Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Iranian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Malawi Chewa funeral traditions and ancient Greek funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
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Iran is a mainly Muslim country, with 99.4% of the population identifying as Muslim. Shia Muslim is the most common now, although more people used to identify as Sunni Muslim. Muslims don’t believe in cremation, and they bury the body as soon as possible.
Iranian Funeral Customs
An Iranian funeral follows a strict schedule. They wash the body with soap and water and wrap the deceased in a white cloth for their burial. They used to wash the body publicly, but now it’s typically done privately — but the immediate family may attend. There also isn’t a visitation for viewing the body.
Mourners wear black for the funeral and get a small Quran — prayer book, so they can read along and say the prayers during the service. Persian classical music is a common choice for the music selection, as it’s an important part of many Iranian ceremonies. Any speeches are short and sweet, as they save longer memorial speeches for the post-funeral gathering. Typically, a mullah, mosque leader, speaks on behalf of the family during the ceremony.
After the service, there’s a funeral procession to the burial location. Muslim Iranians bury the body as soon as possible, preferably by 24 hours after the death, and the burial is done without a casket.
After the funeral and burial, there’s a post-funeral gathering with a dinner and dessert, usually halva flavored with rose water.
The typical mourning period is 40 days, but it can last anywhere from weeks to even months. The immediate family wears black for up to 40 days. Widows or widowers may wear black for a year or longer.