Allah Plays with His Souls, Part 3
05 Nov, 2008
On the Resurrection Day Allah’s Souls will Stand in Rows
In parts 1 (here) and 2 (here) we have noted some of the incredible feats of Allah’s Souls. To further confuse His Ummah, Allah says that on the Resurrection Day His Soul, along with other angels, will stand right in front of Him. These creatures will be arrayed in ranks. Before Allah commences His judgment none will be able to speak except the one whom Allah will permit. The Qur’an does not say clearly, who that special Soul is; neither do we have any clue about the entity that Allah will permit to speak. However, many tafsir writers indicate that the Soul referred to is the archangel Gabriel, along with his garrison; and the entity which Allah will allow to speak (or intercede) is Muhammad..
To discern a clearer picture let us read the verse 78:38 and its interpretations from various sources.
78:38 YUSUFALI: The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand forth in ranks, none shall speak except any who is permitted by (Allah) Most Gracious, and He will say what is right.
For a good understanding of what Allah is saying here, let us read 26:193.
26:193 YUSUFALI: With it came down the spirit of Faith and Truth-
Yusuf Ali, the most trusted translator of the Qur’an is perplexed with Allah’s description of His Soul. So, in connection with verse 26:193, he writes:
Yusuf Ali’s commentary on 26:193 n. 3224 (p.969): Ruh ul Amin, the epithet of Gabriel, who came with the inspired Messages to the holy Prophet, is difficult to render in a single epithet in translation. In n. 3187 to xxvi.107 I have described some of the various shades of meaning attached to a Prophet. A further significance as attached to the adjective Spirit of Inspiration is that it is the very quintessence of the faith and Truth, unlike the lying spirits which delude men with falsehood. On the whole, I think “the Spirit of Faith and Truth” will represent the original here.
Simply stated, Yusuf Ali, unable to define accurately Allah’s Spirit, considers it (the Spirit) as the ‘inspiration’ of faith and truth. In this context, it is also important to read verse 70:4, where, Allah separates His Spirit from other angels.
YUSUFALI: The angels and the spirit ascend unto him in a Day the measure whereof is (as) fifty thousand years:
Let us read Yusuf Ali’s comment on this verse:
Yusuf Ali’s commentary on verse 70:4
n. 5677 (p.1605): Ruh: “The Spirit”, cf. lxxviii.38, “The Spirit and the angels”: and xcvii.4, “the angels and the Spirit”. In xvi.2 we have translated Ruh by “inspiration”. Some commentators understand the angel Gabriel by “the Spirit”. But I think a more general meaning is possible, and fits the context better. Man is gifted with the Spirit of God: xv.29. in the spiritual kingdom we are all raised to the height of Countenance of God and His Glory transforms us.
And, this is what Yusuf Ali writes in connection with verse 78:38
Yusuf Ali’s commentary on 78:38\
n. 5911 (p.1677): The Spirit: see note 5677 to lxx.4. some commentators understand by “the Spirit” the angel Gabriel as he is charged with bringing Message to human Apostles: see xx1.193, n.3224. Or perhaps he may be considered the chief of the angels. But it is better to take a wider meaning—the souls of men collectively as they rise to the Judgment Seat of God.
[Readers, please note: there is an error, perhaps printing, there is no verse xxl.193. n.3224 actually refers to xxvi.193]
Yusuf Ali confuses us more. He considers Allah’s Soul as the Judgment Seat of Allah. That is: on the Resurrection Day Allah’s Soul, the Judgment Seat, will stand in front of Allah, and seemingly, behind that Seat will be arrayed other angels. We may wonder how an inanimate object, such as Allah’s Seat, could have the ability to become Allah’s Soul.
Hilali and Khan: 78:38:
The Day that Ar-Rûh [Jibrael (Gabriel) or another angel] and the angels will stand forth in rows, none shall speak except him whom the Most Beneficent (Allâh) allows, and he will speak what is right. (Tr. Hilali and Khan)
Clearly, Hilali and Khan were perturbed at what the Qur’an says. So they had to insert their comments (Jibril or another angel) inside parenthesis and square brackets.
