(badan, jism, jasad)

Muzaffar Iqbal and Naseer Ahmad

This entry is regarding human body for which the Qurʾān uses three nouns: jism, jasad, and badan.

Definitions and Usage

The Qurʾān uses jism, its plural ajsām, and jasad to refer to the human body, the physical structure of a human being. In addition, badan is used once (Q 10:92) to denote Firʿawn’s dead body (see below). The majority of lexicographers consider jism and jasad to be synonyms, meaning the entire human body along with its limbs (Azharī, Tahdhīb; Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ; Fayyūmī, Miṣbāḥ, sub j-s-d and j-s-m); both can also be used for the body of a beast, a camel, and the like (Tahdhīb, Miṣbāḥ), and for any other species (Fayrūzābādī, Qāmūs) of large size (Tahdhīb, Miṣbāḥ, Qāmūs). Others point out subtle differences (see below). The verbal forms jasama and jasada both refer to “the gathering together of a thing (tajammuʿ al-shayʾ)” and both are used for the human body (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, sub jīm-sīn wa mā yuthallithuhumā). Various parts of the body are mentioned numerous times; for these,see Limbs and Organs.

Jism: Jism and its plural ajsām are used once each in Q 2:247 and Q 63:4 respectively. Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Khalīl al-Farāhīdī (100-175/718-791), the author of the earliest Arabic lexicon, al-ʿAyn, says jism denotes the body (al-badan) and limbs (aʿḍāʾuh) of a human, camel, beast and [any creature] with imposing physical constitution (min al-khalq al-jasīm)... the adjective jusām is used in the same way as jasīm ( “big, corpulent, large”); the noun jusmān denotes the whole body of a man (bāb al-jīm wal-sīn wal-mīm). Abū Bakr Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan Ibn Durayd (223-321/838-933) and Abū al-Ḥusayn Aḥmad Ibn Fāris (d. 395/1004) both generalize the definition and say jism is used for the body of any rational being (Jamhara; Maqāyīs, sub j-s-m). Abū al-Ḥusayn al-Qāsim b. Muḥammad b. al-Mufaḍḍal al-Rāghib al-Aṣfahānī (d. 502/1108) says jism is “whatever possesses length (ṭūl), breadth (ʿarḍ), and depth (ʿumq). Any part of a jism is also called jism, no matter how many times and how small one divides these parts” (Mufradāt).

Jasad: Jasad is used four times (always in the indefinite accusative form, jasadan), referring twice (Q 7:148; 20:88) to the Calf of the Children of Isrāʾīl; once to the human body (Q 21:8); and once (Q 38:34) in the variously interpreted verse, and indeed We tested Sulaymān and set upon his throne a body (jasadan; see below). Lexically, “jasad is that which has neither intellect nor the ability to discern (lā yaʿqil wa-lā yumayyiz); indeed, the meaning of jasad is simply the body (juththa) (Zajjāj, Maʿānī, sub Q 7:148). The Calf of the Children of Isrāʾīl is “called jasad (Q 7:148; 20:88), although it did not eat or drink, because it produced a sound, or because [jasad as used here] is a substitute for ʿijl…, or because of elision from dhā jasad” (“possessor of a body”) (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, sub j-s-d). Al-Rāghib says badan and jasad are synonyms, but badan is used [to indicate] size whereas jasad is used to refer to the color of a body. That is why a colored piece of cloth is called thawb mujassad (Mufradāt). “Jasad is a colored body (jism dhū lawn), that is why the term does not apply to water and air” (Bayḍāwī, Tafsīr, sub Q 21:8).

Badan: The root b-d-n is used twice in the Qurʾān: badan (Q 10:92) and budn (Q 22:36). Lexically, badan is defined as “the body” (jism, Ibn Durayd; Farābī; jasad, Jawharī, Rāghib); “the trunk,” i.e. the body without the head, arms, and legs (Farāhīdī, ʿAyn; Ibn Sīda, Muḥkam; Fayyūmī, Miṣbāḥ; Fayrūzabādī, Qāmūs); and “the top of the body” (ʿAskarī, Furūq). It is also used for a torso-length armor plate (Farāhīdī, ʿAyn), “worn between the chest and navel, thus called because it is placed on the badan, [whereas] jasad is the whole body of a human; proof for this is that if someone’s limbs are cut, it is said that a part of his jasad has been cut and not part of his badan. It can be said that effectively both nouns have overlapping meanings… badan is the upper, thicker part of the body, the fattening of the body is called baduna [which is a verb] with badīn as its adjective. Al-budn is camels that are fattened for sacrifice. Then this usage became frequent until it came to refer to any large animal sacrificed by stabbing (naḥr), whether fat or lean” (ʿAskarī, Furūq, al-farq bayn al-jasad wal-badan).

