Monday, February 27, 2012

Umm Kulthum

Umm Kulthum died of heart failure on February 3, 1975. Her funeral was to be held at the at Umar Makram mosque in central Cairo, the site of most funerals for well-known Muslims in the city. From there, the body was to be carried by pall-bearers for a short distance to a vehicle that would take it to its final resting place. When the responsible parties realized the number of mourners who planned to come from outside Egypt, they postponed the funeral for two days, contrary to Muslim preferences but not unusual for famous people.

The crowds of ordinary Egyptians far exceeded the number anticipated, literally filling the streets of Cairo, and the funeral did not proceed as planned. The millions of Egyptian mourners took the body from the shoulders of its official bearers and bore it themselves by turns, carrying it for three hours through the streets of Cairo, eventually to the mosque of al-Sayyid Husayn, believed to be one of Umm Kulthum's favorites. There the shaykh of the mosque repeated the funerary prayers over the body and urged its bearers to take it directly to its burial place, saying that Umm Kulthum was a religious woman who would have wanted to be buried quickly in accordance with Muslim practices, and this was finally done.

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