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Can We Talk About the Spirit?

We spoke about the body and the nafs as we discussed man. I had talked about the meaning of the word spirit in previous writings. Due to the misconception, “the spirit cannot be known” some have forbidden the discussion of spirit. So, allow me to make this clarification with the following Muslim hadith.

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Masud (ra): 

I was walking with the Rasul of Allah (saw) through Medina and he was reclining on a date-palm leaf stalk. Some Jews passed by and they were talking among each other. Some of them told the others, “Ask him about the spirit!” to which the others objected, claiming the answer may displease them. But they insisted, so one of them stood up and asked the Rasul (saw) about the spirit. The Rasul (saw) went into silence and I immediately understood that he was receiving revelation. I stood by him until the revelation was complete. Then the Rasul of Allah (saw) said:

“And they (the Jews) ask you, (O Muhammad) about the spirit. Say, “The spirit is from the command (amr; the manifestation of the Names) of my Rabb. And you (the Jews) have been given little of this knowledge.”[1]

As can be seen this verse directly addresses the Jews who asked the question. This is evident with the expression, “THEY ask you” and “Say” i.e. tell them, the Jews, that they have been given little of this knowledge.

Essentially for the followers of Islam the “Mystery of Unity” is based on the proper discernment of the reality of the Spirit. Because of this, countless saints in Islam have reached this secret and experienced the supremacy of unity.

For the Jews, to whom the doors of mysticism and abstract realities have been closed, cannot comprehend the reality of the spirit. If and when they do, they can no longer be Jewish, they will inevitably have to accept the way of Islam.

So, let us continue our discussion on the spirit.

The brain forms the spirit of a person. So how then does the spirit densify and form the person’s body after life?

In the past ‘Spirit’ was the name used to refer to the absolute energy and consciousness in the universe. This was how they referred to the universal energy in that age. Hence, they claimed everything is created with this spirit and from this spirit. 

In the absolute sense the word spirit refers to the spirit of the universe. This Spirit encompasses all of the meanings denoted by the Divine Names. As a matter of fact, these Names are used to describe the meanings that comprise the Spirit. Sometimes it is called the Great Spirit, sometimes the Reality of Muhammad and other times The First Intellect.

In terms of constituting the essence of life, it the Spirit and/or the Great Spirit. In terms of comprising the meanings denoted by the Divine Names, it is the Reality of Muhammad. In respect of observing and witnessing these meanings it is the First Intellect. 

In Sufi terms the reflections of the Spirit, or in modern terms ‘energy’ densified and formed the galaxies, stars, and planets. These stars permeate certain radiations, which express the meanings of the Divine Names. 

Finally, the brain was formed, with the capacity to process these meanings and manifest them. And It was able to observe Itself either conditionally or unconditionally depending on the brain’s capacity to process and manifest Its meanings.

In this light, the Absolute Spirit forms the brain and the brain forms the personal (individual) spirit!

The Great Spirit, at the lowest level forms the brain, and the brain at the lowest level, forms the human spirit. Based on the capacity of this individual human spirit the meanings comprising the Great Spirit are uploaded to it. (The Great Spirit constitutes the highest level).

Therefore, on an individual level a human becomes the mirror to the Existence referred to as the Great Spirit or the First Intellect or the Reality of Muhammad at the level of Oneness. However, the person who acts as the mirror is essentially no different and nothing other than the reflection itself!

Take a look at what Imam Ghazali says regarding the creation of the spirit with the body:

If it is asked: “If the spirit is created with the body then why does the Rasul of Allah (saw) say “Allah created the spirits two thousand years before he created their bodies” and “I am the first of the Rasuls to be created but the final of Nabis. When I was a Nabi, Adam was somewhere between water and clay”?”

The reality is this: There is no substantial evidence in these words to the precedence of the spirit. But according to the surface meaning of the hadith “I am the first of the Rasuls to be created” there may be a possible indication that he was created before his body was brought into existence. Its esoteric meaning however, is obvious and possible to explain… In this context the word creation (khalq) does not have its ordinary meaning of “bringing into existence” rather it refers to Allah’s determining the Rasul’s existence. Before the Rasul’s mother gave birth to him he was not created and did not exist. In priority and determination in Allah’s plan he was first, albeit his physical creation was later. For Allah determines all divine matters in the Lawh-i Mahfuz (Preserved Tablet) appropriate to his knowledge.

As for Allah creating the spirits two thousand years before their bodies, the word ‘spirit’ here refers to the spirits of the angels and the ‘bodies’ refers to the embodiment of the Throne (Arsh), the Footstool (Qursi) the heavens, the constellations, air, water and earth.

If you have understood the two types of existence then you would also have understood that the creation of the Rasul of Allah (saw) being before the creation of Adam is not in the physical sense but in respect of divine determination. 

This is the last word regarding the spirit.

Allah alone knows the truth of this topic. 

(Imam Ghazali, Hadhrat Rawzatut Talibeen)

[1] Quran 17:85

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