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Regulations of Janāzah due to COVID-19 Restrictions:
If you cannot perform ghusl (washing) of the deceased person due to the COVID-19 restrictions, then make tayammum (purification with earth) instead.
How to make tayammum: Strike the earth with both hands, wipe the face of the deceased, then his hands. Then shroud as normal with three large sheets, pray the janāzah and bury.
(See Majmū’ Fatāwā wa Maqālāt Mutanawwi’ah 13/123 of Shaikh Al-Islām Abdul-‘Azīz bin Bāz and Fatāwa fi Ahkām Al-Janā’iz of Al-‘Allāmah Al-Imām, Muhammad bin Sālih Al-‘Uthaimīn, p. 213-214)
If you cannot perform ghusl or tayammum because of the COVID-19 restrictions, then shroud him with three large sheets, pray the janāzah and bury your deceased. This is due to the fact that the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) commanded that the janāzah be hastened and not delayed, he said: “Hurry with the burial.” (Bukhāri, no. 1315).
And, if the COVID-19 restrictions disallow touching the body, even with rubber gloves, then that does not prevent the Muslims from doing as much as they are able for the deceased Muslim in fulfilling his rights. This is due to the saying of Allah (the Most High): “Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him as much as you can.” (At-Taghābun: 16) ―And due to the saying of the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam): “And whatever I command you with do as much of it as you are able.” (Bukhāri and Muslim) So, the Muslims are commanded to do as much as they can in fulfilling their obligations.
Delaying the burial of Muslims for weeks (or months) while waiting for the authorities to lift the restrictions is not correct since the regulations concerning the person who is assumed to have died from COVID-19 are unlikely to alter regardless of time ―and due to the fact that the Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) commanded with hurrying the burial and not delaying it.
(See Majmū’ Fatāwā wa Maqālāt Mutanawwi’ah 13/181-182 of Shaikh Al-Islām Abdul-‘Azīz bin Bāz, and Fatāwa fi Ahkām Al-Janā’iz of Al-‘Allāmah Al-Imām, Muhammad bin Sālih Al-‘Uthaimīn, p. 77).
If the body is sealed in a plastic bag (or a body-bag) by the authorities and the legal restrictions do not allow the bag to be opened, therefore neither ghusl or tayammum is possible. In that case, the plastic body bag is shrouded in three large cloth sheets, followed by the janāzah prayer and burial.
(See Majmū’ Fatāwā wa Maqālāt Mutanawwi’ah 13/128-129 of Shaikh Al-Islām Abdul-‘Azīz bin Bāz).
If the COVID-19 restrictions do not allow large numbers of Muslims to pray janāzah for the deceased so that even close relatives are forced to miss the janāzah, then it is permissible for a small group to pray janāzah for the deceased and then bury him ―and then those that were not able to pray can visit the grave in small groups (or even individually) and pray janāzah over a period of a few weeks next to the grave.
This is done by standing so that the grave of the deceased is between you and the Qiblah, and then pray the janāzah as normal. The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) did this for a woman who had died in the night, so the Companions prayed her janāzah and she was buried ―the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) was not informed, so he went to her grave and prayed the janāzah.
(See Majmū’ Fatāwā wa Maqālāt Mutanawwi’ah 13/153 of Shaikh Al-Islām Abdul-‘Azīz bin Bāz)
The Muslims, even in small groups should make three rows behind the Imām. The Abu Umāmah (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) stated: “The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) prayed janāzah and there were with him only seven people. So, he placed three in the first row, two in another row and two more in another row.”
(At-Tabarāni in Al-Kabīr, no. 7785 and authenticated by Al-Imām Al-Muhaddith, Al-Albāni in Ahkām Al-Janā’iz, p. 127)
If the deceased Muslim was buried by the authorities without anyone having prayed over him, especially in non-Muslim countries, then the Muslims must ask for the location of the grave and pray at the grave as explained previously.
And if the Muslims do not know where he was buried, they can establish the janāzah prayer in the absence of the body as the Messenger of Allah (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) did for Najāshi (rahimahullāh), the king of Abyssinia. In this situation, the janāzah is performed in the normal manner except that the body is not present.
It is permissible to perform the janāzah in the same room where the washing and shrouding of the deceased took place. And janāzah prayer in an open area outside of the Masjid is better, even though it is permissible to pray it in the Masjid.
(See Majmū’ Fatāwā wa Maqālāt Mutanawwi’ah 13/157 and 13/164 of Shaikh Al-Islām Abdul-‘Azīz bin Bāz)
When praying janāzah, make the rows in the prayer as normal. However, if the COVID-19 restrictions prevent that, then keep the required gaps between each person and pray the janāzah in that fashion. This is due to the saying of Allah, the Most High: “Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him as much as you can.” (At-Taghābun: 16) ―And due to the saying of the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam): “And whatever I command you with do as much of it as you are able.” (Bukhāri and Muslim)
It is allowed to bury more than one person in a grave if there is a need for that, such as a situation where the bodies of deceased are numerous and the places to bury them are few. In this situation, the Muslim who knew more Qur’an is placed first, closest to the Qiblah in the grave ―and they are laid next to each other. The scholars have also stated that between each of the deceased there should be a barrier (or mound) of soil.
(See Fatāwa fi Ahkām Al-Janā’iz of Al-‘Allāmah Al-Imām, Muhammad bin Sālih Al-‘Uthaimīn, p. 213-214)
Here is a free downloadable Janāzah eBook.
NOTE: The Fatāwa books are referenced for the purpose of rulings in similar cases, not specifically for COVID-19.