Angel Gabriel and the 'Holy Spirit'

 

By

 

Ansar Al 'Adl

 

 

The allegation is as follows:

Who brings the revelation from Allah to Muhammad? The ANGEL Gabriel [2:97], or the Holy Spirit [16:102]?

Verses in question:

2:97 Say: "Whoever is an enemy to Jibrael (Gabriel), for indeed he has brought it (this Qur'ân) down to your heart by Allâh's Permission, confirming what came before it and guidance and glad tidings for the believers.

16:102. Say, Ruh-ul-Qudus (the Holy Spirit) has brought it (the Qur'an) down from your Lord with truth, that it may make firm and strengthen (the Faith of) those who believe and as a guidance and glad tidings to those who have submitted (to Allâh as Muslims)

1. The obvious point that the critic is missing is that the 'Holy Spirit' is simply another title of Angel Jibreel (Gabriel), peace be upon him. This is unanimously agreed upon by all Muslim scholars and there is no difference of opinion on this matter due to what has been narrated. Ibn Kathir Ad-Damishqee (d. 1372CE) cites the narrations which demonstrate that this was the understanding of the earliest Muslim generation, those who learnt directly from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):

Jibril is Ruh Al-Qudus

The proof that Jibril is the Ruh Al-Qudus is the statement of Ibn Mas`ud in explanation of this Ayah (fn. Ibn Abi Hatim 1:269). This is also the view of Ibn `Abbas, Muhammad bin Ka`b, Isma`il bin Khalid, As-Suddi, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, `Atiyah Al-`Awfi and Qatadah (fn. Ibn Abi Hatim 1:270). Additionally, Allah said,

(Which the trustworthy Ruh (Jibril) has brought down. Upon your heart (O Muhammad ) that you may be (one) of the warners) (26:193-194).

Al-Bukhari recorded `A'ishah saying that the Messenger of Allah erected a Minbar in the Masjid on which Hassan bin Thabit (the renowned poet) used to defend the Messenger of Allah (with his poems). The Messenger of Allah said, "O Allah! Aid Hassan with Ruh Al-Qudus, for he defended Your Prophet."(fn. Fath Al-Bari 10:562).

Abu Dawud recorded this Hadith in his Sunan (fn. Abu Dawud 5:279) as did At-Tirmidhi who graded it Hasan Sahih (fn. Tuhfat Al-Ahwadhi 8:137). Further, Ibn Hibban recorded in his Sahih that Ibn Mas`ud said that the Prophet said, "Ruh Al-Qudus informed me that no soul shall die until it finishes its set provisions and term limit. Therefore, have Taqwa of Allah and seek your sustenance in the most suitable way."(fn. See As-Sunnah 14:304).(Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Abridged, Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, 2000, vol. 1, pp. 288-289)

These narrations demonstrate that the correct understanding of the title "Ruh Al-Qudus" (Holy Spirit) is that it was a title of Angel Jibreel. In another place, Allah refers to him as Ruh Al-Ameen (the Trustworthy Spirit). Concerning this, Ibn Kathir records:

(Which the trustworthy Ruh has brought down.) This refers to Jibril, peace be upon him. This was the view of more than one of the Salaf: Ibn `Abbas, Muhammad bin Ka`b, Qatadah, `Atiyyah Al-`Awfi, As-Suddi, Ad-Dahhak, Az-Zuhri and Ibn Jurayj. (fn. At-Tabari 19:396). This is an issue concerning which there is no dispute.(Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Abridged, Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, 2000, vol. 7, pp. 275-276)

Hence, it becomes clear that those who are close to Allah are honored by Him with numerous titles, and so of the titles of Angel Jibreel is Ruh Al-Qudus and Ruh Al-Ameen.

