Muslims follow specific steps when preparing a body for an Islamic funeral. Before they conduct any prayers, the body is carefully washed and wrapped according to how the Prophet Muhammad recommends in the Quran. These practices show respect for the deceased and reverence for Islam.
Ideally, the person who washes the body is someone the deceased specifically chose for the task while she was alive. In every case, the person who conducts the washing should be considered pious and trustworthy. While the body is being washed with warm water and soap, the deceased's genitals should remain covered. First the stomach should be pressed on to remove any impurities from the system, and then the body is washed with a clean cloth. The Islamic Society of North America says the body should always be washed an odd number of times.
After being washed, a body is groomed only minimally before an Islamic funeral. The hair of both men and women should be washed, and combed or brushed. If a woman has braids in, they must be loosened, and her hair is rebraided into three separate braids after being cleaned and brushed. Because grooming should remain humble, no cosmetics are used and the nails are not cut. Only non-alcoholic perfumes are used on the body.
Muslim bodies are wrapped in a Kafan, sometimes called a shroud. The cloth that is used is clean, white cotton. For men, three large pieces of fabric are traditionally used, while five pieces of cloth are used to wrap a female body. The entire body is covered with the Kafan, including the face; ripped pieces of the material are used as ties around the body to secure the larger pieces in place.
A male always washes and grooms a male body in preparation for burial, and a female washes and grooms a female body. An exception is in the case of a married couple, in which case one spouse may take care of the other's body. When the deceased is a child, any adult may wash and groom the body, regardless of gender.
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