Al-Rāghib considers badan a synonym of jasad, but explains their different customary usage:

Badan is jasad, but badan is used [to indicate] size whereas jasad is used to refer to a body’s color. That is why a colored piece of cloth is called thawb mujassad, a fat woman is called imraʾa bādin wa badīn, and sacrificial animals are called al-badana because of their fatness…It is said that in the verse Today We shall save you with your body (bi-badanika) (Q 10:92), badan is a synonym for jasad. Some say this refers to the armor breastplate (al-dirʿ), as the breast-plate is [also] called badana because it is on the body—much as the sleeve of a shirt is called an “arm” (yad) and its front and back are called al-ẓahr and al-baṭn. In the saying of the Most High, And We have made the sacrificial animals (al-budn) for you among rituals of Allah (Q 22:36), budn is the plural of badan, meaning that which is offered (allatī tuhdā) [for sacrifice]. (Mufradāt, sub b-d-n)

Bodily Creation, Life, Death, and Resurrection

The first human body was created from earth variously called turāb (dust; Q 18:37; 22:5; 30:20; 40:67), ṭīn (clay; Q 6:2; 7:12; 17:61; 23:12; 32:7; 38:71, 76), ṭīn lāzib (sticky clay; Q 37:11), ḥamaʾ masnūn (altered mud; Q 15:26, 28, 33), and ṣalṣāl (resounding clay; Q 15:26, 28, 33; 55:14) (see Ādam; Burial; Clay), taken from all parts of the earth, which accounts for the varying colors of human beings (Tirmidhī, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān, wa min Sūrat al-Baqara, rated ḥasan ṣaḥīḥ; Aḥmad, ḥadīth Abī Mūsā al-Ashʿarī, 32:353 §19582; Abū Dāwūd, al-Sunna fīl-Qadar). Abū Isḥāq al-Zajjāj (d. 311/923) holds that ṭīn, ṭīn lāzib, ḥamaʾ masnūn, and ṣalṣāl all refer to one basic substance—dust (turāb)—which is the origin of clay: “Allah created ṭīn from turāb, and then transformed that into dry resounding clay (ḥamāʾ masnūn)” (Maʿānī, sub Q 55:14). Abū al-Muẓaffar Manṣūr b. Muḥammad al-Samʿānī (d. 489/1015) and Fakhr al-Dīn Muḥammad b. ʿUmar al-Rāzī (543-606/1148-1209) both offer similar explanations in their commentaries on Q 55:14, He created human being from dried clay, like [that of] earthen vessels. The body thus created became a living being when Allah Most High blew spirit into it (Q 15:29; 32:9; 38:72). From this first human was created his partner (Q 4:1; 39:6; Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī and Rāzī, sub Q 4:1 and 39:6; see Ādam; Creation; Humans), specifically from Ādam’s rib (Bukhārī, aḥādīth al-Anbiyāʾ, khalq Ādam, ṣalawāt Allāh ʿalayhi wa dhurriyyatihi; Muslim, al-riḍāʿ, al-waṣiyya bil-nisāʾ; see Women). From this first couple, Allah Most High spread upon the earth a multitude of men and women (Q 4:1).

All but one of the subsequent human bodies have come into existence through the intermingling of male and female fluids (Q 76:2; 86:6-7) in “three darknesses” (fī ẓulumāt thalāth, Q 39:6)—glossed by the Companion Ibn ʿAbbās (3bh-68/619-688), as well as by the Successors Mujāhid b. Jabr (d. ca.104/722) and ʿIkrima (d. 105/723-24), as being the placenta (mashīma), womb (raḥm), and abdomen (baṭn) of the mother (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 39:6) (see Birth; ʿĪsā, upon him peace). The exceptional birth of ʿĪsā, upon him peace (Q 19:16-26), a sign unto mankind (Q 19: 21), is likened to the creation of Ādam, upon him peace (Q 3:59), in that both are manifestations of the Absolute Power of Allah, Who created Ādam without a father and mother; his wife, Ḥawwāʾ, from a male, without a female; ʿĪsā from a female, without a male, and all the rest from males and females (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr, sub 3:59).

The Qurʾān describes the course of the embodied human life from inception in the womb to birth, growth, old age, and death (Q 15:26; 16:4, 70; 18:37; 22:5; 23:12-16; 35:11; 36:77-79; 40:67; 53:46; 75:37; 76:2; 80:19-22; 95:4) as well as the return of the body to earth from which it was originally created (Q 3:59; 18:37; 22:5; 30:20; 35:11; 40:67): You have no other deity but Him. He brought you forth from the earth (Q 11:61); Thereof We created you, and thereunto We return you, and thence We shall bring you forth a second time (Q 20:55); and And Allah has brought you forth from the earth; then He will return you into it, and will bring you forth [on the Day of Resurrection] (Q 71:17-18) (see clay; earth).

Certain stages in the creation of the human body are described in Q 23:12-14: And indeed We created Man out of an extract of clay; then We made him into a droplet (nuṭfa) in a safe depository; then We made this droplet into congealed blood (see ʿalaqa); then We made this congealed blood into an embryonic lump (muḍgha, lit. “a thing like chewed flesh”); then We made the embryonic lump into bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then We made him into another kind of creation—Most Blessed is Allah, the Best of Creators! This creation is vividly explained by the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace:

The [components of] creation of each one of you are collected in the womb of his mother for forty days; they then become a clot of blood (ʿalaqa) for an equal duration [of forty days]; then a lump of flesh (muḍgha) for a similar period [of forty days]. Then an angel is sent, who breathes its spirit into it and who is enjoined to inscribe four things: his provisions, his lifespan, (variant in Muslim includes: his works,) and whether he will be of the wretched (shaqī) or of the blessed (saʿīd)…

Bukhārī, Qadar, fīl-qadar; Muslim, Qadar, kayfiyyat khalq al-ādamī fī baṭn ummih wa-kitābat rizqih wa-ajalih wa-ʿamalih wa-shaqāwatih wa-saʿādatih; etc.

