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Why are Muslim women in London taking a course to wash the dead?

Why are Muslim women in London taking a course to wash the dead?

By Faima Bakar / Two weeks ago, I spent all my Sunday learning how to wash and cover dead people. I was not alone. With me were 50 other women, all eager to learn the same thing.

This sacred Islamic ritual - called Ghusl Mayyit - focuses on bathing the deceased with soap and water.

In London, these courses are organized on the last Sunday of each month by the charity for mental health and loss "Support to Humanity".

Up to 90 people participate in each organization. Men wash the mannequins, while women wash those of the same sex.

Course leader Salma Patel, who has conducted such sessions for the past three years, uses a mannequin, complete with a wig, to carefully explain each step. She treats the lifeless doll as if she were really human, gently lifting each limb and parting her hair to show how to wash and braid.

Patel washed hundreds of real bodies during the pandemic. There were times when there was overload. People are generally not good at washing their family members, so someone will do it. That is why these courses have been created, to be prepared spiritually, mentally, in addition to technically.

Tasneem, 40, said she came because when her mother died, a family member offered to do her last service. She indicates that she will be ready to help someone in another case as well.

"It's like a down payment. "We do this last service to someone, and someone else will do it for us," she said.

The whole process is done without seeing the inanimate body and without touching it.

One of the thoughts that can go through people's minds is that after death, someone will tear off what he is wearing and see it naked to clean it. This course makes it clear that no. The whole process is performed with a cloth, without seeing or touching the dead body, to maintain privacy even after death. The washing that is done is very modest.

After the seminar, my faith was further strengthened. I remembered that my body belongs to God and to Him it will return. Although it may not be an easy or relaxing Sunday, it is something humble and reflective to think about your last bath.