Azrael means “helper of God.” Other spellings include Azriel, Azrail, Azraille, Azra’eil, Ezra'il, Ezraeil, Izrail, Izrael, and Ozryel.
Azrael is known as the angel of death. He helps dying people make the transition from Earth to the afterlife, and he comforts people who are grieving the death of a loved one.
In art, Azrael is often depicted wielding a sword or scythe, or wearing a hood, since these symbols represent his role as the angel of death who is reminiscent of the popular culture’s Grim Reaper.
Role in Religious Texts:
Islamic tradition says that Azrael is the angel of death, although in the Qur’an, he is referred to by his role (“Malak al-Maut,” which literally means “angel of death”) rather than by his name. The Qur’an describes that the angel of death doesn’t know when it’s time for each person to die until God reveals that information to him, and at God’s command, the angel of death separates the soul from the body and returns it to God. Azrael also serves as the angel of death in Sikhism. In Sikh scriptures written by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, God (Waheguru) sends Azrael only to people who are unfaithful and unrepentant for their sins. Azrael appears on Earth in human form and hits sinful people on the head with his scythe to kill them and extract their souls from their bodies. Then he takes their souls to hell, and makes sure that they get the punishment that Waheguru decrees once he judges them. However, the Zohar (the holy book of the branch of Judaism called Kabbalah), presents a more pleasant depiction of Azrael. The Zohar says that Azrael receives the prayers of faithful people when they reach heaven, and also commands legions of heavenly angels.
Other Religious Roles:
Although Azrael isn’t mentioned as the angel of death in any Christian religious texts, some Christians associate him with death because of his link to the Grim Reaper of popular culture. Also, ancient Asian traditions sometimes describe Azrael holding an apple from a "Tree of Life" to the nose of a dying person to separate that person’s soul from his or her body. Some Jewish mystics consider Azrael to be a fallen angel (a demon) who is the embodiment of evil. Islamic tradition describes Azrael as being completely covered in eyes and tongues, and the number of eyes and tongues constantly changes to reflect the number of people who are currently alive on Earth. Azrael keeps track of the number by writing the names of people in a heavenly book when they’re born and erasing their names when they die, according to Islamic tradition. Azrael is considered the patron angel of clergy and grief counselors who help people make peace with God before dying and minister to grieving people who the dying have left behind.