In a previous article, Taking Care of your Will and Testament, I failed to mention the laws of inheritance outlined in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, and I’m grateful to the reader who pointed it out. Rather than add it to that article, I decided it deserved a posting all of its own.
First of all, it’s important to know 3 things:
This law is not applicable yet and is normally covered by civil laws
It only applies when the individual dies without making a will
We now have and will always have complete freedom in determining how to dispose of our property, whether it be to Baha’is or non-Baha’is, provided we make provisions for the payment of Huqúqu’lláh and the discharge of our debts
Nevertheless, it could be important to understand this law, knowing it will soon be applicable. There may be elements you’d want to include in your own Will.
Shoghi Effendi tells us:
…even though a Bahá’í is permitted in his will to dispose of his wealth in the way he wishes, yet he is morally and conscientiously bound to always bear in mind, while writing his will, the necessity of his upholding the principle of Bahá’u’lláh regarding the social function of wealth, and the consequent necessity of avoiding its over-accumulation and concentration in a few individuals or groups of individuals. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, quoted by the Universal House of Justice in ‘The Notes section of the Kitab-i-Aqdas’)
The system of inheritance in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is based on the provisions written by the Bab and provides for the distribution of the deceased’s estate among seven categories of heirs:
According to the Book of God, the estate of the deceased is divided into 2,520 shares, which number is the lowest common multiple of all integers up to nine, and these shares are then distributed into seven portions, each of which is allocated, as mentioned in the Book, to a particular category of heirs. (Q and A 5)
children receive 1,080 out of 2,520 shares (nine parts)
the spouse receives 390 out of 2,520 shares (eight parts)
the father, 330 out of 2,520 shares (seven parts)
the mother, 270 out of 2,520 shares (six parts)
the brothers, 210 out of 2,520 shares (five parts)
the sisters, 150 out of 2,520 shares (four parts)
the [Baha’i] teachers, 90 out of 2,520 shares (three parts) (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
When some of these people don’t exist or have passed away, this is what happens:
In cases where there is no issue the share of the children reverts to the House of Justice to be expended on orphans and widows and for whatever will profit mankind. (Q and A 7, 41)
If the son of the deceased be dead and leave issue, these will inherit the share of their father. If the deceased is a father and his estate includes a personal residence, such residence passes to the eldest son (Q and A 34).
If the daughter of the deceased be dead and leave issue, her share will have to be divided into the seven categories specified in the Most Holy Book. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
Should one leave offspring but either part or all of the other categories of inheritors be nonexistent, two thirds of their shares reverts to the offspring and one third to the House of Justice. (Q and A 7).
Should none of the specified beneficiaries exist, two thirds of the inheritance reverts to the nephews and nieces of the deceased. If these do not exist, the same share reverts to the aunts and uncles; lacking these, to their sons and daughters. In any case the remaining third reverts to the House of Justice. (Q and A 34).
Should one leave none of the aforementioned heirs, the entire inheritance reverts to the House of Justice. (Q and A 34).
The residence and the personal clothing of the deceased father pass to the male not to the female offspring. If there be several residences the principal and most important one passes to the male offspring. The remaining residences will together with the other possessions of the deceased have to be divided among the heirs. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
If there be no male offspring two thirds of the principal residence and the personal clothing of the deceased father will revert to the female issue and one third to the House of Justice. (Q and A 41, 72). See note 42 concerning the levels of the institution of the House of Justice to which this law applies. (See also note 44.)
In the case of the deceased mother all her used clothing is to be equally divided amongst her daughters. Her unworn clothing, jewels and property must be divided among her heirs, as well as her used clothing if she leaves no daughter. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
Should the children of the deceased be minors their share should either be entrusted to a reliable person or to a company for purposes of investment, until they attain the age of maturity. A share of the interest accrued should be assigned to the trustee. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
The inheritance should not be divided until after the payment of the Huqúqu’lláh (The Right of God), of any debts contracted by the deceased and of any expenses incurred for a befitting funeral and burial. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
If the brother of the deceased is from the same father he will inherit his full allotted share. If he is from another father he will inherit only two thirds of his share, the remaining one third reverting to the House of Justice. The same law is applicable to the sister of the deceased. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
In case there are full brothers or full sisters, brothers and sisters from the mother’s side do not inherit. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
In case there is more than one heir in any category the share allotted to that class should be divided between them equally, be they male or female. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
A non-Bahá’í teacher does not inherit. If there should be more than one teacher, the share allotted to the teacher is to be equally divided among them. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
Non-Bahá’í heirs do not inherit. (Q and A 34).
Aside from the wife’s used clothing and gifts of jewellery or otherwise which have been proven to have been given her by her husband, whatever the husband has purchased for his wife are to be considered as the husband’s possessions to be divided among his heirs. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf indicates that this restriction applies “only to such cases when a Bahá’í dies without leaving a will and when, therefore, his property will have to be divided in accordance with the rules set forth in the Aqdas. Otherwise, a Bahá’í is free to bequeath his property to any person, irrespective of religion, provided however he leaves a will, specifying his wishes.” It is always possible, therefore, for a Bahá’í to provide for his or her non-Bahá’í partner, children or relatives by leaving a will. (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas 1992 edition, p. 254)
At times of death, in the midst of grief, many people are at a loss about what prayers and readings they want to have said for their loved one. They don’t have the mental wherewithal to be able to search the Writings for their favorite quotes to uplift those who attend, to bring them closer to the idea that death is a “messenger of joy”.
