By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
07 July 2017
We have seen in part 1 that Nafs which is often (mis)translated as soul
does not mean soul by its primary meaning. It means a living person with a
consciousness and feelings and temptations and a conscience which tries to
control his errant behaviour. However, approximately three fourths of the
translators have translated Nafs loosely as soul, while only a handful
translate Nafs with the more precise and appropriate word based on the context
of the verse. In this part, we will see what the Quran teaches us about the
meaning of Ruh in its verses. While the translators of the Quran often
mistranslate Nafs as soul, in common parlance, it is Ruh that is more often
understood as “soul”. Let the Quran tell us the precise meaning of “Ruh”
Ruh as Inspiration from Allah
(17:84) Say: "Everyone acts according to
his own disposition: But your Lord knows best who it is that is best guided on
Allah knows best those who
receive guidance and those who reject guidance from their disposition which we
have seen is controlled by their Nafs which in turn is controlled by their
(17:85) They ask you concerning
the Ruhi (inspiration). Say: "The Inspiration (Ruhu) comes by command of
my Lord: of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you, (O
The Quran has come by
inspiration to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The verse also says that what has
come by inspiration is not all “mystical” knowledge, but only a little.
However, another verse 5:3 says “This day
have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have
chosen for you Islam as your religion”. The primary purpose of the
revelation was therefore to give mankind the complete Deen or the Islamic way
of life, while also giving us a little of the “mystical” knowledge on a need to
know basis or to the extent we are capable of understanding using similitudes
or allegorical language.
(Five translators have
translated Ruhi as soul and twenty six as Spirit. Only three have correctly
translated it as divine inspiration or revelation).
(17:86) If it were Our Will, We could take away that which We have sent
you by inspiration (Awḥaynā):
then would you find none to plead your affair in that matter as against
Us,-(87) Except for Mercy from thy Lord: for his bounty is to you (indeed) great.
The inspiration comes only
to those who are worthy of receiving inspiration and yet none is truly worthy
and it only comes from the great bounty and Mercy of Allah. In this verse, the
inspiration is described as Hidayat or guidance.
(17:88) Say: "If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather
together to produce the like of this Qur´an, they could not produce the like
thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support.
The reason why no one can
produce the like of the Quran is because it has come through inspiration from
Allah and no one who is not inspired by Allah can produce anything like it. It
is not and cannot be a product of human thought. And what has come through
inspiration? The criteria of right and wrong, the moral way of living or Deen-e-Islam,
and the means to control the evil temptations of our Nafs, and the guidance to
follow the straight path to achieve the status of the contented self well
pleased with God and well pleasing to God.
Allah’s Inspiration Can Come to Ordinary People Also
(40:15) Raised high above ranks (or degrees), (He is) the Lord of the
Throne (of Authority): by His Command does He send Inspiration (Ruha) to any of
His servants he pleases, that it may warn (men) of the Day of Mutual Meeting,-
Allah can guide through his
inspiration any person he chooses to.
(Twenty seven translators
have translated Ruha as Spirit. Only seven have correctly translated it as
(58:22) You will not find any
people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who resist Allah and
His Messenger, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their
brothers, or their kindred. For such He has written Faith in their hearts, and
strengthened them with Inspiration (biRuhi) from Himself. And He will admit
them to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow, to dwell therein (for ever). Allah
will be well pleased with them, and they with Him. They are the Party of Allah.
Truly it is the Party of Allah that will achieve Felicity.
The path of gaining
knowledge through inspiration of Allah is not closed. The inspired insights may
however be limited to the correct understanding of the Quran.
(Twenty eight translators
have translated biRuhi as Spirit. Only four have correctly translated it as
inspiration or guidance).
Those Angels Who Bring Inspiration from Allah Are Ruh
(26:192) Verily this is a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds :(
193) With it came down the trustworthy inspiration (Ruhu l-Amin)-(194) To your heart (Qalbika), that you may
What came to the Prophet’s
heart is the Quran by inspiration. Ruhu l-Amin is also understood to
mean the angel Gabriel since it was Gabriel who initially came down with the
revelations. This is confirmed by the following verse:
(2:97) Say: Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel-for he brings down the
(revelation) to thy heart by Allah´s will, a confirmation of what went before,
and guidance and glad tidings for those who believe,-
Ruhu l-Amin is therefore referring to the angel Gabriel
(16:102) Say, the Holy Spirit (Ruhil Qudus) has brought the revelation from thy Lord in
Truth, in order to strengthen those who believe, and as a Guide and Glad
Tidings to Muslims.
Gabriel is also referred to
as Ruhil Qudus as in the verse above. Gabriel and perhaps Michael are always
mentioned separately either by name or as Ruh and never with the rest of the
(2:98) Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and messengers, to
Gabriel and Michael, - Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject Faith.
70:4) The angels (l-Malāikatu) and the Spirit (Ruhu) ascend unto him in
a Day the measure whereof is (as) fifty thousand years:
(78:38) The Day that the Spirit (Ruhu) and the angels will stand forth
in ranks, none shall speak except any who is permitted by (Allah) Most Gracious,
and He will say what is right.
(97:4) Therein (Lailatul Qadr) come down the angels and the Spirit (Ruhu) by Allah´s permission, on
The Ruhu in these verses
Birth of Jesus and Adam with the Ruh of Allah
Jesus fashioned a bird from clay and breathed into it
and it came alive with Allah's permission. The word Ruh is not used in the
verse describing the “creation” of a bird by Jesus. What was breathed into the
bird was the breath of life similar to how we resuscitate a person who has
Adam's creation is described similarly except that
what was breathed into him has been called Allah’s Ruh:
(15:29) "When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and
breathed into him of My Rūḥī, fall ye
down in obeisance unto him."
32:9 (Ruhihi), 38:72 (Ruhi),
So also the birth of Jesus which is similar to that of
Adam except that Jesus had a mother.
4:171 “Messiah Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of
Allah, and His Word (Kalimatuhu), which He bestowed on Mary, and a Ruh (Rūḥun) proceeding from Him.
See also 21:91 and 66:12
Jesus was conceived by the word (command) of Allah and
came alive by the breath of life (Ruh) proceeding from Allah.
The Ruh of Allah is not simply breath but also
inspiration as we have seen. Adam did not go through the stages of conception
in a mother’s womb, birth and growth into adult hood. He was created adult with
the developed faculties of an adult without going through a learning process.
That is the function of Ruh here. He was an inspired being without going
through a long learning process. So also Jesus, although he was born a child
but could speak even as a just born baby. He was similarly inspired by the Ruh of
Allah without going through a learning process. Jesus apart from being born
“inspired” was further strengthened during his lifetime by Ruhul Quddoos which
is Gabriel. See verses 2:87, 2:253, and 5:110.
We have seen that Ruh is inspiration from Allah which
is sent to whomever Allah pleases. It also refers to the Angels of Allah such
as Gabriel who bring Allah’s revelations by way of inspiration or guidance to
the heart or mind. No verse on death talks of Ruh being taken away and no verse
about resurrection say that the person’s Ruh is put back into his body. We will
explore this in the next part. Ruh being inspiration or guidance can be given
only to a living person. Ruh is also most definitely not “soul”.
and Mysticism: Is ‘Nafs’ Soul? (Part - 1)
URL of Part One: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-ideology/naseer-ahmed,-new-age-islam/islam-and-mysticism--is-‘nafs’-soul?-(part---1)/d/111786
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an
independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private
sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent
contributor to NewAgeIslam.com Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT
Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the
Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He
is a frequent contributor to www.NewAgeIslam.com
New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African
Muslim News, Arab
World News, South
Asia News, Indian
Muslim News, World
Muslim News, Women
in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab
Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia
in America, Muslim
Women in West, Islam
Women and Feminism