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Do Our Souls Exist Before Our Bodies?

24 January, 2017
Q Where do our souls come from? I know they live on after the death of our bodies, but are they also in existence before we are born?


Asalamu Alaikum,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.

Dr. Shabir Ally addresses this question in the video below:


Aisha Khaja: So, Dr. Shabir, the question that we have, it has several parts. Maybe I’ll start with the first part. Is it true that Islam teaches about the pre-existence of the soul?

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Dr. Shabir Ally: In classical books, yeah. This is commonly presented like this. The soul pre-existed and God gathered all of the souls in the land of the souls. And then, eventually put them in human bodies, as we have now.

And it is even said in the hadith that when the embryo develops to a certain extent—some interpretation of the hadith [is] 40 days old, some four months old—then the angel comes and breathes the soil into the baby.

And that’s how we, you know, we have this body-soul dualism. That’s classical.

Aisha Khaja: OK, so then, does this mean, do you teach, so the viewer goes on to ask, do you teach that all souls were created an adult before their earthly life?

But then, God erases the memory from the souls with the one exception that God leaves the idea in our minds that God exists?

Dr. Shabir Ally: Well, the questioner here is asking for clarification. Do we believe that? But obviously when you think of the question, you realize the difficulty with the classical belief. It would mean then that though this was normally taught, yeah, that we had this pre-existence.

And then, God asked {alastu birabbikum} [“Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?”] in the seventh chapter of the Quran in the 172 verse. And people said {bala shahidna}: they confessed. And this is repeated in sermons many times with the basic idea that the soul had already pre-existed.

Also, in the 33rd chapter of the Quran it is mentioned that God offered up the responsibility to everything around us. And everything demurred from accepting that responsibility, the amana, as the Quran puts it, except for human beings.

Human beings accepted that amana, or trust. And we turned out in the end to be wrongdoing and even ignorant. So, all of this points to pre-existence.

But the idea of that pre-existence becomes problematic because it would mean that we have no memory of that pre-existence. And we are being told ok, then you don’t have any memory just God just put it like that.

So, you’re in this earth only to remember from your previous existence that God is one. And you’ll be questioned by God if you turn away from that belief in the oneness of God.

What I would say to that is that today with the advances of science, we do not think of a separate soul indwelling the human being that pre-existed the human self. We see that whatever human personality that develops within us to be very organic and related very much to the human brain.

So, it would be better to think of the angel giving the breath into the human baby, and that developing into the human personality that we have now.

And so, all of those verses and the hadith can be interpreted in the light of this to say that the human soul is what develops from within after the initial spark from the angel. And that is what we expect will survive after death.

I hope this helps answer your question. Please keep in touch.

Walaikum Asalam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

The Concept Of The Soul In Religion And Science?

Conversion of the Soul

Bread for My Soul