Chapter 2: What is the Soul ?
The Qur'aan and Sunnah give us only a limited knowledge concerning the soul.
From it we can say that the Arabic words 'Ruh' and 'Nafs' are both used,
sometimes interchangeably, for the soul. Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim wrote in his
scholarly work ?Kitab al Ruh?,
" Ruh is an entity which differs totally from the physical body. It is a subtle,
ecclesiastical, enlightened living and moving body which penetrates into the
depths of the organs and flows into them like the water in the rose or the oil
in the olive or the fire in the coal. As long as these organs remain able to
accept the impressions of this subtle body, the 'Ruh' remains attached to these
organs and provides them with feeling and movement. But when these organs are
spoiled because of the dominance of diseased elements upon it, and they are no
longer able to accept the impressions of the soul, it leaves the body and heads
towards the world of the souls. "
There is some difference in the way the words 'Ruh' and 'Nafs' are used. The 'Ruh'
is the subtle spirit which resides in the heavens and needs a physical body to
carry it on the earth. When this spirit is given a body, life begins and it is
described as 'Nafs'. The word 'Nafs' is used in a number of ways by the Qur'aan,
all of which imply the meaning of a soul with a body.
1. 'Nafs' meaning "Self."
?You know what is in my self but I do not know what is in Your self? (Soorah Al-Ma?ida
2. 'Nafs' meaning "Blood".
?The (insect) which has flowing Nafs (blood).?
3. Nafs as a strong force in man, which can push him either towards good or
evil. The concept of 'Nafs al Ammara bis Su' ('Nafs' which encourages evil) and
'Nafs al Lawwama' ('Nafs' which blames) and 'Nafs al Mutmainna' ('Nafs' which is
contented) are discussed in the next chapter.
Two deaths and two lives
The Qur'aan mentions two deaths and two lives given to us by Allah
?How can you reject faith in Allah, seeing that you were dead and He gave you
life. Then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you to life, then to Him
will be your return.?
(Soorah Al-Baqarah (2): 28)
?They will say: Our Lord, twice have You given us death and twice have You given
(Soorah Al Mumin v 11)
When the soul is first created it has no physical body and is considered to be a
dead creature. In this state it is referred to as 'Ruh', and this is the first
death as even death is created by Allah.
?He is the one who created Death and life in order that He may try which of you
is best in deeds , and He is the Exalted, the Forgiving.?
(Soorah Al Mulk (67): 2)
The Qur'aan also tells us that all the souls of mankind were created before the
creation of Adam and were asked to testify to the Lordship of Allah.
?When your Lord drew forth from the loins of the children of Adam their
descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves: ?Am I not your Lord??.
They said, ?Yes, we do testify.? This lest you should say on the Day of
Judgement: ?We were not aware of this.? ?
(Surah Al A?raaf v 272)
The first life begins when the soul is breathed into an embryo in the womb of
its mother, and now the soul is referred to as 'Nafs'. The word Nafs is also
used for ?blood?, and so women who are in a state of post-natal bleeding are
known as 'Nufasaa?. As long as blood surges healthily through the body, there
will be life in that body.
Abdullah ibn Mas?ud reported that the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alaihe
?Indeed the creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother?s
belly for forty days in the form of a seed, then he is a clot of blood for a
similar period, then a morsel of flesh for a similar period. An angel is then
sent to him who blows the breath of life into him...?
(Saheeh al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Scholars of Islam have concluded from this hadeeth that because the angel of
life blows the soul into the fetus when it is 120 days old, abortion on very
strict medical grounds is permissible only before the fetus is 4 months old.
Once life has been blown into the fetus it becomes a living creature and to
terminate its life is murder.
The second death occurs when the soul leaves the body at the end of its
appointed time on earth.
?Every Nafs (soul) shall taste death...?
(Soorah Aal Imran (3): 185)
The Nafs dies and is buried, while its soul soars up to the heavens. That is why
the Prophet (sallallaahu alaihe wa-sallam) taught us:
"At death, the eyes follow the departing soul, so close the eyes."
The second life will be the eternal life beginning on the Day of Judgment when
the bodies will be resurrected and their souls will be blown into them once
There is no worthy of worship exept ALLAH and Mohammed is his messenger