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Spirituality Issues: Death and Dying Essay

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Updated: May 22nd, 2021

Death though feared by many, subject death remains a controversial topic. Death is a natural occurrence that every human being must experience. It is a stage that every person must undergo. The impact of death on human life does not occur in seclusion; this means when anybody dies, the people who are in agony are more than just close relatives. Death occurs within a given human context. It is for this reason that I interviewed to help study the human perspective on dying and death. Different cultures and religions have different views on death; every individual has his perspective on death. In the following paragraphs, I have provided an evident view of my interviewee’s perspective on death and dying concerning his culture, experience, and opinions on the subject. I have also provided my personal opinions and reactions on the same.

Mustafa is an African aged sixty-seven, and lives in a grass-thatched hut at Msambweni; a small village in the southern part of Tanzania. He is a father of seven and a grandfather of twenty-four. He is also a polygamist. In his homestead, there are two graveyards that he says are of his two elder sons who died in road carnage. His name suggests that he may be a Muslim but he says that he inherited the name from his late grandfather who had converted to Muslim during World War Two. Mustapha is an African who believes in his African faith and religion. He is very free and opens up to narrate his experiences of dying and death.

From Mustapha’s narration, it is evident that almost all Africans have a belief in one Supreme Being (Mawere, 2011). The Supreme Being is the creator of both heaven and earth. It is believed that the dead are closer to the Supreme Being than the living. The rift between the human beings and the Supreme Being remains inevitable and natural in the place of the dead. The African culture maintains that it is only in the land of the living where rewards and punishments are inevitable. In the land of the dead, reward and punishment are automatic experiences irrespective of one’s behavior. What is crucial is ensuring that the rite is fully observed. If these passage rites are properly observed, rewards and punishment are automatically inevitable elements (Mawere, 2011).

If the deceased for instance, was a killer, a thief or might have at one time broke the social code of the community or one who at his death was not accorded a proper burial, then such an individual may be destined to severe punishment in the land of the dead as a roving spirit. The individual may also be whipped or expelled by the ancestors based on the seriousness of the offense committed during the life period, just with the Christian’s experience on death “Catholic view of purgatory” (Walls, 2012).In the African context of death, the witches and sorcerers are never accepted in the spirit world, this is normally attributed to the poor burial they are given. In most cases, their bodies are normally chopped and fed to hyenas or even burnt. Most African cultures believe that a denial of entry into the ancestral land is equivalent to hell (Mawere, 2011).

According to the African culture, death acts as a passage rite (Gordon, 2004). It is the last stage in the human life cycle and a transition to “life after death”. The passage rite is a long process; the dead must be separated from the living in a more respectful, smooth manner so that he can begin the next life (Gordon, 2004). From Mustapha’s experience on death, he says that the journey to the land of the dead is accompanied by many distractions and therefore if the dead are not accorded a proper burial, the spirit may return to trouble the living relatives. This he narrates from one of his late son’s burial ordeal; the son had been buried without his head as a result of a tragic road accident that left the head missing from the accident scene. The spirit kept on tormenting the relatives until they appeased it via the slaying of an ox. The beast helps in returning the deceased back home; a rite that is referred to in some African communities as the “home bringing” ceremony (Mawere, 2011).

In my client’s opinion, it is obvious that culture profoundly affects our behavior and those we are related to. It determines how people make meaning from situations such as death and dying (Gordon, 2004). We have to admit that power exists in culture, If we do not then it becomes difficult for us to gain knowledge from people with a different culture from us, or even teach others about our culture. Almost all communities have diverse cultures. The cultures create meaning to situations and natural objects. What we believe about death and dying is related to our culture (Gordon, 2004).

According to my culture, dying is an obvious occurrence, which is related to old age. I believe that people die as a result of old age. Death can easily be predicted from the aging process. Although I know that diseases are also causes of death, I still believe that the major cause of death is related to old age. Dying due to old age makes death the last cycle in human life.

References

Gordon, U. J. (2004). The African Presence in Black America. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press.

Walls, J. L. (2012). Purgatory: the logic of total transformation. New York. NY: University Press.

Mawere, M. (2012).The African belief and knowledge system: a critical perspective. Mankon: Langaa Research & Publishing CIG, cop.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Spirituality Issues: Death and Dying'. 22 May.

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