Proofs Derived from the Divine Book which Assert that the Soul is Different from the Body

By Imâm Fakhrud-Dîn ar-Râzî

Extracted with slight modifications from his book “Kitâb al-Nafs war-Rűh wa Sharh Quwâhumâ” published in English under the title, “‘Ilm al-Akhlâq” © 1978 Kitab Bhavan


You must know that the Divine Book indicates in more than one way the genuineness of the thesis that the soul is different from the body.


1. First Argument:

The Qur’ân indicates that the object referred to as the particular man survives the death of the particular body, lives, dominates and understands. Allâh, the Exalted, says describing the martyrs: “Think not of those who are slain in the way of Allâh as dead. Nay, they are living. With their Lord they have provision. Jubilant (are they) because of that which Allâh hath bestowed upon them of His bounty.”[1] Allâh says describing the state of those who are chastised: “The Fire; they are exposed to it morning and evening”,[2] and says, “Because of their sins they were drowned, then made to enter a Fire”.[3]

These nusűs (texts) indicate most decisively that the object referred to as ‘the man’ remains alive after the death of the body perceiving pain and pleasure.

That this particularly mentioned body is not alive after death is known evidently. If we consider it permissible to declare it alive, the like of it is possible in all inanimate things which is downright fallacy.

When these two premises have become apparent, we know that what is referred to by our expression “this man” is not the particular body and not even a part of the parts of the body, as we are led to know with inevitable certainty that this particular body had died with all its parts and limbs.

I am, however, very much surprised at those who deny the existence of the soul. This is because of the fact that the attestation of the Qur’ân and the texts concerning the reward of the grave, and the chastisement of the grave, and on the day of Resurrection and emergence can be accepted and comprehended when the existence of the soul is affirmed, difficulties would show their face and the allegations would become magnified due to that which urges them to deny the soul, until they fall in extreme darkness.


2. The Second Argument:

Allâh’s expression, “Deliver up your souls”,[4] is clear in so far as the soul is different from the body with which it is sometimes connected and sometimes not.

Allâh, the Exalted, says: “But ah! thou soul at peace! Return unto thy Lord, content in His good pleasure!”[5] This indicates that the soul does not die with the death of the body. It, rather, returns from the body to the world of Piety and Grace. Allâh says: “When death cometh unto one of you, Our messengers receive him, and they neglect not. Then are they restored unto Allâh, their Lord”.[6] This indicates that the particular object referred to as a particular man does not die with the death of the body, rather it is taken back from the particular body to the world of Purity and the Presence of Grace.

As for the expression, “returning to Allâh on death”, it occurs in the Holy Qur’ân in many places. All this indicates that the thing which constitutes man does not in reality die with the death of the body, rather it returns from the worldly house and the world of sense-perception, to the world hereafter. All this indicates that “man” is something different from the body.


3. The Third Argument:

Allâh, the Exalted, has mentioned the grades of physical creation and said, “Verily We created man from a product of wet earth; then placed him as a drop (of seed) in a safe lodge; then fashioned We the drop of a clot, then fashioned We the clot a little lump, then fashioned We the little lump bones, then clothed the bones with flesh, and then produced it as a another creation”.[7]

We do not doubt that these stages are differences which occur in physical states.

Again, when Allâh wanted to mention the inspiring of the spirit, He said, “(We), then, produced it as another creation”. This clarifies that what concerns the inspiration of the spirit is a different genre which differs from the preceding changes occurring to the physical states.

This indicates that the spirit is not from the genus of the body. If you say, this argument goes against you, since Allâh says: “We created man from a product of wet earth”; and as the word “min” (“from”) gives the meaning of  tab‘eed, splitting into particles, which indicates that man is a particle of dust, whereas you say that he is something other than the dust. This is, then, the exposition of the text of the Great Noble Book. We shall, in answer, say: this is extremely remote. For, the word min originally indicates the beginning of the end. You say, for example, “I came from Basrah to Kufah”. His expression: khalaqnal insâna min sulâlatin min tîn (“We created man from an essence of clay”) therefore demands that the beginning of the creation of man is obtained from the sulâlah (essence). In accordance with this view we hold that Allâh, the Exalted, has levelled the physical disposition and moderated it, and then breathed into it the spirit. The beginning of his creation therefore starts from the sulâlah (essence). It is therefore established that what has been mentioned by them is absurd.


4. The Fourth Argument:

Allâh, the Exalted, has distinguished the world of spirits from the world of bodies, and then distinguished the commandment from this. This requires that the Commandment must be free from measure and volume. Allâh, the Exalted, has, again, explained in a different verse that spirit belongs to the world of Commandment, and not to the world of Creation:[8] He, therefore, said, “Say the spirit is by command of my Lord”.[9] This indicates that the substance of the spirit is from the world of Commandment and is free from volume, space and measure.


