What is the ruling of throwing away the placenta after a baby is born? Is it obligatory to bury the placenta or is it fine if it is thrown away or is there a specified way of discarding the placenta in Islam? I am an employee of a maternity hospital and am in charge of handling all unclaimed placenta. Should I discard the unclaimed placenta of the non-Muslims the same way as the unclaimed placenta of the Muslims?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
It has been a custom for the Malay community to bury the placenta after a baby is born. The placenta would be washed and wrapped before it is buried. Before the explanation of the rulings of this issue, we would first define the term placenta.
Referring to the 4th edition of Kamus Dewan, the placenta is a temporary organ that connects the developing fetus via the umbilical cord to the uterine wall to allow nutrient uptake, thermo-regulation, waste elimination, and gas exchange via the mother's blood supply. It is also called as an afterbirth for it is expelled from the body fifteen to thirty minutes after birth. The placenta functions as a fetomaternal organ with two components; the fetal placenta, which develops from the same blastocyst that forms the fetus and maternal placenta, which develops from maternal uterine tissues.
Simply put, the maternal placenta is the part that wrapped the baby during pregnancy and fetal placenta is connected to the umbilical cord.
The Arabic terms for maternal and fetal placenta are المشيمة (al-masyimah) and الخلاص (al-khalas) respectively.
Scholars’ Opinions Regarding Placenta
- As-Syeikh Muhammad ash-Syarbini al-Khatib Rahimahullahu Taala, the author of Mughni Muhtaj(1/80), states: “And for the parts that are separated from living animals and masyimah, the ruling is the same as when the animal is still alive, thus if it is pure (according to syarak) while it was still alive, then it is ruled pure, while if the animal is najis (impure according to syarak) when it was alive, thus it is ruled as najis. This is in accordance with a hadith which states, ‘Whatever is cut off from a living creature, is ruled the same as its death.’ HR Al-Hakim, sahih al-Bukhari and sahih Muslim. The parts that are separated from humans, fishes or grasshoppers are ruled as pure, while other than them (other than humans, fishes and grasshoppers) are najis. The same applies to the ruling of human placenta…..It is concluded that the part that is separated from it after death is ruled the same as its death.”
The author further states (1/349): “As for the parts that are separated from something that is alive or there is a doubt as to its death, for example, the hand of a thief, nail, hair, blood clot (alaqah), blood from cupping and the like, then it is sunnah to bury them to honor their owner. Syeikh al-Mutawalli Rahimahullahu Taala explains that it is also sunnah to wrap parts such as a hand with a cloth before it is buried.”
- The author of Hasyiah Qalyubi was Umairah(1/395) states: “Placenta that is named al-khalas is a body part of the child, for it is separated from the child. Thus, it is a part of the child. As for the placenta that wraps the child during pregnancy, it is not a part of the mother or of the child.”
- A statement cited from Hasyiah al-Bujairimi(1/101) states: “Body parts of humans and human placenta are pure and placenta from other than humans are najis (impure according to syarak).”
- In Hasyiah as-Syabramalisi(3/197), it is stated that: “And from the placenta that wraps the child is ruled as pure, however placenta other than human placenta is najis.”
- The same ruling is mentioned in Nihayatul Muhtaj: (1/245): “And from the placenta that wraps a child is ruled as pure, but other than human placenta is najis. The agreed opinion among scholars for any parts that are separated after death is ruled the same as its death.”
- As for the author of Hasyiah as-Syirwani(2/676), he said: “It is sunnah to bury anything that is separated from human’s body, such as hair, nail and blood.”
To conclude, the maternal and fetal human placenta that is separated from a child is pure and not considered as najis. Thus, it is sunnah to wrap the maternal and fetal parts of the human placenta with a suitable cloth, whether it is washed first or not, then buried properly at a suitable place, honouring is the owner. However, if it separated when the child has passed away, then it must be buried according to how a deceased is handled and buried.
Islamic scholars state that the burial of placenta is qiyas (analogically deduced) of the sunnah of burying any parts from a human that are separated from him, such as nail, hair and others. Hence, the same applies to human placenta. They refer to an athar by Ibnu Umar Radiyallahu anhu, a companion of the Prophet PBUH, that buries his nails and hair that is trimmed and cut.
Ibnu Qudamah states in his book Syarah al-Kabir (1/104--105):
“It is sunnah to bury anything that is trimmed such as nails or cut such as hair, from its owner. Muhanna asked Imam Ahmad: ‘Should one bury or throw parts of him such as hair and nails?’ Then Imam Ahmad Rahimahullah Taala answered that they should be buried. Then he asked again, ‘Is there any evidence that came to you that explains this ruling?’ Imam Ahmad answered, “Ibnu Umar RA buried them.”
However, it is not a sin if the placenta is thrown away and not buried.
Our opinion regarding the arrangement to prepare a particular place to bury the placenta does not contradict syarak from the discussion and explanation from Islamic scholars, taking into consideration of the wisdom of burying the placenta or any parts of human, if they are separated from their owner, which is to avoid or prevent the act of sorcery.
It is advised to set apart the placenta of Muslims from the non-Muslims to protect the public’s interest and avoid confusion in our society.
May this explanation benefit us all in understanding the issue better. Wallahua’lam