The Day when the Spirit and the angels are ranged row on row. None shall speak save he whom the Merciful Lord will permit; and he too will speak what is right
Maududi’s comment on 78:38 Commentary number 78/24:
According to most commentators, "the Spirit" implies the Angel Gabriel (peace be on him), who has been mentioned separately from the angels because of his high rank and position with Allah.
Maulana Asad: 78:38:
On the day when all [human] souls and all the angels will stand up in ranks: none will speak but he to whom the Most Gracious will have given leaves; and [everyone] will say [only] what is right.
In a footnote Maulana Asad writes:
Maulana Asad’s comment on 78:38 Footnote 18: Lit., the “soul”, in the singular but implying a plural. This is according to Ibn ‘Abbas, Qatadah and Al-Hasan (all of them quoted by Tabari), the meaning of ar-Ruh in the above context.
As written in part 1, Maulana Asad completely denies the real existence of any of Allah’s Souls (Gabriel or otherwise). So he has inserted inside square bracket the word ‘human’.
As Maulana Asad refers to ibn Abbas’s tafsir to assert that the “soul”, though singular, should be read as plural, we need to consult ibn Abbas’s comment. Let us read the commentaries of the most trusted exegetes of the Qur’an, Jalalyn and ibn Abbas. Ibn Abbas was the cousin brother (the son of Muhammad's uncle Abbas), and a contemporary of Muhammad. No one explains Qur’an better than ibn Abbas do.
Tafsir ibn Abbas on 78:38
(On the day when the angels and the Spirit) Gabriel; and it is also said: this is a created being whose tremendousness only Allah knows; Ibn Mas'ud also said: the Spirit is an angel greater than every thing save the Throne, and this angel glorifies Allah each day 12,000 formulas of glorification, and which each glorification he utters Allah creates an angel who seeks forgiveness for the believers until the Day of Judgement (sic); it is also said this refers to a group of angels who have feet and hands like those of humans (stand arrayed, they speak not) to intercede, (saving him whom the Beneficent alloweth) to intercede (and who speaketh right) truly “there is no deity save Allah”.
Tafsir Jalalyn on 78:38
on the day (yawma is the adverbial qualifier for lā yamlikūna, ‘they will not be able to’) when the Spirit, Gabriel, or God’s hosts, and the angels stand arrayed (saffan is a circumstantial qualifier, in other words, mustaffīna). They, creatures, will not speak, except him whom the Compassionate One permits, to speak, and who says what is right, from among the believers and the angels: as if [meaning] that they will intercede for he whom He approves of.
[Please note: the above quotes are from Jordanian Government (Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Jordan) website on Islamic affairs. The translation is by Dr Feras Hamza, who is the English translator of Tafsir al Jalalyn, and ibn Abbas.]
The above tafsirs mean that Allah’s Soul, Gabriel, will stand in front of Allah, along with a group of angels who are human like, that is; these angels have hands, feet, mouth, head and other body parts which are just like humans.
This means Allah made some angels to resemble human beings.
Another must read commentary on the Qur’an is Tafsir Maariful Qur’an. This tafsir is quite recent. The Saudi Government has translated it into various languages and distributes it gratis whoever wants it.
Tafsir Maariful Qur’an on 78:38
Commentary (p.1433): In some traditions it is believed that the Ruh is a ponderous garrison of Allah. It is not angels. These creatures have heads, feet and hands. According to this tafsir there will be two ranks—one for the Ruh, the other for the angels.
[Please note: the original text in Urdu is by Hazrat Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi. Translated into Bengali by Maulana Muhiuddin Khan. Publisher: Medina Publications, 38/2 Bangla Bazar, Dhaka, Bangladesh. The English translation is by the author.]
