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. Kathy T

    Great perspective – thanks for sharing.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  2. Sue M

    Yes, it might be satisfying to drag his dead body through the streets and then hang it from a bridge with his head on a pike – but then we would be as bad as the people who hate us and commit unspeakable acts. We do what is needed to defend ourselves and after that, should try to live up to our ideals and not down to their level.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  3. Alberto

    Garbage bin laden did not deserve a "compassionate" burial. As a Muslim, I am disgusted and nauseated at the thought of anything about him as anything "Muslim."

    Personally, I would have preferred him alive and suffer the pain equal to that caused by him, to no end.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  4. Michael Hyde

    This is a very well spoken article , i am le tell it truly comes from the heart as i read on , personally i think that all of these sceptics out there should read this article that way people can understand more about why the burial occured with such haste ! Once again i would like to say this is a very good article and statement from a true American !

    May 2, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  5. stryker

    What did they match the DNA to? Did they have prior DNA samples?

    May 2, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • TomNPitt

      His sister died in America a few years ago. They had her brain in Washington waiting for this moment. "Two shots to the left eye", and his sister's brain in a refrigerator in Washington. Wow – how cool does all that sound.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • John

      The Bin Laden Clan pretty big and mostly on the Republican camp as far as lobbying. Various members have given samples to our government in the past. Against that you can pretty much say 100% that the body is 1st degree related to another. If you get 3-4 of these vectors from paternal and maternal side its pretty much a match. On top of that there was US visual confirmation. There was visual confirmation from a wife in Afghanistan. The only way it wasnt him was if he there was a close relative from both sides of his family, that happened to look like him, that was hiding in a large house in Pakistan 1000's of miles from the rest of the Bin Ladens.

      What people dont realize is DNA testing doesnt mean you have to have DNA from the person itself for identifying. The difference is if its an unknown person (murder suspect) where you dont know the parents so you try to do a first degree match VS a suspected known person such as a bodies burned and mutilated in an airplane crash. Then you can collect the samples from the passenger lists living relatives and do a cross match.


      May 2, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  6. tuffyterf

    If you actually believe that the U.S. Government would go through all the trouble of hunting this guy for 10 years and taking his body from a war zone, just so they could bury him at sea, then call the number below to claim your free bag of gold.


    May 2, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  7. Nobama

    Osama bin Laden, while a disgusting human being, was also ALLOWED to be free by the CIA and the USA. During the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA payed bin Laden, provided him with weapons, training, and intelligence. He was the leader at that time of the CIA backed anti-Soviet Mujahedeen. Then, Saudi Arabia offered bin Laden to the Clinton Administration in the '90s, but Clinton turned them down. THEN in 2003, the Taliban once again offered bin Laden to a third party nation for trial if the United States halted the bombing of Afghanistan. Which the Bush Administration then refused. This is one big conspiracy, and I hope Obama and the others burn in hell for it.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • dbarak

      I can't take any conspiracy theorist that spells a misspells four-letter word very seriously. It's "paid," not "payed."

      May 2, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  8. An indian american

    Yes, I agree with this artucle, may god have mercy on osama bin laden, a lost soul. This is indeed an act of mercy. Here in our times we will not be able to foeget, forgiveness we have given of his hurtful deeds

    May 2, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  9. Corey

    Loved the KFC ad placement in this article....priceless

    May 2, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Chef Glenn LaVorgna C.C.

      Yup,...I think the article was ok,but did he get a paycheck from KFC?

      May 2, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  10. teresa, ohio

    Call me a doubting Thomas, but i dont think they dumped his body in the ocean. After blowing off the side of his face, hauling his dead a zz in the copter and taking some DNA to confirm.... they are gonna be humanitarians and dump his body in the ocean? Nah, dont make sense. And if it dont make sense... THAT didnt happen.

    Imagine the week that Pres. obama would have had: 1. he revealed his "certificate of live birth" 2. he got Bin laden, and 3. Gaddafi... almost... all within a couple days of each other. Now that would be quite an accomplishment. No one could top that.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
  11. Geneva

    Oyvay – You dont need to be rude and defensive. Who died and made you the comprehension king !

    May 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  12. loai

    Latif you are more worried about your KFC halal chicken than the content of the article. It is because of hypocrite so called Imam's like you that nothing gets solved. As Muslim we don't need to be kissing asses to make the USA happy but rather we need honestly show them where we disagree with them so can reach an understanding based on respect. Do you think by killing Usama that you as Muslim will have your dignitiy back. I doubt that. I am sure you are more concerned about eating your halal KFC in peace than anything else. Why does a desert man like Usama have some much grudge in his DNA against the USA. Is it money, NO. It is ideological differences. America's blind support of Israel is the driving factor of these hatred. if you wait for the USA to hand you back your chicken, I mean your dignity, then you are wrong. America will only respect you when you show actions that demand respect. BTW, I am an American just in case you wonder.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Chef Glenn LaVorgna C.C.

      You may be an American,but your not a Marine

      May 2, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • loai

      What isthe IQ of a marine so I can be proud of it?

      May 2, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Alberto

      Yes, I am wondering!

