished whether the water has been mixed with camphor or berry leaves.

If one dies in the state of Ehram, camphor must not be used for the second Ghusl. In this case, both second and third Ghusls are performed with pure water.

In cases where camphor or berry leaves are not available, or if they are Ghasbi the respective Ghusls may instead be performed with pure water. In such cases, it is Ehtiyate Wajib that the corpse be given Tayammum (with appropriate Niyyat) as a substitute for the Ghusls in which the berry leaves and camphor were supposed to have been used.

When there is no water available at all then for each Ghusl performed Tayammum will be administered and a forth Ghusl because of the inability to give Ghusl with water. The following rules are relevant to the persons giving Ghusl:

A person giving Ghusl to a dead body must be: A Shia Ithna'asheri Muslim. Baligh. Of sound mind. Aware of the rules of Ghusl. The same sex as the dead person. (Some exceptions to this rule are given later.) The following actions are Mustahab:

At least two persons should be engaged for giving Ghusl. One should pour water on the dead body, while the other should change its sides.

The soles of the feet of the dead body should face Qiblah.

Ghusl should not be given under the open sky, but in a covered place or a house.

Wudhuu may be given to the dead body before the Ghusls.

The person giving Ghusl should be on the right side of the body, and before each of the three Ghusls, they should wash their own arms upto the elbows.

If the dead person has Ghusle Janabat due, then it may be given before the three Ghusls of Mayyit.

All participants should recite Du'a and ask for the forgiveness of the dead person throughout the Ghusls.

When the Ghusls are over, the dead body should be dried.

The following rules are relevant to the Ghusls

A person giving Ghusl must do it with the sole intention of pleasing and obeying Allah. It is Haraam to take payment for it. If a person does this work in order to obtain financial reward for his labour, such Ghusl will be Batil (void). However, one can charge for provision of means and materials for the Ghusl or Kafan.

If part of the dead body is Najis, then it should be made Pak before giving Ghusl. However, it is better to clean the whole body with soap (to remove oil, dirt etc) before giving Ghusl.

If the clothes on the body cannot be undone, they may be cut away with the permission of the Wali. All rings, watches, etc must be removed prior to starting Ghusl.

The way of giving Ghusl to the corpse is the same as performing Ghusl for Janabat. Three Ghusls should be given one after the other. Niyyat (intention) should be performed before starting to give Ghusl by all participants (even those who help with the water), as follows:

Niyyat: I am giving Ghusl to this corpse, with (type of water used to give Ghusl) Wajib Qurbatan Ilallah.

Head and neck should then be washed, followed by the right hand side and the left hand side of the body. It is Ehtiyate Wajib to follow this procedure for washing the body.

It is necessary to cover the private parts of the corpse at all times even if the performers are of the same sex as the dead person.

It is Wajibe Kifai to give Ghusl to a miscarried child of four months or more. If it is an under four months old miscarriage, then there is no need to administer Ghusl. The child's body should however be wrapped in a piece of cloth and buried.

It is not permitted for a man to give Ghusl to a woman and vice-versa. Exception to this rule is only made in the case of a man and wife, where one is allowed to give Ghusl to the other. It is Mustahab to avoid this if circumstances permit.

Both men and women are allowed to give Ghusl to the body of a child of up to three years of age, regardless of its sex.

The Ghusl of a Muslim child born out of wedlock is also necessary.

One who has been suffering from mental illness from childhood and with the same condition has become Baligh, if he can be considered a Muslim, then it is necessary to give Ghusl to such a person when he dies. Ghusl, Kafan and other duties are not allowed for a non-Muslim or his child.

If a male is not available to undertake the work of Ghusl for the corpse of a male, his female relatives e.g. mother, sister or aunt (i.e. father's or mother's sister) may give Ghusl from behind a cloth. Similarly, if the dead person is a female, male Mahram relatives from her family may give Ghusl if no female is available.

If a person dies in the state of Haidh (menses) or Janabat, there is no need to give extra Ghusl for Haidh or Janabat. Once the above mentioned three Wajib Ghusls have been administered, no other Ghusl will be required.

In cases where water is not available, or for some other reason it is difficult to give Ghusl (e.g. because of extensive injury to the dead body), then three Tayammum should be given as substitutes for the three Wajib Ghusls. It is Ehtiyate Wajib that one more Tayammum be given as a substitute for all the three Ghusls. If a person during one of the Tayammums makes Niyyat that he/she is giving Tayammum to the corpse in order to fulfil what is required by Shariat, then there will be no need for the 4th Tayammum.

The person giving Tayammum to the corpse must administer it with his own hands. It is Ehtiyate Wajib that after this the hands of the corpse should be used in giving all Tayammums again for the second time if possible.

After the Ghusls are over, the dead body is Pak. However, all participants must then perform Ghusle Masse-Mayyit themselves (the Ghusl for having touched a cold dead body.) Those people who touch the body after the three Ghusls, do not have to perform Ghusle Masse-Mayyit.

