May 3rd, 2011
11:54 AM ET

My Take: Sea burial says bin Laden not a martyr

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Shortly after we learned of the death of Osama bin Laden, U.S. officials said his body would be treated in accordance with Islamic traditions. What those officials did not say is that there are two Islamic burial traditions: one for ordinary Muslims and another for martyrs.

For ordinary Muslims, the body is washed and then wrapped in a plain white shroud for burial. For martyrs, however, the body is not washed and it is buried in the clothes the martyr was wearing when he died. This is because a martyr’s blood is a badge of honor — proof positive that he died in service of Islam.


- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Death • Islam • Islamic law • Islamic law • Muslim • Opinion • Osama bin Laden • Sacred Spaces • Sharia

May 2nd, 2011
06:31 PM ET

Administration clarifies bin Laden's sea burial

(CNN) - Many Muslims around the world expressed confusion Monday after a senior U.S. official - without elaboration -– said that Osama bin Laden’s body had been buried at sea “in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition.”

“That made me curious, because there is no such tradition that requires a man who dies on land to be taken out and buried to the sea,” said Akbar Ahmed, chairman of Islamic Studies at American University.

It is common for a Muslim who dies at sea to be buried at sea because one of the main fundamentals of Islamic burials is that the body must be buried within 24 hours before it starts to decompose, Ahmed said. If a land burial isn’t realistic within that timeframe, a sea burial must take place.

But he had never heard of someone dying on land and being buried at sea.

Later Monday, one of President Obama’s key advisers clarified the administration’s decision, saying that even though bin Laden died on land, there was no land to bury him on.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 9/11 • Death • Islam • Islamic law • Muslim • Osama bin Laden • Sharia

Quran much more than a holy book to Muslims
A Muslim in Bangladesh holds a Quran during a recent protest against the government.
April 1st, 2011
04:50 PM ET

Quran much more than a holy book to Muslims

Two weeks ago, controversial pastor Terry Jones presided over what he called a trial of the Quran.

The holy book of Islam was "found guilty" by members of Jones' tiny church in Florida and burned, according to a release posted on the church's website.

On Friday, 12 people, including eight workers for the United Nations, were killed in the Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif, when people protesting the burning of that Quran attacked a U.N. office.

Jones likely knew that burning the Quran would prompt protests when Muslims learned of the actions of his church, the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville. He canceled plans to burn a Quran last year, on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks after being lobbied by President Obama, Gen. David Petraeus and others. Petraeus said American service members in Afghanistan would be increasingly in danger if Jones proceeded with his plan.

On March 20, the parishioners at Dove burned a single copy of the Quran, thus "attacking the foundations of Islam itself," says one Muslim scholar.

"Symbolically and literally this is the most sacred reminder of God on Earth for a Muslim," said Akbar Ahmed, the chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington. " More than a mosque ... more than any other symbol it is the Quran that symbolizes the word of God for a Muslim."


- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Islam • Islamic law • Muslim • Quran

Only 14, Bangladeshi girl charged with adultery was lashed to death
Darbesh Khan and his wife, Aklima Begum, had no choice but to watch their youngest daughter being whipped until she dropped.
March 30th, 2011
10:46 AM ET

Only 14, Bangladeshi girl charged with adultery was lashed to death

Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl.

Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public.

Hena dropped after 70.

Bloodied and bruised, she was taken to hospital, where she died a week later.

Amazingly, an initial autopsy report cited no injuries and deemed her death a suicide. Hena's family insisted her body be exhumed. They wanted the world to know what really happened to their daughter.

Read the full story
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Fatwa • Islam • Islamic law • Religious violence • Sharia

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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.