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. chuck58

    Who gives a crap about they got rid of the S.O.B. He's gone and hopefully hell has a warm welcome for him.

    May 2, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  2. Mfred

    Beyond all the crackpot conspiracy theories going around, making "it" disappear the way they did is the final act and will not allow for relic worship which most definitely would have happened had the body been returned to the family. Imagine a Bin Laden shrine with his body as a tangable reason for martyres to visit before future acts of terrorism. I see this as a display of complete control. Eliminating a life and then making the problem disappear off the face of the earth as in out of sight, out of mind. This is a new concept and quite cunning and ruthless in my opinion. It completely dehumanizes that person.

    May 2, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  3. ralk

    BS compassion! he got what he deserved! now he is fish food...LOL!

    May 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  4. stryker

    Well their is one thing we all agree on and that is that were happy he is dead.

    May 2, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  5. K Thomas

    This is what makes us better than he was.....we gave him a proper burial even if he didn't allow the same for our fellow Americans. This is what makes Americans who were are: compassionate, peaceful, and above all HUMAN–all concepts Bin Laden lacked.

    May 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  6. Clint

    What a crock! Compassion for evil murderous little worms, so far it shows nothing until we see his dead ass! Buried at sea hahaha

    May 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  7. Marilu

    Kenny I agree with you.

    May 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  8. gulabjamun

    This little imam punk has always annoyed me. Hope he chokes on his halal chicken.

    May 2, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  9. ben

    i haveread the article of mr Khalid Latif, and his arguments overall did not convince me. For instance, he would have been buried next to our loved ones. Next to? There s enough remote, hard to reach areas where a heli can get,within 24 hours.

    His argument mplies that a lot of crooks,like Sadam Hussein,would be disposed of- I beg your pardon, be buried – at sea.

    MrLatif simply does not clearly state that a burial at sea simply is not done in the islamic world. The USA government just decided not to take any chances that OBL;s grave would be discovered and then become a holy shrine for a bunch of inhumans. Fine, yet to come up with all kinds of justifications for a burial at sea is an artifact.

    May 2, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  10. John N Florida

    I don't mind that they buried him at sea. I don't mind that they washed him per custom. I don't mind that they wrapped him in white robes, again, by custom.
    But I DO wish they would release the picture of him wrapped in bacon BEFORE the robes went on.

    May 2, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  11. twiddly

    "...how Sharia is meant to function as it takes into consideration what would be best for society..."

    Yeah, make women wear veils, treat them as 2nd class citizens, that's definitely best for society.
    Why bring sharia into this at all? I'm glad you're glad he's dead and that he was dumped in the water. Nuff said.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
  12. 1GregM

    I would have preferred to see him hung from the arm that raises the torch on the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor for the world to see. Compassion my tail end – he gave no compassion to those in the towers and those who tried to help them. Take your compassion and stuff it.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  13. Dan

    Who cares what they did with him. Personally, I would have run him through a wood chipper, stuffed the leftovers in on old football, and punted it towards Jerusalem.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  14. Brad

    I agree with this article, well said.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  15. Kenny

    I don't see a problem with burying him at sea. Fish gotta eat too. He might as well serve some good in death since he didn't in life.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  16. meh.....

    So we got him, Is it really going to fix things? I don't think it will. I'm glafd he's dead but what is the next big thing?

    May 2, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • meh.....


      May 2, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  17. Curious

    This "spin" is nonsense. When an American soldier who is Muslim dies in battle overseas, the government does not bury him within 24 hours. No, the real reason Bin Laden got his fast, sea burial is simply that the Obama administration feared that if the body were brought back, it would have to be turned over to his family for a quasi-state funeral somewhere.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • MisterP

      I think you hit the nail on the head. No body, no chance for his family to try to claim it...

      May 2, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • Al

      His family disowned him years ago, according to new reports.

      May 2, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
  18. Tom

    I read that the "funeral" lasted an hour. That's about 55 minutes longer than it should have taken. I hope that attendance was mandatory for nobody.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  19. Kevin

    ‎"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 10:38 pm |
    • JamminCanadian

      Bears repeating. The writer should be ashamed of himself, celebrating hate. You can't overcome evil with evil.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Mark Twain

      "I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure."

      – Mark Twain

      May 2, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • EmeraldCity

      Where does the author "celebrate hate," Jammin? Did you even read the article?

      May 2, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • bhp

      I agree with the reverend.

      May 2, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Al

      Good sentiments, but not from MLK. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/05/out-of-osamas-death-a-fake-quotation-is-born/238220/

      May 2, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  20. Mike Vick

    They should have ground him up and fed him to dogs.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • chibidw

      That would be cruelty to animals.

      Honestly I don't think they "buried him at" sea, so much as "chucked him into the".

      May 2, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • fofo

      poor dog. why do you hate dogs?

      May 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • fofo

      poor doggy. why do you hate dogs?

      May 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • Nick

      Nobody could hate dogs enough to do that :l

      May 2, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Jerry

      No, they shoulda fed him to pigs!

      May 2, 2011 at 11:27 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.