Man loves to live forever, so how could he believe that death will put an end to his life? The Quran teaches us that death is only transferring from this world to the Hereafter. Therefore, human beings should know that they will have eternal lives.
This transferring to the Hereafter is not the same experience for all people. This experience is a different journey based on the beliefs and deeds of people. As a result, some of them will have a good experience and some will have a bad one. In this article, we will explain how man dies. To clarify the issue, we will learn the answer to the following questions in this article:
What Is the Reality of Death?
The soul is eternal. God has placed the soul in the body until a specified time; what human beings learn, see, speak, hear, and perform affects their soul. The body is like a vehicle that carries the soul. The soul is our true reality; it will be separated from the body with death. Therefore, death is a permanent and complete separation of the soul from the body in the world. When death comes, the angels of death take our souls from our bodies to the unseen world:
إِذَا جَاءَ أَحَدَكُمُ الْمَوْتُ تَوَفَّتْهُ رُسُلُنَا وَهُمْ لَا يُفَرِّطُونَ
“When death comes to one of you, Our angels take the soul, and they do not violate their duties.”1
What Are the Similarities Between Death and Sleep?
Death is not the only separation of the soul from the body. The verses of the Quran mention that sleep is also a separation of the soul from the body, except that it is temporary, and unlike death, it is not a complete and eternal separation:2
اللَّهُ يَتَوَفَّى الْأَنفُسَ حِينَ مَوْتِهَا وَالَّتِي لَمْ تَمُتْ فِي مَنَامِهَا ۖ فَيُمْسِكُ الَّتِي قَضَىٰ عَلَيْهَا الْمَوْتَ وَيُرْسِلُ الْأُخْرَىٰ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ ﴿٤٢﴾
“God brings out the souls (of human beings from their physical body) in the time of their death, (the same as He does) with the soul which has not died in the sleep, so He keeps the soul which should die (, so it is not allowed to return to the world,) but He releases the rest of them (whose time of death has not arrived yet,) until a specified time.”3
وَهُوَ الَّذِي يَتَوَفَّاكُم بِاللَّيْلِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا جَرَحْتُم بِالنَّهَارِ ثُمَّ يَبْعَثُكُمْ فِيهِ لِيُقْضَىٰ أَجَلٌ مُّسَمًّى ۖ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
“He is the One who takes your soul during the night and He knows what you do during the day, then He awakens you therein until the specified time is to be completed (, so you live until the specified certain time of your death), then you will be returned to Him and He will inform you concerning that which you used to perform.”4
When someone’s time of death arrives, the angel of death takes his soul out of his body towards the Hereafter.
۞ قُلْ يَتَوَفَّاكُم مَّلَكُ الْمَوْتِ الَّذِي وُكِّلَ بِكُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ تُرْجَعُونَ ﴿١١﴾
Say, “The angel of death who is in charge of you, will [bring your death and] take your soul out [of your physical body,] then you will be returned to your Lord.”5
When Does Death Come?
Based on the aforementioned verses, we understand that God has specified two different types of times for man’s death:6 First, we have the definite time of death, which is the maximum time we have each been given. It will not be changed and cannot be avoided. If it is set at 102 years, 8 months, 5 days, and 7 seconds it will certainly occur:
وَلِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ أَجَلٌ ۖ فَإِذَا جَاءَ أَجَلُهُمْ لَا يَسْتَأْخِرُونَ سَاعَةً ۖ وَلَا يَسْتَقْدِمُونَ
“And every nation has its (specified) term, so when their time (of death) comes they will neither (be able to) postpone it nor will they advance it.”7
Death may arrive before we have reached our maximum time, depending on our time and actions. Not living healthy, being careless of dangers, and various actions such as sins may bring death sooner than the maximum time. This is the indefinite time of death. Fornication, misbehaving with parents and relatives, and oppression are some deeds that reduce life whereas good deeds can help us to live as long as the maximum time.
يَغْفِرْ لَكُم مِّن ذُنُوبِكُمْ وَيُؤَخِّرْكُمْ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى ۚ إِنَّ أَجَلَ اللَّهِ إِذَا جَاءَ لَا يُؤَخَّرُ ۖ لَوْ كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
“He forgives your sins and postpones (your death) until a specified time”.8
The main difference between the definite and indefinite time of death is that when the definite time of death comes it is not changed at all; it is neither postponed nor advanced. However, several indefinite times of death can be postponed by good deeds, or reduced by bad deeds. Regardless, we cannot go beyond our definite time of death. Good deeds such as having a good relationship with our family extend the indefinite time of death.
How Do People Die?
We mentioned that when man dies, his soul leaves his body. In so doing, the angels of death take his body to the Hereafter. The believers who obey God and perform their duty will have a very good and easy departure. However, sinful and disbelievers will suffer from immense pain when their death comes and the angels of death will punish them. This punishment differs based on their sins.
Good deeds can reduce the pain of death; therefore, man should perform good deeds during his lifetime to have an easy death and have a good outcome. Some of these deeds are as follows:
- Giving up sins: sins are the main causes for receiving divine punishment. Those who sin should know that if they do not repent, they will receive a lasting punishment at the time of death and afterward.
- Avoid having a deep love for the temporary life of this world: those who love this world and their properties will not be able to leave them easily when their death comes. Therefore, the pain of separation from the world will be too heavy to suffer. On the one hand, one should reduce one’s love for the world and what one owns, and on the other hand, one should increase his love for God, his messenger, his household, and their teachings.
- Donation: spending wealth in the way of God will help man to have an easy death and good abode in the world to come.
- Behaving gratefully and kindly towards parents: God commands people to behave kindly towards their parents and extend their mercy to them.
When someone’s death approaches, the angel of death takes his soul out of his body. Death is a different experience for different people. That is, for the believers who performed good deeds, death will be a good experience whereas the death of the sinful who committed sins and refused to repent will be a terrible one, such that they have never experienced anything like it before. Some good deeds such as giving up sins, reducing love for the temporary life of this world, having love for God, His messenger, and his noble household, donating in the way of God, and behaving kindly towards parents and people can greatly help the believers at the time of death and afterward.
- Quran 6:60 (Foroutan).
- An Introduction to Quranic Theology, p. 101.
- Quran 39:42 (Foroutan).
- Quran 6:60 (Foroutan).
- Quran 32:11 (Foroutan).
- Al-Mizan, vol. 7, p. 9.
- Quran 7:34 (Foroutan).
- Quran 71:4 (Foroutan).