Rūḥ, Holy Spirit in Islam

In Islam, especially Sufism, rūḥ (روح‎;) is a person’s immortal, essential self — pneuma, i.e. the “spirit” or “soul”.[1][2] The Quran itself does not describes rūḥ as the immortal self.[3] Nevertheless, in some contexts, it animates inanimate matter.[4] Further, it appears to be a metaphorical being, such as an angel.[5] In one instance, rūḥ refers to Jesus.[6]Further, the Quran refers to rūḥ as Ruh al-qudus (روح القدس‎, “the holy spirit” or “spirit of holiness”) and al-ruh al-amin (“the faithful/trustworthy spirit”).

Outside the Quran, rūḥ may also refer to a spirit that roams the earth; a ghost.[7]

Among the al-Laṭaʾif as-sitta (Arabic: اللطائف الستة‎) it is the third purity.

Ruh al-qudus

Lightrays, ArizonaRuh al-qudus (Arabic: روح القدس‎, “the holy spirit” or “spirit of holiness”), al-ruh al-amin (“the faithful/trustworthy spirit”), and ruh (spirit) are Quranic expressions that describe a source or means of prophetic revelations, commonly identified with the angel Gabriel.[8][9][10] Quranic commentators disagreed in their identification of Gabriel with various uses of the word ruh.[10][11]

The Arabic phrase “al-Qudus” (القدس) translates into English as “the Holy One” or “the Exalted One”. “Al-Quddūs” is one of the 99 Names of God in Islam.[12]

In Quran

The phrase ruh al-qudus, commonly translated as the “holy spirit” or the “spirit of holiness”, occurs four times in the Quran,[10] in sura 2 (Al-Baqara) ayat 87,[13] sura 2 (Al-Baqara) ayat 253,[14] sura 5 (Al-Ma’ida) ayat 110,[15] and sura 16 (An-Nahl) ayat 102.[16] In three instances, it is described as the means by which God “strengthened” Jesus, and in the fourth it is identified as the one brought down God’s truth to his prophet.[10] Muslim commentators commonly connected this expression with the “faithful/trustworthy sprit” (al-ruh al-amin) who is said to have brought down the Quran in verse 26:193, and identified with Gabriel.[9][10] Other Muslim commentators viewed it as identical with the created spirit described in other Quranic verses as the means by which God brought Adam to life (e.g., 15:29), made Mary conceive Jesus 21:91 and inspired angels and prophets (e.g., 17:85).[10] The spirit who together with “the angels” descends and ascends to God (16:2, 70:4, 97:4) was also identified with Gabriel in Quranic commentaries. Thus, the figure of Gabriel became a focus of theological reflection on the content of revelation and the nature of cognition itself, with distinctions articulated between reason, prophetic revelation, and mystical knowledge.[17]

In Shia Islam

In Shia Islam ruh is described as “a creature (khalq) of God larger than Gabriel or Michael”, who was sent to inform and guide Muhammad and is now with the Imams. In some Shia traditions, ruh al-qudus (spirit of holiness) is one of the five spirits possessed by the Imam. Unlike the other four spirits, it is always vigilant and available to inform the Imam on any issue. There is disagreement on whether ruh is an angel.[11]

As interpreted to refer to the Archangel Gabriel

Angel wingsThe term Ruh al-Qudus also applies to the Archangel Gabriel (referred to as JibralJibrīlJibrael, ‘DžibrilJabrilæCebrail[18] or Jibrail (جبريل, جبرائيل, [dʒibræːʔiːl][dʒibrɛ̈ʔiːl], or [dʒibriːl]),[19][20] who is related as the Angel of revelation and was assigned by God to reveal the Qur’an to the prophet Muhammad and who delivered the Annunciation to Mary.[19]

In the two suras in which the Qur’an refers to the angel Gabriel, it does so by name.[21] However, some hadith and parts of the Qur’an may arguably lend support to the alternative view.

It appears to be indicated by the Quran in sura Maryam ayat 16–21, that it was the angel Gabriel who gave to Mary the tidings that she was to have a son as a virgin:

She chose to seclude herself (from her people); then we sent to her Our Spirit, and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects. She said: “Verily! I seek refuge with the Most Beneficent (God) from you, if you do fear God.” (The man) said: “I am only a messenger from your Lord, (to announce) to you the gift of a righteous son.” She said: “How can I have a son, when no man has touched me, nor am I unchaste?” He said: “So (it will be), your Lord said: ‘That is easy for me (God): And (we wish) to appoint him as a sign to mankind and a mercy from us (God), and it is a matter (already) decreed (by God).’ ” [Quran19:17]

It is narrated in hadith that the angel Gabriel accompanied Muhammad during the Mi’raj, an ascension to the heavens in which Muhammad is said to have met other messengers of God and was instructed about the manner of Islamic prayer (sujud). (Bukhari Sahih al-Bukhari, 1:8:345.) It is also held by Muslims that the angel Gabriel descends to Earth on the night of Laylat al-Qadr (“The Night of Fate”), a night in the last ten days of the holy month of Ramadan (Islamic calendar) which is said to be the night on which the Qur’an was first revealed.[22]

As soul

A dove represents The Holy SpiritGod is believed to endow humans with rūḥ and nafs (نَفْس, psyche, i.e. ego or “(inner) soul”). The rūḥ “drives” the nafs, which comprises temporal desires and sensory perceptions.[1] The nafs can assume control of the body if the rūḥ surrenders to bodily urges.[1]The nafs is subject to bodily desire, whereas the rūḥ is a person’s immaterial essence, beyond the emotions and instincts shared by humans and other animals; rūḥ makes the body alive.[23] Some arwah (pl. spirits) dwell in the seventh heaven. Unlike the angels, they are supposed to eat and drink. An angel called Ar-Rūḥ (the spirit) is responsible for them.[24]


To attend Tajalli ar-rūḥ, the Salik needs to achieve the following 13.