2. Critics attempt to prove that the spirit does not refer to Jibreel by quoting verses of the Qur'an that contain the word Ruh (spirit) but could not possibly be referring to Angel Jibreel because of the context. In these cases, the critics fail to realize that the word Ruh has several different usages in the Qur'an with a wide range of meanings. The word Ruh most commonly refers to the human soul in religious literature, especially the Qur'an and the Sunnah. However, it sometimes refers to other than the human soul as Shaykh Abu Bilal Mustafa Al-Kanadi explains:

Just as the term "nafs" has several different connotations, so does the term "ruh." It is never used to refer to the physical body (badan) alone or to the soul when it is inside the body. Rather, it has various other usages in the Arabic language and in religious literature. (fn. See al-Tahawiyyah, pp. 444-445 and Kitab al-Ruh, pp.295-296). In the following words of Allah to His Messenger (saws), it is used to mean revelation, specifically the Qur'an:

"And thus We revealed to you a spirit [i.e., the Qur'an] by Our command." (Surah al-Shura, 42:52)

In other places in the Qur'an the word "ruh" is used to designate the Angel Jibreel, whom Allah entrusted with the conveyance of divine revelation. For example:

"Verily, this [Qur'an] is a revelation of the Lord of the Worlds brought down by the trustworthy spirit [i.e., Jibril]." (Surah al-Shu'ara; 26:192-193)

The various forces and senses contained in the human body are also spoken of as "spirits." Thus, it is said "al-ruh al-basir" ("the seeing spirit") and "al-ruh al-sami'" ("the hearing spirit") and so on. However, these are called "spirits" only by convention. These senses are extinguished upon the death of the physical body, and they are different than the ruh, which does not die or disintegrate.

Finally, the term "ruh" is sometimes used in an extremely restricted sense - to designate the spirit of faith which results from one's knowledge of Allah, from turning to him in repentance and from seeking Him with love and aspiration. This is the spirit (i.e. consciousness of God) with which Allah strengthens His obedient, chosen servants as stated in the following Qur'anic verse:

"For those, Allah has written firm belief upon their hearts and strengthened them with a spirit from Him." (Surah al-Mujadilah, 58:22)

In this manner, knowledge is a "ruh" ("spiritual force"), as is sincerity, truthfulness, repentance, love of Allah and complete dependence upon Him. People differ in respect to these types of spiritual forces. Some are so overcome by them that they become "spiritual" beings. Thus it is said, "So and so has spirit." Others lose the power of such spiritual forces, or the greater portion thereof, and thus become earthly, bestial beings. (fn. For more details, see Lawami' al-Anwar, pp. 31-32; al-Tahawiyyah, p. 445 and Kitab al-Ruh, p. 297). About them it may be said, "So and so has no spirit; he's empty like a hollow reed," and so on. (Mustafa Al-Kanadi, Mysteries of the Soul Expounded, Al-Hidaayah Publishing & Distribution 2003, pp.21-23)

A very clear instance of the word Ruh being used for the human soul is found in the following hadith:

Abu Huraira reported: When the soul (Ar. Ruh) of a believer would go out (of his body) it would be received bv two angels who would take it to the sky. Hammad (one of the narrators in the chain of transmitters) mentioned the swetness of its odour, (and further said) that the dwellers of the sky say: Here comes the pious soul from the side of the earth Let there be blessings of Allah upon the body in which it resides. And it is carried (by the angels) to its Lord, the Exalted and Glorious. He would say: Take it to its destined end. And if he is a nonbeliever and as it (the soul) leaves the body-Hammad made a mention of its foul smell and of its being cursed-the dwellers of the sky say: There comes a dirty soul (Ar. Ruh) from the side of the earth, and it would be said: Take it to its destined end. Abu Huraira reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) put a thin cloth which was with him upon his nose while making a mention (of the foul smell) of the soul (Ar. Ruh) of a non-believer. (Sahih Muslim, Book 40, 6867)

The above narration demolishes the interpretation of Ruh as the Holy Spirit of Christianity for it would necessitate that it can dwell in disbelievers and be foul-smelling!

