The Confusion Concerning Identity of the Spirit and Gabriel in the Quran

Sam Shamoun

Another Muslim website (*) has taken aim at trying to refute some of the long list of Quran contradictions found on our site (*). The first thing that one notices about this site is that although they are clearly trying to refute our web page they fail to produce a link to our site or section in general, or even a link to the specific article which they are seeking to refute.

As the Lord Jesus permits and enables us to do so, we will be addressing some of their responses and ignore those which we feel have already been addressed on our site. In this present article, I will interact with their response (*) to our question whether it was Gabriel or the Holy Spirit that supposedly revealed the Quran to Muhammad (*).

One thing that will immediately stick out from our discussion of this rebuttal is how casual the author is in assuming his position without bothering to prove it. For instance, the author will cite references that he thinks support his view without first proving that his understanding of these texts is necessarily correct. He will cite a passage where he thinks the word Ruh (Arabic for Spirit) refers to a human soul, but never explains why he thinks it does. He basically assumes what he has yet to prove, which makes it a little frustrating to deal with his points since there is not much to refute apart from highlighting the circular nature of his argumentation.

The author proceeds to cite a list of references where Muslim commentators have understood texts using the words "Holy Spirit," "Trustworthy Spirit" as referring to Gabriel.

The author then cites and comments on the following narrations:

Al-Bukhari recorded `A'ishah saying that the Messenger of Allah erected a Minbar in the Masjid on which Hassan bin Thabit (the renowned poet) used to defend the Messenger of Allah (with his poems). The Messenger of Allah said, "O Allah! Aid Hassan with Ruh Al-Qudus, for he defended Your Prophet."(fn. Fath Al-Bari 10:562).

Abu Dawud recorded this Hadith in his Sunan (fn. Abu Dawud 5:279) as did At-Tirmidhi who graded it Hasan Sahih (fn. Tuhfat Al-Ahwadhi 8:137). Further, Ibn Hibban recorded in his Sahih that Ibn Mas`ud said that the Prophet said, "Ruh Al-Qudus informed me that no soul shall die until it finishes its set provisions and term limit. Therefore, have Taqwa of Allah and seek your sustenance in the most suitable way."(fn. See As-Sunnah 14:304). (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Abridged, Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, 2000, vol. 1, pp. 288-289)

These narrations demonstrate that the correct understanding of the title "Ruh Al-Qudus" (Holy Spirit) is that it was a title of Angel Jibreel. In another place, Allah refers to him as Ruh Al-Ameen (the Trustworthy Spirit). Concerning this, Ibn Kathir records:

(Which the trustworthy Ruh has brought down.) This refers to Jibril, peace be upon him. This was the view of more than one of the Salaf: Ibn `Abbas, Muhammad bin Ka`b, Qatadah, `Atiyyah Al-`Awfi, As-Suddi, Ad-Dahhak, Az-Zuhri and Ibn Jurayj. (fn. At-Tabari 19:396). This is an issue concerning which there is no dispute . (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Abridged, Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, 2000, vol. 7, pp. 275-276)

Hence, it becomes clear that those who are close to Allah are honored by Him with numerous titles, and so of the titles of Angel Jibreel is Ruh Al-Qudus and Ruh Al-Ameen.


Here is what we mean by circular reasoning. Apart from citing a few sources which believe the same way as the author does, what evidence has he given to prove that Ruh Al-Qudus ("Holy Spirit") and Ruh Al-Ameen ("Faithful Spirit") are some of the titles of Gabriel? No evidence whatsoever. Take another example, namely his reference to Hassan being assisted by the Ruh Al-Qudus. Does that particular narration identify the Spirit as Gabriel? Not at all. So where is the author getting this from? How is he proving that these texts refer to Gabriel?

The last example is even worse. He cites a narration from Ibn Kathir where Gabriel is identified as the trustworthy Spirit who brought down the revelation, i.e. the Quran. Those reading the Quran should see why this argument is fallacious, since it erroneously assumes that Allah used only one entity to bring down the message. The reality is that the Quran itself asserts that Allah used several entities to convey the revelation, not just one:

Say ‘Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel’ - for he it is who has caused it to descend on thy heart by the command of ALLAH, fulfilling that revelation which precedes it, and is a guidance and glad tidings to the believers. S. 2:97 Sher Ali

By THOSE who bring down the Reminder, S. 77:5 Pickthall

Then I swear by the angels who bring down the revelation, Shakir

The Reminder refers to the Quran:

And they say: O you to whom the Reminder has been revealed! you are most surely insane: S. 15:6 Shakir

He sendeth down the ANGELS with the Spirit of His command unto whom He will of His bondmen, (saying): Warn mankind that there is no God save Me, so keep your duty unto Me. S. 16:2 Pickthall

Say: The Holy spirit has revealed it from your Lord with the truth, that it may establish those who believe and as a guidance and good news for those who submit. S. 16:102 Shakir

These passages say that the Holy Spirit, Gabriel, and the angels (plural!) all brought down the Quran. In light of this, since there is more than one entity that supposedly conveyed the inspiration to Muhammad on what grounds then does the author thereby assume that Gabriel is the trustworthy Spirit? We will have a lot more to say about these references shortly.{1}

He continues:

2. Critics attempt to prove that the spirit does not refer to Jibreel by quoting verses of the Qur'an that contain the word Ruh (spirit) but could not possibly be referring to Angel Jibreel because of the context. In these cases, the critics fail to realize that the word Ruh has several different usages in the Qur'an with a wide range of meanings. The word Ruh most commonly refers to the human soul in religious literature, especially the Qur'an and the Sunnah. However, it sometimes refers to other than the human soul as Shaykh Abu Bilal Mustafa Al-Kanadi explains:

Just as the term "nafs" has several different connotations, so does the term "ruh." It is never used to refer to the physical body (badan) alone or to the soul when it is inside the body. Rather, it has various other usages in the Arabic language and in religious literature. (fn. See al-Tahawiyyah, pp. 444-445 and Kitab al-Ruh, pp.295-296). In the following words of Allah to His Messenger (saws), it is used to mean revelation, specifically the Qur'an:

"And thus We revealed to you a spirit [i.e., the Qur'an] by Our command." (Surah al-Shura, 42:52)

In other places in the Qur'an the word "ruh" is used to designate the Angel Jibreel, whom Allah entrusted with the conveyance of divine revelation. For example:

"Verily, this [Qur'an] is a revelation of the Lord of the Worlds brought down by the trustworthy spirit [i.e., Jibril]." (Surah al-Shu'ara; 26:192-193)


To begin with, we do not deny that the term Ruh can have a broader range of meaning. Our point was, as the author himself noted, that there is no specific context within the Quran which identifies the Ruh as Gabriel. To, therefore, raise the issue of Ruh having a broad range of meanings is nothing more than a straw man and a red herring.

