Cremation of bodies due to epidemic?
China is has prohibited burials and funerals for virus victims and in result is cremating all of the bodies to avoid more spreading of the virus.
My question is, what would be the ruling be in this case? I understand that cremation is completely haram. But this is an epidemic and the government is forcing cremation, what would a Muslim have to do in this situation?
Jazakum Allah Khairan
All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad, is His slave and Messenger.
As the questioner mentioned, it is Haraam (prohibited) to cremate the body of a deceased Muslim, and this is the basic principle in this regard which is agreed upon by the scholars. The outbreak of epidemics is not a valid excuse that makes it permissible to cremate a dead body. Instead, the infection prevention measures and precautions taken for a living patient should be taken for a sick person when he dies. Thus, we would combine between preserving the deceased’s body and preventing it from harming others.
Based upon this basic principle – the absolute prohibition of cremation – a Fatwa was issued by the International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Fatwa Committee (of the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs) in Kuwait, and a third by Shaykh Hasanayn Muhammad Makhloof (former Mufti of Egypt); all of which ruled it to be prohibited.
However, if we assume that the situation escalates to the point where cremation is the only way to curb the spread of the epidemic in order to preserve people’s lives, then, in this case, cremation may be permitted as a legal concession, giving precedence to the interests of the living over those of the dead.
Indeed, Daar Al-Iftaa’ of Egypt had previously issued a Fatwa stating the permissibility of cremating the Ebola victims in the event of death, if cremation is the only way to curb the spread of the epidemic among the living, provided that the cremated remains are buried afterward.
This must be done within the scope of the Sharee‘ah-acceptable necessity and based on the opinion of specialists from a purely scientific viewpoint.
We would like to warn our Muslim brothers in the countries that may issue orders for the cremation of the victims to adhere to wisdom when dealing with the official authorities and to avoid collision as much as possible in order to avoid potential Fitnah (tribulation) which may incur graver evil and harm on Muslims.
Allah Knows best.
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