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. Corey

    We did the right thing by showing respect for his religious beliefs in his burial. Right in the sense that we need not to anger any decent Muslims for something simple and inconsiderate. I think we won favour in the global community, which is always a good thing. thx

    May 2, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • gunnerdave

      God save America because idiots like you will destroy us!

      May 2, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Vulpes

      @gunnerdave: Why is being respectful equal being an "idiot" ? Why will respect for other (even our enemies) destroy America? I think someone missed his nap. ... 😉

      May 3, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • HeavenSent

      You are clearly a POS andm deserving of everlasting burning. We should not be appeasiong these Muslim dogs.

      May 3, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  2. Elaine Mack

    "Buried at sea" does sound a bit nicer than "we tossed his corpse in the ocean."

    May 2, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • rkt210

      Why don't you do a little research before you post another ignorant comment. A burial at sea is a somber and respectful ceremony.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  3. Donna

    The burial at sea was chosen out of the consideration for the living, and that was appropriate. Good article and I think our government was right and wise to do this.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • gunnerdave

      Donna you are what makes me worry about the future of America.

      May 2, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Donna

      What about me?

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

      @gunnerdave: Your comment makes my worried about the American education system ... 😉

      May 3, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  4. Joe

    Recent events in Libya show that the US has learned nothing in the past decade. Bin Laden won a long time ago.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • Vulpes

      You must be using the Charlie Sheen definition of "winning" ... LOL

      May 3, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  5. Gigita

    Well said. You spOke my words.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  6. midogs2

    @wjs, Geneva, you are both correct in your thinking. Don't judge all, by one.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  7. dave

    o.b. should be stuff and used as a shoe rack. at the new world trade center.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  8. larry

    we are rid of osama and will be rid of obama next election

    May 2, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  9. larry

    I hope that the shark that eats him doesn't die of indigestion

    May 2, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  10. James

    It would of been better to capture him alive and take him to court. Like the Nuremberg/Tokyo trial, which would be the civil way (even though it didn't work out that well with the pressure of the cold war looming). CIA is one of the most well equipped organization with more than enough information to capture Bin Laden alive. Yet they had to kill him in a ambush mission. Its kinda hard to believe, that killing him was the only way.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • rkt210

      What, exactly, is your point? A trial is held to determine guilt, and if found guilty, to determine punishment. Do you really believe that you can find a rational person anywhere who would agree that he was not guilty and not deserving of the death sentence? By cutting to the chase, we saved ourselves from going through a three-ring circus.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • Vulpes

      Not the only way ... just the best way. Can you imagine the outcry from his supporters? The legal wrangling about where to have the trail. He would become a lightening rod for radicals all over the world. His death is a better outcome.

      May 3, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  11. Moses

    burial at sea huh, Now I know that Osama died years ago. Who falls for this stuff???

    May 2, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Vulpes

      Now you "know"? So much for critical thinking ...

      May 3, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • David

      How do you know? You were either there when it happened, or you read it somewhere (but, then why would you believe something you read?)

      May 3, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  12. Geneva

    That orange face comb over pathetic guy should stick to building his hotels and has no business in politics. He lashes out at anyone that gets in his way and that is not what President candidate should be doing. He is a arrogant rich guy that thinks he owns the world.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • John Vacek

      Geneva! You're on the wrong site. The ant- Trump site is over to the right....or was that to the left. Oh well, it's hard to tell.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  13. DroneAlone

    He was buried at sea due to toxic waste laws.

    Just how big was the toilet on that ship, anyway?

    May 2, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  14. canekane

    Is it so hard for people to see, Osama Bin Laden was buried with respect and proper Islamic ceremony in order to deflect retribution on you and every other AMERICAN. I find it hard to believe my elders and fellow citizens are so full of hate. Is it any wonder why other young people are so critical, and clinical? When the adults of our nation leave comments like some of the ones left on this site? You teach by example, by action and by words. So maybe your words should reflect less edges, your actions more fluid and your examples seamless!

