Scenario #1: What To Do When a Death Occurs Overseas

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Dealing with the death of a beloved is painful. There are so many things to consider and many loose ends to tie up.

But sometimes, things can get tougher than that.

A death overseas is especially distressing because the deceased can be thousands of miles away from home. In such a state of grief, would you know what has to be done, the steps to be taken in order to bring the body back as soon as possible?

Singapore has its’ own set of laws and requirements to follow should it occur, and can be found on the National Environmental Agency website.

There, it gives a clear guide on all the technicalities involved with bringing in the deceased from another country.

Scenario C: If the death occurs overseas If death had occurred overseas, it should be registered with the relevant foreign authorities where the death occurred.

A. Singapore Citizens / Permanent Residents

For Cremation or Burial

The body of a Singapore Citizen/Permanent Resident may be brought back to Singapore for cremation or burial. However, a Coffin (Import) Permit is required to import a body into Singapore. A funeral director should be able to assist you in the procedures.

A) Application of Coffin (Import) Permit 
a) You may apply for a coffin permit at any time from the following offices:

I. Port Health Office 
 4545 Jalan Bukit Merah Singapore 159466
 Tel: 6222 2585 Fax: 6222 8543

II. Airport Health Office 
 Singapore Changi Airport Tel: 6543 2515 Fax: 6543 1973

B) Documents required for the issuance of the coffin permit:

I. Death Certificate issued by the country where death occurred (copy of English translation is required if the death certificate is in ethnic languages), Cause of Death Certificate or a Statutory Declaration

II. Sealing Certificate for the coffin

III. Embalming Certificate, where applicable

IV. Coffin Export Permit from the country exporting the body

V. Air Waybill (Air Consignment Note) if by air 

If the application is by the funeral director, the Permit to Cremate/Bury will be granted provided the next-of-kin gives a letter of authorization for the funeral director to apply for the permit.

C) The coffin permit costs $10. The Permit to Bury/Cremate will be issued with the coffin permit at no extra charge.

Note: Prior written approval has to be obtained from the National Environment Agency, Environmental Health Department for the import of a body of an HIV-infected Singapore Citizen

Death Registration

The death will also have to be reported to Singapore ‘s Registry of Births & Deaths , Citizen Centre, 3rd Storey, ICA Building personally by the next-of-kin of the deceased. If the next-of-kin is unable to report the death personally at ICA Building , a letter of authorization will be required.

Documents Required

I. Death Certificate issued by the foreign authorities (copy of English
translation is required if the death certificate is in ethnic languages)

II. Coffin (Import/Export) permit

III. Permit to Bury/Cremate

IV. Deceased’s Singapore identity card, passport, Citizenship Certificate (if any), and

V. Informant’s identification documents

Taken from http://www.nea.gov.sg/passesaway/when.htm

These are some of the regulations that we need to know in the case of an overseas death, in addition to the cost of acquiring the needed official papers as well as the money for bringing the body back to homeland.

What is the Islamic view on deaths that occur overseas?

It is important to note that it is not advisable to move bodies over very long distances as it would cause unnecessary delay in the burial process, which is frowned upon.

“There are a number of problems linked with burying a person so far away. Firstly it is considered extremely disliked (makruh tahrimi) to transfer a deceased person from one area to another for burial unless it is just a mile or two (Radd al-Muhtar 1:602, 5:275) [AR. or further to the closest Muslim graveyard]. This is the opinion related from Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani and highlighted by Ibn Nujaym, Ibn ‘Abidin, Tahtawi, and others.”
-Taken from http://spa.qibla.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=4640&CATE=168

But all of the above are only the beginning to more problems.

Under the documents required for the issuance of the coffin permit, it states “Embalming Certificate – where applicable” as one of the requirements.

For overseas deaths, we have to be prepared as there may be cases of bodies being needed to be embalmed due to the prolonged time taken for it to be brought to the country of burial.

This is an extremely complicated matter for a Muslim.

“Modern embalming methods now consist primarily of removing all blood and gases from the body and the insertion of a disinfecting fluid. Small incisions are made in either the carotid or femoral artery and the jugular or femoral vein; the disinfecting fluid is injected through the carotid or femoral artery, and the blood is drained from the jugular or femoral vein.

The above method of embalming described is clearly disturbing and we would like to point out that to a degree it is also tantamount to desecration of the body, hence not permissible in Islam.”

-Taken from
http://www.mbcol.org.uk/FuneralProcedure/TakingBodiesAbroadEmbalming/tabid/72/language/en-GB/Default.aspx

Imagine if you were the deceased. If given a choice, how would you want to be buried?

In this day and age, being overseas is an everyday occurrence, be it for a simple matter of holidaying in Bali, migrating to Australia, or studying in the States or the UK. No one knows when their life will end, and it will be arrogant of us to assume that we do not need this knowledge because we feel that it would not apply to us.

When one of our loved ones pass, we would want to make the best decisions to ensure a smooth journey into the afterlife. But would we be able to shoulder the responsibilities with the knowledge that we possess, should it happen?

The Islamic Funeral and Death Rites Course will be taking place on the 20th of July 2013 at Sultan Mosque’s Auditorium. Click on the poster for more details regarding this very comprehensive 2-day course on proper funeral management and exploration of possible death scenarios by IslamicEvents.sg and Pengurusan Jenazah Sinaran Baharu (PJSB).

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