Posted: January 2, 2009 in politics
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An Unforgettable Funeral

By Salman Siddiqui
Dec. 27, 2008 Dawn

Mufti Abdul Rahim Tahir conducted funeral prayers for Benazir Bhutto after her assassination on December 27, 2007. Talking to our reporter Salman Siddiqui in Naudero, he recalls the day one year ago when he performed her last rites.
When I reached the Bhutto residence here, the atmosphere was full of sorrow. People were pouring into the house with tears in their eyes and screaming out in sorrow. The women were sitting inside separately, segregated from the men. Benazir’s body was placed in her bedroom on the same bed where she rested each time she visited her home in Naudero during her lifetime.
I was informed by her family members that I would be responsible for performing the last religious rites, including bathing her body according to shariah and arranging for the kafan (the cloth in which a corpse is wrapped).
I briefed my two lady assistants about how to carry out the bathing of the body. They, along with some family members, including Benazir’s sister Sanam Bhutto and her paternal aunt, and one of Benazir’s friends carried out the ritual.
I was then told that it was Benazir’s wish that her kafan should be washed in Zamzam water, which had to be bought from the market. I informed the family members that such things cannot be bought in the market. Since the family members didn’t have an appropriate kafan, I brought my own from my house, which I had planned to use for myself after my death.
Later, after the bathing ritual, I was informed by Benazir’s close friend that blood was still pouring from her head wound. I told her to place some cotton under the injury.
As the time for the funeral approached, there was the question of whether Benazir’s face should be shown to all. I was of the opinion that her face should be shown since the political leader was widely revered by the people and everyone wanted to catch a last glimpse of her. Some people in the house wanted the same while others were opposed to the idea.
After they argued among themselves on the issue, the family members decided to consult Asif [Zardari] sahib on the issue. He, who along with the children was inside a separate room, told the family members to ask me. I told them that since she was like a mother and daughter to the people and was widely revered, her face should be shown. But then they asked me to explain what should be done according to the rules of shariah and our religion. I then told them that according to shariah, only male members of Benazir’s family, women, and children could see her face.
Later, at around 1 p.m. that day, Benazir’s friend sent me a message saying that blood was continuing to gush from Benazir’s head wound and asked me to do something to stop it. I had asked my women assistants to place cotton slabs under the wound three times already, but the blood continued to flow non-stop. Benazir’s friend reminded me that in her lifetime, Benazir was always very particular about cleanliness and would not have liked to be seen in this way. I told her that the best arrangements and rituals according to Islam had been carried out for cleaning Benazir’s body, so if the blood continued to flow then it was a sign that she had been accepted as a martyr. I told Benazir’s friend that this was a thing of honour, not a bad thing.
At around 3 p.m., the funeral procession started to leave the house. Before that, Zardari and the children stayed alone with Benazir’s body for a few minutes. In the ambulance, I was with Zardari and Bilawal as it crawled its way through the huge crowds of people towards the Garhi Khuda Buksh cemetery.
At the funeral prayers, I was asked by Zardari to begin the proceedings. Just as I was about to begin, I heard Zardari asking where Bilawal was. We then saw that Bilawal was still sitting beside his mother inside the ambulance in a state of shock. I went there to fetch him and brought him to stand in line for the prayers.


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