Indian Muslims Refuse to Bury Militants

The Muslim community in Mumbai says it doesn’t want the gunmen who attacked Mumbai to be buried in the Muslim cemetery, on the grounds that they are not Muslims.

A spokesman for the Muslim council said, “”These terrorists are a black spot on our religion, we will very sternly protest the burial of these terrorists in our cemetery . . .”

Certainly the perpetrators are criminals from the point of view of Islamic law. The Qur’an forbids murder (qatl) and the classical jurisprudence on jihad forbids the killing of innocent noncombatants, sneak attacks, or the undertaking of military action without the authorization of duly constituted Muslim authorities.

Although removing an avowed Muslim from status as a Muslim, which is called ‘takfir’ or faith-denial, is frowned on by the mainstream Sunni tradition, it may be legitimate in this case, given the egregious departure from Sunni law, practice and belief in which the perpetrators engaged. It is an ironic twist, since the radical vigilantes are the ones who have been declaring normal people non-Muslims for the past few decades.

In India, moreover, there is an overlapping consideration of caste. Although Muslims do not formally operate in a caste system, it inevitably shapes their social worldview. There are high (ashraf) and low (ajlaf) statuses in Indian Islam that are caste-like. One thing the Mumbai council may be saying is that by virtue of their actions the militants “lost caste.”

Cemeteries in India, like everything else, are influenced by caste conceptions, so it is implicitly being alleged that the attackers are ritually impure and would defile the Muslim cemetery.

I suppose they could always be cremated and their dust spread over the ocean from which they came. That would resolve the problem of what to do with the bodies, and would mark their departure from normative Islam.

Indian Muslims Refuse to Bury Militants

The Muslim community in Mumbai says it doesn’t want the gunmen who attacked Mumbai to be buried in the Muslim cemetery, on the grounds that they are not Muslims.

A spokesman for the Muslim council said, “”These terrorists are a black spot on our religion, we will very sternly protest the burial of these terrorists in our cemetery . . .”

Certainly the perpetrators are criminals from the point of view of Islamic law. The Qur’an forbids murder (qatl) and the classical jurisprudence on jihad forbids the killing of innocent noncombatants, sneak attacks, or the undertaking of military action without the authorization of duly constituted Muslim authorities.

Although removing an avowed Muslim from status as a Muslim, which is called ‘takfir’ or faith-denial, is frowned on by the mainstream Sunni tradition, it may be legitimate in this case, given the egregious departure from Sunni law, practice and belief in which the perpetrators engaged. It is an ironic twist, since the radical vigilantes are the ones who have been declaring normal people non-Muslims for the past few decades.

In India, moreover, there is an overlapping consideration of caste. Although Muslims do not formally operate in a caste system, it inevitably shapes their social worldview. There are high (ashraf) and low (ajlaf) statuses in Indian Islam that are caste-like. One thing the Mumbai council may be saying is that by virtue of their actions the militants “lost caste.”

Cemeteries in India, like everything else, are influenced by caste conceptions, so it is implicitly being alleged that the attackers are ritually impure and would defile the Muslim cemetery.

I suppose they could always be cremated and their dust spread over the ocean from which they came. That would resolve the problem of what to do with the bodies, and would mark their departure from normative Islam.