The General Purpose Committee (GPC) of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) under the leadership of its President-General and Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alh. Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR. mni, met and deliberated on the interment of possible victims of COVID-19 pandemic and issued advisory as follows:
- Washing the dead is a collective obligation, which is not exempted except under a strong legal justification; and among such legitimate circumstances is to ensure that the deceased did not suffer from an infection that could be transmitted to others. The known rule is that – ‘Harm to the living must be avoided’.
- For the deceased who suffered from a communicable disease, the Government Officials (Health Authorities) are to bear the responsibility of preparing the body for burial. The body in this circumstance may be sprinkled with water as much as possible; alternatively, even by pouring water on the body without physical scrubbing or touching by hand.
- A specific nature of shrouding is not mandatory, provided the entire body is covered by the shroud. Where practicable however, it is encouraged to use three or five pieces of white shroud for men and five pieces for women; otherwise application of reasonable discretion is allowed.
- There is nothing wrong with putting the body in a body-bag that may prevent the leakage of viruses, although preferably white, the body bag can be of any color. The body may also be placed in a coffin if necessary for additional preventive measures. All of these should be controlled and supervised by appropriate Health Authorities.
- Janazah prayers, at the time of the epidemic, are carried out by a small number of Muslims with complete precaution under the direction and guidance of the appropriate Health Authorities; and the body should be buried in the Muslim cemeteries. It is generally not encouraged to do mass burial, except in the case of necessity.
- State Governments should take necessary measures to register all deaths with the relevant Health Authorities at the time of the pandemic and not allow any transmission for two basic reasons:
- To ensure that the life of the deceased was clinically confirmed to have ended prior to the burial; as it has been medically ascertained that some of the supposed dead are sometimes buried alive (both at the time of the epidemic and other times), and
- To ensure that non-professional/specialists are protected from the danger of possible contamination and transmission of the infectious disease, should burial arrangement be left uncontrolled and unsupervised by professionals.
- Where it is however medically established that the deceased is free from any contagious disease, then the deceased should be prepared, prayed-upon and buried by a few who are permitted under the social distancing and/or complete lockdown imposed, while taking all necessary preventive measures.
- There is nothing wrong with performing the Janazah Prayer in absentia upon the deceased in case of total lockdown where people are not allowed out of homes. The prayer in absentia is allowed for those who could not be physically present to pray on the deceased, subject to the prevailing doctrine acceptable in the area.
- Attendance at Funerals (Salatul Janazah and Burial) for all Deceased (COVID19 and Non-COVID19) during the period of the Pandemic should NOT be attended by the following categories of people:
- People vulnerable to COVID19: including persons of 60 years and above, Sick persons, and People with underlying medical conditions like Diabetes, HIV, Tuberculosis, Asthma, etc.
- People at high risk of potentially being infected and transmitting the disease: including persons under Self Isolation and quarantine (even if related to the Deceased)
- Large gatherings at Funeral and Condolences are highly discouraged and where unavoidable, all Measures prescribed by the NCDC for COVID19 prevention must be strictly adhered to including Social Distancing, Use of Face Masks, Hand Sanitizers, etc.
- It is important to state emphatically that Islam does not under any circumstances approve of the cremation of the body of a dead Muslim. This Advisory therefore is in tandem with this position and emphasizes that cremation of victims who succumb to COVID19 is not allowed in any format.
Alh. Yusuf Nwoha
Director of Administration