What is spirituality? What is the difference between the body and spirit?

What Is Spirituality? What Is the Difference Between the Body and Spirit?

It is interesting to have a spiritual life, a life full of peace and joy.  Many people of the world like to have a spiritual life and get rid of the problems in the world. To have such a life, we need to know what is spirituality and what to do to have such a life.

Spirituality is a reality that most people of the world seek to attain. Most of the new religions created by people consider spirituality as something related to the mind whereas the Quran and other divine religions such as Islam, Judaism, and Christianity separate spirituality from physical entities. The fruit of spirituality is tranquility and peace in this world and the Hereafter. 

In this article, we will learn the following:

What Is the Difference Between the Body and Spirit?

In order to understand the reality of spirituality, we should know the reality and structures of the human being and study the relationship between spirituality and the physical body.

The study of spirituality in the creation of man is important as they are connected. One cannot be addressed fully without the other. God, the creator of human beings, introduces the structures of human beings as consisting of two parts as follows:

فَإِذا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَ نَفَخْتُ فيهِ مِنْ رُوحي‏

So when I have formed him and breathed into him of My spirit.1

This informs us that the creation of human beings consisted of two separate parts: 

The Physical Form

The physical form and structures of the human being are his body including his head, legs, heart, and so on. All the people of the world have the same bodily structures, for instance, all of them have heads, legs, hearts, and so on and the function of their body is the same. 

The Spiritual Form

The human being has a spirit, that is, the spirit in addition to the physical body placed by God within the body. This spirit is a special spirit. Human beings have been created gradually, that is, first the physical body is formed then the spirit is placed within the body.2

ثُمَّ جَعَلْناهُ نُطْفَةً فِي قَرارٍ مَكِينٍ ثُمَّ، خَلَقْنَا النُّطْفَةَ عَلَقَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْعَلَقَةَ مُضْغَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْمُضْغَةَ عِظاماً فَكَسَوْنَا الْعِظامَ لَحْماً ثُمَّ أَنْشَأْناهُ خَلْقاً آخَرَ فَتَبَارَكَ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنُ الْخَالِقِينَ ‎﴿١٤﴾

Then We placed him in the form of a drop in a secure place. Then We turned the drop into a blood substance and We turned the blood clot into a flesh, then We created bones and We covered flesh over the bones then We created another creation, hence God is blessed, the best of the creators.3

The other creation after the creation of the body in the aforementioned verse is the creation of the spirit which is the reality of the human being. This spirit can attain good qualities and nearness to God which is not a physical reality but a spiritual one.

What Is a Spiritual Journey?

A spiritual journey is a journey made in the spirit, that is, the spirit can attain good qualities and nearness to God, and the improvement of the good qualities in the spirit can be reflected in the good deeds of people. That is, those who have good qualities do their best to perform good deeds.

When Does the Spirit Leave the Body?

The spirit of each human being has been embedded in his body and when death comes, the spirit will leave the body forever. 

هُوَ الَّذي خَلَقَكُمْ مِنْ طينٍ ثُمَّ قَضى‏ أَجَلاً وَ أَجَلٌ مُسَمًّى عِنْدَهُ ثُمَّ أَنْتُمْ تَمْتَرُونَ

He is [God] who has created you out of clay, then He has fixed a term [of your life] and [the knowledge of] the specified time is with Him. Yet you are doubtful.4

You can see the verse from Surah Shams5 which states that each spirit has been given discernment of what is right and wrong—this will help remind the readers that God has given each spirit this inner knowledge but then it is up to them to act upon it.

Does our spirit leave our body when we are in deep sleep?

When human beings sleep, the spirit is also separated from their body even though this separation is not a full and complete separation contrary to the state of death when the spirit will completely be separated from the body and leaves it forever. 

وَ هُوَ الَّذي يَتَوَفَّاكُمْ بِاللَّيْلِ وَ يَعْلَمُ ما جَرَحْتُمْ بِالنَّهارِ ثُمَّ يَبْعَثُكُمْ فيهِ لِيُقْضى‏ أَجَلٌ مُسَمًّى ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِما كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُون

And He is the One who takes your spirit during the night and He knows what you do during the day, then He awakens you therein until the specified time is to be completed, [ so you live until the specified certain time of your death], then you will be returned to Him and He will inform you concerning that which you used to perform.6

Hence before the death of every human being, all of his deeds affect his spirit. The spirit receives qualities based on the deeds man performs and there is an inseparable relationship between his deeds and his spirit that surpasses death.  When the Day of Judgment (Qiyamah) comes, the reality of deeds will be displayed as if it has been written in a book in detail.7

وَ كُلَّ إِنسانٍ أَلْزَمْناهُ طائِرَهُ في‏ عُنُقِهِ وَ نُخْرِجُ لَهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيامَةِ كِتاباً يَلْقاهُ مَنْشُورا

[The human being’s deeds are with him and] We attached the deeds of every human being to his neck and We will bring it forth for him [like] an opened book. [17:13]

Therefore, when a human being refrains from sins and strives to perform good deeds, he is preparing the ground to attain good qualities. These attempts are practical and useful steps towards a spiritual life and prosperity.

