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Wisdom of Burying the Dead
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Various Letters and Addresses : Wisdom of Burying the Dead
Wisdom of Burying the
Dead in the Earth
Tablet by 'Abdu'l-Bahá on the Burying of the Dead
[Tablet of Cremation]

[Unedited online versions provided by Robert Stauffer, 1998]

From Marzieh Gail, Summon up Remembrance (George Ronald,

Oxford, 1987), pp. 174-176, (f.n. 106), translated on behalf of the Research Department of

the Universal House of Justice, March 1987Translation by Ali Kuli

June 18 1902
New York City

[no intro paragraph in Gail's version][It appears that

the Tablet as given below had added at the beginning the Bahá'í verses pertaining to use of a

burial ring (perhaps from the earliest translation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas). -ed.]

[page 1]

God has ordained the enclosing of the dead in coffins of crystal, or exquisite stones or in pure,

hard wood, after putting upon the finger of the dead an engraved ring bearing an especial

inscription, Verily, He is the Almighty, the All-Knowing.

Inscription upon the ring

"I have already been created God and return to Him, severed from all else save Him, and

dependent upon His name, the Clement, the Merciful.


The handmaid of God, Miss Barney, had asked a question as to the wisdom

of burying the dead in the earth. She said too that scientists in Europe and

America, after prolonged and wide-ranging research and debate on this subject,

have concluded that according to the dictates of reason, the benefits of

cremation have been fully established and wherein, then, lies the wisdom of the

Holy Religion requiring burial in the earth?

As thou art aware, this servant doth not have the time for a detailed

explanation, and therefore can write only a brief reply. Where universal

phenomena are concerned, no matter how long and hard the human intellect may

struggle to find the right procedures or the perfect system, it can never

discover the like of the divine creation and its order of transferences and

journeyings within the chain of life.For the transferences, the compositions,

the gatherings and scatterings of elements, and of constituent parts and

substances, proceed in a chain that is mighty and without flaw. Observe the

effective universal laws and see to what a degree they are solidly established,

secure and strong.

And just as the composition, the formation, and growth and development

of the physical body have come about by degrees, so too must its decomposition

and dispersal be gradual. If the disintegration be rapid, this will cause an

overlapping and a slackening in the chain of transferences,and this

discontinuity will impair the universal relationships within the chain of

created things.

For example, this elemental human body hath come forth from the mineral,

the vegetable and the animal worlds, and after its death will be entirely

changed into microscopic animal organisms; and according to the divine order

and the driving forces of nature, these minute creatures will have an effect on

the life of the universe, and will pass into other forms.

Now, if you consign this body to the flames, it will pass immediately

into the mineral kingdom and will be kept back from its natural journey through

the chain of all created things.

The elemental body, following death, and its release from its composite

life, will be transformed into separate components and minuscule animals; and

even though it will now be deprived of its composite life in human form, still

the animal life is in it, and it is not entirely bereft of life. If, however,

it be burned, it will turn into ashes and minerals, and once it has become

mineral, it must inexorably journey onward to the vegetable kingdom, so that it

may rise to the animal world. That is what is described as an overleap.

In short, the composition and decomposition, the gathering and

scattering and journeying of all creatures must proceed according to the

natural order, divine rule and the most great law of God, so that no marring

nor impairment may affect the essential relationships which arise out of the

inner realities of created things. This is why,according to the law of God, we

are bidden to bury the dead.

The peoples of ancient Persia believed that earth-burial was not even

permissible; that such burial, to a certain degree, would block the coursings

and journeyings required by nature. For this reason they built Towers of

Silence open to the sky, on the mountain tops, and lay the dead therein on the

surface of the ground. But they failed to observe that burial in the earth doth

not prevent the natural travellings and coursings which are an exigency of

creation—that rather, earth-burial, besides permitting the natural march of

phenomena, offereth other benefits as well.

And briefly stated, beyond this, although the human soul hath severed

its connection with the body, friends and lovers are still vehemently attached

to what remaineth, and they cannot bear to have it instantly destroyed. They

cannot, for example, see the pictured face of the departed blotted out and

scattered, although a photograph is only his shadow and in the end it too must

fade away. So far as they are able, they protect whatever remainder they have

of him,be it only a fragment of clay, a tree, or a stone. Then how much more do

they treasure his earthly form! Never can the heart agree to look on the

cherished body of a friend, a father, a mother, a brother, a child, and see it

instantly fall to nothing—and this is an exigency of love.

Thus the ancient Egyptians mummified the body that it might remain

intact to the end of time, their belief being that the longer the dead endured,

the nearer they would draw to the mercy of their gods. Yet the Hindus of India

cremate the body without any concern, and indeed the burning is a solace to

their hearts. This lack of concern, however, is fortuitous: it deriveth from

religious beliefs and is not a natural thing. For they suppose that the more

rapidly the body is destroyed, the nearer it will come to divine compassion.

