From the news desk

The cost of death

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Every day the Voice of the Cape radio station is asked to read out the funeral notices of people who have passed away. And while we take for granted that people get buried almost daily, the cost of a dignified Muslim burial can come at a huge surprise. What many Muslims don’t realise is that planning for death has now become an important part of living.

According to Islamic tradition, the highest honour you can give someone in death is a swift burial. In accordance with tradition, Muslims try to bury before sunset on the same day of death where possible, or on the following day if circumstances make same day burial impossible. A speedy burial is advised, however if it is not possible then the body can be buried when burial is made possible. This is happens when the person might die of illness or unnatural causes and other factors are involved before the body is released for burial.

Burying in a coffin is not permitted in Islam unless there is a necessity for health or legal reasons. South African legislation requires the dead body to be transported in coffins so it is common practice to transport the deceased in a steal casket which is then placed on a hearse. Once at the burial site, the deceased is lifted out of the coffin and buried in a biodegradable calico shroud.

Rising funeral costs, coupled with the shortage of burial space fuelled have allowed burial space in Muslim cemeteries to be reused. Thus, once a person has been burial and 15 years have passed after their burial, the burial pit may be reopened and used for burial for another family member that has passed on.

“It is uncommon for Muslims to use a monumental hole because it is expensive and furthermore after 15 years, the hole can be reused in the burial of someone else,” says Abdullah Slamang, who is known as a ‘toekamanie’ and has been involved in the burial process for the past 12 years.

A ‘toekamanie’ is a person who is responsible for the cleaning of the body, once the person has died, so that the body can be prepared for burial.

When the body is being prepared for burial the eyes should be closed and the toes tied together so that the legs do not move about. The body should be covered with a sheet and thereafter cleansed and wrapped in what is called a Kafan which is the burial shroud.

According to Slamang, a Kafan for a woman is R1200 and for a man it is R1000. This is available from local burial societies or from Slamang, as he prepares these things from his home office.
Certifying death

Following the death of a person, arrangements should be made immediately to obtain the death certificate and to prepare the grave.

“Doctors report or medical report should be issued by the house doctor or paramedics are to be called in to declare the person deceased, further the police should sign off on the death so that no foul play is suspected,” explains Slamang.

Slamang goes further by saying that there are no real costs as far as paramedics and the police are concerned.
Shafiek Sedick, the secretary of the Kalk Bay Islamic Burial Fund mentions that when it comes to the payment or the money that is required for a funeral, then families could be paying about R4000-R5000.

“It can differ depending on where you are going to have the actual person buried.”

The cost of being buried

According to Slamang, costs for burial plots are as follows:

-Municipal cemeteries include Klip road, Khayelitsha, Muizenburg and Maitland. The price for burial here ranges from R675. At a municipal cemetery the price is R1600 to build a concrete slab on the grave.
-Other places of burial include Constantia where you will have to pay 1000 for the hole and after hours you have to pay R250 per hour extra time. Overtime usually falls after 17:00
-Mowbray R1000 and if you come later you will also have to pay over time.
-Johnson road costs R800

Slamang says “if you talk nicely you won’t pay overtime” implying that you strike up a friendship at the grave they won’t be inclined to charge you extra money however he says that normally the diggers will charge you overtime if you come late.

Other expenses include the hearse car and this will generally be about R450 to transport the body from the home to the cemetery.

A toekamanie for a woman will cost you R400 and for a man it will cost you 450.

Sedick says that this is usually a donation to the person for performing the service so it is at the discretion of the family as to how much they would pay a person for the cleaning of the deceased’s body.

“Money for the imam and toekamanie is at the discretion of the family acknowledging that the person took time outof their day and advisable to make the funeral at a time that you can have the Imam and the toekamanie available,” Sedick continued.

Being a toekamanie, Slamang says, is a dying trend and it is advisable that family members take over the cleaning of the body.

“I taught approximately 24 guys at one mosque and when a few of them had to go with me to observe the burial ritual then a few of them couldn’t touch the body, we rather advise for the family to take over the washing of thebody because the expense it will be a lot less,” Slamang went further.

Other expenses include providing food to those that attended the funeral which can go up to 3100 for a pot of food which is a 100 litre pot of perhaps akhni (meat and potato made with rice).

Slamang offers combo packages of which is inclusive of things needed to complete the burial process.

“R3200 is a combo that can be bought that will be inclusive of everything that will include the toekamanie, the death registrar, the hearse, the kafan and the hole at whichever municipal cemetery is preferred,” Slamang adds.

The price goes up however depending on which cemetery is chosen as prices for different cemeteries vary by location.

Slamang mentions that in the past the mosque would usually supply a steel casket for the carrying of the body at no charge and the toekamanie did the work and a donation would be given to him, burial holes were five shillings, but now he says that everything has now become a money making issue.

Slamang says he takes it into consideration if people can’t afford it then he does not charge them.
But if you belong to a burial fund it makes things easier for a family, adds Sedick.

“You need the documentation with regards to police certificate, doctor’s certificate and the death certificate and once that is provided a payout will then take place immediately,” he says.

“What I suggest to everyone that is part of a burial fund is be aware of what you will be paid out for on the day from your burial service.”

Before the deceased is laid to rest a Janazah salah (supplication for the deceased) is convened. When the rituals are completed and the deceased body is ready for burial then close family members are generally asked to lower the deceased into the grave and verses from the Qur’an are recited at the head and side of the grave after burial.

Following the burial of the deceased Islam has permitted mourning the death of a person for three days only. There are no rituals or customs to be followed. However, family members continue to pray for the soul of the deceased for weeks following the burial and acknowledge seven, 40 and 100 days after the death of the loved one.

Ultimately, while living expenses have soared, it seems the cost of dying, is ironically also increasing. The sad reality is that impoverished families, like anyone else, are forced to pay the same prices for the burial of their loved ones, like anyone else. It’s sadly a financial burden many families are unable to cope with, in the aftermath of death.

VOC (Umarah Hartley)

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