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The Human Soul

Unlike the Vedas, the Qur’an says that the souls are not uncreated but that they come into existence along with the body. This is the truth about the birth of souls which is borne out by established facts and which we cannot but accept. When we say that the soul comes into existence out of nothing, we do not mean to say that before it was created it was nothing. What we mean to say is that before the soul came into being, there was no pre- existing matter out of which man could extract the soul with his own e fforts. It is only the power and wisdom of God which brings the soul into existence out of some m a t t e r. It was for this reason that when the Holy Prophet ( s a ) w a s asked What is the soul, he was commanded by God to respond: 4 The Review of Religions –Nov 2004 The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings – from the writings of the Promised Messiah(as) The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community was Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as). In 1891, he claimed, on the basis of Divine revelation, that he was the Promised Messiah and Mahdi whose advent had been foretold by Muhammad, the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and by the scriptures of other faiths. His claim constitutes the basis of the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. ( Translated from C h a s h m a – i – M a ’ r i f a t of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sahib, pp.158_168 Ruhani Khazain, Vol.23) 5 The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 And the unbelievers ask thee as to the reality of the soul and the manner of its creation; say the soul is created by the command of my Lord . (i.e. it is a mystery of divine power) and you have no knowledge concerning the soul save a little, (i.e; your knowledge of the soul is confined only to the birth of the soul: as we observe that insects, etc., come into being under our observation from some matter). ( C h . 1 7 : V. 8 6 ) The law of God pertaining to the creation of the human soul is that the human mould is gradually developed, from the union of two seminal fluids. Then, as by the mixture of certain medicines, a certain quality is generated in their mixture which the elements did not individually possess, in the same way a special quality is created in the mould that is compounded by the blood and sperm drops and it takes on the colour of a type of phosphorus. When the breeze of the Divine manifestation blows upon it under the command: ‘Be!’ it suddenly flares up and spreads its e ffect into all parts of the mould. Thereby the embryo comes alive. It is then that a life is breathed into the body and that bright essence when kindled by the command of God is called the soul. This command is described as the Wo r d of God because the faculty of the pregnant mother, which creates all the limbs of the embryo by the command of God and weaves its framework like the web of the s p i d e r, has no concern with the soul which is created by a special Divine manifestation. Though the phosphorous out of which the soul takes birth is produced by the framework or mould, the spiritual spark which is called the soul cannot be born without the touch of the heavenly breeze. This is the true knowledge of the soul, which is revealed to us by the Holy Q u r’an; and the Vedas, like all other books, are devoid of it. It is 6 The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 beyond the reach of the reason of the philosophers. It is thus that the soul is said to come into existence out of non-existence, but by this we do not mean to say that it is brought into existence out of absolute nothingness, for the whole universe depends on the system of cause and e ff e c t . The objection may be raised that if the soul is created, it should also follow that it is mortal and subject to death. The answer to this objection is, that it is indeed subject to death. Anything that loses its attributes is said to die. If any drug has lost its properties, it is said to be dead. Similarly, with regard to the soul it is an established fact that under certain circumstances the soul is bereft of its quality and loses its attributes. In fact, it underg o e s even greater changes that the body itself. It is when these changes separate the soul from its attributes that it is said to die, for when a thing leaves its essential attributes, it is said to die. It is for this reason that the Holy Qur’an describes only those souls as being alive after their departure from this life as retain their essential qualities and have attained the object of their creation, viz., the souls characterised by perfect love of God and perfect submission to the Divine Being. All other souls are represented as dead. In short, the death of the soul consists in its being separated from its attributes. For instance, when a man is subjected to a kind of death during his sleep, his soul also u n d e rgoes a simultaneous death, i.e. it loses the attributes it possessed in the state of wakefulness. In sleep, it no longer possesses the attributes which it possessed when the man was awake and its relinquishing its attributes during sleep may be fitly represented as its death, for death only means the loss