Removal of Interred Body from the Grave

By Mufti Bilaal Cassim
Posted: 29 Zul-Qa'dah 1423, 1 February 2003


Q.) What is your position on the following:

 1- Desecration of graves

2- Removal of interred person without valid reason.

What are the permissible reasons for removal of interred person [Tariq Ikram, Karachi]

A.) 1. The honor and dignity that Allah has granted to human beings is enshrined in the Noble Qur'an. Allah states; "Definitely We have honored the son of Adam (mankind)......and granted him clear superiority over many of our creations." (Bani Israel). The entire ritual of Janazah in Islam is designed to insure that this honor and dignity remain even after death as is apparent from even a cursory study of the relevant chapter. Anything detracting from this Divinely granted dignity and honor is therefore prohibited. Allamah Tahtawi, a famous jurist of the Hanafi school has stated; "It is not permissible to move the deceased once he has been interred... by Ijmaa' (consensus of opinion of all the Fuqaha') irrespective of how long or short the period since interment might be, as desecration has been prohibited and haram (expressly forbidden), a right belonging to Allah alone. (Tahtawi Pg 614 Qadeemi). In another place, it is stated; "It is not permissible to cause the bones of the deceased to break or to move them, even if the deceased is a Dhimmi (non-Muslim citizen of an Islamic state). His grave may never be desecrated, no matter how much time has lapsed. (i.e how old the grave is)" (Ibid Pg 613). By this it is clear that removal of the deceased without valid reason is haram. An example discussed by the Fuqahaa' is the case where a son is buried far from his home and his mother cannot bear the separation and wishes to have the body re-interred closer to home. Such has been prohibited by the Fuqahaa'.

Removal of the deceased after interment has been allowed in very few situations, some of which have been listed below.

a. The bodies of non- Muslim citizens of country that is at war with the Muslims may be removed or relocated if there is a need. (Ibid Pg 613)

b. The deceased has been interred in a piece of ground seized by him unjustly before his death and the owner wishes the body removed. However, if the owner wishes to make use of the ground (to build or farm on it), he is allowed to flatten the grave and build or farm on it. Desecration is a last resort. (Ibid Pg615)

c. The deceased is interred in a piece of ground that is claimed by another under the right of pre-emption. The ruling here is similar to the above situation.

d. Some wealth or item belonging to another is buried with the deceased and he (owner) has no other wealth or cannot do without that item. If it is possible to remove these in any manner without exposing the corpse, this manner should be adopted.

d. The Kafan (burial shroud) used for clothing the deceased did not belong to him ( was seized unjustly by him before his death) and the owner demands his right.

e. The grave becomes waterlogged. There is a difference of opinion among Fuqahaa' with regards to this particular situation. Faqeeh Abu Laith (R.A) initially permitted it but later on retracted from his ruling. (Ibid Pg 616). And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best