      May 2, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Alberto

      Let me clarify, feel free to leave the USA, if you're not happy with it's policies.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • loai

      Alberto, if you are happy with it and you claim to be a Muslim, then it is easier for you to leave Islam

      May 2, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • jet


      "America's blind support of Israel", hardly. Our support comes from a conscious decision. You accurately describe "blind support" in your description of the hatred that is embedded in one's DNA, although it's not DNA where it derives itself. It usually comes from a prejudiced upbringing or an envy for something they are unwilling to work to achieve.

      At what point in your life have you ever judged Israel and it's people fairly?

      Respect is not what you think others think about you, respect is what you think of yourself – sir.

      May 2, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  13. Tyler

    Thank you very much. Very smart and well written.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  14. Corey

    Also, for all the Trump haters. He does bring up some valid points when he speaks and his points are usually what most of D.C. will not touch. He's so right about China and Saudi Arabia. We have the cards in our hands and I know that, it's just nice to hear someone else to say it. I like our President but I do believe he feels threaten by Trump. Gotta love the fact that The Donald speaks clear English also.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Josh

      "we have the cards in our hands and I know that." You know what exactly? Do you understand the financial relationship with China for example? People like you like Trump because you're uninformed on actual issues. I don't say that to be nasty.
      Iignorance is a correctable state.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • TomNPitt

      "...two bullets to the left eye...".
      Just becaquse Trump talks a big game, doesn't mean he plays one. When you're the richest guy in the room, and you're surrounded by 20 something Apprentices trying to kiss your ass – you can look pretty daunting!! George "W" talked tough about the Chinese when he was elected; then they captured our spy plane and its crew. They made him apologize three times publicly before they gave us our plane back – in pieces. They're not just street punks. They have big egos as well.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Bob

      You do realize that, based on his past actions, as opposed to his current verbal diarrhea, Donald is a flaming liberal

      May 2, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  15. Barry

    To be frank, do we really care if Osama was "buried with compassion in accordance with Islamic law"? I doubt it. The authorities may say that he was buried at sea following proper Islamic rituals but we would never know if in fact the US soldiers spat on his body and defecated on it for all we know before they dumped it unceremoniously in the ocean to avoid any martyr worship of him. I'm as liberal as almost anyone out there and I can tell you that if our soldiers did the above, then all the power to them. Osama deserved not only any sort of humiliating treatment to his body but certainly is ill deserving of any compassion or rituals that almost any other reasonable person deserves.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Bob

      Yes we do, because we respect the religion; just not the fool who attempted to pervert it.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Bill

      Your post proves that you're not a liberal.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • ThinkAgain

      Barry, the men of JSOC are much better people than you can ever hope to be. They would never do the things you suggest, because, in addition to probably not even wanting to, they know that to do so would be to further inflame the Muslim world when what is needed is to give voice to those moderate Muslims who want to join us in fighting Islamic extremists who pervert their religion.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  16. Dr.Obvious

    "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." Martin Luther King, Jr.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  17. Chef Glenn LaVorgna C.C.

    I couldn't have said it better,Imam ....thank-you for your kind words,in the name of The Father,Son,and Holy Spirit,..Jesus is my Lord and Savior,..God Bless the USA,our troops fighting 3 different wars,God Bless ALL FAMILIES AND LOVED ONES LOST IN THE TOWERS,...GOD BLESS NEW YORK,...I live in Ct....and " I STILL LOVE NEW YORK" GOD BLESS YOU NEW YORK..I LOVE YOU !!!

    May 2, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  18. Be inspired


    May 2, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Pratt

      Thank you

      May 3, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  19. TacoSalad

    This man gave no regard to how our American brothers and sisters were to be buried on 9-11. I say we should have let his body rot hanging from the statue of liberty.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • S1N

      The whole point was to show the Muslim world, and current (already demoralized) Islamic militants that we value their way of life. This burial will probably have more effect than six months worth of PSYOPS on those who are on the fence in that region.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Josh

      While I understand your anger, functioning through the lens of anger mistakes are made. Nothing useful in the longterm would be gained. He's dead and that's that. To try and "Do to him as he would have done to us" is not productive.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • Dave W

      Bin Laden gave no respect to Americans, correct? We can both agre that he would not give any of us any – even many Muslims – respect in death.

      Then don't become bin Laden.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Bill

      Well it's a great thing that you're not our Commander-In-Chief, since you clearly are too small-minded to realize how the world operates. It's not just about your feelings.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Erik

      Yeah, that would look VERY good having a corpse rotting as it dangled from the uplifted arm of Liberty...how inspiring, how just, how representative of the United States of America. Kind of reminds me of those mutilated American servicemen being paraded through the streets of Mogadishu back in 1993. Yeah, your idea is clearly the "intelligent" and "compassionate" one. Clearly, you are "civilized" in your outlook. Unless, of course, you are simply trying to incite outrage to serve some perverse need of your own...or you are simply just a D.A.R.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Jaysin

      He should have either been chopped to pieces and fed to sharks or stuffed and displayed at the Smithsonian. I'm tired of everyone thinking we have to respect other cultures like the muslims. I'm sorry Islam teaches and promotes treachery, lies and death.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  20. Alejandro Dron

    Graphic Commentaries on the Middle East

    May 2, 2011 at 9:50 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.