    May 2, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • youth

      I never comment on articles usually because I'm disgusted with what people have to say. Being 21 I feel like I know much better than MANY of the adults posting on here. I applaud you for your well written comment and response. I completely agree with everything you said and it give me hope. Reading most of these other comments, makes me fearful of my future since I simply do not understand how people can be so hateful. Yes I understand the issues caused by this man and the repercussions that followed and as dehumanizing and monstrous I may believe him to have been, I think it would have been extremely poor judgment to not follow Sharia Law. It is ridiculous that some of these comments promote doing some heinous things. Yes, he was a monster and a terrorist, and yes I'm happy his reign of terror is over, however, how would be any better if he did something disrespectful with his body? Why bring ourselves down to his disgusting level? Is that necessary? NO. Instead, we must rejoice for the world that a heinous man is no longer spreading hate and work towards breaking barriers and educating to eliminate some of the hatred in this world and it make a better place to live.

      Yes, for the 1st time in eleven years, I'm finally somewhat hopeful for a peaceful world.

      God Bless our troops who are fighting still for our right to post these comments.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Ray in Vegas

      Youth .. not everyone is hopelessly stupid and inarticulate. Keep the faith! It does get lonely out in the world, but you are not alone. Go forth and reproduce, young man! The world needs more intelligence. Ignore the idiots, most of them are harmless.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • Donna

      Youth, you are very arrogant about your perceived wisdom about the universe, but you might find that as you gain more life experience, your idea of wisdom will change. People express grief and deal with trauma in a huge variety of ways. You can't assume that what works for you- that what makes you feel better should work for everyone. People have a right to be outraged at a mass murderer and terrorist. This is no time to be smug and look down at people who have anger toward him. And to suggest that mistreating his body would make us the same as him is absurd. We didn't kill him because he desecrated dead bodies! Do you really see no difference between that and mass murder? If he killed someone you loved, would you equate their death with the desecration of a dead body? NO. Maybe you should stop patting yourself on the back and learn about OTHER people's experiences.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Kathy T

      Youth ~ You give me hope for your generation .... so proud that you have not fed into the hate. Your perception is quite accurate. Kudos for sharing your truth.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • Ray in Vegas

      Mutilating his corpse would ABSOLUTELY bring is down to his level and that is not at all absurd. What is absurd is claiming that when we do a heinous thing it is justified because of our anger .. but when someone else does something out of anger it is not justified. Mutilating bodies is ghetto. Plane and simple. Civilized people since ancient times have always recognized this.

      May 3, 2011 at 1:56 am |
    • David

      To the young that have commented here. The important thing to remember is to keep an open mind, and then you won't end up like many of the "adults" on this site have, closed-minded. It is their closed-mindedness that keeps them from being able to make clear comments and insightful dialog with the other posters.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • BillyBob117

      You really need to stop using those lying/BS teleprompters.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Donna

      Sorry Ray, but if you don't see the difference between actually killing someone and desecrating a body, then you aren't being rational.

      May 3, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Ray in Vegas

      Sorry, Donna. But I never stated they were the same thing. I merely stated that the practice is abhorrent. Again .. "civilized" people since ancient times have recognized this ... key word "civilized".

      May 5, 2011 at 1:30 am |
  15. B-Dog

    He was not buried at sea for Islamic law.... he was buried at sea because we wacked him mafia style. 1 shot to the head, and now he's sleeping with the fishes.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Geneva

      I want to know who cleansed him a navy seal ???Come on , they tossed him probably out of the helicopter and when did all this take place if they went at 1am and shot him then they quickly cleansed him and threw him out to sea. Does not add up !

      May 2, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • oy vay

      This happened HOURS before it was announced @Geneva, you haven't been listening to the statements I think. We already had his DNA profile, it takes little time to get a match if they work it immediately and you can bet they did just that. Just because he was buried at sea shortly after the announcement came to the world, doesn't mean it was immediately after he was shot. Think and read and use your comprehension skills please.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • BG

      Anyway.... 4 dollars a pound..

