25 March 2020
BBSI Publishes Detailed Funeral Guidance for British Muslim Communities During Corona Pandemic
The recent concerns raised by faith communities to the Government’s Coronavirus Bill’s proposed burial arrangements highlights the challenges posed specifically to religious communities by the current pandemic.
Following efforts by Naz Shah MP, the government responded positively and adjusted the bill accordingly – Shah has noted the efforts of several organisations on faith-related issues, including the British Board of Scholars and Imams (BBSI). The BBSI has been responding to the challenges that Covid-19 poses to British Muslims, including a paper published today on precisely the issue of burials and funerals in light of the current challenges.
Shaykh Dr. Asim Yusuf, chair of the BBSI, said:
‘The outbreak of Covid-19 presents an unprecedented national and international challenge. The BBSI aims to provide definitive guidance for Muslim communities across Britain on managing and responding to these difficult times. By combining religious and medical expertise, we hope to provide Muslims with an Islamically authentic way of navigating the outbreak in a socially responsible manner, and one that crucially limits the damage of this dreadful virus.’
The BBSI’s most recent publication addresses funerary rites, which provides critical information for Muslims wanting to uphold their faith principles within the complex context of burying those who may have passed away after contracting Covid-19. The guidance is an exhaustive, thorough and sensitive treatment of the subject matter. It also includes an emphatic message for Muslim communities to develop an appropriately trained volunteer base to manage the unprecedented scale of death, and a call to support those on the front lines of the crisis.
At a glance, the BBSI’s publication presents a detailed guide of handling the deceased who may have died of Covid-19, performing the ritual cleansing of the body, shrouding, and finally observing the funeral prayer and burying the deceased. At each step, the paper has mined the vast repository of the Islamic tradition to provide alternatives to the standard Islamic after-death procedures in light of the exceptional challenges. These include coping with the sheer scale of death, the potential infectiousness of dead bodies, and the shortage of burial space.
Shaykh Abdal-Haq Bewley, an executive board member of the BBSI, emphasised a need for heightened spirituality:
‘We need to tap into Islam’s spiritual resource to create resilience in these trying times. Through patience and prayer, we must remember the virtues of servitude, selflessness and bravery, and enact them for the common good.’
At the same time, the publication makes extensive reference to the latest guidance from Public Health England, the Royal College of Pathologists, the NHS and the Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals. The BBSI has medical doctors on its council, and have extensively consulted health professionals in producing this guidance.
This combination of confessional and professional expertise is emblematic of the BBSI’s ethos and core mission. They seek to develop theological leadership that can ‘authentically represent the rich scholarly inheritance of Islam, whilst responding flexibly to the context of modern times’.
Another BBSI council member, Ustadha Rehanah Sadiq has been a Senior Muslim Chaplain for Birmingham Women and Children’s Hospital since 2000. She said:
‘I am awe-struck by the bravery and selflessness of our NHS. The situation is dire, and as a chaplain I have seen just how much pressure front-line workers are under. Now more than ever, we need to pull together as a nation, and do everything we can to prevent the spread of Covid-19.’
Notes to Editors
- The BBSI is an apolitical national assembly of imams, traditional scholars and Islamically literate Muslim academics. Recently, the BBSI has been busy addressing the unprecedented ethico-theological implications of the outbreak of Covid-19 in Britain.
- The BBSI have published briefing papers for Imams, Mosques and Madrasas, providing important guidance on addressing the outbreak in a socially responsible and theologically sound way.
- For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org .