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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. Boruch N. Hoffinger

    ."The U.S. Congress officially recognized 'The Noahide Laws' in legislation which was passed by both houses. Congress and the President of the United States, George Bush, indicated in Public Law 102-14, 102nd Congress, that the United States of America was founded upon the Seven Universal Laws of Noah, and that these Laws have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization. They also acknowledged that the Seven Laws of Noah are the foundation upon which civilization stands and that recent weakening of these principles threaten the fabric of civilized society, and that justified preoccupation in educating the Citizens of the United States of America and future generations is needed. For this purpose, this Public Law designated March 26, 1991 as Education Day, U.S.A."...
    Google (Yahoo, etc.) 'The Seven Universal Laws' Results 1 – 10 of about 23,400,000 for the seven universal laws. (0.31 seconds (Also 'The 7 Noahide Laws')
    bhoffinger@aol.com

    May 3, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  2. omegarising

    : Burial at sea shows compassion of Islamic law.

    Yeah right, like we're to believe we give one shiit about Islamic law. The truth is, it's a convenient way to say the body is gone, and there is no proof of there ever being a body.

    Reminds me of how Bush Immediately hauled away the debris for the 911 site, thus getting rid of evidence.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  3. Adam Burch

    What concerns me is the number of Muslims and non-Muslims who are concerned with whether he was given a proper burial according to Islamic law or tradition. I thought Osama didn't represent Islam? I thought his twisted brand of or take on Islam was rejected by the true followers of Islam. Why, then, does he need a proper burial? It doesn't seem like we should care about such a thing.

    So what is it? Do radicals like this belong with the mainstream, or genuine followers of Islam? Or is he rejected by them? This is definitely something to chew on. If he doesn't represent Islam, there shouldn't be one peep about him getting a proper Muslim burial.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Vulpes

      It's about respecting the religion and culture of others ... including your enemies. It is no skin off our teeth to give him a proper burial. It's also about not giving radical one more reason (in there minds) to attack.

      May 3, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Adam Burch

      Vulpes, you are missing the point, I think. Does he belong to the Muslim faith, which would require such careful steps to make sure the law is followed? Or...does he not – we've been told these terrorists are not true Muslims, and therefore do not require a burial that meets Islamic customs or laws.

      You can't have it both ways. He's either part of the mainstream and gets the special treatment, or he's an outsider and we don't care if he's wrapped/tossed in 24 hours, etc.

      May 3, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  4. Joe

    Can anyone who is a muslim explain what happens to him since he didn't die as a martyr? Is he denied his virgins? Does he die the death of an infadel?

    May 3, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  5. jray

    While Bin Laden was not a role model citizen I was so very they handled the disposition of the body that showed dignity, respect, SETTING A BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLE FOR EVERYBODY ELSE.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  6. BillyBob117

    My gut is telling me, that quick disposal of the body was done to hide something.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • joe smith

      My gut is telling me that your gut dropped out of school in the 3rd grade, and hasn't grown much more educated since. 😉

      May 3, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Jess

      You just don't understand the awesome power of our fearless leader. I myself must admit to greatly underestimating his huge amount of impressiveness. After all, here's how it went down. At 1AM – Osama's compound was raided. They tried to talk him down but he wasn't having it so they shot the guy. One of his wives identified him, DNA testing was conducted and then he was transported to the Arabian Sea, about 1,000 miles south of Abbottabad, Pakistan, by 1:20 AM. His body was then washed, wrapped in a white cloth and respectfully heaved into the ocean in a bag along with some cement at 2AM. But if it's true that our government did all that in an hour then I am definitely voting for Obama when he runs for reelection because I'm pretty sure he's a freaking sorcerer. That's what all this is about anyways right? It's time to get the campaign going. If only I was more educated like joe smith, I probably would've voted for him the first time.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Jess

      Also Joe, it should be, "and haven't grown much more educated since." You're welcome.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  7. urallidiots

    this is more apologetic cr@p. he was an animal. he should have been tortured, killed and disposed of like an animal. the notion that we are better than him because he was given a civilzed burial in accordance with Muslim law is laughable. we hunted him down and killed him. it was barbaric and he deserved it. he does not deserve any dignity under the cloak of religious sensitivity. last time I checked flying planes into buildings and killing innocent civilans was not covered in any prayer book. F him – i'm glad he's dead. I can only hope that he suffered miserably.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • joe smith

      What kind of animals are you doing this killing and torturing to....and where?

