The “Martyr’s Sea”: Some Questions

From the Daily Mail, a few days ago:

Radical Muslims are already calling the site of Osama bin Laden’s ocean burial the ‘Martyr’s Sea’, according to one of Britain’s leading Islamic scholars.

…Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Chaplain at Cambridge University, claimed yesterday that the move could backfire on the Americans.

…Speaking on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, he said it was ‘disappointing’ that bin Laden wasn’t taken into custody.

‘By tipping him into the sea, the Americans may have created a kind of shrine. Some radicals are already calling the Arabian Sea the Martyr’s Sea,’ he said.

…’Given Muslim ideas of holiness diffusing over large areas it is possible that a pilgrimage will develop as radicals stand on beaches contemplating the virtues of their dead hero,’ he added.

Murad’s claim featured in Thought for the Day, a religion slot which appears during the Today programme but which is not part of it. It has now been reported widely, including in foreign-language media.

Unfortunately, however, nobody appears to have thought it might be important to ask Murad about the provenance of his information – from a profile here, he’s an expert on “the religious life of the early Ottoman Empire” and has an interest in “scholarly Arabic editions of the major Hadith collections”. How come he’s spotted this “Martyr’s Sea” concept, rather than someone working on contemporary Salafism or a related field? Is it something he was told by someone living in the Middle East? Did he read it in an Arabic media source, perhaps? I would like to know who exactly these “radicals” are and where exactly they have called the Arabian Sea “the Martyr’s Sea”.

Also, what is meant by “Muslim ideas of holiness diffusing over large areas”? It’s true that some forms of Islam – like some forms of Judaism and Christianity – venerate the tombs of saints, but in what sense does that holiness “diffuse over large areas”? Is there a comparable example anyone can point to? And how would such ideas apply to Sunni extremists, who abhor shrines anyway?