  1. Irādah or Commitment with God
  2. Istiqāmah or Steadfastness in the way with God
  3. Hāya or Shame in committing evil
  4. Ḥurīyyah or Freedom: Ibrahim Bin Adham said, “A free man is one who abandons the world before he leaves the world”. Yaḥyā Bin Maz said, “Those who serves the people of world are slaves, and those who serve the people of ʾĀkhirah are the free ones”. Abū ʿAlī Daqāq said, “Remember, real freedom is in total obedience. Therefore if someone has total obedience in God, he will be free from the slavery of non God”
  5. Fatoot or Manliness: Abū ʿAlī Daqāq said, “Manliness is in one’s being of continuous service to others. This is an etiquette that was perfected by Prophet Muhammad only”.
  6. Ḥub or Love for God
  7. Aboodiyah or Slavery under God
  8. Maraqiba or Complete Focus on God
  9. Duʿāʾ or Prayer
  10. Faqar or Abandoning of materialism
  11. Tasawwuf or Wearing a dress of no material significance
  12. Suhbat or Company of the righteous ones
  13. Adab or Following Protocols of respect for the great ones[25]


  1.  Ahmad, Sultan (2011). Nafs: What Is it?”Islam In Perspective (revised ed.). Author House. p. 180. ISBN978-1-4490-3993-6. Retrieved 2017-07-15 – via Google Books.
  2.  Bedir, Murteza (2006). “Interplay of Sufism, Law, Theology and Philosophy: A non-Sufi Mystic of 4th–5th/10–11th Centuries”. In Carmona, Alfonso. El Sufismo y las normas del Islam—Trabajos del IV Congreso Internacional de Estudios Jurídicos Islámicos: Derecho y Sufismo. pp. 262–3. ISBN84-7564-323-XOCLC70767145. Retrieved 2017-07-15 – via Google Books.
  3.  Jane I. Smith, Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad Islamic Understanding of Death and Resurrection State University of New York Press 1981 ISBN9780873955072 p. 18
  4.  Joseph Lowry, Shawkat Toorawa Arabic Humanities, Islamic Thought: Essays in Honor of Everett K. Rowson BRILL 2017 ISBN9789004343290 p. 7
  5.  Joseph Lowry, Shawkat Toorawa Arabic Humanities, Islamic Thought: Essays in Honor of Everett K. Rowson BRILL 2017 ISBN9789004343290 p. 7
  6.  Joseph Lowry, Shawkat Toorawa Arabic Humanities, Islamic Thought: Essays in Honor of Everett K. Rowson BRILL 2017 ISBN9789004343290 p. 7
  7.  Sengers, Gerda (2003). Women and Demons: Cultic Healing in Islamic Egypt. BRILL. p. 50. ISBN978-90-04-12771-5OCLC50713550.
  8.  Michael Ebstein (2013). Mysticism and Philosophy in al-Andalus: Ibn Masarra, Ibn al-ʿArabī and the Ismāʿīlī Tradition. BRILL. p. 36.ISBN978-9-004-25537-1
  9.   J. Petersen (1991). “D̲j̲abrāʾīl”. In P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Encyclopaedia of Islam2 (2nd ed.). Brill. pp. 362–364.
  10.  Sidney H. Griffith (2006). “Holy Spirit”. In Jane Dammen McAuliffe. Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān2. pp. 442–444.
  11.   Said Amir Arjomand (1998). Authority and Political Culture in Shi’ism. SUNY Press. p. 26.ISBN978-0-887-06638-2
  12.  Quran59:23Quran62:1
  13.  Quran2:87
  14.  Quran2:253
  15.  Quran5:110
  16.  Quran16:102
  17.  Gisela Webb (2006). “Gabriel”. In Jane Dammen McAuliffe. Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān2. pp. 278–279.
  18.  Tözün Issa Alevis in Europe: Voices of Migration, Culture and Identity Routledge 2016 ISBN978-1-317-18265-8
  19.   What is meant by the Holy Spirit in the Qur’an? Islam Awareness
  20.  http://islam-qa.com/en/ref/14403/Gabriel%20spirit
  21.  Quran2:97–98Quran66:4
  22.  “English Translations of Al-Quran – 3 English Translations of Al-Quran & 1 Commentary of each Surah (97. Al Qadr)”. alquran-english.com. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  23.  Tymieniecka, Anna-Teresa (2010). Reason, Spirit and the Sacral in the New Enlightenment: Islamic Metaphysics Revived and Recent Phenomenology of Life. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 75. ISBN978-90-481-9612-8OCLC840883714.
  24.  Stephen Burge Angels in Islam: Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti’s al-Haba’ik fi akhbar al-mala’ik Routledge 2015 ISBN978-1-136-50473-0 p. 276
  25.  Translated from the Persian book Shahid ul Wojood

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