5. The Fifth Argument:

Allâh, the Exalted, says: “So, when I made him and have breathed into Him of My spirit”.[10] Allâh has distinguished between tusweeyah, perfecting (accomplishing), and inspiration of spirit, since ‘perfecting’ expresses parts, limbs, moderation of disposition and compositions. Since Allâh has distinguished the inspiration of spirit from ‘perfecting’, and has ascribed the possession of spirit to Himself, it indicates that spirit is a noble substance not belonging to the genus of the body. This is what we desired to prove

6. The Sixth Argument:

Allâh’s expression, “And a soul and Him Who perfected it. And inspired it (with conscience of) what is wrong for it and (what is) right for it.”[11] is quite clear concerning the existence of a soul which is characterized with both perception and movement together. For, inspiration expresses perception, and vices and piety belong to the category of action. This verse makes it clear that man is one entity which is characterized with perception and characterized also with the perpetration of vices sometimes and virtuous deeds at other times. It is known that the entire body is not characterized with perception and action together, nor is one particular limb characterized with all the perceptions and all the actions. It is therefore necessary to assert a substance which is characterized with all these matters.

Closely concerned with this argument is Allâh’s expression, “Lo! We create man from a drop of thickened fluid to test him; so We make him hearing, knowing.”[12] This explains that man has got the above description and has to bear Divine responsibilities and commandments of the Lord, and that he possesses the qualities of hearing and seeing.

It is sure and certain that the body is not like this. It cannot be said that the human body has been entrusted by Allâh to do actions or to abstain from doing them, and thus his hand, foot, the forehead, eyeball, nose or tongue is responsible for its deed. For, what is evidently known is the fact that whenever a man is ordered to do a certain thing or refrain from a certain action, the injunction and the prohibition do not concern a particular organ of his body nor do they concern his whole body, rather, the object which governs the whole physical body is the soul which runs in the entire body,[13] and is in every part of the body that possesses the qualities described above.

Since it has been established and made clear that the perception, understanding and responsibility do not concern any particular part or parts, we surely know that it cannot be said that what is described as a single organ can itself be said to possess the qualities of hearing, seeing, bearing responsibility, receiving order, liable to be rewarded and punished. Allâh’s expression, “We test him and make him hearing, seeing”, indicates that man is something other than the particular body, other than every part of the whole body or of a part thereof, and this is what we desired to prove.

If they repeat and say, “Verily Allâh’s expression, “Lo! We create man from a drop of thickened fluid”, indicates that man is a part of the mixture and that of productive germ, as word min indicates tab‘eed.

We shall say, ‘the reply of this has already preceded and no intelligent person should have any doubt or suspicion left’.


7. The Seventh Argument

Allâh says, “And be not ye as those who forgot Allâh, therefore He caused them to forget their souls.”[14] Now, it is sure and certain that no man of intellect forgets this particular figure which is observed, and this particular body which possesses sense-perception. This indicates that the soul which one forgets in the excess of his ignorance is something other than his particular body.


8. The Eight Argument

The Noble Prophet said, “He who recognizes himself, recognizes his Lord”,[15] and Allâh has said in His Revealed Books: “O man! You know yourself, you will know your Lord.” [Maintainer: see previous footnote] Now, if soul would have meant the apparently observed body and the perceptible figure we would not have surely been ordered to know it, as its knowledge is already available and is it is absurd to possess something which is already in possession.


9. The Ninth Argument:

A large number of Ahâdîth explain that man continues to understand, speak, and be intelligent after his death. The Noble Prophet said, “Prophets of Allâh do not die, but they transfer themselves from house to house.” He also said in the course of a long sermon, “when, at last, the dead is carried in his shroud, his soul remains separate over his shroud and addresses his relations saying, “O my wife, my son, …”, and the hadîth was mentioned. The reason of mentioning the hadîth is to argue that the Prophet (peace be upon him!) has clearly mentioned that the soul of the dead remains on the shroud and some living object continues shouting and saying, “O my wife, O my son”. It is certain that the wife is his wife and the son is his son and whatever wealth he had collected by lawful or unlawful means, belongs to him the curse of which remains his responsibility and falls on his shoulder. This is an allegory, rather a clarification of “man”. The body is dead, placed in the shroud and the particular individual remains alive who speaks and understands.[16] It is clear, then, that man is something other than the perceived body and visible figure.

Now, if you have learnt the nature of argument clarified by this hadîth which illustrates the continuity of the soul, it is possible to cite many Ahâdîth of this kind which are so numerous as to defy reckoning.


