“Were you not scared?” asked a friend as she had known my participation in a funeral wash.
“No. I’m scared more of the living.” I replied jokingly. But I wonder if a “dead man” still gets scared of a dead body.
It was a fulfilling day for us to extend a helping hand to the bereaved family of my husband’s uncle for the interment of his late wife way back in June 01, 2016.
I was very grateful for the Powerful One for giving me the chance to observe and experienced a dignified task: Washing and shrouding of the human cadaver.
I have been interested in witnessing the funeral bath for the Muslim corpse though I am not a stranger to the Muslim burial rites.
When my father passed away fifteen years ago, I was unable to witness the ritual wash for him because only males were allowed inside the bathing room. And again, I was unable to see my late grandma when she passed away; I was not allowed to travel due to my eight months pregnancy with my second child.
Finally on June 01, curiosity got the better of me, so I joined the two female dead washers to do such a tremendous virtue.
My family convoyed the Imam and company’s vehicle to Nueva Ecija on June 01 at three o’clock in the morning and arrived at the bereaved family’s house at six thirty on the same day. The breakfast table was ready with some foods to chew on. I rushed into the kitchen and prepared some coffee for everyone.
A little chat with the two female washers shook their somberness. When asked what time we need to start the funeral bath, “Immediately after breakfast.” they replied.
After we had partaken the morning meal, we readied everything for the ritual burial. The washers checked the things needed for the ritual wash except for the white cloth (for shrouding) they had readily brought.
Now we entered the room where the deceased was lying in. The washers reminded us that no talks were allowed inside the washing room.
We assisted the washers in preparing the white cloth for shrouding. The head female washer then scissored a small cut and quickly ripped the white cloth with her hands. I was so impressed with their staying power (perhaps they’re used to it!).
We laid the three cut cloths (different sizes: one for shrouding the whole body, one for the inside garment, and one from head to feet covering or dress) on top of a clean mat and arranged on a layer and prepared seven makeshift ties cut from the same cloth for tying the shrouded body. We folded it and set it aside. Then the ritual wash began silently.
Bathing, shrouding and praying for the dead is a must for every Muslim to learn. It is a worthy task for every believer to strive for, because every Muslim has the right to wash any deceased member of his own family.
However, due to ignorance, the task is left for others in the community who has the right knowledge to perform the ritual though every member of the deceased family should be present in the said ceremony.
Camphor, rosewater or plain water, sidr leaves, towels, comb, pads, soap, cotton, gloves, mask, nailbrush, pail, mats, and perfume (even soil) are usually the things used for washing the corpse. The ritual wash should start by declaring first the Name of the Creator. The corpse should be laid on top of a table suitable for washing. It must be inclined a bit down towards the feet so that water will not go back to the head during washing.
Before washing, the private parts of the corpse should be covered with any piece of cloth because the human body in Islam is considered sacred. It should be treated with respect not only when one is still alive but also in his death.
The body should be washed first starting from the head. Like puppets, the dead man’s body should be turned over from side to side, limbs lifted up and folded for thorough cleansing. The corpse should be washed three times (or in any odd numbers).
Then ablution (wudu) of the corpse is done with the assistance of the washer. After the corpse’s ablution, his right hand is folded on top of his left hand as if performing his prayer, and then his body is ready to be shrouded. Cremation and the use of casket are not allowed in Islam.
Then the Janaza Prayer, which is the asking of forgiveness for the sins of the deceased, should start immediately before he will be placed in his grave and his shrouded body should be buried within twenty four hours.
When he is laid down to his final resting place, the Imam would then offer prayers and recite verses in his graveyard together with the mourners.
Then the Giver and the Taker of life knows what is next. From God we came, to Him we shall return.
May God bless her soul!