The Procedure Of Hunoot


The following action is Wajib

After Ghusl, Hunoot must be given to a dead person. The appropriate Niyyat must be made. It is better to give Hunoot before the corpse is shrouded although it can be done during or after the corpse is shrouded.

Hunoot means to rub some camphor on those seven parts of the body which are placed on the ground during prostration (sajdah) in Salaat i.e. forehead, palms, knees and toes. The camphor must be fresh and powdered. If it has lost its scent, it will not be considered sufficient.

The following actions are Ehtiyate Wajib.

Camphor should be applied to the forehead first, but for the other parts no particular order is required.

No other perfume should be applied to the dead body along with camphor or without it.

The following actions are Mustahab.

To rub some camphor on the nose and chest of the deceased person. To mix little Turbah (earth from the grave of Imam Husain (A) with camphor, but it must not be of such quantity that when mixed with camphor it can no longer be called camphor. Such mixture of Turbah must not be applied to any place that may cause disrespect.

The following rules are relevant to Hunoot.

If sufficient camphor is not available or it is just enough for Ghusl, then Hunoot is not necessary. Application of camphor is not allowed if a person dies in the state of Ehram for Haj or Umra. Except if the death has taken place after completion of Sa'ee (walking seven times between Saffa and Marwa). If a woman dies during her Iddah (waiting period after the death of her husband), it is still necessary to give her Hunoot although she was not allowed to use perfume during her Iddah.

The Procedure Of Kafan (Shrouding)


Kafan (shrouding) must be done after the Ghusl is over. The minimum (Wajib) Kafan consists of three pieces of cloth, while it is usual and Mustahab to use seven pieces in the case of males and eight in the case of females. It is Mustahab to use white cotton cloth. The cloth should not be cut with a metal instrument if possible.

The various pieces are described fully in the next section.

The following pieces are Wajib parts of the Kafan

Lungi: This is a loin cloth which must cover the body from the navel to the knees, although it is Mustahab that it should cover the body from the chest to the feet. The approximate size of Lungi is 60" x 54" (150 cms X 135 cms).

Perahan: This is a shirt which must be large enough to cover the body from the shoulders to the upper half of the legs. It is Mustahab to also cover the upper portion of the feet. The approximate size of Perahan is 36" x 110" (90 cms x 275 cms).

Chaadar: This is an overall sheet which must be wide enough to wrap around the body with one side overlapping the other, and long enough such that both ends (at the head and feet) can be tied up when the body is wrapped in it. Approximate size of Chaadar is 60" x 90" (150 cm x 225 cm).

The following pieces are Mustahab parts of the Kafan

For the Male:

Rann Pech: This is a piece of cloth to cover the private parts and must be long enough to wrap it on the two thighs. The approximate size is 16" x 108" (40 cms x 270 cms).

Amama: This is a piece of cloth that is wound on the head like a turban. The approximate size is 6" x 108" (15 cms x 270 cms).

Kamarband: This piece of cloth is tied like a belt to hold the Lungi in place.

Second Chaadar: This piece is the same size as the Wajib Chaadar, and is used to secure the other pieces inside.

For the Female:

Rann Pech: This piece is the same as that for a male.

Seena Band: This piece of cloth is used to cover the breasts. The approximate size is 12" x 90" (30 cms x 225 cms).

Makna: This piece covers the head just like in Salaat. The approximate size is 25" x 55" (63 cms x 140 cms).

Kamarband: This piece is the same as that for a male.

Second Chaadar: This piece is the same as for the male.


This is a Mustahab action which has been highly recommended. Jareeda are fresh twigs (without leaves) cut from a tree.

A lot of emphasis has been given by our Imams (A) to place Jareeda on both sides of the dead body. The reason given is that as long as the twigs remain green, the body will be spared from Fishaar (the squeezing in the grave.)

Preference is given to the twigs of date palms. If that is not available then twigs from pomegranate (Daaram) tree may be used and if these are not available then from any other tree.

The twigs should be of arms length and the name of the dead person together with his testimony in the Kalima and the Imams (A) should be inscribed on them.

The twig on the right side should touch the armpit while the one on the left hand side should be kept above the armpit. The Chaadar is then wrapped around the body.

The following rules are relevant to the Kafan

The cloth used for Kafan must not be transparent such that the body can be seen.

If the Kafan becomes Najis, it is Wajib to make it Paak, even if the body is already placed in the grave. The Kafan can be made Paak in one of the following ways:

Washing the Najis part. Cutting away the Najis part. Changing the Kafan.

It is Mustahab to possess Kafan during one's lifetime, alongwith camphor and the berry leaves as required for a dead person. According to Holy Prophet (S), one who keeps his or her Kafan ready will not be counted among those who have been unmindful of death. A man has to pay for his own Kafan. The Kafan of a deceased wife must be provided by her husband, even though she may have her own property. The husband has also to manage for the Kafan of the deceased wife who was divorced by Talaake-Raja'e (revokable divorce) and her Iddah (waiting period) had not expired before her death.

Adapted from the book: "Fiqh"

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