The establishment of the first Islamic funeral home in the Northern Territory is a giant step closer to fruition, thanks to a generous donation from the Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA) in the form of the funeral car and other items for the Northern Territory Islamic Council (NTIC) received by Mr Kazi Ali OAM on behalf of NTIC on Monday 19 June at the LMA’s headquarters at Lakemba in Sydney.

Also present at the handover event were (from the LMA) Hafez Alameddine, Ahmad Hraichie and the Association’s Operations Manager Khaled Alameddine and Chief Program Officer Bronwyn Hadife, Quakers Hill Mosque Chairman Tariqur Bhuiyan and Treasurer Ash Haq, as well as Jasim Ahmed, the Secretary of the Muslim Cemeteries Board.

Mr Ali, in accepting the donations, expressed his gratitude to the Sydney Muslim community for their participation in the cause.

He also commended Ahmad Hraichie for his unwavering support and assistance throughout the process and acknowledged a brother named Mahabullah for preparing the vehicle for shipment.

“The Quakers Hill Mosque also contributed to the transportation of the equipment and hearse, emphasising the collective effort involved,” Mr Ali pointed out.

Hafez Alameddine, the president of the LMA, reaffirmed his organisation’s commitment to supporting their fellow Muslims in the Northern Territory, stating: “All Muslims deserve to be buried in accordance with Islamic rites and when the ICNT contacted us, the LMA board unanimously decided to assist.”

“We wish the ICNT every success in completing this project and we’ve assured them that we’re only a phone call away if there is anything else we can do to help.”

Ahmad Hraichie commented: “The ICNT now have all the equipment they need to conduct their own Islamic funerals.”

“Aside from the hearse, a long list of other items were donated by the LMA Islamic Funeral Services including an adult coffin, hospital transport trolley, morgue trolley, transport stretcher, three x 100 metre kaffan rolls, kaffan roll hooks and much more.”

NTIC, which represents the interests of its three affiliated masjids in Darwin, Alice Springs, and Palmerston, is responsible for providing all religious services to the Muslim community in the Northern Territory, including burials.

To address the growing need for burial sites, the NTIC recently acquired 600 grave sites at the Thorak regional cemetery, near Darwin.

This acquisition was crucial because the existing Muslim section in a local cemetery in Darwin was quickly running out of space.

However, the NTIC still faces challenges in providing comprehensive funeral services, such as ghusl facilities (for washing bodies).

Chowdhury Sadaruddin, the current chairman of the ICNT and the driving force behind the establishment of the proposed Islamic funeral facility, explained the need for such services.

He told AMUST: “The Northern Territory lacks a basic (Islamic) funeral service infrastructure. While the Lichfield City Council has provided us with sufficient burial plots, we have no ghusl facilities….there is realistically no dedicated Islamic funeral service in the Northern Territory.”

“Currently, we have no alternative but to use a local (non-Muslim) funeral service but they charge exorbitant fees and lack facilities that align with Islamic religious rituals.”

“The ICNT has been planning to set up its funeral facility for some time and has a room in its community hall in Darwin Masjid which is suitable but the major challenge has been the significant funds required to start the project.”

“Unlike major cities, we are a small community in the NT and our revenue sources are minimal.”

(The 2021 Australian Census reported that of the Northern Territory’s population of 233,000 residents, 1.4 percent – or 3,276 people – identified as being followers of the Islamic faith.)

In their efforts to establish the funeral facility, the NTIC sought support from Kazi Ali, a prominent figure in the community known for his extensive knowledge of Muslim burials in compliance with Australian government regulations.

The Chairman of the Muslim Cemeteries Board, Mr Ali, who was awarded the Order of Australia Medal last year for his services to the Muslim community, facilitated communication between Chowdhury Sadaruddin and the LMA – specifically, President Hafez Alameddine and the organisation’s longstanding funeral director Ahmad Hraichie.

The LMA has a long and esteemed history of providing funeral services for the Muslim community.

During the 1980’s, they established the country’s first Islamic funeral parlour, pioneered out-of-coffin burials and advocated for Muslim-designated areas in cemeteries.

Their ongoing collaboration with Rookwood General Cemetery in Sydney has significantly improved outcomes for the Muslim faith.

Recognising the NTIC’s need, the LMA readily offered their support.

Chowdhury Sadaruddin expressed his gratitude, commenting: “The NTIC are delighted and indebted to the LMA who have generously gifted us a hearse and a host of other funeral-related equipment and accessories.”

“We extend our heartfelt thanks to the LMA board, led by Hafez Alameddine – while Br Ahmad Hraichie’s help has been amazing.”

“What the LMA have donated to us will go a long way towards ensuring that we will be able to perform the last rites and rituals for the Muslim community in the Northern Territory in accordance with Islamic tradition.”