The Guaranteed Path to Heaven for Muslims and its Relation to Najaf, Iraq and Celebrity Undertaker Ali al-Amiya


Shia Muslims believe that to be buried in Najaf, Iraq, guarantees a path to heaven, with many industries related to death found within the city including the manufacturing and provision of burial plots, caskets, grave stones, and grave digging, ironically with those involved, making a living from death. The largest cemetery in the world is Wadi al-Salam which means the “Valley of Peace” in Arabic, with over 5,000,000 (5 million) gravesites. Ali al-Amiya, the most famous person within this Iraqi industry, works at this cemetery as an undertaker. Traditionally, caskets are white, but al-Amiya started the trend of using black caskets. al-Amiya is famous because of his distinctive tombstone designs, innovative funeral services, and because of the way he digs graves. al-Amiya has over 800,000 followers upon Facebook and has a catchphrase that is known by all Iraqis which is, “who is going to bury you like the Prophet Mohammad? Ali al-Amiya!”. al-Amiya offers heavily discounted or free burials for martyrs and the extremely impoverished. al-Amiya is vehemently disliked by most other undertakers within the industry and has nearly been a victim of multiple sting operations in which prostitutes were sent to solicit him as well as physical threats upon his life and his family’s. Modern, progressive thinking undertakers like al-Amiya face resentment in Iraq but the rise of social media has helped combat this animosity. In 2017, a survey found that 85% of Iraqis use social media, specifically Facebook which has demonstrated instrumental in altering public perceptions of Islamic burial traditions