The human body begins its earthly journey in a state of weakness but endowed with senses: And Allah brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers knowing nothing, but He gave you hearing, sight, and heart so that you might give thanks (Q 16:78). These faculties are granted to human beings so that they can distinguish between good and evil, and so that they may be thankful to Allah for His bounties, without associating with Him other gods (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr). Thus born in a state of weakness, human beings gain strength, which dwindles over time: Allah is the One Who created you in a state of weakness; then after weakness He gave you strength, then after strength He made you weak and old. He creates what He wills; He is All-Knowing, All Powerful (Q 30:54). Those who reach extreme old age lose what they once knew (Q 22:5)—their creation is reversed; and he whom We grant long life, We reverse him in creation (Q 36:68), in a sense, they are returned to the state of infancy (Yaḥyā b. Salām, Ṭabarī, Tafsīrs; Jaṣṣāṣ, Aḥkām), whereby their strength is replaced with weakness and their youth with senility (Samarqandī, Baḥr). Human bodies feel hunger, have passions, experience heat and cold, and need nourishment; their Sustainer provides for all their needs (Q 2:212; 20:132; 34:24; 35:3).

Despite a common origin, human beings are diverse with respect to their bodies; some are granted stronger bodies—like the people of ʿĀd , whom Allah Most High increased amply in stature (Q 7:69), which most exegetes understand as a reference to their gigantic bodies (Samarqandī, Baḥr; Thaʿlabī, Kashf; Samʿānī, Baghawī, Tafsīrs, Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf, sub Q 7:69). Granting of knowledge and increase in body is a divine prerogative, as demonstrated in the Qurʾānic response to the demand of certain elders of the Children of Isrāʾīl who asked one of their Prophets to appoint a king for them. Their Prophet replied, “Indeed Allah has raised up Ṭālūt as your king”—a man whom Allah has increased in knowledge and body (jism) (Q 2:247). Ṭalūt was much taller than the rest of his people (cf. Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī; Samʿānī; Rāzī). The Israelites objected on the grounds that he did not have as much wealth as they did. In response, they were told that it is Allah’s sovereign choice to bestow His dominion upon whomsoever He wills; for Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing (Q 2:247), for kingship is not inheritable; it is in the Hands of Allah; He grants it to whosoever He wills from His creation (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub 2:247). Some live longer than others, but every living being (nafs) must taste death (Q 3:185; 21:35; 29:57) (see Death and the Dead), whereupon the human body, now a corpse, is to be buried with prescribed rites and procedures, a practice taught to human beings when one son of Ādam slew his brother out of envy (cf. Q 5:31; see Burial; Two Sons of Ādam).

Human beings will be bodily resurrected on the Day of Resurrectionthe Day they rush out of their graves as if racing towards a signpost (Q 70:43); and although in this world some may think Allah will not assemble his bones (Q 75:3) and mockingly set forth for Us a parable, and, forgetting his own creation, say, “Who will give life to these bones when they have rotted away and become dust?” (Q 36:78), they will surely be reassembled, as the Divine response unambiguously states: Say: He Who created them in the first place will bring them back to life (Q 36:79). Muḥammad b. Muḥammad Abū Manṣūr al-Māturīdī (d. 333/ca.945) cites this response in support of the belief in bodily Resurrection, for whoever ponders over the first creation knows that it is within Divine power to recompose bones after they have crumbled, since He created them in the first place (Taʾwīlāt, sub Q 75:3). All human beings will meet their Lord “barefoot, naked, and uncircumcised’”, the Prophet said. His wife ʿĀʾisha (7bh-57/623-677), Allah be well-pleased with her, asked him, “O Messenger of Allah, will male and females be together, and will they be looking at one another?” He replied: ‘O ʿĀʾisha, the matter will be too grave for them to be looking at one another’” (Muslim, Janna wa-ṣifat naʿīmihā, fanāʾ al-dunyā wa bayān al-ḥashr yawm al-qiyāma; Bukhārī, Riqāq, kayf al-ḥashr). The raising of the bodies after the sounding of the second trumpet is vividly described in another hadith: “Allah will send down water from the sky, and bodies will grow as vegetation grows” (Bukhārī, Tafsīr, yawma yunfakhu fīl-ṣūri fa-taʾtūna afwājan; Muslim, Fitan, mā bayn al-nafkhatayn). (see Agriculture; for the state of human bodies in the Hereafter, see Hell; Paradise). Many exegetes consider Q 95:4, truly We created human being in the most beautiful form, to refer to the perfection, economy, beauty, functionality, and harmony of the human body (see the Tafsīrs of Mujāhid, Samʿānī, Ṭabarī, Qurṭubī; Samarqandī, Baḥr). “In the most beautiful form means, ‘one who walks upright and is not bent over, has a tongue that can speak distinctly, and has hands and fingers by which they can grip’” (Samarqandī, Baḥr) (see Beauty).

