Can one cremate the dead due to a lack of burial space?

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Last Updated on 13th January 2023

A missionary from Japan wrote to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa that people in Japan preferred to cremate bodies instead of burying them, due to the scarcity of land and people turning away from religion, as well as a past epidemic being linked to burying dead bodies. He asked, how one could admonish them in this regard.

Huzoor-e-Anwaraa, in his letter dated 29 October 2021, provided the following guidance regarding this issue:

“The fact of the matter is that Allah has imbued respect for the dead in human nature. Hence, those who bury their dead do so because they do not wish them to be desecrated. Likewise, those who cremate their dead or feed them to animals also do so with the intention of preventing their dead bodies from rotting. In their view, it is respect for the dead that requires cremation or feeding the bodies to animals. Anyhow, it is not only the followers of religion who respect their dead, but even those who do not follow any particular religion are compelled to do so because of a natural human instinct.

“Islam is a religion that is in perfect harmony with nature. It teaches that the dead should be buried. Hence, in the story of the two sons of Adam mentioned in the Holy Quran, Allah sent a raven to teach Adam’s son how to bury his deceased brother’s body.

“The interment of the dead, as performed according to Islamic teachings, does not involve any kind of shirk [associating partners with God] or worship of those being buried. It is done only so that the dead body of a human being may be treated with befitting honour and respect and so that the bereaved, as far as circumstances allow, may visit the grave and pray to Allah the Exalted for the deceased.

“As for the fear of spreading some disease by burying dead bodies, this is a false assumption because Allah the Exalted has placed such properties in soil that the human body gradually disintegrates and becomes part of that soil.

“So, when the next generation comes, with the passage of time, many people from that new generation forget their ancestors and gradually the names and marks of many graves are erased from the ground, and new graves are prepared in their place. There are many cemeteries in the world in which the dead have been buried over the centuries and many old graves have been replaced by new ones. The same practice has also been employed in Jannat al-Baqi‘, the famous cemetery of Medina. Therefore, the argument of land depletion is not a strong argument against the practice of burying the dead.

“Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra has described the various aspects of the funeral practices prevalent in different religions and societies – including cremating or feeding them to animals – in great detail in his books Tafsir-e-Kabir and Sayr-e-Ruhani. (See Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 8, pp. 179-180 and Sair-e-Ruhani, No. 3, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 16, pp. 317-322)”

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