What is the ruling regarding ghusl after having touched a dead body?


Someone from Ghana wrote to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa and asked whether it was obligatory for someone who had touched a dead body to perform ghusl al-janabah or whether he could join in the funeral prayer without performing ghusl al-janabah? Huzoor-e-Anwaraa, in his letter dated 25 August 2021, provided the following guidance regarding this issue:

“Hazrat Ibn Abbasra narrates that the Holy Prophetsa said: 

ليسَ عليكُم في غَسلِ ميِّتِكُم غُسلٌ إذا غَسَّلتُموهُ، فإنَّ ميِّتَكُم ليسَ بنجسٍ، فَحسبُكُم أن تغسِلوا أيديَكُم

“‘When you perform the ghusl of one of your deceased, it is not obligatory on you to perform ghusl afterwards because your dead are not impure [najas]. It is sufficient to wash your hands (after washing the dead body).’ (Al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihayn by Hakim al-Nishapuri, Kitab al-Jana’iz, Bab laisa ‘alaikum fi ghasli mayyitikum ghusl)

“Similarly, it is mentioned in Muwatta Imam Malik about Hazrat Asma’ bint ‘Umaisra that when she performed ghusl of her husband Hazrat Abu Bakr al-Siddiqra upon his demise, she asked the Muhajirun who were present, ‘Is it now necessary for myself to perform ghusl?’ In response, they said, ‘No’. (Muwatta Imam Malik, Kitab al-Jana’iz, Bab ghusli l-mayyit)

“Hazrat ’Abdullah bin ’Umarra narrates, ‘We used to wash the deceased, and some of us would perform ghusl afterwards while others would not.’ (Sunan al-Daraqutni, Kitab al-Jana’iz, Bab at-taslimu fi l-janazati wahidun wa t-takbiru ’arba‘an wa khamsa)

“Contrary to these ahadith, there is a narration by Hazrat Abu Hurairahra in Sunan Abu Dawud wherein it is mentioned that the Holy Prophetsa said, ‘He who washes the dead should perform ghusl.’ [Sunan Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Jana’iz, Bab fi l-ghusli min ghasli l-mayyit] Likewise, there is another narration by Hazrat Aishara according to which, ‘Allah’s Messengersa used to perform ghusl on account of four things: Janabah, Fridays, cupping and washing the dead.’ [Sunan Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Jana’iz, Bab fi l-ghusli min ghasli l-mayyit] However, the scholars of Hadith have declared the narrations of this kind to be weak and have rejected them. They have interpreted the term ghusl used in these narrations as only referring to the washing of hands. 

“According to the four preeminent Islamic jurists too, it is not obligatory [wajib] but rather only recommended [mustahabb] to perform ghusl after having washed a dead body. This is to allow that if the person becomes impure or splashes of dirty water fall on them due to washing the deceased, they may become clean again by performing ghusl.

“Thus, if even someone who has washed a dead body, is not obligated to perform ghusl, how can the person who touches the deceased be obligated to do so? Thus, the person who washes the deceased can join in the funeral prayer without first performing ghusl. There is no prohibition in this regard. However, Islamic jurists have written that just as ablution [wudu] is necessary for the rest of the prayers, it is also necessary to perform wudu for the funeral prayer. So, that should be done.”

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