As national and international travels remain banned at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, Muslims in Italy are struggling to find a place to bury the bodies of their dead.
In a country of 2.6 million Muslims, representing 4.3 percent of population according to 2018 census, only 50 of the nearly 8,000 Italian municipalities have dedicated spaces for Muslims inside their cemeteries.
This has caused “a dramatic situation in Italy, with several corpses left on hold in mortuaries as there are no Islamic cemeteries where they could be buried,” said Abdallah Redouane, secretary-general of the Great Mosque of Rome, Arab News reported.
Most of the spaces for Islamic burials in public cemeteries are located in the Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna regions.
The situation was even more serious in the north of Italy, the area most affected by the coronavirus.
The first cemetery space for Muslims in Italy was established in Trieste in 1856. The Flaminio Cemetery in Rome has had space for Muslims since 1974.
“Today this space is full. In the past few months, deaths have increased and so have burial requests,” Redouane said.
“We filed requests to open new spaces for Muslims in the municipal cemeteries nationwide. So far we managed to open some new areas. But as the situation gets worse and worse, we are still waiting for answers,” said Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII).
Funerals in Islam have always been simple with no elaborate services or extravagant caskets.
With the growing number of coronavirus victims, the lack of Muslim cemeteries has become a challenge for many Muslims.
Same as Italy, Muslims in France wrote to President Emmanuel Macron in April about lack of Muslim burials.
Macron responded, giving an assurance that Muslims who die in France during the coronavirus pandemic would be buried in accordance with their religious beliefs and traditions.
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, Muslims should perform a funeral prayer.
The burial should be done as soon as possible. It is makruh (reprehensible) to delay the burial of the dead.