Editor's Choice

Nafas al Rachman - the breath of the Merciful


Bede Griffiths, A New Vision of Reality (Western Science, Eastern Mysticism and Christian Faith)
Bede Griffiths

"The source of the universe is the breath of the Merciful," the 'nafas al rachman'. God is the merciful and, as he manifests himself, he pours forth this"breath of the Merciful." The breath of the Merciful is the will in the divine nature to express itself, to manifest itself, to become known, that is, to realise the potentialities in its nature.

"When we turn to consider the Islamic view, here again there is the same kind of paradox as in Buddhism. Just as the Buddha gives no importance to the human person and yet this full and wonderful concept of the person of the Buddha emerges, so Islam will not allow anyone to be associated with Allah. The supreme blasphemy in Islam is to associate any being with Allah. Alongside mainstream Islamic tradition, however, Sufism began to emerge a century or two after the time of Mohammed as the mystical tradition of Islam. (P.143) This is very similar to the emergence of Mahayana within the earlier Buddhism, and it seems to indicate a kind of instinct in human nature. It is of great interest that, beginning from such different points of view, Jesus in the Gospel, Krishna in Hinduism, the Buddha and then Mohammed, a strikingly similar mystical doctrine emerges in each tradition, each with its own particular character but with an obvious unity behind it. In Sufism a new vision is built up based on the Quran but developed with an extraordinary kind of mystical intuition. The supreme authority on this is Ibn Al Arabi, the Islamic mystic of the twelfth century, who was also one of the great philosophers of the world.

Note: The philosophy of Ibn al Arabi has been studied with extraordinary insight and at the greatest depth by R.W.J. Austin in his translation of 'The Bezels of Wisdom in the Classics of Western Spirituality' (Paulist Press).

Shankara in Vedanta, Nagarjuna in the Madhyamika doctrine and Ibn al Arabi in Sufism, have each a very similar doctrine. There are differences but fundamentally the same doctrine is evident. That is why this doctrine can be said to be universal and why I think it is of such importance in relation to Christianity...

It is said in the tradition ('hadith') of Islam," I was a hidden treasure and I desired to be known." Ibn al Arabi has a beautiful phrase for this. He says," The source of the universe is the breath of the Merciful," the 'nafas al rachman'. God is the merciful and, as he manifests himself, he pours forth this "breath of the Merciful." The breath of the Merciful is the will in the divine nature to express itself, to manifest itself, to become known, that is, to realise the potentialities in its nature. The universe thus comes into being to reveal the hidden potentialities in the divine being. To Allah is attributed breath which is very like the 'spiritus', the"Spirit"of Christian doctrine, which"brooded over the waters"And brought forth the world. That is what is meant by"The breath of the Merciful.""

Bede Griffiths: A New Vision of Reality (Western Science, Eastern Mysticism and Christian Faith), Pgs. 142-145
Templegate Publishers - Springfield, Illinois
ISBN 0-87243-180-0




Soul belongs to God

The word ruh in Urdu means soul, but it has a large number of other meanings. The basic sense however is that which is not solid. In fact it is like a breeze. From there, it brings us close to the sense of breath.

Allah says ruh belongs to Him. The breath that belongs to human beings is called nafs. The root nfs means self and breathing. It has two plural forms out of which one is common: nafoos meaning many persons. Anfaas means breaths.

In Hebrew ruh is not used for soul. The word for soul is nefesh, implying that the fine discrimination that one finds in Arabic is not there in Hebrew. English word spirit comes from the same root as breathing: aspire and respire.

Because alcohol is created through a process of distillation (as if the matter was breathing) it is named spirit. In its pure form it is supposed to evaporate like a soul.

English soul comes from the Germanic group and its root means something quick-moving. Here again the implication takes us to breeze or wind, which moves quickly. In Russian dusha (soul) is closely connected to dukha (breath or blowing wind). In Sanskrit, pran means both soul and breath.

The root rwh for ruh (soul) means the blowing of wind...

Ruh is Allah's own attribute given to human beings. The Quran doesn't say the ruh of man but ruh of Allah."

Soul belongs to God —Khaled Ahmed




La oqsimu biyawmi alqiyamati
Wala oqsimu bialnnafsi allawwamati

I do call to witness the Resurrection Day
And I do call to witness the self-reproaching Spirit.
[5810]

surah 75:1-2 Al Qiyamah (The Resurrection)
(Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran, 1989)

To believe in the Day of Resurrection is"The most important article of faith in Islam. It is in fact, the basis upon which Islam builds its whole philosophy of Life. A person cannot be a Muslim until after he/she accepts this principle. The advent of resurrection or Qiyamah is more frequently mentioned in the Noble Quran than any other happening. On the day of Qiyamah, all human beings will be resurrected and will have to pass through God's judgment on their actions during this ephemeral life on earth. All this is vividly described in the Noble Quran. The word, Qiyamah, occurs 68 times in the Quran, and the word Hereafter occurs 118 times in Yusuf Ali's translation of the Quran."1

First we shall look at the translation of Abdullah Yusuf Ali who, along with all other Islamic scholars, do not understand the reality of Resurrection. Though they try their best to interpret it within the context of the Doomsday scenario, one cannot help noticing that it just doesn't make sense. Even the worst doomsday fears and horrifying resurrection scenario of the Islamic theologians fail to suppress the sense of spiritual awakening, hope, renewal, salvation and Divine Intervention. In other words, it reveals a new state of communion between Allah and the True Believers (Al-Mu'minun) leading to their final evolution into the eternal spirit. In fact Allah is openly proclaiming that now, at the appointed Hour, He is calling all humankind to witness Al-Qiyamah!