The Need for Bodily Sustenance as a Proof of the Humanity of Prophets

Q 21:8 asserts the corporeal humanity of prophets: We never sent [as Our messengers] before you [O Muḥammad] any but men to whom We sent revelation. So ask the people of remembrance if you do not know. And neither did We make them bodies that did not eat food, nor were they immortal (Q 21:7-8). Abū al-Layth Naṣr b. Muḥammad b. Ibrāhīm al-Samarqandī (d. 373/983) explains:

We never sent before you any but men means that angels were not sent to [humanity] with a Message (bil-risāla) and that messengers have always been men. People of remembrance means those who were given the Torah and Injīl.(…) And neither did We make them bodies that did not eat food means ‘We did not create Messengers with bodies which did not eat or drink; rather, We made them bodies with spirits, and they ate and drank.’ He [Allah Most High] said jasadan and not ajsādan because it is a singular indicating a plural. It is said that it means ‘We did not make them possessors of bodies which do not eat,’ because they [unbelievers] had said [in Q 25:7] “What sort of Messenger is this who eats food and goes about in the market places? (Q 21:7).” (Baḥr)

Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (543-606/1148-1209) says this verse (Q 21:8) is a response to the objection raised by the unbelievers against the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, “he is nothing but a man like you” (Q 23:33). It has been made clear, he writes, that sending humans as Messengers is the custom of Allah, and being mortal did not hinder them from performing their task because of the miracles granted to them. Since this has been established for previous Messengers, al-Rāzī reasons, it must also be true for the Prophet Muḥammad, upon him blessings and peace, given the miracles granted to him. Thus, his being human in no way constitutes a valid basis for any objection to his being a true Messenger (Tafsīr, sub Q 21:7). Q 5:75 asserts the humanity of ʿĪsā and his mother Maryam, upon them peace, on the basis of their need to eat food in order to sustain their bodies; furthermore, eating implies the need to void the digested food. This refutes claims of divinity for them, because it is unintelligible to conceive divinity for anyone with such needs; Allah is independent of and in no need of anything ((Jaṣṣāṣ, Aḥkām; Samarqandī, Baḥr; Ibn Abī Zamanīn, Tafsīr; Māwardī, Nukat; Rāzī, Tafsīr, sub Q 5:75).

The Bodies of Hypocrites (Q 63:4)

Bodies are doomed if the heart is blinded and sealed (Q 2:7; 7:101; 10:74; 22:46; 30:59; 47:24), as is the case with the hypocrites, who when you see them, their bodies please you, and when they speak you listen to their speech; yet they are like propped-up timbers… (Q 63:4). Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (224-310/839-923) considers this verse to be addressed to the Prophet Muḥammad, upon him blessings and peace: “O Muḥammad, when you see these hypocrites, you wonder about their bodies; they are created upright and their form is made beautiful, and when they speak, you listen to their speech…that resembles the logical discourse of humans…yet there is no good in them, no understanding, no knowledge, they are forms without spirits, shapes without intellect” (Tafsīr). “They are likened to propped-up timbers because they neither hear nor have intellects; they are corporeal forms (ashbāḥ) without spirits, bodies without minds” (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr). The disease of the hypocrites (see Hypocrisy and Hypocrites;Unbelievers) is said to inhere in their hearts (Q 2:10)—and if the heart is diseased, the entire body is unsound, the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said: “Verily in the body there is a piece of flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted. Verily it is the heart” (Bukhārī, Īmān, faḍl man istabraʾa li-dīnih; Muslim, Musāqāt, akhdh al-ḥalāl wa-tark al-shubuhāt). It is not the outward state of the human body but what is in the heart that is of importance in the sight of Allah: “Allah does not look at your bodies (ilā ajsādikum) nor at your physical appearance (ilā ṣuwarikum); but He looks at your hearts” (Muslim, kitāb al-birr wal-ṣila wa-l-ādāb, taḥrīm ẓulm al-muslim wa khadhlihi wa iḥtiqārihi wa damihi wa ʿirḍihi wa mālihi).

Firʿawn’s Body

At the point of drowning, the Firʿawn (Pharaoh) called out: “I believe that there is no god but the One in Whom the Children of Isrāʾīl believe, and I am also one of those who submit” (Q 10:90). This proclamation of faith was rejected as coming too late, for until then he had been rebellious, and had been among those who spread corruption (Q 10:91) and as per Divine Custom (Sunnat Allāh), such profession of belief is of no avail once one is in the pangs of death (sakarāt al-mawt) (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr), as repentance is not accepted from those who do evil deeds till, when death confronts one of them, he says, “truly now I repent,” nor from those who die as disbelievers (Q 4:18; cf. 6:158; 40:84-85). After he drowned, Firʿawn’s body was brought out of the water as a sign (see Signs of Allah): Today We shall deliver you in your body (bi-badanika) so that you may be a sign unto those who will come after you; for truly many people are heedless of Our signs (Q 10:92). Early commentators, such as ʿAbd Allāh b. Shaddād (d. ca.81/700), Mujāhid b. Jabr (d. ca.104/722), and Qatāda b. Diʿāma (d. 117/735), hold that badan in this verse is a synonym of jasad. This is supported by most exegetes (Ibn Qutayba, Gharīb al-Qurʾān; Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī; Ibn Abī Ḥātim; Naḥḥās Maʿānī; Māturīdī, Taʾwīlāt; Samarqandī, Baḥr; Makkī, Hidāya). Thus badan here denotes Firʿawn’s souless body which was cast onto the raised ground (najwa) so it can be the sign of his drowning (Abū ʿUbayda, Majāz, sub Q 10:92); a lesson for later generations (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr) and to prove that he was not a god (Māturīdī, Taʾwīlāt); it was a body without spirit (lā rūḥ fīh) (Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Samʿānī, Baghawī, Tafsīrs, Thaʿlabī, Kashf, Wāḥidī, Wajīz).

