Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery Needs Community Attention
By Ras H. Siddiqui
This article is long overdue and has to do with a part of lives that we often ignore but cannot. As one moves on in age and attends janazas (funerals) of people from within the community the reality sinks in as to how important this process is, not only to the deceased but their families and the community at large.
For Muslims, there are certain unique religious rites in taking care of the dead and properly burying them. And some of these conditions and rituals cannot be easily handled by local mainstream mortuaries, so as the demand for Muslim burial in America increases, there are now increasing demands for graveyards and facilities that can take care of them.
In the Sacramento, California area one can find the graves of people at local graveyards from the early 1900’s. They were pioneers from our part of the world who died here. Their descendants and the Muslim community in the area, have grown significantly greater in numbers since then and especially after the Downtown Sacramento Muslim Mosque was established in 1947. But it took the community long - 1998 - to establish its own graveyard at 6330 Eagles Nest Road, Sacramento CA (off Jackson Road) in the Sacramento metropolitan area. The Board of Trustees of the Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery (GSMC) are Dr Syed Khasimuddin, DrNajmeMinhaj, Mr Bashir Choudhry, MrYousufMarmosh, MrAnwer Ali, Mr Abdul Karim Yousufzai and MrEssop A. Khan and our thanks to them and all others who co-founded and funded this project.
The GSMC is being completed in several phases. The most recent development has been the completion of the building facility and obtaining its occupancy permit from the Sacramento County Building Department. An event was held earlier this year which invited community members to visit the facilities and to get details of what is now available here which includes a Prayer Hall, Ghusul Room, Cold Storage, Sisters Waiting Room and an Office. Parking has also been a focus and remains challenging for large funerals or multiple funerals at a time.
The event invitation said: “Assalaamalaikum Brothers and Sisters, Alhamdulillah, the construction of the GSMC building facility has been completed and an occupancy permit has been recently obtained from the Sacramento County Building Department. The Board of Trustees is delighted to invite you to thank you for your continuous support of the project and also provide with an update about the arrangements that are being made to bring the facility into operation, associated costs and other details for the services that will be available to the community.” And that was exactly what occurred.
After a recitation from the Holy Qur’an, Board of Trustee Member and co-founder of this cemetery project Syed Khasimuddin, bid everyone welcome and made it clear as to the necessity of this cemetery for our community. The details were left to NajmeMinhaj, another co-founder, who came armed with an impressive slide presentation. Najme first detailed Phase 1 of the project which consisted of 14 acres of land out of which 10 acres was usable and 2.2 acres had been developed. One acre was already developed for burial sites. 1.3 acres had been set aside for parking, landscaping and driveways. The current Phase 2 of the project sought to centralize the entire burial process (currently split between the Downtown Mosque and this cemetery) and makes it convenient, effective, safe and cost-effective too. This phase consisted of a Prayer Hall, Ghusal Room, Cold Storage, and Women’s Prayer Room, Office, Rest Rooms, Wudu Area and a Caretaker Room. He also provided square footage and other details of this newly completed phase and one must say that it looked very impressive. As mentioned earlier, the building’s construction has been completed and an occupancy permit has already been acquired. Minhaj detailed some of the costs incurred up to this stage with the total approaching one million dollars. He also provided cost breakdowns for each burial (for locals and non-locals).
Now for the most important reason for why this event took place. Most of the work involved in carrying out the Muslim burial process at this facility is being carried out by volunteers and that has been the case for several years. Our commendation and prayers go out to all of them, especially Essop Khan, who is shouldering a big responsibility in doing the necessary paperwork and with the help of his family has done a wonderful job earning many thankful prayers. There are also other unsung heroes who wash bodies, make announcements and spread the word about deaths in the community. What we need is more of such people. Imam MumtazQasmi is another example of hard work, for conducting funerals and providing prayers and comfort to grieving families (he also performed the closing dua here).
To conclude, the Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery needs more community involvement, especially from our younger generation. This writer has been attending more funerals lately and quite a few of the graves at this cemetery are now occupied by people well known to our community. It is not an easy task but helping in this very important phase called the end of life can be very rewarding in the hereafter. Please contact Brother Essop Khan at 916-925-2662 or Imam Qasmi at 916-443-5167 in your time of need, if you want to help, to reserve a burial site, or to make a donation. You never know when or if you or your family will need their services.