Furthermore, none of the texts cited lead us to conclude that Ruh means something other than the Holy Spirit. Note for instance Sura 42:52 again:

And thus We revealed to you a Spirit by Our command.

All that this passage is saying is that Allah commanded the Spirit to reveal himself or make known the revelation, no more no less. This is quite similar to what the following texts say:

He sends the angels with the Spirit to carry His orders to whichever of His servants He wants so that they would warn people that He is the only God and that people must have fear of Him S. 16:2 Muhammad Sarwar

They ask thee concerning the Spirit (of inspiration). Say: "The Spirit (cometh) by command of my Lord: of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you, (O men!)" S. 17:85 Y. Ali

Thus, the Quran is simply emphasizing the point that it is Allah that commands the Spirit to come down and reveal the inspiration. Hence, Sura 42:52 is not identifying the Quran or the revelation as a spirit.

We already discussed Sura 26:192-193 so there is no need for us to repeat ourselves.

After mentioning the point that the word Ruh can refer to the senses and forces in the human body, but failing to provide any Quranic reference to support this position, he then writes:

Finally, the term "ruh" is sometimes used in an extremely restricted sense - to designate the spirit of faith which results from one's knowledge of Allah, from turning to him in repentance and from seeking Him with love and aspiration. This is the spirit (i.e. consciousness of God) with which Allah strengthens His obedient, chosen servants as stated in the following Qur'anic verse:

"For those, Allah has written faith upon their hearts and strengthened them with a spirit from Him." (Surah al-Mujadilah, 58:22)

In this manner, knowledge is a "ruh" ("spiritual force"), as is sincerity, truthfulness, repentance, love of Allah and complete dependence upon Him. People differ in respect to these types of spiritual forces. Some are so overcome by them that they become "spiritual" beings. Thus it is said, "So and so has spirit." Others lose the power of such spiritual forces, or the greater portion thereof, and thus become earthly, bestial beings. (fn. For more details, see Lawami' al-Anwar, pp. 31-32; al-Tahawiyyah, p. 445 and Kitab al-Ruh, p. 297). About them it may be said, "So and so has no spirit; he's empty like a hollow reed," and so on. (Mustafa Al-Kanadi, Mysteries of the Soul Expounded, Al-Hidaayah Publishing & Distribution 2003, pp.21-23)


The author astonishingly claims that Sura 58:22 is speaking of the spirit of faith DESPITE THE FACT THAT THIS SAME TEXT DISTINGUISHES FAITH FROM THE SPIRIT! The two are not seen as being one and the same, but as two different entities or qualities which Allah bestows on believers. Notice the clear wording of the passage:

You will not find any people of faith in God and the Day of Judgment who would establish friendship with those who oppose God and His Messenger, even if it would be in the interest of their fathers, sons, brothers, and kinsmen. God has established faith in their hearts AND supported them by a Spirit from Himself. S. 58:22 Sarwar

Allah establishes faith in the hearts of believers AND STRENGTHENS THEM WITH A SPIRIT FROM HIMSELF, clearly showing that the Spirit here doesn’t refer to faith. Yusuf Ali correctly realized the implications of this text in trying to understand what or who the Spirit truly is:

… Cf. ii 87 and 253, where it is said that God strengthened the Prophet Jesus with the holy spirit. Here we learn that all good and righteous men are strengthened by God with the holy spirit. If anything, the phrase used here is stronger, ‘a spirit from Himself’. Whenever any one offers his heart in faith and purity to God, God accepts it, engraves that faith on the seeker's heart, and further fortifies him with the DIVINE Spirit, which we can no more define adequately than we can define in human language the nature of God. (Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 1518, fn. 5365; bold and capital emphasis ours) {2}

It is not hard to see why Ali could dare call this Spirit Divine and say that it cannot be adequately defined, thereby likening it to the very nature of God. After all, the only way that the Spirit can be with all believers to strengthen them is if he has the specific attributes of omnipotence and omnipresence, that he is all-powerful and all-present. Yet only God is omnipotent and omnipresent, therefore proving that the Spirit is God. At the same time the Quran also shows that the Spirit is distinct from Allah, which means that there are either two Gods or that Allah is multipersonal!

The author resumes his analysis:

Thus, when the term Ruh appears in the Qur'an, it may refer to the human soul, it may refer to Angel Jibreel, it may refer to attributes of faith which God blesses someone with, or it may refer to the Qur'an. We cannot, as critics incorrectly do, conclude that since some verses of the Qur'an use ruh in one sense, therefore all verses must conform to that same meaning of the word ruh. Such a notion would be illogical as it ignores the various meanings already associated with the word, as well as the explanation found in the Ahadith and the understanding of the early Muslim scholars. The verses cited with the word Ruh include the following:

15:29 "When I have fashioned him [Adam] (in due proportion) and breathed into him a Ruh from Me, fall ye down in obedience[sic] unto him."

21:91 And (remember) her [Mary] who guarded her chastity: We breathed into her a Ruh from Us, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples.

32:9 But He fashioned him [the human] in due proportion, and breathed into him the Ruh from Him. And He gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and feeling (and understanding): little thanks do ye give!

38:72 "When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him a Ruh from Me, fall ye down in obeisance unto him."

66:12 And Mary the daughter of 'Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) a Ruh from Us; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants).

In all the above verses, the word Ruh can easily be understood as a reference to the human soul. Allah informs us that He breathed the Ruh into Adam, and into Mary (to give life to Jesus), just as He breathes the Ruh into every human being. ...


Here is another example of circular reasoning. The author has assumed, without proof, that all the above references refer to Allah creating the soul of a person. In reality these passages are speaking of Allah using his own Spirit to create living beings, that the Spirit is the Agent that Allah uses to animate his creatures. Just as the late Maulana Muhammad Ali correctly noted in his comments on Sura 15:29:

29a. This shows that man is made complete when the Divine spirit is breathed into him. It should be noted that the Divine spirit (Ar. ruh) does not mean here the animal soul in man, but the Spirit of Allah, that gives him perfection. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

He repeats this point in his note on Sura 32:9:

9a. This verse shows that the spirit of God is breathed into every man. This points to a mystical relation between human nature and Divine nature. The word ruh does not here mean the animal soul, because the animal soul is common to man and the animal kingdom. It is something that distinguishes man from the animal world. It is due to the spirit Divine that he rules creation and its due to the same Divine spirit in him that he receives a new life after death – a life which he lives in God and with God – the meeting with God or liqa Allah, as it is called in v. 10. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Here is another Muslim that unapologetically speaks of there being a Divine Spirit!

