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 Turkish funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Zimbabwean funeral traditions and Jewish funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
As of 2016, Sunni Islam, the largest denomination of Islam, is Turkey’s most common religion at 65% of the population. Many Turkish Muslims believe death is the beginning of a new and eternal life. After death, they wait until Judgment Day to determine whether they go to heaven or hell. Their grave either becomes a garden in the garden of heaven or a well in the well of hell.
The research article Traditional and Religious Death Practices in Western Turkey discusses the religious beliefs and death practices of Narlidere, a district of the Izmir province in Turkey. The researchers conducted a study where they interviewed 181 Turkish people. As for religious beliefs, these are the studies’ major findings:
- 84.5% of participants said praying is the first religious practice they do following a death.
- 15.5% said they don’t do any religious practices.
- 36.5% described death as the end of life.
Preparation of the Body
The deceased’s family washes the body with perfumed soap. Afterward, they lay the body on a clean bed with feet together and hands side by side on the stomach. Sometimes, they also blindfold the deceased so they rest in peace and tie their jaw to prevent it from dropping. Then, they cover the body with a white cotton cloth or wrap it in a shroud.
They leave the lights on in the room and cook halva to please the deceased. However, children can’t be in the same room as the body.
The family takes the body to the mosque to perform the Turkish funeral namaz prayers. Then, they go to the cemetery for the burial, which is within 24 hours of the death. They might delay the burial if relatives need to travel from far away, but it isn’t preferred. In some cases, they may choose to bury the deceased without a casket.
Afterward, there’s a meal at the deceased’s home. They also sing laments, console the mourning family, and recite sections of the Quran, Islam’s central religious text.
Per the research article above, these are the major findings regarding Turkish funeral and burial traditions:
- 82.9% of participants pray at the burial.
- 42% said they joined in the burial by shoveling soil into the grave. (This represents that they won’t claim any rights of the deceased.)
- 43.6% sang laments, while 56.4% didn’t.
The mourning period can last for up to 40 days. During this time, there are no weddings, engagements, or other significant celebrations and ceremonies. You also shouldn’t wear fancy clothes, watch TV, talk loudly, laugh, or talk negatively about the deceased.
They also may have ceremonies and meals on the 40th day, 52nd day, and the one-year anniversary of the death. Some families also have celebrations on the third and seventh days after the death.
Per the research article above, these are the major findings regarding mourning traditions:
- 91.7% of participants took meals to the mourning family.
- 55.2% said they visited the deceased’s family to support them.