Baha’i is a religion with Islamic roots. Baha'i believe that after death, the soul leaves the physical body and world behind for a spiritual one. This spiritual world does not necessarily contain a Heaven or a Hell. Instead, Heaven is being near God, while Hell is being farther away.


BuddhismBuddhists believe that each individual passes through many reincarnations until they are liberated from worldly illusions and passions. They have then entered ‘Nirvana’, Sanskrit for the beatitude that transcends the cycle of reincarnation; characterized by the extinction of desire and suffering.

A funeral ceremony in several Japanese Buddhist traditions resembles a Christian ceremony in the west, with a eulogy and prayers at a funeral home. Most Buddhist funerals held in the west are simple and low-key affairs organised by family and friends. They include appropriate Buddhist readings and tributes to the deceased.

The final ceremony is usually carried out at a Chapel usually attached to the cemetery. Most Buddhists prefer cremation. A simple, solemn and dignified funeral service is the norm in keeping with Buddhist beliefs. The main components of any Buddhist funeral ceremony are sharing the practice of good conduct and developing a calm mind or meditation. While Japan has a mixture of Shinto and Buddhist beliefs, 90% of the funerals have a Buddhist approach.

After death, the deceased's lips are moistened with water, in a ceremony called ‘Matsugo-no-mizu’, known ‘water of the last moment’. The household Shrine is closed and covered with a white paper, to keep out the impure spirits of the dead. This is called ‘Kamidana-fuji’. A small table decorated with flowers, incense, and a candle is placed next to the deceased's place of rest or bed. Memorial Services depend on local family customs. Usually, there are a number of memorial services; they are daily for the first seven days, or a number of services within the first 49 days, or on the 7th, 49th and 100th day.


ChristianityChristian funeral results in the close of a human life on earth. It is the opportunity for friends and family to express their grief, to give thanks for the life which has now completed its passage in this world. A funeral commemorates the person, who has passed away and also an opportunity to make amends and to say goodbye to the person. It is a method of showing support and love through the community as well as the priest’s services such as counselling and the healing of the sorrows.

Christians take time to plan a funeral as they want the person to have a good send off and the soul to be at peace. Christian funeral rites vary according to the different sects of the Catholic and Protestant branches of the religion. There are however many similarities between Protestant and Catholic. The Protestant rites are usually a simplified version of Catholic rites.

Protestant - In Protestant funerals a dying person may have a minister attend the death bed and prayers may be said. A brief prayer is said for the deceased at the church on the Sunday following the death. The funeral can take many forms and may include speeches and readings by relatives and close friends.

Roman Catholic - At the approach of death a priest is usually summoned to hear the dying person's confession and to absolve them, administer Holy Communion, to anoint the person with oil that has been blessed by a Bishop. Typically, the second day after a loved one passes away, friends and family will hold a Vigil or ‘wake’, usually held at a funeral home. Immediately following the wake or on the third day, a Catholic funeral is held.

The funeral service may stand alone, or be part of a bigger ceremony known as a mass. Burial is preceded by prayers for the deceased. A requiem is recited at the funeral and the coffin is blessed with incense and sprinkled with holy water. In the Roman Catholic tradition it is taught that some time after death may be spent in Purgatory.

Purgatory is in between heaven and hell, at this stage it is believed that you must be cleansed of sins first before entering heaven. Here is an example of Purgatory in the Bible: He that eateth well drinketh well, he that drinketh well sleepeth well, he that sleepeth well sinneth not, he that sinneth not goeth straight through Purgatory to Paradise.

Quaker Funerals - In Quaker Funerals one or more of the people presented may speak personally about the deceased. Others may read or quote from the Bible or any other scripts; however, the majority of time is spent in silent contemplation. The body is buried or cremated with a simple ceremony at the municipal crematorium.


Hinduism ‘Antyesti’ or Hindu funeral rites, is an important sacrament for Hindu society. Extensive texts of such last rites are available, particularly in the ‘Garuda Purana’ or the law of ‘Manu’. Hindus, like all religious faith groups have procedures and rites which they follow as traditional cultural customs. Hinduism teaches that each living body is built around an eternal soul (‘Atman’) which comes from the Supreme Spirit. It is the ultimate desire for each soul to reconnect to the Supreme Spirit some day.

A distressing experience may be combined by a lack of knowledge of the formalities and procedures. If uncertain of these formalities, seek advice from members of the family or local Temple, but where this is not practicable, particularly in cases of sudden death, the following should be observed: Do not remove sacred threads or other religious objects or jewellery items. Covering the deceased with a plain sheet and washing the deceased body is the part of funeral rites carried out by close relatives. In Hinduism, the dead body is considered to be symbol of impurity (‘Sutak’) hence minimal physical contact with the deceased body is maintained, perhaps to avoid the spread of infections or germs.