      May 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Ray in Vegas

      It was 2 shots to the head.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • BillyBob117

      Hey hot dog--it was two shots to the head--I have seen the photo-–

      May 3, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  16. Truth Prevails

    So this terror head's followers want their choice of burial for their leader...........Did more than three thousand victims of 9/11 and around the world have a choice to not being buried under the rubbles???

    May 2, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Sambo88

      He was given a proper burial. His head was pointed toward Hell and his body properly washed.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
  17. Name*Robert

    So, OBL was a Muslin. And here we've been told for the last 10 years by our U.S. Muslim brothers that he and his ilk do not represent Islam...

    May 2, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Questioning

      Muslin? He is a cotton sheet?

      May 2, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • wjs

      Yes, Bin Laden was a Muslim, a Muslim who in no way represents Islam. That's not too hard to understand, now, is it, Robert.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Geneva

      Hitler was Christian but did he represent all Christians??

      May 2, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • BG

      @ Geneva

      Hitler was not a Christian. He used the church when advantageous to his agenda; he otherwise criticized it.


      "Hitler was a Christian" is a tired, inaccurate, ignorant old chestnut of an argument.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Nader

      Eric Rudolph and Tim McVeigh were Christians. As a Muslim, I never once thought to blame all Christians for their heinous acts.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • marcus

      McVeigh was an atheist, though I'm not sure it matters. Angry fundamentalists come in every stripe. Here's a thought – lets all conspire to keep young people (say, under 25) away from fundamentalists and idealogues.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Pickles and Onions

      You're right, BG. Hitler was no Christian. I would make more sense to instead say that Torquemada, Rodrigo Borgia, Ivan the Terrible, and Henry VIII were Christians.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • seriously

      bush is christian does he represent christianity?

      May 2, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • John H.

      @marcus, Mcveigh was not an atheist. In fact for the most part he was Catholic (Roman Catholic) . It was not until his execution he said he was agnostic. agnostic /= atheist. Though he likely said that just for shock value.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • חֲנוֹךְ

      Geneva: Hitler was not a christian. The Nazi party was a political occult movement.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Mike

      Osama Bin Laden wasn't remotely Muslim, just like Hitler or Stalin were not remotely Christian. Take a couple of college courses before you make any comments. Notice the proper English that I use, stupid.

      May 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  18. terry

    Umm, I heard that they have a video of the entire sea services as well as footage of the body. the DNA matched. you don't have to do an autopsy to find that out. I believe they are going to release that to the public as proof for those that think he died years ago ...why anyone would want to hide that fact is beyond me. One would think Bush would dance in the streets and do cartwheels if he found him years ago. Of course I may be wrong.

    May 2, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  19. craiglaffanjr

    He was probabbly just flushed out when they emptied the septic tank. I hope!

    May 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • Robert

      Excellent article and views. Great insight from someone who has the experience. It is a time for healing based on the all too late death of this evil man bin Laden. Latif, thank you for your article. Well done.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  20. Linda

    How do you know that it was really him? Did anyone do a autopsy? I know that this has nothing to do with Bin Laden, but we at least need to top the gas price off so that everyday people can drive to and from work. Its getting cheaper to stay at home and let the goverment give everyone public assistance.

    May 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Science

      Yes, it was confirmed to be bin Laden using DNA testing.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Donna

      Linda, They took DNA samples to verify it was him. Who would they show his body to if they kept him? I think it's likely that the government did an autopsy, but regardless- what would be the point? What would you hope to find?

      May 2, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • John Brown

      Rght on Linda – I want to see the long form death certificate!

      May 2, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • rkt210

      We know it was him because without absolute proof, we would not have declared his death and run the risk of having him reappear alive and well.

      May 3, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • Dennis

      RULE #4 , double tap

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

      RKT210 has the right of it.

      No politician in their right mind would risk going on national TV and announcing his death unless they were 100% sure he was dead.

      May 3, 2011 at 10:43 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.