of attributes. The word d e a t h i s often mis- u n d e r s t o o d . Death does not only mean non- existence; being bereft of essential qualities is also a sort of death. When a body dies, it does not become quite extinct, for its dust still exists. Similar is the death of the soul, for it too is deprived of its attributes and properties. As the body ceases to do its work during sleep, similarly the soul of a sleeping person is deprived of the powers which it possessed when 7 The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 the person was awake. For instance, the soul of a living person meets a dead person in a dream and does not know that the person had died. It totally forgets this world as soon as a person sinks into sleep. Then it casts off the garb of this world and dons quite a new garb. It remembers nothing of this world, except that much as God may keep alive. It suspends all its activities and truly arrives before God All its movements, words and passions pass under the control of the Divine Being, and it is so completely under the power of God that everything which it does, or speaks, or hears, and every movement it makes, cannot be said to be proceeding from its own will or choice. On the other hand, it is totally deprived of all will and displays every sign of death. During sleep the soul suff e r s an even greater death than the body. I wonder at those who do not ponder even over their state of sleep. If the soul was to be exempted from death, it ought to have been exempted from it even in sleep. The state of sleep serves a mirror for the purpose of our comprehension of our condition in the state of death. One who wants to attain a true knowledge respecting the soul should ponder much over the state of sleep. Every secret of death may be resolved through one’s experience during sleep. If you will properly ponder over the state of sleep and dreams and will consider attentively the way in which the soul undergoes a death during sleep, when it is bereft of its knowledge and qualities, you will be convinced that the state of death is similar to the state of sleep. So it is wrong to say that after its departure from the body the soul continues in the same condition in which it was in this life. Under the command of God, the soul is subjected to a death similar to that to which it is subjected during sleep, but that death is much stronger than the death of the soul during sleep. Every attribute of the soul is, then, ground under the millstone of extinction, and that is the death of the soul. Then only those are raised from death, who, while here, did deeds which could give life. No soul has power to remain alive on its own. Does it lie in the power of man to maintain a fast hold, during sleep, of the attributes and knowledge which he possessed during wakefulness? N a y, the moment one closes one’s 8 The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 eyes, the state of the soul is completely changed and it suffers a type of non-existence whereby . God says with reference to the death of the soul: This verse means that G o d takes hold of the souls at the time of their death. They come completely under the contro l and power of God and lose all choice and self-consciousness. They are deprived of the attributes of life and become as if they were non-existent. And the souls that are not re a l l y dead but whose condition bears a close resemblance to death a re the souls of those that go to sleep. In the state of death, the soul goes into the control o f God and undergoes a change when they lose all worldly consciousness and feeling. In s h o rt, both in the state of d e a t h and in sleep, the soul is so completely under the control of God that it parts with its choice and will and self- consciousness, which are the signs of life. Then God re t a i n s such souls as have been made to undergo real death and sends or re s t o res such souls back to the world for a time as were not subjected to real death. In this t h e re are signs for those t h a t ponder and re f l e c t . ( C h . 3 9 : V. 4 3 ) This is the translation and expla- nation of the verses quoted above. This verses shows that there is a death for the souls, as there is a death for the body. But the Holy Q u r’an also shows that the souls of the righteous and elect of God are recalled from death after some days, some after three days, some 9 The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 after a week, and others after 40 days after death. This new life of theirs is a life of extreme bliss, sweetness and enjoyment. It is to attain this life that the righteous servants of God turn to God with all their power and strength and with complete sincerity and devotion. It is to be blessed with this life that they exert themselves to the utmost of their powers to free themselves from the darkness of their egos and impurities of the worldly life. It is to achieve this life that they adopt a bitter life here and bring on themselves a sort of death in order to win the pleasure of their Divine Master. In short, as the foregoing verse shows, there is a death for the soul as there is a death for the body. Though the most secret conditions of the next life are unknown to us in this dark world, yet the state of sleep, no doubt, serves as a specimen of the life to