      May 3, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  8. Mik

    I agree with Acaraho 110% – surely they didn't dispose of it (have they gotten rid of the Roswell stuff yet after 50 YEARS?) not a chance – again even IF they actually got him – which, without a body to produce (they say) – I don't believe (me along with about 5.6 billion others I'm sure). As we are ALL aware, the American Government lies. End of Story.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • joe smith

      CAPS LOCK DOES NOT MAKE YOUR POINT MORE RELEVANT...at least not to those of us with a 6th grade education.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Vulpes

      Well, I agree with *you* 150% ... This all is a distraction from getting to the bottom of the "time-traveling sasquatches" that haunt our woods.

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

    Bury at sea is genius! Why? Becaus islam is the religion of the dead and corps!! 90% of muslims holidays and carnivals happen on the dying-date of the prophet, imam, etc. Even when they celebrate their birth, "joy" and "happiness" is discouraged.
    For centuries the only way this religion of sword has been able to proliferate has been to brainwash people by getting them angry, and injecting sorrow, into their souls about the dead and martyrs, as well as creating hate towards an enemey, even a made-up one
    Without a funeral, mourning, and a physical shrine, muslims are lost! They don't have that kind of training in their system ......

    May 3, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • joe smith

      Theologian, huh? I'm convinced that you are very convinced of your views...despite how poorly supported they are.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  10. Matt

    personally I don't think Bin Laden deserves any sign of compassion and I am leaning more towards the burial at sea more being because of the likelihood that he was perhaps shot to obliteration. After 10 years of trying to catch the guy, I can see some emotion taking over after a team of skilled American assassins have just killed the world's most wanted man who caused so much turmoil to so many Americans. If I was standing over the dead body of Bin Laden I'd probably do some pretty nasty things to it, I think most Americans would. You can't exactly bring a riddled corpse back home. In any event, he's fish food now.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  11. TXJack

    Also how convenient was this that is was done on May 1st.
    This is the same day in 1945 that they announced that Hitler was dead and they had the body.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • VABeach1

      Hitler's death was actually announced to the world 30 APR 1945. That's the day he died. Later that afternoon his body was burned. With the time change between Berlin and the east coast of the U.S., it only makes sense that this happened on the day it did, APR 30.

      Some of our grandparents are still alive today and they can recall exactly where they were (much like us with bin Laden's death) at the precise moment on 30 APR 1945 when his death was announced. So there's no conspiracy or link between the announcement of Hitler's death and bin Laden's death. The only websites that are reporting this connection are kook websites like pirate. Unfortunately, you need to find another rainbow to chase.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  12. VABeach1

    I am proud that President Obama gave the order to have bin Laden killed. Forget capturing. If he was captured, we'd be forced to navigate through an endless political and ethical quagmire both domestically and internationally. This way, he wasn't put on trial, housed in an American prison paid for by taxpayers, fed our food or given the opportunity to defend his indefensible actions and then become a living martyr for his supporters. Also, a large chunk of their funding was now cut off. A win-win for us.

    Burying him at sea was a great idea. No place for supporters to worship – no shrine – no increased security costs to guard a site terrorists would surely hijack as a base for terrorism. And if burying bin Laden at sea and in accordance with Muslim law satisfied Muslims and indeed the rest of the world that's conscientious of other people's customs or culture, than so be it. I am happy for that. Adhering to Muslim Law by burying bin Laden at sea had nothing to do with showing a dead terrorist mercy for his body or fulfilling bin Laden's wishes; it had to do with showing the world we are respectful of religion and cultures that may be different than our own; our war on terror has nothing to do with culture or religion. We are compassionate; even we can be human when it comes to handling the dead body of an inhuman monster.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • joe smith

      Well said, and so sensible. Why can't the 'mouth-breathers' see the wisdom in this decision?

      May 3, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  13. Tommy

    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.

    Come on, editors. It's supposed to be each "AND" ever person...

    May 3, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  14. Mark S

    And by OBL's actions he was NOT Muslim!!!! Therefore he deserved a non-religious burial and to 'swim with the fishes'.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  15. Acaraho

    Anyone who believes that bin Laden was buried at sea also believes that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Jesus

      Oh. great analysis from the "moon landing was faked" crowd.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • VABeach1

      His body was brought to the USS Carl Vinson, an American aircraft carrier where Muslim prayers were said in front of countless witnesses and he was promptly dumped in the sea. Over 5000+ sailors/officers occupy an aircraft carrier. So I guess you are alleging that over 5,000 U.S. Navy personnel are liars. Not too mention that the elite Navy Seal Team Six who ID'd the body. I guess they are liars too.

      I am the wife of a Navy Officer. Each of us in our own way discern things because of our station in life that you'll never know or understand. I can assure you that the majority of people I mentioned are not pathological liars and if something conspiracy-wise occurred, there's no government on this planet in this day and age of technology that could keep the mouths of 5000+ sailors shut nor the mouths of the other 5000+ wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, moms and dads. .

