CAIRO - For the first time in decades, Irish Muslims will be allowed to bury their dead in shrouds without coffins under new regulations approved by the government.
The change to the rule follows concerns recently expressed by members of the Muslim community regarding their traditional burial rituals, a Department of the Environment spokesperson told The Irish Times on Tuesday, May 7.
For decades, Irish Muslims have been unable to bury their dead in shroud in line with their religious teachings.
Irish rules state that it is illegal to bury a body in an Irish cemetery unless the body be enclosed in a coffin of wood or some other sufficiently strong material.
But these rules have recently been modified to allow Muslims to bury their dead in shrouds.
Under the new rules, un-coffined burials will take place in an area of a cemetery designated exclusively for this purpose.
But the provision can be over-ruled if there is a health or environmental risk.
There will be no obligation to designate an area for un-coffined burials.
Any cemetery can also opt out of providing the service.
The new amendments will come into effect as of June 1.
The new rules follow concerns raised by Muslim community leaders regarding their traditional burial rituals.
The regulations were drafted in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency, HSE and the City and County Managers' Association.
Though the regulations were first requested by Muslims, people of any faith, or none, will be permitted to bury loved ones without a coffin once the rules come into force.
The new move is expected to help save over-populated cemeteries in Ireland.
Muslims make up 1.1 percent of the 4.5 million people in Ireland, but their ranks are swelling due to immigration, domestic births, and in some cases conversion.
The new burial rules have won plaudits from the Muslim community in Ireland.
In Ireland, there is a high level of religious understanding, Dr Ali Selim, a spokesman for the Islamic Cultural Center of Ireland, told The Irish Times.
Death is a time of anxiety, and it is very hard to oppose something that is really wanted by the family of the deceased.
This (new regulations) complements the practice already in place, he said.
Dr Selim said there were three Muslim cemeteries across the country - in Gorey, Co Wexford; in Limerick; and at Newcastle in Dublin.
If somebody passes away, we bring them to our mortuary and we shroud the body according to the Islamic way, and take it to the mosque where we offer prayer.
The new regulations would allow Muslims to bury their dead properly according to the Islamic tradition.
We do not bury in the coffin, but in the shroud, Dr Selim said.
We lay the body in the grave facing Makkah, and then put pieces of wood on the body from the edge to the bottom so when we put dust into the grave it doesn't touch the body.
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.