Preparation and Shrouding the body is a healing and bonding time for those who participate. In many cultures women prepare and shroud women and men prepare and shroud men. As far as we know, this is not explicitly stated in the Baha'i Writings.
To Prepare the Body for Baha'i Burial You Will Need:
- burial ring
- rose water
- shroud cloths
- a casket made of hard wood, stone (cement), or crystal. We have used fir and eucalyptus. One of the Baha'is made a beautiful cedar casket for a friend. West coast cedar is not "hard" but it lasts for hundreds of years and was used with a concrete liner.
- supplies for cleaning and cloths or towels for washing and drying. Paper towels, plastic bags, etc. come in handy.
Baha'i law specifies 5 cloths but allows for variation according to what you have available. Ideally, you will buy fine cotton or silk ahead of time and cut it in the following dimensions (the fabric store will do this for you):
1. 4 feet x 12 feet (in the instructions, below, this is called the Kafan)
2. 4 feet x 4 feet (head wrap)
3. 4 feet x 6 feet (body wrap)
4. 4 feet x 4 feet (chest wrap)
5. 4 feet x 8 feet (body sheet)
The ring (for adults, over 15 years of age) is placed on the finger. We were not able to find specific instructions about which finger so it probably doesn't matter.
The ring is available wherever you buy your Baha'i books. You can also consult a nearby Local Spiritual Assembly or the National Assembly of your country. The ring is inscribed:
I came forth from God, and return unto Him, detached from all save Him, holding fast unto His Name, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
The Prayer for the Dead is obligatory and can be said at the service or at any other time before the internment. It and other prayers can be found at www.bahaiprayers.org/depart1.htm Someone reads while everyone present stands and faces the Qiblih (the resting place of Baha'u'llah in Acca, Israel). In our town, that's north, but it depends where you live. It can be said at the service or in private but must be done according to instructions without changing or shortening it.
The following instructions for washing and shrouding were originally adapted from an Islamic site and so far as we know they are "close enough" for us, too. Sorry, but the URL for the original site has been lost.
WASHING THE BODY
A nurse is very handy for this phase of the work.
1. Place the body on a table, if available. When the person dies in hospital we been able to use their facilities.
2. Remove all clothing from the body.
3. Press firmly press on the stomach and use cloths (towels work well) to clean up any excertions.
The body is now ready for washing.
1. The body is to be washed five times.
2. For the final washing, rosewater should be used. This is widely available from pharmacies, etc.
WRAPPING THE BODY
1. Five pieces of clean, cotton white cloth should be used. The dimensions are approximate. About 34 feet of cloth works for average sized people.
2. Cotton sheets would also work.
3 . You might want to tear a one inch strip from the length of the largest piece of cloth to use as tie strings to.
The following instructions are found on many Islamic sites. They are useful but not traditional or required for Baha'is. Vary them, if you like:
1. Spread the Body sheet on a flat table, a firm bed or floor.
2. Lay the Chest wrap on the Body sheet about two feet each from the top and the bottom edge.
3. Then lay the Body wrap on the Chest wrap about one foot each from the top and the bottom edge of the Body sheet.
4. Fold the Kafan sheet over in half, so that its size after folding is 4 feet x 6 feet.
5. At the crease in the middle, cut a hole big enough for the head of the body to pass through.
6. Unfold the Kafan sheet and lay it on the three sheets prepared earlier in steps 1-3 above; the cut hole will now be in the center of the Kafan sheet.
7. Lay the body on its back on one half (which is on the other three sheets) and pull the other half of the Kafan sheet over the whole body, making sure that the head comes out through the hole; except for the head the rest of the body should now be covered inside the Kafan sheet.
8. Comb and brush the hair in two groups loose or braids; spread one group on the right side of the chest and the other group of hair on the left side.
9. Roll the upper half of Kafan sheet from both the right and the left sides to gather in the center of the body.
10. Wrap the lower long sides of the Kafan sheet over the body from both the right and the left sides (from shoulders to feet).
11. Then unroll the upper half of the Kafan sheet to spread it over the lower half wrapped previously on the body (as above) and wrap it along both sides of the whole body. To do this ,the whole body will have to be tilted on its side to push the Kafan sheet under the body; first on the right side and then on the left side.
12. Fold the Head wrap in half; raise the head and upper part of the body to slip about one half of the Head wrap under the body.
13. Then fold the other half over and around the head so that the face is not covered and the lower edge of the Head wrap covers the hair on the chest.
14. Now wrap the left side of the Body wrap over the body and cover it by wrapping the right side of the Body wrap over the left side on the body.
15. Next in alike manner wrap the Chest wrap with the right side of the wrap over the left side of the wrap on the body.
16. Use the Kafan strings to tie around the body; one just below the shoulders, another in the middle on the navel, and third string a little above the knees on the thighs.
17. Cover the face with the Head wrap.
18. Lastly wrap the Body sheet all over the body with the right side over the left side on the body;
gather at the head and tie a string and then gather at the feet and tie a string. If necessary tie a
string in the middle of the body also.
The body is now well-shrouded and prepared for burial.