The exegete and Hadith master Ibn Abī Ḥātim cites a gloss by Abū Ṣakhr [Ḥumayd b. Ziyād al-Kharrāṭ al-Miṣrī (d. 189/805), a truthful (ṣadūq) narrator], wherein he says bi-badanika means bi-dirʿika, that is, ‘We shall deliver you with your breast-plate’ (Tafsīr), meaning Firʿawn’s encrusted breastplate—famous for its jewels and pearls—was preserved along with his body to help identify him, because some of the Children of Isrāʾīl  refused to believe that Firʿawn had been drowned, and had begun to acknowledge Pharaonic claims to immortality. Thus Allah Most High caused the body of Firʿawn to be thrown up onto an elevated terrain (najwa)—“looking red, as if he were a bull” (Ṭabarī; Qurṭubī)—so that the Israelites could see it (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr; Thaʿlabī, Kashf; Samarqandī, Baḥr; Samʿānī, Tafsīr; Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar; Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr; Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf, sub Q 10:92). However, some early authorities declare the breastplate gloss of badan “spurious and meaningless” (Akhfash, Maʿānī; Naḥḥās, Iʿrāb; cf. Qurṭubī, Shawkānī), although Ibn Kathīr asserts “all the glosses are mutually compatible” (Tafsīr).

The “Body” in Q 38:34

The exact nature of the “body” (jasad) mentioned in Q 38:34, and We certainly tested Sulaymān and placed on his throne a jasad, is variously interpreted. It is included among the anonymous mentions (Mubhamāt, q.v., see Anonymous Mentions) of the Qurʾān by both Badr al-Dīn Ibn Jamāʿa (639-733/1241-1333) and Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī (849-911/1445-ca.1505) (cf. their Ghurar and Mufḥimāt, sub Sūrat Ṣād; also Suyūṭī, Itqān, Type 70). Nevertheless, since the exegetical literature deals with the nature of the jasad in this verse at length, a brief summary is given to provide the range of opinions held by the exegetes over the centuries. Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (224-310/839-ca.922) encyclopedically lists various opinions of previous scholars about the jasad in this verse, many relating in one way or another to a jinn) or devil (shayṭān; see Satan(s))—variously named Ḥabqīb, Āṣaf, Āṣir, and Ṣakhar—who took possession of Sulaymān’s  ring—which is said to have been the locus of his power and ability to rule (see below). This devil then sat on his throne (Tafsīr). Other exegetes mention one or more of the following five opinions about the jasad placed on the throne, some giving their own preference, either by omitting what they consider unsound or rating the narrations (e.g., see Tafsīrs of Ibn Abī Ḥātim; Baghawī; Bayḍāwī; Qurṭubī; Ibn al-ʿArabī, Aḥkām; Māwardī, Nukat; Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf; Ālūsī, Rūḥ). The following summary is primarily based on the accounts by Burhān al-Dīn al-Kirmānī (d. 505/1111) in his Gharāʾib al-tafsīr and Rāzī in his Mafātīḥ al-ghayb:

  1. It was Sulaymān’s stillborn, half-formed child;
  2. The jasad refers to a variously-named jinn or devil who sat on the throne of Prophet Sulaymān, upon him peace, during the period of Sulayman’s trial;
  3. It was Sulaymān himself, weakened either by some sickness or because Allah had cast upon him a debilitating fear which stripped him of his power;
  4. It was his vizier (al-Qurṭubī: his scribe, kātib), Āṣif (or Āṣaf) b. Barkhiyā, who sat on the throne during Sulaymān’s trial;
  5. It was the Prophet Sulaymān’s son, whom Sulaymān was raising in the clouds, because he feared a plot against him by the devils, then the son was cast down on his throne as a dead body, he realized his mistake and then he repented.

Each of these opinions has received detailed scrutiny. Mujāhid (d. ca.104/722) says it was a devil named Āṣif; al-Ṭabarī cites diverse reports which give various names for the devil or the jinn who sat on the throne in the form of a human. He also adds more details to the story. Abū al-Layth al-Samarqandī (d. 373/983) rejects the second on the a priori grounds that Allah the All-Wise does not permit devils to sit on the thrones of Prophets (Baḥr), but al-Samʿānī (d. 489/1095) says “most exegetes” (akthar al-mufassirīn) support the second: “the jasad placed on the throne of Sulaymān was a jinn called Ṣakhr;” both Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Qurṭubī (d. 671/1273) and Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Muḥammad al-Shawkānī (1173-1250/1760-1834) accept this claim (Tafsīrs of Samʿānī and Qurṭubī; Shawkānī, Fatḥ). Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ (471-544/1078-1149)—who prefers the first opinion—held the second to be incorrect, since devils are not given such powers and Prophets have immunity against such events (ʿIyāḍ, Shifā 2:381). Al-Naḥḥās (d. 338/ca.950) (Iʿrāb), al-Thaʿlabī (d. 427/1035) (Kashf), al-Bayḍāwī (Tafsīr), Abū Ḥayyān (Baḥr), al-Ālūsī, Ibn ʿĀshūr (1296-1393/1879-1972) (Tafsīr) and ʿAbd Allāh b. Muḥammad al-Amīn al-Shinqīṭī (1323-1394/1905-1974) (Aḍwāʾ) all favor the first interpretation.

