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. B.S


    May 2, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  2. GJ

    As a survivor of the Twin Towers just stated on an interview– bin Laden was treated with more respect than American bodies killed by terrorists. And, he said, I'm so glad I never have to look at his face again in a trial - no American money will be spent giving him lawyers, dragging on appeals for years, etc. I think the young man who wrote this article has wisdom - and common sense... both are rare these days. I can understand people wanting proof of bin Laden's death, but I think his followers who will portray him as a martyr will be proof that bin Laden lives no longer.

    May 2, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  3. eadgbeman

    OBL never gave Americans a chance to give a proper burial to their loved ones. My opinion is we should've shoved a flag pole up his ass and stuck him on top of the White House for the crows to pick at him.

    May 2, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  4. Angie M.

    On 9/11/2001 no one questioned whether or not the American public should be shown the carnage as we watched in horror as the Twin Towers fell, people jumped to their deaths and first responders got caught up in the disaster as the world appeared to crumble around them. It was very emotional for everyone watching but you couldn't stop watching because no one knew what was coming next. It was especially devistating for those who had loved ones that were first responders, on board the planes, working in and around the towers and at the Pentagon. We watched and we cried, we feared and when the magnitude of the attacks finally sunk in we mourned for those who so sensesly lost their lives.

    We have acknowledged the humanitarian impact of 9/11/2001 on every anniversery since but most of us still cannot possibly understand what the family's that lost loved ones realized and felt on that dreadful day and the days that followed as they hoped and prayed their loved one's would be pulled from ground zero.

    Osama bin Laden and his follower's watched in satisfaction as their plans for death and destruction of American's and our nation came to fruition. Why should we then not be afforded the same opportunity? Especially those who lost the most.

    I believe it only fare that those families and our nation, who have lived with the pictures from that day permanentlly seared in our brain should be given the opportunity to see Osama bin Laden's body (if they so choose), as well as the video and audio of the raid. Or as much of it that would not compromise national security. Since we have continued to live in fear, live with all the changes that 9/11 caused in the way we go about our lives', and have pulled together and cooperated as a nation with the repercussions, we should be allowed to see the evil personified in the body of Osama bin Laden. As much to relieve the fear as to acheive the unacheiveable "closure".

    Angie M.

    May 2, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  5. snazzyunit

    You can't get on one of these comment boards and have an intelligent conversation, because there is always some crazy that gets on and hijacks nearly each and every comment thread to force feed us their propagandist view. It is more funny than anything that these people will come out of the woodwork to ruin a good conversation, no matter the subject.

    May 2, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • Norm

      Then why don't add something to the conversation besides whining?

      May 2, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • joe smith

      Thanks Norm! For stepping up and providing concrete support for the point being made....

      May 3, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  6. ComeAgainBaltoMD

    Osama is Fish Food, he's nothing more than garbage dumped in the ocean, garbage.

    May 2, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  7. AndyTheGameInventor

    If if fact it happened as claimed, the decision to bury OBL at sea was a very wise one by the administration. As Obama said, we are not at war with Islam, so by provifing OBL a burial in accordance with the Muslim faith (though I suspect sea burials are not common) we have made it clear that we are not out to offend Muslims. I do suspect that very little effort was put into finding a country willing to take his body – we don't want an instant shrine.

    The US Navy has a long track record of providing honorable burials at sea to Amerca's enemies. In 1974, after we found a sunk Soviet sub and brought up 6 bodies, we reburied them at sea with a ceremony that included a Russian flag and the Soviet anthem – all this on a US warship. Although probably not an ideal Russian ceremony, it was respectful to the deceased.

    May 2, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  8. Aseea

    The writer goes to some length to explain his patriotism if somewhat emotionally. Fair enough. However rejoicing in someones death? That is not a very christian value

    May 2, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Adelina

      Aseea, we never rejoice that a bad person died but because justice was done. Read Revelation 19:1-5 to learn how Christians rejoice.

      May 2, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • samurai

      "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." – MLKJr

      May 2, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • genome

      thank goodness some other people out there get it. Hate only begets hate. That MLK quote sums up my feelings. War is over if you want it! End the cycle. Be the better human.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  9. Drew

    Uhhhhhhh Newsflash.........Bin Laden has been dead for years now. He wasn't just killed Monday! The American public needs to wake up & stop drinking the kool-aid the government is serving up.

    May 2, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • HollyInMich

      Sounds like you've been hoarding the special kool-aid and drinking it all yourself. Trust me, if OBL had been dead for YEARS as you claim, I'm sure Bush would have jumped all over that political opportunity as opposed to letting someone else take the credit. Duh!

      May 2, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • Frenchy

      Yeah–if Osama had died years ago, Bush supporters would have probably called for Georgie to be crowned king or something.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • David

      The Dems were going to call Georgie out on this because he was going to do this exactly if he even felt like Kerry was going to beat him in '04. He backed off and instead released another of those fake tapes that would always conveniently pop up. The man died from kidney failure.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  10. spockmckoy

    I like how OBL was afforded a 'proper funeral'. I wonder what type of 'proper funeral' those in the towers got........OBL should have been cut into little piggy treats and fed to a pen full of piggies, film the whole process and post it on Utube.