      May 3, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Vulpes

      @Acaraho: You were pwned!!

      May 3, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • David

      As usual the sheep come on here and critisize the true thinkers as "conspiracy theorists". Get a clue. This is the same government that lies to you every day. So you actually trust their every word to you? Sheep.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • David

      Doesn't matter if 5000 saw it. They saw a body. That is all. These people know how to manufacture the evidence.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Mfred

      Acaraho, go back to mama's basement and prepare for your next who shot JFK convention. Nov. 22 is only six months away and since none of you over the past 40 years have even remotely come close to finding legitiment support for your whacko theories, you'll have a lot of work to do till then. In the mean time, don't waste your time trying to debunk this event. It will never happen.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Jess

      You just don't understand the awesome power of our fearless leader. I myself must admit to greatly underestimating his huge amount of impressiveness. After all, here's how it went down. At 1AM – Osama's compound was raided. They tried to talk him down but he wasn't having it so they shot the guy. One of his wives identified him, DNA testing was conducted and then he was transported to the Arabian Sea, about 1,000 miles south of Abbottabad, Pakistan, by 1:20 AM. His body was then washed, wrapped in a white cloth and respectfully tossed into the ocean in a bag along with some cement at 2AM. Don't get me wrong, I have all the respect in the world for our military and all the people that would agree that they saw a bag with what seemed to be an unidentified body inside it. But if it's true that our government did all that in an hour then I am definitely voting for Obama when he runs for reelection because I'm pretty sure he's a freaking sorcerer. That's what all this is about anyways right? It's time to get the campaign going.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Jess

      Mfred – Oh sorry...... I might have just debunked it. Were you really going with this idea? I'll try to act really smart if you want. Crazy even if that's better. Let me go outside and start yelling something about UFO's.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Mfred

      David, like a shark who can't stop swimming in order to breath, distrusting everything on this planet is absolutely neccessary for you and your ilk to exist. Without it, you'd have no reason to get up in the morning....or whener ya'll get up. Oh and how to recognize a conspiracy theorist: they're always the first to say "sheep".

      May 3, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Jess

      My name is Jess. I get up at 4 am and prefer the term "sheeple." I think it's funny. 🙂 Personally, I don't distrust EVERYTHING, just the things you're told not to question.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • David

      Because you are sheep. And I wear the conspiracy tag with honor. because there is a global one that continues and moves upon all the governments on earth. And, yes this probably won't be debunked. They are very careful when they do something. They have MSM in their backpocket, too.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • David

      Anyway, when the bottom drops out just know you and your ilk were once warned...

      May 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Mfred

      @ Jess, where I'm going with this is, even if they displayed Bin Ladens body at your house for a month with his grieving family constantly wailing, you'd never accept that it was Obamas body. If they released a thousand photos and videos of this event, you'd be screaming FAKE before viewing any of them. Oh and another way to spot a conspiracy theorist, they're always the first to proclaim superior intelligence over others. It's so easy to mask the contrary while safely tucked in behind a keyboard.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Jess

      hahaha oh Mfred. Thanks for the free personality analysis. I truly feel honored; it's a lucky day. After all, I'm sort of asking to be labeled "CONSPIRACY THEORIST" if I point out any glaring inconsistencies in mainstream media. I guess where I'm going with this is that this is just not a good story. The details don't fit together. Unless us "conspiracy theorists" were right all along and the government does have some secret drug deal going down with the aliens because a UFO is pretty much the only logical means to get the body moved 1,000 miles within 20 minutes. Just sayin'. And the keyboard doesn't give me a lot of additional confidence or anything; I'm fairly obnoxious in person too. My BS detection meter has been turned up pretty high the past couple of days.

      May 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  16. orange sunshyne

    He should have been stuffed and put on public display at the World Trade Center site.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  17. Zed J.

    Osama bin Laden's "small group of followers?" How delusional is this guy? *Yawn* another apologist for radical Islam (uh oh–will the FBI be knocking at my door for uttering that term, the use of which has been prohibited within the Obama White House?).

    The burial at sea minimizes the spectacle and does demonstrate that we are not like bin Laden and his animalistic ilk. For this reason primarily, I believe it was the correct course of action. But this continued PR campaign in apology of the horrors that certain sects of Islam have wrought is becoming tiresome.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Acaraho

      I doubt he was buried at sea. Saying that he was just eliminates the spectacle of his body being transported and placed in a specific location. The US military is too anal to dispose of his body. They are most likely going to keep it in a safe place in a state of preservation. That is if he is even dead. Oh you disagree? That's right, my bad, the military has never lied to us before.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Adam

      Read carefully. He doesn't describe his current group of followers as small, he describes those who would seek out a hidden grave and travel across the world to glorify it as being small. I think it's written with an understanding the size is a general guess.