come. The death which overtakes the soul in this life is well exemplified in the state of sleep, for we know that as soon as we close our eyes, all the attributes of our wakefulness and everything connected with it is totally forgotten, and all the knowledge that we possessed while awake is buried in oblivion. We experience such scenes during sleep which prove beyond doubt that our soul has been totally changed and has lost all the attributes it possessed during wakefulness. This is a condition which bears a close resemblance to death, nay, it is really a kind of death, and is a conclusive evidence of the fact that the death which overtakes the soul at the time of the d e a t h of the body is like the death which overtakes the soul at the time of sleep; but the real death is far greater than the death of the soul during sleep.1 In brief, the Vedas have committed a serious mistake in representing the souls as eternal and everlasting like God, and it is sheer ignorance to regard such a book as a source of all wisdom, a book which sets up the creatures of God as partners with Him in eternity. Unlike the Vedas, the Holy Qur’an represents the souls as created and subject to death and not eternal and undying. As to the souls being created, the Holy Qur’an states: 10 The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 When the human mould is p re p a red, We bring about in it a new cre a t i o n , i.e; We create therein the soul. ( C h . 2 3 : V. 1 5 ) Again it says: S a y, (0 Prophet.) that the soul is c reated by the command of my L o rd and of the knowledge t h e reof you have been given but l i t t l e . ( C h . 1 7 : V. 8 6 ) The Holy Qur’an has also hinted many times that the substance from which the soul is created determines its spiritual values or the morals of a soul are according to the substance of the seed. If we consider the beasts, the birds, and the insects, etc; we come to the conclusion that the attributes of the soul of each animal are according to the substance of the seed. In addition to the verses quoted above, there is another verse which shows that the souls are created. It means: God is He who has cre a t e d e v e ry t h i n g ; ( t h e re is nothing c reationthat has not been c reated by Him), and He has o rdained a proper measure on (the body, powers, faculties, p ro p e rties and forms of) each, (so that their limitations may point to a limiter, who is God). (Ch.25: V. 3 ) But God Himself is unlimited, therefore we cannot ask respecting Him, who is the limiter of God? The verse quoted above clearly states that every thing that has come into existence, with all its powers and faculties, has been created by God. This teaching is in consonance with the perfect unity of God; for it represents God as the source of all bounties, and according to it there is nothing which is not created by God and is not sustained by Him. The teaching that every thing is created by God is the first part of the teaching of Divine unity. The 11 The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 second part of the doctrine of Divine unity consists in the teaching that nothing in itself is exempt from death, except God. On this point, God says: E v e rything will perish except God, Who is free from it. ( C h . 2 8 : V. 8 9 ) Similarly another verse says: E v e rything that is on the eart h will pass away. ( C h . 5 5 : V. 2 7 ) As God has included all things in His creation by saying: He created every t h i n g . (Ch.25: V. 3 ) The word k u l conveying the idea of t o t a l i t y, similarly He represents all things as subject to death by s a y i n g : E v e rything will perish except G o d . ( C h . 2 8 : V. 8 9 ) the same word, k u l (every) being repeated in this verse. Similarly, the other verse: E v e rything on this earth will pass away. ( C h . 5 5 : V. 2 7 ) represents all things as subject to death. As the body undergoes a death by decomposition and decay, s i m i l a r l y, the soul under-goes a death when it loses its qualities. But those who lose themselves in God are again raised to life, as they had attained a union with God, and because their lives adumbrated orwere shadows of Divine life. The unclean souls are also given a sense so that they may be subjected to chastsiement, but they are neither among the dead nor among the living. They are, like the man who is suffering from an excruciating pain, his condition is as bad as death and the whole earth and heavens grow dark in his eyes. Of 12 The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 these, the Holy Qur’an says: For him who comes to his Lord as a sinner, there is Hell, w h e rein he will neither die nor live. ( C h . 2 0 : V. 7 5 ) When a man looks into his own self and considers how his soul u n d e rgoes changes in wakefulness and sleep, he will not hesitate to admit that his soul, too, like his b o d y, is subject to change and death is nothing but a change and loss of attributes. When a living being dies, the body still exists, but we apply the word death to it on account of the change it underg o e s . It is to this that God refers when he s a y s : Do you not look carefully into your ownselves? ( C h . 