Thursday, May 05, 2011

Islamic funeral practices: Why the sea?

In the light of the current public attention to the death of Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, the founder of Al Qaeda organization, who is responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks, questions were raised whether the Muslims bury their dead in the sea.
It was reported that the US buried the Saudi-born leader's body following the Islamic tradition, which means they buried him within 24 hours. American officials also said that it will be difficult to find a country that will accept Bin Laden's remains, so they decided to bury him at the sea.
Hearing a radio interview earlier, a Filipino Muslim said that it is not common in Islam to lay to rest their faithful in a body of water, which prompted me to research on this issue.
Being a Christian, I had to read how our Islam brothers and sisters perform their funeral rites, and here is what I found out. Any Muslims may add information to this story. My apologies for factual errors, which I shall correct if you will advice me.
According to, Muslims follow specific burial rites such as bathing, shrouding, prayers, and positioning, which may have regional variations.
The corpse must obligatorily be buried deep on the ground. This is done so that the smell of the decomposing body does not come out.
The departed Muslim is also laid on its right side and the face or head is facing Mecca—the holiest city in Islam.
The Moderate Muslim Voices Website says Islam followers believe in keeping the body nearly to its natural state and maintaining the dignity of the person that is why they bury within one day. The religion started in hot climate where decomposition is really fast that made this a practice.
They do not perform autopsy, cremate or embalm unless there are mitigating circumstances.
Muslims do not bury their departed in the water. They bury the deceased before sunset.
The Website went on to say "Burying his (Bin Laden) body at sea was to ensure that his final resting place does not become a shrine and a place of pilgrimage for his followers."
Details of this report here.

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