In Verse (5:31) we are taught how to bury a dead person. This Verse at first sight doesn't make clear whether this is mandatory only for dead bodies of believers or a general rule. A Hadith from Sunan abi Dawod seems to cover the point of non-Muslims.

My question what if we found a dead body or body parts or a skeleton and we don't know whether this person is male/female (for example if we find it in a desert) and don't have the possibility to determine neither the identity nor religion of this dead body.

Are there any rules (ahkam) telling us what we (as Muslims) have to do?

I mean:

  • do we have to bury any dead body we find?
    This point apparently is already covered by my evidences from my intro!
  • do we have to perform ghusl al-mayyit?
  • do we have to offer Janazah prayer?
  • do we have to wait a certain time to give the identification a chance!
  • ...

So maybe a summarized question could be like this: Should we consider a dead body, with an unknown identity as a Muslim or as a non-Muslim when burying it?

Please don't provide answers such as "call the authorities" as this -in my opinion- is a matter of course and has in first place nothing to do with the Islam nor it rulings.

  • Can you even do a ghusl on a skeleton? or on a separate body part? Or on a decaying corpse? My first thought was "this is a weird weird question", but indeed, it is an interesting one. Burying is obviously mandatory, I guess your question is mainly "should we perform ghusl first". (I have to say it, just in case: if you have a body laying around, please inform the authorities :))
    – ZakC
    Apr 19, 2016 at 23:13
  • @ZakC calling the authorities isn't that relevant. But a relevant option could be waiting for a certain while until the identity is checked.
    – Medi1Saif
    Apr 20, 2016 at 7:00
  • If you find an arm with no digits, or an ear, you might wait a while. But your question still remains because you may be unable to find an identity no matter how long you wait.
    – ZakC
    Apr 20, 2016 at 7:17
  • @ZakC and my emphasize lies on how to treat the dead body as a Muslim or non-Muslim, this means which ritual would we have to follow until burying it.
    – Medi1Saif
    Apr 21, 2016 at 10:49

1 Answer 1


After reading your question, logical reasoning gave me some cases, upon searching for different fatawa, i found exact same reasoning being made there. Alhamdulillah.

Logically, if a dead body is found, of-course you will contact authorities because they will be able to more precisely locate any know how of that body, and possibly find its relatives or anything which can help.

We can wait for some reasonable time before which body starts smelling etc. Or, until it's now nearly impossible to track him/her back.

If we cannot find anyone who can identify his/her religion than we should go for the signs of muslims. Which include being circumcised(males), wearing clothes of Muslims particularly, having pubic hair shaved, having sign of sajda on forehead. or any other sign which can distinguish him/her as muslim will be acceptable. If we find any signs, we will treat this body as muslim, and will do all the required steps for the burial, and it will be buried in muslims graveyard.

If there is no apparent sign, also logically, what we can do next is to check if the society/area body is found in is muslim majority or not. If so, we will make assumption that its a muslim body(being positive and logical), and will do all the required steps for the burial, and it will be buried in muslims graveyard. And if the area is mostly non-muslim, or it is more obvious that it might be non-muslim body, than it will be treated as non-muslim body, and will just be buried separately(not in muslims graveyard).

Fatawa i found which confirm my logical reasoning are:
first, second.

  • In the whole that was also what i concluded with my logic. But you may find a dead body in a desert like the Sahara which is part of many Muslim countries, but we also know that rally's like Paris-Dakar are held their or people involved in that pass by and many tourists are interested in trips into the deserts... that was the situation that came into my mind!
    – Medi1Saif
    Sep 15, 2016 at 7:07
  • We should do whats apparent with positivity, this is not the matter of life and death for us or our iman, we do our best and inshallah we will get our reward. Sep 15, 2016 at 7:09

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