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Osama prayer fuels questions

Srinagar, May 6: A few hundred people in Srinagar and Calcutta held prayers for Osama bin Laden today but many Muslim scholars questioned the move.

Some 300 to 400 people, mostly lawyers, joined the ghaibana namaz-e-janaza (funeral prayers in absentia) for Osama at Srinagar’s high court complex responding to a call by Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Overall, Geelani’s appeal evoked poor response in the Valley with only a few mosques answering it. The Hanafi sect of Islam, to which most Muslims belong, does not permit funeral prayers in absentia.

At Tipu Sultan Mosque at Calcutta’s Esplanade, Imam S.M. Noorur Rahman Barkati led the funeral prayers for Osama after the Friday prayers. A mosque official said about 5,000 people participated.

“Since Osama did not get a proper burial, I decided to perform the prayers for him,” Barkati said.

Some Muslim scholars, however, wondered whether Osama’s hand in the death of thousands of innocents needed to be considered before performing funeral prayers for him.

They cited how imams were increasingly refusing to lead prayers for people who had committed suicide on the ground that Islam considers it a sin.

Chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted that Geelani’s call showed he was losing touch with the people. Yet, in a surprise move, his government lifted the cordon around the Hurriyat hawk’s home to allow him to lead the prayers for Osama at Srinagar’s Batamalloo shrine.

Even one Hurriyat moderate, Shabir Shah, responded to Geelani’s appeal and offered prayers for Osama at a Srinagar mosque.

At the high court, which has a hall for prayers, today’s event was organised by the bar association, which is at the forefront of the separatist struggle. The bar general secretary explained that Osama had fought the imperialist powers, but clarified that the bar did not endorse his methods.

Geelani said Muslims were furious at the sea burial given to “martyr” Osama. “We as Muslims have a duty to offer funeral prayers for the dead,” he said.

According to Hanafi sect founder Imam Abu Hanifa, the namaz-e-janaza (funeral prayers) requires the presence of the deceased person’s body.

However, his illustrious contemporary, Imam Shafey, shelved this requirement. So, if a person dies in a foreign country, the Shafai school permits funeral prayers in absentia.

Lucknow-based scholar Naim-ur-Rahman Siddiqui stressed that the namaz-e-janaza was a prayer for the dead and was different from the regular namaz. “Essentially, it is to pray to God for salvation of the deceased.”

He said a ghaibana namaz-e-janaza is performed in exceptional cases. For instance, after the death of Maulana Ali Mian, the rector of Lucknow’s Darul Uloom Nadwa, special prayers were held in absentia at Mecca’s grand mosque in recognition of his services to Islam.

Siddiqui said that if such a prayer was organised with a political intent, God would surely judge its merit and motive.

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