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How to set up burial facilities that meet local laws and Islamic requirements and help reduce costs. BY HILAL SHIMLAVI

Amjad R. M. Syed, a regular volunteer at the ISNA-Canada headquarters in Mississauga, is always ready to advise communities on how to establish their own funeral preparation and burial facilities. To spread his knowledge further afield, he is publishing "Islamic Funeral Guide and Related Topics on the Last Rites on the Body" (ISNA Canada: Forthcoming).

According to him, most North American communities may be financially able to set up a funeral preparation facility at their Islamic center/mosque. He recommends that those planning to do so:

* Consult the local "Yellow Pages" for "Funeral Equipment Suppliers" and then visit a local funeral home to discuss the relevant procedures and costs.

* Contact the local city, municipal, and state authorities to learn about the rules and regulations governing such structures. Much of this information can probably be found online.

* Talk with an architect about designing a purpose-built structure that incorporates local building and health codes and helps control costs.

* Consider specific needs, such as ensuring that the room and its wide doors are easily accessible to hearses and the area where the funeral service will be held; covering the floor with non-slippery ceramic tiles and angling it so that the water will flow into a drain; covering the inside wall with regular ceramic tiles; designing the viewing or congregational area with the understanding that people will keep their shoes on. In addition, a portable screen might be useful for women who desire privacy.

* Provide a separate storage area for boxes or caskets, enough shelving for storing supplies, a closet for the volunteers who help wash (ghusl) the corpse, and a washroom that contains a bulletin board, note pad, pen and a telephone extension.

* Install a cold (refrigerated) room, the facility's most expensive item. It is better to have two of them, one for each gender. Each of its sections should have two-wheeled portable stainless steel tables for moving the corpses in and out. Such tables should have two platforms, for occasionally two corpses might have to be carried at once. All furnishings should be of stainless steel with no sharp edges.

* Provide a good exhaust system for the facility, one with enough door and window vents for letting in fresh air.

* Install bright lighting, make use of a movement sensor light in the cold-storage room, and provide enough electrical outlets/sockets.

* The wash table should have a perforated bed located above a suitable wash water collecting trough. This trough must be able to hold all the ghusl water for disinfecting and draining and should be connected to a drain. If possible, the wash table should have five or six stainless steel sliding and adjustable bars so that the corpse can be laid out for easy washing all around. Preferably the wash table should be 7'x3.5' and height adjustable in order to match the funeral company's stretcher. It should be positioned directly above the main drain with a large funnel with mesh.

* A ceiling-based retractable shower hose, located just above the wash table, should be long enough to reach all the wash table's sides and have a shower head that dispenses both sprayed and smooth running water. Syed says one can opt for an adjustment that will allow the hose to dispense a concentrated soap solution (kept in a separate bottle) to mix with the wash water. By turning on a key near the hose, one can receive a flow of soapy water for washing. …