Muslim family's dismay with Falkirk Council after four-day funeral delay

A distraught Muslim family feel Falkirk Council let them down and failed to honour their religious beliefs by not burying their loved one a day after his death.

By James Trimble
Thursday, 30th December 2021, 8:37 am

Ghulam Farid died earlier this month after battling chronic kidney disease, the condition which led him to retire from his long standing role as shopkeeper at Grangemouth’s Bowhouse Newsagents last year.

He then contracted Covid-19 earlier this year.

The Farid family contacted The Falkirk Herald this week to express their disappointment over the handling of Mr Farid’s funeral arrangements.

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The Farid family, Ghulam Farid and Shagufta Shamim and son  Zain Farid, left the Bowhouse Newsagents in 2020

They said: “Ghulam sadly passed away on Thursday, December 9 after a five-week battle with coronavirus. His burial took place at Hills of Dunipace Cemetery on December 13.

"We appreciate a burial which takes place four days after a death may be considered acceptable and swift in certain cultures, but such a delay is against our beliefs in Islam.

“By virtue of our beliefs, the burial must take place before the next sunrise. However, it is appreciated this is not always possible. Therefore, guidance has been issued by scholars that a burial should take place as soon as reasonably practicable, which is usually within a 48-hour period.

“When arranging the burial with Falkirk Council, we were surprised and saddened to have encountered issues. The council do not instruct groundsmen to start preparing the grave until all the paperwork is complete and a Registration of Death - Form 14 is received.

Ghulam Farid BEM, pictured with wife Shagufta Shamim, sadly died earlier this month

"We contacted the Falkirk Registry office at exactly 9am on Friday to request the Death Certificate and the Form 14. They confirmed they had received all the appropriate detail from the hospital overnight and the details were sitting in their inbox to be processed, and said someone would call us back.”

However, Mr Farid’s medical certificate was subsequently selected for a random check by the Death Certification Review Service (DCRS) – national legislation introduced in 2015 designed to check the quality and accuracy of death certificates.

The family said: "When the council called back they advised us that Ghulam’s death registration had randomly been selected for a Level 1 review by the DCRS. We asked for this to be expedited due to a religious burial but was told it can take up to two hours.

"We called back on three occasions to chase this and the Form 14 was eventually sent to the funeral directors for the cemetery at 1.33pm. As we were informed it had to be with the cemetery for 2pm we thought this had met the cut-off.

"However, we were then informed the groundsmen finish at 2pm on a Friday, and do not work weekends, therefore all the paperwork needs to be with the council by no later than noon in order to prepare the grave.

"Falkirk Council must surely appreciate this policy does not support members of its Muslim community.”

The Farids are now asking Falkirk Council to rethink its policy.

They said: “The policy should be revised at the earliest opportunity to avoid causing further distress to another grieving family at an already difficult time. It needs to take into account all religious beliefs and move away from its draconian effect.

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"I hope we can work together with Falkirk Council on this and create a unity for future families that have to go through such difficult times with their loved ones.”

A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “We are naturally concerned to hear of the family’s distress, and we will take their views very seriously when investigating this further. Our employees are sensitive to all faiths and the cultural aspects of different burials and cremations.

“We will be in contact with the family shortly to arrange a meeting to discuss their concerns. We stress this is a very rare occurrence for which we offer our apologies for the upset caused.”

Mr Farid, who leaves his wife, two sons, two daughters and two grandchildren, helped serve the Grangemouth community through good times and bad for two decades and helped a number of charities and organisations over the years.

Along with wife Shagufta Shamim, Mr Farid ran the Bowhouse Square shop for over 20 years and – with help from sons Zain and Mohammed – earned themselves British Empire Medals in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for their selfless work and commitment to their customers during the height of the pandemic.

He and his family assisted local churches by transporting large items for events like car boot sales and the Bowhouse Newagents has sponsored local primary schools.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic they helped local NHS Staff and care homes by supplying PPE equipment and essential food items. Care packages were also delivered within the community to help the elderly and vulnerable during the most difficult days.

At the time son Zain paid tribute to his dad – and his mum – saying: “My parents have been relied upon at times of need by many locals and vice versa – the have never hesitated when it has come to helping the community.”

Although he never let it slow him down until the middle of 2020, Mr Farid had chronic kidney disease and was on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. He had to receive dialysis three times a week.

Last year Zain said: “My dad has always been a giver, many a times he puts others needs before his own. No matter how big or small. He has worked hard from a young age, coming from a hardworking family within the agriculture sector.

“He wants to help everyone he can and try and not let others suffer.”

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