The above Quranic texts are merely echoing the biblical teaching that man became a living being, a living soul, when God breathed into him the Holy Spirit:

"then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." Genesis 2:7

"The spirit of God HAS MADE ME, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life." Job 33:4

What this essentially means is that God’s own Holy Spirit was the Agent that God used to make man a conscious being, as opposed to inanimate clay. In other words, the Spirit is God’s Life force that imparts life to all of God’s creatures, just as the following texts state:

"When you send forth your Spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth." Psalm 104:30

"For the palace will be forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks; until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest." Isaiah 32:14-15

"If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you." Romans 8:11

Furthermore, cross-referencing Suras 21:91 and 66:12 with Sura 19:16-19 provides additional support for our position that the Spirit in these references does not refer to man’s soul:

And mention Marium in the Book when she drew aside from her family to an eastern place; So she took a veil (to screen herself) from them; then We sent to her Our spirit, and there appeared to her a well-made man. She said: Surely I fly for refuge from you to the Beneficent God, if you are one guarding (against evil). He said: I am only a messenger of your Lord: That I WILL GIVE YOU a pure boy. She said: When shall I have a boy and no mortal has yet touched me, nor have I been unchaste? He said: Even so; your Lord says: It is easy to Me: and that We may make him a sign to men and a mercy from Us, and it is a matter which has been decreed. S. 19:16-21 Shakir

Allah’s Spirit appears to Mary as a man and promises to give her a son, implying that he will be the one to create Jesus in his mother’s womb. An analysis of Suras 21:91 and 66:12 shows how the Spirit accomplished this task:

And (remember) her [Mary] who guarded her chastity: We breathed into her a Ruh from Us, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples. S. 21:91

And Mary the daughter of 'Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) a Ruh from Us; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants). S. 66:12

It is obvious why Allah breathed the Spirit into Mary’s body, since this was the way in which she was going to get pregnant! In other words, the Spirit gave Mary a son by being breathed into her, at which point he then caused her to conceive the baby Jesus. Thus, the Spirit that appeared to Mary is the same Spirit which later entered her body to create a living being in her womb! This shows that the Spirit here cannot be a reference to man’s created soul, but to God’s own Spirit as Creator and Life-giver.

In fact, the author himself indirectly concedes this point when he will later try to prove that the Muslim commentators’ claim that Gabriel actually breathed into Mary’s body doesn’t make him God. This presupposes that he accepts the view that it was indeed Gabriel who actually breathed into Mary. This is significant because according to the same commentators who identified Gabriel as the entity that breathed into Mary, Gabriel was also that same Spirit of Surah 19 who announced the birth of Christ to her:

<She placed a screen before them;> This means that she hid herself from them and concealed herself. Then, Allah sent Jibril to her

<and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects.> [19:17] This means that he came to her in the form of a perfect and complete man. Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah, Ibn Jurayj, Wahb bin Munabbih and As-Suddi all commented on Allah’s statement…

<then We sent to her Our Ruh,> "It means Jibril." …

<She said: "Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious from you, if you do fear Allah."> This means that when the angel (Jibril) appeared to her in the form of a man, while she was in a place secluded by herself with a partition between her and her people, she was afraid of him and thought that he wanted to rape her. Therefore, she said…

<"Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious from you, if you do fear Allah." He said: "I am only a messenger from your Lord…"> This means that the angel said to her in response, and in order to remove the fear that she felt within herself, "I am not what you think, but I am the messenger of your Lord." By this he meant, "Allah has sent me to you." It is said that when she mentioned the (Name of the) Most Beneficent (Ar-Rahman), Jibril fell apart and returned to his true form (as an angel). He responded… ‘I am only a messenger from your Lord, to provide to you the gift of a righteous son.’ …

<He said: "Thus said your Lord: ‘That is easy for Me (Allah)…’"> This means that the angel said to her in response to her question, "Verily, Allah has said that a boy will be born from you even though you do not have a husband and you have not committed any lewdness. Verily, He is Most Able to do whatever He wills." …

<and a mercy from Us,> This means, "We will make this boy a mercy from Allah and a Prophet from among the Prophets. He will call to the worship of Allah and monotheistic belief in Him… (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; online source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Note what this implies. The Spirit, whom the commentators identify as Gabriel, says he will give Mary a Son, and the commentators also state that Gabriel was the one who breathed into Mary to get her pregnant. This demonstrates that Muslims themselves realized that the wording of Sura 19:19 meant that the Spirit is the Creator of Jesus, that he was sent for the purpose of causing a virgin maiden to conceive supernaturally. For instance, notice what the translator Maulana Abdul Majid Muhammad Daryabadi said regarding S. 21:91:

207. (through Our arch-angel Gabriel).

208. (which caused her conception). (Tafsir-Ul-Qur’an Translation and Commentary of the Holy Qur’an [Darul-Ishaat Urdu Bazar, Karachi-1, Pakistan; First Edition, 1991], Volume III, p. 151)

He repeats this again in his notes on Sura 66:12 (Ibid., Volume IV, p. 384, ff. 471-472). Daryabadi is saying here that Allah breathed through Gabriel to cause Mary’s conception, which basically implies that Gabriel created Jesus.

The writers at agree:

1. Allaah commanded Jibreel to blow through the neck of Maryam's garment, and this breath went down and by the will of Allaah entered her womb, so it became a soul that Allaah had created. Allaah has explained how He created 'Eesaa (peace be upon him), as He said (interpretation of the meaning):

"And she who guarded her chastity [Virgin Maryam (Mary)], We breathed into (the sleeves of) her (shirt or garment) [through Our Rooh - Jibreel (Gabriel)]" [al-Anbiya' 21:91]

Then Allaah explains that the Rooh reached her womb, as Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

"And Maryam (Mary), the daughter of 'Imraan who guarded her chastity. And We breathed into (the sleeve of her shirt or her garment) through Our Rooh [i.e. Jibreel (Gabriel)]". [al-Tahreem 66:12]

The aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

"(The angel) said: 'I am only a messenger from your Lord, (to announce) to you the gift of a righteous son'" [Maryam 19:19] - indicates that the one who blew into her was Jibreel, who does not do anything except by the command of Allaah. (Question #6333: How was 'Eesaa (peace be upon him) created?; underline emphasis ours)

Thus, the commentators were right that Sura 19:19 implies that the Spirit was sent to create Jesus. Where they were mistaken was in assuming that the Spirit was Gabriel, a position which is quite damaging to the Quran as we will later see.

