بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Before discussing the Shāfiʿī Madhhab’s position on performing the funeral prayer for a stillbirth, some terms specific to pregnancy loss must be clarified. A miscarriage is a pregnancy loss as is a stillbirth. The difference between them is that the term miscarriage is frequently used when that occurs prior to the twentieth week and the term stillbirth is used when it occurs at or after that time (which also spans the time between the sacred law’s minimum gestation period and birth). Additionally, it should be noted that a stillbirth occurs when the baby is born dead, with no signs of life.
In the fiqh books, specific terms are used. One important term is siqṭ, which is the baby that is lost. A siqṭ may be lost before the minimum gestation period (six months) is completed. The Shāfiʿīs agree that the funeral prayer is not performed for a siqṭ that comes before this time, however, they disagree regarding one that comes after it.
According to Imām Ramlī, the funeral rites for a baby born after this time are like an adult’s. (Nihāyah 2:495; Sharwānī 3:163) According to this view, some stillbirths are a siqṭ, while others are not. When a stillbirth occurs after the minimum gestation period, the baby is no longer called a “siqṭ.” It is called a “walad.” Accordingly, it should be washed, shrouded, prayed over, and buried.
Imām Ibn Ḥajar held a differing opinion on this issue. He opined that, even after six months, the stillbirth is not prayed over. (Tuḥfah 3:163)
In al-Manhal al-Naḍḍākh p. 178, Ibn al-Qarahdāghī mentioned this difference of opinion. He said:
حرمت الصلاة على مولود بلغ أكثر من ستة أشهر لم يظهر فيه شيء من أمارات الحياة عند حج وقالا تجب الصلاة عليه لدخوله في حكم المولود لا السقط
“According to Ibn Ḥajar, performing the funeral prayer for a stillbirth of more than six months, when no sign of life was apparent, is unlawful. According to Ramlī and Khaṭīb, the prayer is obligatory because it is included in the ruling of an infant not a stillbirth.”
Then, there is the point of a miscarriage/stillbirth (ar. siqṭ) occurring before or after four months. There is a key consideration that determines how it is dealt with. That consideration is called ẓuhūr khalq ādamī. This is when the fetus has developed into a human form; the baby’s body is fully formed, including ears, toes, and fingers with fingernails. This generally happens around four months.
When ẓuhūr khalq ādamī is present, the stillborn is washed, shrouded, and buried; but the funeral prayer is not performed. And when it is absent, none of these are obligatory; it is recommended that it be wrapped in a cloth and buried. And if a miscarriage occurs during an early stage of pregnancy (i.e., ʿalaqah or mudghah), it should only be buried. (Fatḥ al-Jawwād 1:355; Ḥāshiyat al-Tarmasī 4:770-776)
In Nihāyah 2:571, Imām Ramlī mentioned the main points regarding this issue. He said:
واعلم أن للسقط أحوالا حاصلها أنه إن لم يظهر فيه خلق آدمي لا يجب فيه شيء نعم يسن ستره بخرقة ودفنه، وإن ظهر فيه خلقة ولم تظهر فيه أمارة الحياة وجب فيه ما سوى الصلاة، أما هي فممتنعة كما مر، وإن ظهر فيه أمارة الحياة فكالكبير
“If it does not come in human form, none of the funeral rites are obligatory. It is recommended to wrap it in a cloth and bury it. If it comes in human form, but no sign of life is displayed, the funeral rites -except for the prayer- are obligatory. Regarding the prayer, it is prohibited. When signs of life are observed, it is treated like an adult (i.e., all the funeral rites are observed).”
– When a miscarriage/stillbirth occurs and the fetus is still an ʿalaqah or a mudghah, it is recommended to bury it.
– When it occurs at a later stage but prior to four months, it is recommended to wrap it in a cloth and bury it.
– When it occurs after four months (i.e., ẓuhūr khalq ādamī), it is obligatory that it be washed, shrouded, and buried. It is unlawful to perform the funeral prayer when it occurs before six months.
– According to Ibn Ḥajar, it is unlawful to perform the funeral prayer for it, even after six months. According to Ramlī, the funeral prayer is obligatory when it occurs after six months.
– A stillbirth occurs when there are no signs of life present. If a baby would show signs of life but die at birth, its funeral rites are like an adult’s; it is washed, shrouded, prayed over, and buried.
Allāh knows best.