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 Syrian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about ancient Iranian funeral traditions and Iranian funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Syria is a dominantly Muslim country, with more than 75% of the population identifying as Muslim. Specifically, Sunni Muslim is the most common.
Preparation of the Body
The deceased’s family wraps the body in a white shroud. The person who cleaned the body asks if the deceased had any debts, and the oldest family member usually takes care of them so the deceased’s soul can properly rest.
Syrian Funeral Customs
A Syrian funeral ceremony may have music and dancing, but it’s still a sad occasion for mourning. A band usually plays traditional music, especially for pregnant women, young mothers, and children who died. They also may perform at a young bachelor’s funeral so it’s like the wedding celebration that they never had.
The male family members carry the casket to the gravesite for the burial. Syrian Muslims perform the burial within 24 hours of the death, if possible.
During the mourning period, friends and community members pay their respects to the grieving family. Three days after the funeral, the deceased’s family places flowers on their grave. However, they don’t place the headstone on the gravesite until 40 days after the burial, because they believe the soul stays in the grave for this time length, so they don’t want to trap it.
Female family members wear black clothing for several months or even a year or longer after the death. While male family members grow their beards out while mourning. Widows may wear black clothing for the rest of their life and don’t usually remarry.
At the beginning of the mourning period, the family also feeds the poor. The meal includes a main meat dish, and everyone says a short prayer for the deceased. Some villages also slaughter livestock such as a ram or bull to protect the deceased’s soul.
Wealthier families may build a water fountain with their loved one’s named engraved on it. Then, whoever uses the water fountain says the first verse of the Quran for the deceased’s soul.