How important is it in Islam to bury the deceased quickly?
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
Islam has placed emphasis on burying the deceased as soon as possible. Part of honouring a deceased is to arrange the burial as soon as possible (al-Madkhal, 3:236). The following are some narrations that explain the importance of this:
- The Prophet ﷺ said, “Hurry up with the dead body for if it was righteous, you are forwarding it to good; and if it was otherwise, then you are putting off an evil thing from your necks” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 1315).
- The Prophet ﷺ said, “When a funeral is ready and the men carry the deceased on their necks, if it was pious then it will say, “Take me quickly”, and if it was not pious, then it will say, “Destruction to it (me), where are they taking it (me)?” And its voice is heard by everything except man and if he heard it, he would fall unconscious” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 1316).
- The Prophet ﷺ said, “O ʿAlī [d. 40/661], do not delay three things:  Ṣalāh when its time begins  Janāzah [Ṣalāh] when the deceased is present  and the [marriage of a] woman when you find her a suitable match (Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 171).
- ʿUyaynah ibn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān (d. ca. 150/767) reports on the authority of his father that he attended the funeral of ʿUthmān ibn Abī al-ʿĀṣ (d. 50-1/670-1). He said: We were walking slowly. Abū Bakrah (d. 51-2/671-2) then joined us and he raised his stick at us and said: “Indeed, I have witnessed ourselves when we were with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, we were walking quickly (Sunan Abī Dāwūd, 3182).
- Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (d. 110/728) said, “Rush with your deceased, and do not adopt the practice of the people of the book” (Muṣannaf ʿAbd al-Razzāq, 6248).
- ʿUrwah (d. 94/712-3) narrates that ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Zubayr (d. 73/692) would say when one of his family members would pass away, “Hurry, hurry, take [the body] out, take [the body] out”. ʿUrwah said, “The body would be taken out whatever time it would be (Muṣannaf Ibn Abī Shaybah, 12002).
- The mother of believers ʿĀʾishah (d. 58/678) said, “Abū Bakr [d. 13/634] passed away on the night of Tuesday and was buried on the night of Tuesday [during the same night) (Muṣannaf Ibn Abī Shaybah, 12003).
- ʿAbdullāh ibn Abī Mulaykah (d. 117/735-6) narrates that ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Abī Bakr [d. 53/673-4] died in Ḥubshī [situated 12 miles from Makkah]. He said: He was carried to Makkah and was buried there. So when [his sister] ʿĀʾishah [d. 58/678] arrived she went to the grave of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Abī Bakr and said: “We were like two drinking companions of Jadhīmah for such a long time that they would say: They will never part. So, when we were separated, it was as if I and Mālik, due to the length of staying together, never spent a night together.” Then she said, “By Allah, if I was present by you [when you passed away], I would not have buried you except where you had passed away, and if I was present by you [when you passed away], I would not have visited you [now]” (Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 1055).
The famous ḥanafī jurist ʿAllāmah Sarakhsī (d. ca. 490/1097) explains that if the transfer of the body results in the delay of the burial by a few days, this is sufficient for it to be detestable (Sharḥ al-Siyar al-Kabīr, 1:236).
Therefore, under normal circumstances, it is of great importance that the deceased is buried as soon as possible. If there is a legitimate reason for the delay, for example, a post-mortem or MRI scan is necessary to ascertain the cause of death, this is excused.
Allah knows best
30 Rabīʿ al-Awwal 1440 / 8 December 2018
Approved by: Mufti Shabbir Ahmed and Mufti Muhammad Tahir