Bereavement in Islam

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At the “Day of Judgement” there will be a physical resurrection this is what Muslims believe. Cremation is forbidden. Allah will put people’s bodies back together again at the Day of Judgement.

According to Islamic tradition, a deceased person ought to be buried within 24 hours. However buried the deceased within 24 hours is not always possible especially here in the United Kingdom. Every death which occurs in England requires paperwork to be complete by the correct people and authorities. A very important document or piece of paper is the medical certificate stating the cause of death. Registrars can be another point of delay for Muslims seeking to bury their dead. One of the main problems with Registrars is that, similar to Coroners, there is often no weekend or Bank Holiday service available.

However, this is another area where we can see changes taking place. In the Autumn of last year Muslims in Burnley won their fight to have their dead buried on weekends. Although the council had adopted measures to make possible weekend burials there had previously been problems with the Registrar, Coroner and hospital authorities (BMMS, 1999). Thus even when Local Authorities have taken measures to accommodate the needs of religious communities the co-operation of other bodies is also necessary.

Kingston is another example of where emergency death certificates are available. This was made possible after the council had been petitioned by the local Muslim community.

The provision of emergency death certificates also benefits the Jewish community who also prefer to have little delay between death and burial.

If the person has died in hospital the staff will arrange the issue of the Medical Certificate and the Formal Notice. These are normally collected from the Hospital Certificate Office; you will be advised by the Hospital of the time these will be available as sometimes the offices that issue this paperwork is not always open for example at weekends.

If the death has happened in a care home the staff at the home should contact the GP or duty doctor on your behalf. They will inform you how to obtain the Medical Certificate and the Formal Notice.

If the deceased has not been seen by a doctor in the last 14 days before they have passed away a death certificate cannot be issued and the coroner is to be notified. In certain circumstances, such as sudden death, the doctor must notify the Coroner. This should not cause undue concern or alarm, sometimes the Coroner is able to establish the cause of death by making simple enquiries.

The Coroner has the duty to instruct a post mortem examination if:

  1. There is no obvious cause of death.
  2. If there is reason to suspect death was due to unnatural causes.
  3. Death was caused by violence or in suspicious circumstances.
  4. The cause of death is unknown or uncertain.
  5. Death occurred while undergoing an operation or the patient did not recover from anaesthetic.
  6. Death was caused by an industrial disease.
  7. Death occurred while in police custody or in prison.

If you discover a body or the death is sudden or unexpected, you should contact the following people:

  1. The family doctor (if known)
  2. The deceased’s nearest relative
  3. The deceased’s Imam or local Mosque
  4. The police, who will help find the people listed above if necessary

If there is any reason to suspect that the death was not due to natural causes, do not touch or remove anything from the room. The death may be referred to the coroner. The doctor may ask the relatives for permission to carry out a post-mortem examination. If an autopsy is ordered it can cause great distress to a Muslim family. The reason for a post mortem should be fully justified. If the autopsy has not been justified, it could be construed as an unnecessary desecration of the body

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