The Ten Attributes of Ar-ruh (The Spirit) and Its Name Al-Quran

Be informed that if Allah, the Possessor of the 99 names of utmost Beauty and Goodness, had rendered the Quran in a single non-Arabic language, some people would have said “shouldn’t it be in Arabic so we can understand it? While others would even suggest that it should rather be divided into sections and chapters, some in Arabic and some non-Arabic. Say in reply that the Quran needs not to be in more than one language as it is belief dependent. Therefore, the Quran to those who already believe in Allah is their gain, regardless of their language, for it is the Guidance and the Cure incarnate, leading them and healing their pain and suffering. As for those who disbelieve in Allah, it is their loss that they are missing out on the miraculous attributes of the Quran. Thus, they undoubtedly have tinnitus in their ears, which will in turn impair their visions. Those people will therefore not understand the Quran even if they speak its language as they live in a distant world of their own

(My translation of scholarly reflection on the above Ayah no. 44 from Surat Fusilat)

Introduction

Islam teaches that the Quran is the only spiritual entity on earth, available for humans to harness from its life-sustaining traits, hence its descriptor of Ar-ruh الروح. Ar-ruh or Ruh without the article literally means the Spirit. The Quran was sent directly from Allah through the angel Jibreel to the Prophet Muhammed’s heart, over a period of 23 years. This Quran is one actual interactive entity with ten unique invisible attributes, including the attribute of spirit, and one visible form of many varieties. The physical form is the written Arabic text (The Book الكتاب) while the different varieties refer to the seven verbal recitations by which we can read the Quran [1]. As for its invisible attributes, which this essay explains in detail, they are as follows: Zikr ذكز, Zikra ,ذكرى  Rahma رحمة, Shifa شفاء, Huda هدى, Mauazaa موعظة, Noor نور, Elim علم and Hikmaحكمة .

Methods for the successful harnessing of these attributes

These attributes differ from each other in that some require more effort to be harnessed than others. The first two elements of Zikr and Zikra can be harnessed easily by everyone, as long as one is physically alive and is able to read the Quran or listen to its recitation, just like any living person can feel and interact with nature. The word, “Zikr” is often translated as “reminding”, “to remind” or “a reminder”. As for the word, “Zikra”, it comes from the same root as Zikr and is often translated as, “to cause nostalgia and reminiscing” or “reminiscent”. However, such translations only give us the meaning of the words devoid of their grammar. Arabic grammatical structures hide a lot of meaning within them, and unless we incorporate the grammar into the translation, we lose much of the embedded meaning. So, we need to shed some light on the grammatical structure of these descriptors to grasp a true understanding.

The grammatical form of these traits is called “Esm Masdar”, which is often translated as a verbal noun or gerund, such as, ‘eating’ or ‘to eat’, and ‘singing’ or ‘to sing’. However, English verbal nouns are not entirely the same as “Esm Masdar” and do not have the same functions. For example, a verbal noun in English can never be used as a name or an adjective for an entity, while “Esm Masdar” is a form moulded especially to allow for Arabic verbal nouns to be used as such. Accordingly, “Esm Masdar” has not only noun qualities but also verb qualities because it implies an action. However, it is neither like the usual verb because it is devoid of tense, nor like the usual noun because it cannot be made countable or pluralised. It is also not like the usual Arabic adjective in that it does not require gender agreement. Moreover, the “Esm Masdar” form also serves as an intensifier and amplifier tool of the frequency and/or quantity of the action being described.

Based on that, my own translation of the two words as descriptors of the Quran would be; “the incarnation of memory and mindfulness” for Zikr and the “incarnation of nostalgia and reminiscence” for Zikra. Indeed, reading the Quran or listening to its recitation induces tears but without the remnants of negative emotions [2].

