Green Burial: the Last Good Deed

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Linda “iLham” Barto

Say, “Truly, my prayer, my service of sacrifice, my life, and my death are for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds” (Surah 6: 162).

Recently my husband Tom and I visited a green burial, wildlife preserve. Ramsey Creek Preserve in South Carolina is the first of its kind in the USA. Not only are burials natural, but also the forested preserve supports native plants and wildlife, including bears, deer, raccoons, bobcats, and opossums. It is 120 acres that include hiking trails, a creek with a water fall, a picnic area, and an interfaith chapel. It is a unique place where death is celebrated with life.

The human body, as with all living bodies of creation, was designed to return to the earth in a beautiful continuation of energy. A green burial respects the natural process of decay and emphasizes the “dust to dust” aspect that is often heard in funeral speech but seldom taken as a directive. Embalming, cement vaults, metal caskets, and elaborate headstones are not allowed. No body is robbed of its blood and filled with formaldehyde, locked in a metal box, and then placed deep in a cold vault, without the comfort of the earth’s embrace. In a green burial, the body of the deceased is washed and shrouded and then put into the ground with or without a biodegradable coffin. A natural stone may be engraved as a marker.

A Green Burial shown here with a natural forest setting and a simple pine box coffin which will break down over time.
This green burial is shown with a simple box. However, proper sharia of burying with a sheet can be observed at green burial sites.

Dr. Billy Campbell, founder of Memorial Ecosystems, explained, “What we’re doing is basically land conservation. By setting aside woods for natural burials, we preserve it from development. At the same time, I think we put death in its rightful place, as part of the cycle of life. Our burials honor the idea of dust to dust.”

In recent years, several green burial sites have been established in North Carolina and South Carolina. Some of these are called ‘hybrid green burials,’ which usually means that they are only a small part of a modern, non-green cemetery. If you are interested in a green burial, search for sites that are purely green and not just a part of a cemetery unconcerned with the carbon footprint. Ramsey Creek Preserve is in the process of creating a small, green burial, nature preserve in Asheville, NC. As the trend grows, we can hope for more fully green efforts.

At Ramsey Creek Preserve, there is a Jewish section, and years ago, when I first wrote about green burials, Dr. Campbell said, on behalf of Ramsey Creek Preserve, “…we are very interested in working with Muslims to establish burial grounds,” and he indicated his willingness to establish a Muslim section. Muslims, let’s not be deadheads and let this opportunity get buried! Islamic burials should be green burials. May our lives and our deaths be for Allah!

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