First of all, it is to be stressed that in Islam, the human body must be treated with the utmost respect not only when a person is alive, but also when he or she is dead. Funeral rites and practices have been prescribed by the divine law in accordance with the dictates of Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an, (We have honored sons of Adam…) (Al-Israa’ 17: 70)

Burial is prescribed for the bodies of the deceased. Muslims are buried in Muslim cemeteries, and in Muslim countries there is no problem regarding this issue. However, in non-Muslim countries, there is the issue of whether it is permissible to bury Muslims in non-Muslim cemeteries or not.

The European Council for Fatwa and Research issued the following: There are certain determined legal rulings concerning the Muslim on his death, such as washing him, wrapping him with a shroud, performing the janazah or funeral prayer for him, in addition to burying him in a Muslim cemetery. That is because Muslims have their own way of burying the dead and preparing graves, such as simplicity, facing Qiblah, and avoiding the imitation of polytheists, the affluent, and the like.

It is known that every religious community has its own cemeteries; Jews have their own cemeteries, as do Christians and pagans; therefore, it is natural that Muslims have their own cemeteries too. Muslims living in non-Muslim countries should try, through approved channels, to have their own cemeteries whenever possible, for that would enhance their presence and preserve their personality. If they fail to have their own separate cemetery, they should at least have a specific and exclusive spot within the cemetery of non-Muslims wherein they can bury their dead.

If even both alternatives are not available and a Muslim dies, he may be buried anywhere possible, even if in the cemetery of non-Muslims, for Allah does not burden a person beyond his ability. In this case, burying the Muslim in a cemetery of non-Muslims would not cause him any harm, for what will benefit the Muslim in the Hereafter will be his endeavor and righteous deeds and not the spot where he is buried. Almighty Allah says, (And man can have nothing but what he strives for…) (An-Najm 53: 39). Salman al-Farisi (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “Land does not sanctify anybody, but a person’s own deeds sanctify him.” ( Mentioned by Malik in al-Muwatta’ (no. 2232) with the word “man” instead of “person”.)

Besides, burying the deceased in the place where he or she dies is the practice primarily recommended by the Shari`ah, and it is easier than transferring the dead to Muslim countries, as some Muslims do, which causes difficulties and costs a lot of money needlessly.

If the Islamic cemetery is far from the residence of the deceased’s family, it will not be an acceptable excuse to bury him in a (nearby) non-Muslim cemetery, for visiting cemeteries is primarily recommended for the benefit of the visitor to receive admonition and learn a lesson, as this is confirmed in the hadith: “I commanded you not to visit graves, but now I strongly recommend visiting them, for that makes the heart tender and the eye shed tears and it reminds of the Hereafter.” (Reported by Ahmad and Al-Hakim on the authority of Anas)

A Muslim can pray for the dead person and ask forgiveness for him, and, by the Grace of Allah, the reward thereof will reach him wherever the supplicant or the seeker of forgiveness for him may be.”