Evidently, when the term Ruh appears in the Qur'an, it may refer to the human soul, it may refer to Angel Jibreel, it may refer to attributes of faith which God blesses someone with, or it may refer to the Qur'an. We cannot, as critics incorrectly do, conclude that since some verses of the Qur'an use ruh in one sense, therefore all verses must conform to that same meaning of the word ruh. Such a notion would be illogical as it ignores the various meanings already associated with the word, as well as the explanation found in the Ahadith and the understanding of the early Muslim scholars. The verses cited with the word Ruh include the following:

15:29 "When I have fashioned him [Adam] (in due proportion) and breathed into him a Ruh from Me, fall ye down in obediance unto him."

21:91
And (remember) her [Mary] who guarded her chastity: We breathed into her a Ruh from Us, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples.

32:9
But He fashioned him [the human] in due proportion, and breathed into him the Ruh from Him. And He gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and feeling (and understanding): little thanks do ye give!

38:72
"When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him a Ruh from Me, fall ye down in obeisance unto him."

66:12 And Mary the daughter of 'Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) a Ruh from Us; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants).

In all the above verses, the word Ruh can easily be understood as a reference to the human soul. Allah informs us that He breathed the Ruh into Adam, and into Mary (to give life to Jesus), just as He breathes the Ruh into every human being. There is some confusion because the arabic phrase attributes the Ruh to Allah, which lead some translators to render the verses as "[God's] Spirit". However, the reason the soul is attributed to God is because it is the creation of God and belongs to Him. This is exactly the same as the Qur'anic verse that says:

91:13 But the Messenger of Allah [Prophet Saalih pbuh] said to them: "It is a She-camel of Allah [Ar. Naaqat-Allahi]. And (bar her not from) having her drink!"

Just as the miraculous camel presented to the Thamud, which was the creation of Allah and one of His special signs, is attributed to Allah, so is the Ruh which is blown into every human being. Both are attributed to Allah as a sign of their miraculous nature and the fact that they are the direct creation of Allah. It is also worthy to note the words of Muhammad Asad on verse 21:91:

AND [remember] her who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed into her of Our spirit [This allegorical expression, used here with reference to Mary's conception of Jesus, has been widely - and erroneously - interpreted as relating specifically to his birth. As a matter of fact, the Quran uses the same expression in three other places with reference to the creation of man in general - namely in 15: 29 and 38:72, "when I have formed him. and breathed into him of My spirit" and in 32: 9, "and thereupon He forms [lit., "formed"] him fully and breathes [lit., "breathed''] into him of His spirit". In particular, the passage of which the last-quoted phrase is a part (i.e., 32: 7 - 9) makes it abundantly and explicitly clear that God "breathes of His spirit" into every human being. Commenting on the verse under consideration, Zamakhshari states that "the breathing of the spirit [of God] into a body signifies the endowing it with life'': an explanation with, which Razi concurs. (In this connection, see also note on 4: 171.) (Asad, Message of the Qur'an, The Book Foundation 2003)

And on verse 4:171, Muhammad Asad notes:

As regards the expression, "a soul from Him" or "created by Him", it is to be noted that among the various meanings which the word ruh bears in the Qur'an (e.g., "inspiration" in 2: 87 and 253), it is also used in its primary significance of "breath of life", "soul", or "spirit": thus, for instance, in 32: 9, where the ever-recurring evolution of the human embryo is spoken of: "and then He forms him [i.e., man] and breathes into him of His spirit" - that is, endows him with a conscious soul which represents God's supreme gift to man and is, therefore, described as "a breath of His spirit". In the verse under discussion, which stresses the purely human nature of Jesus and refutes the belief in his divinity, the Qur'an points out that Jesus, like all other human beings, was "a soul created by Him".(Asad, Message of the Qur'an, The Book Foundation 2003)

Thus, there is no conflict between these verses and the verses about Angel Jibreel as these describe the Ruh as a soul being breathed into human beings. It is simply another meaning of the word Ruh.