The author proceeds with his discussion:

... There is some confusion because the arabic[sic] phrase attributes the Ruh to Allah, which lead some translators to render the verses as "[God's] Spirit". However, the reason the soul is attributed to God is because it is the creation of God and belongs to Him. This is exactly the same as the Qur'anic verse that says:

91:13 But the Messenger of Allah [Prophet Saalih pbuh] said to them: "It is a She-camel of Allah [Ar. Naaqat-Allahi]. And (bar her not from) having her drink!"

Just as the miraculous camel presented to the Thamud, which was the creation of Allah and one of His special signs, is attributed to Allah, so is the Ruh which is blown into every human being. Both are attributed to Allah as a sign of their miraculous nature and the fact that they are the direct creation of Allah.


Yet again the author has assumed what he has yet to prove! He assumes that the Spirit is created much like the camel of Thamud, thereby explaining the genitive on the basis that since it is a creation of Allah it therefore belongs to him.

On the contrary, the evidence that we have seen thus far proves that the Spirit is not a creature, but the Creator, and that the genitive should therefore be understood in the same manner as the following:

And ordain for us good in this world, as well as in the next; we have turned to Thee with repentance.' ALLAH replied, `I will inflict MY punishment on whom I will; but MY mercy encompasses all things; so I will ordain it for those who act righteously and pay the Zakaat and those who believe in Our Signs - S. 7:156 Sher Ali

Those who disbelieve in the revelations of Allah and in (their) Meeting with Him, such have no hope of My mercy. For such there is a painful doom. S. 29:23 Pickthall

And certainly apostles before you were rejected, but they were patient on being rejected and persecuted until Our help came to them; and there is none to change the words of Allah, and certainly there has come to you some information about the messengers. S. 6:34 Shakir

And if anyone of the idolaters seeks protection of thee, grant him protection so that he may hear the Word of ALLAH (kalama Allahi); then convey him to his place of security. That is because they are a people who have no knowledge. S. 9:6 Sher Ali

Perfected is the Word of thy Lord in truth and justice. There is naught that can change His words. He is the Hearer, the Knower. S. 6:115 Pickthall

For them are glad tidings in the present life and also in the Hereafter - there is no changing the words of ALLAH - that indeed is the supreme achievement. S. 10:64 Sher Ali

And recite that which hath been revealed unto thee of the Scripture of thy Lord. There is none who can change His words, and thou wilt find no refuge beside Him. S. 18:27 Pickthall

Say, `If every ocean become ink for the words of my Lord, surely, the ocean would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even though WE brought the like thereof as further help.' S. 18:109 Sher Ali

And were every tree that is in the earth (made into) pens and the sea (to supply it with ink), with seven more seas to increase it, the words of Allah would not come to an end; surely Allah is Mighty, Wise. S. 31:27 Shakir

Allah’s mercy, his words etc., are qualities that he eternally possesses. Likewise, the Spirit is one of those qualities, aspects, entities etc., which eternally resides with Allah. The Spirit is clearly not a creation of Allah’s.

The author now quotes Muhammad Asad on verses 21:91 and 4:171:

AND [remember] her who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed into her of Our spirit [This allegorical expression, used here with reference to Mary’s conception of Jesus, has been widely - and erroneously - interpreted as relating specifically to his birth. As a matter of fact, the Quran uses the same expression in three other places with reference to the creation of man in general - namely in 15: 29 and 38:72, "when I have formed him… and breathed into him of My spirit" and in 32: 9, "and thereupon He forms [lit., "formed"] him fully and breathes [lit., "breathed’’] into him of His spirit". In particular, the passage of which the last-quoted phrase is a part (i.e., 32: 7 - 9) makes it abundantly and explicitly clear that God "breathes of His spirit" into every human being. Commenting on the verse under consideration, Zamakhshari states that "the breathing of the spirit [of God] into a body signifies the endowing it with life’’: an explanation with which Razi concurs. (In this connection, see also note on 4: 171.) (Asad, Message of the Qur'an, The Book Foundation 2003)

Note Zamakhshari’s words carefully:

… Zamakhshari states that "the breathing of the spirit [of God] into a body signifies the endowing it with life’’: an explanation with which Razi concurs …

This is precisely what we said above, that God endows man with life through the agency of his Spirit, implying that the Spirit is the Life force which animates God’s creation.

And on verse 4:171, Muhammad Asad notes:

As regards the expression, "a soul from Him" or "created by Him", it is to be noted that among the various meanings which the word ruh bears in the Qur’an (e.g., "inspiration" in 2: 87 and 253), it is also used in its primary significance of "breath of life", "soul", or "spirit": thus, for instance, in 32: 9, where the ever-recurring evolution of the human embryo is spoken of: "and then He forms him [i.e., man] and breathes into him of His spirit" - that is, endows him with a conscious soul which represents God's supreme gift to man and is, therefore, described as "a breath of His spirit". In the verse under discussion, which stresses the purely human nature of Jesus and refutes the belief in his divinity, the Qur’an points out that Jesus, like all other human beings, was "a soul created by Him". (Asad, Message of the Qur'an, The Book Foundation 2003)

Thus, there is no conflict between these verses and the verses about Angel Jibreel as these describe the Ruh as a soul being breathed into human beings. It is simply another meaning of the word Ruh.


Asad’s comments do not address anything but actually distort the facts. In the first place, Sura 4:171 does not say that Jesus is a soul from or created by Allah. That is a blatant perversion of what the Arabic really teaches, since it actually says that Jesus is A SPIRIT FROM Allah!

People of the Book, do not exaggerate in [practising] your religion and tell nothing except the Truth about God. Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, was merely God's messenger and His word which He cast into Mary, and a spirit [proceeding] from Him. T.B. Irving

The text explicitly identifies Christ as the Word of Allah which was cast into Mary and a Spirit which proceeded from him. The natural reading and obvious implication of these statements is that the Quran’s author truly believed that Jesus existed as a Spirit even before Mary had conceived his human body. The only reason anyone would seek to deny this would be due to an a priori position which says that Jesus could not have had a prehuman existence and/or that the Quran is theologically consistent.

