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Islam and Mysticism: What Else Is Confused With Soul? (Part 3)

By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

17 July 2017

We have seen in part 1 that Nafs is not soul and in part 2 Ruh is not soul. What else is confused by the translators to mean soul? No verse in the Quran that describes death or resurrection contains either Nafs or Ruh. However, several translators put in soul while translating these verses:

وَلَوْ تَرَى إِذْ يَتَوَفَّى الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ الْمَلآئِكَةُ يَضْرِبُونَ وُجُوهَهُمْ وَأَدْبَارَهُمْ وَذُوقُواْ عَذَابَ الْحَرِيقِ    8:50

Literal translation:

And if you could see when are taken away in death (Yatawaffa) those who rebel (Kafaru), the angels striking their faces and their backs (saying) “taste the punishment of the blazing fire”

Translated by Yusuf Ali:

 If thou couldst see, when the angels take the souls of the Unbelievers (at death), (How) they smite their faces and their backs, (saying): "Taste the penalty of the blazing Fire-

(Twenty translators have put in “soul’ in their translations from nowhere. Twenty others have correctly translated as taken away in death or equivalent words such as terminate the lives, take away their life, cause to die, bring death, put them to death without talking about “soul”)

وَإِمَّا نُرِيَنَّكَ بَعْضَ الَّذِي نَعِدُهُمْ أَوْ نَتَوَفَّيَنَّكَ فَإِلَيْنَا مَرْجِعُهُمْ ثُمَّ اللّهُ شَهِيدٌ عَلَى مَا يَفْعَلُونَ   10:46

Literal translation:

And whether we show you some of that which we promised them or we cause you to die (Natawaffayannaka) then to Us is their return and Allah is a witness over what they do

Yusuf Ali: (10:46)

Whether We show thee (realised in thy life-time) some part of what We promise them,- or We take thy soul (to Our Mercy) (Before that),- in any case, to Us is their return: ultimately Allah is witness, to all that they do.

10:104 قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِن كُنتُمْ فِي شَكٍّ مِّن دِينِي فَلاَ أَعْبُدُ الَّذِينَ تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ وَلَـكِنْ أَعْبُدُ اللّهَ الَّذِي يَتَوَفَّاكُمْ وَأُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

Literal Translation:

Say O mankind, if you are in doubt of my religion, then not I worship those you worship besides Allah, but I worship Allah, the One who causes you to die (Yatawaffakum), and I am commanded that I be of the believers.

Yusuf Ali: (10:104)

Say: "O ye men! If ye are in doubt as to my religion, (behold!) I worship not what ye worship, other than Allah! But I worship Allah - Who will take your souls (at death): I am commanded to be (in the ranks) of the Believers,

12:101 تَوَفَّنِي مُسْلِمًا وَأَلْحِقْنِي بِالصَّالِحِينَ

Literal Translation:

Cause me to die (Tawaffani) as a Muslim and join me with the righteous

Yusuf Ali: (10:104)

Take Thou my soul (at death) as one submitting to Thy will (as a Muslim), and unite me with the righteous.

13:40 وَإِن مَّا نُرِيَنَّكَ بَعْضَ الَّذِي نَعِدُهُمْ أَوْ نَتَوَفَّيَنَّكَ فَإِنَّمَا عَلَيْكَ الْبَلاَغُ وَعَلَيْنَا الْحِسَابُ

Literal Translation:

 And whether we show you a part of what we have promised them or We cause you to die before (Tawaffayannaka), on you is (the responsibility) for conveyance (of the message) and for Us is the reckoning.

Yusuf Ali: (13:40)

Whether We shall show thee (within thy life-time) part of what we promised them or take to ourselves thy soul (before it is all accomplished),- thy duty is to make (the Message) reach them: it is our part to call them to account.

