Preparing For Death & Dying In Islam

The rich will die, the poor will die

The sick will die, the one in good health will die

The old will die, the young will die

The man will die, the woman will die

The ones in tall buildings will die, the ones on the ground will die

The people will die, the animals will die

Kings will die and their subjects will die

كُلُّ نَفْسٍۢ ذَآئِقَةُ ٱلْمَوْتِ

Every soul shall taste death. (Quran 3:185)

Death should not be an unusual concept for a Muslim. In fact, ever since humans were born, they were decreed to die. Yet sometimes we can become distracted with living the life of this world that we forget that we are merely passing by and are decreed only to live eternally in the next. Some of us do not get a warning and then leave for the next world abruptly, while others are given time to digest their final days are near. In essence life is a journey from Allah back to Allah.

The Prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ said:

أَكْثِرُوا ذِكْرَ هَاذِمِ اللَّذَّاتِ يَعْنِي الْمَوْتَ

“Remember often the destroyer of pleasures: death.”

Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2307, Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Albani

It should never take a palliative diagnosis to realise how short life can be, but often this may be the case. If you have received news of a terminal illness it may be a very distressing time for you, it may take a long time to digest, it will naturally increase your worries, fears, anxieties, but rest assured that Allah is the best One to put all your trust in throughout this trial and in the journey that lies ahead, which we will all inevitably face. In other instances, this news may be comforting that you are soon to meet your Creator who you’ve worked so hard to please in this world. Whatever the case, while we still breathe it is never too late to rectify or improve our relationship with Allah and the people around us so we can return to Allah well pleased and pleasing to Him. As Allah tells us when death approaches the righteous soul, it will be said:

يَـٰٓأَيَّتُهَا ٱلنَّفْسُ ٱلْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ ٢٧ٱرْجِعِىٓ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةًۭ مَّرْضِيَّةًۭ ٢٨

“O tranquil soul! Return to your Lord, well pleased with Him and well pleasing to Him.”

Some worries you may start to have could include:

  • What happens now that I’ve been told I have a terminal illness?
  • Who will look after my loved ones when I am not here?
  • Will my family be ok without me?
  • Who will manage the home when I am not fit enough to do so?
  • How will I cope mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally and psychologically?
  • Who will take care of me when I can no longer take care of myself?
  • Will Allah be pleased with me?
  • Have I done enough to invest in my Hereafter?

What happens when I am told that I have a diagnosis for which there is no treatment or cure (a terminal illness/ palliative diagnosis)?

A palliative diagnosis does not necessarily mean an imminent end straight away. Some people have a palliative diagnosis and live many years on, others can live a shorter period. It is important to know that life and death is always in the Hands of Allah, and if He wills to cure you this is possible, but after this, death itself still awaits every single soul. Therefore, regardless of the circumstances, the concept of death is important to think about whether a terminal illness is present or not.

If you are informed of a palliative diagnosis you will be referred to a palliative care support team, which is made up of many professionals who are qualified and experienced in caring for people with a terminal illness. Depending on your needs this can involve your GP and district nurses, pharmacist, Macmillan nurses and your family but can increase to include other professionals. Referrals to these health care professionals will be done by your GP/district nurse or Macmillan nurse as and when it is necessary through your feedback and communication. Overall, there is a primary circle of professionals involved in your care who can refer you to other health care professionals as needed. The choice you make of where you want to receive your palliative care can also influence the number of professionals who get involved.

The Palliative Care Team depending on the care setting

StageDescriptionProfessionals / people who may be involved in your careTips
Before the diagnosisYou may be leading a healthy life that suddenly takes a turn, or are experiencing a sickness that seems to be getting worseGP

Hospital consultants

Specialist Consultant

Evaluate your life choices and work towards reconnecting with Allah (God)

Seek solace in patience with your sickness and make dua

Try to be steadfast with your obligatory duties such as the salah/prayer

Getting the palliative diagnosisYou are told you have a terminal illnessAccess to hospital specialist doctors and specialist nurses, for support

You may later be referred to Macmillan community nurses to manage your sickness in the community
Have good thoughts of Allah and turn to Him

Research your diagnosis and treatment options, if treatment options are available weigh out the pros and cons and seek Allah’s help through istikhara prayer

Do not see this as the end but try to view it as a new journey that lies ahead – not everyone gets advanced notice of a terminal illness some leave the world abruptly without a diagnosis at all
Initial stagesYou are still processing the information, and discharged from hospital care and will be notified if follow up treatments are available or if they are not suitable for your conditionFamily/carers/friends can support you.

GP/ Specialist doctors

Macmillan community nurses who, at your request, may refer you for counselling, spiritual or psychological wellbeing support. They can also offer support to your family members, if needed
Trust in Allah, whatever happens has been decreed for you since before you were created – only Allah decides what the future holds for you. Allah is your aid and support

Ask the professionals about how the progression of your sickness is likely to impact you day-to-day in what lies ahead

Your family/carers/friends will form your immediate support circle – you need to allow them to show you how much they care for you, speak to someone you trust who is a good listener and won’t judge you

Advanced care plan – Let them know your main worries and concerns so that they can help you plan ahead, and put in place some procedures in the event that you leave this world to continue your journey in the Hereafter

Tell them where you want to receive your care and what is important to you. This is important as it determines what kind of support you have access to

Check that your finances are in order – if you have sufficient wealth then The Prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ said: “It is not permissible for any Muslim, who has something to bequeath, to stay for two nights without having his last will and testament written and kept ready with him.” Bukhari
More aware of personal physical abilities and/or increase in painYou are noticing a change in how much you can manageFamily/carers/friends

Macmillan community nurses

GP/District nurses may refer you to occupational therapists, dietitian, complementary therapists or services available at hospices for symptom management to support your needs
Remember Allah often so He can ease the journey for you

Always communicate your pain level with your family/carers/friends if they are caring for you and your GP or Macmillan community nurse so they can increase the medication of pain relief in accordance with the level of pain

Note that as the dosage of pain relief medications increase you will feel more constipated so eat fibrous foods and increase your water intake

Pace yourself, take things one step at a time

Take regular pauses if you must

Prioritise matters in order of urgency and importance

If you need help, it is not wrong for you to ask someone. It gives them an opportunity to earn Allah’s reward.
Feeling weaker and/or increase in painYou are struggling with day-to-day tasks, your body is working harder and your appetite has decreased or eating has started to become laboriousFamily/carers/friends

GP/District nurses may refer you to social services for a care assistant to provide personal care for you at home

Dietitian
Remember Allah is your strength, so increase in your remembrance of Him. The journey may be long but the greatest provision is to be conscious of Him. Allah says: “And whatever good you do, (be sure) Allah knows it. And take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best provision is At-Taqwa (piety, righteousness). So fear Me, O men of understanding!” (2:197)

Supplicate to Him often

Always communicate your level of pain with your family, GP/Macmillan nurse

Be honest with family if you need time to rest so they can be considerate about your needs, as this will impact you later if you do not

Opt for softer foods

Pay attention to your oral hygiene

You may consider combining the prayers that are combinable to make it easy for yourself to keep up your worship
Increasingly tired and having to rest more and/or pain is unmanageableDoing small tasks wears you out quickly and you require rest to recuperate and perform the next task, you have less of a need to eat as you still feel full from the previous meal, going to the bathroom is a challengeFamily/carers/friends

GP/District nurses may refer you to occupational therapists for commode and other equipment

Macmillan community nurses

Dietitian
You may think more about your loved ones who have passed away before you, you may even dream about them or see them around you

Have good thoughts of Allah and increase in your remembrance of Him. A Bedouin Arab once asked The Prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ about when the final hour will be established. The Prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ asked him about what he had prepared for it. The man responded “Love for Allah and His Messenger” and so the Prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ said: “You will be with those whom you love.” (Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3688, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2639)

Your body is slowing down, listen to the needs of your body

Opt for pureed foods or liquids

Choose foods that are higher in nutritional value

If standing becomes impossible, you can pray sitting and when sitting becomes unbearable you can pray lying down with your feet facing the qibla
You rest more than you are awakeYour body requires more rest than you can stay awake. You drift into sleep more often or can sometimes be in and out of consciousnessFamily/carers/friends

GP/District nurses may advise incontinence pads for personal care
Let the shahadah be frequently on your tongue as the Prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ said: “He whose last words are ‘there is no God but Allah,’ will enter Paradise.” Source: Sunan Abī Dāwūd 3116, Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Albani

Allah will help you with support of the angels: “Verily, those who say: ‘Our Lord is Allah (Alone),’ and then they remain steadfast, on them the angels will descend (at the time of their death) (saying): ‘Fear not, nor grieve! But receive the glad tidings of Paradise which you have been promised!’” (Quran 41:30)

“Whoever loves to meet Allah, Allah loves to meet him, and whoever hates to meet Allah, Allah hates to meet him.” It was said: “O Messenger of Allah, does hating to meet Allah mean hating to meet death? For all of us hate death.” He said: “No. Rather that is only at the moment of death. But if he is given the glad tidings of the mercy and forgiveness of Allah, he loves to meet Allah and Allah loves to meet him; and if he is given the tidings of the punishment of Allah, he hates to meet Allah and Allah hates to meet him.” (Sunan Ibn Majah 4264)

Your body is preparing to slow down to come to a stop so your soul can begin the next journey

Remember Allah and He will remember you, Allah said: “Therefore remember Me, I will remember you, and be thankful to Me, and do not be ungrateful to Me.” [Quran, 2:152]

The Prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ said: “Whoever would be pleased for Allah to answer him during times of hardship and difficulty, let him supplicate often during times of ease.” Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3382, Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Suyuti
You are immobile and no longer able to get upYour body is shutting down, you can hear everything around you, but you are no longer engaged with your surroundings or the people around you. Your soul needs to be at rest to get through the next journey, let it have good thoughts and hopes in Allah’s mercyFamily/carers/friends/ImamRemember Allah as often as possible in your heart and with whatever faculties you are able to

“Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.”(Qur’an 13: 28)

If possible, continue to pray with the faculties that still remain within your control i.e. your eyes
Your soul departsYou are no longer in control, your feet and extremities begin to go cold and your soul is taken by the angel of death. Your eyesight gazes towards the direction of which the soul departsYou are now on the next journey of your life – the life in barzakh where you will be waiting for Judgement Day with your deeds, the angels will question you in your grave and based on the life you have lived a door of paradise or hellfire will be opened in your grave. You will be raised on the day of judgement for final accounts and enter the everlasting abode that Allah has promised His slaves, where we experience life and no death.

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