Federal Territories Fatwa: Preservation of Muslim Corpses infected with Infectious Diseases in times of Covid 19

Key Contact:
Muhammad Suhaib b. Mohamed Ibrahim

Following the 124th meeting of the Federal Territory Syarak Law Consultative Committee on 27 July 2020, the Mufti for the Federal Territories issued a fatwa on 1 June 2021 under P.U.(B) 317/2021, ruling that the use of chemical preservatives (embalming) to preserve a corpse is compulsory in the following situations:
  1. Situations of emergency, for example to prevent the spread of infectious diseases; or
  1. Any other situation deemed necessary by the relevant authorities, such as the Malaysian Ministry of Health.
It is trite that as a matter of Islamic law, the preservation of corpses through the uses of chemical preservatives is illegal as Muslims belief that human beings are creatures created by Allah who are glorified when they are alive and after death and should not be defiled.
However, given the alarming rise of COVID-19 related deaths amongst Muslims in Malaysia, this fatwa is seen to be a response to control the spread of infectious disease like COVID-19 carried by infected corpses when they are handled and arranged for burial. This fatwa is in line with the view of Muslim scholars who believe that preventing greater harm from the transmission of infectious diseases is more important than not preserving corpses.
Alert by Muhammad Suhaib b. Mohamed Ibrahim (Senior Associate) of the Dispute Resolution Practice of Skrine.