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. Muneef

    Osama is one name of the Lions, Lived on Deserts and on the tip of the Mountain and now buried as an Ocean Sailor in to the Arabian Gulf..
    Should say after all it was a mighty wise choice and am sure if they had given him the choice then as Righteous he would have chosen the Ocean avoiding therefore the "Fitnna" temptation of Seduce by Satan  misleading people to "Zalalah" being far Astray.

    After all God knows if the late will end to the bottom of the ocean as a full complete corpse or will be missing parts that might have head for the American labs? Who knows they might be already making more copies of him the late for the future "hide and seek"games...!? Since the story as seems to be bigger than just "Osama being used and abused" but it was always every crime made by inelegance or the crime world was tagged to him being behind it...even those who wanted to collect the insurance of their buildings the blew them up and tagged it to the late,even those who enjoyed the fluctuations of shares prices have made their moves to effect the same and tagging it to the late... It is not that i know but rather being every thing is possible to fabricate...  
    What ever the case might be or made done, we say;
    Believers: The Ultimate Victors
    [2:216] Fighting may be imposed on you, even though you dislike it. But you may dislike something which is good for you, and you may like something which is bad for you. GOD knows while you do not know.
    Where Do We Go From Here?
    [2:154] Do not say of those who are killed in the cause of GOD, "They are dead." They are alive at their Lord, but you do not perceive.

    [2:155] We will surely test you through some fear, hunger, and loss of money, lives, and crops. Give good news to the steadfast.

    [2:156] When an affliction befalls them, they say, "We belong to GOD, and to Him we are returning."

    May 3, 2011 at 5:45 am |
  2. teresa spermazota

    New drink called the bio laden 2 shots and a splash of water obl last words pizzas here *anyone who thinks he is something other than a evil killer your right he is whale poo.may his 72 virgins have the clap or be lesbians

    May 3, 2011 at 5:43 am |
  3. teresa spermazota

    If you dont like America het youq ass out. Were ok as long as you get food stamps or welfare but you will put us down go back to your 3rd world garden spot and eat crap with flies buzzing all over. You come crying for money. Get out of the USA!

    May 3, 2011 at 5:31 am |
  4. Gene Dutzy Jr

    Instead of cheering the death of a person, we should devote our energy towards our God's wish that no one should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

    2 Peter 3:9 (King James Version)
    The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

    May 3, 2011 at 5:07 am |
  5. Lindzy

    They should had just thrown his corpse in a cage filled w LIONS & just record the whole thing. Or left his body hanging on a piece of wood w hungry/angry birds.

    May 3, 2011 at 4:49 am |
  6. Lindzy

    Thank God I don't eat any seafood. I like the comment "When they say burial at sea according to Islamic tradition I think they mean he was cremated and flushed down the toilet." LOL!!! Good one!!

    May 3, 2011 at 4:45 am |
  7. LadyC

    regardless of conspiracy theories, religious affilation, anti-fed govt beliefs, the desire to have photographic/physical proof etc. discussed by respondents of this article, I think one of the poignant aspects of this article is the burial @ sea means no specific site to turn into a shrine to bin Laden. Plus, if you want to see a picture, just Google it 😉

    May 3, 2011 at 4:44 am |
  8. abdulksaida

    before i thought americans are logic and sense and when i was young i admire them, but now i realise that the administration of them are lier and terrorist and kill the person before trial like they did to palestinians leaders even their land is stolen. who will trust USA after that. no one in the middle east will trust especially the normal one and becasue of that . we want freedom to tell america that you support the terrorism of israel and that is enough. really amazing when shatan tell us of justice. really ironic and hypocracy

    May 3, 2011 at 4:43 am |
  9. abdulksaida

    it is immoral to burry him in the sea. All muslims condemn that act of humulation to islam and muslims. al azhar also condemn that. why then the oklahoma murdere didnt thrown in the sea. Is it because he is christian. why only muslims? where is the justice to palestinais after 60 years of torture. the USA ministration has the blood of innocent palestinians with israel. really hypocrates. If God wants him to be martyee , he will be and not america who decide. be humble and it is bad to dance after the death of any one. for me even criminal i will not dance when the terrorists of israel being killed . Really hypocracy and immoral and cruel to burry in the sea

    May 3, 2011 at 4:38 am |
  10. Jake

    He's absolutely right! I'm as racist and hatred as they come but I agree we all need to unit as one nation.

    May 3, 2011 at 4:19 am |
  11. John

    Anyone who believes he was buried at sea, come on.. Wow I cant believe people just accept this, duh American are truly brainwashed and believe anything they are told.

