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We wash the dead body, perform funeral (janazah) prayer, bury the dead body in a grave and throw three fistful of soil and then fill the grave.

But what is the funeral procedure like if the body is not found?

  • What do you mean by not found, do you mean the body is missing or parts of it? How about salat al-ghaib? – Sassir Jul 12 '16 at 13:43
  • @sassir i mean, suppose the person drowned in Atlantic or obliterated in a spacecraft explosion. salat al ghaib refers to prayer for someone whose funeral is under procession far away, or so I think. salat al ghaib is not allowed : darul ifta Birmingham. so, n case the body is not recovered, we can't perform janazah lil ghaib, but cannot forget them altogether, there must be some kind of remembrance! – makzimus Jul 12 '16 at 14:50
  • @makzimus The link you shared about salat ul gaib or, is telling what hanafi school think about it. If you need answer of this question in light of a specific school than you should mention it, otherwise i believe salat ul gaib is allowed and prophet did it too. I am not yet usre if in such case we have no idea of body, and we ar ento sure about death this applies or not. But salat ul gaib is valid for someone died and burried far away. – Zia Ul Rehman Mughal Jul 12 '16 at 18:29
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    Basically salat al-Ghaib would be the solution, but the hanfis don't accept it as they say a salat al-janazah needs the body or at least more than the half of it being present. And the malikis dislike salat al-Ghaib. If we assume we may pray salat al-Ghaib there's the Issue when to pray? As there might be a chance that the person is alive and will come back. Maybe therefore you should focus on a known incident like a flooding/epidemia... something like that as if it is unknown scholars would even allow to wait for a life span! – Medi1Saif Feb 15 '17 at 10:04
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When the body of the deceased is not present, funeral prayers may be offered in absentia in exactly the same manner (the four takbirat) as if the body was present. All the other tasks that can only be performed if the body of the deceased is present may be skipped.

Multiple authentic hadiths show that the Prophet (ﷺ) performed the funeral prayers (Arabic: صلاة الجنازة, salat al-janaza) in absentia on Armah the Negus (Arabic: النجاشي أصحمة بن أبجر, Al-Najashi), the king of Abyssinia (Arabic: الحبشة) during the time of the first and second hijra to Abyssinia. For example:

حَدَّثَنِي عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ، حَدَّثَنَا يَزِيدُ، عَنْ سَلِيمِ بْنِ حَيَّانَ، حَدَّثَنَا سَعِيدُ بْنُ مِينَاءَ، عَنْ جَابِرِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ـ رضى الله عنهما أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم صَلَّى عَلَى أَصْحَمَةَ النَّجَاشِيِّ، فَكَبَّرَ عَلَيْهِ أَرْبَعًا‏.‏ تَابَعَهُ عَبْدُ الصَّمَدِ‏

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah: The Prophet (ﷺ) offered the funeral prayer for Ashama, the Negus, with four Takbir.

Sahih Al-Bukhari 63/105

There are numerous other hadiths to the same effect in Sahih Al-Bukhari (hadiths 63/103, 23/75, 23/9), Sahih Muslim (hadiths 32/92, 11/82), Muwatta' Malik (hadith 505360), Sunan An-Nasa'i (hadiths 21/158, 21/154, 21/164). All these hadiths prove that funeral prayers in absentia (Arabic: صلاة الجنازة على الغائب) are permitted.


Opinions of the different schools of jurisprudence

Some followers of the Shafe'i and Hanbali schools allow funeral prayers in absentia with no conditions (Ref: Al-Moghni, Vol.2, p. 382, Q. 1605, by Ibn Qudamah; Arabic: المغني). However, Ahmad ibn Hanbal put conditions on funeral prayers in absentia:

  1. The deceased is a known figure, where there is benefit to the community to offer a funeral prayer in absentia. This opinion was also adopted by many later followers of the Hanafi school.
  2. No funeral prayers were offered at the place of death. This opinion was also adopted by Ibn Taymiyyah.

Similarly, some of the Shafe'i school followers have a condition that the funeral prayers in absentia be offered on the same day of death by relatives of the deceased (Ref: Asna Al-Matalib, Vol. 1, p. 322; Arabic: أسنى المطالب في شرح روض الطالب).

Some of the Maliki and Hanafi schools followers say that performing funeral prayers in absentia is only permissible to the Prophet (ﷺ) (Ref: Bada'e Al-Sana'e, Vol. 1, p. 312; Arabic: بدائع الصنائع في ترتيب الشرائع). The majority of scholars (Arabic: الجمهور), including followers of Maliki and Hanafi schools do not agree as the rule is what the Prophet (ﷺ) did is permissible to all the Muslims to do, except when there is a verse (Qur'an or hadith) that limit the permissibility to the Prophet (ﷺ).

In conclusion, as per Al-Nawawi in Al-Majmoo', Vol. 5, p. 211 (Arabic: المجموع شرح المهذب):

ذكرنا أن مذهبنا جوازه ومنعها أبو حنيفة . دليلنا حديث النجاشي وهو صحيح لا مطعن فيه وليس لهم عنه جواب صحيح

We mentioned that: Our madhhab is that funeral prayers in absentia is permitted, and Abu Hanifa did not allow it. Our evidence are the hadith about the Negus, and it is authentic, and they [Hanafis] do not have a valid response [why it is not permitted].

— NOTE: My own translation, so treat with care.

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You can remember anyone's death, commemorate it as Rasulullah ﷺ has taught us.

As you have questioned, and also mentioned in your comment about the answer given by Darul Ifta Birmingham, there is no prayers named salat-al-janazah-al-ghaib.

So, if anyone's body is lost whether it is by drowning, burning or any other way, you can make dua for him, make sadaqah for him, pray for his forgiveness.

But there is no funeral acts in this case.

Allah knows the best.

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