16:28 الَّذِينَ تَتَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلائِكَةُ ظَالِمِي أَنفُسِهِمْ

Literal Translation:

(Namely) those whose lives the angels take (Tatawaffāhumu) in a state of wrong-doing to themselves (Anfusihim)

16:70 وَاللّهُ خَلَقَكُمْ ثُمَّ يَتَوَفَّاكُمْ

Literal Translation:

And Allah created you and will cause you to die (Yatawaffākum)

Yusuf Ali: (16: 70)

 It is Allah who creates you and takes your souls at death;

32:11 قُلْ يَتَوَفَّاكُم مَّلَكُ الْمَوْتِ الَّذِي وُكِّلَ بِكُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَى رَبِّكُمْ تُرْجَعُونَ

Literal Translation:

Say, the Angel of death who has been put in charge of you will take your life (Yatawaffākum). Then to your Lord will you be returned.

Yusuf Ali: (11)

Say: "The Angel of Death, put in charge of you, will (duly) take your souls (Yatawaffākum): then shall ye be brought back to your Lord."

47:27 فَكَيْفَ إِذَا تَوَفَّتْهُمْ الْمَلَائِكَةُ يَضْرِبُونَ وُجُوهَهُمْ وَأَدْبَارَهُمْ

Literal Translation:

But how (will it be) when the angels take them in death (Tawaffathumu), and smite their faces and their backs?

Yusuf Ali: (47:27)

But how (will it be) when the angels take their souls at death, (Tawaffathumu) and smite their faces and their backs?

56:83 فَلَوْلَا إِذَا بَلَغَتِ الْحُلْقُومَ

56:87تَرْجِعُونَهَا إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

Literal Translation: (56:83)

Then why not when it reaches the throat(56:87) Bring it back if you are truthful

Yusuf Ali: (56:83)

Then why do ye not (intervene) when (the soul of the dying man) reaches the throat,-(87) Call back the soul, if ye are true (in the claim of independence)?

What reaches the throat of a dying man is his last breath of life or it is his life which is ebbing away.

75:26 كَلَّا إِذَا بَلَغَتْ التَّرَاقِيَ

Literal Translation:

No when it reaches the collar bone

Yusuf Ali (75:26)

 Yea, when (the soul) reaches to the collar-bone (in its exit),

What reaches the collar bone when death is near is not specified. It may be taken to be life ebbing away or the last breath of life. There is no support in any of the verses to take it as “soul” and even the Arabic words “Nafs” or “Ruh” are not to be found in this or in any verse that describes death.

79:1 وَالنَّازِعَاتِ غَرْقًا

79:2 وَالنَّاشِطَاتِ نَشْطًا

Literal Translation: (79:1)

By those who extract violently


And those who draw out gently

Yusuf Ali: (79: 1)

By the (angels) who tear out (the souls of the wicked) with violence;

(2) By those who gently draw out (the souls of the blessed);

We have just covered all the verses that speak about death. No verse contains the words Ruh or Nafs and yet half of the translators have put in the word “soul” in their translations from nowhere! Those who have grown up believing in the soul just cannot think of death without the “soul” leaving the body no matter what the Quran says! It is simply taken as understood and not required to be stated! In any case, we know better. We know that Nafs and Ruh often translated as “soul” do not mean “soul” in the sense of its primary meaning and there is no other word in the Quran that means soul. Yusuf Ali, whose translation is highly regarded by most people, uses this word (soul) 169 times in his translation of the Quran! Most other translators fare no better. The concept of soul is carried over from other religions and cultures into Islam by our forefathers. It has no basis either in the Quran or in Science.

Islamic Mystics and Their Un-Islamic Myths

There are several verses of the Quran that use allegorical language to communicate truths that were difficult to communicate considering the state of man’s knowledge in the seventh century. For example, consider the following verse:

(7:172) When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): "Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?"- They said: "Yea! We do testify!" (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: "Of this we were never mindful"

What proceeds from the loins of Adam and his children are their seed or genes, and what this verse says is that a belief in a God who is the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Universe is instinctive for man, or part of his genetic memory. The concept of genes, inherited genes and of genetic memory did not exist in the seventh century and yet the verse beautifully communicates the idea in a single verse what would otherwise have taken several volumes to explain to a people lacking knowledge of genetics.

The mystics have taken this verse to spin a yarn about a mythical Alam-e- Arwah. The following is in the words of Sadia Dehlvi:

“The first realm of life is in Alam-e-Arwah (world of souls), as they existed on the day of Misaq, the primordial covenant. There was a time when all the souls from Adam’s progeny yet to be born were brought forth, “When thy Lord drew forth from the children of Adam — from their loins — their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): ‘Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?’ — they said: ‘Yes! We do testify!’ This, lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: ‘Of this we were never mindful.’” This verse is the most distinctive theme in the Quran that helps understand that man’s primary duty on earth is to fulfil this covenant with God.” 

