Son left holding an empty coffin whilst daughter buries Christian mum as a Muslim
A grieving son was left with only his mother’s empty coffin in his house after her body was removed in a family’s bizarre religious tug of war.
Gideon Lentswe, 69, and other family members were denied access to his aged mum’s funeral last week when the staunch member of the Wesleyan Church was buried as a Muslim.
Distraught Gideon Lentswe, 69, from Tonota was left holding his mother’s used coffin after family members belonging to the Islamic faith removed her body for a Muslim burial.
While 89-year-old Elizabeth Lentswe was known to be a staunch member of the Wesleyan church, relatives and fellow church members were shocked a day after she died when the Muslim community came home to collect her dead body for burial, leaving them with an empty coffin.
Gideon, who had insured his mother with Tshiamo Funeral Parlour, said he was horrified to learn that his mum was buried without a coffin a day after she passed away on Wednesday last week.
“I was out of town attending a funeral in Letlhakane when she passed away. Upon hearing about her death, I asked my brother to transfer the body to the funeral parlour where I had been paying for the burial services.”
It was only when he returned that Gideon learnt that his mother had been removed from her coffin and had already been buried in an Islamic ceremony. He is now questioning how her body was released without his consent and is demanding a refund of the money he had been paying Tshiamo towards the funeral since 2002.
He said he had been paying P65 for 10 years at the funeral parlour and no one ever told him anything about his mum being a Muslim.
“As the elder son and sole bread winner I suggested that my mum should be buried the following week on Saturday since I was still attending another funeral. Now not only have I been denied the chance to bury her, but have been left with an empty coffin at home and have been refused a refund,” Gideon added.
Also sharing his brother’s sentiments, Ookeditse Lentswe said he tried to explain that his mum was to be buried according to her religious beliefs, but his elder sister Bertha Saidoo, who is a Muslim, insisted that no one could stop her from doing what she wanted with Elizabeth’s dead body. Ookeditse said because of the rush to bury the body the day after her death, only a few family members got the chance to attend the funeral at the Muslim cemetery in Francistown.
“Then when I asked about the coffin upon our return from the cemetery, my sister insisted that it should be donated to charity since Tshiamo Funeral Parlour had indicated that they would not be taking it back,” he added.
Contacted for a comment, the chairman of the Muslim community in Francistown, Iqbal Ibrahim said the woman was buried in the understanding that she was a Muslim. He went on to say that it was advisable for people to discuss their religion affiliations with their next of kin to avoid conflicts after death.
Meanwhile Saidoo, who was Elizabeth’s adopted daughter and is married to a Muslim man of Indian decent, flatly refused to comment on the issue pointing out that she did not see the importance of discussing her mother’s burial through the media.
A spokesperson for Tshiamo Funeral Parlour has since indicated that they would be prepared to discuss the issue of compensation with their client and might ‘meet him halfway’ over the question of a refund.
According to Islamic belief the burial procedure for a Muslim is based on simplicity. The body is washed and thereafter wrapped in a plain cotton shroud ready for burial. No Muslim has any precedence over another by virtue or wealth, power or rank.
This is seen as a practical reminder that we come into this world with nothing and we leave with the barest of minimums. It is also a message that in the eyes of Allah we are equal, even in death no one is superior to another by virtue of the family’s ability to buy an expensive coffin.
Burial and wrapping with a shroud was the usual practice with most faiths and cultures in Botswana before the advent of the mortuary and the business of undertakers.