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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"The term ruh (pl. arwah) is derived from the verb raha meaning to go away, leave, begin or set out. Derived from this root are rawwaha (to refresh, relax, rest); arwaha (to release, relieve, soothe); istarwaha (to breathe, smell, be refreshed, to calm, happy, glad); rih (wind), etc. It literally means soul, spirit or breath of life. The word ruh in different derivatives occurs 21 times in the Koran. In fact, the reality of the soul is difficult for human beings to grasp, and the Koranic verse also support this view: "They ask you concerning the ruh. Say: The ruh is from the command of my Lord (al-ruh min amr rabbi). Of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you" (17:85). It is thus obvious that an understanding of the nature of ruh was not given to the Muslims during the time when Islam was yet in a cradle.

The ruh refers to the special spiritual and divine element in mankind, and the qalb (heart) is presumably the operating agency of psyche which transforms the spiritual potentiality into actuality. Ruh provides a potential for knowledge and God-consciousness, which is operated through the heart which is the lotus of cognition, thought and feeling.

The Muslim scholars designate ruh to be the reflection of the divine presence in man. It is eternal, invisible, non-corporeal, formless and transcendental element which is believed to have emanated from God. The cosmographer Qazwini (d. 682/1283) tells us that the soul is the greatest angel and occupies one row by itself, while the rest of the angels occupy a second row. He cites in proof the Koranic verse: "On the day the soul and angels stand in rank" (78:38)

The soul is not different from God's Own Soul. The Koran speaks of God's Soul in three verses connected to the creation of human beings. In each case, He is said to proportion Adam's clay, then blow His Own Soul in it: "And when thy Lord said to the angels, See, I am creating a mortal from a clay of molded mud. When I have proportion him and blown into him of My Soul, fall you down, prostrating yourselves before him" (15:28-29 and 38:72), "And He originated the creation of man out of clay, then He fashioned his progeny of an extraction of mean water, then He proportioned him, and He blew into him His Soul" (32:7-9).

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