Secondly, the Quran itself proves that Jesus IS DEFINTELY NOT "like all other humans," since no other human is said to be a Spirit from Allah, no other human being is said to be the Word of Allah, no other human is said to have been conceived in the womb of a virgin maiden, and no other human being’s mother is said to have been chosen above all women. Thus, Jesus is clearly UNLIKE any other human being even by the Quran’s teachings!

As it stands, there is A HUGE conflict between these verses and the verses about Angel Gabriel as none of the texts cited by the author describe the Ruh as a soul that is breathed into human beings. It is simply NOT another meaning of the word Ruh.

The author now seeks to deal with the deification of Gabriel whom Muslims claimed was the one that breathed into Mary:

3. Some Qur'anic commentators also mentioned about verses 21:91 and 66:12 that Angel Jibreel was sent to Mary to breathe the Ruh into her, by God's command. Some people have erroneously concluded from this interpretation that Jibreel is must be the speaker when the verse says "We breathed into her of Our Spirit" because he is the one who breathes the soul into her. This conclusion is false because the Qur'an often attributes the actions of the Angels to God Himself, as explained in previous articles, such as Who Takes the Soul at the Time of Death. The Angels act by the command of Allah and they themselves belong to Allah, hence Angel Jibreel's action of breathing the Ruh into Mary would be attributed to Allah. In fact, in all the verses which state that God breathes the Ruh into human beings, it is reasonable to assume that this occurs through the work of the Angels, the servants of Allah. This is similar to the hadith:

Abdullah ibn Masood said: "The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who is the most truthful (of human beings) and his being truthful (is a fact) told us: ‘The constituents of one of you is gathered in his mother’s womb for forty days, then it becomes an Alaqah within another period of forty days. Then it becomes a Mudghah, and forty days later, Allaah sends His angel to it to breathe into it the Ruh. The angel comes with instructions concerning four things, so the angel writes down his livelihood, his death, his deeds and whether he will doomed or blessed." (Sahih Muslim Book 33, #6893).

For an explanation of the embryological terms involved in the hadith, please read here.

From this hadith we can see that the standard process in the creation of all human beings involves an angel who breathes the soul into the human body, even though the action is still attributed to Allah who states that He breathes the soul into the body.


The author’s comments are brimming with errors and mistakes. First, the author assumes that Suras 21:91 and 66:12 refers to Allah breathing the human soul into a person. We have already seen why this is incorrect since these texts are referring to Allah’s Spirit being breathed into Mary in order to create life in her womb. These passages are not speaking of the human spirit which Allah creates, but to Allah’ very own Spirit as Creator and Life-giver.

Second, his appeal to the hadith actually backfires against him since there it explicitly mentions an angel. Yet none of the Quranic texts say that Allah breathed of his Spirit into Mary by using an angel, or specifically through Gabriel. Hence, this hadith shows that if the Quran wanted to indicate that Allah used an angelic intermediary to cause Mary to conceive then it could have simply done so by explicitly mentioning either the word angel or the name Gabriel.

Third, the only reason why the author assumes that the Quran attributes the actions of an angel to Allah is because there are verses which say that Allah performs a specific act but then mentions angels doing that same specific function as well. Take for example the author’s appeal to his article regarding who takes the souls of individuals at death. The author reasons that since the Quran says that Allah and the angels take the souls of the deceased this therefore implies that the actions of one can be attributed to the other. The reader should be able to see the problems with the author’s assertion. The first problem is that the author assumes that these texts are conciliatory and not contradictory. The other major problem is that this particular example ends up working against the author.

For instance, the Quran does indeed mention that angels are involved in taking the souls of the deceased, BUT IT NEVER SAYS THAT ANGELS ARE USED TO CREATE A PERSON’S SOUL. In fact, if the Quran hadn’t stated that the angels take a person’s soul the author would have never known this. Hence, the author’s statements are nothing more than a classic example of circular reasoning since he assumes that the Spirit that was breathed into Mary was Gabriel, and further assumes that the hadith that he cited doesn’t conflict with the Quran.

This now leads us to our next point. The Quran, by way of rebuking the Christians and idolaters, claims that none of those that they called upon and worshiped could create, give life, or cause to die:

Is He then Who creates like him who does not create? Do you not then mind? … And those whom they call on besides Allah have not created anything while they are themselves created; Dead (are they), not living, and they know not when they shall be raised. S. 16:17, 20-21 Shakir

And they have taken besides Him gods, who do not create anything while they are themselves created, and they control not for themselves any harm or profit, and they control not death nor life, nor raising (the dead) to life. S. 25:3 Shakir

The Quran even rebukes and warns individuals from venerating and calling on angels, which presupposes that angels were being worshiped:

And he commanded you not that ye should take the angels and the prophets for lords. Would he command you to disbelieve after ye had surrendered (to Allah)? S. 3:80 Pickthall

Say: Cry unto those (saints and angels) whom ye assume (to be gods) beside Him, yet they have no power to rid you of misfortune nor to change. Those unto whom they cry seek the way of approach to their Lord, which of them shall be the nearest; they hope for His mercy and they fear His doom. Lo! the doom of thy Lord is to be shunned. S. 17:56-57 Pickthall

According to the Quran, some of those nearest to Allah include both Jesus and the angels:

Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to God; S. 3:45 Y. Ali

The Messiah does by no means disdain that he should be a servant of Allah, nor do the angels who are near to Him, and whoever disdains His service and is proud, He will gather them all together to Himself. S. 4:172 Shakir

Thus, we can conclude from the foregoing that Sura 17:56-57 is referring to the veneration given to Christ and the angels by unbelievers. Ibn Kathir confirms this exegesis in his comments on Sura 17:56:

<Say: "Call upon those whom you pretend> Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn ‘Abbas, "The people of Shirk used to say, ‘we worship the angels and the Messiah and ‘Uzayr,’ while these (the angels and the Messiah and ‘Uzayr) themselves call upon Allah." …

<Those whom they call upon, desire) Al-Bukhari recorded from Sulayman bin Mahran Al-A’mash, from Ibrahim, from Abu Ma’mar, from ‘Abdullah …

<Those whom they call upon, desire a means of access to their Lord,> "Some of the Jinn used to be worshipped, then they became Muslims.'' According to another report: "Some humans used to worship some of the Jinn, then those Jinn became Muslim, but those humans adhered to their religion (of worshipping the Jinn)." (online source; bold emphasis ours)

