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Islam has defined burial rites but is it allowable to cremate the body of a Muslim rather than bury him? The Wikipedia page says it is forbidden but does not back it up.

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Source: What is Islam's viewpoint on cremation?

  • Religious Authority: Ahmed Kutty
  • Website URL: http://www.islamonline.net
  • Fatwa Question or Essay Title: What is Islam's viewpoint on cremation?
  • Websites and Institutions: Islam Online

In Islam, funeral rites and practices have been prescribed by the divine law, in accordance with the dictates of Allah. According to this law, beginning from the time of Prophet Adam until the last Prophet, Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon them all, burying the dead has been the prescribed method of conveying the deceased to their graves. We have no mention anywhere that cremation was acceptable in any of the previous dispensations from Allah.

Allah says in the Qur’an: “We have honored sons of Adam.” (Q. 17:70). In keeping with the spirit of this verse, according to scholars, it is necessary for us treat the human body with the utmost of respect not only when a person is alive, but also when he/she is dead. Burning the deceased or discarding bodies to be eaten by vultures, wild beasts, etc., is considered sacrilege and abhorrent and, therefore, forbidden according to Islam.

One of the reasons for this is that our knowledge of what happens to the person after death is limited, and, therefore, God alone knows what is good and bad for us in an ultimate sense.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, has told us that a mayyit (a deceased person) knows who is bathing and shrouding him/her and who is lowering their body to the grave, etc. Such knowledge is from Allah alone. What should be remembered here is that we should treat the mayyit with the utmost of compassion, just as we would treat a person who is alive. In short, cremation is not a divinely instituted method of conveying the human body after death. Like all other man-made institutions, cremation is based on partial knowledge. It is only God, our Creator, “who knows what ails us as well as what benefits us.” (Q. 2: 220). Another important observation is that it has been proven that burying the dead is more environmentally friendly than cremation. This further confirms the dictum that God has “forbidden for us only what is injurious or harmful for us (or for our environment.)”

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    I like the way you sourced your information. Nice and neat. +1 for a great answer too! – Dynamic Jul 24 '12 at 16:28
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    Good answer - you can perhaps summarize some of it in your own words and reference the original article since a good amount of it is general and not specific. – Ansari Jul 25 '12 at 0:26
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In Islam we must treat the body very gently when handling it, because they can still feel as we do.

Verily when the servant is put in his grave, and his companions turn away from him, he hears the noise of their sandals” (Sahih Muslim)

"To break a dead person's bone is like breaking the living person bone." (Abu Dawud no. 3207)

This hadith talks about how humans still have their senses and they even hear the footsteps of people walking away. If you were to cremate somone they would feel it as we do and would be as torture for them.

Soorah Ghaafir: Ayah 46 The fire, they are exposed to it, morning and afternoon, and on the Day when the Hour will be established (it will be said to the angels): “Cause Pharaoh’s people to enter the severest Torment!”

The first part of the ayah says they will be in fire day and night then they will enter the severest torment, which means the first punishment was during the grave. These ayaat imply that fire to a dead person is their torture, we would not want to put our loved ones in a situation in which Allah uses as torture to non-believers.

For these reasons we are required to be gentle with a body, we do not sit or walk on their graves, we gently wash and shroud them, carfully carry them to their graves, we treat them as we would if they were alive. Creamation is a torturous process to the dead, it requires both burning and crushing their body, which is not the way we were instructed to treat the dead.

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Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 259: Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle sent us in a mission (i.e. am army-unit) and said, "If you find so-and-so and so-and-so, burn both of them with fire." When we intended to depart, Allah's Apostle said, "I have ordered you to burn so-and-so and so-and-so, and it is none but Allah Who punishes with fire, so, if you find them, kill them."

From the above hadis it is clear that we dont burn even our enemies. So cremating our dead would be treatment worse than enemies.

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