      Whats funny is he actually agrees with your statement that this wasn't done because they actually cared about a proper burial but more so as a way to make it look like they cared and covered any future problems. Learn how to read for content instead of picking apart one word or term.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Vulpes

      @Acaraho: Oooo, sounds like you have some inside information. Please let us know where his body is thanks. It is really surprising how many people on this blog are experts in clandestine military operations. The ability to "know" that Osama is still alive without any real evidence of reference is impressive. These people really *do* know more than the rest of us and we should be glad they impart their wisdom.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Boruch N. Hoffinger

      Dear Zed J. Want REAL meaning in life? Want to worship-adore the REAL Creator? Desire world peace? Yearn to understand why we are here? What does HE want from us? Did HE communicate with a person? How can we grow emotionally and spiritually? Are these universal laws which predate all organized religions?
      ."The U.S. Congress officially recognized 'The Noahide Laws' in legislation which was passed by both houses. Congress and the President of the United States, George Bush, indicated in Public Law 102-14, 102nd Congress, that the United States of America was founded upon the Seven Universal Laws of Noah, and that these Laws have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization. They also acknowledged that the Seven Laws of Noah are the foundation upon which civilization stands and that recent weakening of these principles threaten the fabric of civilized society, and that justified preoccupation in educating the Citizens of the United States of America and future generations is needed. For this purpose, this Public Law designated March 26, 1991 as Education Day, U.S.A."...
      Google (Yahoo, etc.) 'The Seven Universal Laws' Results 1 – 10 of about 23,400,000 for the seven universal laws. (0.31 seconds (Also 'The 7 Noahide Laws')
      Zed J. Also search for 'Noahide Natiions.' This web site was founded By Mr. Vendyl Jones, Of Blessed Memory.
      bhoffinger@aol.com

      May 3, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  18. chingaelmundo

    Instead of burial at sea in a PC attempt to honor his religion of peace, his body should have been shredded and spread spread about on a hog farm.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • The Hammer

      You can't do that. The hogs would have contracted rabies from the carcass.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • David

      You missed the entire point of this commentary. Very sad.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • joe smith

      The idea of civility, yet again, lost upon the uncivilized...

      May 3, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • AgentStrom

      Should have beheaded him too...just like he liked to do....an eye for an eye....

      May 3, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  19. paul

    Burial at sea means there's no place for radicals to go to rally around OBL... nothing more nothing less.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  20. Ken

    I would have had him mounted and displayed at the Ground Zero museum at the base of a urinal. There has been nothing in Bin Laden's life that deserves compassion; and burying him at sea after an Islamic prayer is a hollow attempt to appease an uncivilized people. Until the leaders of all Muslim nations disavow terror and embrace freedom of religion and other freedoms that may spur economic growth, Osama will be a hero to a mixed up generation with little or no economic opportunity.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Syn

      You mention "uncivilized people," yet the concept of posting a war trophy for people to mock and ridicule, is less civilized that even al Qaeda. All that does is promote further clashing of two sides; those who hate bin Laden, and those who revere him. A burial at sea, thus depriving either side of the self-gratification of idolatry, was a very good move. Let the fishes have him. Let his physical existence be erased from history so only his name remains as a symbol of evil. In the seventies, the Russians did a similar thing by destroying the remains of Hitler to prevent Neo-Nazi worship of him. Thus, today he only remains as a name synonymous with evil.

      Religion might exult the spirit, but society exults the physical being.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • John M.

      Ken, your irrational, immature comments speak as poorly for Christianity as those of Islamic radicals do for Islam. The way this was handled may not have satisfied your juvenile instincts, but it does speak very well for how our nation deals with its enemies. We are not a bunch of medieval Christian barbarians. We are way, way beyond that, and I am glad we showed the more mature approach.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Nightlight

      There are a billion muslims in the world. Crimes must be punished, no matter who perpetrates them, but at the end of the day we'd better start figuring out how to share this one planet with each other.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • joe smith

      Ken,

      I am embarrassed that we are citizens of the same country. Guess we need people to clean the urinals that you spoke of so, welcome my toilet cleaning friend.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Boruch N. Hoffinger

      Ken, For the REAL answer to world peace and satisfying spirituality
      please search out: 'The 7 Noahide Laws.'
      Remember the movie 'Raiders of the Lost Ark?' This movie
      was made for the namesake of Mr. Vendyl Jones (He passed away 4 months ago.). Mr.
      Jones was the leader of a multi-nation organization called: 'Noahide Nations.'
      Ken, you can search for it.
      Thanks,
      Boruch N. Hoffinger
      bhoffinger@aol.com

      May 3, 2011 at 11:46 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.