Burying a dead pregnant woman
Fatwa No: 303703

Question

How do we bury a woman that died with pregnancy?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His Slave and Messenger.

If a pregnant woman passed away, she should be shrouded and buried in the same manner that any dead person should be shrouded and buried. If the question is concerning the case when a pregnant woman dies while her unborn child is still alive inside her womb, it is obligatory to take out the baby as long as the child is expected to survive, according to the most correct scholarly view in this regard. An-Nawawi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said,

The compiler (Abu Is-haaq Ash-Sheeraazi)  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said, "If a pregnant woman dies and there is a living fetus in her womb, it is permissible to cut open her abdomen because this involves saving a living being by means of mutilating part of a dead body; it is similar to consuming a piece of a corpse in case of dire necessity (when a person's life depends on eating it)." Explanation: This is a famous juridical case in the books of the Shaafiʻis. Al-Maawardi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him asserted that no opinion was reported on the authority of Ash-Shaafiʻi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him in this regard. Abu Haamid, Al-Qaadhi Abu At-Tayyib, Al-Maawardi, Al-Mahaamili, Ibn As-Sabbaagh and many others among our fellows (i.e., the Shaafiʻis) stated that Ibn Surayj said that if a pregnant woman dies and there is a living fetus in her womb, it is permissible to cut open her abdomen to take out the baby, so Ibn Surayj did not place any restrictions on this. Some of the Shaafiʻis, on the other hand, said that the matter is not without restriction as Ibn Surayj said. Rather, midwives must be consulted, and if the baby is expected to live if removed as the pregnancy is six months or more, it is permissible to cut open her abdomen and remove the baby. If it is not expected to live as it is less than six months old, then no cutting must take place because there is no reason for mutilation in such a case, as it does not serve a purpose, i.e. the baby will not be born alive. Al-Maawardi asserted that the view held by Ibn Surayj was the same as that of Abu Haneefah and most of the jurists.” [Al-Majmooʻ]

If the child was not likely to be born alive, and we were convinced it would die, it should be buried with the mother. An-Nawawi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him added,

Al-Qaadhi Abu At-Tayyib asserted this with certainty in his commentary, as well as Al-‘Abdari in Al-Kifaayah. Al-Qaadhi Husayn, Al-Fooraani, Al-Mutawalli, Al-Baghawi and others stated that there are two opinions if the baby is not likely to be born alive. The first is that a cut may be made in order to take the baby out, and the second is that the woman's abdomen must not be cut open to remove the baby. Al-Baghawi asserted that the second opinion is most likely the correct view. According to the majority of the Shaafi‘is based on the view that a cut must not be made to remove the baby, the pregnant woman should not be buried unless the fetus’s movement ceases and it is known that it has died.

Ash-Shinqeeti gave preference to the view that it is obligatory to cut open her abdomen in his book Ahkaam Al-Jiraahah At-Tibbiyyah (Rules of Surgical Operations), saying,

Imaam Ibn Hazm  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said that if a pregnant woman passes away and the fetus is still alive and the pregnancy is six months or more, a linear cut may be made in her abdomen in order to remove her living fetus, because Allaah The Exalted says (what means): {And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.} [Quran 5:32] If one deliberately leaves the fetus to die, then he has killed a living being.

Allaah Knows best.

Related Fatwa