Cremation is considered “haram,” that is forbidden in Islam. Islamic teachings on the dead require that the deceased be cleaned, shrouded, prayed for, buried in the earth and visited with reverence. Any other treatment, including cremation, is considered an act of disrespect and sin.
Why Cremation Is Forbidden
Muslims believe that the deceased must be treated with the same respect as the living. This belief originates from the Prophet Mohammed’s statement that breaking the bone of the deceased’s body is like breaking it in life. Burning the dead for cremation, like breaking the bones of the dead or other such mutilation, is therefore prohibited, as is accepting or encouraging such treatment. According to some Muslims, the condemnation of cremation should extend to all living creatures including animals and plant life.
Fate of Cremated Individuals in Islam
Based on the belief that the dead must be treated as the living, the cremated deceased experiences a disrespect that is inconsistent with the honor bestowed by Allah. However, it is also believed that Allah can make the cremated body whole again for resurrection, so cremation is not believed to preclude the deceased from reaching heaven or hell.
Cremation of Non-Muslims
Just as it is forbidden to cremate a Muslim, it is also forbidden for a Muslim to cremate a non-Muslim. Muslims believe, based on the Prophet Mohammed’s teachings, that burning is a punishment that must only be delivered by the Creator, and that respect for the dead applies to Muslims and non-Muslims. A Muslim must not, therefore, cremate another, or participate in the act of cremation in any other way, such as by witnessing the event or approving of it.
There is only one situation in which cremation may be allowed in Islam. If large numbers of people are killed by disease that would spread through burial, burning of the bodies may be permitted. Prior to the cremation, the potential spread of disease through traditional burial must be proven and express permission must be given by authorities.
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