Hundreds of Mombasa residents turned up to mourn Ethiopian Airlines pilot, Yared Tessema Getachew, who perished in a tragic crash involving one of the airline’s plane last Sunday. 157 lives were lost in the accident that happened 60 kilometers from Addis Ababa.
A special prayer session for Mr Getachew was held according to Islamic practice at Baluchi mosque in Mombasa on Tuesday evening.
Unlike other prayers for the deceased which happen when they are brought to a mosque, Mr Gatachew’s intercession was done in his absentia. The special Islamic prayer is known as Salat al-Ghaib.
The prayers are held when “the body of the deceased cannot be retrieved as at the time of intercession”.
In Mr Gatechew’s case, the pilot’s body hadn’t been flown back to Kenya, when the prayers were being held.
Mr Getachew was born to a Kenyan mother and Ethiopian father.
It remains unclear when his body will be brought to Kenya. The Kenyan government, via Transport minister James Macharia, pledged on Monday to fly a few representatives of each family to Ethiopia to assist in body identification.
Salat al-Ghaib, also known as absentee funeral prayer, is a kind of funeral prayer performed upon a dead Muslim if they die in a place where there are no Muslims to pray for the dead, or when the body has not yet been found.
If someone dies and a funeral prayer is said on his or her behalf, no other prayer is necessary, the practice dictates.
The Hadith, or traditions of Prophet Muhammad, approve of offering funeral prayers for an absent person.
The time for offering a funeral prayer for an absent person should be within one month after his death. However, different Islamic religious leaders hold different opinions to the one-month window. Some advocate for the special prayers to be held almost immediately.
Those rooting for the prayers to be held after one month argue that the rule was deduced from the Mursal Hadith, which states Prophet Muhammad performed a funeral prayer on the grave of a woman one month after her death.
The other special prayer that borders Salat al-Ghaib is the Salat al-Janazah, which is held when a Muslim’s body is present.
The prayer is performed in congregation to seek pardon for the deceased and all dead Muslims. The Salat al-Janazah is a collective obligation upon Muslims. That means that if some Muslims take the responsibility of doing it, the obligation is fulfilled, but if no-one fulfils it, then all Muslims will be accountable.
Yared Tessema Getachew, 29, was the pilot in command, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 of the make Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed six minutes after taking off from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, killing 149 passengers and eight crew members aboard.
The cause of the accident is yet to be established as investigations continue.
(Additional reporting by Asha Bekidusa in Mombasa County)