How did the spirit be blown into people?
After creating man from a handful of dust, Allah further gave man an exclusive privilege by breathing into him a secret of His Own. Through the breathing of the spirit, man was brought to life. This gift of life shows how valuable man is in Divine sight. Allah says:
“And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit…” (Al-Hijr, 15: 29)
Yet, the expression that Allah breathed His spirit into Adam (as) is only symbolic. It is similar to how an adult communicates a complex event to a child in a simpler way, simply because he has not yet acquired an intellectual capacity to grasp it. What the expression refers to in the broadest sense is that Allah instilled some of His own qualities in man, to the extent that man’s capacity can hold. It is through the power of this breath that man recognizes his Lord, serves Him, and acquires an understanding of the divine mysteries as much as he can grasp. This understanding occurs in the heart. What is meant by the heart here is not the physical organ that pumps blood to the body but the place that feels emotions and which serves as the canvass on which divine signs show themselves.
Having a spirit gives man the power and responsibility to fulfil three duties:
- To know himself and recognize his inner truth
- To know and recognize his Maker
- And to realize that he is nothing compared to his Maker.
It has been said that:
“Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord”. (Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa, II, 361)
Just as the Light of Muhammed was the first being ever created, the spirit of Prophet Muhammed (saw) was the first of all spirits. Hence, the Prophet (saw) is also called Abu’l-Arwah, the Father of Spirits. The spirits of all other human beings are like a jewelry box that exists only for the sake of the gem inside.
Abu Hurayrah (ra) explains that the companions once asked the Prophet (saw) when exactly he was given prophethood. The Prophet (saw) said:
“…when Adam was between the spirit and the flesh”. (Al-Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 1)
For that reason, Prophet Muhammed (saw) is also really the first ever prophet. We will discuss this in greater detail, when we talk about how the angels were ordered to prostrate to Adam (as).
The spirit can be understood in two levels:
1. The spirit as such, also known as ruh-i sultani, or the king spirit. It is separate from the body. It exists with the body only to function through it and keep it in check. The perishing of the body does not affect it. It only ends its control over it.
2. The soul, also known as ruh-i hayvani, or the animal spirit. The soul is diffused throughout every single organ of the body. Its center is the mind. It has control over the blood flow. It is the starting point of all human action. Without the soul, humans would not be able to produce anything.
It is through the combination of spirit and soul that all action comes into effect.
. See, Ismail Hakkı Bursevî, Temamu’l-Feyz (prepared by Ali Namlı), unpublished MA thesis, Istanbul, 1994, p. 47.