Here is a program I put together for my own funeral. Feel free to use it and share with others, if you find it helpful. The musical interludes are songs that appeal to me. Feel free to add your own music or even live performances.
Musical Interlude: The Lord’s Prayer by Dash Crofts
O thou kind Lord, this dearly cherished maidservant was attracted to Thee, and through reflection and discernment, longed to attain Thy presence and enter Thy realms. With tearful eyes, she fixed her eyes on the kingdom of mysteries. Many a night she spent in deep communion with Thee, and many a day she lived in intimate remembrance of Thee. At every morn, she was mindful of Thee, and at every eve, she centered her thoughts upon Thee. Like unto a singing nightingale, she chanted Thy sacred verses and like unto a mirror, she sought to reflect Thy light.
O thou forgiver of sins, open Thou the way for this awakened soul to enter Thy kingdom and enable this bird trained by Thy hand to soar in the eternal rose-garden. She is afire with longing to draw neigh unto Thee; enable her to attain Thy presence. She is distraught and distressed in separation from Thee; cause her to be admitted into Thy heavenly mansion.
Forgive her sins and bless her with Thine abundant grace. Grant her the privilege of beholding Thy countenance and give her the chalice of joy and bliss. Thou art the Giver, the Glorious, the Eternal, the Bounteous; and Thou art the All-Gracious, the All-Merciful, the Omnipotent, He who is the Bestower of Gifts and the Forgiver of Sins. (‘Abdul-Bahá, from a newly translated tablet)
O my God, Thy Trust hath been returned unto Thee. It behooveth Thy grace and Thy bounty that have compassed Thy dominions on earth and in heaven, to vouchsafe unto Thy newly welcomed one Thy gifts and Thy bestowals, and the fruits of the tree of Thy grace! Powerful art Thou to do as Thou willest, there is none other God but Thee, the Gracious, the Most Bountiful, the Compassionate, the Bestower, the Pardoner, the Precious, the All-Knowing. (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 43)
She hath been freed from this sorrow-stricken shelter and hath turned her face toward the everlasting nest of the Kingdom, and, being delivered from a dark and narrow world, hath hastened to the sanctified realm of light; therein lieth the consolation of our hearts. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 379)
O my God! O my God! Verily, thy servant, humble before the majesty of Thy divine supremacy, lowly at the door of Thy oneness, hath believed in Thee and in Thy verses, hath testified to Thy word, hath been enkindled with the fire of Thy love, hath been immersed in the depths of the ocean of Thy knowledge, hath been attracted by Thy breezes, hath relied upon his supplications to Thee, and hath been assured of Thy pardon and forgiveness. He hath abandoned this mortal life and hath flown to the kingdom of immortality, yearning for the favor of meeting Thee.
Lord, glorify his station, shelter him under the pavilion of Thy supreme mercy, cause him to enter Thy glorious paradise, and perpetuate his existence in Thine exalted rose garden, that he may plunge into the sea of light in the world of mysteries. Verily, Thou art the Generous, the Powerful, the Forgiver and the Bestower. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdul-Bahá, p. 197)
Musical Interlude: If We Knew by Grant Hinden Miller
The inscrutable divine wisdom underlieth such heart-rending occurrences. It is as if a kind gardener transferreth a fresh and tender shrub from a confined place to a wide open area. This transfer is not the cause of the withering, the lessening or the destruction of that shrub; nay, on the contrary, it maketh it to grow and thrive, acquire freshness and delicacy, become green and bear fruit. This hidden secret is well known to the gardener, but those souls who are unaware of this bounty suppose that the gardener, in his anger and wrath, hath uprooted the shrub. Yet to those who are aware, this concealed fact is manifest, and this predestined decree is considered a bounty. Do not feel grieved or disconsolate, therefore, at the ascension of that bird of faithfulness; nay, under all circumstances pray for that youth, supplicating for him forgiveness and the elevation of his station. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 379)
Why should thou be sad and heartbroken? This separation is temporal; this remoteness and sorrow is counted only by days. Thou shalt find him in the Kingdom of God and thou wilt attain to the everlasting union. Physical companionship is ephemeral, but heavenly association is eternal. Whenever thou rememberest the eternal and never ending union, thou wilt be comforted and blissful. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdul-Bahá, V1, p. 99)
As to the question whether the souls will recognize each other in the spiritual world: This fact is certain; for the Kingdom is the world of vision where all the concealed realities will become disclosed. How much more the well-known souls will become manifest. The mysteries of which man is heedless in this earthly world, those he will discover in the heavenly world, and there will he be informed of the secret of truth; how much more will he recognize or discover persons with whom he hath been associated. Undoubtedly, the holy souls who find a pure eye and are favored with insight will, in the kingdom of lights, be acquainted with all mysteries, and will seek the bounty of witnessing the reality of every great soul. Even they will manifestly behold the Beauty of God in that world. Likewise will they find all the friends of God, both those of the former and recent times, present in the heavenly assemblage. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 367)
And know thou for a certainty, that in the divine worlds, the spiritual beloved ones (believers) will recognize each other, and will seek union (with each other), but a spiritual union. Likewise, a love that one may have entertained for any one will not be forgotten in the world of the Kingdom. Likewise, thou wilt not forget there the life that thou hast had in the material world. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdul-Bahá, V1, p. 205)
As we have power to pray for these souls here, so likewise we shall possess the same power in the other world, which is the Kingdom of God. Are not all the people in that world the creatures of God? Therefore in that world also they can make progress. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 330)
O Lord, O Thou Whose mercy hath encompassed all, Whose forgiveness is transcendent, Whose bounty is sublime, Whose pardon and generosity are all-embracing, and the lights of Whose forgiveness are diffused throughout the world! O Lord of Glory! I entreat Thee, fervently and tearfully, to cast upon Thy handmaiden who hath ascended unto Thee the glances of the eye of Thy mercy. Robe her in the mantle of Thy grace, bright with the ornaments of the celestial Paradise, and, sheltering her beneath the tree of Thy oneness, illumine her face with the lights of Thy mercy and compassion.
