Embalming And Moving A Body After Death
Answered by Shaykh Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf
My grandmother is very ill and we're considering options for her burial. She wants to be buried in New York (her plot is there), but she's currently in another state that's far away from there. In order to get her back to NY, in the case of her death she has to be embalmed by law. What is the ruling on this situation?
In the name of Allah the Inspirer of truth
There are a number of problems linked with burying a person so far away. Firstly it is considered extremely disliked (makruh tahrimi) to transfer a deceased person from one area to another for burial unless it is just a mile or two (Radd al-Muhtar 1:602, 5:275) [AR. or further to the closest Muslim graveyard]. This is the opinion related from Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani and highlighted by Ibn Nujaym, Ibn 'Abidin, Tahtawi, and others. Second, transferring the body causes unnecessary delay in the burial process which has been advised against in the hadiths.
Thereafter, the process of embalming is problematic in Islam for a number of reasons. One is that it requires some incisions to be made on the body of the deceased (which is considered disrespectful) and the removal of the blood from it, replacing it with a formaldehyde based fluid. The embalming fluid is traditionally made from formaldehyde (5 to 29 percent), methanol, ethanol (9 to 56) and other solvents. Hence, the fluid is made up of impure substances which go with the deceased into the grave. Islamic law instructs us to purify the deceased by bathing it, perfuming it, and shrouding it in white, etc.
To conclude, it is severely disliked to transport her over a mile or two and the embalming is unlawful. However, if she is in a condition to travel then there would be no problem with having her transferred to New York while she is alive.
And Allah knows best.
Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf