Due to His infinite wisdom, God has not spoken much about The Spirit in the Quran. Perhaps this was due to the inability of human minds to grasp this concept along with other less-mentioned topics in the Quran. Allah (SWT) says in (17:85):
“They ask you [O Muhammad] concerning the Spirit. Say: “The Spirit comes by command of my Lord: of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you, (O men!)”
The first condition we must accept is that the Spirit originates from God. This connection is also evident from another verse (15:29) in which Allah (SWT) is explaining the creation of Adam and states:
“When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down in prostration unto him.”
This was the command given by God to the angels. Furthermore, He also controls the return of this spirit to Him as he states in (32:11)
“Say: The Angel of Death, put in charge of you, will (duly) take your souls: then shall ye be brought back to your Lord.”
After studying the above-mentioned verses, one can attempt to extrapolate certain qualities of the Spirit. First, The Spirit is a part of God and therefore pure from all evil. Secondly, the possessiveness found in the term my alludes to the fact that the Spirit existing inside human beings is from The Spirit of God. Third, The Spirit is not entirely dependent on the physical body and is able to function independently. This is evident from the fact that the spirit existed before the body was created by God and will exist after this body has decayed. Moreover, God mentions in the Quran an incident referred to as Roz e Alast. On this day, Allah (SWT) gathered all mankind from Adam till the very last human being to testify that He is their lord. He says in (7:172):
“And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.”
The occurrence of this incident was most definitely related to our Spirits. God gathered The Spirits of humankind on the day to specify and confirm the purpose of The Nature to follow God. Since this event cannot be recalled by our memory stored in the brains of the physical body, it relates to an occurrence of the Spiritual existence.
Fourth, it can be extrapolated that the existence of The Spirit inside the man elevates his status among the creation. This is evident in the above-mentioned verse where God is telling the angels that when I’ve blown my spirit into him (Adam), you all prostrate to him. As if it is the presence of The Spirit in the body, and not just the body itself, that makes Adam worthy of the prostration of angels.
Finally, many scholars have concluded that there is no spirit inside animals and that the existence of the Spirit is unique to humans and angels. However, this is a debatable topic. It is evident that human beings are superior, more evolved, creation than the animals. The Spirit also allows humans to go a step beyond the senses and have inner qualities. Where we have our outer qualities similar to the animals such as thinking, hearing, and seeing, we also possess inner related qualities like contemplating, listening, and visualizing. This is much different from the animal kingdom as Allah (SWT) also explains this in (7:179):
“And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind. They have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear. Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless.”
Here, God is differentiating those who are congruent with their Spiritual Abilities compared to those who are not. For the ones who don’t use these Spiritual Abilities, are just like animals that do not possess The Spirit at all.
Linguistically, the Arabic term Ruh can mean extraction, essence of a matter, brief statement describing main points, the reflexive and emphatic form, spirit, mind, heart, soul, air, and even a fan. Literally, the terms describe its purposes in the human body. It is our essence, it is reflexive and emphatic, and exists within our mind, heart, and soul. The term soul is often used interchangeably with the term spirit. For consistency, I will use the word Spirit to describe Ruh.