Next, the Spirit’s attributes of Rahma, Shifa, Noor, Huda and Mauazaa require more effort to be revealed and experienced than the core elements of Zikr and Zikra. My translation of these attributes are as follows: “Rahma” is the incarnation of Divine prevention of pain and suffering, “Shifa” is the incarnation of Divine cure and healing, “Noor” is the incarnation of the Divine illumination gleaming the pathway of physical and spiritual nature, “Huda” is the incarnation of the Divine guidance leading to the best course of action in daily life, and “Mauazaa” is the incarnation of the Divine exhortation. In order to feel their effects, one must be a believer. Correct belief in Islam requires not only emotional devotion, but also tangible actions. Thus, to be a Muslim, one should practice all the required Islamic rituals and follow other teachings of Islam. With the power of belief and the Islamic rituals, one can harness all of these attributes by simply listening to the Quran or reading it, with or without understanding the text.

As for the Spirit’s remaining two attributes of “Elim”, the incarnation of Divine knowledge, and “Hikma” the incarnation of the Divine wisdom, they require the most effort from the person seeking them to be harnessed. These require not only faith and ritual practice but also a lot of hard work in studying and learning about the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed from qualified scholars and accredited sources. One of the most essential tools to succeed in this endeavour is to possess knowledge of Arabic language in the most expert manner in order to understand the text correctly.

The reason for this requirement is that the textual contents of the Quran, from its separate letters to its meaningful words, are called Ayat, the plural form of the word Ayah (آيةُ). This word means awesome, astonishing and amazing. In everyday language, we use this word in instances that evoke a deep sense of awe and wonder; for example, (آية في الجمال) (the ideal of beauty), (آية في الذكاء) (astonishing intelligence) and (آية في الكرم) (surpassing generosity). This word is also used in the Quran to refer to nature and natural phenomena.

The Ayat of the Quran are arranged within a collection of Surat (enclosure) of varying lengths totalling 114, with each one bursting with Divine knowledge and wisdom. The intricate web of relationships and connections between them, and between the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed makes each individual Surah complex and unique. To discover their secrets, scholars need to explore them phoneme by phoneme, letter by letter and word by word, untangling their interlocking pieces and ultimately revealing the abundance of Divine knowledge and wisdom available to us.

This is indeed no simple task, therefore, only qualified Muslims of the highest personal integrity and scholarly calibre should be able to see and extract from the Divine knowledge and wisdom found in the Quran. Since harnessing these two attributes requires so much effort and preparation, it is not expected from every Muslim to become a scholar of the Quran, but rather to seek knowledge about the Quran from reliable and accredited Muslim scholars and sources only. True and correct Divine knowledge and Divine wisdom should invoke the feeling of great reverence and awe towards Allah. Quran translations are classic examples of sources that fail to achieve this because they have been done by non-scholars and even by non-believers. The Quran is a living entity and cannot be translated, but rather contemplated and studied. Then, the outcome of contemplation and studying can be translated.

The Meaning of the Word “Quran”

Last but not least, this subject is incomplete without touching upon the meaning of the name of this Spirit, Quran. The dictionary definition of the word Quran is, ‘to read’, ‘to be read’ and ‘reading’. However, that is not all there is to this word, as it is also in the “Esm Masdar” form; meaning it is the incarnation of perpetual reading. But how does the Quran do that?

The answer to this question lies in the fact that the Quran is a pure Spirit. Spirits do not wear away as material or physical things do. Thus, the Quran can be reread over and over from a printed text or from memory perpetually, even when one does not understand what is being read. Try to read any human book or part of it without understanding what you are reading, and you will find that you will struggle to finish one sentence. Even reading one’s favourite book in one’s own mother tongue more than once is such a chore but reading it every single day is just impossible.

The Quran is truly the only book on Earth that can be read and reread all the time, wholly or partly. Muslims, old and young, men and women, Arabs and non-Arabs read the Quran readily every single day in their daily Salat (the five daily prayers), and outside of the Salat like they are reading it for the first time, literally. This quality of the Quran is a must to enable the continuous harnessing of its life-sustaining traits.

NOTES

[1] These verbal varieties are based on the seven different dialects of the Arab tribes at the time of the prophet Mohammed. An example of the different readings is the word Ebrahim, which can also be read as Abraham and Mosaa or Mosee.

[2] Importance of shedding tears for the overall health of the humans and the different types of tears in this book: Crying: The Mystery of Tears by William H. Frey. 1985