A Muslim Cemetery Helps To Ease Funerals' Strain
The Garden of Peace cemetery opened when the Islamic community in Flint, Mich., needed a place to bury their dead in accordance with their religion. After operating for only a couple of years, the cemetery has already welcomed a diverse group of American Muslims.
Tucked in the left corner of an open field, on a breezy, buggy, warm summer morning in Flint, lie parallel rows of identical headstones. There are roughly 30 of them, all facing the same direction.
"When we put the body in the grave, we put them in a way that they are facing the same direction, facing northeast — which is the Kaaba, from here," says Abed Khirfan, managing director of the Flint Islamic Center. The Kaaba is the cube-shaped structure at the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
Burying the dead to face the Kaaba is just one of the ways that the Garden of Peace cemetery observes traditional Islamic burial rites. It's also designed so that visitors can avoid stepping directly over a grave site, an act discouraged in religious texts.
"For every two rows of graves, there's a wider row for walking, for machinery and so on. So, we designed it that way."
Khirfan adds that burials take place as soon after a death as possible.
"It's not unusual [that] if you have somebody died 5 o'clock in the morning, they'll be buried by 1 o'clock in the afternoon, the same day," he says. (...)