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CAIRO – As search for flight MH370 debris continues, religious leaders have rejected to hold funerals for the victims unless bodies are found or confirmed dead to perform the last prayers that will lay victims’ souls to rest.
“In these challenging times, we should work together and pray for the best so that the aircraft will be found soon,” Jamil Khir Baharom, Muslim-majority Malaysia’s minister in charge of Islamic affairs, said in a statement cited by The Star Online on Thursday, March, 27.
According to the National Fatwa Council, the passengers and crew members are considered “missing persons”. Therefore, no funerals could be held yet by relatives unless death is confirmed.
|Sequence of Islamic Funeral Rituals|
Baharom said that funerals for the missing would be held only after concluding the search mission for MH370, calling mosques to hold Qur’an recitals and prayers for the missing jetliner.
Flight MH370, carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew, went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing about an hour after taking off from the KL International Airport earlier this month.
On Thursday, Thai satellite captured images of 300 floating objects in the Indian Ocean.
Initial reports assumed that the plane has crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, search mission was halted due to bad weather.
According to Islamic teachings, the highest honor to be bestowed on the dead is giving the deceased a swift burial, preferably in the same day.
Sea burials can be allowed, they said, but only in special cases where the death occurred aboard a ship and if they are far off the coast.
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 funeral dilemma without bodies has been worrying victims’ families who are from various religious backgrounds.
“I will not do any solemn prayers until I am really convinced my son is dead,” Subramaniam Gurusamy, 60, a Malaysian Hindu whose son was on the plane, told Agence France Presse (AFP).
“How can we say everyone is dead when we have not found the plane or the black box?
“There have been instances when someone is lost in the jungle and is believed to have died but comes out alive after many years.”
According to Hindu traditions, “the precise date and time of a person’s death is important to perform the final rites”, also funeral can’t be held without the body.
“They can’t do the funeral rites until they get the bodies. But they can perform prayers at home or in temples on the 30th day,” said Mohan Shan, president of Malaysia Hindu Sangam, the country’s main advisory body on Hindu worship.
“It’s a difficult time to pass through. Without the body we cannot 100 percent confirm they are dead. But we have to ask them to accept the fate.
“There is no point in waiting.”
‘Body not Necessary’
Unlike Muslims and Hindus, Christian and Buddhists would perform funeral rites without the body, believing it is not “necessary”.
“We don’t need the body, we can just do the prayers as normal,” Rev K. Sri Dhammaratana, Chief Monk of Malaysia Datuk.
A similar opinion was shared by Rev Sri Saranankara of Maha Karuna Buddhist Society.
“The body is not important as the mind and soul have already departed,” he said.
Urging Christian relatives to accept fate, Reverend Wong Kim Kong, a Christian community leader, said that they could lay their loved ones to rest “without a body” if they believe they are dead.
“They should not be discouraged, but acknowledge the fact that their loved ones are in a better place, that is – heaven,” Kong said.
The president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), Sardar Jagir Singh, urged the government to honor the missing passengers and crew of flight MH370.
“When it comes to prayers, whether or not to hold a funeral, the family must decide. Perhaps there can be prayers for the soul before last rites are held,” Singh said.
For Taoists, funeral rites must be performed at the location where the death happened after determining the time of the incident.
“We need to know where it happened and go to the scene of the accident to perform rituals and prayers,” said Tan Hoe Chieow, president of the Federation of Taoist Associations Malaysia.
“It can be done without the physical body, but the priest and family must be in the same area.
“If the relatives are not given their final rites, they become lost souls.”