Preston Muslim Burial Society: An example of good local practice
Categories: Past Event Articles
Thursday April 16 2020
During this global pandemic, many Muslim communities across the UK have been mobilising to ensure that burial procedures remain in line with Islamic guidelines yet take into account the Public Health England guidance related to COVID-19 management. MEND is highlighting and championing the work of Preston Muslim Burial Society (PMBS) for their coordinated response to the coronavirus outbreak and their ability to adapt to the situation at hand.
On 23rd March 2020, the Coronavirus Bill was debated in parliament, which included an amendment addressing the original bill’s mention of the possibility of the cremations of bodies, without regard for the personal or religious choice of the deceased. This amendment was accepted, making the possibility of cremations of the deceased in extreme circumstances infinitely more difficult (but not completely eliminating it). By 24th March 2020, PMBS had put out an announcement to the local Preston community which not only explained the new guidelines related to Muslim burials, but highlighted the assurances given by the local council, through a statement, that Muslims would still be washed, shrouded and buried according to Islamic tradition, even in extreme circumstances. By 30th March 2020, PMBS had collated frequently asked questions discussing the impact of COVID-19 on the burial process, the guidelines of Taziat (condolences) and the step by step protocol following a death. All this was completed in dialogue with the local council and health advisors.
In order to address the task at hand, PMBS have set up a number of volunteer teams, all of whom have been trained up to complete their role under strict protocols, including wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) throughout. The mortuaries used by the society have been risk assessed and have the approval of local health officials. The teams have specific roles within the PMBS structure, with a core management and admin team coordinating a response and ensuring the community is kept up to date. The Transport, Ghusl, Burial and Disinfection teams contain trained individuals who safely carry out their respective roles during the burial process and the transfer of the deceased.
PMBS have been well ahead of the curve when it comes to being prepared for what this crisis may bring. MEND’s guidance on the matter illustrates the importance of ensuring that the local council has provided assurances that there will be sufficient burial spaces for Muslims and that cremation will never be an option for Muslim deceased. MEND has also suggested that local burial services should provide guidelines to the local community on how procedures will change and what safeguards will be put into place in light of the current crisis. MEND also highlight the need to provide adequate training to those involved in the burial process to ensure that the guidelines are put into practice successfully. As can be seen from above, PMBS has effectively completed all the steps required to secure safe and respectful burials for Muslims in Preston.
National Burial Council and MEND have also launched a website with a number of Muslim Burial Resources for both the Muslim community and for burial services across the country which can be accessed here.