Accepted paper:

Zahra's Paradise, Muslim Burial and Digital Technology in Tehran


Soraya Tremayne (Oxford University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the transformation of Zahra’s Paradise cemetery in Tehran, one of the largest cemeteries in the world, into a modern centre making use of digital technology to ensure that the burial of the dead is dealt with immediately and efficiently, to uphold the Islamic values.

Paper long abstract:

Beliefs surrounding death and its associated rituals remain elaborate and form an important part of everyday life in Iran. The treatment of the dead and burial are based on Islamic concepts of life after death, with the ultimate aim of facilitating the passage from this world to the next. While the core beliefs about death and after life remain conformist in essence, the procedures to achieve them have had to alter due to the unforeseen challenges. The emerging situations stem from a rapid population growth and an increased rate of urbanisation. The need for effective burial facilities in Iran was also greatly aggravated by the unusual number of deaths due to the Islamic Revolution and an eight-year war between Iran and Iraq. But, nowhere was this pressure felt more than in Tehran, with a population of over 10 millions and where a great number of the war martyrs are buried. This paper discusses how the main cemetery in Tehran, Zahra's Paradise (Beheshte Zahra) has been transformed into a modern institution making use of digital technology to ensure that all stages of the journey from death to the final burial are performed thoroughly and with utmost efficiency. Zahra's Paradise has evolved from a mere burial place to embody every aspect of social, cultural and political life, accommodating the worldly needs of the living as well as the safeguarding of the spiritual well-being of the dead.

panel LD37
Changes in death rituals in the Middle East (IUAES Commission on Middle East Anthropology)