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Death - Burial

An official Bahá’í funeral service should only be given for a believer, but there is no objection to the reading of Bahá’í prayers, or indeed to a Bahá’í conducting the funeral service of a non-Bahá’í, if this has been requested.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 10)


As many people make arrangements to leave their bodies to medical science for investigation, he suggests that you inquire, either through some lawyer friend or through some hospital, how you could do this, and then make the necessary provision in your Will, stipulating that you wish your body to be of service to mankind in death, and that, being a Bahá’í, you request that your remains not be cremated and not be taken more than an hour’s journey from the place you die. The spirit has no more connection with the body after it departs, but, as the body was once the temple of the spirit, we Bahá’ís are taught that it must be treated with respect.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 11)


At the present time there are no definite regulations for preparing Bahá’í cemeteries. However, in a Tablet of the Master’s, He emphasizes the need for the cemetery to have a beautiful outward appearance and states that the graves should not be joined together but that each one should have a flower bed around its four sides. He also indicates that it would be pleasing if a pool were located in the center of the cemetery and beautiful trees were planted around it as well as around the cemetery itself.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 12)


Briefly the law for the burial of the dead states that it is forbidden to carry the body for more than one hour’s journey from the place of death; that the body should be wrapped in a shroud of silk or cotton, and on its finger should be placed a ring bearing 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"; and that the coffin should be of crystal, stone or hard fine wood. A specific Prayer for the Dead is ordained, to be said before interment. It has been explained by Abdul Bahá and the Guardian that this law prohibits cremation of the dead. The formal prayer and the ring are meant to be used for those who have attained the age of maturity.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 62-63)


Holy places are undoubtedly centres of the outpouring of Divine grace, because on entering the illumined sites associated with martyrs and holy souls, and by observing reverence, both physical and spiritual, one’s heart is moved with great tenderness. ...it is pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God if a person desires to draw nigh unto Him by visiting them.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, A Synopsis and Codification of The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 61)


151. the deceased should be enfolded in five sheets of silk or cotton # 130
In the Bayan, the Báb specified that the body of the deceased should be wrapped in five sheets of silk or cotton. Bahá’u’lláh confirmed this provision and added the stipulation that for “those whose means are limited a single sheet of either fabric will suffice”. When asked whether the “five sheets” mentioned in the law referred to “five full-length shrouds” or “five cloths which were hitherto customarily used", Bahá’u’lláh responded that the intention is the “use of five cloths” (Q and A 56).
Concerning the way in which the body should be wrapped, there is nothing in the Bahá’í Writings to define how the wrapping of the body is to be done, either when “five cloths” are used or only “a single sheet”. At present, the Bahá’ís are free to use their judgement in the matter.
(Notes, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 229-230)


It is forbidden you to carry the body more than an hour’s distance from the town; bury it with tranquillity and cheer in a nearby place.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 8)


QUESTION: Concerning the shrouding of the body of the deceased which is decreed to comprise five sheets: does the five refer to five cloths which were hitherto customarily used or to five full-length shrouds wrapped one around the other?
ANSWER: The use of five cloths is intended.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 123)


Question: Regarding the carrying of the dead where it is bidden that they should be buried within one hour’s distance, does this law apply to transportation both by land and sea, or is it otherwise? Answer: The law applieth to transportation by land as well as by sea, whether it be an hour’s distance by boat or train. The purpose is the time-limit of one hour, no matter what means of conveyance is employed. However, the sooner the burial taketh place, the more fitting and preferable.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 8)


Regarding the Bahá’í funeral service: it is extremely simple, as it consists only of a congregational prayer to be read before burial … The utmost simplicity and flexibility should be observed, and a selection from the Bahá’í Sacred Writings would serve the purpose at the present time, provided this selection is not rigidly and uniformly adopted on all such occasions.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 9)


The Lord hath decreed, moreover, that the deceased should be enfolded in five sheets of silk or cotton. For those whose means are limited a single sheet of either fabric will suffice.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 65)


The Prayer for the Dead should be recited at the funeral if the deceased is 15 years old or more. If there is no one at the funeral able to read, it is sufficient to say only that part of the Prayer which requires the repetition nineteen times of each of six short verses.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 13)


The Universal House of Justice advises that the place of death may be taken to be the city or town in which the believer passes away, and therefore the hour’s journey may be calculated from the city limits to the place of burial. However, it should be borne in mind that the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh’s law is to be buried near where one dies.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 12)


The body must be placed in the grave in such a position that the feet point towards ‘Akká (the Qiblih).
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 13)


There is nothing in the Teachings against leaving our bodies to medical science. The only thing we should stipulate is that we do not wish to be cremated, as it is against our Bahá’í Laws.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 11)


Under the Bahá’í teachings it seems clear that the body is not to be embalmed. The burial should take place within an hour’s travel time from the place of death. The preparation for the body for burial is a careful washing, and placing in a shroud of white cloth, silk preferably. There is nothing in the teachings with regard to turning the body over to Scientific Institutions for scientific research, and therefore the individual may do as he wishes, until such a time as the Universal House of Justice may legislate on this matter, if they ever do. The practice in the Orient is to bury the person within 24 hours of the time of death, sometimes even sooner, although there is no provision in the teachings as to the time limit.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 11)


With reference to the use of hard wood or crystal coffins for the burial of the dead, you will be interested to know that the Báb revealed the passage which appears on page 95 of Selections from the Writings of the Báb, in connection with an injunction to bury a body in a marble coffin. Of particular significance is the sentence “Since this physical body is the throne whereon the inner temple is established, God hath ordained that the body be preserved to the extent possible, so that nothing that causeth repugnance may be experienced.” The law of burial was confirmed by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. The clarifications given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi are based on that law and are equally binding. Bahá’u’lláh’s laws are for the whole world and for the duration of His Dispensation. Certain exigencies in specific parts of the world at this time, such as the high cost of coffins or limitation of burial space in some countries, cannot become the determining factors as to what is best for humankind all over the world and for centuries to come. The specific burial problems you have mentioned require specific solutions which should be arrived at through consultation with Bahá’í institutions on a case-by-case basis.
(Universal House of Justice, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities)