Religious Concepts

The Soul


The Promised Messiah (as) wrote over 80 books in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian. Excerpts of his collected works have been translated into English and organised by topic. 

The Review of Religions is pleased to present these excerpts as part of a monthly feature. Here the Promised Messiah (as) outlines the qualities of the soul, and discusses the birth of the soul and its relationship with the grave.

This is the third of a multi-part series.

Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. II, 400-410.

I tell you truly, without the least exaggeration, that the Holy Qur’an has expounded the qualities, faculties, powers, capacities and other wonderful particulars of the soul in such a true, clear, fine and excellent manner, and has furnished proofs of these, that it constitutes a high and fine statement, so full of wisdom comprising perfect verities that if all the four Rishis who compiled the Vedas were to be born again and were to exert their thinking and reflection to the utmost they would not be able to achieve that degree of vastness of knowledge and high insights even if they expired in the effort. 

—Surmah Chashm Arya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 2, p. 234

Qualities of the Soul 

The Holy Qur’an has made detailed mention of the many qualities, wonderful powers and capacities of souls of which we set out a few by way of illustration: 

1. The faculty of eagerness to acquire knowledge and insight. 

2. The faculty of acquiring knowledge. 

3. The faculty of safeguarding knowledge that has been acquired. 

4. The faculty of the love of God. 

5. The faculty of deriving delight from a meeting with the Divine. 

6. The faculty of seeing visions. 

7. The faculty of influencing and being influenced. 

8. The faculty of establishing relationship with bodies. 

9. The faculty of acquiring divine qualities. 

10. The faculty of receiving revelation. 

11. The faculty of expansive and constricted moods. 

12. The faculty of acquiring unlimited comprehension. 

13. The faculty of taking on the colour of the manifestation of the Divine. 

14. The faculty of reason whereby to distinguish between beauty and imperfection. 

15. The faculty of receiving impressions and being influenced by them in contrast with the bodies to which they are related. 

16. The faculty of acknowledging the existence of the True Creator. 

17. The faculty of manifesting new qualities in combination with bodies and their special shapes. 

18. The faculty of mutual attraction which might be designated magnetic power. 

19. The faculty of immortality. 

20. The faculty of maintaining a special relationship with the particles of the departed body which is manifested to those who have experience of visions. 

There are many other faculties of souls which are set out in detail in the Holy Qur’an in a delightful and excellent manner. 

—Surmah Chashm Arya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 2, pp. 245-247

The Doctrine of Transmigration is False 

There is no other doctrine as false as the doctrine of the transmigration of souls, inasmuch as its basis is false, its falsehood is established by observation; a sense of human purity condemns it; and it is the duty of every godly person to condemn it on account of its repudiation of divine power. 

Its basis is false as it is stated in the Satyarath Prakash that the soul falls like dew on some vegetable which is eaten by a woman and thus finds its way to the womb. But this involves that a soul falls in two pieces upon the earth of which, by some chance, the husband eats one and the wife eats the other; because, it is well settled that a child derives spiritual faculties and qualities from both parents and not only from one of them. Therefore, it is necessary that both should have partaken of the vegetable upon which the soul had fallen and it is not enough that only one should have partaken of it. This necessitates the division of the soul which is false. 

Therefore, the basis of the doctrine of the transmigration of souls is false. Observation demonstrates its falseness as there is a large diversity of souls and it is not possible that they should all have been brought into existence like the falling of the dew. For instance, we often observe that lice abound in the hair of some people. With what dew are these souls swallowed? Also, stores of wheat are infested with millions of insects. How do their souls descend like dew, and who swallows them? We also know that some people suffer from worms in their intestines or in their brains, and there are thousands of germs in a drop of water. By what kind of dew are they created? Experience shows that everything is infested with germs. Silk and wood and grain and fruits of different sorts are all liable to be infested with worms and insects. How are they produced?… 

Imagine how offensive the doctrine of the transmigration of souls is from the point of view of decency! When a female infant is born, does she bring with her a list of relationships that she is the mother or grandmother or sister of such and such person and that she should avoid marriage with them? 

