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. Bugs

    Somebody needs to tell Bin Laden's fans and followers how flexible and "compassionate" Islamic law is. They don't seem to be getting it.

    May 3, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  2. Nina


    May 3, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Ferd


      May 3, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  3. JLC

    A burial at sea is much more compassion than he deserved, but that's why we're better than he is.

    May 3, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  4. TXJack

    Compassion for Islamic Law then why not bury all the others we killed that night???

    I do not doubt that Osama is Dead.
    However I do not think that we had anything to do with his death.

    We have been monitoring his whereabouts since 2007.
    Everybody knows that Osama was in poor health due to Kidney failure.

    The current administration probably picked up a transmission that Osama was dying.
    So what better what to look good then stage a raid.

    Then get the body, burn the place to the ground to get of evidence that Osama was dying.
    Most important get of the body by a burial at sea so there would be no proof.

    One of the commanders eve stated that Osama did not have a gun or did not try to reach for one.
    So then why shoot him in the head??
    Why not bring him to trial for the murder of 3,000 people??

    Do you really believe everything that you read and they show you on TV ??

    May 3, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Jim213

      They new when they went in that only his body was coming out.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  5. RCann

    Osama bin Laden has been dead for years people! Next week the gas prices will be down and Obama will be liked again by America! His approval ratings will sky rocket over this. We Americans are like sheep.

    May 3, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Ferd

      Obama has my vote in 2012 just as he had it in 2008. I love the guy.

      May 3, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • RCann

      I voted for him in 2008. It was the lesser evil thing for me.

      May 3, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Jim213

      That is what his hollywood script writers told hm anyway.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  6. Kmoore

    Actually this was probably done for political reasons. We still have to cooperate with other nations, many who are Islamic nations, and this bit of consideration was indeed, not for Bin Laden, but for their sakes. I think it shows how much planning and forethought Obama put into the operation. I'm sure the administration doesn't really care about his body, after all his soul is in hell! Kudos to Obama!

    May 3, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  7. Kordax

    All of this would be great if they actually dumped his body. There is no way they are going to kill Bin Laden and then dump his body one day later. I agree that dumping him at sea is the best idea but I highly doubt they did it one day later like was stated.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  8. Stan Goodman

    The author askes: "Who would want this man buried near their loved ones". The question is disingenuousl the number of such people is legion. Indeed, there are millions who regard him as a shahid. The author is trying to intimate that this is not true, and thus he is misleading, even deceiving his readers in the interest of good PR. The ONLY reason for burying this carrion at sea is to prevent a situation in which his grave becomes a place of pilgrimage of those millions.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Futon Torpedo

      Huh? How? The author states that nobody wants this POS lying next to their family member...this is true. No country wanted the body... this is true. Nobody wants the burial site to be used as a shrine...this is true. So he was not being less then what he has said. Are sure you read this article right...sounds like you agree with the author.

      May 3, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  9. Ridge

    So why do you think he deserves a proper islamic burial? F him.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  10. Brent Hall

    Justice, no doubt, has been served; by man for the breaking of man's laws. It should give us solemn pause that he has also received, final, irrevocable, eternal justice.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  11. Publius

    Burial at sea is fitting. Let the shellfish consume his rotting remains.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  12. Joseph

    Those who claim Osama is still alive have much in common with the Muslim terrorists who say the same thing. They claim the U.S. government is lying. The difference between the doubters and the terrorists seems diminishingly small. When there is no evidence that would be convincing, the truth doesn't matter.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  13. Dave

    He got this quick service for one reason: to NOT give these lunatic muslims another reason to incite violence.
    It was NOT done to appease anyone or change anyones mind about us, because that will not happen.

    Thank G*D Bush and company put the Patriot Act, Gitmo, waterboarding, etc... in place. It allowed Obama to keep ALL those things in take and make the call to send in the seals.