Several scholars point out tell-tale signs of typically unreliable Israelite reports in the explanations involving the devil, the jinn, and the ring. Al-Qāḍī Ibn al-ʿArabī (d. 543/1148) writes, “Had books not been filled with these accounts, we would not have cited them” (Aḥkām, 1:43 sub Q 2:102). Al-Nasafī (d. 701/1301) also declares all explanations involving the ring, the devil and the jinn, and worship of an idol in the house of Sulaymān, upon him peace, to be false tales drawn from Israelite sources (Tafsīr). Abū Ḥayyān al-Andalūsī (d. 745/1344) says, Allah Most High “mentioned the stories of Dāwūd, Sulaymān, and Ayyūb so that the Prophet might find solace in them (li-yataʾassā bihim), and He also mentioned the nearness (zulfā) and lofty stations (makān) they held in His sight. Therefore, Allah would not have mentioned as examples such persons to whom the exegetes have ascribed things which are unspeakable, and some of which are unintelligible—such as a devil taking the form of a Prophet with such accomplishment that people truly took him as a Prophet; if this were so, there would remain no trust in the deputation of Prophets—these are no more than tales borrowed from heretics and sophists, and we seek Allah’s protection from them for our minds and intelligence” (Baḥr). Al-Ālūsī (1217-1270/1802-1854), likewise, marshals multiple arguments against these interpretations, and insists that had there been any such secret in the ring Allah Most High would have directly mentioned it in the Qurʾān. Furthermore, linguistically (contrary to certain interpretations—see above), the word jasad is not used for a jinn and Kaʿb is known to have narrated from certain Israelite textual sources that cannot be relied upon (Rūḥ). 

Purification and Beauty

Ritual purity of the body is a legal prerequisite of prayer (see Ablution; Ritual Purity and Impurity), it is “the key to prayer” said the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace (Tirmidhī, Ṭahāra, mā jāʾa anna miftāḥ al-ṣalāt al-ṭahūr; graded ḥasan ṣaḥīḥ; Aḥmad, 2:292§1006). Abū Hāmid Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Ghazālī (450-505/1058-1111) observes that purification of the physical body from ritual impurity, filth, and suchlike is only the first level of puritication. The second is the purification of the limbs from committing sins and evil deeds. The third is to purify the heart of blameworthy character and vulgarity. The fourth is to purify the soul of [concern for] anything other than Allah, and this is the level of purification of the Prophets, Allah’s blessings and peace be upon them” (Ghazālī, Ihyāʾ, Asrār al-ṭahāra, 1:464-65).

Bodies need to be approrpirately covered with gender-specific clothing. ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbbās, Allah be well-pleased with them both, relates that the Messenger of Allah, upon him blessings and peace, “cursed men who imitate women and women who imitate men” (Bukhārī, al-libās, al-mutashabbihūna bi-l-nisāʾ wa-l-mutashabbihātu bi-l-rijāl); thus, it is not appropriate for men to wear garments (libās) and ornaments (zīna) which belong exclusively to women and vice versa (Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-bārī sub hadith). One should carry one’s body with dignity.

Certain beautification of the body is encouraged: O Children of Ādam, take your adornment at every place of worship; and eat and drink, but be not excessive; truly He does not love the prodigal (Q 7:31). The eminent early exegete Abū al-Ḥajjāj Mujāhid b. Jabr (d. ca.104/722) said: “Take your adornment (zīnatakum) here means clothes which cover (al-thiyāb al-sātira) one’s body”, and Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq b. Ghālib Ibn ʿAṭiyya al-Andalusī (481-546/1087-1151) understood adornment as the use of perfume for the Friday prayer, the tooth-stick (siwāk), changing one’s clothes, and all other things that are considered meritorious in Law, provided one does not adorn oneself out of pride (Muḥarrar). Ibn Kathīr says: “This verse and the Prophetic reports prove that it is meritorious to adorn oneself for prayer, especially on Fridays and on the day of Eid; and wearing perfume is part of adornment, as is brushing one’s teeth with a tooth stick. The best clothing is white…as the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said: ‘Wear white garments, for they are the best of your garments; and shroud your dead in them’” (Tafsīr; Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, Libās, fīl-bayāḍ; Tirmidhī, Sunan, Janāʾiz, mā yustaḥabb min al-akfān). In Q 7:26, clothing is cited as a sign of the favor of Allah Most High upon the children of Ādam, for He sent down garments for them to cover themselves and as adornment (see also Beauty;Gold and Silver). Animals are a source of material for clothing (cf. Q 16:5; 22:33; 23:21; 40:80) and oceans yield gems and metals which are worn as objects of adornment (Q 13:17, 16:14, 35:12).