The deceased male is usually bathed by Male relatives and female relatives will wash the female deceased body. The body is dressed in white traditional Indian clothes. If a wife dies before her husband she is dressed in red bridal clothes. If a woman is a widow she will be dressed in white or pale colours. The family or the people attending the funeral service will often dress in simple white or shades of soft pastel colours as part of their clothing.

Funeral procession returns home for brief last viewing period so that the family and friends can join for prayers and final rituals. The deceased body is decorated with sandalwood, flowers and garlands. Family members will pray and perform their rituals around the deceased body as soon as possible after death. They also place hand full of flowers at the feet of the body, and everyone joins in chanting of holy ‘Mantras’, or prayers. Death is a sad occasion, but Hindu priests often emphasis the route ahead for the departed soul and a funeral is as much a celebration of life as well as a remembrance.

Hindus cremate their dead, believing that the burning of a deceased body signifies the release of the spirit and that the flames represent ‘Brahma’, the creator God. The chief mourner, usually the eldest son or male relative, will light some kindling lamp and circle the deceased, praying for the wellbeing of the departing soul. Mourners take a bath and change clothes before entering their home after the funeral service. After the cremation, the family may have a meal and offer prayers in their family home.

A family priest will visit and purify the house with the river Ganges water, and incense. On the 12/13th day mourning period friends will visit and offer their condolences. Often, a garland of dried sandal wood flower is placed around a framed photograph of the deceased to show respect for their memory. Scriptures are read from the ‘Sri Garud Purana’ or ‘Bhagavad Gita’. A priest will recite prayers for the deceased, the mourning process varies within different Hindu sects, and sometimes it can take up to one month to mourn for the deceased.


HumanismHumanists believe in reason and common humanity rather in religion. The focus of a Humanism funeral is on the person who has died. The funeral service is usually dignified and warm, honoring and celebrating life of the deceased person. There are usually personal tributes, poems or music instead of hymns and prayers.Humanism aims to give a sensitive, accurate and personal reflection of the deceased, believing that some standard funeral practices can be impersonal.

Someone from Humanism official will visit the bereaved family to discuss funeral arrangements. At the funeral, the officiant will welcome the mourners and explain why a non religious ceremony has been chosen. They may reflect on life and death through poetry or readings appropriate to the circumstances of the person who have died.


Islam Muslims prefer to bury the body of the deceased within 24 hours. The deceased is placed with their head facing the Muslim holy city of Makkah. The body is then ritually washed. Muslims prefer these rituals to be performed by family or close friends rather than by hospital staff or undertakers.

Male relatives will wash male deceased and female relatives will wash female deceased. Also husband and wife can wash their children. In addition husband can wash the wife’s deceased body and vice versa. Then the ‘Ghusul’ performed and the items needed are:
* 4 washers
* 1 imam
* Kaffan (3 piece for male) (5 piece for female) – linked to Adam and Eve who were given fig leaves to protect their shame
* 1 large cloth to cover body during washing (white to show purity)
* 1 soap
* Gloves
* Cotton wool
* Attar (non alcoholic perfume)
* Camphor
The deceased body is placed on a raised platform. The clothes are removed and later covered by the ‘Kaffan’ (cloth). Then the ‘Istanja’ must be performed, this is done by removing the waste from the stomach by sitting the deceased and pressing the stomach. The body must be washed an odd number of times, 3, 5 and 7. The last wash of the deceased is bathed with camphor, a waxy, white or transparent solid with a strong aromatic odour which keeps the insects away. Then ‘Attar’, non alcoholic perfume, which is placed on the body and ‘Kaffan’.

Next it is time for the ‘Salat-ul-Janazah’ prayers. The Kaffan will be wrapped around the body. The Kaffan will be washed in Zam-Zam, holy water, and this custom is known as ‘Sunnah’ ritual (the way and the manner of Prophet Muhammad).

Then the body is placed in front of the congregation. For the female deceased the Imam stands near the shoulder as a sign of respect. For the male deceased the Imam stands near the middle. Generally mourners do not prostrate in front of the deceased body. Then the final prayer is said which is for ‘Mugfarith’ (forgiveness). Then the four ‘Takbeer’s’ (prayers) will be recited, each 'Takbeer' is a prayer for forgiveness. Then the people who attend the funeral will walk around the body before leaving.

Later the deceased body is carried to the cemetery and the attendees will walk behind the body as a sign of respect, and in silence. Then the ‘Shahada’ is read (the declaration of faith). Peace and blessings are given to the deceased people in the graveyard; this is done by the members of the funeral party. The body is buried and turned so that the head points toward Mecca, the Muslim direction of ‘Qiblah’ for prayer. Then the body is lowered and soil is placed on top of the coffin. Finally the final ‘Dua’ (prayer) will be said, this will make Muslims think of their own death (‘Akhirah’).