And lastly, let us read the most famous tafsir writer ibn Kathir.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir on 78:38
(The Day that Ar-Ruh and the angels will stand forth in rows, they will not speak) (78:38). The word Ruh here is referring to the angel Jibril. This has been said by Ash-Sha`bi, Sa`id bin Jubayr and Ad-Dahhak. This is as Allah says, (Which the trustworthy Ruh has brought down. Upon your heart that you may be of the warners.) (26:193-194) Muqatil bin Hayyan said, "The Ruh is the noblest of the angels, the closest of them to the Lord, and the one who delivers the revelation.''…
[Please note: ibn Kathir’s tafsir is very lengthy. Only the relevant texts are included here.]
Allah created Muhammad as His dearest soul
After the death of Khadijah, Muhammad's first wife, he became depressed, lonely, and desperate. Soon, his uncle and protector, Abu Talib too died. To find solace, he went to the house of Umm Hani, his cousin sister, and old love. When young, Muhammad had once asked Abu Talib for the hand of Umm Hani (her own name was Fakhitah) in marriage. But Abu Talib turned him down, as Muhammad was a vagabond with no future. Muhammad had never forgotten the humiliation and the pain of rejection. When Muhammad moved to live with Umm Hani she lived alone in her house, her husband away on business. She was kind to Muhammad, provided solace, love, and warmth. He slept in her house, perhaps in her bed. When this news spread the Quraysh asked Muhammad what he was up to. He told them his incredible night journey to Baitul Maqdis in Jerusalem, and then from there to the seven Heavens to meet Allah. The listeners were incredulous when he told them that a spirit (Gabriel) came to him with a Buraq, a half horse, half female carriage. A few Jews became interested to know who this Spirit was. Muhammad could not provide a credible answer. So Allah told him to inform the Jews that the knowledge of Spirit or Soul is with Allah.
Let us read the following verse:
[YUSUFALI] They ask thee concerning the Spirit (of inspiration). Say: "The Spirit (cometh) by command of my Lord: of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you, (O men!)"
[Hilali and Khan] And they ask you (O Muhammad) concerning the Rûh (the Spirit); Say: "The Rûh (the Spirit): it is one of the things, the knowledge of which is only with my Lord. And of knowledge, you (mankind) have been given only a little."
According to ibn Kathir, when Muhammad was resting in a date palm garden, a group of Jews approached him and asked him the question of Ruh or spirit. For a while, Muhammad kept quiet. When Gabriel brought from Allah this verse; the Jews rejected his explanation as they considered Gabriel their enemy.
Ibn Kathir states that this incidence probably happened in Medina. It could be that a few years after this incidence Muhammad left Mecca and went to Medina. Perhaps the Jews had heard about this story of Muhammad, and became interested, as Muhammad claimed he was also the promised Prophet of the Jews.
According to ibn Abbas Allah revealed this verse when the people of Mecca, Abu Jahl and his host asked Muhammad this question. This explanation is more plausible as Abu Jahl was Muhammad's uncle, and he was perturbed that Muhammad was sleeping with one of his married cousin sisters. Abu Jahl was also agitated that to hide the truth Muhammad was concocting the story of the Spirit, who, purportedly took him for the night journey.
In the following verse Allah swears by Muhammad.
[YUSUFALI] Verily, by thy life (O Prophet), in their wild intoxication, they wander in distraction, to and fro.
[Hilali and Khan] Verily, by your life (O Muhammad), in their wild intoxication, they were wandering blindly.
It means Muhammad was purer/holier than Allah Himself. So swearing by Muhammad's name, Allah told him that the people of Lot were absolute arrant and intoxicated.
Ibn Kathir writes that Allah never swore by anyone else. Allah has never created or made or formed any soul that is dearer to him than Muhammad.
So, according to ibn Kathir, Muhammad is Allah’s dearest Soul. Previously, we read that Gabriel is Allah’s Soul. Then we learned Jesus is Allah’s Soul. Now, this verse tells us that Muhammad is also Allah’s Soul—the dearest Soul.
