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 Azerbaijani funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Moroccan funeral traditions and Kuwaiti funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
More than 90% of Azerbaijan’s population identifies as Muslim. Shia Islam is the most common with about 85% of those who identify as Muslim. Their afterlife beliefs vary depending on the individual’s own beliefs. However, many Muslims believe that death is the end of physical life on Earth, but the soul lives on. On Judgment Day, it’s determined whether they go to heaven or hell.
When someone is dying, their family doesn’t leave them alone or excessively grieve. After someone dies, they lay the body facing south and cover the deceased with a black cloth to symbolize mourning. Their family washes and dresses the deceased in their burial clothing.
Depending on the time of death and burial time, their family stays with them throughout the night for an all-night wake. They may serve halva — a flour and honey-based dessert — and tea.
Azerbaijani Funeral Customs
Azerbaijani funeral celebrations can be extravagant and expensive events. Some families try to save money while others go all-out with chefs and waiters to cater the funeral. They also may set up tents outside if they need more space for their guests. Typical funeral food includes tea, halva, sweets, pilafs, and meat dishes. Funeral guests also give families an even number of flowers, although it’s usually an odd number of flowers for other events.
If possible, the burial is on the same day as the death. On the way to the cemetery — unless if the deceased was six years old or younger — they read prayers and ask for forgiveness of the deceased’s soul. For the burial, the deceased is buried facing Mecca.
The deceased’s family gathers to memorialize their loved one on the third, seventh, and 40th days after their loved one’s death — as well as the one-year anniversary of their death. Sometimes, families may combine the third and seventh remembrance day celebrations due to time or cost.
During the first 40 days after a loved one’s death, mourners may choose to not wear jewelry, wear black clothing, avoid playing loud music, and not attend parties. Men also may choose not to shave and relatives may wait one year after the death to have a wedding.