May 2nd, 2011
04:48 PM ET

My Take: Burial at sea shows compassion of Islamic law

Editor's note: Imam Khalid Latif is a chaplain for New York University and Executive Director of the school's Islamic Center.

By Khalid Latif, Special to CNN

I was sitting in a KFC in Brooklyn on Sunday night (halal for those who are worried) with two of my students when my phone started to buzz like crazy as friends, colleagues and family let me know that Osama bin Laden was dead.

As we drove back to Manhattan, President Obama began his address and we watched it on an iPhone and played the audio from 1010 WINS-AM radio.

The students then went to their dorm, and I drove around Manhattan. I found groups gathering here and there, including a larger one in Times Square, but I made sure to make downtown my final destination. I knew I would find something there that my eyes had wanted to see for a long time.

I was 18 years old when the 9/11 attacks were carried out against us. Since that time I have stood at the Ground Zero site as a student, as an NYPD chaplain, as a New York Muslim leader, but all the while as a New Yorker.

I've stood there at times when the streets are full as well as times when they are completely empty. I've seen people cry there, people argue and fight, but last night was the first time that my eyes have seen so many people come and stand together, regardless of their differences.

New Yorkers in all of their diversity came out last night, and I hope it signifies a greater coming together for all of us going forward.

Many people have asked me if the U.S. administration's decision to bury bin Laden's body at sea was appropriate.

In general, Islamic law would state that a Muslim should be buried in the ground. However, everything is not black and white, and a main objective of Sharia law is to increase benefits and reduce detriments to society.

'No land alternative' prompts bin Laden sea burial

The question here is not about how a body should be buried in general, but rather how specifically the body of Osama bin Laden should be buried. The decision to bury bin Laden at sea exemplifies for us how Sharia is meant to function as it takes into consideration what would be best for society on a whole through a lens of compassion and mercy.

Consider these three points:

1) Humanity on a whole has a right that needs to be considered in regard to bin Laden’s burial. Who would want this man buried next to their loved one? Is it appropriate, especially after he has caused such pain to so many, to put anyone in a situation where they might have to be buried near or next to him? I would say no.

2) The number of individuals who hate this man, including many Muslims, is extremely large. If he were buried in the ground somewhere, even at an undisclosed location, eventually we would know where his body was. Years of anger and frustration that have built up because of him would now have an outlet for expression. Whichever country had the misfortune of hosting his body would need to increase security measures around his grave. It's a good thing that no country, including Saudi Arabia, wanted to bury him in their lands.

3) There should be no opportunity for glorification of bin Laden. A grave that people could visit also would serve as an opportunity for his small group of followers to memorialize him. These individuals are skewed not only in their misreading and misinterpretation of Islam, but also - and more important - in their understanding of morals and ethics. No opportunity should exist by which they could glorify bin Laden in his death, either in the immediate future or in years to come.

On September 11, 2001, I stood in Washington Square Park and watched as the second plane flew into the World Trade Center, changing instantly the lives of many. As New York rebuilds the site, I hope that we as humanity will be able to rebuild our relationships with each other.

What makes New York great is its diversity. And what makes New Yorkers great is our ability to appreciate that diversity. I hope some ease comes to the hearts of each any every person who lost someone on that day - and that together we can begin a process toward healing and reconcilement that our city and nation needs.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 9/11 • Death • Islam • Islamic law • Muslim • Osama bin Laden • Sharia

soundoff (735 Responses)
  1. passerby

    He should be buried in the ground not in the sea. Islam only allowed burial in the ground except in unavoided case like drowning in the river or sea.

    – A Muslim 🙂

    August 1, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  2. sam

    Firstlt there is no proof that

    July 24, 2011 at 2:24 am |
  3. Donald Chalmers

    Hi Khalid

    I am glad that such news did bring you together with fellow New Yorkers as they (and we, the world community) struggle to make meaning out of the chaos acts of random terrorism and blatant aggression bring. Such acts from either "side" should sober the drunken, and "hinge the unhinged".

    All such acts are a blot on our very humanity. They have nothing to do with religion, which should seek to bring people together, rather than rend them apart.

    If "Sharia" had the capacity to always dispense justice with compassion and mercy, I would (even as a non-Muslim) vote for it to be used as a court tool for unity and equal treatment. But then, Islamic states which are supposed to dispense “Sharia Justice” are no more "just" than other dictatorial states (as we have learned through the examples of "Hitler's" Germany, and Gadhafi's" Libya to name but two among the many failed states, and Caliphates which are often bloody to the same extreme).

    All depends on who we allow to rule over us. If that man or woman is a true leader, and kind, and honest, and humble, then we will be all AOK, no matter what system we follow.

    The same, I think, also applies to our eating. Whether Halal or not makes no difference. Who kills, does, as shown by the shocking footage of Indonesian torture before slaughter of Australian cattle. If indeed "Sharia” is meant to function as it takes into consideration what would be best for society on a whole through a lens of compassion and mercy", it should also ensure that animals will be dispatched “kindly” – as humanely as possible.

    Here again, it is not "Sharia" or "Halal" as such which has failed miserably in its function, but the people (judges and slaughtermen) who in time, allow themselves to become immune to cruelty and oppression, and “gain from the trade”. And so we have to hope that the earthly remains of Osama bin Laden were surrendered to the elements with respect, hoping always for "good outcomes" (not the bad), and remembering that his fate will be ours, also, in due course (and that we had better not be found “unkind” at our end.

    June 6, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  4. mnknyu

    Very well written....Imam Khalid, you really are a brilliant leader

    June 2, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  5. Muslim

    Oh, the daftness of this american so called Muslims. Millions of Muslims around the world would have gladly allowed Osama Bin Laden to be buried in their graveyards.

    May 7, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  6. Muneef

    What do others say;

    A controversial take on Osama bin Laden's death.
    From Gonzalo Lira:

    May 4, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  7. Muneef

    Interesting site although not related to the blog subject but could be a source of informations related to the Holy Quran....

    May 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  8. Muneef

    An Arabian Proverb states that "The worst of all disasters is the One that makes laugh...admit many might have laughed out first out of disbelieve that such kids  is said to have pulled such unbelievable act to such A Country with such tight Security ...then again have laughed in disbelieve of what might happen as a reaction for that pulled act which serves no Arabian nor a Muslim country but rather it served those who want certain accounts or references to burn down or to shake the trade for certain immediate gains or for gains that might result out of the reaction that will follow...

    To find out the truth you have to find out who had benefited from those attacks against the twin towers....?! It would never be by any ordinary men but it would rather be by those on the tiptop of (Finance&Power) to pull such act either towards making immediate financial or political gains or for hiding their crimes by making another crime....       

    The biggest proof to that was killing him with any chance of court hearing to his words of defense or finding him guilty of all charges they made us hear over the years...so they chance to close the chapter....

    [40:44] "Some day you will remember what I am telling you now. I leave the judgment of this matter to GOD; GOD is the Seer of all the people."

    May 4, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  9. hahehahe

    this is funny

    May 4, 2011 at 6:27 am |
  10. Alya

    I remember 9/11. I remember watching the news that day and seeing people jump to their deaths when I lived in Los Angeles. I moved to NYC in 2004, on 9/1w of that year. I became a Muslim in 2008. I am glad Osama Bin Laden is dead. This gives a big message to those freaken terrorists who claim, they are following Islam. Nowhere in Islam does it say to kill women or children, so these people are sick. I am a proud American, and a proud Muslim. Alhamdulil'allah (thanks be to God) that son of a *itch is dead!!!

    May 3, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  11. hehehehe

    i think osama is not dead.hahaha u.s always "making an incorrect story" kiss my ass u.s.a 🙂

    May 3, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  12. Muhammad


    May 3, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • scorpioman

      Sure, you remember that when you shake hands with the devil down in hell.

      May 5, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  13. Lisah

    I see kill em and feed em to the sharks. All praises be to God.

    May 3, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  14. Wiggles

    >what makes new york great is it's diversity

    I would say new york pretty much sucks, regardless of diversity.

    May 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  15. elizabeth

    Mike- I'm a secular America and I am educated, non biased and loving. I also happen to be from Georgia and my home town is host the the annual summer redneck games (google it). Assuming that EVERYONE who lives in a red state is one way and a blue state is another way is proof that Americans can't stand united! We are too busy labeling everyone to actually learn from each other and appreciate everyone's story and point of view.
    People like you are the reason I don't have as much Patriotism as I once did. I vote republican, I don't care for the president, I believe in gun control- I'm also pro-choice, pro-gay, AND pro-military. So as my grandmother has always told me "go sweep around your own back door and stop getting in my business"

    May 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • JustinFromNJ

      I agree. As my username suggests, I am from a "blue state". However, unlike most people from my state, I am very much against gun control, against amnesty for illegal immigrants, and support very strict and secure border controls. Every American has different views, and what makes us great is that we are all freely able discuss them, and to support laws we believe in and fight laws we do not.

      May 3, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  16. JASmith

    Burying him the way they did was a smart move on several different levels. For the same reasons they should not show the pictures of his body because they would be used as a rallying point for killing the nearest American within reach. When people
    over here do stupid things like burn the Koran or make pictures of Mohammed or show pictures of moslim prisoners being humiliated, they kill the nearest American since they can't kill the idiots who committed the offense and we still have a lot of people in Harm's Way. I'll never need to see those pictures that badly because they will be used against us and more importantly against our folks in that part of world.

    May 3, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Brian

      lol @ moslems. Really?

      May 4, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Brian

      Otherwise, I generally agree...

      May 4, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • msanders

      Well put. Thank you.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:39 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.