Wa `alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- Muslim jurists agree that the wife is permitted to wash the body of her dead husband.
2- The same permission is granted to the husband regarding washing his wife’s dead body, according to the most correct opinion.
In his well-known book, Fiqh As-Sunnah, Sheikh Sayyed Sabiq states:
Muslim jurists agreed on the permissibility of a wife washing the body of her dead husband.
`A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) is reported to have said, “Had I known then what I know now, no one would have washed the body of the Prophet but his wives.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud and al-Hakim)
There is a difference of opinion, however, on the permissibility of the husband’s washing the body of his dead wife.
The majority of scholars, nonetheless, consider it permissible as supported by a report narrated by Ad-Daraqutni and Al-Bayhaqi, that `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) washed the body of Fatimah, his wife, on her death.
This is also supported by Prophet’s statement to his wife `A’ishah, “If you die before me, I will myself wash and enshroud you.” (Ibn Majah)
But the Hanafi school of Fiqh holds that it is not permissible for a husband to wash his wife’s dead body.
Even if there is no woman available, then he should give her tayammum (dry ablution). However, the above hadith proves the contrary of this view.
Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, a prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author states:
A wife has the right to wash her dead husband. In his book Al-Muwatta’, Imam Malik narrated on the authority of `Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr that Asma’ bint `Umays washed Abu Bakr As-Siddiq when he died; then she went out and asked the Muhajirin (the Prophet’s Companions who migrated from Makkah to Madinah) who were present, “I am fasting and the day is very cold; do I have to do Ghusl (bath)?” and they said, “No.” (Al-Jana’iz, 466)
The author of Al-Muntaqa `ala Sharh Al-Muwatta’ commented, “This indicates that it is permissible for a woman to wash her dead husband, because this happened in the presence of a number of the Prophet’s Companions, especially since Abu Bakr had left instructions in his will to that effect.
No record of dissension was reported on the part of the Companions of the Prophet on this matter. This, thus, shows that there was consensus on this issue
Allah Almighty knows best.
Excerpted, with slight modifications, from www.islamqa.info.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.