Ibn Kathir wrote regarding another text (cf. Sura 21:98-103) that:

<Verily, those for whom the good has preceded from Us.> It was said that this referred to the angels and ‘Isa, and others who are worshipped instead of Allah. This was the view of ‘Ikrimah, Al-Hasan and Ibn Jurayj. Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar said in his book of Sirah: "According to what I have heard, the Messenger of Allah sat down one day with Al-Walid bin Al-Mughirah in the Masjid, and An-Nadr bin Al-Harith came and sat down with them. There were also other men of Quraysh in the Masjid. The Messenger of Allah spoke, then An-Nadr bin Al-Harith came up to him and the Messenger of Allah spoke to him until he defeated him in argument. Then he recited to him and to them, …

<and therein they will hear not.> Then the Messenger of Allah got up and went to sit with ‘Abdullah bin Al-Zab’ari As-Sahmi. Al-Walid bin Al-Mughirah said to ‘Abdullah bin Al-Zab’ari, "By Allah, An-Nadr bin Al-Harith could not match the son of ‘Abd Al-Muttalib in argument. Muhammad claims that we and these gods that we worship are fuel for Hell."' ‘Abdullah bin Az-Zab’ari said: "By Allah, if I meet with him I will defeat him in argument. Ask Muhammad whether everyone that is worshipped instead of Allah will be in Hell with those who worshipped him, for we worship the angels, and the Jews worship ‘Uzayr, and the Christians worship Al-Masih, ‘Isa bin Maryam." Al-Walid and those who were sitting with him were amazed at what ‘Abdullah bin Az-Zab’ari said, and they thought that he had come up with a good point. He said this to the Messenger of Allah, who said … (online source; bold, italic and underline emphasis ours)

Let us now take a moment to reflect on the implications these references have on the author’s position. The Quran rebukes unbelievers for worshiping beings that cannot create nor give life nor cause death. The author, however, is trying to prove that Allah uses angels to create life, and even cited a hadith to support this view. Instead of solving the dilemma, the author has actually ended up falsifying the Quran by his comments. This now leaves him with one of two options: He must either accept the fact that he and the hadith he narrated are correct regarding angels creating life, which means that the Quran is wrong. Or he must accept that the Quran is right that angels cannot create, which means that both he and his narration are wrong.

It gets even worse for the Quran and for the author. The Quran plainly teaches that angels bring death upon a person, which means that they do indeed cause death!

Verily, those whom the angels cause to die while they are wronging their own souls, the angels will say to them: ‘What were you after?’ They will say: ‘We were treated as weak in the land.’ The angels will say, ‘Was not ALLAH's earth spacious enough so that you could have emigrated therein?’ It is these whose abode shall be Hell, and an evil destination it is; 4:97 Sher Ali

Those whom the angels CAUSE TO DIE while they are unjust to themselves. Then would they offer submission: We used not to do any evil. Aye! surely Allah knows what you did. … Those whom the angels CAUSE TO DIE in a good state, saying: Peace be on you: enter the garden for what you did. S. 16:28, 32 Shakir

Say, `The angel of death that has been put in charge of you will cause you to die; then to your Lord will you be brought back.' S. 32:11 Sher Ali

These references directly contradict the ones stating that those whom the unbelievers call upon cannot cause death since they clearly can.

Before we proceed further into our discussion it is vital that we summarize the problems that have been raised in this particular section:

  1. The Quran says that the beings that the unbelievers were calling upon cannot create and cannot cause death.
  2. Some of these beings that the unbelievers worshiped included the angels.
  3. The author cited a hadith which says that Allah uses an angel to create the soul of a human being during its formation in the womb.
  4. The Quran even teaches that angels can cause persons to die.
  5. Therefore, not only are the hadiths contradicting the Quran, but the Quran is also contradicting itself.

The author seeks to interact with the passages where the Spirit is distinguished from the angels:

4. Other passages used by critics to argue that the Holy Spirit is not Gabriel include:

78:38 The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand forth in ranks, none shall speak except any who is permitted by (God) Most Gracious, and He will say what is right.

And the hadith:

"Narrated Aisha: The Messenger of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) used to pronounce while bowing and prostrating himself: All Glorious, all Holy, Lord of the Angels and the Spirit." (Sahih Muslim, Book 4, Number 0987)

It is claimed that since these quotes distinguish between the Spirit and the Angels, therefore the Holy Spirit cannot possibly be an angel. However, it has been mentioned in previous articles that this is the Qur'anic style which distinguishes between Jibreel and the Angels because of his great rank:

2:98 Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and apostles, to Gabriel and Michael,- Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject Faith.

This verse mentions Angle[sic] Gabriel and Angel Michael seperately[sic] from the other angels, but we know that they are angels themselves. This is simply the Qur'anic style of emphasis. This was explained in the article The Number of Groups on the Day of Resurrection.


The passage of Sura 2:98 serves to refute the author’s position. Note the wording of the text carefully:

Whoever is an enemy to Allah AND His angels AND apostles, to Gabriel and Michael,- Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject Faith.

The text refers to several different groups, i.e., Allah who is different from the angels who are different from the apostles who are different from Allah etc. This next reference says something similar:

If you both turn to Allah, then indeed your hearts are already inclined (to this); and if you back up each other against him, then surely Allah it is Who is his Guardian, AND Jibreel AND the believers that do good, AND the angels after that are the aiders. S. 66:4 Shakir

Again, there is no denying that the above reference has several different groups in view, i.e. Allah is different from the believers and the angels, and the angels are different from the believers etc.

In light of this fact, how does the author KNOW that Gabriel is an angel of great rank? How does he know that Gabriel and Michael are angels? Where does the text or the Quran exactly identify them as angels? Gabriel and Michael may be jinni as far as the Quran is concerned, or it could be that Gabriel is a jinni whereas Michael happens to be a human apostle. After all, doesn’t the Quran itself teach that Allah has raised up messengers from among men and jinn?

"O ye assembly of JINNS and men! came there not UNTO you messengers FROM AMONGST YOU, setting forth unto you My Signs, and warning you of the meeting of this Day of yours?" They will say: "We bear witness against ourselves." It was the life of this world that deceived them. So against themselves will they bear witness that they rejected Faith. S. 6:130

In light of these considerations, couldn’t one make the case that Gabriel is indeed a jinni? How does the author know whether or not he was a jinni when the Quran doesn’t explicitly say what he was?

