ST. LOUIS – Facing years of a dilemma to bury their dead according to Islamic teachings, a growing American Muslim minority is trying to find low-cost burial services, funding what would be Missouri's first Muslim funeral home.
"The community is growing, and things are going well for Muslims in St. Louis now," Adil Imdad, an environmental and geotechnical engineer in St. Louis, told St. Louis Today website on Friday, May 18.
"But this is one area where we are way behind."
Like thousands of US Muslims, Imdad faced burial dilemma when his 28-year-old cousin died of cancer in Ohio two years ago.
The family's grief was compounded by the absence of Muslim ritual following her death, with no imam available to handle the religious customs, no funeral director and no Muslim cemetery where the family could lay her to rest.
At this moment, Imdad decided to take night classes at St. Louis Community College, graduating last spring with a certificate of specialization in funeral directing.
Waiting for his state license, he started raising funds at Daar-ul-Islam mosque for what he says will be Missouri's first Muslim funeral home to cut funeral costs which reach $5,000 or $7,000.
Mufti Asif Umar, the imam at Daar-ul-Islam, said keeping costs down for families was also at the heart of his support for Imdad's Muslim funeral home idea.
"We have a lot of needy in our community, people who can't afford burial fees," Umar said.
In August, the Bosnian Islamic Center in Lemay bought a large plot of land in the old Odd Fellows Cemetery on Broadway, making it the first Muslim cemetery in St. Louis, said Imam Enver Kunic.
Burial fees in other cemeteries "were too high," Imam Enver Kunic said.
"We had to do this for us."
Though there are no official statistics, the US is believed to be home to 7-8 million Muslim.
For US Muslims, Islamic cemeteries offered them a better opportunity to practice the correct religious rituals surrounding burial of the dead.
In Muslim countries, death and burial are "treated as a purely religious affair," Mohammed Hussein, a radiation oncologist from Washington, said.
In the US, when someone invests in mortuary school and various other funeral-related degrees, certificates and licenses, "naturally, they want to make a living of it."
Islam calls for respecting human beings whether alive or dead.
A Muslim’s dead body should be immediately taken to a mortuary for washing and preparation.
Two or three adult Muslims should wash the body and then put on the shroud (kafan). Before the burial, the funeral prayer should be done.
The burial should be done as soon as possible. It is makruh (reprehensible) to delay the burial of the dead.
After months of studying such Muslim funeral texts as "Funerals: Regulations & Exhortations" and "A Brief Summary About the People's Violations in Funerals," Imdad said he is ready to help ease people's burdens during a trying time in their lives.
With a deal he has arranged with the new Bosnian cemetery, Imdad hopes to cut the total cost of preparation, funeral and burial down to less than $2,000.
"Helping people satisfies something inside you," he said.
"When they pray for you later, you know it comes from their inner heart."