In what can be described as a typical Hollywood script, there was drama at Soche – Quarry in Blantyre during a funeral ceremony where Muslims and Christians tussled as to who should be responsible for the funeral rites of a woman who passed away recently.
As if to teach a divine lesson to the living, the ceremony had its fair share of miracles, drama and tragedies.
This is a true life story narrated to Malawi Muslims Website by Sheikh Muhammad Mkwanda who led the Muslim clergy at the funeral.
A young woman from Chakhaza family who embraced Islam after marrying a Muslim man ten years ago, passed away on Saturday evening on March 24, 2012 after a long illness. Immediately before her death, the woman had narrated visions where she could urge her mother to “go to the tailor and collect my white cloth, I want to wear it.”
The lady was a fervent practicing Muslim and all the Muslims in Soche testified about the woman’s strong commitment to Islam. She could not move about without a hijab and she was really a model of a true Muslim woman.
However, upon her death, her mother who stays nearby and her father who stays at Chingeni were not to allow their daughter to be buried at Soche in a kaffan as a Muslim and they therefore arranged transport to ferry the dead body to her home village in Dedza so that she should be buried as a Christian.
According to eye-witnesses who attended the funeral ceremony, drama started during the first night of the deceased’s lying in state where Muslim women who gathered at the deceased’s house found bibles and hymns on the mats earmarked for the women. Actually, the bibles were left by a Christian Fellowship group who were earlier chased away by a Muslim brother from the area. The Christian fellowship then assembled at the mother’s house where they sang their hymns.
TRADITION IS SUPERIOR TO RELIGION
Sheikh Muhammad Mkwanda could not believe his eyes seeing a lorry in the morning with a coffin inside coming to pick up the dead body and he immediately called for discussions. But the discussions failed to convince the relatives that the deceased was a Muslim and deserves an Islamic burial.
The relatives put their feet down insisting that according to their tradition a person is deemed to be married and to have ‘crossed the floor’ only after a traditional engagement ceremony (Chinkhoswe), which was not the case with the deceased who only conducted a Nikah ceremony. Therefore, in their tradition, the woman was still a Christian.
A gentleman’s agreement was however made, with Muslims told to conduct all the Islamic funeral rites in Blantyre and then handover the body to the relatives for the CCAP Church to take over.
BRICK WALL COLLAPSES
A first tragedy now befell. A wall of a nearby house instantly collapsed injuring three women including a pregnant woman as Muslims were performing a janaazah prayer. The injured were immediately picked and rushed to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital for treatment when a second tragedy befell.
The vehicle carrying the injured hit a child about two hundred meters from Soche Hill Secondary School making four casualties on their way to the hospital.
KAFFAN BECOMES STICKY
After the janaazah prayer, Christians now took the dead body back into the house to clothe it and put it into a coffin and the women who were assigned to remove the kaffan for the woman’s clothes had some trouble; miraculously, the kaffan became sticky and any attempts to remove it even forcefully did not yield any results. They had therefore no option but to partially pull the head cover to reveal the face only and they just covered another piece of cloth on top of the kaffan and then dumped the body into the coffin.
The relatives then scared away all Muslims not to accompany them to the village threatening that should they insist, hell would be let loose by unleashing occult dancers (gule wamkulu) on them.
Many people, including the members of the CCAP Church felt scared and refused to accompany to travel to Dedza.
“WHERE ARE ‘THE OWNERS’ OF THE DECEASED?”
More drama ensued in Dedza with the deceased’s uncle and the local chief now refusing to accept the dead body without Muslims, being owners of the deceased, on board the vehicle and could not buy the relatives lies that Muslims had surrendered the dead body because there is no Muslim community in the village. He demanded that they should go back to Blantyre after all there are graveyards there.
This prompted another set of intensive discussions that took place for over four hours. A compromise was therefore reached that the local CCAP Church who had already gathered at the village in readiness for the funeral should not be in charge of the funeral service.
The body was therefore taken to the graveyard without any Christian funeral rites.
“WHY PUTTING ME IN A COFFIN?”
Had the dead had a chance to talk, then the deceased would have asked “Why burry me in a coffin?”, because as people were picking the coffin to go to the graveyard, the coffin became slippery that men had difficulties to balance it up and move smoothly. They struggled to reach the graveyard.
NATURE TAKES OVER
As if all the other divine signs were not enough, after reaching the graveyard, swarms of bees suddenly appeared at the graveyard and people wondered on how they came considering the fact that the bees were never there the whole morning when people were digging the grave. People were therefore advised not to make any noise and mourners were ordered not to cry loudly to avoid irritating the stinging insects.
The woman was therefore buried in absolute serenity without any singing, crying or prayers as is common at a Christian funeral.
Immediately after the grave was filled, the bees descended on the people and they all ran amok, scampering for their lives
Reporting by Abdul-Majeed Dyton in Soche – Quarry, Blantyre