By Adil James, MMNS
Farmington–May 12–Any Muslim who enters a non-Muslim cemetery to visit a relative or friend is confronted with a difficult dilemma, that in order to approach the grave of his friend he must walk across the graves of other people, or must sit on the graves of other people–meanwhile there are ahadith that this is a terrible act.
Thus, we Muslims need a cemetery planned from the beginning around Islamic law, where in order to visit a friend or relative, or to pray jinaza for that person, it is not necessary to walk across or sit upon the graves of other people.
And so it is a welcome event that a new all-Muslim cemetery is launching in Flint. Garden of Peace is a fledgling cemetery with so far approximately five people interred–the cemetery features Shariâ€™ah compliant planning, competitive pricing, and maintenance and ownership all by Muslims.
Hossam Shukairy, Abed Khirfan, Muhammed Saleem, and Dr. Khalid Shukairy held a meeting this past weekend to introduce the cemetery to local imams. And in attendance were imams and other representatives from Detroit, Ann Arbor, Bloomfield Hills, and Flint.
The initial effort of the Garden of Peace meeting held this past weekend was to spread the word about the cemetery, and especially to introduce the idea of each local mosque buying plots of 25 to 50 gravesites to distribute to the people who attend that mosque.
One person in attendance emphasized that â€œThey offered any mosque who buys 50 plots at one time, will get the best deal. 50 or more. And price, they didnâ€™t want to haggle about price right now.â€
Some in attendance at the meeting from Detroit expressed doubts about buying gravesites in Flint, hours away, when for $1,400 one can buy a site in Detroit.
The new cemetery is intended to build to â€œ10.5 acres in 3 phases,â€ explained Dr. Shukairy, the head of the cemetery committee. The three phases comprise growing from its present modest size of five graves to 2,500 graves in 10.5 acres, with more than adequate parking.
Dr. Shukairy explained that each grave will be aligned facing qibla, pointing to the Northeast.
The graves will be covered with uniform stones parallel to the earth, with uniform markers perpendicular, to show names and dates of birth and death. Not like the public cemeteries with all different kinds of stone markers.
People will be interred on their right sides with their heads toward the qibla, and the graves are designed to acommodate both Michigan law and Shariâ€™ah, so that each person is enclosed in a concrete vault as required by Michigan law, but without a casket and in contact with dirt below and above as required by Islamic law.
According to Michigan law, Dr. Shukairy explained, bodies must â€œbe transferred in a wooden casket… but at the [burial site] the vault is opened from the top, the body placed inside without a casket, and with dirt inside, and the vault is sealed from the top–More acceptable from Shariâ€™ah,â€ explained Dr. Shukairy.
There will be adequate space in the cemetery for maneuvering the heavy machinery required for digging graves–without their needing to drive over occupied graves.
Dr. Shukairy explained â€œthe other advantage is that a public cemetery is maintained by [non-Muslim] public cemetery management; when they are digging or cleaning, they might not respect our concerns about respecting gravesites. People might step on graves or not know the direction of graves.â€
A theme on which Dr. Shukairyâ€™s focused was the issue whether it is acceptable in the presence of an all-Muslim cemetery for Muslims to continue to be buried at mixed cemeteries. The â€œpoint is, when we have a purely Muslim cemetery, an Islamic cemetery, is it desirable or allowed to use non-Muslim cemeteries?â€
The cemetery is â€œvery very closeâ€ to the Flint Islamic Center [on Corunna, west of Flint], which is only 7 minutes away.
The cemetery directors have also made efforts to smooth the entire transition from life to death.
For example, Dr. Shukairy explained that â€œassuming someone in Flint dies in the hospital, a shaykh or scholar does the preparation of the body, a funeral home transfers the body to the Islamic center, there is a prayer over the deceased, and a funeral home takes the body to the cemetery to be buried, and according to Shariâ€™ah guidance.â€
Imams were present from the Detroit Muslim Unity Center, Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center, Muslim House in Flint, the MCA in Ann Arbor, and several others.
â€œIt was a really good gathering, imams were present from Lansing, Ann Arbor, and so forth–we believe this is a good service in Michigan,â€ said Dr. Shukairy.
â€œWe tried to invite mosques through the Islamic Shura Council of Michigan–we know we did not do a complete job–some imams probably were not invited and we will invite them later. Spread the word,â€ he said.
Some issues regarding the cemetery are still in flux. For example prices, and arrangements for individuals to buy pre-need. However, Dr. Shukairy emphasized that â€œI believe prices will be less than other public cemeteries or at least comparable, with the advantage of having been buried in a purely Islamic cemetery.â€
The cemetery is at 1310 South Morrish Road, in Swartz Creek, Michigan. For more information, you can call Hossam Shukairy, 810-691-7738, Abed Khirfan, 810-877-1415; or Muhammed Saleem, 810-730-1776.