Ghusl of the Dead
Ghusl of the dead (Arabic: غسل المیت) is a specific sort of washing a Muslim's corpse with certain conditions. It is one of the obligatory ghusls in Islamic rulings—it is al-wajib al-kifa'i that can be waived if someone undertakes it. In this ghusl, the deceased is bathed three times: first with water mixed with cedar, then with water mixed with camphor, and finally with pure water.
When a Muslim dies, others have a collective obligation to wash his or her body in a specific way, and bury the corpse after covering it with a shroud and performing the Funeral Prayer on it. There are 278 hadiths in the books, Wasa'il al-shi'a and Mustadrak al-wasa'il, regarding the jurisprudential rulings of the ghusl of the dead.
Great divine rewards are mentioned in hadiths for a person who washes the corpse of a Muslim, such as one's being saved from the hellfire in the afterlife, taking one to the Heaven, and the forgiveness of one's minor sins in one year.
Ghusl of the Dead of Infallible Imams (a)
According to many hadiths, the corpse of an Infallible Imam (a) is only washed by the next Imam (a). And when Imam al-Mahdi (a) passes away, Imam al-Husayn (a) will return to this world (see: raj'a) and take care of washing his corpse.
Ghusl of a Martyr
A Muslim who is martyred in the battlefield does not need to be washed, nor covered with a shroud. He should be buried with the very clothes on his body. Some scholars consider the ghusl of a martyr to be forbidden.
Ghusl of Children
If a child's (as well as a mad person's) father or mother is Muslim, his or her corpse should be washed like other Muslims. A fetus that is aborted or miscarried before it is 4 months does not need to be washed; it should be covered with a cloth and buried. However, if it is 4 months or older, it should be washed.
Ghusl After Qisas
If someone is legitimately sentenced to death, then they can perform the ghusl of the dead for themselves before the execution. In this case, their corpse does not need to be washed again after their death.
Impurity of the Corpse Before the Ghusl
- Main article: Ghusl of Touching a Corpse
Before the ghusl, the corpse of a Muslim is najis, and everything that touches it becomes impure. And when the corpse is cold, then if one touches it, he or she has to perform the ghusl of touching a corpse. However, after the ghusl, the corpse is tahir.
According to fatwas of the majority of Shiite Marja's, it is obligatory to wash a corpse three times: first with water mixed with cedar, then with water mixed with camphor, and finally with pure water. It is obligatory to do these three ghusls in the order mentioned above; otherwise, the ghusl should be performed again. In this ghusl, just like other ghusls, the person should intend the ghusl for the purpose of proximity to God, they should then wash the head and the neck, then the right side of the corpse, and then the left side of it. In washing each side, the genital and the navel should be washed.
It is not valid to perform the ghusl of the dead by immersion (irtimasi). And it is necessary to clean any nijasa (impurity) from the corpse. Some scholars believe that it is enough to clean nijasas of each part before washing it.
The amount of cedar and camphor should not be so large that turns the water into mudaf (mixed) water, and not so little that their presence in the water is not obvious.
If cedar or camphor are not available, then it is enough to wash the corpse with pure water, in which case, according to some scholars, one ghusl will suffice. If it is impossible to wash the corpse with water, then tayammum should be performed. However, there is a disagreement as to whether one tayammum is enough or it should be done three times.
If one dies with janaba (impurity caused by sexual intercourse or seminal discharge) or menstruation, then the ghusl of the dead is sufficient for its purification and no ghusl for janaba or menstruation is required. However, some scholars cautiously held that the person who washes the corpse should intend both the ghusl of the dead as well as that of janaba or menstruation.
Conditions of the Ghusl Performer
The person who washes the corpse is called ghassal. A ghassal should be Muslim and Twelver Shiite, mature, and mentally healthy. A male corpse should be washed by a man, and a female corpse should be washed by a woman, except for spouses; a spouse is permitted to wash his or her spouse's corpse. According to faqihs, in ordinary conditions washing a corpse by a person of an opposite sex is not legitimate. Some scholars stipulate that a spouse should wash his or her spouse's corpse with clothes on it.
If the ghassal wears gloves and does not touch the corpse, then he or she does not have to perform the ghusl of touching a corpse.
Receiving Money for the Ghusl of the Dead
According to many Shiite scholars of fiqh, it is forbidden to receive money for washing a corpse. Some of them believe that such a ghusl is invalid and should be performed again. However, one can receive money for preparatory actions such as cleaning the body.
- The material for writing this article has been mainly taken from غسل میت in Farsi WikiShia.