3. Some Qur'anic commentators also mentioned about verses 21:91 and 66:12 that Angel Jibreel was sent to Mary to breathe the Ruh into her, by God's command. Some people have erroneously concluded from this interpretation that Jibreel is must be the speaker when the verse says "We breathed into her of Our Spirit" because he is the one who breathes the soul into her. This conclusion is false because the Qur'an often attributes the actions of the Angels to God Himself, as explained in previous articles, such as
Who Takes the Soul at the Time of Death. The Angels act by the command of Allah and they themselves belong to Allah, hence Angel Jibreel's action of breathing the Ruh into Mary would be attributed to Allah. In fact, in all the verses which state that God breathes the Ruh into human beings, it is reasonable to assume that this occurs through the work of the Angels, the servants of Allah. This is similar to the hadith:

Abdullah ibn Masood said: "The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who is the most truthful (of human beings) and his being truthful (is a fact) told us: 'The constituents of one of you is gathered in his mother's womb for forty days, then it becomes an Alaqah within another period of forty days. Then it becomes a Mudghah, and forty days later, Allaah sends His angel to it to breathe into it the Ruh. The angel comes with instructions concerning four things, so the angel writes down his livelihood, his death, his deeds and whether he will doomed or blessed." (Sahih Muslim Book 33, #6893).

For an explanation of the embryological terms involved in the hadith, please read here.
From this hadith we can see that the standard process in the creation of all human beings involves an angel who breathes the soul into the human body, even though the action is still attributed to Allah who states that He breathes the soul into the body.

4. Other passages used by critics to argue that the Holy Spirit is not Gabriel include:

78:38 The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand forth in ranks, none shall speak except any who is permitted by (God) Most Gracious, and He will say what is right.

And the hadith:

"Narrated Aisha: The Messenger of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) used to pronounce while bowing and prostrating himself: All Glorious, all Holy, Lord of the Angels and the Spirit." (Sahih Muslim, Book 4, Number 0987)

It is claimed that since these quotes distiguish between the Spirit and the Angels, therefore the Holy Spirit cannot possibly be an angel. However, it has been mentioned in previous articles that this is the Qur'anic style which distinguishes between Jibreel and the Angels because of his great rank:

2:98 Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and apostles, to Gabriel and Michael,- Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject Faith.

This verse mentions Angle Gabriel and Angel Michael seperately from the other angels, but we know that they are angels themselves. This is simply the Qur'anic style of emphasis. This was explained in the article The Number of Groups on the Day of Resurrection.


Another hadith is also quoted in order to prove that Jibreel is distinct from Ruh Al-Qudus. It contains a poem composed by the companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Hassan ibn Thabit (rd). In the last two lines of his poem, he says:

"Whether anyone amongst you (the Quraysh) chooses to satirise the Messenger of Allah, or praise him, or help him, it is all the same, And Gabriel who is the Emissary of Allah, is with us, and indeed the Ruh Al-Qudus has no match" (Sahih Muslim, The Book of Companions of the Prophet, 6550, ARABIC SOURCE)

In the above poem of Hassan ibn Thabit, the last line has been misunderstood to be differentiating between Angel Jibreel and Ruh Al-Qudus. This misunderstanding is partly due to the poor translation of this hadith which renders the last phrase as:


"And Gabriel, the Apostle of Allah is among us, and the Holy Spirit who has no match."
Either of the two underlined words can be removed to restore the true meaning of the arabic phrase. This poetic description can be illustrated using many examples:

"The King has arrived, and his Majesty shall now attend to your needs" - Here "the king" and "his majesty" refer to the same person.
"Don't worry, the police are here. The guardians of justice will protect you" - Again, the police are being poetically described as 'the guardians of justice'.

These examples should demonstrate that this hadith of Hassan ibn Thabit does not distinguish between Angel Jibreel and Ruh Al-Qudus as critics claim. Rather, it merely describes the titles of Angel Jibreel.

Having examined the relevant evidence, we can safely conclude that the name 'Ruh Al-Qudus' has been established as a title of Angel Jibreel and there is no evidence to indicate otherwise. Therefore, there is no contradiction between verses 2:97 and 16:102 since they both describe the tasks of Angel Jibreel.

 

 

 

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