Bestow upon Thy heavenly handmaiden, O God, the holy fragrances born of the spirit of Thy forgiveness. Cause her to dwell in a blissful abode, heal her griefs with the balm of Thy reunion, and, in accordance with Thy will, grant her admission to Thy holy Paradise. Let the angels of Thy loving-kindness descend successively upon her, and shelter her beneath Thy blessed Tree. Thou art, verily, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous, the All-Bountiful. (‘Abdul-Bahá, from a newly translated tablet)
Musical Interlude: Carry Me Home by Ed Vandendool
O my servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will no doubt attain. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 329)
To consider that after the death of the body the spirit perishes, is like imagining that a bird in a cage will be destroyed if the cage is broken, though the bird has nothing to fear from the destruction of the cage. Our body is like the cage, and the spirit is like the bird. We see that without the cage this bird flies in the world of sleep; therefore if the cage becomes broken, the bird will continue and exist: its feelings will be even more powerful, its perceptions greater, and its happiness increased. In truth, from hell it reaches a paradise of delights, because for the thankful birds there is no paradise greater than freedom from the cage. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 327)
A friend asked: “How should one look forward to death?” He answered: “How does one look forward to the goal of any journey? With hope and with expectation. It is even so with the end of this earthly journey. In the next world, man will find himself freed from many of the disabilities under which he now suffers. Those who have passed on through death, have a sphere of their own. It is not removed from ours; their work, the work of the Kingdom, is ours; but it is sanctified from what we call ‘time and place.’ Time with us is measured by the sun. When there is no more sunrise, and no more sunset, that kind of time does not exist for man. Those who have ascended have different attributes from those who are still on earth, yet there is no real separation. (‘Abdul-Bahá, ‘Abdul-Bahá in London, p. 95)
And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, p. 155)
These few brief days shall pass away, this present life shall vanish from our sight; the roses of this world shall be fresh and fair no more, the garden of this earth’s triumphs and delights shall droop and fade. The spring season of life shall turn into the autumn of death . . . He who hath knowledge and power will rather seek out the glory of heaven, and spiritual distinction, and the life that dieth not. And such a one longeth to approach the sacred Threshold of God. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdul-Bahá, p. 220)
Musical Interlude: Prayer for the Departed by Roya Bauman
Prayer for the Dead (to be said at the graveside)
The Prayer for the Dead is the only Bahá’í obligatory prayer that is to be recited in congregation; it is to be recited by one believer while all present stand in silence.
O my God! This is Thy handmaiden and the daughter of Thy handmaiden who hath believed in Thee and in Thy signs, and set her face towards Thee, wholly detached from all except Thee. Thou art, verily, of those who show mercy the most merciful. Deal with her, O Thou Who forgivest the sins of men and concealest their faults, as beseemeth the heaven of Thy bounty and the ocean of Thy grace. Grant her admission within the precincts of Thy transcendent mercy that was before the foundation of earth and heaven. There is no God but Thee, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous.
Alláh-u-Abhá. We all, verily, worship God. (19 times)
Alláh-u-Abhá We all, verily, bow down before God. (19 times)
Alláh-u-Abhá We all, verily, are devoted unto God. (19 times)
Alláh-u-Abhá We all, verily, give praise unto God. (19 times)
Alláh-u-Abhá We all, verily, yield thanks unto God. (19 times)
Alláh-u-Abhá We all, verily, are patient in God. (19 times)
During this COVID-19 pandemic, many people are wondering “what if?”. Now might be a good time to think about what’s really important in terms of a living will or euthanasia. Many people have asked me for a copy of what I’ve written to use as a model, and I’m happy to share.
First of all lets see what it means:
A Living Will is not the same as a Will and Testament. A living will is a document which expresses what you want to happen regarding medical treatment while you are still alive. It typically explains whether or not you want to be kept on life support if you become terminally ill and will die shortly without life support, or fall into a persistent vegetative state. It also addresses other important questions, detailing your preferences for tube feeding, artificial hydration, and pain medication in certain situations.
It only becomes effective when you aren’t able to communicate your desires on your own, so it’s important to put it in writing and have the discussion, so there can be no confusion for family members who have to made difficult decisions in a moment of crisis and high stress. Without it, doctors or hospitals may decide they are legally obligated to perform certain procedures that you would not desire.
You may also have heard the term “DNR” (Do not resuscitate): This is an order on your medical chart advising health professionals that extraordinary measures should not be used to attempt to save your life.
With regards to a living will, here’s what the Bahá’í Writings have to say:
As to the Bahá’í viewpoint on the removal of withholding of life support in medical cases where intervention prolongs life in disabling illnesses, nothing has been found in the Sacred Text specifically on this matter. In such cases decisions must be left to those responsible, including the patients. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)
Here’s how I’ve worded mine:
Decisions about the kind of care I am to receive are to be made in accordance with the following requests. I wish to have maximum independence.
I wish to continue my life as an active Bahá’í. At a minimum, this includes assistance in:
saying the daily obligatory prayer (short one at noon is fine), with ablutions and facing east;
reciting prayers (I like to say a minimum of three, including a prayer for teaching or triumph of the Cause) and reading the Bahá’í Writings morning and evening (including a short discussion of the applicability of these teachings to daily life if I am capable of such thought);
regular sacrificial donations to the funds of the Faith every 19 days and the payment of Huququllah each year (I have been submitting it monthly it should be up to date.
regular attendance at 19 Day Feasts and Holy Day Celebrations;
All of these things are to be done regardless of whether or not I appear to be getting anything out of them. My soul will benefit if nothing else.
My preference is for naturopathic or homeopathic medicine, using herbs instead of drugs, wherever possible.
If I am bedridden for any length of time, please use the sheepskin currently on my bed (and my own sheets if possible).
No heroic Measures
In the case of life threatening situations, I wish to have no heroic measures whatsoever.
I do not wish any life-support treatment which includes medical devices put in me to help prolong my life or anything else meant to keep me alive.
If I have permanent and severe brain damage, and I am not expected to get better, and life-support treatment would only delay the moment of my death I do not want life-support treatment. If it has been started, I want it stopped.
If I am in a coma from which I am not expected to wake up or recover, and I have brain damage, and life-support treatment would only delay the moment of my death I do not want life-support treatment. If it has been started, I want it stopped.
If I am unable to take care of myself, mentally or physically, and life-support treatment will not help me recover I do not want life-support treatment. If it has been started, I want it stopped.
I want to be offered food and fluids by mouth, and kept clean and warm at all times.
I want such pain medication as necessary to make me comfortable.
When I am near death, I would like Bahá’í prayers and readings read aloud and/or calm, peaceful, spiritual music played until I am dead.
I wish for Bahá’ís (the Local Spiritual Assembly and/or others) to be informed of my condition and asked to pray for me and to visit me. If possible, please notify people on my 2 Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin accounts and ask them for prayers; and contact the House of Justice at secretariat at bwc.org; and ask them to put me on the prayer list, praying specifically for steadfastness up to the hour of my death.
I wish to be cared for with kindness and cheerfulness, and not sadness. I am eagerly anticipating my life in the next world.
I want to die at home or in hospice and my body to be prepared according to Bahá’í procedures by Bahá’ís who are able to do so.
Euthanasia is the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy. You may have also heard it referred to as “mercy killings” or “assisted suicide” or “assisted death” or “right to die”.
With regards to euthanasia, here’s what the Bahá’í Writings have to say:
As to the Bahá’í viewpoint on the removal of withholding of life support in medical cases where intervention prolongs life in disabling illnesses, nothing has been found in the Sacred Text specifically on this matter. In such cases decisions must be left to those responsible, including the patients. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)
We have received your letter of March 18, 1974 in which you ask for the Bahá’í viewpoint on euthanasia and on the removal of life support in medical cases where physiological interventions prolong life in disabling illnesses. In general our teachings indicate that God, the Giver of life, can alone dispose of it as He deems best, and we have found nothing in the Sacred Text on these matters specifically but in a letter to an individual written on behalf of the beloved Guardian by his secretary regarding mercy killings, or legalized euthanasia, it is stated: “…this is also a matter which the Universal House of Justice will have to legislate.” Until such time as the Universal House of Justice considers legislation on Euthanasia, decisions in the matters to which you refer must be left to the conscience of those responsible. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290-291)
So even though suicide is forbidden in the Faith, until such time as the House of Justice considers legislation on these matters, living wills and euthanasia are left to individual conscience.
As the legalities of both situations vary from place to place, it’s best to consult a lawyer to set these things in motion if that’s your wish.
In these days of uncertainty, with the COVID-19 death toll rising daily, many people are wondering about how to put their affairs in order “just in case”.
Although there is no relevant guidance to consider from the Baha’i Writings, making our final wishes known is a great service we can provide for those left behind.
Many people have asked me for copies of the document which I’ve put together, to use as a model, so they can have a starting point to write their own. I hope you find it helpful too.
Keys to My Home:Hopefully you’ll have access to my key ring, but if not, XXX has my spare. She’s at XXX. Her cell number is XXX. If you can’t reach her, contact (my landlord) to release a key: XXX After hours: XXX
Pets: Someone will need to make arrangements for my pets to be fed and watered as quickly as possible. XXX often looks after them and will know what to do. She will need a key to get in. XXX number is: XXX
The pets are bonded and should be rehomed together.
XXX (male) is the orange one, and XXX (female) is the grey one.
XXX at XXX may be willing to take the cats and see that they get good homes. If they are unable to do it, you can surrender them to the SPCA in XXX. Call first to make arrangements. Address: XXX Phone: XXX
Organ Donation: Here’s what the Baha’i Writings have to say:
There is nothing in the teachings which would forbid a Bahá’í to bequeath his eyes to another person or for a hospital; on the contrary it seems a noble thing to do. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)
Bahá’ís are permitted to specify in their wills that their bodies or organs of their bodies may be donated to the proper uses of science or the replacement of organs or organ parts. (Universal House of Justice, Compilation on Reproduction and Other Biological Subjects, 30 August 1988)
We have not come across anything specific in the writings on transplants of hearts and other organs or regarding the time of death, and the Universal House of Justice does not wish to make any statements on these points at this time. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)
I’ve always wanted to donate my organs on my death, but when I was living in a small community three hours north of a major medical centre, I learned that if I died there, they would keep my body on life supports, ship me three hours away, harvest the organs and then ship me back for burial. This called into question where the location of death would be, and could I actually do this, given the fact that the body would be moved for more than an hour. I wrote to the National Centre (of Canada) for their guidance and this is their response:
“On the matter of donation of one’s body for medical research after death, Shoghi Effendi stated the following in a letter written on his behalf on 22 March 1957. . .
As many people make arrangements to leave their bodies to medical science for investigation, he suggests that you inquire, either through some lawyer friend or through some hospital, how you could do this, and then make the necessary provision in your Will, stipulating that you wish your body be of service to mankind in death, and that, being a Bahá’í, you request that your remains not be cremated and not be taken more than an hour’s journey from the place you die. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)
They also said “In light of the guidance and your understanding of the transportation of the body at the time organs are harvested, your decision regarding [withdrawing] your organ donor card would seem to be sound.
After much prayer and reflection, here’s what I’ve written in my final wishes:
I have registered as an organ and tissue donor, but before proceeding with the donation, please ensure that it does not conflict with Baha’i burial procedures – for example, the body must not be transported more than an hour from the place of death. If I die in the town where I live (please God!) and the body needs to be kept alive and on life support while it’s transported to the nearest medical centre that processes organs; this may not be in keeping with the spirit of Bahá’í law, which should take precedence.
Leaving Our Bodies to Medical Science:
There is nothing in the Teachings against leaving our bodies to medical science. The only thing we should stipulate is that we do not wish to be cremated, as it is against our Bahá’í Laws. As many people make arrangements to leave their bodies to medical science for investigation, he suggests that you inquire, either through some lawyer friend or through some hospital, how you could do this, and then make the necessary provision in your Will, stipulating that you wish your body to be of service to mankind in death, and that, being a Bahá’í, you request that your remains not be cremated and not be taken more than an hour’s journey from the place you die. The spirit has no more connection with the body after it departs, but, as the body was once the temple of the spirit, we Bahá’ís are taught that it must be treated with respect. ((From a letter dated 22 March 1957 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer) [Also quoted in Directives from the Guardian, section 126]
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 dated 2 April 1955 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
Car: My car is a standard 20XX black Make and Model, license plate XXX. If parked in the parking lot of my apartment building, it needs to be moved by 9:30 am, every time there is a snowfall greater than 5 cm. Not everyone is able to drive a standard, so whoever you get to move it, make sure they know how!
Cell Phone: The access code for my Cell Phone is: XXXX My voicemail password is XXXX.
Computer: All of my computers are synched with Dropbox, and are stored in the “cloud”, so you will be able to access my computer files remotely by going to: URL Login: XXX Password: XXX
There is information that might be of interest to my son on my computer, particularly under (these file paths)
Passwords: If passwords are necessary, they can be found on an Excel spreadsheet called “passwords” on my computer (follow these paths): They are protected with a password: XXX
WiFi:My WiFi password is: XXX
Address Book and Calendar: My address book and calendar are on my Cell Phone. Please let people with whom I’ve got appointments know I will not be available.
Notifications: You’ll need to notify XXX to avoid an overpayment, and to apply for the death benefit: Phone Number: XXX You’ll need my social insurance number: XXX
It would be a good idea to send an email notifying people of my situation to those who email me, or those who are in my address book. The easiest way of course is through Outlook Express on my computer, but if you need to access it online:
You can put an autoresponder on my email account, which will save you having to notify everyone one at a time!
You should also put a notification about the time and place of the funeral on these social media platforms: List each one with URL, usernames and passwords. These accounts can all be deleted after the funeral.
Income:I have several sources of income:
XXX, paid 3 business days before the end of the month, via direct deposit to my personal account.
XXX, usually paid within 5 days of the beginning of each month. My invoice to them is calculated per assignment and will be up to date. You don’t have to do anything to set this payment in motion. I’m paid in US dollars, through Paypal; and notified by email when the payment has been made. You can see my invoice at: XXX Username: XXX Password: XXX My PayPal account information is: username: XXX; Password: XXX When notified by email that the payment has been made, login in to paypal; click on “withdraw money”. When it gives you an opportunity to deposit it into an account, I usually put it into my business account – ending in XXX. Put in the amount that’s showing (even though it’s in US dollars); and it will automatically convert it to Canadian dollars when it makes the deposit. It’s clever that way! It will take approximately 5-7 business days to show up in my bank account. For more information, contact my boss, XXX at: XXX
XXX – pays commissions on book sales directly into my business bank account, on the 29th of every month. To track royalties owed: Log in at: URL with Username: XXX and Password: XXX To arrange to have the royalties deposited into your account, call XXX and ask for the Publishing Division.
XXX sometimes pays commissions from a down line I haven’t worked at: Call them at: XXX, or email XXX to see if there is anything owed to me. If there is, it won’t be much!
Banking: My bank is XXX. Bank card is in a folder in XXX. My passcode is XXX. You can access my online banking at: XXX I have several accounts: The one ending XXX is my personal account. The one ending XXX is my business account. I also have several very small RSP’s with them.
Financial Information: All my financial information is in YNAB (You Need a Budget) – URL Username: XXX Password: XXX If you need to download the program in order to access it, the license number is: XXX
Most bills and payments to the Right of God should be up to date. There may be a balance owing on MasterCard from the current billing period. There is money to cover it in the bank.
The category marked “XXX” is actually a holding account against any income taxes owing. This money should not be spent until my final income taxes are calculated.
Financial records needed for income tax for the current year can be found in the filing rack on the bookcase next to the kitchen table. Income tax information from previous years is in a box marked “income tax” in the storage closet.
Security Questions: If you need to know the answer to security questions:
I usually use my mother’s maiden name “XXX” or my father’s middle name “XXX”.
Credit Cards: The only credit card I’m using is Mastercard (in my wallet). Acct. Number: XXX Expiry: XXX Security: XXX Name on Card: XXX Username: XXX Password: XXX
Check the website (scroll down) to see how many points I have. You might as well use them for free groceries before cancelling the account. Contact number 24/7: XXX
Phone and Internet: $XXX comes out of my account automatically; every month. You can access my account online: URL Policy Number: XXX PIN: XXX
Monthly service contracts: $XXX comes out of my account automatically every month. Policy Number: XXX Contact: XXX
Water: a new filter for my shower is shipped automatically every 6 months. To cancel: Policy Number: XXX Contact: XXX
Huququ’llah (Right of God):
The obligation to pay Huququ’llah (returning back to God what belongs to God) is normally to be carried out with lifetime giving. If this has been your practice, you could say something like:
I pay my Right of God monthly, so it should be up to date, and the only thing outstanding would be from the past month. I calculate it by adding up all expenses not related to running my household and business, then multiplying it by 19%. This money is then sent to the Representative of the Trustee of Huququ’llah:
If you want to make provision in your will for payment of the unpaid portion of Huququ’llah, you could direct your executor to contact the local Trustee for information on how to handle it.
The event of death does not remove from a believer the obligation to pay Huququ’llah. Whatever portion is due to be paid is therefore a debt due from the believer’s estate at the time of his or her death. (on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, Wills and Inheritance, 1996-07-01)
Here is some more information your executor will need to know:
The cost of the funeral and burial, the payment of the debts of the deceased, and the payment of whatever portion of Huququ’llah remains due are prior charges on the estate which must be met before arriving at the amount of the property which has to be divided in accordance with the provisions of the law of inheritance. (on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, Wills and Inheritance, 1996-07-01)
It should be noted that the question of a legal wording to include provision in a will for the payment of Huququ’llah after a believer has died is dependent upon so many factors, that it would be preferable to seek legal advice so that wording which is appropriate and in accordance with the laws governing inheritance can be used. (on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, Wills and Inheritance, 1996-07-01)
In light of the complexities of sorting out what is to be paid, it is certainly better to make the necessary arrangements for payment of Huququ’llah before your death, in order to avoid complications or confusions which could arise.
Obviously, unless the believer leaves a clear accounting of his or her property and payment of Huququ’llah to date, if any, it will not be possible for anyone to calculate accurately what remains to be paid at the time of death. (on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, Wills and Inheritance, 1996-07-01)
Car: My car insurance is through XXX (paid monthly through automatic withdrawal). Policy Number: XXX (see insurance file in the computer desk filing drawer) Contact: XXX
Life: I have a policy with XXX Insurance to help with my burial and final expenses. It will pay: XXX $XXX comes out of my account automatically every month. Policy Number: XXX (see insurance file in the computer desk filing drawer) For more information, please contact: XXX
Rent:My landlord is XXX – contact XXX at XXX or email XXX My rent is paid automatically from my bank account on the first of every month.
Accountant: My accountant is XXX at XXX Accounting: Address: XXX Phone: XXX Email: XXX
Getting Rid of My Possessions
Library Books: They will have to be returned to the XXX Public Library at this address: XXX. There may be one in my purse (with me or on the top shelf of my coat closet); or by my bed; or on the kitchen table; with unread ones on the bookcase in my bedroom.
Laundry Card: There is a white plastic credit card labelled “XXX” in the right side of the 3rd drawer in the kitchen, which has money pre-loaded on it for the laundry. If there is a balance on the card when you’ve finished with it, it can be given to XXX in apartment XXX.
Clothes: My clothes and any unused household items and furniture can be donated to XXX: Phone Number: XXX or email: XXX
Individual Items including Baha’i Books (list each item separately):These can be found in the XXX and can go to XXX. Phone number: XXX
Websites:I have XXX websites: List the URL’s XXX at: XXX is hosting my content and managing the sites for me. You can reach him at: XXX or XXX
In the Event of Incapacitation
In Case of Emergency, please contact (list as many names, phone numbers and their relationship to you as you want). You may want to include:
local Baha’is and others who may want to pray for you
Any caregivers you want
someone to look after your pets
local coordinator for caregiving
In the Event of Death
Notifications: The following people are key contacts to notify. They can notify people within their circle to provide news of my death.
List as many names, phone numbers and their relationship to you as you want). You may want to include:
local Baha’is and other Baha’i friends
Bahá’í National Centre Records
Trustee for Huqúqu’lláh
If these numbers are out of service, up to date phone numbers can be found in my address book (in my iPhone). My phone plan covers all of Canada and the USA – don’t put 1 in front of the area code.
Death Notice: Notice of my death can be posted in the local online newspaper: URL Email: XXX Phone: XXX
Funeral Home: My preferred Funeral Home is XXX at URL Address: XXX Phone: XXX Email: XXX
I want my funeral and/or memorial service planned, organized and executed by Bahá’ís, working in conjunction with my son XXX, and used as an opportunity to teach the Faith.
