What really matters: Where the soul goes after death or where he/she is buried?
• ‘When I Die, Don’t Go And Look For My Soul; Just Go And Do Whatever You Like With My Body’
• ‘Wishing To Die In A Particular Spot Will Not Affect The Eternal Destination Of The Soul’
‘It Is Irrelevant Where You Bury The Dead, Soul Is Gone’
(Anthony Olubunmi Cardinal Okogie, Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos)
In the first instance, it is the soul that matters. As soon as someone dies, the soul is gone to where it came from. So, wherever you decide to put the body is irrelevant to the soul, because it is gone. But then, if the man or woman dies in Lagos and it is his/her will that he/she be buried in Lagos or in the village, it is good. This issue also came up during the time of St. Augustine’s mother, Monica, when she said: “I don’t care where you put this body. All I know is that when I die, anywhere you want to put this physical body is your concern, and that is all that matters.”
When a person is dead, he/she is gone, but because people want to dance owambe, waste money in Lagos, they carry the body to other places. They would carry the carcass of a dead body from Lagos to Onitsha and from Onitsha to… only God knows. All that the dead wants is prayer, and that is all.
If the man or woman made a will while alive to the effect that his/her dead body should be taken to a particular place after death, and then legally, he or she has to be buried where indicated. But the point is that the soul is gone and every other thing is just ceremony.
So, when I die, don’t go and look for my soul; just go and do whatever you like with my body.
‘It Is The Faith Of A Deceased
Muslim That Matters’
(Professor Is-haq Akintola, Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, Lagos/ Director, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)
WHERE a Muslim is buried does not really matter, so long the funeral rites follow the laid down Islamic pattern. For instance, the body must be given gusl al-janazah (i. e. a special bath for a Muslim corpse). The corpse should preferably be shrouded in white cloth, prayed upon in Salat al-Janazah (special Islamic funeral prayer) and buried facing the Ka’abah.
Though it is not haram (forbidden) for the corpse of a Muslim to be transported to a preferred place for burial, Islam encourages burying the dead with dispatch. Corpses should be buried within 48 hours and this may have contributed to the lack of interest in moving Muslim corpses to distant places for burial.
For instance, except in exceptional circumstances, such as if the family or friends of the deceased are highly influential and can afford the cost, Muslims who die in the Holy Land are buried there. Islam discourages flamboyant coffins and tombs, while funeral rites should be as simple as possible.
However, this does not foreclose the wish of a Muslim, while he/she is alive asking to be buried in a particular place. For example, a Muslim may declare his wish to be buried in front of his house or within his compound, where this is possible.
The major concern should be the condition of the deceased in barzakh (period between burial and resurrection) and his life in al-Akhirah (the Hereafter), where the soul is going. This will be determined by the way he led his life, while in the world. He will be questioned in the grave by two angels (Munkar and Nakir).
He faces torture or pleasant and undisturbed rest in barzakh depending on whether he/she lived as an unbeliever or a practising Muslim. He will also be judged in al-Akhirah and kept in al-Jannah (Paradise) or an-Nar (Hell), depending on his handiwork in this sinful world.
It is the fate of a deceased Muslim that matters and this is why Muslims always pray for their dead. They pray that Allah should forgive their trespasses, while alive and repose their souls in Al-Jannah. This prayer for the dead has a pattern. It is extended to members of one’s family, known friends and finally to all dead Muslims since the days of Adam.
The pattern of this prayer shows that the Muslim Ummah is closely knitted, as the prayer for all dead Muslims include all categories of Muslims: the rich and the poor, the white and the black, the male and the female, the leaders and their followers, the Arab, the American Muslim, the Chinese Muslim and the African Muslim among others.
‘Important Thing Is One’s Salvation Before Death Comes’
(Rev. Francis Ejiroghene Waive, General Overseer, Fresh Anointing Missionary Ministries Inc./Senior Pastor, Church of the Anointing, Warri, Delta State)
THE scriptures do not give any instructions as to the place a person should be buried, neither is the place of burial connected in any way with where the soul of the departed will spend eternity. However, there are mentioned in the Old Testament, burial places for kings, priests and some families. The presentations show clearly that it was a social phenomenon that has no spiritual value.
Talking about Joseph’s death, burial in Egypt and how his body was exhumed by his brethren and taken back to the Promised Land, again this is merely a social action, as Joseph wanted to be identified with the Israelis and not the Egyptians both in life and death.
Revelation 20, which describes the Great White Throne Judgment, tells us that every dead person will be vomited by the grave or sea or wherever the body was buried to face God in judgment. The place of burial makes no difference.
All over Europe today, you will find Cathedrals that are hundreds of years old and which contain hundreds of graves. This practice emanated from the dark ages in church history. Famous church leaders and donors scrambled for burial places in the church compound and later in the church building. This practice has no scriptural basis and we know that the church in Europe has declined since then.
For one to be buried in a supposedly holy city or place is of no consequence whatsoever. Otherwise, rich people would simply purchase such holy grounds for their burial, while the poor would not be saved. Or what would you say of a sinner who is buried in a ‘holy’ city? In African Traditional Religion, the place where one dies can have an impact on how one is buried. For instance, it is considered a bad death, if somebody dies in a river. Hence, such corpse is thrown away into the evil forest. But still that has no impact on where the departed soul will spend eternity.