One way in which the author can know is by consulting the Holy Bible, which the Quran says one should do in case there is any doubt:

And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers. S. 10:94 Pickthall

Michael and Gabriel are clearly identified as angels in the Holy Bible:

"And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechari'ah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechari'ah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John’… And Zechari'ah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’ And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news.’" Luke 1:11-13, 18-19

"But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’" Jude 1:9

"Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven." Revelation 12:7-8

Yet the problem the author will have by appealing to the Bible is that the previous revelations also make a clear differentiation between Gabriel and the Holy Spirit:

"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ And Mary said to the angel, ‘How shall this be, since I have no husband?’ And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.’" Luke 1:26-35

Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive by the Holy Spirit, not by himself, which shows that he is not the Holy Spirit. He isn’t the only angel to make a distinction between God’s Holy Spirit and the angels:

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit;’" Matthew 1:18-20

Here is another unnamed angel who clearly distinguishes himself from the Holy Spirit who caused Mary to conceive supernaturally while still a virgin.

Interestingly, there is one Muslim commentary that quotes Gabriel making a distinction between the Holy Spirit and himself. Renowned Muslim exegete and linguist al-Zamakhshari wrote regarding Sura 19:16-22 that:

To a distant place: to a place behind the mountain (Zion), which was far away from her relatives. Others say (that she moved away) to the other end of the country (dar). (Furthermore) it is reported that she was engaged to one named Joseph, a son of a paternal uncle. When people began to say that she became pregnant through prostitution, Joseph feared that the king would kill her, so he fled with her. On the way he became convinced that he should kill her. But Gabriel then came and said: ‘The pregnancy was brought about by the Holy Spirit. So do not kill her!’ Joseph did no harm to her. (Helmut Gätje, The Qur'an and its Exegesis [Oneworld Publications, Oxford 1996], pp. 122-123; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Al-Zamakhshari was clearly confused since here he has Gabriel differentiating himself from the Holy Spirit, but earlier in his commentary he identified Gabriel as the Spirit who caused Mary to conceive!

Furthermore, here is a set of verses where the reader can see that the entity that is mentioned separately from the angels clearly ISN’T AN ANGEL:

Or you should cause the heaven to come down upon us in pieces as you think, or bring Allah AND the angels face to face (with us). S. 17:92 Shakir

The messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers; they all believe in Allah AND His angels AND His books AND His messengers; We make no difference between any of His messengers; and they say: We hear and obey, our Lord! Thy forgiveness (do we crave), and to Thee is the eventual course. S. 2:285 Shakir; cf. 4:136

(As for) these, their reward is that upon them is the curse of Allah AND the angels AND of men, all together. S. 3:87 Shakir; cf. 2:161

Nay! when the earth is made to crumble to pieces, And your Lord comes AND (also) the angels in ranks, S. 89:21-22 Shakir

The author conveniently omits to mention these texts and focuses on a passage which he thinks supported his position, when in fact all this did was to demonstrate the circular nature of his reasoning.

He assumes that the Quran says that the Spirit is Gabriel, and that it teaches that Gabriel is an angel, and on that basis produces a text which he feels proves his point that just because the Spirit is distinguished from the angels doesn’t mean that he isn’t an angel also. The author takes for granted that all his assumptions are sound and then proceeds to read these texts in light of his presuppositions. As the readers can see by now, the problem is that the author has failed to prove that any of his assumptions are correct. His article is nothing more than a classic example of eisegesis and circular reasoning, assuming what he has yet to prove and then reading these presuppositions into the text without having a warrant for doing so.

Hence, until the author has clear evidence proving that the Spirit is indeed an angel we must conclude that his example fails to prove his case.

If anything one can argue that the Lord who is coming in Sura 89:22 is actually the Spirit! After all, the literal reading of the above reference says that the Lord and the angels are coming in ranks, as can even be seen from the following versions:

And thy Lord cometh, and His angels, rank upon rank, Y. Ali

And thy Lord shall come with angels, rank on rank, Pickthall

And your Lord comes with the angels in rows, Hilali-Khan

There is even one text that refers to Allah coming in the clouds with angels:

They do not wait aught but that Allah should come to them in the shadows of the clouds along with the angels, and the matter has (already) been decided; and (all) matters are returned to Allah. S. 2:210 Shakir

And now compare the above with what the following verses say about the Spirit coming down with the angels and standing in ranks with them:

The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand forth in ranks, none shall speak except any who is permitted by (Allah) Most Gracious, and He will say what is right. S. 78:38 Y. Ali

In it the angels and the Spirit descend, by the leave of their Lord, upon every command. S. 97:4 Arberry

The only reason anyone would want to object to the Spirit being the Lord who comes with the angels is due to an a priori philosophical and/or theological commitment. If a person has already assumed that the Quran cannot possibly be teaching that Allah’s Spirit is in fact God and Lord then he or she will clearly reject this interpretation. But this rejection would not be based on what the Quran says, but on what a person thinks the Quran teaches regarding the nature of Allah and Islamic monotheism.

As Christians who accept the Holy Bible as God’s authoritative revelation, we see no problem with God’s Holy Spirit being identified as the Lord since this is what the Holy Scriptures teach:

"Now the Lord IS THE Spirit, and where the Spirit OF the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord WHO IS THE SPIRIT. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

The Spirit is identified as the Lord and at the same time belongs to the Lord!

The author continues:

Another hadith is also quoted in order to prove that Jibreel is distinct from Ruh Al-Qudus. It contains a poem composed by the companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Hassan ibn Thabit (rd). In the last two lines of his poem, he says:

"Whether anyone amongst you (the Quraysh) chooses to satirise the Messenger of Allah, or praise him, or help him, it is all the same, And Gabriel who is the Emissary of Allah, is with us, and indeed the Ruh Al-Qudus has no match" (Sahih Muslim, The Book of Companions of the Prophet, 6550, ARABIC SOURCE)

In the above poem of Hassan ibn Thabit, the last line has been misunderstood to be differentiating between Angel Jibreel and Ruh Al-Qudus. This misunderstanding is partly due to the poor translation of this hadith which renders the last phrase as:

"And Gabriel, the Apostle of Allah is among us, and the Holy Spirit who has no match."

Either of the two underlined words can be removed to restore the true meaning of the arabic[sic] phrase. This poetic description can be illustrated using many examples:

"The King has arrived, and his Majesty shall now attend to your needs" - Here "the king" and "his majesty" refer to the same person.