JudaismTraditional Jewish law forbids cremation, but is allowed among Reform Jews. Flowers are never appropriate for Orthodox Jews, Conservative and Re-constructionist funerals, but are sometimes appropriate for Reform funerals. Contributions in memory of the deceased are customary. As death approaches, confession is heard and the dying person declares:
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One".
The deceased body is placed on the ground and ‘Psalms’ are recited, especially Psalm 91:
He that dwelled in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

The deceased body is washed and wrapped in a white linen shroud and placed in an inexpensive wooden coffin or put directly to earth in its shroud. A handful of dust from Israel is placed in the grave or coffin. The funeral service consists of psalms reading, speeches praising of the deceased, prayers for the repose of the soul, final recital of the ‘Kaddish', a hymn to praise the Almighty God. After the funeral mourners eat a simple meal prepared by friends or neighbours.

In some orthodox families the next of kin will tear their upper garments and remain indoors for seven days (the 'Shivah') sitting on low stools as part of mourning. Mourning can last for one month or one year, different stages of return to normal life of the mourners reflect the soul's gradual progress to the afterlife.


Shintoism When a Shinto follower dies, his spirit lives forever under the protection of ancestral spirits and ‘Kami’ (Shinto divinities). The Shinto performs daily rituals at shrines in their homes to bring spirits of their ancestors back to earth. They offer food, drink and light incense. These rituals ensure that the ancestors are always remembered.


Sikhs view death as a separation of the soul from the body and is considered part of God's will. The traditions and conventions surrounding a Sikh death follow the teachings of their faith. Sikhs believe that the soul transcends to the supreme soul, God. Death is seen as a time for praising God in accordance with the teachings, and the code of conduct (‘Rahit Maryada’).

Prayers are said which acknowledge that the death is an act of God. The first line is read from the holy book, which is called the ‘Ardas’. Cremation is the accepted form of disposal of Sikhismthe deceased body, which is bathed and dressed in fresh clothes. Once the body is prepared, the family carries the deceased to the crematorium followed by a procession of friends and family. Sikhs continue to recite prayers. Both men and women must cover their head during all ceremonies. A scarf covering the head is adequate.

There are no hard or fast rules in wearing a particular requirement for colour of clothing when attending a Sikh funeral service, but soft colours are preferable. The mourning period lasts between two to five weeks. The family may decide to hold a number of ceremonies during that time period. Flowers and cards are appropriate gifts. At the crematorium the prayer known as the 'Kirtan Sohila' is often recited. ‘Ardas’ prayers are often said before cremation as well.

Friends and relatives seek a blessing for the departing soul. A member of the family will then light the funeral pyre. In many countries cremation is usually done in a crematory but others may prefer different methods. A traditional example is the common practice of open-air cremation in India.

{2jtab: Zoroastrianism}Zoroastrianism The Zoroastrian funeral according to Parsi scriptures is that the soul of a deceased person remains within the precincts of this world for three days. Besides prayers and ceremonies, which are performed for the deceased, the ‘Yasna’ prayers, and sometimes the ‘Vendidad’ prayers with the ‘Khshnuman of Srosh’ rituals, are recited at the adjoining Fire-temples for three successive mornings and nights. The soul of a man directs itself towards the paradise with three steps of ‘Humata’, ‘Hukhta’, and ‘Hvarshta’.

A ‘Pazand’ prayer with the ‘Khshnuman of Srosh’ is recited, and the name of the deceased is announced and the protection of ‘Srosh’ is invoked for him. This ceremony and assembly are very important because at the end of ceremony the next of kin and friends of deceased generally announce liberal donations to charity funds in the "naiyat" or memory of the deceased and to commemorate his remembrance.


The Tibetan Book of the Dead (The Great Liberation) Death is real, it comes without warning and it cannot be escaped. An ancient source of strength and guidance, The Tibetan Book of the Dead remains an essential teaching in the Buddhist cultures of the Himalayas. Narrated by Leonard Cohen, this enlightening two-part series explores the sacred text and boldly visualizes the afterlife according to its profound wisdom.

"The Great Liberation" follows an old lama and his novice monk as they guide a Himalayan villager into the afterlife using readings from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The soul's 49-day journey towards rebirth is envisioned through actual photography of rarely seen Buddhist rituals.

KRISHNAMURTI : Dialogue on Death These dialogues took place at Brockwood in the UK, 1979. "When the Body dies, the desires, the anxieties, the tragedies, attachments and the misery go on. They go on to contributing to the vast common stream of consciousness in which mankind lives. Each of us is a representative of the whole stream ...

A Comparison of Death Rituals: Islam, Hinduism, Roman Catholicism, New Orleans Jazz

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