5 1 : V. 2 2 ) This verse means that there are placed in the souls wonderful properties and reformation qualities that are not placed in the bodies, and that if a man reflects deeply on the state of his soul, he can soon recognise God. There is also a saying of the Holy Prophet( s a ) to that e ffect. He is reported to have said: One who recognises his own self has recognised God.2 Referring to the souls, God says: I said to the souls, Am I not your Lord? They re s p o n d e d , Ye s . ( C h . 7 : V. 1 7 3 ) This verse means that a belief in the existence of God is implanted in the nature of souls, and that if a man looks carefully into his soul, he will recognise God. But when a man plunges himself in the darkness of negligence and is a ffected by unholy teachings, he 13 The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 denies the existence of God who is His creator, and entertains doctrines which are not in consonance with what God has impressed on his nature. It is apparent that every person bears love for his parents, so much so, that some children die after the death of their mothers. So, if the soul of man does not proceed out of the Hand of God and is not created by Him, who is it that has implanted the love of God in its nature, and why is it that as soon as the eyes of man are opened and he casts off his negligence, his heart is attracted towards God and a river of the love of God flows in his breast? This shows that there is some connection between God and the souls which makes them ‘mad’ in divine love. They are so lost in the love of God that they are prepared to sacrifice their all in His path. The truth is, that the bond which unites the souls with the Divine Being is so wonderful that the relations of children with their mothers and father are not comparable to it. If, as the Arya Samajists represent, the souls are self-existent, how did this wonderful bond come into existence? Who placed this love, this passion, in the souls? This point deserves the deepest consideration and is a key to the true knowledge of God. It is an admitted scientific fact that the human body completely superseded by new cells every three years and a new body takes shape. The old particles of matter composing the body are, every moment, being replaced by new ones. How old is repaired by new matter may best be seen when a man recovers from a long disease which has decimated his body and has reduced it to a mere skeleton. After recovery, he gradually gains in flesh, until he recovers his original bulk. Thus every moment, the body is undergoing a death and gaining a life. And just as the body u n d e rgoes changes, similarly the soul also undergoes changes. The soul, too, like the body, is u n d e rgoing a death and gaining a life every moment. The only d i fference is that the changes of the body are apparent and palpable, while those of the soul are hidden as the soul itself is hidden. Again, the changes of the soul are unending. From the Holy Qur’an it appears that even in paradise the 14 The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 souls would be underg o i n g changes, but the changes there would be for the better. The souls would always be advancing forward in their spiritual journey, every stage of their advancement being so much higher than the preceding stages, that the state of the souls in a later stage may be likened to a death of the earlier s t a g e . N O T E S 1. We see strange scenes during sleep. Sometimes we see ourselves as children and we forget the fact that we are aged men and have children and a wife. These scenes which manifest during sleep conclusively show that the soul loses memory and is separated from its other attributes. This state may be justly called death. 2 . Man cannot derive much benefit from the changes which bodies undergo, for physical factors soon habituate. But the changes of the soul, particularly during our exertions to purify it and in visions, are so wonderful that they, seem to reveal the countenance of God. At every stage of their spiritual advancement, spiritual wayfarers feel that the former condition of their souls was a state of death, and that in their earlier stages their souls did not possess the knowledge and light which they have attained in the later stages. Even those who learn the worldly sciences realise how immersed in sleep their were souls in childhood, and what a new light has dawned on their souls after they made an advancement in learning and science. [Throughout this translation we have used the free translation of the verses from the Holy Qur’an as used by the author to explain its meaning instead of the literal translation of the relevant verse – Ed ] In this journal, for the ease of non- Muslim readers, ‘(sa)’ or ‘sa’ after the words, ‘Holy Prophet’, or the name ‘Muhammad’, are used. They stand for ‘Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam’ meaning ‘Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him’. Likewise, the letters ‘(as)’ or ‘as’ after the name of all other prophets is an abbreviation meaning ‘Peace be upon him’ derived from ‘Alaihis salatu wassalam’ for the respect a Muslim reader utters. The abbreviation ‘ra’ or (ra) stands for ‘Radhiallahu Ta’ala anhu and is used for Companions of a Prophet, meaning Allah be pleased with him or her (when followed by the relevant Arabic pronoun). F i n a l l y, ‘ru’ or (ru) for Rahemahullahu Ta’ala means the Mercy of Allah the Exalted be upon him.