The Quran about the spirit

In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful

An integral part of a person’s life is the sacralization of certain objects and ideas. In spite of the fact that this concept is associated with the theological sphere, there are precedents of sacralization of “material” values (socialism, communism, etc.). In our recent atheistic past, the authorities willy-nilly turned to the “spiritual” state of a person, connecting it with the conscience of people. The very term “spirit” was often exploited during Soviet times, as can be seen from the poster with the words “the spirit is strong, friendship is true, the children of the great Soviet country.”

With the collapse of the USSR, faith in God began to revive in its territory with increasing rates. In its development, it reconstructed the old traditional systems of religions. In this regard, the old contradictions, both intra-confessional and inter-religious, were repeated.

In the history of Islam, one of such mysterious concepts is precisely the concept of “spirit“.

The Arabic word “ruh” means in English “spirit”. By selecting places from the Quran with this term, a multifaceted, one might say, multipurpose role of “ruh” is revealed.

The main postulate about the nature of the “spirit” is the impossibility for people to fully understand it:

And they ask you about the Spirit.

Say, “The Spirit is of the affair of my Lord. And mankind have not been given of knowledge except a little!” (17:85)

The sphere of activity of the “spirit” includes its sacred role, which can be traced in the “mechanism” of the creation of human:

When your Lord said to the maintainers, “I will create a human being out of clay from an altered black mud. And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit, then fall down to him in prostration!” (15:28-29)

Then He proportioned him and breathed into him from His Spirit and made for you hearing and vision and hearts; little are you grateful. (32:9)

When your Lord said to the maintainers, “Indeed, I am going to create a human being from clay. So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit, then fall down to him in prostration!” (38:71-72)

The fact that people contain a certain divine substance and, in connection with that fact, are endowed with certain duties, is considered in the article “The Quran about the covenant.”

In principle, the meaning of the creation of “spirit” is to serve God:

He sends down the maintainers, with the Spirit and His command, upon whom He wills of His servants, “Warn that there is no deity except Me! So beware of Me!” (16:2)

[He is] the Exalted above [all] degrees, Owner of the abiding; He places the Spirit of His command upon whom He wills of His servants to warn of the day of meeting! (40:15)

The maintainers and the Spirit will ascend to Him during a day the extent of which is fifty thousand years. (70:4)

The day that the Spirit and the maintainers will stand in rows, they will not speak except for one whom the Gracious permits. (78:38)

The maintainers and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord with every command! (97:4)

The Spirit is responsible for “delivering” the transcendental message:

Say, “The Pure Spirit has brought it down from your Lord in truth to make firm those who believe and as guidance and good tidings to the humble!” (16:102)

The Trustworthy Spirit has brought it down (26:193)

And thus We have suggested to you the Spirit with Our command! You did not know what is the Prescription or faith! But We have made it a light by which We guide whom We will of Our servants. And indeed, you guide to a straight path. (42:52)

And also, through the “spirit” the Creator supports the believers:

And We did certainly give Musa (Moses) the Prescription and followed up after him with messengers. And We gave Isa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), clear proofs and supported him with the Pure Spirit. But is it [not] that every time a messenger came to you with what yourselves did not desire, you were arrogant? And a party [of messengers] you denied and another party you killed. (2:87)

Those messengers – some of them We caused to exceed others. Among them were those to whom God spoke, and He raised some of them in degree. And We gave Isa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), clear proofs, and We supported him with the Pure Spirit. If God had willed, those succeeding them would not have fought each other after the clear proofs had come to them. But they differed, and some of them believed and some of them closed themselves. And if God had willed, they would not have fought each other, but God does what He intends. (2:253)

When God will say, “O Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), remember My favor upon you and upon your mother when I supported you with the Pure Spirit and you spoke to the people in the cradle and in maturity; (5:110)

It may seem that only Jesus was supported by the “spirit”, but the following passage tells a different story:

You will not find a people who believe God and in the last day having affection for those who oppose God and His messenger, even if they were their fathers or their sons or their brothers or their kindred. Those – He has decreed within their hearts faith and supported them with spirit from Him.

And We will admit them to gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide! God is pleased with them, and they are pleased with Him – those are the party of God! Unquestionably, the party of God – they are the successful! (58:22)

The result of considered passages is the definition of two kinds of “spirit”:

  1. The divine component of man at the time of creation;

2) The Spirit as the Servant of the Lord who:

a) Fulfils the orders of the Creator;

b) Delivers the Prescription;

c) Supports the believers.

The second kind of “spirit”, in connection with its duties, implies identification. Personalization of the “spirit” is revealed in the following passage:

Say, “Who was an enemy to Jibril (Gabriel)?

 It is he who has brought the Literature (Quran) down upon your heart by permission of God, confirming that which was before it and as guidance and good tidings for the believers.” (2:97)

Comparing the above verse with s16:102, s26:193 and s42:52, the conclusion suggests that “Spirit” is “Gabriel”.

Having decided with two kinds of spirit, we came to the most mysterious and controversial canon that Jesus is the Word and Spirit of the Most High. This postulate is based on the following passage, in the traditional translation:

O people of the Scripture! Do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Isa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a spirit [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs. (4:171)

This translation defines three qualities of Jesus:

1) The messenger;

2) The Word of God;

3) The Spirit of the Lord.

The first statement does not cause any doubts, because does not conflict with other places on the subject of the messengers.

The second statement rather vaguely conveys the meaning of this expression.

The Word of God is ordinarily enclosed in the Prescription, but to call Jesus himself as a Prescription would be absurd, especially since he was given it – the Gospel. So what does it mean?

If you carefully study the text, you can see that the Word of God was adressed to Mary. Having considered this event using the example of other passages, a completely different picture emerges:

And mention in the Prescription about Maryam (Mary), when she withdrew from her family to a place toward the east. And she took, in seclusion from them, a screen. Then We sent to her Our Spirit, and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man.

She said, “Indeed, I seek refuge in the Gracious from you, if you should beware!” He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you a pure boy.”

She said, “How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?”

He said, He said, “Thus, your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter decreed!’ (19:16-21)

This passage describes the fact of the Creator’s appeal to Mary through the “spirit.” Specifically, the Almighty sent a message to Mary, composed from His words. The expression “Word of God” in the context of the story with Jesus must be understood as his creation was accompanied by “information” coming from the Creator.

The third traditional statement most contradicts the text of the Quran. If Jesus is the Spirit from the Lord, then it is he who is Gabriel. But this hypothesis is erroneous, because The Creator asserts that Jesus in his creation is like Adam:

Indeed, the example of Isa (Jesus) to God is like that of Adam. He created Him from dust; then He said to him, “Be!” and he was. (3:59)

As you know, they are both created from dust, and into the body, after creation, the Lord breathes His “spirit” (15:29, 32:9, 38:72).

This argument is strengthened by following:

And remember the one who guarded her private parts! So We blew into her through Our spirit. We made her and her son a sign for the nations! (21:91)

And Maryam (Mary), the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her private parts! So We blew into through Our spirit. She believed in the Words of her Lord and His Prescriptions and was of the reverential! (66:12)

With the naked eye, it can be seen that in the life of the messenger, both kinds of the spirit of God are involved. The first was breathed into Jesus at the time of creation, and through the second he was supported.

In the light of the above evidence, the following translation of s4a171 is proposed:

O holders of the Prescription! Do not commit excess in your duty or say about God except the truth. Indeed, an anointed Isa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), was but a messenger of God! From Him is given His word to Maryam (Mary) and His Spirit. So believe God and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; to desist – it is better for you. Indeed, God is but One God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is God as trusted! (4:171)

It causes some confusion that in different actions and one-stage events the same name of the object is applied. But if we think rationally, then we will find the identical events in our life.

In the life of people, the notion of the current became commonplace. Although no one has seen it, we perceive it through various manifestations. In a light bulb, he gives light, in the engine he turns the mechanism etc. Actions are different, but the source is one.

Perhaps, something like this happens with the concept of “spirit”. There is one source, which is the Creator, but actions and goals are different.