This is the opposite of what the ancient Egyptians believed. The Hindus are

even persuaded that, as soon as the body is with great rapidity

disintegrated,forgiveness will be assured, and the dead will be blessed forever

more. It is this belief which reconcileth them to the cremation.

Greetings be unto thee, and praise. I did not have the time to write

even a line, but out of regard for Miss Barney, this has been set sown.

(signed) 'Ayn-'Ayn
Tablet of Cremation

The servant of God Miss Barney, questioned concerning the wisdom of burying the dead in the

earth. She said also that the scientists in Europe and America, after reasoning and polix

discussion upon this subject, have concluded that, according to the rational rules and benefits of

cremating the dead are certain. Therefore, what has been the wisdom of the Holy Laws

commanding the burying of the dead in the earth? You know that this servant has not the time to

give a detailed explanation, consequently he writes briefly as follows:-

No matter how human intellect strive and endeavour their utmost to discover correct course

concerning general matters, and the true method, yet (their conclusion) cannot be like the

Divine creation, and the order of the evolution of the set scale of beings. For the evolution,

decompositions and composition, union and separation of the elements, matters and substances

are regulated and settled in a very perfect and fixed chain.

Consider the current general laws, as to what degree they are well founded, solid and secure.

The blending and compostion development and growth of the elemental body has been gradual; so

also, its decomposition and disintegration must be gradual. If it is disintegrated rapidly, then it

will occasion a sudden transformation in the chain of evolution, and this sudden transformation

will result in weakening the general connections in the chain of existing things.

For example this elemental body of man has come from the kingdom of mineral, vegetable and

animal and now after its death will become entirely animalculae. These microscopic animals

will evolute into other compositions, and thus, through a Divine law and natural order, they

will effect the body of the Universe.

If you burn this body, it will immediately pass into the mineral kingdom and will be detained

from its naturel progress in the chain of beings. After its death and seperation from general

life, the elemental body will constitute individual atoms and microscopic animals, although it is

then deprived of the general in the human form, yet the animal life is realised in it, and

therefore it is not utterly bereft of life. When it is burnt it turns into ashes and mineral.

When it is turned into mineral, it must necessarily evolute into the vegetable kingdom in order

to develop onward into the naimal kingdom. This rapid progress of evolution is called sudden


To resume; Beings in their composition, decomposition, union, seperation and evolution, must

be according to natural order, Divine rule and the mighty law of God, so that no flaw nor defect

may affect the necessary connections which have resulted from the reality of things.

Consequently, the law of God commands to bury the dead.

[page 2]

The ancient Persians considered that even burial of the dead is not allowable, for interment

prevents the natural progress to a certain extent. therefore, they built "Dokhme [sp?]" ( A

circular stone building in the form of a cylinder, on the flat surface of which the fire

worshippers lay the bodies of their dead), on mountian peaks, and laid the dead upon the surface

of the earth. But they disregarded the fact that burying does not prevent the natural evolution

and movement nay rather burying in the earth has also other benefits besides its march and

development. To be buried although the human soul severs its dependence from the body yet

friends and companions have a great attachment for the remains of a man after his death, and

they never consent to have them immediately effaced and destroyed. For instance, friends never

consent to the effacement and destruction of the pictures and photograph of a man, although it is

but man's spectral image, and will of necessity, be finally effaced. They preserve his

memorials as much as possible, even though he be a stone, a tree, or a place of clay; how much

more then, the body of man. The heart never consents to the immediate disintegration of the

body in order that it should continue to remain forever; and they suppose that the longer it is

preserved the nearer it will be to Divine mercy.

But the brahmins in India cremate it, and take no heed thereof, nay, this is conducive to the

comfort of their hearts. This heedlessness is an outgrowth of their faith and is not natural, for

the Hindus believe that the more rapidly the body is disintegrated the nearer it will be to Divine

mercy. Contrary to the ancient Egyptians, they suppose that as soon as it is disintegrated,

forgiveness will be secured, and the dead will attain to everlasting benefit. This belief is the

cause of their satisfaction in cremation
Upon thee be greetings and praise
(Sig) A.A.B.

Another point remains, and it is this: that in case of contagious

diseases, such as the plague and cholera, whether cremation of bodies with lime

or other chemicals is allowable or not? In such cases, hygiene and preservation

is necessarily more important; for according to the clear Divine texts, medical

commands are lawful, and 'necessities make forbidden things lawful' is one of

the certain rules.
Upon thee be the glory of the All-Glorious!
(signed) 'Ayn-'Ayn
He is God

Another point remains and it is this; that in the case of contagious diseases, such as the plague

and cholera, whether cremation of bodies with lime or other chemicals is allowable or not? In

such cases, hygiene and preservation is necessarily more important or according to the clear

Divine texts, medical commands are lawful and "necessities make forbidden things lawful" is one

of the certain rules.
Upon thee be greetings and praise!
(Sig) A.A.B.
(Translated by A.K.Khan, June, 1902 New York)
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