The Bahá’í Faith
The Bahá’í Faith began in Persia in the mid-19C. It is now the second most widespread religion after Christianity, with Bahá’ís in over 200 countries. The Founder, Bahá’u’lláh (meaning ‘The Glory of God’) is regarded by Bahá’ís as the Messenger of God for this Age. He taught that there is only one God, one religion and that humanity is one. Bahá’ís believe that God progressively reveals Himself to humanity through various Messengers. All the major religions are regarded as coming from the same source, in their essence espousing the same human virtues, but with social teachings tailored to the age in which they appear.
The Bahá’í Faith has no clergy and its affairs are in the hands of elected administrative bodies known as ‘Spiritual Assemblies’. Smaller communities without established Assemblies are known as Bahá’í Groups.
Preparing the Body
Bahá’ís believe in life after death and that the soul continues to progress after the body dies. The body should be treated with the greatest respect as it was the temple of the soul during this life.
The body is washed in water (sometimes with the addition of rose-water) and wrapped in a shroud of five sheets, or lengths, of white silk or cotton. Traditionally, close family undertake this task.
A burial ring may be placed on the forefinger of Bahá’ís aged fifteen or over. This states (in Arabic) ‘I came forth from God, and returned unto Him, detached from all save Him, holding fast to His Name, the Merciful, the Compassionate’.
If possible, the coffin should be made of hard, fine wood or other durable substance.
Bahá’í Law states that the body should be interred as close as reasonably possible to the place where it surrendered its soul, and at most within one hour’s travelling time from that place, regardless of the means of transport.
Burial should take place as soon as possible. If there is a Bahá’í cemetary within range, this would be preferable, but otherwise any cemetery is acceptable. Although not obligatory for Western believers, the body may be buried with its feet pointing towards the Akka (the Qiblih), Bahá’u’lláh’s Own Resting-Place.
The Funeral Service
The one ceremonial requirement under Bahá’í Law for believers over the age of fifteen is the recitation of the Prayer for the Dead (No. CLXVII in Prayers and Meditations of Bahá’u’lláh). This should be recited at the graveside by one believer whilst everyone else present stands. The funeral should be simple and dignified, but beyond this it is up to the family to arrange it and choose other elements, such who conducts it (there is no clergy in the Bahá’í faith) and whether to have additional prayers. Non-Bahá’í family can be consulted and encouraged to participate. Readings and prayers from other scriptures may be included if they so wish. Each funeral is unique and is seen as an opportunity to reflect the deceased’s commitment to God and to comfort and educate those left behind.
After The Funeral
To honour the deceased, and in accordance with Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings that ‘gifts and good deeds done in memory of those how have passed on, are most helpful to the development of their souls in the realms beyond…’, good deeds can be done in their name.
Future memorial gatherings may be held if family and friends wish to do so.
The emblem of a nine-pointed star with the word “Bahá’í” within it may be engraved on the gravestone but neither the ringstone emblem nor the ‘Greatest Name’ should appear.
What do Wear
Bahá’ís may wear anything from casual attire to formal wear to a funeral. Others should dress respectfully according to their culture.
Bahá’ís believe that after death the soul no longer has a connection to the body, so organ donation is permitted.
Cremation is not permitted. This applies to stillbirths and neonates too.
Embalming, unless required by law, should be avoided, to allow the natural process of decomposition.
For further information or to find a local Assembly or Group, please contact the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahái’ís of United Kingdom: