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 Algerian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Haida people funeral traditions and Belarusian funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Algerian Religious Beliefs
99% of Algeria’s population identifies as Sunni Muslim as of 2012. The other 1% is mostly Christian and Jewish. Since most of the population is Muslim, we’ll focus on these customs.
Muslims believe that death is the end of physical life on Earth but the soul lives on. The soul goes to the Angel of Death to await Judgement Day when their actions on Earth are judged. Through these judgments, it’s determined whether the soul goes to paradise or hell.
Algerian Funeral Service
For an Algerian funeral service — like here in North America — they want to create a personalized funeral experience. They also have their own religious and cultural beliefs that play a role in their funeral traditions. Typically, they recite prayers and readings from the Quran — Islam’s central religious text. Overall, it’s a simple and concise ceremony, sometimes even occurring graveside.
The ceremony may be graveside since Muslims bury the deceased within 24 hours of the death. There may not be time for a traditional wake and funeral service before the burial. However, close family members may still view the body and kiss the deceased to show respect. They also don’t practice embalming or cremation.
Like their funeral services, the graves are very simplistic without many decorations. Flowers aren’t common grave decorations or sympathy gifts. The deceased’s close family members may help shovel the grave spot. They bury the deceased with their head facing Mecca. Traditionally, only men attended the burial. These days, many women and children also attend the burial service.
There is a three-day mourning period or longer after the burial. There also is a funeral meal on the 40th day after the burial. During the mourning period, people may bring those who are grieving meals to express their condolences and check in on them. They encourage those who are grieving to talk about the deceased to keep their memory alive.