Islamic Authority Says Muslim Mourners Can’t Wear Black or Prostrate Themselves

Muslim women at the Sanam Luang on Wednesday in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — The national authority on Islam announced Wednesday that Muslim mourners paying their respects to His Majesty the Late King cannot prostrate themselves or even wear black while doing so.

Three weeks into mourning for King Bhumibol, the Sheikhul Islam Office issued protocols to address the questions that arise from balancing its stringent monotheism with regard for a figure held up by many as a demi-god – though its guidelines were met with mixed reactions from the faithful.

Wisut Binlateh, director of the state agency’s southern region, said prostrating oneself on the ground was not okay.

“Prostrating is to be done to God only, no other,” he said, adding that such an act could lead to someone to be excommunicated.

Instead, Muslims approaching the royal coffin should stand still but may bow their heads. Their torsos, however, should not be parallel to the floor, according to the announcement first published Friday, Wisut said.

It also stated that wearing black in mourning went against Islam.

“One’s sadness should be kept inside, not emphasized through exterior displays,” Wisut said.

Instead, Muslim mourners at the palace should dress conservatively. Muslim, male officials can wear their regular white uniforms, while female bureaucrats should dress modestly as they would for state ceremonies – just not in all black.

Regular Muslims should dress modestly and politely in muted tones.

“Our cultures are different, we can’t force them to be the same,” Wisut said.

Some online suggested the regulations were unnecessary and lacked a credible basis.

“It’s just black clothes, what more do you want? Give us exact evidence from the Quran,” Facebook user Rarai Thedngamtuan wrote in reply. “Don’t just interpret stuff to take your own side. Those of us who have to work with people from other religions will be looked at badly.”

On the other hand, Yaikalon Sunaree found comfort in the announcement.

“I’m a government worker, and I get asked every day why I’m not wearing black. I was too frustrated to explain. With the announcement of these regulations, I feel a burden has been lifted.”

Abdul Mahamad said he’d rather take the heat from mortals than from the almighty.

“If we do things that go against humanity’s eyes, we are just clowns or weirdos,” he wrote. “But if we do things that go against the commands of Allah, it is sin, and we will be punished. So, which will you choose?”