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Bahá'í Funerals

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Funeral Traditions in the Bahá'í Faith

The Baha’i faith is an independent world religion. The fundamental principles enunciated by Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i faith, are the oneness of God, the oneness of religion, and the oneness of humankind. Baha’u’llah taught that divine revelation is a continuous and progressive process and that the missions of the messengers of God represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society.

Baha’i funeral services are simple and dignified. There is no clergy in the Baha’i Faith, therefore, the conduct of the service and arrangements for interment may be left to the relatives of the deceased in consultation with the local Baha’i community. Each service is unique.

The Location & Timing of Burial

In Bahá'í Law, the deceased is to be buried no more than one hour's journey from the place of death. The length of time between death and the burial is unspecified in the Bahá'í writings, though Bahá'u'lláh's says that "the sooner the burial taketh place, the more fitting and preferable."

If no Bahá'í cemetery is available, the deceased may be buried in any cemetery. The position of the body in the grave should be with its feet pointing toward the Qiblih, or toward Akka and Bahá'u'lláh's Own Resting-Place. It is common in most cemeteries for this provision to be observed, as it is an element of Christian belief regarding the Day of Judgement.

The emblem used on Bahá'í gravestones to indicate that the deceased was a believer is a nine-pointed star with the word "Bahá'í" enclosed. The Greatest Name should not be used, either in its calligraphic form nor in the ringstone symbol, upon a grave.

Preparations for Burial

Bahá'ís are not to be embalmed or cremated; the body be treated with great respect and it is to be allowed to decompose naturally, with no means used to hasten its decomposition. After death, the body is to be washed carefully and wrapped in a shroud. The funeral home can provide an appropriate location for someone to perform this service.

In the Holy Family, the responsibility of washing the body was given to an intimate of the deceased and was considered a great honour, and some Bahá'í families retain this custom. Therefore, some Bahá'í communities do not require a funeral home's services, having arranged to provide these services themselves. Though it is not specified in the Bahá'í law, it has been the custom among the Bahá'ís of Iran to perfume the body as well, with attar of rose or another perfume. Subsequently, the body should be wrapped in white cloth, preferably silk, though cotton is also mentioned.

The deceased, if he or she is fifteen years of age, should also be buried wearing a Bahá'í burial ring, customarily placed upon the forefinger. This ring, which is very simple in nature, bears the inscription in Arabic, "I came forth from God, and return unto Him, detached from all save Him, holding fast to His Name, the Merciful, the Compassionate." Spiritual Assemblies may choose to keep a supply of burial rings.

The coffin used to bury the deceased should be made, in the words of the Aqdas, "of crystal, stone, or hard fine wood." Therefore, coffins made of metal or soft wood should not be used.

These latter four observances: of the burial ring, the shroud, the nature of the coffin, and the direction in which the deceased faces; these observances are Bahá'í law binding upon believers from Iran and other Middle Eastern countries but not obligatory at present for Bahá'ís from the West. However, some Western believers may wish to observe Bahá'í funeral practices associated with the East, inasmuch as they were observed by the family of Bahá'u'lláh Himself.

The Funeral Service

According to Bahá'í law, there is just one ceremonial requirement at a Bahá'í funeral, and that is the recitation of the Prayer for the Dead (No. CLXVII in Prayers and Meditations of Bahá'u'lláh) for any believer over the age of maturity (age 15). This prayer should be recited by one believer only, at the graveside, with all those present standing. Other prayers may be chosen as well, and the service should be very simple and dignified.

Bahá'ís may also hold future memorial gatherings for the deceased should they wish to do so. The Bahá'í service is a dignified yet joyful event, honoring the promotion of a soul to its next realm of existence, and as such can educate others and bring comfort to their hearts.

Useful Links & Resources

Bahá'í Temples & Cultural Centres in the Manchester area

360 Wilmslow Road
M14 6AB

Telephone: 0161-224 6490