Evidence on a Husband not Being Allowed to Bathe His Wife After Her Death

Evidence on a Husband not Being Allowed to Bathe His Wife After Her Death

Question:

Is it not true that Sayyiduna Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) bathed Sayyida Fatima (may Allah be pleased wit her) after she passed away? Then, how can you say (in an earlier answer), “That 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 (now) ex-wife.” Can you please explain this?

Answer:

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

The understanding of the Hanafi School (contrary to the Ijtihad of the other three Sunni Schools of Islamic law) is what was mentioned in the earlier answer, in that a man is not allowed to bathe or directly touch his wife after her death, for the bond of marriage is considered to have terminated.

Imam Zafar Ahmad Usmani (Allah have mercy on him) states in his colossal work, I’la al-Sunan, quoting from Imam al-Zurqani:

“There is no difference of opinion in the permissibility of the wife bathing her husband (after his death). However, with regards to the husband bathing his wife (after her death), the majority of the Ulama including the three (i.e. Malik, Shafi’i and Ahmad) have permitted it, due to the fact that Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) bathed Sayyida Fatima (Allah be pleased with her). It has been mentioned in Athar al-Sunan from Asma bint Umays (Allah be pleased with her) that she said: “When Fatima (Allah be pleased with her) passed away, me and Ali ibn Abi Talib (Allah be pleased with him) bathed her.” This narration has been recorded by al-Bayhaqi in his al-Ma’rifa with a sound (hasan) chain of transmission. It has also been recorded in Nayl al-Awtar with a sound chain. The companions (Allah be pleased with them all) did not object to this practice of Sayyiduna Ali and Sayyida Asma (Allah be pleased with them both), hence there is a consensus of the Companions (according to these scholars) on its permissibility. However, Imam Abu Hanifa, Sha’bi and Imam Sufyan (Allah have mercy on them all) state that it will not be permitted for the husband to bathe his wife.” (I’la al-Sunan, 8/223/224)

The understanding of the Hanafi School is based on the established fact that after one’s wife’s death, the bond of marriage is considered to have terminated. This is the reason why the husband is not required to observe the waiting period (idda), contrary to the wife, for she will have to observe the waiting period of four months ten days in the event of her husband passing away. Similarly, the husband is allowed to marry his deceased wife’s sister or a fourth wife (besides her) immediately after her death.

Thus, the permissibility of bathing the wife’s body or otherwise is based on the marriage bond being present, in that if the marriage is still intact, it will be permitted, and if the marriage bond is terminated, then it will not be allowed. For this very reason, if a husband divorced his wife irrevocably whilst he was alive and then passed away, his wife will not be allowed to bathe him, as the marriage was terminated before death. (See: Radd al-Muhtar, ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 2/199)

Imam al-Kasani (Allah have mercy on him) states whilst mentioning the evidences that support the Hanafi viewpoint:

“Our proof is that which is narrated by Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was asked about a woman who passes away with no female around (to bathe her), and he said: “Dry ablution (tayammum) will be performed on her with pure earth”. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) did not differentiate between her having her husband present or otherwise. (Bada’i al-Sana’i, 1/305)

Moreover, Tabrani narrates in his Mu’jam al-Kabir, Abu Dawud in his Marasil and al-Bayhaqi that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) is reported to have said: “When a woman dies with only men around her and there is no other woman present, or when men die with only women around them, then in both situations, dry ablution (tayammum) will be performed upon the deceased and then buried. The deceased will be like the one who does not possess any water.” (See: I’la al-Sunan, 8/227)

Imam Zafar Ahmad Uthmani (Allah have mercy on him) states, after recording the abovementioned Hadith in his I’la al-Sunan, that the above Hadith indicates both the husband and wife not being permitted to bathe their spouse after death. However, the permissibility of the wife bathing her husband has been decisively proven by the Sunnah and the consensus of the Sahaba, hence the wife will be excluded from the general ruling of the Hadith. (I’la al-Sunan, 8/227)

As for the report which states that Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) bathed his wife Sayyida Fatima (Allah be pleased with her) after her death, the understanding of the Hanafi Mujtahids is that this was a specific case, the ruling of which cannot be generalized.

Imam Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) states in his Radd al-Muhtar that this was specifically permitted for Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him). At the time, another Companion Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud (Allah be pleased with him) objected to this practice of Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him), upon which Sayyiduna Ali said: “Don’t you know that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said to me: “Verily Fatima will be your wife in this world and the hereafter”. Thus, this response of Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) indicates that the Companions deemed bathing one’s wife impermissible.

Another explanation is also that Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) did not actively bathe Sayyida Fatima (Allah be pleased with her); rather, she was bathed by a female Companion Umm Ayman and was aided by Sayyiduna Ali in making the various arrangements. (Radd al-Muhtar, 2/198)

Finally, it should be remembered that this is a matter of Ijtihad that has been discussed, researched and studied by the various Mujtahids of this Ummah. Our duty is to respect the views of all of them and follow the opinion of one School. Thus, the three schools permit the husband bathing his wife, whilst the Hanafi School, in light of the above explanation, disagrees.

And Allah knows best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK

Question #: 4861
Published: 06/01/2005
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