Who doesn’t deserve a funeral?

Harry’s Place » A Single Step

The above post at Harry’s Place is by the infamous Shiraz Maher (this is the guy who says he got involved in Islamism after 9/11 and changed his mind after the London bombings in 2005, which should raise a few eyebrows in my opinion), claiming that there is “encouraging news” coming from India in the wake of the Bombay massacres, namely that Indian Muslim leaders are refusing to allow Muslims killed while perpetrating the attacks to be given funerals, or buried in Muslim cemeteries in India (see BBC report). The report quotes Ibrahim Tai, president of the Indian Muslim Council, as saying:

“They are not Muslims as they have not followed our religion which teaches us to live in peace.

“If the government does not respect our demands we will take up extreme steps. We do not want the bodies of people who have committed an act of terrorism to be buried in our cemeteries.

“These terrorists are a black spot on our religion, we will very sternly protest the burial of these terrorists in our cemetery,” he said.

There is an al-Jazeera report on the same subject posted on YouTube:

The report mentions a letter from the Muslim Council Trust, quoted as saying:

Islam does not approve of wanton killings and targeting non-combatants. As such, it can be safely surmised that such criminals are not Muslims.

This is worrying, because we see a supposed religious authority claiming that a Muslim is not a Muslim on account of having committed a sin, even a major sin. The fact that someone remains technically a Muslim despite committing a sin (the legal state of belief being separate from the inner state) is something most ordinary Muslims know; it was settled very early on in the history of Islamic scholarship, and the reverse position was associated with the Kharijites, a group best known for calling people unbelievers because of disagreement, and killing them as a result. The category of Kharijite includes Muslims who rebel, sanctioning the killing and enslavement of Muslims, on account of their own mistaken interpretation of Islam. While the behaviour of today’s terrorists differs - the historical Kharijites usually left non-Muslims alone, while the terrorists of today kill anyone and everyone, claiming that the non-Muslims are the enemy while making various excuses for killing whatever Muslims are among them - the principle is still that they make war, and kill people who may not be killed according to most Islamic scholars, on the basis of their own, or their leaders’, spurious reasoning and mistaken judgement, which makes them criminals but does not remove them from Islam.

Controversy about funerals for criminals and terrorists in Islam is not new; it is often reported that people who have died in an act of terrorism get a big funeral, as with one of the 2005 London bombers or the Bali bombers. More recently, a Muslim criminal, who was killed robbing a shop in Philadelphia dressed in a niqab, was denied a public funeral by a major local mosque. This did not mean that the robber did not get a funeral at all; prayer over the dead falls into the category of fard kifaya, i.e. a communal obligation, meaning it is an obligation for someone to do it, not necessarily anyone in particular, and not necessarily everyone, so it is sufficient for a few people to pray over them. In both cases, the criminals had offended and endangered the Muslim community, in Philadelphia by using the clothing Muslim women wear for modesty as a disguise, and in Bombay by killing indiscriminately, then exposing the community to a backlash which might make post-9/11 America look like a walk in the park. This is not to say that the community needs to have any big ceremony about it, or even that a large number of people should be present, and no doubt they could be buried away from the other Muslims, but an obligation is an obligation. Not fulfilling it lowers their status more than that of the deceased.

After all, scoundrels get burials. Politicians who launched murderous wars get buried with far greater pomp than ordinary people who led blameless or even virtuous lives. Doubtless, when the leaders of the various Hindu nationalist parties and mobs die, they will get a big public burial, particularly if they had also been politicians. I wonder if the Indian Muslim Council refuse burials to members of Dawood Ibrahim’s mafia gangs, or to Muslims who have carried out, or helped carry out, honour killings, which account for up to a third of homicides in parts of India. However, their Hindu neighbours are unlikely to blame them for that, as I am sure Hindus do their share of such murders.

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