The Permissibility of Transferring the Deceased
from the Place of Passing to Another Town or Country for Burial
كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ
وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ
فَمَنْ زُحْزِحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ
وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ
Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] recognition and rewards (of your life’s striving) on the Day of Resurrection. So s/he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained a great success. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion.
(Qur’an, Surah `Ali `Imran 3:185)
Last Sunday 22 July 2018, we performed the Salat al-Janazah and lay to rest one of Claremont’s sporting legends, al-Marhum Saait Magiet. He will be fondly remembered as an enormously gifted cricket and rugby player. We ask Allah, to pardon him, have mercy on him, and grant him a special place in Jannah.
There are scores of inspirational stories about the exceptional skills and athletic prowess of Saait Magiet. Saait represented Primroses, the pride of Claremont, in the sporting codes of cricket and rugby. Sadly, as a direct result of the oppressive apartheid era he was not afforded the accolades and glory that he rightly deserved during his sporting career. One of our elders, Boeta Sulaiman Abrahams, aptly described the Primroses supporters’ high opinion about Saait Magiet’s talents during his heyday in the following manner:
“Whenever the Primroses selection team was announced we were only interested in knowing that Saait was playing. Once we heard that he was playing we knew that the team was either going to do well or Saait will perform spectacularly.”
For the past few years at the Claremont Main Road Masjid (CMRM) we have been making modest efforts to celebrate the lives and achievements of great sporting legends from Claremont and the non-racial sporting era at large. Unfortunately, and with deep regret, we were unable to celebrate the achievements of Saait Magiet during his lifetime because he was residing in Johannesburg during the last few years of his life and had only recently moved back to Cape Town. We should learn from this omission and encourage our congregation to redouble our efforts to celebrate the rich history and the achievements of local heroes during their lifetimes.
I strongly recommend that we read and widely disseminate the excellent tribute to Saait Magiet written by veteran journalist Dougie Oakes, which appeared in the online newsletter Voices360 on 17 July 2018. I also recommend that we read the forthcoming tribute by our very own Mogamad Ali, which will appear in the August issue of the Muslim Views. I am sure there will be many other tributes to al-Marhum Saait Magiet and I encourage our congregation to attend such events and to pass on his great legacy to future generations.
The Permissibility of Transporting the Mayyit to Another Place for Burial
Saait Magiet passed away on Tuesday 17 July 2018 at the age of 66 following a heart attack while on holiday in Malaysia. His family decided to transport his mayyit to Cape Town in order to allow them to perform the last rites at home. In light of this extraordinary situation some people have raised the question as to whether it is permissible (ja’iz) for a mayyit to be transferred from one place to be buried in another and in the process also delay the janazah? I would like to take this opportunity to provide an answer to this question.
Since the evidences (adillah) from the most primary sources of Islamic guidance, the Glorious Qur’an and the authentic ahadith (prophetic traditions) are scant and unquivocal, the majority of Muslim jurists hold that it is ja’iz (permissible) to transport a mayyit from one place to another for burial purposes. Given current scholarly debates on fiqh al-janaza, it is surprising to note that the Hanbali School of law (madh-hab) holds the most lenient position on this question. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal is reported to have pronounced that: “I do not know of any harm in transferring the deceased from one town to another.” The Maliki School also holds it permissible to move the body from one place to another, even after the burial, for a valid reason. One such legitimate reason is when the relatives want to bury the deceased nearby so that they may visit the grave more easily. The Hanafi and Shafi`i Schools of law are stricter in their views on this issue. The Hanafi’s regard it as makruh (undesirable) to move the body from one place to another and holds it preferable to bury the person at the place of death. The Shafi`i school further considers it unlawful (haram) to transfer the body of a deceased from one country to another unless it is the sacred cities of Makkah, Madinah or Jerusalem. The equivocal Shafi`i position may have been influenced by the fact that the bodies of some companions like `Abd al-Rahman ibn Abubakr was transported from Abyssinia for burial in Makkah and that of Sa`ad ibn Abi Waqqas and Sa`ad ibn Zayd were taken from the place of their passing in al-Aqiq to be buried in Madinah. (See Fiqh al-Sunnah by Sayyid Sabiq)
Taking into account the varying positions among the schools of law (madha-hib) and contemporary Muslim jurists, it is my considered view that it is permissible (ja’iz) to transport a deceased person to be buried in another city or country as long as the following three conditions are met:
- A valid reason exists, such as the wishes of the guardian and the shura (consensus) of the family to transfer the mayyit, so as to allow them to perform the final janazah rites and to visit the grave.
- There is complete assurance that the body will not decompose or the mayyit will not be physically harmed in any way.
- That the family is not placed in debt as a result of the cost involved in transporting the mayyit. The latter can be considerably mitigated by contemporary travel insurances.
In conclusion, it is commendable to note that even though the Shafi`i madh-hab predominates in the Western Cape, and the transporting of the mayyit for burial does not resonate with the official position of this school, our local `ulama’ have not raised any public objections but have rather respected the family’s wishes and shown a great example of adab al-ikhtilaf – integrity and ethics of disagreement. It is my sincere hope that more fiqhi issues of legitimate ikhtilaf and disagreement among the various schools of Islamic law will be dealt with such decorum and sensitivity. I also take this opportunity to call on all Muslims to embrace the fiqhi view that resonates best with their own consciences and at the same time respects the right of others to adopt a different view.
Finally, we make du`a and pray that Allah, al-Muhyi al-Mumit, the Giver and Taker of Life, will grant al-Marhum Saait Magiet a high place in Jannah and grant his family sabr and patience at this time of bereavement.