- In Hinduism
n the Hindu scriptures known collectively as 'Vedas', the lord of death is called Yama, or Yamaraj (literally "the lord of death").
Yamaraj rides a black buffalo and carries a rope lasso to carry the soul back to his abode called "Yamalok". It is his agents, the Yamaduts, who carry the souls back to Yamalok. Here, all the accounts of the person's good and bad deeds are stored and maintained by Chitragupta, which allow Yamaraj to decide where the soul has to reside in his next life, following the theory of reincarnation. It is believed that souls may experience re-birth in hellish, or heavenly worlds on returning to the Earth again, depending upon their actions having been of a good or bad nature in this lifetime. The ones who practice good karma and bhakti throughout their lives are granted Moksha, liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth and all the suffering and limitation entailed in embodied worldly existence. Yama is also mentioned in the Mahabharata as a great philosopher and devotee of Sri Krishna.
Death is, either as a personification or an actual being, referenced occasionally in the New Testament. He is equated with the evil angel Samael. One such image is found in Acts 2:24 - "But God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him." Later passages, however, are much more explicit. Romans 5 speaks of Death as having "reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses," and various passages in the Epistles speak of Christ's work on the Cross and His Resurrection as a confrontation with Death. Such verses include Rom. 6:9 and 2 Tim. 1:10. Despite Jesus' victory over it, Death is still viewed as enduring in Scripture. 1 Cor. 15:26 asserts, "The last enemy to be destroyed is death," which implies that Death has not been destroyed once and for all. This assertion later proves true in the Book of Revelation. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews declares that Satan "holds the power of Death" (Heb. 2:14). It is written that the Son became human that by his death he might destroy the devil; this is the head of the Beast referred to as, "One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed." (Rev. 13:3) If the head that was fatally wounded but healed refers to Death, this accords with 2 Tim. 1:10, which states that Jesus "has destroyed death," and the implication that death was yet to be destroyed in 1 Cor. 15:26. But it could alternately refer to the Devil separately, who was also said to have been destroyed, and yet has revived. That is, whether Death is the Devil or an agent of Satan is unclear. The final destruction of Death is referenced by Paul in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians; he says that after the general resurrection, the prophecies of Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14 - "He will swallow up death forever," and "Where, O death, is your sting?" (Septuagint), will be fulfilled. According to Paul, the power of Death lies in sin, which is made possible by the Law, but God "gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." That victory over Death is prophetically revealed in the Revelation of John, discussed below. In the visions of John, Death is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Rev. 6:8 reads, "I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth." In Rev. 20:13-14, in the vision of Judgment of the dead, it is written, "The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death." This describes the destruction of the last enemy. After this, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev. 21:4) In Roman Catholicism, the archangel Michael is viewed as the good Angel of Death (as opposed to the evil Angel of Death, Samael) carrying the souls of the deceased to Heaven. There, he balances them in his scales (one of his symbols). He is said to give the dying souls the chance to redeem themselves before passing as well. In Mexico, a popular folk Catholic "cult" regards the Angel of Death as a saint, known as Santa Muerte, but this local cultus is not acknowledged by the Church.
- In Islam
Whilst the preceding Abrahamic religions offered little detail on the passage of souls from one dimension into another, Islam provided detailed information. Previously the lack of scripture tended to categorise Death with the supernatural or evil, a natural consequence of humanity's fear over the unknown. However with the onset of Islam, the concept of death as a celebratory event as opposed to one to be dreaded became manifest. It is the passage of the everlasting soul into a closer dimension to its creator that is seen as a point of joy rather than misery, obvious mortal grief and sadness not withstanding. Indeed the Prophet(P.B.U.H) demonstrated that grief was an acceptable form of what makes us human, however prolonged mourning at the expense of the living is inappropriate, especially in the light of the transition from one world to the next. Death is represented by one of Allah's angels in the Koran: 6:93: "If thou couldst see, when the wrong-doers reach the pangs of death and the angels stretch their hands out, saying: Deliver up your souls." 32:11: "Say: The Angel of Death, who hath charge concerning you, will gather you and afterward unto your Lord ye will be returned." The irony of the Angel of Death refers to his involvement in the creation of life. In these verses the Angel of Death and his assistants are sent to take the soul of those destined to die. Who is the Angel of Death? When God wanted to create Adam, he sent one of the Angels of the Throne to bring some of the earth's clay to fashion Adam from it. When the angel came to earth to take the clay, the earth told him: "I beseech you by the One Who sent you not to take anything from me to make someone who will be punished one day." When the angel returned empty-handed, God asked him why he did not bring back any clay. The angel said: "The earth beseech me by Your greatness not to take anything from it." Then God sent another angel, but the same thing happened, a nd then another, until God decided to send Azra'il, the Angel of Death. The earth spoke to him as it had spoken to the others, but Azra'il said: "Obedience to God is better than obedience to you, even if you beseech me by His greatness." And Azra'il took clay from the earth's east and its west, its north and its south, and brought it back to God. God poured some water of paradise on this clay and it became soft, and from it He created Adam. He is mistakenly known by the name of "Izrail" (not to be confused with Israel, which is a name in Islam solely for Prophet Ya'qoob/Jacob), since the name Izrael isn't mentioned in the holy Koran nor Hadith, the English form of which is Azra'il. He is charged with the task of separating and returning from the bodies the souls of people who are to be recalled permanently from the physical world back to the primordial spiritual world. This is a process whose aspect varies depending on the nature and past deeds of the individual in question, and it is known that the Angel of death is also accompanied by helpers or associates. Apart from the characteristics and responsibilities he has in common with other angels in Islam, little else concerning Angel of death can be derived from fundamental Muslim texts. Many references are made in various Muslim legends, however, some of which are included in books authored by Muslim poets and mystics