Here is the complete comment by ibn Kathir:
Ibn Kathir’s comment on 15:72:
…All of this happened while they were still unaware of the inevitable calamity and punishment that was about to befall them the following morning. Hence Allah, may He be exalted, said to Muhammad, (Verily, by your life, in their wild intoxication, they were wandering blindly.) Allah swore by the life of His Prophet , which is an immense honor reflecting his high rank and noble status. `Amr bin Malik An-Nakari reported from Abu Al-Jawza' that Ibn `Abbas said: "Allah has never created or made or formed any soul that is dearer to him than Muhammad. I never heard that Allah swore by the life of anyone else. Allah says, (Verily, by your life, in their wild intoxication, they were wandering blindly.) meaning, by your life and the length of your stay in this world, (in their wild intoxication, they were wandering blindly.) This was reported by Ibn Jarir.
(in their wild intoxication) "It means - in their misguided state; (they were wandering blindly) means - they were playing. '' `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said:(Verily, by your life) means by your life, and (in their wild intoxication, they were wandering blindly.) means that they were confused.''
(Note: the bold emphasis is mine).
Here is another verse where Allah is swearing by the Soul:
YUSUFALI: By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it;
The question is: by which of His Souls Allah is swearing—Gabriel or Jesus or Muhammad?
This essay has attempted to demonstrate that the concept of Allah’s Soul is truly silly. Modern exegetes of the Qur’an have tacitly accepted this premise, but they resort to justify the impossible through convoluted and incongruous arguments.
In general, we might conclude the following:
- Allah has a confused concept of His own Soul. He is often unsure, hesitant, and imprecise about the Soul. It is hard to believe that the all powerful, all knowing, ubiquitous Allah will write such a document like the Qur’an that exposes Him as imbecile, obtuse, demented, banal, and a gormlessly creator.
- he Qur’an is balderdash of a person/s who constructed it with extreme carelessness and dementia.
- It is no wonder that because of the convoluted and confused structure of the Qur’an, many Islamist scholars are also confused, incoherent, incongruent, and irrational. Many translators even completely change the meaning of verses if the verses seem to be illogical, incoherent and meaningless. This senselessness spreads throughout the Ummah.
- One fact remains true though, the older the tafsirs the closer they reflect the mindset of Allah, and consequently of Muhammad. Thus, we may say that ibn Abbas, who was contemporary of Muhammad, probably speaks the truth about the meaning of Qur’anic verses.
- The more recent the tafisrs are, the further they are away from the reality. Thus, Muhammad Asad’s exegesis might be more unreliable than Yusuf Ali’s. For the same reason Yusuf Ali’s explanation is more unreliable than ibn Kathir or Jalalyn.
- It is important that a person who wants to extract the ‘real’ account of a Qur’anic verse must consult a number of exegetes. A serious learner of the Qur’an must consult the earliest tafsir writers.
Ali, Abdullah, Yusuf, The Holy Qur’an: Translation and Commentary. Amana Corp., Brentwood, Maryland, 1983.
al-Hilali, Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din (Dr) and Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan. The Noble Qur’an Transliteration in Roman Script and English Translation of the Meanings. Darussalam Publishers, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1996. Available online at: http://www.mlivo.com/translations/Hilali%20Khan.htm
Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad b. Yasr. 2001. Sirat Rasul Allah. Translated in English by A. Guillaume. First published by Oxford University Press, London in 1955. Fifteenth reprint by Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan.
Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir (exegesis) of the Qur’an: www.qtafsir.com
Muhammad Asad: http://www.geocities.com/masad02/063.html
Shafii, Mufti Muhammad. Qura’nul Karim Tafsir Maariful Quran. Translated from Urdu in Bengali by Muhiuddin Khan. Medina Publications, 38/2 Banglabazar, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Volumes I–II. 2004. ISBN: 084-8367-60-2.
Tafsir ibn Abbas and Jalalyn: http://www.altafsir.com/
The three translations of the Qur’an: http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/reference/reference.html
Abul Kasem is an Bengali ex-Muslim and academic. He has contributed in Leaving Islam - Apostates Speak Out and Beyond Jihad - Critical Voices from Inside. He has also written extensively on Islam in various websites and is the author of five e-Books: A Complete Guide to Allah, Root of Terrorism ala Islamic Style, Sex and Sexuality in Islam, Who Authored the Quran? and Women in Islam. Mr. Kasem leaves in Sydney, Australia. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.