Shakespeare’s statement remains true: ‘Death is a necessary end and it will come when it will come’. Permit me to add also that it will come where it will come. Where death meets an individual and where the dead is buried cannot be predicted, neither does it have any implication on where the soul will spend eternity. The important thing is in ensuring the soul’s salvation before death comes calling. ‘And it is appointed unto man once to die and after that judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27)
The Almighty does not consult with man in the matter of when, how and where a person will die. So, the individual’s wish is not reckoned with in this matter. Even then, wishing to be buried or being buried in a particular spot will not affect the eternal destination of the soul. To spend eternity with God in heaven, the individual must repent of his sins and personally accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour, and live for God the rest of his/her life. This is what the Bible teaches.
‘We Should Respect The Wish Of The Dead Person’
(Dr. Musa Asake, National Secretary, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)
IT does not matter at all because once life is gone it is gone. Our main concern should be where the person is going and whether the person died a Christian or not and we know he or she is with the Lord. But where you are buried does not matter.
It is quite a different thing, when it comes to a will. I’d like to make reference to the fact that in the Bible, Joseph and even his father gave instructions that when ‘I die please take me home.’
That is the culture or tradition, whichever way you want to look it. There are some people that have the belief and desire to be buried in their village when they die. Not that such would change where they are going in the beyond, but for some, it would serve to preserve the memory of their departed loved ones. Therefore, coming generations would be able to see the grave. Aside this, there’s nothing significant about such tradition or culture.
It is just about human desire. So, if somebody had written a will, saying ‘if I die, this is where I want to be buried,’ I think we should respect that will and then take the man to the place he requested to be buried. All the same, this has nothing to do with where the man or woman is going. It is just because this was his or her desire and I would suggest that if somebody did say before dying just like Joseph that ‘I want to be buried with my fathers,’ they should by all means be buried with their fathers. For instance, some people have family cemetery and they love to be buried there. And they have every right to make such request. So, if somebody had put something into writing, let us obey it.
However, the major concern is where the soul is going because if as a Christian I die today, I know that I’m going to spend eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ, and wherever you bury me doesn’t really matter. The life is already gone; so our major concern is to be prepared to be with our Lord in eternity. However, we should respect the dead person’s wish. It’s important but not that important.
‘What The Dead Did While Alive Is What’s Important, Not Where He/She Is Buried’
(Arc. Taofeek Wunmi Agbaje, National President, Jamatul Islamiyya of Nigeria & Overseas)
IN Islam, it is important where a Muslim is buried after he or she dies. The Islamic practice is that a Muslim should be buried where he/she died. It does not matter whether he/she dies in Mecca, London, or Nigeria, because in Islam, Muslims are commanded not to delay burial.
The major concern is where the soul of the dead will spend eternity. So, it is not where the dead is buried, but what the dead did when alive. This is what will determine whether he/she goes to Paradise or Hell fire. Our work in this life will determine where we spend our eternity. Let us work and do good, because nobody knows when death will come.
‘Wish Of The Dead Has Little Impact, Ultimate Is Where Soul Is Going’
(Rt. Rev. Isaac Chijioke Nwaobia, Bishop of Isiala-Ngwa South Diocese, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion)
IT’S a very social and technical question, but the bottom-line is the salvation of the person involved, in the context that the soul is what will stand before God and receives an award of ‘well done’. If we consider it in that light, you now see that the soul is very important.
For me, it doesn’t matter where I die, whether in the air, sea or while resting at home or walking on the street. However, the most important thing is: where will this soul rest at the end of the day? But if we take it the other way round, it is a mark of honour for our beloved fallen hero, when family members stand round the corpse to pay their last respect. If they had access to the corpse, they have the right to say, ‘okay, let’s give him/her a befitting burial.’ But if the body cannot be picked, for example, in a plane crash, there is naturally nothing anybody can do in such situation. So, Biblically, socially and contemporarily, I do not think we are missing anything by not burying any person at one place or the other.
Some people would prefer to be buried in the cemetery, but for me, God is universal, as He lives everywhere. He is in your home and bedroom. He is in the community field, as well as wherever has been marked or designated as cemetery. So, people should not trouble themselves as to where they should be buried.
But I think the reason for the cemetery is to set aside specific areas so that people constructing or developing would not encroach in those areas, otherwise it is the same with other areas. For the dead person, his wishes end here, because he is no longer alive to execute such. It is left for the living to see what is possible, what is good enough and actionable. For instance, what if the person wishes that his body be taken to America for burial after death and the children don’t have the money to do so? His wish would simply collapse. So, it is important we realise that after death, the living should come together to deliberate and consider what is possible. If the dead man wished to be buried certain in a place, but his children are still very young, under the ages of nine or 10 years and are still in primary school, what happens then? Such a wish cannot be obeyed. The wishes of the dead have little impact on the living, who should be guided by what is reasonable at a time. I’m of the opinion that the wish of the living should supersede that of the dead, because they understand the plight or reality on ground.
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