Thus, in order to comprehend the supreme secret of surah Al-Qiyamah, the critical opening lines and the words"Witness"And"self-reproaching Spirit"must be first understood. It is imperative that they are thoroughly examined and understood.

witness"1 an attesting of a fact, statement, etc,; evidence; testimony 2 a person who saw, or can give a firsthand account of something 3 a person who testifies in court 4 a person called upon to observe a transaction, signature, etc, in order to testify concerning it if it is later held in question 5 something providing or serving as evidence - vt. 1 to testify to 2 to serve as evidence of 3 to act as witness of, often, in proof thereof, signing a statement that one has done so 4 to be present at, see personally."

self"1 the identity, quality or essential qualities of any person or thing 2 one's own person as distinct from all others"

reproach"vt. 1 to accuse of and blame for a fault so as to make feel ashamed; rebuke; reprove 2 to bring shame and disgrace upon; be a cause of discredit to - n. 1 shame, disgrace, discredit, or blame, or source, cause, or occasion of this 2 a blaming or reproving; rebuke 3 an expression of blame or reproof 4 an object of blame, censure, scorn, etc."

Webster New World Dictionary
(Webster New World Dictionary, Third College Ed., Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1988.)


Spirit: The word translated here as spirit, ruh, comes from the same root as rahah. It is also related to rih, which means 'wind', mirwahah, meaning 'fan', and istirwah which means 'respiration'. The term"Spirit"translates the Hebrew word ruah, which, in its primary sense, means 'breath', 'ir', 'wind'. Jesus indeed uses the sensory image of the wind to suggest to Nicodemus the transcendent newness of him who is personally God's breath, the divine Spirit." (Jn 3:5-8)"The words"vibrations"And"cool breeze"Are used to imply the same meaning. For those wishing to comprehend the awesome reality and deep mysticism of Al-Qiyamah it is vital that these meanings are imbibed and remembered at all times.

The Call of Allah to witness the Resurrection requires individuals to attest facts, statement, evidence; testimony. It may demand a person who bears witness to give a firsthand account of something or event, which in this case is about the Resurrection. A witness is called upon to observe an act, in order to testify concerning it if it is later held in question. The opening lines of surah Al-Qiyamah calls upon the Believers to witness the Resurrection!

Reproaching requires someone to act as a teacher, judge, advisor or peer, correcting mistakes made by others. There is interaction between two parties (His Spirit and the individual) and the subsequent self-introspection results in a feeling of remorse, disgrace and shame for the wrongdoer. (This will be explained in detail later for better comprehension.)

But when will humans have time for such self-introspection during the dreadful Islamic version of Judgment Day? We would like Muslim scholars to provide sensible answers to these questions within the context of their fire and brimstone apocalyptic End:

Questions about the fire and brimstone apocalyptic End

i) Why should Allah call upon the True Believers (Al-Mu'minun) to witness the Resurrection if heavens are rent asunder in wrath?

ii) How is it possible to attest to the fact, statement, evidence or testimony that the Resurrection has commenced if mountains are tossed around?

iii) How will the faithful give a firsthand account of the Resurrection as humans flee in terror and utter chaos?

iv) To whom will the True Believers (Al-Mu'minun) testify that it indeed the Resurrection if it serves no purpose, since hundreds of millions are subject to a fiery death?

v) Why should they observe the Resurrection - as if to confirm over time that indeed it is a command from Allah - if it is the apocalyptic End?

vi) What can they possibly provide or serve as evidence about the Resurrection that is unknown to humankind?

vii) And if it is all about death and destruction what will the Believers of the Resurrection witness that others are also seeing in utter terror, a common experience for all humanity? - or is it that the vast humanity in general is completely unaware that the Day of Resurrection is taking place?

viii) Why should His Spirit reproach the individual self of humans during the Resurrection if it is the dreaded End?

ix) How will the Spirit reproach the individual self of humans during Qiyamah while millions shriek and quiver in fear and utter paranoia?

x) What will be the language of communication - Arabic, Latin, English, French, Mandarin, or none of the above?

xi) Who's going to be subject to this self-reproaching Spirit - the Muslim Ummah, the Jewish 'chosen ones,' the Roman Catholics, or all of humankind?

Sure none of the theologians, clerics, imams, ulema, shaikhs, mullahs, and ayatollahs have any clue. Qiyamah is nothing but the long awaited promise of Resurrection, the Night of Power and Predestination (Al Qadr). This will be rejected by the ulema as they have been conditioned to regard it otherwise.

Of what are they asking one another?
(Is it) of the Great Announcement, about which they have been differing?
They will indeed come to know soon;
They will indeed come to know soon.

surah 78:1-40 Al Naba' (The Announcement)
(Ahmad Ali, Islam: The Qur'n, Princeton U. Press, 1988)

Yes, those disputing the Great Announcement will soon know when they stand before Allah (SWT) and receive judgment for their disbelief. For the Believers this Age of Qiyamah (Al-Qadr - Night of Power) is set to run for an unspecified period during which all humans will be granted the Power to resurrect themselves into the eternal spirit and enter paradise. Only then will Doomsday (Al Qariah - Day Of Noise and Clamour) come. Surely Muslims know that Allah (SWT) has never punished without ample warning. What makes them think that billions will be annihilated without compassion? Thus i declare and call you to bear witness to the ongoing Resurrection:

La oqsimu biyawmi alqiyamati
Wala oqsimu bialnnafsi allawwamati

I do call to witness the Resurrection Day
And I do call to witness the self-reproaching Spirit.






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