War on Terror

The burial of Bin Laden

Islamic Rules on Burial of the Dead according to Sea Services include:

It is obligatory to bury a dead body in the ground, so deep that its smell does not come out and the beasts of prey do not dig it out, and, if there is a danger of such beasts digging it out then the grave should be made solid with bricks, etc.

If it is not possible to bury a dead body in the ground, it may be kept in a vault or a coffin, instead.

If a person dies on a ship and if there is no fear of the decay of the dead body and if there is no problem in retaining it for sometime on the ship, it should be kept on it and buried in the ground after reaching the land. Otherwise, after giving Ghusl, Hunut, Kafan and Namaz-e-Mayyit it should be lowered into the sea in a vessel of clay or with a weight tied to its feet. And as far as possible it should not be lowered at a point where it is eaten up immediately by the sea predators.

Reportedly the wives and children are under arrest in Pakistan and Bin Laden’s body was flown to Afghanistan and then flown from there out to sea and buried in an Islamic ceremony (perhaps from a naval warship), in order to prevent Bin Laden’s burial place from becoming a shrine. 

The laws of war on procedures to be followed for enemy dead state:

Rule 114. Parties to the conflict must endeavour to facilitate the return of the remains of the deceased upon request of the party to which they belong or upon the request of their next of kin. They must return their personal effects to them. [IAC]

Rule 115. The dead must be disposed of in a respectful manner and their graves respected and properly maintained. [IAC/NIAC]

Obviously the rules are there to ensure that families can mourn their dead according to their customs and beliefs – even when the person who dies is a despicable enemy.

So this particular situation should not set any kind of precedent and all parties to every conflict should show respect for the dead and their families, in the interests of humanity as a whole.

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