Q: What is the Islamic ruling concerning a person who has drowned at sea and his body was not recovered? Should Salatul Janaazah be performed on him and if so when? What happens to his nikah (marriage); when should the iddah of his wife start and should inheritance be distributed and at what time?
A. According to the Hanafi Madhab, Janaazah Salaah can only be performed if the body of the deceased is present. Because as long as the body has not being recovered, his death is not confirmed.
In this case if the wife is able to spend the rest of her life without remarrying but still remaining chaste, then she should do so.
If not, then she will submit her case to a panel of Ulama that deals with such matters. After hearing her case they will instruct her to wait for four years from the date of the hearing. The time before the hearing took place will not be considered (will not be counted in the four years).
If the husband returns during this four year period, he will simply come back to his wife without any fuss.
If he does not return by the end of the four year waiting period, this panel of Ulama will now pass an official verdict that the husband is dead. Thereafter she will remain in Iddat for the stipulated period after which she will be free to remarry. (Fataawa Mahmoodiyah V13 P233).
Inheritance will be distributed when the panel declares the husband to be dead.
Allah Ta'aala knows best.
Moulana Yusuf Laher
Checked and approved by: Mufti Siraj Desai
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