Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
If a man dies, is his wife allowed to see him before burial?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
When a man passes away, his wife (in some respects) is considered to be still in his marriage until the completion of her waiting period (idda) which, in the event of death, is four months and ten days. Thus, it will be permitted for her to see her husband’s face, touch his body and even bathe him.
However, if the wife passes away, then (according to the Hanafi understanding) as soon as her soul leaves her body, the bond of marriage is considered to be terminated. As such, it will not be permitted for the husband to bathe his ex-wife.
It is stated in Maraqi al-Falah:
“A woman may bathe her husband contrary to the man, for he will not bathe his wife as the bond of marriage has ended ” (Maraqi al-Falah with the Hashiya of Tahtawi, P: 571-572)
However, the jurists (fuqaha) state that it will be permitted for the man to see his (ex) wife’s face, and it will also be permitted for him to help in lowering her body into the grave, provided he does not directly touch her body. Women relatives will have the responsibility of bathing her. (Ibid)
In conclusion, it is permitted for a man and a woman to see their spouse’s face after death and before burial. However, one should ensure that this does not delay the process of burial in any way. Also, some people have a custom of individuals lining up in order to see the deceased’s face which has no basis in Shariah. The deceased’s body should be buried as soon as possible after the funeral prayer is over. One may see the face at home before taking the body for burial.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK