Understanding God and the Spirit

Question and answer details
As-Salam Alaikum! I have had this question puzzling me for some time, I am Muslim Alhamdulillah and I had a question concerning this verse in the Quran "Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: I am about to create man from clay. When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him." (38:71-72)  According to this verse, what appears is that Allah SWT is breathing part of His spirit into him. So is this technically saying that Allah SWT has a spirit like other human beings? But how can this be when it clearly says in the Quran in Surat Al- Ikhlas, verse 4: "And there is none like unto Him". How can Allah SWT have a spirit, for He is God the Absolute and One. Or is this verse saying that He created the spirit He put into Adam, but it belongs to Him as a possession, meaning it is His spirit in a genitive sense. Please help me for I am very confused.
Ahmad Saad
Salam Meurad,


First of all, I am very happy that a question like this is being asked as it opens the door for a lot of people to learn and for us to dispel misconceptions and clarify very vital and important points.


Let's stress the fact that Muslims believe that Almighty Allah is One. He is not like anything or anyone and nothing is like unto Him. His Oneness and uniqueness is that of entity, actions and attributes as mentioned by great scholars of theology like Imam Abu Jaafar At-Tahawi (b. 239/853) in his well known text Al-Aqeedah At-Tahawiyyah' (The Creed of Imam Al-Tahawi; known as the statement of Ahl-As-Sunnah wal Jamaah.)


The oneness of entity means that nothing is like Almighty Allah as we are all created from materials. Therefore, there are peers for us and even if we cannot see the individuals created from that material, we can see the material itself.


For instance, the Jinns are created from fire, although we, as created from clay, cannot see jinn because their substance is lighter than ours, we can still see the substance they are created from, i.e. fire. Yet, Almighty Allah is beyond substances and matters because He is the One who created them.


The oneness of actions means that it is only Him who has created things out of scratch and fashioned them in this unique unprecedented way.


The oneness of attributes means that Allah's attributes are the same in all situations and cases. When something big happens, He (glory be to Him) has already known it by His same knowledge without having to adapt His knowledge to suit this big thing. His knowledge is one, His Power and Might is one as well.


This oneness is the core message of the Quran and its assertion is the aim of all divine messages sent with various messengers and Prophets in various ages and centuries.


Now coming to the point upon which you built your question, let's address it in its all aspects.


There is always a problem with communicating words when they are translated into another language and there is a famous saying that goes: 'a translator is a traitor' and there is some truth in it as transferring the meaning between various languages normally leads to the twisting of it.


Taking this into consideration, we have to look at the Arabic original to discern what the real wording is. In addition, we understand that the Quran explains the Quran and the substance of the Quran is the Arabic language. So we need to use two important tools to clarify this ambiguity; i.e. the Arabic language and the Quranic verses that can help in explaining this one in hand.


When we look at the occurrences of similar messages in the Quran, we will find that the main text speaking about spirit and its nature is in Surat Al-Israa', verse 85 which gives the meaning of:


*{They are asking you concerning the Spirit. Say the Spirit is by the command of my Lord, and of knowledge you have been vouchsafed but little.}* (Al-Israa' 17:85)


If we notice here, the verse says: 'it is by the command' i.e. it is created by the command of my Lord. This verse which was revealed as a response to a group of people who were asking the Prophet all the time about the spirit, its nature, its substance and if it is created or preexisted and the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not have a clear-cut answer to them.


Therefore, the Quran came telling the Prophet the answer, which is that the spirit is a creature just like all other creatures. It is created by Allah to dwell in the bodies of human beings and is functioning there by the command of Allah and once Almighty Allah commands it to stop functioning, life comes to an end.


As for its substance and the material it is created from, this is something beyond our understanding and it is one of the secrets known to Allah only. Definitely, there are many secrets in this universe that have not been yet unfolded to us.


What we can grasp is that the 'spirit' is something different in nature from liquids, gases, physical matters and is known to Allah only as it is created by Him.


Imam Al-Fakhr Al-Razi in his great exegesis of the Quran known as 'Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir; Mafatih Al-Ghayb' (The Great Commentary: The Keys to the Unseen) commented on this verse of Surat Al-Israa' and communicated to us the message that the unbelievers were asking about this unsolved matter of the spirit, is it eternal, is it created, or what about it?


And the answer of the Quran was very clear: As for its being created or non-created, of course it is created and it is something of the actions of Allah that He gives life, instills spirits in people or takes it from them. As for its substance, you are yet far limited to understand this.


But why does Allah say: 'min ruhi' (from My Spirit) in the verse you referred to?


Imam Al-Fakhr Al-Razi explains this as well in his commentary on the verse and says: 'Almighty Allah has said 'My' and added the spirit of Adam to Himself just as a way of honoring Adam and ennobling him.' (Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir, the commentary on Surat Al-Hijr)


Being added to Allah does not necessarily mean it is part of Him (glory be to Him). It is as when you say about a painting you have painted: 'This is my brush', it does not mean that the brush is part of you or that the brush has done that, rather, you are using metaphor.


Another example is when someone loves someone and says 'he is my heart' it just denotes his care and love for him, not that he has physically become a part of him.


Believers are supposed to think of Allah's creation and ponder upon the universe, but never to think of His entity. This is beyond our intellects, simply because we are subject to the laws of Allah and Allah is the Creator of such laws, so He is not subject to them.


No one can claim that he is unified with Allah because he is the 'spirit' of Allah, because such confusion has led unbelievers to fall into the abyss of claiming that Allah has physical, or, "biological" children.


The Quran is very clear that everything we think of Allah, He is far beyond. And let me conclude with what Imam At-Tahawi mentioned as well:


"Imaginations cannot attain Him, comprehensions cannot perceive Him, and creatures do not bear any similarity to Him." (The Creed of Imam At-Tahawi; translated by Hamza Yusuf, published by Zaytuna Institute 2007, p. 49)


I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.




Useful Links:


Does God Have a Spirit?

Jesus the Spirit

Understanding Allah, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit

What Is the Holy Spirit?

What Is the Holy Spirit? (More)

What Is the Holy Spirit? (Commentary)

Allah in Pre-Islamic History

God… or Allah?

Where Is God? Another Answer

Where Is God?

He... a Pronoun of Divine Entity?