I, again, have a very specific question to ask you – is cremation of the human body and the spreading of the ashes allowed under Islam? Are there any circumstances where this would be allowed where under another set of circumstances it would not be?
Please excuse my specificity or nature of the question, which has been done for clarification purposes for those of us that are new to the Islam. The brevity of question is by no means intended to demean the overall meaning of the Qur’an and the teachings.
We appreciate, as usual, your reply in clarification to us.
Thank you very much.
Some of the rituals regarding the dead are a part of the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) and deviations in this respect can only be allowed under obviously exceptional situations. The rituals (regarding the dead) that are a part of the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) include burying our dead. Other such rituals include washing and then clothing of the corpse (in a cloth normally called Kafan) and the Janazah prayer.
One may ask why should there be a stress on burial, when the actual purpose is to dispose of the corpse. The answer to this question is that these traditions form a part of the distinguishing symbols of the nations that find their origin in Divine guidance. All those nations (ummahs) that have their basis in Divine revelation (the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims) follow this tradition. It can therefore be termed as an Abrahamic tradition (i.e. a tradition of the Abrahimic deen, like khatnah or circumcision of the male child).
You have asked me to specify the circumstances under which a deviation from this tradition may be allowed. It would obviously be quite difficult to imagine an exhaustive list of situations in which such deviations may be allowed. As a principle, however, we may safely say that in all such situations where the burial of the dead is not possible, an alternative method may be used to respectfully dispose of the corpse. Nevertheless, as a matter of personal choice, I would still not recommend cremation or burning of the corpse, in the particular perspective of the Biblical and the Qur’anic concept of the punishment of hellfire. To me, with this background, cremation of a loved one would not have a comforting effect. It would be quite close to signifying putting the dead into a horrible punishment.
28th November 1999