Burial and Environment
In the previous parts of this article, Part 1 and Part 2 on funeral rituals, advantages of the burial and disadvantages of burning the dead body were mentioned briefly. Now, we would like to quote here some modern non-Muslim experts in the field of disposal of the dead bodies who are keen and eager to preserve the environment from pollution.
Some of those experts suggested that the dead body should be placed in a large jar filled with sand, soil and water, and then a plant or seed should be planted on the mouth of the jar so that the roots of the tree can absorb the remains of the body and can convert them into food for trees.
Thus, people can choose what tree or plant they want to be after they die. It is noteworthy that most Muslim graveyards are located in the open fields outside the city and the graveyards are full of trees, grasses and other natural plants that absorb through their roots the toxins of the decaying body in the grave and converts them into oxygen.
Modern Science Supports the Burial Method
This Italian method (The Capsula Mundi project) of burial has been invented and developed in Italy. The method is similar to burial on Islamic way as it appears clearly from the pictures.
This is an idea captured perfectly by this beautiful new burial method developed in Italy. The Capsula Mundi project by designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel has developed an organic, biodegradable burial capsule that will turn the deceased’s body into nutrients for a tree that will grow out of their remains.1
After being encapsulated in the fetal position, the deceased is buried and either a tree or tree seed is planted above their capsule. The project’s site already has a number of trees to choose from.2
Thus, the burial ground turns into more fertile land and the Muslim graveyards become a green territory that produces fresh air.
Burial is pretty much the standard way that most humans have been burying each other since a long period. As the body decomposes, it can release nutrients to the soil.3
This is the opinion of experts regarding burial who concluded that the burial method is suitable for the environment and nature. The difference between burial in the Islamic tradition and the Italian one is that they place the dead body on sitting position in a large jar; however, Muslims put the dead body lying down straight on the back in a grave.
There is no doubt that the dead body in a cooked earthen jar will take time longer for decomposition than the period of decomposition in natural earthen grave.
Mushroom food from the dead body
In order to expedite your body’s decomposition, you may want to invest in the Infinity Burial Suit. The death suit has mushroom spores embroidered into the fabric. An alternative embalming fluid is used after death, which helps facilitate mushroom growth. Not only does this have the benefits of biodegradable coffins, but it actually takes it a step further by purifying the soil from the toxins already in your body. As the body decomposes, the mushrooms take up the preservatives, mercury, lead, and other toxins that have accumulated over a lifetime. Those toxins then become fixed in the mushroom and are not left to pollute the soil. In 2011, the suit’s inventor Jae Rhim Lee gave a TED Talk and explained the suit in detail.4
Islamic ruling on re-usage of the old graves
It is important to note here that Islam permits reuse of old graves for the new burials specially when the previous body has disintegrated and turned into dust after a long period of its burial. This is an important ruling in this regard that was stated by many Muslim jurists in their books.
The Famous Hanafi jurist Az-Zayla`i (may Allah have mercy on him) says: “When the dead body becomes ragged and turns into dust; then it is permissible to bury another dead body in that grave and it is also permissible to cultivate and grow plants and build on it, and all types of utilizations are permissible.”5
A legal ruling was issued by the Fatwa Centre, Jordan on the issue of re-use of an old graveyard in (`Ain Jana). The Fatwa says: “The graveyard (mentioned in the question) is old, and no one was buried in it since 1933. So there is no problem according to the Islamic Shari`ah in using the graveyard again, to bury the new dead bodies if the remaining bones of the previous one were treated with respect and honor and were put in an appropriate place and the remnant should be put at the end of the grave at sides of the grave.”
Modern science has discovered that the period of decomposition of the body is one year, but the bones need a longer period for the decadence.
A study on the issue of reuse of the old Muslim graveyard for new burials recommended the following:
1- It is the duty of the state to secure and provide appropriate land for the burial.
2- The state has to pass laws preventing people from building on the graves so they can be used for burial for second and third times.
3- The state should grow trees and plants on the graveyards.
The problem of the graveyards in the cities
During the preparation of this research, I came to read a study carried out by the BBC on the problem of burial in Greece. The study shows that the disposal of human dead bodies is a big problem in this country.