"Don't worry, the police are here. The guardians of justice will protect you" - Again, the police are being poetically described as 'the guardians of justice'.

These examples should demonstrate that this hadith of Hassan ibn Thabit does not distinguish between Angel Jibreel and Ruh Al-Qudus as critics claim. Rather, it merely describes the titles of Angel Jibreel.


In order to illustrate why the author’s appeal to the Arabic doesn’t prove his case, but actually begs the question, notice what happens when we take the same text and substitute the words Gabriel and Holy Spirit with some other names and see if his logic applies:

And Abraham who is the Emissary of Allah, is with us, and indeed Gabriel has no match.

And Jesus the Messiah who is the Emissary of Allah, is with us, and indeed Allah has no match.

And Moses who is the Emissary of Allah, is with us, and indeed Michael has no match.

And John and Jesus who are the Emissaries of Allah, are with us, and indeed the Holy Spirit has no match!

As the foregoing demonstrates, the Arabic can just as clearly be understood to be referring to two distinct entities that had come to assist Hassan in composing poems to mock the unbelievers. After all, the Quran does say that Allah inspires even angels:

When thy Lord inspired the angels, (saying): I am with you. So make those who believe stand firm. I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite the necks and smite of them each finger. S. 8:12 Pickthall

And also states that angels come down with the Spirit of revelation:

He sendeth down the angels with the spirit by His command upon whomsoever of his bondmen He willeth: warn that there is no god but I, wherefore fear Me. S. 16:2 Daryabadi

We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power: And what will explain to thee what the night of power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah’s permission, on every errand: S. 97:1-4 Y. Ali

What these texts seem to be suggesting is that the angels come down to instruct the messengers and prophets by inspiration from the Spirit.

Thus, the foregoing considerations lead us to conclude that the hadith is simply indicating that the Holy Spirit inspired Gabriel to assist Hassan in composing poetry.

Putting it simply, the Arabic text of Sahih Muslim doesn’t make as clear a differentiation between Gabriel and the Spirit as the English translation we cited did. But neither does the Arabic conclusively show that Hassan was identifying Gabriel as the Holy Spirit.

This means that a Muslim must turn to his religious book and see which interpretation is more consistent with the overall teachings of the Quran. Having examined the relevant Quranic evidence we conclude that the author has failed to achieve his task and that the name ‘Ruh Al-Qudus’ HAS NOT BEEN ESTABLISHED as a title of Angel Gabriel. The author hasn’t been able to provide any evidence to indicate otherwise.{3}

Hence, in light of these considerations one must either translate the hadith regarding Hassan to mean that Gabriel and the Holy Spirit are distinct, or assume that they are one and the same which would therefore mean that the hadith stands in clear contradiction to the plain teachings of the Quran. We submit that the English translation which we presented is correct that they are not one and the same, and therefore in full agreement with what the Quran teaches.

And in light of the mass confusion and differing opinions that exist amongst Muslim scholars regarding the precise identity and meaning of the terms "Holy Spirit," "the faithful Spirit" etc., is it any wonder that Muhammad gave the following answer when he was asked about the Spirit’s identity?

They will question thee concerning the Spirit. Say: ‘The Spirit is of the bidding of my Lord. You have been given of knowledge nothing except a little.’ S. 17:85 Arberry

Even this verse has confused many a translator as the following versions indicate:

And they ask you about the soul. Say: The soul is one of the commands of my Lord… Shakir

They ask you about the revelation. Say, "The revelation comes from my Lord… Khalifa

AND THEY will ask thee about [the nature of] divine inspiration. Say: This inspiration [comes] at my Sustainer’s behest… Asad

Talk about confusion!

Further Reading


{1} The readers may be wondering how we can maintain that there is a contradiction in the Quran since one place says the Holy Spirit revealed it whereas another place says it was Gabriel in light of our admission that the Quran mentions several entities that were used to convey the message. The answer can be found in the introductory comments on the Quran contradictions page itself. One purpose for having this page is not so much to try and prove that the Quran has errors which cannot be satisfactorily harmonized, but to show Muslims what happens when one adopts their critical method of reading the Bible to the Quran. If a Muslim wants to read the Bible in an unsympathetic manner with the sole purpose of trying to find as many errors to discredit the Bible then this can also be done with the Quran. Just as Muslims expect Christians to read the Quran with understanding, trying to find ways to reconcile what seem to be contradictions, Christians also expect that Muslims will treat the Holy Bible in the same way.

{2} In some more recent versions of Yusuf Ali's English translation, the notes have been changed (tampered with), in an obvious attempt of making Ali sound more in line with what some perceive to be Islamic orthodoxy. For instance, compare the version of Ali's quote which we presented with the following CD Rom version of his commentary:

… Cf. ii 87 and 253, where it is said that ALLAH strengthened the Prophet Jesus with the holy spirit. Here we learn that all good and righteous men are strengthened by ALLAH. If anything, the phrase used here is stronger, 'a spirit from Himself'. Whenever any one offers his heart in faith and purity to ALLAH, ALLAH accepts it, engraves that faith on the seeker's heart, and further fortifies him with HIS HELP, which we can no more define adequately than we can define in human language the nature of ALLAH. (ALIM CD-ROM Version; capital emphasis ours)

This version of Ali's commentary has changed God to Allah, and divine Spirit to his help, as well as omitting the words, "with the holy spirit" from the clause, "strengthened by Allah." The Muslims obviously had a hard time with Ali calling God's Spirit divine, or with his claim that believers are strengthened with the Holy Spirit. Such editing is not unusual for Muslims, and for more examples of this kind we recommend reading the following articles:

{3} According to Moiz Amjad of, in his response to this same contradiction article, the Quran would be contradicting itself regarding whether it was Gabriel or the Holy Spirit who brought down the revelation if one of the following two things could be proven:

... It can only amount to a contradiction if:

  1. The Qur'an had given two different (contradicting) names of the angel, who revealed the Qur'an to Mohammed (pbuh); or
  2. There is a sound basis to believe that anyone by the name of 'Gabriel' could not be the 'Holy Spirit'. (The Three Contradictions in Al-Baqarah 2: 97 & Al-Nah'l 16: 101 - 103; source)

Since we have presented the sound basis proving that the entity named Gabriel cannot be the Holy Spirit, then the Quran must be contradicting itself according Mr. Amjad's own proposed methodology of showing whether there is a contradiction in this particular case.

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