While South Africans must deal with the gravity of death every day during the coronavirus pandemic, the cost of a janazah has been another daunting reality. Muslim burial societies have been overloaded with burials due to the surge in COVID-19 deaths recently and the added burden of handling an infected body has compounded this stress. Local burial societies must ensure they strictly comply with COVID-19 burial guidelines and that they avoid possible infection of burial staff or family members coming into contact with the deceased.
To this end, the cost of a COVID-19 janazah can be taxing. One burial society is charging up to R7000 for a COVID-19 patient.
“COVID-19 has changed the game and myself and my team go all out to ensure the safety of ourselves, our family and the community. Regulations state that masks and gloves are sufficient, but we are taking extra precautions,” Ebrahim Solomon, chairperson of the Haathiem Al Lathaat Burial Services.
Cost breakdown for Haathiem Al Lathaat Burial Services:
R2000 – Personal Protective Equipment for the undertakers/toekamanies
R500 – The registration of death
R700 – The collection of the body at the hospital or mortuary
R400 – The use of the Ghusl Ghana
R500 – Toekamanie services (x2)
R2000 – Kafan
R1500 – The cost of burial at a local cemetery
(Note: The above is an estimate. Prices vary as per service provided)
However, these costs are only applicable to private janazahs. Members of the ‘kifayat klops’ (funeral insurance) who had made monthly contributions for janazah will not incur these costs.
For a normal janazah, Solomon would charge in the region of R5000, but due to the strict safety precautions required for the burial of a COVID19 body, he said burial societies had to consider the additional financial implications.
“If someone comes to me and says they cannot afford it, our duty is to ensure the body gets under the ground.”
However, independent undertaker Yagha Canfield expressed concern over the high cost of janazahs, saying the burial of Muslims is “an amaanah to serve Allah SWT”.
“Our PPE suits alone cost us R265. We use an average of four suits per janazah which works out to R1000. Our body bags come from Johannesburg and costs us R1000 each. My cost for a COVID19 janazah is R2000 which is to just cover the expenses of sanitising, the suits and the bags,” he explained.
Canfield said the family should pay for the burial space, the ghasils/ghasilas, the kafan and if they belong to a burial service, this will be covered by the society. The family would ultimately only pay R2000.
All COVID-19 bodies must be washed at two ghusl facilities – Cravenby masjid in Ravensmead and Taronga road masjid in Rondebosch East.
According to Solomon, certain cemeteries are charging more to secure a grave for a COVID19 body.
The Pooke Road cemetery will cost R3500 for burial space, but after 3pm, prices go up to R4000.
“The cemeteries are saying if it’s a COVID-19 body, they will never open up the hole again,” said Solomon.
Solomon urged members of the public to check the costs of each burial society before using their service.
“At the end of the day, you only get what you pay for.”
The MJC Cemetery Committee chairperson Shaykh Riad Fataar said they are in the process of compiling guidelines for the cost of COVID-19 janazahs, but said it was difficult to provide specifics, as it varied amongst the burial services.