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Muhammad ibn Muhammad Shakir Ruzmah-'i Nathani - A Soul Symbolized as an Angel

The Holy Spirit (Arabic: رُوحُ ٱلْقُدُسِ, ruh al-qudus) is mentioned four times in the Quran, where it acts as an agent of divine action or communication. The Muslim interpretation of the Holy Spirit is generally consistent with other interpretations based upon the Old and the New Testaments. Further, the Quran refers to rūḥ as Ruh al-qudus (Arabic: روح القدس, "the holy spirit" or "spirit of holiness") and ar-ruh al-amin ("the faithful/trustworthy spirit"). The holy spirit is more commonly known as archangel Gabriel (Arabic: جبريل‎, Jibrīl or جبرائيل‎, Jibrāʾīl), the messenger to all the prophets.

In Sufism, rūḥ (Arabic: روح; plural arwāḥ) is a person's immortal, essential self—pneuma, i.e. the "spirit" or "soul".[1][2] The Quran itself does not describe rūḥ as the immortal self, directly.[3] Nevertheless, in some contexts, it animates inanimate matter.[4] Further, it appears to be a metaphorical being, such as an angel.[4] In one instance, rūḥ refers to Jesus.[4]

Outside the Quran, rūḥ may also refer to a spirit that roams the earth; a ghost.[5]

Among the al-Laṭaʾif as-sitta (Arabic: اللطائف الستة) it is the third purity.

In the Quran[edit]

Some Muslim commentators connected this expression with the "faithful/trustworthy spirit" (ar-ruh al-amin) who is said to have brought down the Quran in verse 26:193, and identified with Gabriel.[6][7]

Other Muslim commentators viewed it as identical with the created spirit described in other Quranic verses as the means by which God brought Adam to life (e.g., 15:29), made Mary conceive Jesus [Quran 21:91] and inspired angels and prophets (e.g., 17:85).[7] The spirit who together with "the angels" descends and ascends to God ( Quran 16:2, 70:4, 97:4) was also identified with Gabriel in Quranic commentaries. Thus, the figure of Gabriel became a focus of theological reflection on the content of revelation and the nature of cognition itself, with distinctions articulated between reason, prophetic revelation, and mystical knowledge.[8]

Rūḥ al-qudus[edit]

Rūḥ al-qudus (Arabic: روح القدس, "the holy spirit" or "spirit of holiness"), ar-rūḥ al-amin (Arabic: الروح الأمين, "the faithful/trustworthy spirit"), is a Quranic expressions that describes a source or means of prophetic revelations, commonly identified with the angel Gabriel.[9][6][7] Quranic commentators disagreed in their identification of Gabriel with various uses of the word rūḥ.[7][10] For some, ar-rūḥ is simply the angelic quality bestowed upon humans, but not an angel himself.

The phrase rūḥ al-qudus, commonly translated as the "holy spirit" or the "spirit of holiness", occurs four times in the Quran,[7] in Quran 2:87 and 253,[11] Al-Ma'idah verse 110,[12] and An-Nahl verse 102.[13] In three instances, it is described as the means by which God "strengthened" Jesus, and in the fourth it is identified as the one brought down God's truth to his prophet.[7]

As interpreted to refer to the Archangel Gabriel[edit]

The term Rūḥ al-Qudus is also an epithet referring to the Archangel Gabriel,[14] who is related as the Angel of revelation and was assigned by God to reveal the Qurʼan to the Islamic prophet Muhammad and who delivered the Annunciation to Mary.[15]

In the two suras in which the Qur'an refers to the angel Gabriel, it does so by name.[16] However, some hadiths and parts of the Qurʼan may arguably lend support to the alternative view.

