Monday, 18 December 2017

Holy Spirit Descending Upon and Supporting Non-Prophets


بسم الله الرحمـن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على من لا نبي بعده

والعاقبة للمتقين

The Holy Spirit or روح القدس (RūH-al-Qudus) is someone or something that figures prominently in the Abrahamic religions. It function is to be the means through which a human being, prophet or otherwise, becomes inspired by God. There is some significant difference of opinion regarding the reality of the Holy Spirit. Some consider it as an impersonal force, and an attribute of God. This view is found among Jews and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The trinitarian Christians regard the Holy Spirit as the third person of the triune Godhead, who is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son. Many Muslims believe that the Holy Spirit is none other than Angel Gabriel, the Angel of Revelation and Prophecy. However, I argue that the latter view expressed by many Muslims is not very well established in the sacred Texts of Islam. Nowhere in the Holy Qur’an or Hadith is the Holy Spirit explicitly identified with the Angel Gabriel. I will discuss the reality of the Holy Spirit in a future entry ان شاء الله

In this entry, I shall discuss the fact that the Holy Spirit is not exclusive to Prophets, but that non-Prophets too can experience its gifts and inspired through it.

In the Qur’an al-Karim, the Holy Spirit is mentioned most in relation to the Messiah son of Mary (peace be upon him). Allah Most High says repeatedly that He supported or strengthened the Messiah with the Holy Spirit (Sura 2: 87; 2: 253; 5: 110). However, Allah also says that it is the Holy Spirit which has brought down the Qur’an or Revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (Sura 16: 102), hence the Holy Spirit is certainly not restricted to the Messiah. But as for the function of the Holy Spirit to أيّد ‘support’ or ‘strengthen’, some may be under the mistaken impression that this activity of the Holy Spirit has only been mentioned in relation to the Messiah. They have overlooked the Verse of the Qur’an, wherein Allah speaks of the Believers, particularly the Sahaba:

أُولَـٰئِكَ كَتَبَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ الْإِيمَانَ وَأَيَّدَهُم بِرُوحٍ مِّنْهُ

For such He has written Faith in their hearts and strengthened them with a Spirit from Himself

(Sura 58: 22)

Undoubtedly, this is the Holy Spirit which Allah has sent down to strengthen this certain elevated class of Believers. In an authentic Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad specifically prayed for his illustrious companion Hassan b. ThabitRA to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit:

يَا حَسَّانُ أَجِبْ عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ ، اللَّهُمَّ أَيِّدْهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ

“O Hassan! Reply on behalf of Allah’s Apostle. O Allah! Support him with the Holy Spirit”

(Bukhari & Muslim)

In another Ayah of the Qur’an, Allah says:

يُنَزِّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةَ بِالرُّوحِ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ عَلَىٰ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ أَنْ أَنذِرُوا أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاتَّقُونِ۝

He sends down the Angels with the Spirit from His command upon whom He wills from among His servants - to warn them that “there is no god except Me, so fear Me”

(Sura 16: 2)

Many exegetes claim that على من يشاء من عباده refers only to the Prophets and Apostles, but that is based on the fallacious presumption that the Angels and the Spirit only descend with inspiration upon a Prophet and never upon a non-Prophet. Rather, Allah is clearly saying that He sends down the Angels with the Spirit upon whomsoever He wishes from among His servants, Prophet or non-Prophet. This is reinforced by the fact that this Verse is speaking of the inspiration to warn mankind that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Allah alone should be feared with Taqwa. In other words, this is not the inspiration or revelation of Tashri’ (legislation) which is exclusive to law-bearing Prophets and Apostles, but rather, the inspiration of Indhar (warning) and enjoining of Tawhid (monotheism), the worship of Allah alone. This type of inspiration is not exclusive to Prophets and can come down to any servant of Allah with whom He is pleased to communicate with, and we come to know from this Verse that such communication or inspiration is by way of Angels coming down with the Holy Spirit.


  1. *Note: In explanation of "whom He wishes from among His servants", a narration from Qatada: ينزل الملائكة بالرحمة والوحي على من يشاء من عباده، يعني: من كان أهلاً لذلك "He sends down the Angels with Mercy and with the Revelation upon whom He wishes from among His servants, that is, whoever is worthy or eligible for that" (Tafsir al-Samarqandi) implying that this is not exclusive to Prophets, but whoever from among Allah's servants who is worthy of receiving it. Likewise, the Sufi Abdul Razzaq al-Kashani states in his commentary: "He sends down the angels with the Spirit, that is to say, the knowledge with which He revives hearts, meaning [by that knowledge], the QurÌān, from, the world of, His command, wherein it was inscribed, to whomever He will of His servants, those singled out for extra solicitude from Him

  2. *Note: Another Verse states: رَفِيعُ الدَّرَجَاتِ ذُو الْعَرْشِ يُلْقِي الرُّوحَ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ عَلَىٰ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ لِيُنذِرَ يَوْمَ التَّلَاقِ "[He is] the Exalted above [all] degrees, Owner of the Throne; He places the inspiration of His command upon whom He wills of His servants to warn of the Day of Meeting." (Sura 40:15)


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