Delay or late burial
Mu' meneen Brothers and Sisters,
As Salaam Aleikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh. (May Allah's Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon all of you)
One of our brothers/sisters has asked this question:
Dear Br Burhan
Assalamualaikum. I have a question regarding late burial and funeral. If a close family member passes away overseas, is it allowed under Islamic law to keep the body until the relatives get there? I will be grateful if you could please answer this. We hear all sorts of different things, bu I want to know what the Quran and Hadis says about this issue.
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In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is no one (no idol, no person, no grave, no prophet, no imam, no dai, nobody!) worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad(saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers.
The command and the guidance of the Messenger of Allah (saws) is very clear regarding the timeliness of the burial of the deceased.
Ahmad and Tirmidhi report on the authority of Ali ibn Abu Talib that the Prophet (saws) said: "O Ali, never delay three things: prayer when its time approaches, the funeral when death is confirmed, and marrying a widow or a divorcee when a suitable match is found for her."
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 2.401 Narrated by Abu Huraira
The Prophet (saws) said, "Hurry up with the dead body for if it was righteous, you are forwarding it to welfare; and if it was otherwise, then you are putting off an evil thing down your necks."
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 2.402 Narrated by Abu Said Al Khudri
The Prophet (saws) said, "When a funeral is ready and the men carry the deceased on their necks (shoulders), if it was pious then it will say, 'Present me quickly', and if it was not pious, then it will say, 'Woe to it (me), where are they taking it (me)?' And its voice is heard by everything except mankind, and if he heard it he would fall unconscious."
The scholars in Islam are unanimous in their opinion that it is considered undesirable to delay the burial unless it be for a genuine and valid reason, like the absence of the guardian of the deceased, or if situation is beyond ones control where the police or the governing authorities have kept the body for investigation, etc. The scholars are of the opinion that the burial may be delayed only for the guardian of the deceased to reach the funeral, provided no physical deterioration in the condition of the body is feared from such delay. But to delay the burial of the deceased for a period of time, without any valid and compelling reason, or only so that all the relatives may be able to join the funeral would be undesirable.
Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allahs Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.
Your Brother in Islam,