Allah Most High says in the Holy Qur'an (15:26-29) that when He created man from black mud and fashioned him into the beautiful shape of a human being, and made him complete, HE BREATHED INTO MAN HIS SOUL FROM HIS OWN SOUL.
That is what makes us His best creation, a whole universe, a microcosm containing all of creation, almost a divinity, BUT MORTAL, although we are blessed with something within us which is immortal, eternal. But can we identify the "soul"? Can we touch it, see it, feel it? Where is it within us? What does it do to us?
We find an excuse for claiming not to understand the soul. We are told by Allah Most High Himself, addressing His most loved creation, our Master, (saws), that if they (we) ask him about the soul to tell us that "the soul is under the command of our Lord and of its knowledge we are given but little..." (17:85)
But our soul is our only connection with our Lord, which came from Him and which will return to Him. And we are told, "He who knows himself (his soul) knows his Lord." So we must seek. We must understand even if "we are given of this knowledge but little."
Did our Creator make our father Adam (a.s.) out of a "sounding clay of black mud" like a jug, and then pour his soul into that clay? Was Adam (a.s.) a container and the soul what he contained? That analogy does not work, because the flesh is created and the divine soul is not. Besides, the sons and the daughters of Adam (a.s.) are made from nutfa, the human embryonic cell in our mothers' belly which grows, changes shape, ages, shrivels and disintegrates! Also, we are told that the Divine Spirit in each of us is a "Whole" indivisible. How can it be chopped into pieces, with a small portion placed into each human being?
The ones who know say that the existence of the soul in a created being necessitates the existence of a capacity, a receptivity in that being. Without this "receptivity" to accept the soul, we could not have it. The soul is a light. And the receptivity, the ability to be lighted, enlightened with the human soul, is likened to a wick in an oil lamp. The oil lamp is the body, a manifestation of the Divine Attributes ya Khaliq, ya Bari, ya Musawwir: the Creator, the Maker, the Shaper. The oil is life, a gift and manifestation of the Divine Attribute ya Hayy, the Ever-living. In the whole of creation,the wick is a unique gift, given only to the human being: Akl, intelligence, a manifestation of the Divine Attributes of ya Nur, the Light, and ya Alim, the Knower.
To light this lamp of the human being, the wick must have the capacity to absorb the oil of the experiences and the mysteries of life. Human intelligence must absorb knowledge. Otherwise, it can not catch fire.
When Allah Most High says Nafahtu, "I blow into him", it is as if His ever-existing Nur, the Divine Light, touches the receptive human intelligence, and lights the light of the human soul. Intelligence which does not understand, which does not know, does not have the capacity to receive the eternal soul. That is why our master, the Beloved of Allah (saws) says, "He who does not have intelligence does not have faith or religion."
The soul is not contained within us like water in a cup, or like knowledge which enters our memory or mind. It is more like sunlight reflected on a window at sunset, or an image reflected in a mirror. But if the mirror is dirty, nothing will show in it.
How does the soul's light manifest itself in us? It is that which makes us see, hear, and smell, but not the usual way we sense things. The enlightenment of the soul should make us see true reality, even make us see our Lord, in the way of Hd. Ali (r.a.) who said, "I do not worship a God whom I do not see." And indeed he worshiped him intensely. Or like Hd. Omar (r.a.) who saw, from Medina, the Muslim armies in danger of being surrounded all the way in Persia and shouted "Pull back to the mountain!" and was heard. Or like the blessed companions of the Prophet (saws) who used to hear rocks and plants saluting the Beloved of Allah (saws). And like the Messenger of Allah himself (saws), who smelled the perfume of Hd. Uways al Karani (r.a.) long after he had returned home and said, "I smell the presence of a friend." And who furthermore looked into the eyes of Hd. Aisha (r.a.), who had seen Uways, and saw him in her eyes.
If we have a soul, we should be able to know ourselves, and in this knowledge know our Lord.
As in the analogy of the oil lamp, when the oil of life is used up, the light of the soul goes out. When the soul leaves the body, where does it go? It returns to where it always was.
Heraclitus, an ambassador from Byzantium, asked the Messenger of Allah (saws), "Where is your paradise, your hell, if not in the world or in the skies?" The Beloved of Allah (saws) responded, "Fe SubhanAllah! Mercy! Where is the day when the night comes?"
Allah knows best.
Adapted from Rawdzatu at Talibin by Hd. Imam Ghazali (k.s.)
by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak-al-Jerrahi
Zul-Qi'dah, 1421 A.H.