Arab Christian Death Rituals

The old Christian Coptic necropolis at Al-Bagawat in the Kharga Oasis (3-7th century CE) - western Egypt
The old Christian Coptic necropolis at Al-Bagawat in the Kharga Oasis (3-7th century CE) - western Egypt. Source: Kabaeh49 at German Wikipedia (mein bild) [CC BY-SA 2.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons

Death rituals for Arab Christians are similar to practices common to followers of Christianity across the world. Arab Christians may have a bible next to their dying relative and would most certainly organise a visit from the priest of their local church. If the person is in your care, the family may ask you for assistance to organise this. Please use our Directory to search for Christian places of worship and contact the priest of the relevant Christian denomination.

Arab Christians are accepting of medical interventions to prolong life if possible. Although cremation is not permitted, autopsies and organ donation are allowed. Traditionally, Orthodox Christians wash and prepare the body of the deceased and this is usually undertaken by family members, although in Australia, some Arab Orthodox Christians may choose for this to be done by funeral directors.

Special prayers are held on the ninth day after death and importantly, on the fortieth day after death. The forty day period has great significance in the Orthodox Church, as it is considered the period in which the soul of the deceased wanders the earth and on the fortieth day, the ascension of the soul occurs. Memorial services are held at various times after death: forty days, three months, six months, nine months, twelve months and annually thereafter.

Unlike the Islamic tradition, the Christian tradition holds that extended mourning for the deceased as important for the soul’s peace. Societal custom also has Christian Arabs wearing black clothing after the death of a family member for at least forty days, often for one year, and in the case of widows, this could extend to the rest of their life.