10. The Tenth Argument:

Allâh, the Exalted, has said, “Lo! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth”. Man can never become a vicegerent except when he knows what is going on in the universe, and finds it possible to control those circumstances by means of negation and affirmation. Now, this object about which it is said that he is the vicegerent of Allâh on His earth must necessarily be described as having the qualities of perception and action.[17]

Again, Allâh has explained that “He taught Adam all the names” and realities. It is, therefore, established that this object is the vicegerent and it is necessary for him to know the states of the universe of bodies and to control them. It is also necessary that he himself be the knower of the world of absence (unseen world) and the secrets of the celestial region. Man in therefore a single substance possessing these qualities, while the totality of the body is not like this, nor is there anyone organ having all these descriptions. It necessarily follows that the totality of the body and from each one of its parts and organs.

Let us conclude these Qur’ânic demonstrative proofs in a convincing and positive manner. We have established that it is clear to an observing intellect that we ascribe all the parts of the body to ourselves, and say, ‘my hand, my leg, my heart, my brain’, and the object of possession (mudâf) is surely other than the object to which possession is ascribed (mudâf ilayh).

We, therefore, know that the soul is different from the parts of the body. If they say, “we also say, ‘my soul, myself’” which indicates that the soul is different from itself, but this is absurd.

The answer (to this question) is this that when we use the expression we sometimes refer to the soul and sometimes it extends to the perceptible body and the visible image.

As for the soul in so far as the first meaning is concerned, it is clear. The intellect bears witness that it cannot be ascribed to itself, since it is not possible to ascribe a meaning referred to by ‘I’ to anything other than them meaning.

So far as the second meaning of the soul is concerned it can be ascribed to the meaning referred to as ‘I’, since this body is like the kingdom in relation to the meaning referred to as ‘I’.

Having established this we say: When we say, ‘my soul, my essence’, it is necessary to understand the soul in its second meaning, not in the first meaning just to avoid discrepancy; and on this supposition the question falls to the ground.



[1] Âlî ‘Imrân : 169.

[2] Al-Mu’minűn : 46.

[3] Nűh : 25.

[4] Al-An‘âm : 93.

[5] Al-Fajr : 27.

[6] Al-An‘âm : 61, 62.

[7] Al-Mu’minűn : 12, 13, 14.

[8] Min ‘Âlam al-khalq: Al-Sharazuri states that there are two kinds of worlds: World of commandment and world of creation or, perhaps, the material world and the spiritual world. [Modifier’s note: In this particular context, the second meaning is most sound, in terms of conformity with the Islâmic ‘Aqîdah (creed/doctrine).]

[9] Al-Isrâ : 85.

[10] Al-Hijr : 29; Sâd : 72.

[11] Al-Shams : 7.

[12] Al-Dahr : 2.

[13] Sâreeyatun fil Jasm: Al-Sharazurî: Cf. 20a

[14] Al-Hashr : 19.

[15] Maintainer’s Note: This is a mawdű (fabricated) hadîth as is well-known among the scholars of hadîth:

As-Sakhâwî said, “Abű al-Mudhaffar as-Sama’ânî said, ‘This is not known as a hadîth of the Messenger, rather it is only related as a saying of Yahya bin Mu‘âdh ar-Râzî. And likewise an-Nawawî said, ‘it is not established’ ” [‘al-Maqâsid al-Hasanah’ (pg. 491 no.1149)]

As-Suyűtî said, “This hadîth is not authentic.” [ ‘Hâwî lil Fatâwî’ (2/351)]

Alî al-Qârî quoted from Ibn Taymiyyah saying, “fabricated.” [‘al-Asrâr al-Marfű‘ah’ (pg. 83)]

Al-Allâmah Fairozabâdî said, “This is not from the Prophetic ahâdîth, despite the fact that the majority of people make it so, and it is not authentic at all. It is only related from the Jewish traditions as ‘O mankind! Know yourself and you will know your Lord.’ ” [‘ar-Radd alâ al-Mu’taridîn’ (2/37)]

Al-Albânî says, “It has no basis.” [‘Silsilah ad-Da‘îfah’ (1/165 no.66)]

[16] Hî nâtaq fâhim: Though the two hadîth referred to could not be traced, the thesis that the soul survives the body and enjoys life and understanding is supported by the Qur’ânic verse: “Do not call the martyrs dead; they are alive and are sustained”

[17] The peculiar human activity has been mentioned in the Qur’ân in three expressions:

(1) that man has been created to populate the earth,
(2) that he has been created to worship Allâh.
(3) that Allâh has made man to represent Allâh in the earth. Cf. Al-Dharî‘ah, p. 18.

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