Ten Muslims have been laid to rest in a mass burial in a south London cemetery.
Sky News reports that Eternal Gardens, in Chislehurst, has gone from burying five bodies a week to 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday afternoon, 10 people were buried in a row with wooden separation screens between each body to create individual chambers inside the grave. The bodies were buried without coffins and wrapped in pure cotton shrouds.
To cope with the number of funerals, the cemetery has introduced “saff-burials” – a method of laying people to rest in rows. This means 10 people can be buried in close succession, within one plot but in individual chambers.
Eternal Gardens has prepared two graves, each 10 metres long and two metres wide, which can provide burials for a total of 40 people.
Richard Gomersall, chief executive at GreenAcre cemeteries, told Sky: “It’s being done at the request and needs of the Muslim community, who have come to us and said: ‘We really need to be able to increase the speed at which we can bury our loved ones.’
“At the moment they’re having to wait a week to two weeks and, within the Islamic tradition, that’s far too long.”
In Islamic tradition, janazahs should take place within 24 hours of death.
Mr Gomersall added: “By introducing the saff graves, we’ll be able to take that to 50 burials a week. And at the moment, we’re anticipating that will last for several weeks to come.”
Local Imam Suleiman Ghani read the janazah prayers for all 10 deceased.
“This is not a mass grave,” he told Sky. “It is only to accommodate and to ensure that in two days they were able to dig up this grave, whereas imagine digging 10 individual graves, it may take over a week.
“Given the large number of those that need to be buried, it makes it easier for the hospitals because they don’t have the capacity for these bodies and it’s very important for Muslims. There has to be a burial. There is no cremation allowed in Islam.”
However, the government still retains the power to cremate coronavirus victims, according to the new Coronavirus Bill, but only as a last resort and after taking into account the religious views of families.
Nevertheless, contrary to the wishes of Muslims and Jews, this does not constitute an absolute protection of a person who does not wish to be cremated, although the government says it does not intend to cremate anybody against their wishes.