Accepted paper:

Burial before nightfall: Islam, necropsy and death


Douglas Farrer (University of Guam)

Paper short abstract:

A disjunction of deathscapes exists between Islamic cultural practice and scientific medical necropsy. Interment before nightfall on the same day as death, together with the belief that the body continues to experience pain after death, prohibits autopsy. How then is the cause of death established?

Paper long abstract:

Islamic cultures inter the cadaver before nightfall on the same day that a person is pronounced dead. Interment before nightfall combined with the belief that the body continues to experience pain and suffering after death, prohibits autopsy. Rare exceptions to this rule that occur, such as the posthumous display of Col. Gaddafi, offer a range of interpretations, from deliberate social disrespect to the appreciation of a new media cultural awareness. In the Malay Islamic deathscape the corpse must be interred before nightfall on the same day as the death. This paper examines the tradition of same-day interment among the Malays of Singapore and Malaysia, reflecting upon the deaths of a Malaysian prince and a Malay artist. In the Malay world interment before nightfall may express fear for the dead, rather than fear of the dead. Questioning the individual's health, life, and demise, medical professionals establish the cause of death via a series of negotiations with the subject's family or other social nexus in a practice resisting necropsy and preempting the questioning of the corpse in the grave by the Angels of Death.

panel LD14
Disjunctions of deathscapes: ways of suffering, dying, and death