There are several problems with this explanation. Do the souls proceed from the loins of man? What proceeds is clearly the seed of man containing his genes. The explanation also leads to false beliefs which are not supported by the Quran such as:

  1. We have souls

  2. All souls pre-exist before they are born which means that those who will be born is pre-ordained. This leads to the belief then that prevention of birth or termination of conception is a sin. It also leads to a belief that having more children is a service to God since by having more children we are only helping the souls to be born in a Muslim family.

The source of this “knowledge” about Alam-e-Arwah is neither from the Quran nor the Ahadith but from pure mysticism. One website gives the following as the source:

“The mystery of creation of souls, taking their witness and asking their wishes is the knowledge of Islamic Science received from the Chief Qalandar Sarkar Noor Allah Marqadah, who received this knowledge spiritually from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sallu Alaihi Wa Aalehi Wasallam). It must be noted that words give apparent knowledge and mystery gives wisdom and in-depth approach to Mar’afat.”

Tall claims! The knowledge that is not from the Quran and not found in the sayings of the Prophet (SAS) is transmitted spiritually to a Sufi by the Prophet! The scene of Alam-e-Arwah is described in detail. It is here that we have chosen our path and therefore the path that we will follow in our life is also determined before our birth based on what we chose for our self in Alam-E-Arwah. This scene of Alam-E-Arwah reminds me of a famous painting based on Christian myths with naked harlots trying to attract young men in one corner and pious modest women sitting quietly turning rosary beads in another.

 So, whether you gave in to your lusts or were attracted to what is pure and holy in Alam-e-Arwah has determined your destiny on this earth according to Christian mythology depicted in the painting. In the story of chief Qalandar, the souls make choices that determine what they become in this world! Therefore only a few are prophets, some are Qalandars etc etc. Utter nonsense! It is mysticism of this kind that makes Muslims fatalistic about their fate since what we will become was determined even before we took birth! Also notice that the argument is against the Quran being a Kitabum Mubeen since “words give only apparent knowledge and mystery gives wisdom”. A case is being made for mystical mumbo jumbo to be given importance over the plain meaning of the verses of the Quran!

What we have clearly seen, is that neither Ruh nor Nafs mean “soul” in the Quran, and there is no other word in the Quran that means “soul” by its primary meaning. This article once again demonstrates the methodology for arriving at a correct understanding of the Quran without ambiguity, even when the scholars and the translators, all the imams and the Mufassereen, and the beliefs that we have grown up with, are all wrong. That is the strength of the Quran. Even a person, who depends on translations to understand the verses, can say when the translation is incorrect, and what the correct meaning is, with the help of the Quran itself! Encryption technology has enabled us to send messages with built in checks of their integrity, which tells the receiver whether what is received is authentic, complete, and exactly as sent.

The Quran is such a communication from God. It makes its meaning clear without ambiguity, and if the message is distorted in translation, it lets you know that the translation is doubtful, because the check of authenticity fails quite easily. Such a reading however requires discipline and a trained ear to detect a false note. Muslim scholars however have a great tolerance for ambiguity, having been first taught the doubtful Ahadith, and then the Quran.

 They are made to “interpret” the Quran in the light of the Ahadith, and the “mystical” knowledge of several “mast Qalandars”.  No wonder that they have no appetite for the Sciences but only for the dark and the “mystical” which they call a science! No wonder again, that they cannot make sense of the Quran without treating many of its verses as abrogated! By doing so, they wilfully suspend the built-in integrity checks provided by the Quran to gain a correct understanding and to know when the understanding is incorrect.

Islam and Mysticism: Is ‘Nafs’ Soul? (Part - 1)

URL of Part One:,-new-age-islam/islam-and-mysticism--is-‘nafs’-soul?-(part---1)/d/111786

Islam and Mysticism: Is ‘Ruh’ Soul? (Part 2)

URL of Part Two:,-new-age-islam/islam-and-mysticism--is-‘ruh’-soul?-(part-2)/d/111814

Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to


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