Says the Shaykh, may the mercy of Allah be on him: Our belief regarding souls (nafs, plural nufus) is that they are the spirits (ruh, plural arwah1) by which life (hayat) is maintained, and they were the first of created things. This follows from the saying of the Prophet, the blessings of Allah be upon him: The first things which Allah created out of nothing (abda'a)2 were the blessed and pure souls (al-muqaddasa, al-mutahhara) and compelled them to affirm His unity.3 Thereafter He created (the rest of creation).
And concerning the souls, we believe that they were created for eternal existence (baqa'), and not for extinction (fana'). For the Prophet has said: You were not created for extinction, but for eternal existence4 and you will only be transferred from one abode to another. Verily the souls are strangers in the earth and imprisoned in the bodies. And our belief concerning them is that after their separation from the bodies, they survive, some of them in happiness, others in torment, until Allah, in His power, causes them to return to their bodies.
(Once upon a time) Jesus, the son of Mary, said to his disciples: I tell you, forsooth, nothing rises up to heaven except what has come down from it. And Allah, glorious be His praise, says:
“And had We willed We would have raised him by their means (that is, by signs), but he clung to the earth and followed his own lust” (Qur'an 7:176).
Therefore that soul among them which is not raised to the Divine Kingdom remains forever hurled down in the burning fire (hawiya).5 And this is because both in Paradise and in Hell, there are stages (darajat and darakat)6. And the Mighty and Glorious says:
“The angels and the Spirit ascend unto Him” (Qur'an 70:4).
And He says:
“Lo! the righteous will dwell among gardens and rivers, firmly established in the favor of a Mighty King” (Qur'an 54:54-55).
And He says:
“Think not of those who are slain in the way of Allah, as dead. Nay, they are living. With their Lord they provision. Jubilant (are they)......” (Qur'an 3:169-l70).
And He says:
“And call not those who are slain in the way of Allah dead” (Qur'an 2:154).
And the Prophet said: The souls are like a collection of armed forces (junudun mujannadatun)7; those among them that are well acquainted with one another are united; while those who are not, are disunited. And Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq has said8: Verily, Allah has inculcated fraternity between souls in the World of Shadows two thousand years prior to the creation of bodies.
If our Steadfast Ones (qa'imuna), the People of the House, had been present (at that time), verily the brother who had fraternized in the World of Shadows9 would have inherited in preference to the real brother.
And as-Sadiq has said: Verily the souls meet one another in the ethereal world (al-hawa') and make inquiries10 - about one another. When a soul from the earth approaches them, the souls (in the ethereal world) say: Leave it! for it has come from an awful place. Then they ask it: What did so and so do? Whenever the returned soul said, “He is alive”, they hoped to meet him. And whenever the returned soul said that he had died, they said: He has perished, he has perished! And He, Who is Exalted above all, says:
“And he on whom my wrath cometh is lost indeed” (Qur'an 20:81).
And He says:
“As for him whose balances are light, his mother is hawiya! And knowest thou what that is? A raging fire!”11 (Qur'an 101:8-11).
The story of the world and its inhabitants is the story of the ocean, the sailor and the ship. Luqman said to his son: O my little one, verily the world is a deep sea, in which many people have perished.12 So make faith (iman) in Allah, the Mighty and Glorious, your ship in it; and the fear of Allah, your provision; and trust in Allah, your sail. And if you are saved, it will be by the mercy of Allah; and if you perish, it will be by your own sins, not because of Allah.
The most trying moments for the sons of Adam are three: the day of birth, the day of death and the day of resurrection. And Allah has greeted the Prophet Yahya (John) with peace in these moments and said:
“Peace on him the day he was born, and the day he dieth, and the day he shall be raised alive!” (Qur'an 19:15).
And Jesus has greeted himself on these occasions and said:
“Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!” (Qur'an 19:33).
And the belief concerning the spirit is that it is not a kind of body, but is a different creation, on account of His word:
“And then (We) produced it as another creation” (Qur'an 23:14).13
And our belief concerning the prophets (anbiya'), the apostles (rusul) and the Imams is that there were five spirits within them:  the Holy Spirit (ruhu'l-qudus), the spirit of faith (-iman ), the spirit of strength (-quwwa), the spirit of appetite (-shahwa) and the spirit of motion (-mudraj).14 True believers (mu'minin) possess four spirits: the spirit of faith (iman), of strength (quwwa), of appetite (shahwa), and of motion ( mudraj). The unbelievers and beasts possess three spirits: the spirits of strength, appetite and motion. And as for His saying, Exalted is He above all:
"They will ask thee concerning the Spirit (ruh). Say: the Spirit is an affair of my Lord" (Qur'an 17:85).
For verily it is a creation greater than Gabriel and Michael."15 It always accompanies the Messenger of Allah and the angels and the Imams, and it belongs to the celestial world (malakut). I shall compose a work concerning this subject, in which I shall fully comment on the significance of these propositions.16
أجمع الجمهور على أن الروح معنى يحيي به الجسد و في الأصل الصغار ان النفس جسم كثيف و الروح فيه جسم لطيف و العقل فيه جوهر نوراني (i. 5421-2)-
According to the Mishkatu'1-Anwar of al-Ghazali (ibid., 543), we have the following nomenclature: (1) ruhu'l-hassas, (2) -khayali,(3) -`aqli, (4) -dhikri (fikri), and -qudusi (or -nabawi). Browne, iv. 389.