    May 3, 2011 at 4:14 am |
  12. CHRIS

    What about us we are owed a body and the truth. They said he was dead before remember. Well I do and I don't believe them and neither do a lot of others. How insulting to us they owe us, not the islam community it's been our young children that died and fought this war. Shame on anyone who just believes whatever this proven lying federal government tells you.

    May 3, 2011 at 3:51 am |
  13. sparkle

    Because of bin laden the immigration law has changes a lot people got deported and family torn apart..

    May 3, 2011 at 3:50 am |
  14. Linus

    What does a picture prove? One time I went on a match.com date to meet a brunette with long hair and when I got there she had short blond hair. She said the pic on the site was a few years old...but how would I have known that? Benazir Bhutto, the twice former Prime Minister of Pakistan is on record in 2007 stating "Omar Sheikh" murdered OBL. Being a credible source, as she is, I'm sure there was a picture taken and I'm sure it's not difficult to get a copy using the right persuasion techniques. Does a picture of OBL really prove anything about who killed him, when and how! I'm sorry the answer is clear and perhaps your government just tricked you for umteenth time....??

    May 3, 2011 at 3:31 am |
  15. Pat

    UBL was buried at sea to prevent his grave from becoming a shrine.
    It had nothing to do with honoring Islamic rituals.
    The only thing more shameful than the US gov't saying such a dumb thing,
    is that some of you ppl believed it. Oy vey!

    May 3, 2011 at 3:19 am |
  16. Ron

    When they say burial at sea according to Islamic tradition I think they mean he was cremated and flushed down the toilet.

    May 3, 2011 at 3:07 am |
  17. omanjre

    Thanks for the killing am happy my father's soul can rest in peace after his untimely death at the hands of osama THANK YOU GOD and well done America.

    May 3, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  18. sharky

    Though according to what I have read from an Islamic Leader in Cairo it was not acceptable to bury him at sea, in accordance to Islamic law, because he did not die on a boat. Quite frankly yes I know Bin Laden was a Muslim, however Muslims say he did not really represent Islam, so why give him an Islamic burial? Also it is disconcerting for the rest of the world given we never saw the body, this man killed so many people and yet he is given compassion? The world hated him and yet he is given compassion? Compassion for Bin Laden of all people takes precedence for the rest of the world that want to see the man. Really not acceptable to me.

    May 3, 2011 at 2:57 am |
    • James

      The compassion was for the people that would have been buried near him, and for any supposed "host" country. The compassion was that NO ONE would have to put up with him any further, not for Bin Laden himself.

      May 3, 2011 at 5:49 am |
  19. Canadian

    Up here in Canada our media people are telling us that the US government does have pictures of the body and are undecided about releasing the images. They're pretty gruesome apparently.

    May 3, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • TheId

      5.56mm to the head will do that.....

      May 3, 2011 at 4:01 am |
  20. danielle

    I am glad that thuS evil is wiped off of the earth. To many men an women have died trying to accomplish this. To many innocent americans died because of this evil. And im sure there will be another radical willing to step up. Will America ever be safe from extremests?

    May 3, 2011 at 2:27 am |
    • Hassan

      The question is, was it really worth all that? For the families of the victims of 9/11, do they accept that the feeling they have for their dead was also given to hundreds of thousands in the middle east just fir revenge?

      May 3, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • js

      The thought rather than the person was evil. By eliminating Osama the US may have eliminated the mother board but the virus of Osama's vision has already found roots with terrorist organisations which are yet to be contained. Al-Qaeda has ultimately mothered a whole horde of terrorist groups including the Taliban. Therefore, really the US is celebrating a physical acheivement that too, much belatedly.I am sure should the pace of terrorism world over increase which even Obama feels is quite likely, the Muslim world will unsurprisingly celebrate Osama as a martyr and his vision will continue to prevail among the uneducated muslim youth.
      It is not morally right to celebrate any one's death including Osama's but it would be morally right to take to task nations like Pakistan who harbour such terror and thought.

      May 3, 2011 at 3:28 am |
    • john

      Have u not notice the evils of God? The 1000 years of the dark ages? The 300 years of crusades? The years and wars if the "holy lands"? The evils of us vs them?

      May 3, 2011 at 3:31 am |
    • Sunny Guy

      It is not the evils of God, but the evils of man. God sent a Part of Himself to bring Light to erring humanity, and as we well know, He was murdered ... by man.

      Sunny Guy

      May 3, 2011 at 4:39 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.