A special report by Al Jazeera network has revealed that Muslims living in New York City (NYC) are struggling to meet the cost of funeral expenses when their loved ones pass on to eternity.
According to statistics, there are about 600,000 to one million Muslims living in NYC. However, the Muslim population does not have an exclusive cemetery for their dead to be buried. Therefore, Muslims have to rely on the city’s traditional cemetery, or other private cemeteries scattered across the city.
In the United States in general, it is said traditional funerals can cost from $6,000 to more than $50,000. That is expensive for many Muslims. In Islam, it is highly recommended that laying a dead person to rest be simple as possible. Islamic scholars recommend that the dead be buried as soon as possible. Before the dead is buried, the dead body is first cleansed in lukewarm water, and then wrapped in several layers of plain cotton sheets. After this ritual, a special congregational prayer called the ‘Janazah’ is performed for the departed soul. The congregation is led by an Imam who prays for the deceased soul, and asks God to pardon the sins of the deceased. The body is thereafter taken for burial in a grave without any casket.
That is how simply Muslims treat their dead. In the case of NYC, as per the report file by Al Jazeera, the situation has become difficult for Muslims to bury their dead in the city.
Muslims who were featured in the report, said a single grave to bury a dead relative in the city can cost between $6,000 and $14,000. This exorbitant price of the land for burial is therefore driving many Muslims from the city’s cemeteries.
A Turkish-American, Ahmet Kargi, who migrated with his parents to the United States in 1974, and now serves as the president for the Muslim section of Piro Funeral Home, explained that due to the high price of burial lands, Muslims have to drive from NYC to other states in order to bury their dead relatives. Piro Funeral Home is a multi-religion funeral home in NYC. Muslims, Christians and Jews all prepare their dead ones there for burial.
“We often use cemeteries in New Jersey, like the Jersey State Memorial Park Cemetery in Millstone, which is where my father is buried. There are also smaller Muslim sections at cemeteries in Long Island, and in parts of the city. But they can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000, and I have seen graves go up to $14,000 inside the city. That is considered a wasteful expenditure in Islam, and so we have to resort to the most affordable options available,” Kargi told Al Jazeera in an interview.
According to Kargi, due to the high cost of a grave, Muslims in NYC have a common saying “we cannot afford to die here.”
In order to support Muslims who cannot afford to pay for the grave cost, a Palestinian-American, Nooruddean Abu Ibrahim who has been doing Islamic funeral work in NYC for more than a decade now, has stepped in to help. He founded a nonprofit organization called the Janazah Project. It raises money from the Muslim community to cover funeral costs for needy families in NYC. More and more Muslims are currently reaching out to the Janazah Project for help.
It is said, citizens of countries such as Egypt and Morocco would always want to ship their dead relatives back home to be buried. They do this because their governments cover the funeral and shipping costs for them. But for those who do not have this privilege, they just cannot afford to die in NYC.
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