The Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Zimbabwe chairman Sheikh Ismail Duwa has explained Muslim burial customs that entail believers to bury the dead before sunset or before sunrise on the same day of death. According to Islamic tradition, the highest honour given to a deceased person is a swift burial.
“Muslims try to bury before sunset on the same day of death where possible, and before sunset on the following day if circumstances make same day burial impossible.
“A speedy burial is of the utmost importance, in ecological terms this does away with the need for refrigeration.
“The deceased is respectfully cared for by their own family members, women clean the bodies of the female deceased and men take care of the men,” explained Sheik Duwa.
He said Muslims recite prayers as they follow a simple and dignified step by step procedure of cleaning the body which will be covered in a sheet throughout the process.
“Burying in a coffin is not permitted in Muslim tradition unless there is a necessity for health or legal reasons, for instance, if the body is badly damaged, or if the country of residence has burial laws which prohibit burial without a coffin.
“Once at the burial site, the deceased is lifted out of the coffin and buried in a (biodegradable calico) shroud.
“The steel casket is re-used by the community for all burials, which scores a ten out of ten for recycling. The body is lowered into a recess in the trench and turned on its right to face the Qiblah, (Mecca).”
He said wooden planks are then placed at an angle, effectively closing the deceased in a cavern. The slits between the planks are then covered with bamboo, unbaked bricks, mud or grass.
“Our cemeteries are unique in that they are characterised by humility, simplicity and economy in costs. Glorifying the dead with elaborate monuments is avoided.
“A simple name plate is used on Muslim graves for identification purposes, once again minimising the trail of waste matter left on the planet,” explained Sheik Duwa.
Zimbabwe allows freedom of worship. Chapter 4 of the nation’s Constitution under Part 2 Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms (Sub-section 60) states that:
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, which includes-
(a) freedom of thought, opinion, religion or belief; and
(b) freedom to practise and propagate and give expression to their thought, opinion, religion or belief, whether in public or in private and whether alone or together with others.