Baha’i Funeral Customs and Rituals

Baha'i Funeral Customs

The Bahá’í House of Worship in Willmette, Illinois during overcast in spring. This is the oldest surviving Bahá’í House of Worship in the world.

Overall, Baha’i funeral customs are relaxed and designed to accommodate the personal preferences of the family. In general, they can be characterized by simplicity and flexibility.

The customs are largely based on the faith’s teachings regarding consciousness and the soul and take into account the fact that people of the Baha’i faith come from a wide range of cultures and ethnicity.

Originating in the 19th century, the Baha’i faith stems from Islam in Iran. Its founder, Mirza Ali Muhammad was a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad. After his death, the grandson of one of his disciples vowed to expand the Baha’i community.

At the core of the Baha’i belief is the unity of all religions and humanity. The Baha’i regard Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna, Buddha and Jewish prophets and other prophets as manifestations of God’s divine presence. They believe that other prophets will come, but there is no ultimate “savior” or final prophet.

In terms of death, the Baha’i faith teaches that there is a separate consciousness or soul for every human. Upon death, the soul is relieved of physical bonds and enters the spiritual world, a timeless extension of the universe. Spiritual development determines whether one is closer or farther from God.

Baha’i funeral customs and practices do not permit embalming unless it is required by law. Cremation is also not permitted. The Baha’i faith does not prohibit donation of the body to medical science.

The body is prepared by washing and wrapping in a white shroud. A ring with the inscription “I came forth from God, and return unto Him, detached from all save Him, holding fast to His Name, the Merciful, the Compassionate” should be worn. The body is then placed in a coffin for interment. Traditional practices require that the body be buried within one hour’s travel time from the place of death. It is felt that this discourages people from becoming attached to any particular geographic site. There is some flexibility in calculating where the limit is, but the important thing to keep in mind is that the spirit of the faith’s teachings is that you should be buried near the place of death.

Baha’i funeral services are normally held within two or three days after the death. Guests may dress according to personal preference and local custom. The family arranges for the officiate to read the prayers. One key requirement for a Baha’i funeral is reading of the Prayer for the Dead.

Baha’i funeral customs do not discourage non-believers from attending or being present when the Prayer for the Dead is read. If you are non-Baha’i attending a Baha’i funeral, please keep in mind that this is a sacred tradition and be appropriately respectful during the reading.

Baha’i Funeral Customs Quick Reference Guide
Length of Service: Depends.
Flowers? Yes.
Food? Yes.
Dress Code? (Men/Women) According to local customs.
Recording Devices? Possibly.
Source of Readings? Baha’i Prayers-Prayer of the Dead required.
Open Casket? Rarely.
Return to Work? (Days) Depends.
No. of Days to Mourn? Depends.
Embalming? Not permitted.
Cremation? Not permitted.

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