It appears to be indicated by the Quran in sura Maryam, ayat 17–21, that it was the angel Gabriel who gave to Mary the tidings that she was to have a son as a virgin:

screening herself off from them. Then We sent to her Our angel, ˹Gabriel,˺ appearing before her as a man, perfectly formed. She appealed, “I truly seek refuge in the Most Compassionate from you! ˹So leave me alone˺ if you are God-fearing.” He responded, “I am only a messenger from your Lord, ˹sent˺ to bless you with a pure son.” She wondered, “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me, nor am I unchaste?” He replied, “So will it be! Your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me. And so will We make him a sign for humanity and a mercy from Us.’ It is a matter ˹already˺ decreed.”

It is narrated in hadith that the angel Gabriel accompanied Muhammad during the Mi'raj, an ascension to the heavens in which Muhammad is said to have met other messengers of God and was instructed about the manner of Islamic prayer(Sahih al-Bukhari 349). It is also held by Muslims that the angel Gabriel descends to Earth on the night of Laylat al-Qadr, a night in the last ten days of the holy month of Ramadan, which is said to be the night on which the Qurʼan was first revealed.[17]

The Arabic phrase al-Qudus (القدس) translates into English as "Holiness" or "Sanctity".[18] al-Quddūs "the All-Holy" is one of the 99 Names of God in Islam.[19]

In Shia Islam[edit]

In Shia Islam, rūḥ is described as "a creature (khalq) of God, grander than Gabriel or Michael", who was sent to inform and guide Muhammad and is now with the Imams. In some Shia traditions, ruh al-qudus (spirit of holiness) is one of the five spirits possessed by the Imam. Unlike the other four spirits, it is always vigilant and available to inform the Imam on any issue. There is disagreement on whether ruh is an angel.[10]

As soul[edit]

God is believed to endow humans with rūḥ رُوح and nafs نَفْس, (i.e. ego or psyche). The rūḥ "drives" the nafs, which comprises temporal desires and sensory perceptions.[1] The nafs can assume control of the body if the rūḥ surrenders to bodily urges.[1] The nafs is subject to bodily desire within the sadr (the chest), whereas the rūḥ is a person's immaterial essence, beyond the emotions and instincts shared by humans and other animals; rūḥ makes the body alive.[20] Some arwāḥ (spirits) dwell in the seventh heaven. Unlike the angels, they are supposed to eat and drink. An angel called ar-Rūḥ (the Spirit) is responsible for them.[21]

Muslim authors, like Ghazali, Ibn Qayyim and Suyuti wrote in more details about the life of ghosts. Ibn Qayyim and Suyuti assert, when a soul desires to turn back to earth long enough, it is gradually released from restrictions of Barzakh and able to move freely. Each spirit experiences afterlife in accordance with their deeds and convictions in the earthly life. Evil souls will find the afterlife painful by receiving punishment, and imprisoned until God allows them to interact with other souls. However, good souls are not restricted. They are free to come visit other souls and even come down to lower regions. The higher planes are considered to be broader than the lower ones, the lowest being the most narrow. The spiritual space is not thought as spatial, but reflects the capacity of the spirit. The more pure the spirit gets, the more it is able to interact with other souls and thus reaches a broader degree of freedom.[22]

Perfection of the Rūh through the Awakening of the Lataif-e-sitta (organs of spiritual perception)[edit]

To attain Tajalli ar-rūḥ, (the ultimate manifestation of divine truth in the human soul) the Salik (Sufi aspirant), must cultivate the following 13 spiritual qualities or virtuous practices, thus facilitating the gradual awakening in order of the various centres or subtle plexuses of his/her jism latif (subtle body).

  1. Irādah or Commitment to God
  2. Istiqāmah or Steadfastness in the way with God
  3. Hāya or Shame in committing evil
  4. Ḥurīyyah or Freedom: Ibrahim Bin Adham said, "A free man is one who abandons the world before he leaves the world". Yaḥyā Bin Maz said, "Those who serve the people of the world are slaves, and those who serve the people of Ākhirah are the free ones". Abū ʿAlī Daqāq said, "Remember, real freedom is in total obedience. Therefore if someone has total obedience in God, he will be free from the slavery of non God"
  5. Fatoot or Manliness: Abū ʿAlī Daqāq said, "Manliness is in one's being of continuous service to others. This is a form of etiquette that was perfected by the Prophet Muhammad alone".
  6. Ḥub or Love for God
  7. Aboodiyah or Slavery under God
  8. Muraqaba or Complete Focus on God
  9. Duʿāʾ or Prayer
  10. Faqar or Abandoning of materialism
  11. Tasawwuf or Wearing a dress of no material significance
  12. Suhbat or Company of the righteous ones
  13. Adab or Following Protocols of respect for the great ones[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ahmad, Sultan (2011). "Nafs: What Is it?". Islam In Perspective (revised ed.). Author House. p. 180. ISBN 978-1-4490-3993-6. Retrieved 2017-07-15 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Bedir, Murteza (2006). "Interplay of Sufism, Law, Theology and Philosophy: A non-Sufi Mystic of 4th–5th/10–11th Centuries". In Carmona, Alfonso (ed.). El Sufismo y las normas del Islam—Trabajos del IV Congreso Internacional de Estudios Jurídicos Islámicos: Derecho y Sufismo. pp. 262–3. ISBN 84-7564-323-X. OCLC 70767145. Retrieved 2017-07-15 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Jane I. Smith, Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad Islamic Understanding of Death and Resurrection State University of New York Press 1981 ISBN 9780873955072 p. 18
  4. ^ a b c Joseph Lowry, Shawkat Toorawa Arabic Humanities, Islamic Thought: Essays in Honor of Everett K. Rowson BRILL 2017 ISBN 9789004343290 p. 7
  5. ^ Sengers, Gerda (2003). Women and Demons: Cultic Healing in Islamic Egypt. BRILL. p. 50. ISBN 978-90-04-12771-5. OCLC 50713550.
  6. ^ a b J. Petersen (1991). "D̲j̲abrāʾīl". In P. Bearman; Th. Bianquis; C.E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W.P. Heinrichs (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 2 (2nd ed.). Brill. pp. 362–364.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Sidney H. Griffith (2006). "Holy Spirit". In Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. Vol. 2. pp. 442–444.
  8. ^ Gisela Webb (2006). "Gabriel". In Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. Vol. 2. pp. 278–279.
  9. ^ Michael Ebstein (2013). Mysticism and Philosophy in al-Andalus: Ibn Masarra, Ibn al-ʿArabī and the Ismāʿīlī Tradition. BRILL. p. 36. ISBN 978-9-004-25537-1
  10. ^ a b Said Amir Arjomand (1998). Authority and Political Culture in Shi'ism. SUNY Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-887-06638-2
  11. ^ Quran 2:253
  12. ^ Quran 5:110
  13. ^ Quran 16:102
  14. ^ Tözün Issa Alevis in Europe: Voices of Migration, Culture and Identity Routledge 2016 ISBN 978-1-317-18265-8
  15. ^ What is meant by the Holy Spirit in the Qur'an? Islam Awareness
  16. ^ 2:97–98, Quran 66:4
  17. ^ Surah Al-Qadr 97:
  18. ^ Lane's Arabic Dictionary, p. 2497.
  19. ^ Quran 59:23, 62:1
  20. ^ Tymieniecka, Anna-Teresa (2010). Reason, Spirit and the Sacral in the New Enlightenment: Islamic Metaphysics Revived and Recent Phenomenology of Life. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 75. ISBN 978-90-481-9612-8. OCLC 840883714.
  21. ^ Stephen Burge Angels in Islam: Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti's al-Haba'ik fi akhbar al-mala'ik Routledge 2015 ISBN 978-1-136-50473-0 p. 276
  22. ^ Smith, Jane I.; Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck (1981). The Islamic Understanding of Death and Resurrection. Albany. ISBN 0-87395-506-4. OCLC 6666779. p. 117-125
  23. ^ Translated from the Persian book Shahid ul Wojood

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