I would like lots of music and singing (artists to consider include XXX, XXX, XXX and XXX). I’m also fond of “XXX” by artist’s name XXX. You can find it on my computer at XXX: or you can buy it at: URL
Suggested readings for my funeral and/or memorial service can be found at XXX. Other quotes and readings can also be used. If it won’t offend anyone, I like to use ‘Abdul-Bahá’s prayer to Thomas Breakwell, substituting the word “Breakwell” with “Susan”. And of course, I want the long prayer for the departed read at the cemetery.
Two binders of pictures and information on my life may be suitable for a memorial service, and both can be found here: XXX
I have put together a slide show in powerpoint, with pictures of me throughout the years. It can be found on my computer under XXX: I like the song “XXX” by this artist: XXX which might work for background music while the slideshow is playing. It can be found on YouTube at: URL
I have been working on my memoirs, which can be found on my computer, filed under XXX. (or if I’ve already printed it, it can be found in a box marked “Family History” in the storage closet. I would like a copy printed off for my son and one printed and sent to the Baha’i archives at XXX.
I am to be buried according to Baha’i burial principles. If the funeral director is not familiar with these, please instruct him to contact the nearest Bahá’í community immediately. If I die in XXX, that would be the Spiritual Assembly in XXX (Contact XXX at XXX) or XXX (Contact XXX at: XXX)
I have a silk burial shroud. It can be found in my bottom right hand dresser drawer, along with the burial ring (packaged together).
I would also like to have XXX buried with me. You can find it in the XXX. It looks like this (insert picture)
I wish to be buried in a small, quiet and peaceful place, off the beaten path and away from visual and auditory “clutter”. If possible, I’d like to be buried under a tree.
I’m particularly fond of the old part of the on XXX Cemetery at XXX. If there is a spot close to the XXX plot, along the fence near XXX, at the south end of the cemetery, it would be wonderful, as I often use it as a surrogate spot to say prayers for my parents.
I also like the following cemeteries at XXX in XXX or XXX Contact names and phone numbers: XXX
If I die anywhere within an hour’s drive of XXX, I have a funeral plot at the XXX Cemetery with my name on it. It’s a double adult plot, in Section XXX, graves XXX. If I don’t use it, the cemetery board can attach a note to the grave notifying who will be buried there (so it can be passed along to my son or his heirs). The double lot will accommodate 2 caskets or 8 cremations. A copy of the deed can be found under “Important Papers” in the filing cabinet of my desk. For more information, you can contact: XXX at XXX
XXX has made me a grave marker, and is storing it at his shop until such time as it is needed. It is paid for, but I’ve just learned that some cemeteries have restrictions on what kind of head-stones they will allow. You will need to talk to the cemetery about the grave marker before finalizing the details. Hopefully this won’t be a problem (especially since I want to be buried in a small cemetery)! Contact XXX; XXX; XXX
Burial Costs: To cover burial costs, I have a life insurance policy with XXX. For more information, please contact: XXX at XXX Policy Number: XXX
Government Pension Plan: I may qualify for a lump-sum payment of up to $XXX. For more information, please contact: XXX Let them know my SIN number (XXX) The form can be downloaded from this URL XXX. It must be submitted within 60 days of the date of death.
Will and Testament: My Will and Testament is to be found in the file marked “Will” in the filing cabinet of my desk.
As you may know, the writing of a will is obligatory for Baha’is and failure to draw it up is considered by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as “disobedience” to the command of Bahá’u’lláh:
Bahá’u’lláh clearly establishes the making of a will as one of His laws. In the Kitab-i-Aqdas, paragraph 109, He instructs: “Unto everyone hath been enjoined the writing of a will.” The importance of this law is not to be underestimated, as can be seen from a careful study of the attached compilation of newly translated extracts from Tablets revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Not only is making a will a spiritual duty, “one of the binding laws of this mighty Dispensation”, but it allows the individual full discretion to specify how his or her property, including the residence, is to be disposed of, and it is conducive to unity and agreement. Failure to draw up a will is considered by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as “disobedience” to the command of Bahá’u’lláh and as “non-fulfilment of the divine obligation”, and it leads to the division of the individual’s property according to provisions of the laws of inheritance. (Universal House of Justice, to an individual, 1 July 1996)
There is a lot of information online about what to include in a will, and how to word it if you are going to write it in your own handwriting, instead of going through a lawyer. Because the laws vary from province to province, from state to state, you will want to make sure you follow the law where you live, or better yet, hire a lawyer to make sure it’s done right.
Here are some things to consider:
Baha’is are free to dispose of our estates in whatever manner we choose.
A basic will names:
your executor (the person responsible for executing your final wishes, paying your bills, dispersing your property, filling out government forms etc.). You may also want to nominate an alternate person to act as back-up, in case the executor passes away or is unable to perform the duties for any reason.
a guardian for any minor children or dependents
instructions for any pets you may own
who you want to receive specific items
In addition, there are certain additional items Baha’is might consider adding.
The testator should head this document with the adornment of the Most Great Name [Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá or O Glory of the Most Glorious], bear witness therein unto the oneness of God in the Dayspring of His Revelation, and make mention, as he may wish, of that which is praiseworthy, so that it may be a testimony for him in the kingdoms of Revelation and Creation and a treasure with his Lord, the Supreme Protector, the Faithful. Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas, 109)
Here is what I have at the beginning of mine:
I testify to the oneness of God, as manifested in the day spring of His revelation.
2. Burial Instructions
It’s best to have these separate from the Will because often the will is not read until after interment has taken place.
