Friday, September 30, 2016

'Shah-i-Zinda' in California?

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

"Do not spy one another,
nor let any of you backbite others..." (Hujurat 49: 12)
IN June 1992 I was in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. One memorable place I visited was the Shah-i-Zinda Ensemble which includes the mausoleum of Khusam ibn Abbas, the cousin of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. (peace be upon him).
It was claimed that the body of the 7th century preacher was buried here after he was beheaded for his faith. Shah-i-Zinda means 'The Living King' - to some people of Khurasan (modern day Uzbekistan), Khusam is still living; he's in their hearts. 
Nowadays Islam is by far the dominant religion in Uzbekistan, as Muslims constitute more than 90 percent of the population. Recently the Shah-i-Zinda Ensemble came into limelight when the body of Uzbekistan's President, Islam Karimov was buried there. He was in power for 27 long years; his reign began a year before Uzbekistan's independence in 1991 from the claws of the Soviet Empire.
Khusam died in Samarkand (Khurasan) and he was buried there and to make a comparison our beloved Tok Guru Haron Din died at the Stanford University Hospital in San Francisco, California and his body was buried at Five Pillars Farm. To the people of Uzbekistan, Khusam who 'brought' Islam to them was Shah-i-Zinda (The Living King), so could our Tok Guru Haron Din be 'Shah-i-Zinda' in California?
Alhamdulillah, last Sunday morning, September 15th, I was lucky to meet a former 'mufti' who was cheerful to answer 'doubts' from a 'unlearned' layman such as the writer. When I asked him about the possibility of a future 'Shah-i-Zinda' in California where the 'tok guru' was buried, he did not answer directly but told about the story of Imam Sheikh Al-Shadhili (Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhili (1196-1258 AD), the founder of the Shadhili Sufi order. 
He said when Al-Shadhili fell ill in the eastern desert of Egypt, he told his followers if he dies, they should bury him there; a lonely land far away from civilization. He did want people to honour him but that area which was called Humaithara now known as Sheikh Shazly had became a focal point of people from all over the world.
Answering other questions from the writer, the former mufti said the deceased should not be moved from the place he dies to another land unless that is for a valid reason. He cited that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. who died in Aisya's (his wife) room was buried there even at time, the graveyard of Baqi' of Madinah was in existence.
'Sahaabah' (companion) of the Prophets s.a.w. too was to bury the deceased in the graveyard of the land or city in which he died, and to bury martyrs (for example Khusam ibn Abbas) where they died. Scholars said it is not proven in any 'hadith' or report that any of the 'sahaabah' was moved to a place other than the graveyard of the land or city in which he died, or to another place nearby.
They said it is not permissible to moved the deceased before burial to a land other than the one in which he died, unless that is for a valid reason such as fear that his grave may be violated. Scholars said part of honouring the deceased is to prepare him and bury him as soon as possible.
The former mufti said if a person had made a 'wasiat' (wish) that he or she was to be buried at the place he/she died, then it must be fulfilled. Reports said family members of Tok Guru Haron Din were in agreement that he be laid to rest in San Francisco as he had left a 'wasiat' regarding the matter.
He said the cost of bringing back the body would be very high and in Tok Guru Haron Din's case, Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Najib Razak dan his deputy,  Dato' Seri Zaid Hamidi had arranged for an aircraft to bring back the remains of the 'ulama'. Thanks for their concern, but the former mufti said, it is the duty of Muslims to bury the deceased as quickly as possible including to protect the deceased from the procedures that may be done to his body to prevent decay, and to avoid the extravagance of spending large amounts of money unnecessarily. 
To bring back bodies from far away places, many 'troublesome' and expensive and mostly importantly against 'syariah' procedures and process such as embalming including surface embalming where alcohol were used, had to be done.
This is in addition to delays in burial and un-necessary expenditure of thousands of ringgits. The Prophet s.a.w. was emphatic when he said: “Hasten to bury the corpse; for if it was righteous then you are sending it off to its welfare; and if it was otherwise then you are putting off a liability from your necks.” (Narrated by Imam al-Bukhari)

Scholars said the Prophet s.a.w. never moved a dead body from one location to another; he buried the person in the graveyard of the locality where the person died. He never transported the dead bodies to Makkah or Madinah even if the person/persons passed away just a few miles away from these holy places. This was the practical model followed by the 'sahaabah' during the time of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs (Abu Bakar, Omar, Othman and Ali r.a.)

The former mufti said to this day, pilgrims including from Malaysia who died in Makkah and Madinah were buried in the city they passed away. There's a hadith that mentioned the grave of a blessed person would be widen from the place he/she was buried to his homeland in the Hereafter.
As a conclusion, scholars said burial of dead bodies in the graveyard of the city or place they die in as quickly as possible is a practical Sunnah. Corpses must not be transported to far away destinations except in a very rare, extraordinary situation where Islamic burial is not possible or corpse dignity is feared to be compromised. 

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