This doctrine also seriously detracts from the omnipotence of the Permeshwar. God is All-Powerful and may if He so wills invest a piece of wood with life, as was the case, for instance, with the rod of Moses which was a piece of wood at one moment and became a serpent the next. If, however, souls are self-existent the Permeshwar of the Hindus cannot maintain his status as God, inasmuch as he who exercises his godhood with the help of others would cease to be God sooner than later. The affirmation that the system of transmigration of souls, which has been in operation according to the Aryas for millions of years, results from the sins committed in a previous existence is proved to be crude, absurd and false in the light of natural sciences. It is obvious that there is a divine system of the birth of souls which remains constant. For instance, millions of insects appear in the rainy season and flies abound in the summer. Then are we to assume that sinfulness abounds in these seasons so that large numbers of human beings are transmuted into flies and insects on account of the multiplicity of their sins? There are thousands of other reasons by virtue of which this doctrine must be held to be false. 

—Nasim-e-Da‘wat, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 19, pp. 441-444, footnote

Birth of the Soul 

It is absolutely true that the soul is a fine light which is developed inside the body and is nurtured in the womb. In the beginning it is hidden and imperceptible, and later it is made manifest; but from the very beginning its essence is present in the sperm. It is related to the sperm in a mysterious manner by the design and command and will of God. It is a bright and illumined quality of the sperm. It cannot be said that it is a part of the sperm as matter is part of matter, nor can it be said that it comes from outside, or falls upon the earth and gets mixed with the sperm. It is latent in the sperm as fire is latent in the flint. The word of God does not mean that the soul descends from heaven as a separate entity, or falls upon the earth from the atmosphere and then by chance gets mixed with the sperm and enters the womb with it. There is no basis for such a notion. The law of nature rejects it. 

—Islami Usul ki Philosophy, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 10, pp. 322-323 

There is conclusive evidence that the male and female sperm have the capacity to generate the soul without its falling from heaven like the dew. When the two sperms unite the capacity is strengthened and grows till when the framework of the embryo is ready the soul is activated from the framework by the power of God Almighty. This is the creation of something from non-existence, because the soul is not anything material and yet it is generated from the same matter which grows into a framework after the union of the two sperms in the womb. It is not necessary that the soul should fall like dew on some vegetable and should be generated in this manner. The matter from which the soul is generated can be formed out of a piece of meat or fish, or from clay from the depths of the earth from which frogs and insects are generated. Undoubtedly it is a divine mystery that He creates from the body something which has nothing of the body in it. It is clear that the soul does not fall from heaven but is a new creation which is produced from the compound sperms by the Power of God as Almighty Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: 

ثُمَّ اَنْشَاْنٰهُ خَلۡقًا اٰخَرَ ۚ فَتَبَارَكَ اللّٰہُ اَحۡسَنُ ٱلۡخٰلِقِينَ 


That is to say, when the human framework is ready in the womb God completes it with a new creation, meaning the soul is created out of the matter from which the framework was prepared. 

—Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 23, pp. 123-124 

Body and Spirit are Continuously Renewed 

It has been proved that in three years the human body is dissolved and a new body takes its place. It is a familiar spectacle that when a person becomes very weak from illness and becomes like a mere skeleton, on his return to health gradually the body is rebuilt. Thus all the time the particles of the body are being dissolved and replaced by new particles. Thus the body suffers death every moment and obtains new life. Like the body, the soul also dies every moment and is revived. The only difference is that the changes in the body are patent and can be observed, but as the soul is hidden its changes are also hidden and are endless. The Holy Qur’an indicates that the changes of the soul are unlimited and will continue even in heaven. They will be indicative of progress and the souls will experience a continuous growth, each succeeding condition will be so far above the preceding condition that it would seem as if the preceding condition had died. 

—Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 23, pp. 167-168

Body is the Mother of the Soul 

Physical injuries disclose that there is a mysterious relationship between the soul and the body which is beyond the ken of man. A further proof of this relationship is that reflection shows that the body is the mother of the soul. The soul does not fall into the womb of a pregnant woman from above. It is a light that is inherent in the sperm which begins to shine forth with the development of the embryo. The holy word of God Almighty sets forth that the soul is generated by the framework which is prepared in the womb from the sperm, as He says in the Holy Qur’an: 

ثُمَّ اَنْشَاْنٰهُ خَلۡقًا اٰخَرَ ۚ فَتَبَارَكَ اللّٰہُ اَحۡسَنُ ٱلۡخٰلِقِينَ 


Then We invest the embryo which originated in the womb with a new birth, and thus give it yet another form which is known as the soul. So blessed is Allah, and He is the Creator Who has no equal. This process is a deep mystery which points to the real nature of the soul and indicates the strong relationship that subsists between the soul and the body. 

—Islami Usul ki Philosophy, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 10, p. 321 

Relationship of the Soul with Graves 

Question: What is the nature of the relationship between the soul and the grave? 

Answer: Whatever has been said on this subject in the ahadith of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) is entirely true. It is not for us to probe into its nature. All that we have to establish is that there is such a relationship and that it is not an impossibility. 

It is illustrated by an instance in the law of nature. God Almighty has appointed different methods for the discovery of the reality of things. Some are perceived through the eye, others through the ear and some through a combination of the senses. There are many verities which can be perceived only by the heart…Man is equipped with many faculties and each of them performs diverse functions in the service of man. 

The ignorant philosopher seeks to decide everything on the basis of his defective reason, but this is a mistake. Historical events can be gathered only from history. The natural qualities of things can only be determined through correct experience. Reason is a guide only in respect of inductive matters. Thus there are diverse methods of arriving at the reality. Man is misled when he depends only on one method for the determination of diverse matters. We have experience of it every day. The departure of the soul from the body, or the relationship of the soul with the body are matters which cannot be determined by reason. Had that been possible philosophers and thinkers would not have fallen into error. Thus the relationship of the soul with the grave is a verity, but it cannot be perceived by the physical eye. It can be perceived only through the eye of vision. It cannot be perceived by mere reason, for reason cannot determine even the existence of the soul. This matter is the subject of a thousand contentions and there are thousands of atheistic philosophers who deny the existence of the soul. Had it been a matter of pure reason there should have been no difference. 

The function of the eye, for instance, is to see and we cannot expect that the eye of X should behold a white object and the eye of Y should determine the taste of that white object. Mere reason cannot determine for certain even the existence of the soul let alone its nature and its relationships. Philosophers consider the soul to be like a green piece of wood. To them the soul has no external or independent existence. Whatever we know about the soul and its relationships is gathered from the spring of prophethood. Some philosophers have written something about it but their knowledge is borrowed from that spring. The fact that the souls do have a relationship with the graves should be viewed through the eye of visions which indicates that the soul has a relationship with that heap of clay and that the greeting:

السَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ يَا أَهْلَ الْقُبُورِ 


is responded to. He who uses the faculties through which the condition of the graves can be viewed, can obtain knowledge of such relationship…

The faculty of seeing visions is needed for appreciating the relationship of souls with the graves. He who denies this is in error. A large number of prophets and millions of the righteous bear witness to this relationship which cannot be denied, though the nature of that relationship may not be determined through reason. In short, spiritual sight finally settles all these matters. If the ear cannot see, the ear is not at fault because seeing is not its function. I can affirm from personal experience that the soul has a relationship with the grave and it is possible to hold converse with the dead. 

The soul also has a relationship with heaven where it is assigned a station. This is an established verity which is testified to by the Hindu scriptures also. This is a generally admitted verity except in the case of those who deny the survival of the soul. It is the faculty of seeing visions that indicates the nature of that relationship. 

—Malfuzat, vol. I, pp. 287-290

The soul is not something in space. The nature of its relationships cannot be determined. After death the soul has a relationship with the grave which is revealed to those who possess the faculty of seeing visions. They can see the dwellers of the graves sitting in their graves and can hold converse with them. This is established by true ahadith. A well-known hadith mentions salat in a grave, it is also mentioned in the ahadith that the dead can hear the sound of footsteps and respond to Assalamu ‘Alaikum. They also have a relationship with heaven. There are different degrees of their heavenly exaltation. Some arrive at the first heaven, others reach the second or third heaven, but all righteous souls are exalted as is mentioned in true hadith and is also indicated by the verse: 

لَا تُفَتَّحُ لَھُمۡ اَبۡوٰبُ ٱلسَّمَآءِ 


but the nature of their relationship to heaven or to the graves cannot be determined. 

—Al-Haq, Mubahatha Delhi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 4, p. 215


[1] The Holy Qur’an, 23:15.

[2] The Holy Qur’an, 23:15.

[3] ‘Peace be on you, O dwellers of the graves.’

[4]‘(Those who reject Our signs and turn away from them with disdain), the gates of the spiritual firmament will not be opened for them.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 7:41.