Awakening Tips for Your Spiritual Journey

Several tips should be taken into consideration with regards to the spiritual journey as follows:

Paying Attention to Spirituality

Receiving information about spirituality and the Hereafter is the first step of the spiritual journey. Man should come to know that the life of the world is not eternal and he will leave the world sooner or later. Thus, he should pay attention to the life of the Hereafter and get ready to leave the world and pave the way to a good eternal life. God, the All-Compassionate, invites mankind to heed His signs and warnings; hence, He criticizes the servants who are neglectful and ignore His signs and those who do not observe His laws.

وَ كَأَيِّنْ مِنْ آيَةٍ فِي السَّماواتِ وَ الْأَرْضِ يَمُرُّونَ عَلَيْها وَ هُمْ عَنْها مُعْرِضُون

And there are many signs in the heavens and the earth which pass by, but they neglect [and turn a blind eye to them].8

God, the All-Merciful, does not permit man to ruin the life of the Hereafter nor turn a blind eye to the Hereafter, so He uses different methods to awaken him from negligence so that he becomes humble and follows the path of guidance. Therefore, God warns the believers lest they should be like the Jews who have a deep wish to live a long life to attain the temporary benefits of the world. This is why God advises the believers to be humble when they see God’s signs:

أَلَمْ يَأْنِ لِلَّذينَ آمَنُوا أَنْ تَخْشَعَ قُلُوبُهُمْ لِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَ ما نَزَلَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ وَ لا يَكُونُوا كَالَّذينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتابَ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَطالَ عَلَيْهِمُ الْأَمَدُ فَقَسَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَ كَثيرٌ مِنْهُمْ فاسِقُون

Is it not time for the believers for their hearts to be humbled to God’s remembrance and the truth which has been sent down, lest they should be like those who were given the Book before but the span of time was too long for them so their hearts hardened? And [you should know that] most of them are transgressors [neglecting the truth].9

Therefore, those who like to have a spiritual journey and gain the rewards of the Hereafter should heed God’s warning. Those who turn deaf ears to God’s warning only deceive themselves and lose the rewards of God. One of the reasons that people neglect the life of the Hereafter is that they prefer the life of the world and do not think that they will be resurrected. 

بَلْ تُؤْثِرُونَ الْحَياةَ الدُّنْيا

No, you prefer the life of the world [and neglect the Hereafter].10

Fear of God:

Fearing God and being humble before His commands are of the key features that help believers in their spiritual journey. It will be very hard for those who do not honor God and His signs to prosper. This is why God criticizes them so that they honor Him:

ما لَكُمْ لا تَرْجُونَ لِلَّهِ وَقاراً

What is wrong with you! Why do you not hold God in awe?11

The hearts of those who honor God humble before Him and they stand in awe of Him; so they do not break His law. They do not obey their worldly desires nor do they succumb to the temptations of Satan.

وَ أَمَّا مَنْ خافَ مَقامَ رَبِّهِ وَ نَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوى‏

But whoever stood in awe of his Lord and refrained [his] spirit from caprice [will prosper].12

Man is always tested by his worldly desires and the temptations of Satan, but those who honor God do not succumb to sins and temptations. It is true that resisting temptations and worldly desires is not easy but it is not impossible.

وَ أَنْ لَوِ اسْتَقامُوا عَلَى الطَّريقَةِ لَأَسْقَيْناهُمْ ماءً غَدَقا

And if they exercise patience in [the straight] path, We will provide them with pleasant water [and guide him].13

And also God says:

وَ الَّذينَ جاهَدُوا فينا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنا وَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنين

But those who strive to please Us, We will surely guide them to Our paths and indeed, God is with the righteous.14

These verses demonstrate God’s promise towards those who strive to be on the right path and God is the fulfiller of promises.

Conclusion

Most of the people in the world seek to attain a spiritual life, so they need to know what spirituality is. Most of the new religions created by people consider spirituality as something related to the mind but the Quran and other divine religions separate spirituality from physical things. They believe that spirituality is a matter of the spirit. Those who desire to lead a spiritual life should know that two elements have a key role on their journey, that is, they should stand in awe of God and they should not adhere to the worldly life.



References

  1. Quran 15:29 (Foroutan).
  2. Al-Mizan, vol. 12, p. 154.
  3. Quran 23:12-14 (Foroutan).
  4. Quran 6:2 (Foroutan).
  5. Quran 91:7-10 (Foroutan).
  6. Quran 6:60 (Foroutan).
  7. Majma‘ al-Bayan vol. 6, p. 622; al-Mizan vol. 13, p. 53.
  8. Quran 12:105 (Foroutan).
  9. Quran 57:16 (Foroutan).
  10. Quran 87:16 (Foroutan).
  11. Quran 71:13 (Foroutan).
  12. Quran 79:40 (Foroutan).
  13. Quran 72:16 (Foroutan).
  14. Quran 29:69 (Foroutan).
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Dr.Behrouz Foroutan
Dr.Behrouz Foroutan
Dr. Behrouz Foroutan is a scholar, author, and international lecturer in Islamic studies. He has been involved in scripture translation and its commentary for approximately two decades now but he put most of his focus on translating the Qur’an and its commentary in English in a way that makes it easier for the reader to understand, without losing its credibility. The product of that was books on spirituality, beliefs, and a new English translation of the Qur’an and its commentary in 12 volumes.

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