Last Breath

Let us for the next few moments seek an understanding of death, the only certainty in life.

As we contemplate death, many questions come to mind. What would be great is to keep in our minds that death is a natural part of our soul’s life cycle. Sadly, fear is a programme that can overtake us and runs many of the negative questions, beliefs and natural thought forms.  These feelings can be scary and frightening, many of us think that death is painful and that we are going to suffer, especially if we’ve have been bad to ourselves and to others. Our psyche around guilt can dominate our core. The thought of leaving loved ones behind, especially children and our worldly material attachments to our livelihood can fill us with dread.

Our fear about death is very much influenced by our environment, family, religious text and dogma. As a child, I remember my Aunt saying that because I didn’t cover my hair, once I die, that I’d slowly burn in hell and that many vicious animals would tear me up and eat parts of me very slowly, she explained the process in graphic detail.  My story isn’t unique, as many children hear similar stories in order to scare them into good behavior. Consequently, images of a life in hell were embedded in my mind. In this context, it’s very understandable that we don’t wish to experience death at all. Prophet Mohammed said, “Whoever knows oneself, knows the Creator.” Knowing that we are an extension of the Creative God force that lives and moves through all things can be reassuring.

In Islam there are 5 stages of the soul’s experience: – Conception, Birth, Life, Death and The Hereafter, and that we must be aware of all stages. This knowledge can help us from becoming too attached to life on this earth. This allows us to be a traveller as opposed to being here permanently, where death doesn’t happen. Death is just a very small part of a soul’s journey.

The soul begins its journey 120 days after conception.  Souls are waiting to come into the earth plane to experience life’s gifts and lessons, also to spread and expand the soul’s light. The unutterable feeling of crossing the boundary between this world and the next can be described in words, imagined in the mind, but can be better understood through divine revelation and inspiration. At the moment of death, when the soul is ready to leave the body, the Angel of Death, Malak al-Maut (aka Arch Angel Azrial), assists the soul to leave the body. Once the soul’s purpose on earth is completed, the soul moves to Stage 4, Death – ‘Alam Barzaak’. It’s like a waiting area, where the soul resides for a short period.

As an undertaker, what helped me was the knowledge that the Higher Self is eternal, omnipotent, conscious and an intelligent force. At, we apply Higher Self awareness particularly when caring for the dead. We are mindful and respectful of the body and being in the presence of the soul, that is nearby. The majority of the souls that come into our care, we have never met or known. It’s vital that we acknowledge, each and every soul in the highest possible light, honoring them and their existence. Their soul is hovering above their physical body and they can hear every word and thought. Our first contact with the dead and their soul starts with the collection from the place of death. When we collect the dead from hospitals, homes, care homes, mortuaries, and travel with them, we observe the power of presence and speak consciously. We’re mindful that we are helping the soul on their journey, we are not making it difficult, and we believe that they are helping us. We also, handle the body gently, similarly to moving a baby or a young child and often find ourselves talking to them. This supports and reminds us, to respect the dead as equal to the living.

Once the dead are in our care, ‘compassionate care’ is imperative during the ‘Death Care process’. We give the body a gentle rose water bath, keeping noise and conversation to a minimum. The body is always covered, respecting their modesty at all times. We’ve observed that with washing, a sense of light enters the body and face, as water is refreshing, cleansing and purifying. Depending on the wishes of the family, we dress the body or simply shroud the body in white cotton. Then, the body is subtly anointed with pure oils or preferences stated by the family. This part of our Death Care is deeply meditating and rewarding.

Those attending the funeral consciously set their intentions of forgiveness, peace and completion to help the soul pass through their transition with ease. It’s seen as beneficial for the soul and their family to have as many people praying for them as possible.

Prayers have a calming effect on the soul. The bereaved family can take comfort in peoples physical presence. By understanding and accepting the completion process to the soul’s purpose and life on this earth plane, the departed soul can assist in healing the bereaved. In many of the Eastern religious traditions, attending a funeral even if you don’t know the person who has died is a communal act. There are almost as many blessings for the attendee as for the person who has died. At death, we don’t breath, however our divine souls are sacred alive and present.

Article by Hasina Zaman




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