Orthodox Jews and Muslims share a common view on cremation: they adamantly oppose it based on their religious texts. In the Orthodox Jewish and Muslim view, corpses should be buried in a grave according to religious law. Although their exact reasons and customs regarding burial versus cremation differ, the two religions agree that interring a corpse is highly preferred.
Orthodox Jewish Views
Jewish law specifically states that the dead must be interred in the ground. Jews who are cremated are not permitted to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Additionally, traditional laws of mourning may not be observed for a cremated corpse as they would be observed for a body buried according to Jewish law. Orthodox Jews believe that the body is merely on loan from the Creator, and that cremating the corpse is a violation of his laws.
For devout Muslims, it is impermissible to cremate the body. A mayyit, or deceased person in Arabic, is to be treated with compassion, as if the corpse were still alive. Islamic scholars say that burning the deceased or leaving him to the ravages of nature is forbidden by the Quran. Allah says, "We have honored sons of Adam." For Muslims, this means to respect the human body, alive or dead.
Exceptions to Cremation Ban in Orthodox Jewish Tradition
Because so many Jews were involuntarily cremated in the Holocaust, an exception had to be made for millions of observant Jews who were burned by the Nazis during World War II. Orthodox rabbis allowed victims of the Holocaust, as well as any other Jewish person cremated without her knowledge, to receive a proper burial in a Jewish cemetery and allowed the shiva and other rituals
Although Islam is practiced in many countries and subject to cultural and regional differences and practices, the practice of burial and funeral rites remains uniform. The only instance in which cremation might be sanctioned by Islam is in the event of a catastrophe or natural disaster which results in many deaths. If cremation is the only solution to prevent the spread of disease, then it may be viewed as an acceptable practice. However, the perception among Muslims that cremation is disrespectful is so strong, that even in an unusual case of epidemic, the act of cremating corpses could be met with vehement resistance.
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