The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said: “Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty” (Muslim, Īmān, taḥrīm al-kibr wa bayānuh). When asked, “What if someone likes his clothing and his shoes to be pleasing?” he replied, “Allah likes to see the mark of His benevolence on His servant” (Tirmidhī, Adab, bāb mā jāʾa inna-Llāha taʿalā yuḥibb an yurā atharu niʿmatihi ʿalā ʿabdih). The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, described the beauty of Prophet Yūsuf (after meeting him during his Night Journey and Ascension) as having ‘a half share of all beauty’ (shaṭr al-ḥusn) (Aḥmad, 19:485§12505; Ḥākim, 2:570; Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ, qawluh bāb al-miʿrāj). The Prophet himself was described by the Companions, Allah be well-pleased with them, as being the most handsome of men. Some likened the beauty of his face to that of the full moon. “His nose was fine; his face was smooth; his beard was thick; his neck was most beautiful; if the rays of the sun fell on his neck, it appeared like a cup of silver mixed with gold; the expanse between his shoulders was wide; he was neither tall nor short; and his hair was neither straight nor curly” (Tirmidhī, Shamāʾil, mā jāʾa fī khalq Rasūl Allāh). The Qurʾān itself mentions his heart, chest, back, tongue, and several more parts of his noble body (see Beauty; Muḥammad, upon him blessings and peace).

Wearing perfume is a Prophetic practice. The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said: “Made beloved to me from your world are women and perfume, and the delight of my eyes (qurrat ʿaynī) is in prayer (ṣalāt)” (Aḥmad, Musnad, Musnad Anas b. Mālik, 19:305 §12293; Nasāʾī, Sunan, ʿIshrat al-nisāʾ, ḥubb al-nisāʾ; Bayhaqī, Sunan, al-raghba ilā-l-nikāḥ 7:124). On the other hand, strong odors clinging to the body are disliked, and in particular the smell of garlic, which the Prophet did not eat because it was offensive to Jibrīl, upon him peace. The Prophet’s host in Madina, Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī (d. 52/672), Allah be well-pleased with him, reported that “When the Prophet was given some food, he would eat of it and send me what was left. Once he sent me a dish and I realized that he had not eaten from it because it contained garlic. I asked him whether it was unlawful to eat garlic. He said: ‘No, but I dislike eating it because of its smell.’ [Abū Ayyūb] said to him: ‘I dislike what you dislike’” (Muslim, Ashriba, ibāḥat akl al-thūm). Other reports include onions and leeks in the same category, and prohibit anyone who smells of them to come to mosques “until [their] odor dies” (Bukhārī, Ṣifat al-ṣalāt, mā jāʾa fīl-thūm al-nayy wal-baṣal wal-kurrāth; Muslim, Masājid, nahy man akala thūman aw baṣalan aw kurrāthan aw naḥwahā; see Food and Drink). Unkempt hair is disliked. It is related that once the Prophet was in the Mosque when a man came in with disheveled hair and beard. He motioned with his hand that he should be sent out to groom his hair and beard. The man did so and when he returned, the Prophet said, “Is this not better than that one of you should come with his head disheveled, as if he were a devil (shayṭān)?” (Mālik, Muwaṭṭaʾ, Shaʿr, iṣlāḥ al-shaʿr).

Moderation and Rights of the Body

Zuhd literature outlines techniques for disciplining the body (see Abstinence) in order to achieve a balanced and health physical and spiritual life. The body is understood as having a limited functional independence, habits, and desires, which can be disciplined against vices such as gluttony and lust—the two to which al-Ghazālī devoted a whole book in the third quarter (called Rubʿ al-muhlikāt, “The Paths to Perdition”) of his magnum opus, Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn (“Revival of the Religious Sciences”). He considers the belly to be the well-spring of desires and the locus of diseases (see Love, Desire, Lust):

The greatest of the mortal vices for a human being is the appetite of the stomach. Because of this, Ādam, upon him peace, and Ḥawwāʾ were expelled from the abode of permanence into the abode of humiliation and poverty. They had been forbidden [to approach] the Tree, but their desire overcame them and they ate from it, and their private parts became apparent to them (Q 7:20, 22; 20:121). Indeed, the belly is the well-spring of desires and source of diseases and mortal disasters. (Kasr al-shahwatayn, Breaking the Two Desires, Book 23 of Iḥyāʾ, 5:284)

The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said: “The son of Ādam can fill no container worse than his own belly. A few mouthfuls suffice to keep his back straight. If he cannot keep to this, then let him fill one third with food, one third with drink, and one third with breath” (Tirmidhī, Sunan, Zuhd, mā jāʾa fī karāhiya kathrat al-akl; Ḥākim, Riqāq; Bayhaqī, Sunan, Adāb, karāhiya kathrat al-akl).

