SARS victims in Hong Kong are cremated
Fatwa No: 85838

  • Fatwa Date:13-5-2003 - Rabee' Al-Awwal 12, 1424
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Question

You may be aware of the contagious disease (SARS) which is recently hitting Hong Kong/China nowadays. First of all we like to inform you that according to policy of Hong Kong Government and who that if any person dies with this virus, The health department won't allow the relatives to take the dead body for funeral/ burial/cremation, etc., but the health department will put it to fire.
In case Muslim person dies, they won't give us the late person (dead body). According to Islam we can't allow them to do this to our dead body. But globally the WHO supports their system. If we go to the street and protest against it, which is outside the law and will create problems for general public. Now please check and inform us according (about the Fatwa) what we should do. For your information by the Grace of Allah till now no Muslim had the virus. Make Du'a that in future also Allah will protect us and May Allah save and every human being from this.

Answer

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and may His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions. It is obvious to you that Islam has a particular Sunnah in making Ghusl for the dead person and enshrouding them and it is known that this is a special grace bestowed by Allah on His human slaves. It distinguishes this slave from other creatures. Allah Says (interpretation of meaning): {And indeed We have honoured the Children of Adam, and We have carried them on land and sea, and have provided them with At-Taiyibât (lawful good things), and have preferred them above many of those whom We have created with a marked preference.}[17: 70]. Leaving the corpse without burial is unlawful even if it is a corpse of a peaceful disbeliever. Burning it is much more dangerous. Now if the person dies because of a plague or of a similar highly contagious disease, the case is dealt with according to one of two situations: 1) If the effects of this disease disappear immediately following the death of the inflicted person so that the danger of contagion is removed then the funeral should be done as prescribed by Shariah. This condition can be verified by trustworthy competent doctors. 2) If the disease can be transmitted even after the death of the person then it is no longer mandatory to wash that person's body or enshroud it for burial. The Fuqaha (scholars of Islam) state that when there is hardship in carrying out funerals such as a great number of dead people at the same time, or the emergence of a deadly contagious disease, then the dead people can be buried without washing or enshrouding, and even in mass graves and only one funeral prayer is done for them. Now, if there is fear of contagion by touching, washing or even smelling, then all possible ways of burial like taking the dead person with a tool or device and burying him should be done, provided one can certain not to become infected by the disease by inhaling or touching. If there is no other way to be rid of the corpse except by burning it, then it becomes lawful to do so, as Allah Says (interpretation of meaning): {So keep your duty to Allâh and fear Him as much as you can; …}[64: 16]. Burning, in this case, is considered as a dire necessity and dire necessity makes it lawful to commit some forbidden acts, as Allah Says (interpretation of meaning): {… But if one is forced by necessity without wilful disobedience nor transgressing due limits, then there is no sin on him. Truly, Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.}[2: 173]. In such matters one should return to trustworthy competent doctors who should the only authority to decide whether this is a real necessity or not. The WHO doctors are probably the authority in this matter. We remind Muslims here that studying medicine is a communal obligation. So, there should be Muslim doctors who could decide on such Islamic matters. Allah knows best.

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