Bombing suspect’s wife to allow family to claim his body and the attempt to hold a Muslim funeral

The widow of suspected marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev said Tuesday she would let other family members claim his body, which has been kept at the Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for more than a week.
Under Islamic law, Muslims are customarily buried shortly after they die, normally within a day. But Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow, Katherine Russell, has not claimed the body and the state refused to release the body to other family members without her permission.
In an emotional interview Tuesday, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s father, Anzor, had complained that officials were not allowing the family to bury him.
“The body should have been buried,” Anzor Tsarnaev said by telephone from Russia. “What else can you do with a dead body?”
Tsarnaev expressed sadness about the bombings, even as he dismissed the charges against his sons as a fabrication. He said he had left his home in Dagestan for another part of Russia, which he did not disclose, with his ex-wife, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva.
Tsarnaev complained that his relatives were having trouble claiming Tamerlan’s body, apparently not realizing that his son’s widow was required to first give them permission.
On Tuesday, an uncle of the Tsarnaev brothers contacted Al-Marhama, a non-profit Muslim funeral and burial service, for help with funeral arrangements for Tamerlan Tsarnaev, said Ismail Fenni, assistant imam of the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Cambridge.
Al-Marhama notified Fenni, who said he called the uncle and assured him that people affiliated with the Cambridge mosque, where the brothers occasionally prayed, would be willing to assist.
“I know many of the members of our community want to help,” he said. “We feel for the family. They obviously are going through a hard time.”
Fenni said mosques typically do not handle funerals and burials. Families are referred to funeral homes, he said, and, often with the help of volunteers from the community or Al-Marhama, the body is cleansed and shrouded in preparation for burial. The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury, which is owned by the same organization as the Cambridge mosque but run separately, also has facilities for preparing bodies for burial.
Fenni said the uncle had no details about the family’s wishes. Fenni did not know whether Tamerlan’s body would be shipped overseas or buried here, or what kind of service the family wants, if any.
The Tsarnaevs have not contacted the cultural center, Boston’s largest mosque. If asked, Imam William Suhaib Webb would refuse to pray over Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body, said Yusufi Vali, executive director of the cultural center.
But both Webb and Fenni say it is the Muslim community’s obligation to bury its dead.
“The deceased is still a human being, and from the humanitarian side, we have to at least give him the rite of burial, regardless of what he has done,” Fenni said.