The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, emphasized moderation and fulfillment of the rights of the body. ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAmr b. al-ʿĀṣ (d. 63/683) relates:

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to me, “ʿAbd Allāh, I am told that you fast all day and pray all night.” I replied, “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.” He said, “Do not do so; fast and eat; pray and sleep. Your body has rights over you. Your eyes have rights over you. Your wife has rights over you. Your guest has rights over you. It is enough for you to fast three days every month; and since every good deed is multiplied by ten, that is equivalent to fasting the whole year.” But I remained obdurate, so it was made hard for me. I said, “O Messenger of Allah, I have the strength for it.” He said, “Then undertake the fast of the Prophet of Allah, Dāwūd, upon him peace, and do not exceed that.” I said, “What was the fast of the Prophet of Allah, Dāwūd, upon him peace?” He said, “Half the year” (meaning: alternate days). When ʿAbd Allāh grew old, he used to say, “If only I had accepted the counsel of the Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him peace!” (Bukhārī, Ṣawm, ḥaqq al-jism fīl-ṣawm)

Legal Status and Rights

Islamic legal texts hold that human beings do not own their bodies (Ibn Qudāma, Mughnī 9:108; Ibn Māza, Muḥīṭ 9:227); rather, the body is a trust (amāna) given to each individual and various parts of the body will testify for or against them at the Final Judgment (cf. Q 24:24; 36:65; see Limbs and Organs for the testimony of the limbs). According to the consensus of scholars, a living human body is pure in itself (Ibn Qudāma, Mughnī 1:37; Ibn Qudāma, Kāfī 1:157; al-Mawṣilī, Ikhtiyār 1:18). With regard to the polytheists, who are said to be unclean (najas) in Q 9:28, O you who believe, the polytheists are surely unclean (najas), the majority view holds that the verse refers to their lack of maintaining ritual purity through ablution as believers do (cf. Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī; Qurṭubī; Rāzī), or, it refers to their polytheism (shirk; Qurṭubī), but it does not mean that their bodies are inherently impure (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr). Furthermore, it is argued that had their bodies been impure, the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, would not have received the delegation of Banū Thaqīf in his Mosque (al-Mawṣilī, Ikhtiyār 1:18). Two reports which are apparently contrary to this view are discussed by Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī (d. 1014/1605) discusses in his Mirqāt al-mafātīḥ: the first is a saying of Ibn ʿAbbās, Allah be well-pleased with him and his father, who said, “polytheists are impure in themselves”; the second is a saying of al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (21-110/642-728), who said that whoever shakes hands with the polytheists must perform ablution. According to al-Qārī, these statements are hyperboles, their intent being to encourage distancing oneself from the polytheists (Mirqāt, Mukhālaṭat al-junub, faṣl 1, 2:434).

There is a difference of opinion regarding the legal status of the human body after death. The predominant view in the Mālikī, Shāfiʿī, and Ḥanbalī schools is that the dead bodies of both believers and unbelievers are pure. They argue that Q 17:70 (Indeed We have conferred dignity on the children of Ādam…) is general [in its ruling] and does not specify a believer or an unbeliever; and since they are pure while living, it follows that by virtue of this bestowal of honor (takrīm) they should not be considered impure after death. The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said, ‘do not consider your dead impure’, and he kissed ʿUthmān b. Maẓʿūn after he died, and tears were running on his cheeks. Had the dead been impure, he would not have kissed him in that state; and had the dead been impure, we would not have been ordered to wash them, since whatever is impure in itself remains so, for washing does not avail in making it pure. (Māwardī, Ḥāwī 3:8; also Shirbīnī, Iqnāʿ 1:29; ʿIllīsh, Sharḥ 1:88, Dusūqī, Ḥāshiya 1:53, Ibn Qudāma, Mughnī 1:34)

The Ḥanafī school distinguishes between Muslims and unbelievers in determining the legal status of the dead body. The general Ḥanafī position holds that a human corpse is impure, but once the body of a deceased believer has been ritually washed, it becomes pure owing to the dignity conferred upon human beings; but the corpse of an unbeliever remains impure (al-Kasānī, Badāʾiʿ al-ṣanāʾiʿ 1:299-300; al-Mawṣilī, al-Ikhtiyār 1:15; Ibn Nujaym al-Miṣrī, al-Baḥr al-rāʾiq 2:188).

Alterations to the Body

Since human body is part of divine creation, the general prohibition to alter the creation of Allah applies to the body as well, for it is an act incited by Satan, who said: “Verily, of Your servants I shall most certainly take an appointed portion, and shall lead them astray and fill them with vain desires; and I shall command them and they will cut off the ears of cattle, and I shall command them and they will alter Allah’s creation” (Q 4:118-119). Ibn Masʿūd (d. 32/652 or 653) and al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (21-110/642-728) gloss the phrase they will alter Allah’s creation as a reference to tattooing and other artificial means of altering the body (Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar). The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said, “Allah has cursed the woman who artificially lengthens her own hair or another’s hair, the one who has her hair lengthened, the one who tattoos herself or another, and the one who gets herself tattooed (Bukhārī, Libās, al-waṣl fīl-shaʿr).” Those who use wigs, artificially create spaces between their teeth (al-mutafallijāt), and remove hairs from her or someone else’s face (al-nāmiṣa, al-mutanammiṣa)  are in the same category (Bukhārī, Libās, al-waṣl fīl-shaʿr; Muslim, al-Libās wal-zīna, taḥrīm fiʿl al-wāṣila wal-mustawṣila wal-wāshima wal-mustawshima wal-nāmiṣa wal-mutanammiṣa wal-mutafallijāt wal-mughayyirāt khalq Allāh), for such deeds are alterations of the Creation of Allah (taghyīr li-khalqi-Llāh) and its tampering (tazwīr) (Nawawī, Sharḥ Muslim). 


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See also

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