The hurried burial of Osama bin Laden's body at sea, which U.S. officials claim was done in accordance with Muslim rituals and practice, has angered some Islamic scholars even as others said the Americans did the right thing.
U.S. officials said, Monday, they had buried bin Laden at sea according to Islamic custom of burying the dead within 24 hours of death. The officials claim they did the right thing as they found it difficult in convincing any country to accept bin Laden's body for burial.
However, some Muslim scholars are not buying the story and claim that the action was a humiliating disregard for their customs and practice.
According to the scholars, sea burials are allowed BUT only in special cases eg. when the death has occurred in sea. bin Laden did not die in sea and hence, they claim, he should have been buried in land by placing the body in a grave with the head pointed toward the holy city of Mecca. Moreover, Muslim prayers have to be recited and the body need to be ritually washed, as is usually required by Islamic law. And, even if the body is buried at sea, it needs to be wrapped in a shroud and buried only after a brief Islamic service is held.
The Americans want to humiliate Muslims through this burial, and I don't think this is in the interest of the U.S. administration, Omar Bakri Mohammed, a radical cleric in Lebanon, said.
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 or land to bury him, another Islamic scholar from Iraq, Abdul-Sattar al-Janabi, who preaches at Baghdad's famous Abu Hanifa mosque, said.
They can say they buried him at sea, but they cannot say they did it according to Islam, Mohammed al-Qubaisi, Dubai's grand mufti, said about bin Laden's burial. Sea burials are permissible for Muslims in extraordinary circumstances. This is not one of them.
According to Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and a physician of internal medicine, Dumping the body into the sea is not part of any Islamic ritual.
Koranic scripture says God created him and he must return to the earth, Jasser said.
Scholars say that even those who are criminals and murderers are given the Islamic rite of burial.
Even those who are executed have a proper burial given to them, said Dr. Muzamil Siddiqi, chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America and a scholar on the legal systems of Islam. It is strictly forbade any mutilation - even of the enemy's body.
Montasser al-Zayat, a prominent Egyptian Islamist lawyer, also condemned the sea burial , saying bin Laden should have been buried in his native country - Saudi Arabia.
Isn't it enough that they killed him and displayed their joy to the world? al-Zayat told Al Jazeera television. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a moral obligation
to demand that it bury Osama on its land.
Dr Saud al-Fanisan, former dean of the faculty of sharia law in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said that if bin Laden's body was buried at sea it should have been protected from fish. In the words of alislam.org, the body should be eased into the water in a vessel of clay or with a weight tied to its feet.
The head of Egypt's prestigious seat of Sunni Muslim learning, al-Azhar, has also condemned U.S. action. The Grand Imam, Dr Ahmed El-Tayeb, the sheikh of Al-Azhar condemned the reports, if true, of the throwing of the body of Osama bin Laden into the sea, according to a statement released by al-Azhar.
Harvard scholar Azeem Ibrahim, a Muslim, was also critical of the sea burial, but for different reasons.
Bin Laden, the enemy of Islam, did not deserve an Islamic funeral or burial in a Muslim graveyard, said Ibrahim in an op-ed in Conservative Home.
Ibrahim said Bin Laden “unofficially declared war on Islam and all Muslims who did not subscribe to his perverse beliefs when he issued his fatwa against the United States.
He thinks US officials should have followed the lead of India.
In 2008, Muslim extremists in India killed 166 people in Mumbai. When the killers were captured, the Muslim Council of India refused to give them a proper Muslim burial, stating that people who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim. Islam does not permit this sort of barbaric crime.
The killers’ bodies were therefore allowed to decay for three months before burial.
Ibrahim said the US should have buried Bin Laden in the dirt and let his body rot just like his name.
Another Muslim scholar also said a simple solution would have been to hand over bin Laden's body to his family or bury him in an unmarked grave.
What the Americans have done is forbidden by Islam and could alienate Muslims further and anger them. It could trigger a retaliation, he said.
However, some believe the Americans did the right thing.
According to Akbar Ahmed, the chairman of the Islamic studies department at American University, the sea burial prevents bin Laden's followers from turning his grave site into a shrine. It prevents the grave site from being a rallying point for terrorist organizations, Ahmed said.
Agrees Khalid Latif, chaplain at New York University and director of its Islamic Center. If we think about burying him in the ground, there are multiple scenarios, Latif said. The problem is people don't want him buried near them or their loved ones. Giving him a place on land would create an opportunity for many individuals to unleash and lash out their rage against him. He made lives terrible for so many of us.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government said bin Laden's body was washed in accordance with Islamic custom, placed in a white sheet, then put inside a weighted bag and eased into the sea. It was done in accordance with Muslim practice, the government said.