When I read about the Urban Death Project in yesterday’s GHN issue, I thought, this sounds familiar. Islam’s burial traditions have underscored natural decomposition for centuries.
Religious practice calls for a thorough wash of the body, or “ghusl,” at least 3 times–once each with pure, antispectic and scented water. Islamic texts recommend natural products, like aromatic camphor. No formaldehyde here. Since a speedy burial is required, there is no time for embalming anyways.
After the ghusl, bodies should be shrouded in white cotton or linen–both biodegradable. Cremation, which Fast Company points out “requires a heavy dose of fossil fuels,” is forbidden. Plus gravestones or ornaments are avoided, saving cemetery space.
See what I mean? I’m curious though what imams would think about turning human remains into city compost. That’s a new idea.
—Salma Warshanna-Sparklin is Web Writer at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she contributes to Global Health NOW, JHPH Magazine and the School's Stories.