For the burial of the dead the only requirements now binding in the West are to bury the body (not to cremate it), not to carry it more than a distance of one hour’s journey from the place of death, and to say the Prayer for the Dead if the deceased is a believer over the age of 15.” (On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, at http://bahai-library.com/uhj_laws_not_binding )
Although much of the following is not yet binding, the following guidance might also want be considered:
In Bahá’í Law, the deceased is to be buried no more than one hour’s journey from the place of death. The journey to the burial place should be timed at an hour, regardless of the means of transport, and may be calculated from the city limits.
The length of time between death and the burial is unspecified in the Bahá’í writings, though Bahá’u’lláh’s says that “the sooner the burial taketh place, the more fitting and preferable.” We gain some idea of the context of this statement in Shoghi Effendi’s explanation that in the Orient the practice is to bury the person within 24 hours of the time of death.
Bahá’ís are not to be embalmed or cremated, unless required by law, as our teachings require both that the body be treated with great respect and that it be allowed to decompose naturally, with no means used to hasten its decomposition.
After death, the body is to be washed carefully and wrapped in a shroud . . . Though it is not specified in the Bahá’í law, it has been the custom among the Bahá’ís of Iran to perfume the body as well, with attar of rose or another perfume. Subsequently, the body should be wrapped in white cloth, preferably silk, though cotton is also mentioned.
The deceased should also be buried wearing a Bahá’í burial ring, customarily placed upon the forefinger.
The coffin used to bury the deceased should be made, in the words of the Aqdas, “of crystal, stone, or hard fine wood (oaks, maple, hickory, birch, beech and cherry).
The body must be placed in the grave in such a position that the feet point towards ‘Akká (the Qiblih).
In a Tablet of the Master’s, He emphasizes the need for the cemetery to have a beautiful outward appearance and . . . each one should have a flower bed around its four sides. He also indicates that it would be pleasing if a pool were located in the center of the cemetery and beautiful trees were planted around it as well as around the cemetery itself.
According to Bahá’í law, there is just one ceremonial requirement at a Bahá’í funeral, and that is the recitation of the Prayer for the Dead. This prayer should be recited by one believer only, at the graveside, with all those present standing. Other prayers may be chosen as well, and the service should be very simple and dignified. All of the arrangements for the service and the burial is left to the family of the deceased and no fixed form for funeral services should be adopted or imposed upon the friends.
To minimize stress on your remaining family members, you might want to purchase your burial shroud and burial ring ahead of time, so it’s on hand when needed.
I purchased mine from this company and am very pleased with their business model, their compassionate communication and the quality of their products.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the House of Justice sent the following guidance:
In relation to the current health crisis, the House of Justice advises that public safety must be diligently and thoroughly observed by all believers. Although Bahá’í law concerning the burial of the dead is clear, yet in case of serious and contagious diseases, whatever advice the health authorities provide must be followed.
In a Tablet that addresses the question of whether cremation of bodies is permissible in the event of contagious diseases, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá confirms that hygiene and protection are the highest priority. Thus, for example, believers from Bahá’í communities in the East who have customarily washed and shrouded the bodies of the deceased may refrain from such observances in relation to a Bahá’í who has died from the coronavirus disease, in order to avoid exposure. Even should authorities mandate cremation of the deceased, there would be no objection to observing such a requirement in light of the guidance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
As to the Prayer for the Dead, there is no stipulation that it must be recited at the graveside—only that it be said before the interment of the body takes place. It may even be recited in a private setting.
If government health authorities have not provided advice on the handling of remains during this health crisis, or the advice is not sufficiently specific as it bears on the application of Bahá’í law, the National Spiritual Assembly may, following consultation with medical experts and seeking the advice of the Counsellors, provide guidance to believers about how the principles set forth above may be applied. (on behalf of The Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 8 April 2020)
3. Record how you want your Baha’i literature, files, and records to be disposed of. Baha’i books may be donated to individuals, to the local Baha’i library or a library in a larger centre. If you have files of interest to the archives, you might want to have them sent to your National Assembly.
4. Identify that you want to ensure that your children receive Baha’i training, and who might be willing to make sure this is done.
5. Donations to the Baha’i Fund. If you want a portion of your estate to go to the Baha’i Fund, make sure you specify which fund (local, national, international, continental, World Centre Endowment, deputization, International Baha’i Development Fund). For more information on how to best approach this, you might want to consult your national treasurer.
6. Arrange for the payment of Huququ’lláh (Right of God), if it hasn’t been paid prior to your death:
Your understanding that the obligation to pay Huququ’llah arises during one’s lifetime and is normally to be carried out with lifetime giving is correct, although at the same time it is true that there may be cases where a believer dies without having made provision in his or her will for payment of the unpaid portion of Huququ’llah, if any. The event of death does not remove from a believer the obligation to pay Huququ’llah. Whatever portion is due to be paid is therefore a debt due from the believer’s estate at the time of his or her death. The cost of the funeral and burial, the payment of the debts of the deceased, and the payment of whatever portion of Huququ’llah remains due are prior charges on the estate which must be met before arriving at the amount of the property which has to be divided in accordance with the provisions of the law of inheritance. Thus, whether or not a person makes a will or, having made a will, whether he or she makes provision in it for the payment of Huququ’llah, the Huququ’llah should be paid, like all debts, before the rest of the state is divided. (Universal House of Justice, to an individual, 1 July 1996)
For further clarification, you are encouraged to consult the Deputy Trustee of Huqúqu’lláh in your area.
7. A concluding statement.
Here is what I have at the end of mine:
I have set forth such good deeds as I wish to be realized, that these may stand as my testimony in the worlds of revelation and be as a treasure, stored up with my Lord, the Protector, the Trusted One.