    The only mistake we made was not sending missiles and bombs raining down on the many groups of muslims who were in the streets mourning this POS's death.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • don't mean to be a Nancy

      as a daughter of a SEAL (this isn't directed solely at you, more so you are the 10th person I saw write this way) They are called the Navy SEALs, make sure all caps please 🙂

      May 3, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Alyssa

      You clearly have no notion of how our justice system operates if you think it's a valid choice to kill people who have otherwise shown to have committed no crime. DO me a favor and move to one of the Muslim nations that you detest so much so that your views on punitive justice match theirs.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Jim213

      Are military has plenty of bullets, if only the cowards would be brave enough to wear uniforms so we don't have to shoot the innocent ones.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  14. Lou50

    ....... and killing showed what?

    May 3, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Nancy

      That he will be feeding fish soon.

      May 3, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  15. Bob

    Who cares? He deserved no repect and no showing of compassion for his purported religion. He was a mass murderer who should have been burned with the helicopter.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Nancy

      Exactly. Who cares? About OBL, Sharia law, burquas and all the other muslim crap.

      May 3, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • Alyssa

      1 Billion Muslims care, and we should have an obligation, as a civilized nation, to take care with their religious practices so long as it doesn't not violate a tenet of our law. This is not about showing respect to Bin Laden. It's about not spitting on the religious practice of an enormous part of the Earth's population.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  16. Sigma

    He should have just been thrown into vacant lot and left for the dogs.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Truefax

      What do you have against sharks?

      May 3, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Ferd

      Wow! You're bright. I bet you went all the way to the 2nd grade.

      May 3, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  17. BIGRED

    The article takes into account Muslim sensitivities when there really is no need. Bin Laden's actions have resulted in vaporizing thousands of Americans at ground zero, beheadings, cruel acts of torture, and the horrors of war. I would rather that his body by burned beyond recognition and his smoking remains hung from the Brooklyn Bridge alongside pig carcasses. Respect is the last thing that is justified.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  18. notanapologist


    You are mistaken and naive. Diversity does not always make a city great. There is some diversity which is unwelcome, and deeply contrary to civilized society. Islam is one of those things. We don't believe in marrying 6 year old girls like the prophet did, in subjugating people to your religion under pain of death, by offering death to infidels, and to grant complete subservience to some prophet who said he was speaking to god. Offering a modern freedom-loving liberal society your 13th century backward-looking and subservient vision is not appropriate. Look where it led the middle east. I rest my point.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Commonsense

      A reasoable point to argue, I suppose – I will add this: If this is NOT what Islam brings to the table, then where are the throngs of Muslims speaking out to explain that this is NOT what their religion actually stands for? Why the dead silence when these things are brought up? And why is there no overwhelming majority of Muslims out there edjucating the rest of us as to the real, peaceful and tolerant nature of their belief??

      Just sayin.....

      May 3, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Alyssa

      Commonsense, just because you aren't hearing about doesn't mean they aren't doing it.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  19. Anna Quarter

    I think his bones should have been ground up and put in with the concrete used to rebuild the Trade Center Building foundations. Show the terrorists that not only will we rebuild whatever they destroy, but we will do it with their bones.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Nancy

      Sure. I can see that happeneing.

      May 3, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Kristy

      Yea! I was thinking they could bury him under it, like so many he burried there!

      May 3, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Noquarter

      I like.. or go even more midevil and put his head on a spike at the entrance to the new ground zero memorial.

      May 3, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • BIGRED

      I understand your feeling of rage but if he were made part of a structure dedicated to honoring our dead, would his ashes not desanctify that somber place? Why not simply place his ashes into missiles, bullets, and ordnance for use in this war against terrorism? I say, we should have sent him back to his people in that manner.

      May 3, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • DMerchant

      Nah, I wouldn't want his remains to be near the remains of those he had murdered. The cold, lonely depths of the sea is good enough.

      May 3, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • tenspeed

      Anna Quarter, I can understand what you are saying and it is taken with truth at heart. However, some people might see OBL as now being the "cornerstone" of that new building. None of us want that, well, maybe most of us don't want that, I sure don't.

      May 3, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • tenspeed

      Personally, I hope that they rubbed the body down with bacon fat prior to the burial at sea.

      May 3, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Jim213

      I had a Idea of just throwing his bones in a swine pen and turn them into what he really was.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  20. Dennis

    It makes spitting on his grave a short drive.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • The American

      I hope they put him in a burkini before slipping him into the drink.

      May 3, 2011 at 10:08 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.