In very simple words, death is the end of life. So in this simple definition another term is needed to be explained and that is – life. For human being, life is the existence of an individual. If we take the term existence as an easily understood one, as because not each word can be explained in a limited opportunity, we can now define death and that is “death is the end of existence”.
In medical science, death is the permanent and irreversible cessation of all vital functions namely the brain function, the respiratory function, and the circulatory or heart function. So the medical definition further elaborates the two aspects of the usual definition, ‘end’ and ‘existence’. Thus, for death, ‘end’ represents something permanent & irreversible, and ‘existence’ is mainly represented by functioning.
Integrating the above two aspects, death can be very rationally and scientifically defined as the absolute disappearance of functioning. In the science of psychology or psychiatry theology is also included, with ethical and philosophical points, to have the issues comprehensive. So theological or religious aspect of death is supposed to be important too for psychiatric research purpose. As a Muslim physician I will try to mention about the Islamic view about death.
Islam defines death as a mandatory transitional event in between the ‘life before death’ and ‘life after death’. So if we integrate the scientific aspect with the description, the definition of death for a Muslim would be the absolute disappearance of the functions for the time period in between the two lives – one before death and another after death. As a result it abandons the permanent and irreversible criteria of the ‘end’ in the concept of death with the help of the concept of the life after death.
In our daily life death is related with the biggest stresses due to the knowledge – death ends. It is also supported by the science so far. But when the question of religion comes, specifically Islam, this knowledge changes for a religious person. So it can be easily assumed that death becomes a less stressful event for a Muslim, when he truly believes in Islam. Time has come, I believe, for science to take the definitions derived from the religions in account for the sake of increasing comfort in our everyday life.