[THS] Sea burial of Osama bin Laden breaks sharia law, say Muslim scholars
The Harder Stuff in news and commentary
ths at psalience.org
Tue May 3 13:41:34 CEST 2011
Sea burial of Osama bin Laden breaks sharia law, say Muslim scholars
US decision to dispose of body in the sea prevents grave site becoming a shrine but
clerics warn it may lead to reprisals
Osama bin Laden's burial reportedly took place from the deck of the USS aircraft
carrier Carl Vinson, above. Photograph: Timothy A. Hazel/AFP/Getty Images
Ian Black and Brian Whitaker
The Guardian, Mon 2 May 2011 19.36 BST
Osama bin Laden's burial at sea was quickly criticised by Muslim scholars who claimed
it had breached sharia law and warned that it may provoke calls for revenge attacks
against US targets.
Others used the sea burial question to question whether he was dead at all, with
doubts fuelled by the absence of authentic photographs of his corpse.
US officials said tests using DNA from several of Bin Laden's family members had
provided "virtual certainty" that it was his body. A woman believed to be one of Bin
Laden's wives identified the al-Qaida leader, and he was visually identified by
members of the US raiding party, the Pentagon said. Burying him on land could have
led to his grave becoming a focus of contention and pilgrimage as well as posing
tough questions about where he should be laid to rest.
"Finding a country willing to accept the remains of the world's most wanted terrorist
would have been difficult," a US official said. "So the US decided to bury him at sea."
The burial reportedly took place from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson
in the North Arabian sea.
Senior US officials told news agencies that his body was disposed of in accordance
with Islamic tradition, which involves ritual washing, shrouding and burial within 24
The 24-hour rule has not always been applied in the past. For example, the bodies of
Uday and Qusay Hussein sons of the Iraqi dictator Saddam were embalmed and
held for 11 days after they were killed by US forces. Their bodies were later shown to
media, provoking some angry responses.
It remains unclear if the US will release photos of Bin Laden's remains, but dispelling
any doubts that he is dead is likely to be a major impetus particularly in an age
when conspiracy theories can be powerfully manipulated on the web.
In a hint that such a release may be on the cards, John Brennan, Barack Obama's
counter-terrorism adviser said: "We are going to do everything we can to make sure
that nobody has any basis to try to deny that we got Osama bin Laden." He added
that the US will "share what we can because we want to make sure that not only the
American people but the world understand exactly what happened."
Brad Sagarin, a psychologist at Northern Illinois University who studies persuasion,
said the rapid disposal of the body "would certainly be a rich sort of kernel for
somebody to grasp on to if they were motivated to disbelieve this."
Citing the example of those who refuse to believe that Barack Obama is a US citizen,
he added: "As with the birther conspiracy, there's going to be a set of people who
are never going to be convinced. People filter the information they receive through
their current attitudes, their current perspectives."
Already, doubt is spreading in Pakistan. Many people do not want to believe that Bin
Laden is really dead, even though an al-Qaida spokesman, in vowing vengeance
against America, called him a martyr, offering no challenge to the US account of his
In the immediate aftermath, people in Abbottabad expressed widespread disbelief
that Bin Laden had died or ever lived among them.
"I'm not ready to buy Bin Laden was here," said Haris Rasheed, 22, who works in a
fast food restaurant. "How come no one knew he was here and why did they bury
him so quickly? This is all fake, a drama, and a crude one."
Kamal Khan, 25, who is unemployed, said the official story "looks fishy".
In terms of the basic requirements for Muslim burials, standard practice involves
placing the body in a grave with the head pointed toward the holy city of Mecca.
Burial at sea is rare in Islam, though Muslim websites say it is permitted in certain
circumstances. One is during a long voyage where the body may decompose and
pose a health hazard to a ship's passengers, an exception noted on Monday by
Tunisian scholar Ahmed al-Gharbi. Another is if there is a risk of enemies digging up
a and grave and exhuming or mutilating the body.
Dr Saud al-Fanisan, former dean of the faculty of sharia law in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,
said that if a body was buried at sea it should be protected from fish. In the words of
alislam.org, the body should be lowered into the water "in a vessel of clay or with a
weight tied to its feet".
Mohammed al-Qubaisi, Dubai's grand mufti, said of Bin Laden's burial: "They can say
they buried him at sea, but they cannot say they did it according to Islam. Sea
burials are permissible for Muslims in extraordinary circumstances. This is not one of
Abdul-Sattar al-Janabi, who preaches at Baghdad's Abu Hanifa mosque, said: "What
was done by the Americans is forbidden by Islam and might provoke some Muslims.
"It is not acceptable and it is almost a crime to throw the body of a Muslim man into
the sea. The body of Bin Laden should have been handed over to his family to look
for a country to bury him."
The radical Lebanon-based cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed said: "The Americans want
to humiliate Muslims through this burial, and I don't think this is in the interest of the
The Egyptian analyst and lawyer Montasser el-Zayat said Bin Laden's sea burial was
designed to prevent his grave from becoming a shrine. But an option was an
unmarked grave. "They don't want to see him become a symbol," he said. "But he is
already a symbol in people's hearts."
More information about the THS