Tuesday, July 07, 2009

MJ and Mohan

There's a huge sending off party for Michael Jackson in downtown Los Angeles. I hear the megawatt ceremony will include A-listers from Hollywood and the music industry. Hence the tight security and all that.

Here in Malaysia, people are asking if MJ really became a Muslim. That would matter if MJ was Malaysian or resident in Malaysia. Hmm.

Right now the tussle over the late Mohan Singh's status - was he Muslim or wasn't he - has once again highlighted the continuing bizzare 'body-snatching' practices of our own religious authorities.

Anyway, the Shah Alam High Court has finally decided against Mohan's family and ruled that the deceased was indeed a Muslim when he died (albeit a 'secret' convert, seeing the family knew nothing about it) and should therefore be buried according to Muslim rites. The dead man obviously had no say, and neither did the grieving family. But armed with the court ruling the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) went ahead with the funeral. Mohan's sending off was 'huge' too, but of a decidedly different sort. Hence the tight security and, well....you know.

It's a terrible shame that these 'body-snatching' episodes continue. It's something you don't wish on anyone. No one truly gains from it - neither the grieving family, nor the religious authorities.

But what I fail to understand is, why aren't the Islamic authorities attempting to explain what's the rationale behind the need for a Muslim to have a Muslim burial? We know it is customary for Muslim burials to take place before sunset, but few know anything more beyond this.

How is it so important that the whole force of legislation (Syariah and civil) and physical might are exerted on one poor grieving family? Some other questions come to mind:
-Does it compromise the deceased's destiny in the afterlife?
-How does a burial ritual add merit to the deceased (or the Muslim community)?
-Does it compromise the Muslim community's integrity or sensitivity in this life?
-Is it a matter of religious pride or divine obligation, or merely a convention of Malaysian Muslims?
-What is the practice like in other Muslim communities or Islamic countries, or is there anything to be learnt from their traditions?
-How does Islam address the pain of the grieving non-Muslim family, or do we infidels count for nothing?
-Does it bring divine judgment on the Muslim community if one Muslim escapes proper funeral rites?
Enlighten us. Please. Tell us why the Muslim burial ritual is of such great importance (in contrast to other non-Islamic religious practices perhaps). I ask this sincerely. I really think there are many people out there who want to understand this issue to better empathise with all parties concerned.

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