“Cemeteries in Greek cities are so overcrowded that bodies are often only kept in the ground for three years. Then families have to pay for exhumation – and for the bones to be kept in a building known as an ossuary. But many cannot afford to pay even for this limited degree of dignity in death.”6
I think that such problems commonly emerge from the negligence and mismanagement by the body in charge. The issue is not the issue of burial or cremation. Many countries have numerous problems in traffic, sewage, birth and child, diseases, patients, hospitals. Many of these problems are due to poor management and negligence in public services. This does not mean that birth itself is an abnormal phenomenon, or illness and treatment are contradictory to the human nature. In fact, the problem of burying the dead bodies in some countries is a result of carelessness and mismanagement by the government. It is the duty of the city administration to organize the graveyards by allocating new lands out of the city limits due to the expansion of the population and the spread of urbanization.
The Hindu cremation results in many serious disadvantages on the environment and causes pollution of air. Also, burning a dead body needs a large amount of wood that leads to cutting forests and trees that contributes to air pollution. Also, the Hindu way of burning is an expensive one and unaffordable for the poor people, contrary to the way of Islamic burial that is cheap and best.
The city Varanasi is on the banks of the Ganges River, which is holy to the Hindus. According to the Hindu religion, it recommended to burn the dead body in the fire which is called Mukti “Salvation”. Both Varanasi city and the River Ganges are sacred in Hinduism. Therefore, they try to get the body burned there on the bank of the river.
That is why a complete facility for the burning of dead bodies has been made available in Varanasi on the bank of the river. There are many open crematoriums prepared for this purpose. Cremation ghat’s fire is lit ceaselessly over the whole year. An average of 300 dead bodies are burnt every day.
Hindus believe that if a person dies in Varanasi is rewarded paradise and salvaged from Hellfire. Therefore, several guardians bring their beloved ones who are close to the death hoping their death in Varanasi in order to achieve salvation.7
The method of burning the dead body adopted by the Hindus leads to many evils; we will mention here some of them briefly:
1- Burning a dead body is contrary to the dignity of human being.
2- The tradition of burning the dead body sometimes causes to leave half-burned dead bodies naked on the banks of the rivers, whether the deceased is a male or female.
3-Burning the dead body hurts people with its bad smell and smoke emanating from the corpse fire.
4-Burning the dead body causes pollution of water across the rivers in India.
5-Burning the dead body results in polluting the environment and the air through its smoke and smell.
6- Burning the dead body is too expensive for the poor Hindus because people need a large quantity of wood, moreover, some rich people prefer sandalwood for their cremation that is very expensive, while many poor people do not get a morsel of food.
7-Burning the dead body and throwing the ashes into the rivers abolish the chances of investigation in the case of crime and closes the door of inquiry if there was a felony connected with the dead body but if it was burned or was thrown into the water the chance of inquiry has missed forever. On the contrary, the burial is free from this problem and many investigations were carried out on the dead bodies buried in the graves.
8-Burning the dead body causes poisoning the fish in the rivers due to eating the human bodies.
9-In some cases, Hindus also bury their dead, such as unmarried woman, infants and Sanyasis (celibate).
10-Hindu scriptures never said that burning the dead is more environment-friendly; rather they say that fire librates the soul. But Hindu brothers began claiming that burning the dead body is a good method for disposing the dead body.
This article does not intend to invite Hindus to bury their dead as Muslims do but the intention is to uncover the truth about something important regarding the environment.
As India tried reviving the river once before, and failed. The 1985 Ganges Action Plan cost $250 million over 20 years and succeeded in treating only 35 percent.8
(1) http://www.boredpanda.com/biodegradable-burial-pod-memory-forest-capsula-mundi/ (Last accessed on 26/12/2015)
(3) http://www.iflscience.com/environment/what-do-when-youre-dead-science-edition(Last accessed on 26/12/2015).
(4) Badruddin Al-`Ayni, Al-Binyah Sharh Al-Hidayah, Dar Al-Kutub Al-`Ilmiyyah, Beirut 2000, vol.3, p. 252.
(5) http://latest755.rssing.com/chan-14774636/all_p40.html(Last accessed on 26/12/2015).
(6) http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34920068 (Last accessed on 26/12/2015).
(7) http://www.trt.net.tr/urdu/جنوبی-ایشیا/2015/10/01/ہ-342878 (Last accessed on 26/12/2015).
(8) http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/21/ganges-cleanup-will-cost-tens-of-billions-of-dollars-but-is-a-great-idea/?_r=0 (Last accessed on 26/12/2015).