The Body and the Soul

Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) discusses the relationship between the soul and the body and the consequences of the soul dominating the body and vice versa. 

The affair of the body is contemptible when it is compared with the soul. Allah says: The soul is from Your Lord’s affair (17:85). For this reason, the soul lives on forever, whereas in most cases the body turns to dust. Allah allows worms and other creatures to consume the body. Some people are proud of their bodies, but if they were to reflect on this, their pride would disappear. Once the worms have consumed the body they consume each other, until there is only one left and it dies of hunger. This shows us that death comes to everything and that Allah alone is the Living who never dies.

The knower of Allah, Sayyidi Ahmad bin ‘Alwan, said: “Whoever’s main concern in this life is nourishing their body then let them seek their reward from the worms.” Such people did not nourish their souls but instead spent their lives strengthening and nourishing their bodies. This is what people hear today: “Your bodies, your bodies – concern yourselves with your bodies – your appearance, your health, your physique!” It as is if they do not possess souls. They thus miss out on the unique attributes of the soul. The physical attributes of the body then dominate the soul. Their souls in a sense die so that their bodies are like graves before they enter their graves. Their souls are buried in their bodies before their bodies are buried in the earth.

Imam al-Haddad says:

The world of the soul is certainly better and loftier than the world of the body

And this is clear to anyone who possesses knowledge

Why have you thus spent your life striving

To serve your body and your physical form?

You have done wrong, my son, and it is only yourself that you have wronged,

And wronging the self is the worst type of wrong

Arise, may Allah guide you, from the slumber of heedlessness

And trivial pleasures and do not base your actions upon illusion

Those who take advantage of the gifts bestowed upon this Ummah, however, may receive Allah’s bounty. Their bodies are then ennobled: They lie in the earth but no creature is permitted to consume them. These bodies attain special attributes. No substances have been placed on them to preserve them, but rather their souls had a strong attachment to the Living, the Remaining and He decreed that their bodies remain. They released themselves from being restricted to their physical and carnal nature and were concerned with their souls. They thus became completely spiritual, so that their bodies were given some of the attributes of the soul. Their bodies thus resembled the soul, which cannot be consumed by worms and cannot return to dust.

Shaykh Isa al-Bayanuni said:

A body that has become dominated by the love of Ahmad:

By Allah, the earth cannot consume it

How can the earth consume it, when its heart was filled

With love for him and its mouth was filled with praise for him?

He did not say anyone who merely loves the Prophet ﷺ, but rather: “A body which has become dominated by the love of Ahmad.” When Shaykh Isa died, he was buried in al-Madinah al-Munawwarah. Every time they unearthed his grave, they found his body in the same state that it was in when he was first buried.

The hadith tell us that there are five categories of people whose bodies do not decay: the Prophets, the Martyrs, the scholars who act on their knowledge, those who memorise the Qur’an and then give the Qur’an its due and those who give the call to prayer for seven years for Allah’s sake without receiving any wage. These people’s bodies remain preserved in the earth under Allah’s care. At the first blast on the Horn, Allah causes every living thing in the heavens and earth to die. He then brings back all the bodies that had turned into earth: As We originated the first creation, so We shall bring it forth again. It is a promise binding upon Us. Truly We shall fulfil it (21:104). Then the trumpet will be blown a second time and everyone will be resurrected from their graves: Then it is blown another time and there they stand, awaiting (39:68).


This is an extract from a talk delivered in the mawlid in Dar al-Mustafa on 18th Jumada al-Akhirah 1435 / 17th April 2014.

Image: Sayyidi Habib Umar assists with the burial of Habib Muhammad, the brother of Habib Abu Bakr al-Adani bin Ali al-Mashhur. May Allah have mercy upon him.