637. Forbidden to Carry Body More than an Hour's Distance
"… It is forbidden you to transport the body of the deceased a greater distance than one hour's journey from the city; rather should it be interred, with radiance and serenity, in a nearby place."
- (Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, K. 130, p. 66)
"QUESTION: Is the ordinance that the body of the deceased should be carried no greater distance than one hour's journey applicable to transport by both land and sea?
"ANSWER: This command applieth to distances by sea as well as by land, whether it is an hour by steamship or by rail; the intention is the hour's time, whatever the means of transport. The sooner the burial taketh place, however, the more fitting and acceptable will it be."
- (Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Questions and Answers, Q. 16, pp. 111-112)
638. Burial Law Binding on Believers in the West
"As to the law of burial, the Universal House of Justice suggests that you confine your statement to the following parts of this law which are now binding on the believers in the West:
- (1) That the body must be buried, not cremated.
- (2) That the Prayer for the Dead is to be recited for a believer of the age of 15 years or over. This, as you know, is the prayer which appears as number CLXVII in Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh.
- (3) That the body not be transported more than an hour's journey from the place of death. The method of transport is not specified, but the journey must not take longer than one hour."
- (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador, December 3, 1975)
639. Preparation for Burial—Embalming Not Permitted
"Regarding the questions which you ask, concerning Bahá’í burials…, etc. At the present time, the Guardian is not stressing these matters, as their establishment might divert attention to the supreme tasks we have before us. However, the answers are as follows: 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."
- (From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, April 2, 1955)
640. Bahá’í Burial Law—Coffin Should be of Crystal, Stone or Wood
"In brief, the Bahá’í 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 (see note 10) is ordained, to be said before interment. As affirmed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian, this law precludes cremation of the dead. The formal prayer and the ring are meant to be used for those who have attained the age of maturity, i.e., 15 years of age…."
- (Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Notes, N. 149, p. 229)
641. Foetus to be Treated With Respect, no Matter How Young
"From a Bahá’í point of view, the soul is present from conception and therefore the foetus, no matter how young, should not be treated with disrespect and carelessly discarded into an incinerator, if this can be prevented. The House of Justice knows of nothing in the Writings specifically referring to the burial of embryos, and, in previous instances, has left such details to the discretion of the parents. In one case it was reported to the World Centre that the parents had buried the foetus in a corner of their own garden and had said a few prayers for the progress of their child's soul."
- (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 6, 1987)
642. Cremation is Contrary to Bahá’í Law—Bahá’í Relatives and the Spiritual Assembly are Responsible
"As was explained to your Assembly in a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice on 10 January 1978, if a Bahá’í makes a provision in his will that is contrary to Bahá’í law, that provision is null and void in Bahá’í law, and neither the Bahá’í relatives nor the Spiritual Assembly are permitted to fulfil it. Thus, if a Bahá’í states in his will that his remains are to be cremated he should, nevertheless, be buried in accordance with Bahá’í law unless there is some element of the civil law would prevent such an occurrence—in which case the civil law would have to be followed, but the Assembly, as indicated above, could take no part in it…."
- (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Germany, December 9, 1984)
643. In Case of Death at Sea, Maritime Law is Applicable—Burial on Land is Preferable
"The laws of burial as revealed by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas do not refer to the occurrence of death at sea. Until such time as the Universal House of Justice legislates on these matters, the friends when faced with such incidents should be guided by whatever civil or maritime law is applicable under the circumstances. Should land be reached, however, obviously the body must be buried on land in the nearest suitable place."
- (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, quoted in a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of New Zealand, October 20, 1974)
"Bahá’í laws of burial do not refer to burial at sea and the House of Justice has not yet legislated on the matter. However, it is preferable that Bahá’í burial should take place on land whenever this is possible."
- (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, December 23, 1985)
644. Believer Should Ensure that He Will be Buried According to Bahá’í Law
"The friends should certainly be informed of the Bahá’í laws relating to burial and encouraged to do all they can to ensure that after their passing they are buried according to Bahá’í law. It is not always possible to ensure this by stating it in a Will and Assemblies should consult upon the matter, taking legal advice if necessary, and make the best arrangements possible to enable the Bahá’ís in their care to be buried in the Bahá’í way."
- (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, December 31, 1972)
645. Enfolding the Body of the Deceased
"In the Bayán, 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'.
"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."
- (Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Notes, n. 151, pp. 229-230)
646. Face of the Dead Should be Turned Toward the Qiblih
"The dead should be buried with their face turned towards the Qiblih. There is also a congregational prayer to be recited. Besides this there is no other ceremony to be performed."
- (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 6, 1935)
647. Hour's Journey May be Calculated from City Limits
"We have been instructed by the Universal House of Justice to convey its reply to your enquiry of 20th June 1978 about the Bahá’í burial law concerning the one hour's travel from the place of death.
"The 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."
- (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador, July 9, 1978)
648. Graveyard More than an Hour on Foot from a Village
"The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 10th August 1981 in which you ask for guidance in observing the law for the burial of the dead in cases where the graveyard is more than an hour's journey on foot from a village.
"If alternative means of transport are not available or practicable in cases such as you mention, another possibility is for the Bahá’ís of such a village to acquire a graveyard nearer to the village so that it can be reached within one hour from the village limits. If no such solution is feasible the believers will just have to do their best for the present to keep the journey as short as possible. In any case the House of Justice presumes that the journey is not likely to greatly exceed the one hour limit."
- (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Panama, September 21, 1981)
649. The Burial Stone
"The placing of the burial stone on the dead has no other significance than to emphasize our profound conviction that our souls come from our Creator and to Him they return, and in Him we believe and trust."
- (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of India, July 29, 1942)
650. Bury the Dead in Silk
"The Báb has told us to bury the dead in silk (if possible) in coffins of crystal. Why? Because the body, though now dust, was once exalted by the immortal soul of man!"
- (From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, November 13, 1944)
651. Should Advise Bahá’ís in Military Service of Burial Laws
"You should also advise all individual Bahá’ís who are in service that they should take whatever measures are necessary to see that Bahá’í laws regarding burial are observed. Such individuals should also notify their families or next of kin about these laws and of their wish to be buried according to Bahá’í law."
- (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, January 11, 1968)