    May 2, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Mark


      May 2, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  11. Luposian

    I am slowly coming to believe more and more that bin Laden WAS indeed killed, but I want pictures to SEE his dead body, to know, once and for all, he really IS dead! Not just words, not just scientific DNA test claims... I want visible proof! This could be just a claim, for political gain, and everyone is buying it so fast and easy... but where is the PROOF?

    May 2, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  12. Reality

    Bin Laden is dead but unfortunately Islam, his religion and operating manual, is not but there is a quick cure:

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls to include that of Imam Khalid Latif. Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone."

    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism at your request.

    May 2, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Bob

      This is not deprogramming, but only reprogramming with your own beliefs.

      May 2, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • airwx

      Hi Reality, glad to see you are well....You might wish to consider your meme as failing to replicate. You really need to read authors other than Dawkins....you might even learn something new! Peace

      May 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Ed

      @Bob I pointed that out to reality some time ago it has not stop the cut and paste

      May 2, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • HZD

      Come on, man. I'm not Muslim at all, but this is just dumb.

      May 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • djelly

      ur totally wrong ..we dont only believe in Mohammed...we believe in all the prophets u moron

      May 2, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • midogs2

      Deep in thought, Reality? Everyone has an opinion. I'm just glad that he is dead!

      May 2, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Reality

      To make it quick and easy:

      Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:

      There never was and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror

      Saving 2 billion lost Christians:

      There was and never will be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity

      Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:

      Abraham and Moses never existed.

      Added details upon request.

      May 2, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  13. Norrah

    I wanted hard proof that Bin Laden was the one who perpetrated what happened on 9-11. I did a search and i only found the confession tapes. Maybe there can never be 'hard' proof. It is a bitter pill for me to swallow.

    May 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  14. Keith

    Yeah, it's probably a good thing I'm not in charge. First off, all the ammo would have been dipped in pigs blood and his carcass would have been chained to a pig and thrown off the USS Cole. Do not pass GO, do not go to paradise, do not collect 72 virgins. Let's all have a round of applause for our islamic "friends" in Pakistan. By the way, you're still holding Asia Bibi in prison. Release her.

    May 2, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  15. Kat

    Wondering if some of the same U.S. troops that rescued Jessica Lynch was on this mission to kill Bin Laden... Hmmmmm. Makes one think twice...

    May 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  16. Bryan Gainey

    I Love how people try to start drama on here over a lot of BS!

    May 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  17. Kate Kopacek

    Is there any way to verify that this "sea dumping" actually happened? Or this entire episode actually happened?

    I would think if they killed Bin Laden, they would keep his body around for a few days to serve as proof of their actions.

    May 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • airwx

      Islamic rules require burial within 24 hours. Check the US Navy for details.. Search "Burial at Sea".

      May 2, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  18. Carly

    Fantastic article!!!!

    May 2, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  19. Odie Colognie

    I don't disagree with anything in this article, except I don't buy the premise. There was no funeral.
    OBL was dumped, by being shoved out a helicopter, into the ocean. He is either sealed forever in a steel container, with a signal producing gadget beaming it's location to a monitor somewhere, or he was shark bait, and was the hors d'oeuvres for some fish last night. I wouldn't call that a funeral, or a burial, but whatever the PR boys decide to call it, he's gone for good, and was, and is, afforded no respect by anyone involved.

    May 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • CC

      Another article detailing the events states specifically that he was not shoved out of a helicopter – that there was an hour-long service aboard an aircraft carrier, from which his body was cast.

      May 2, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • airwx

      @Odie... OBL was buried the same way American sailors have been buried for hundreds of years. No box, no fancy shroud; just a plain linen wrap.

      May 2, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      Odie, you are only partially correct.
      According to my military buddy, the Carl Vinson, in the Indian Ocean, (I think, off the Pakistani coast), was the vessel to which the body was brought. It was wrapped in white fabric, and not enclosed in anything. There were some Islamic "prayers" said. The "package" was then tossed overboard. I also would not consider those activities a "funeral". But to stoop to his level of disrespect for other humans would say more about ourselves than it would about him. This says we are better than him, and no matter how angry we are, we maintain our values and humanity.
      Peace out.

      May 2, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • AP

      623. * If a person dies on a ship and if there is no fear of the decay of the dead body and if there is no problem in retaining it for sometime on the ship, it should be kept on it and buried in the ground after reaching the land. Otherwise, after giving Ghusl, Hunut, Kafan and Namaz-e-Mayyit it should be lowered into the sea in a vessel of clay or with a weight tied to its feet. And as far as possible it should not be lowered at a point where it is eaten up immediately by the sea predators.

      624. If it is feared that an enemy may dig up the grave and exhume the dead body and amputate its ears or nose or other limbs, it should be lowered into sea, if possible, as stated in the foregoing rule.

      May 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Guest

      You may be right that there was no funeral and about the signal beacon. I can't decide, because I left my tinfoil hat in the bunker.

      May 2, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • OKE

      If he received no respect is because he did not deserve any.

      May 2, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Donna

      If you are using the same definition of 'funeral' as most people, to mean a ceremony at burial, then yes, they conducted a funeral according to their reports.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  20. GSA

    Great article!

    May 2, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Mustafa Mond

      Those that prey off the innocents have blaspemied all that is sacred. It is God's will that the hag fish tear off his flesh and the bitter salt–the tears of the dead innocents– dissolve his bones. God bless Obama!

      May 2, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
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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.