And they will ask you concerning the Ruh (soul), say; it is from the Command of my Lord, and I (Allah) have not given you knowledge (of it) except a little. (17:85)
The Ruh commonly translated as soul is a special non-physical spark of extremely refined light which Allah causes to enter the human physical shell. It was never a part of the universe. It does not die and does not enter the body of any other creature upon the death of the individual.
Just as how a tiny spark can glow or become a big flame, so too the Ruh can grow in the body and permeate all the cells of the person. When the light of the soul reaches all the cells the person will begin to have real "religious experience" called in the Holy Qur'an Al Yaqeen, and translated as certainty.
But in order to do so there must be the right condition in the body; just as how the flame can only burn if it gets oxygen and breeze. On the other hand if it is covered with carbon dioxide it will go out.
For the human being the permissible things are the ingredients to make the light of the soul spread and the prohibited things are like the carbon dioxide to the fire. When the light of the soul is prevented from reaching the cells of the body, the body will burn in the Hell Fire.
The mission of life is to allow the light of the soul to spread. Prophet Muhammad (pboh) is reported to have said:
Verily, Allah created the elements of man in darkness, then He infused unto them His Light. He who received the light and made use of it received the right guidance, and he who erred was led astray.
He also used to pray as follows:
O Allah, let there be light in my heart, in my sight, in my hearing, on my right side, on my left side, in front of me and behind me. Let there be light in my nerves, in my blood, in my flesh in my hair and in my limbs. O Allah make me light.
The body is made from earth. Allah says:
He it is Who created you from clay, and then decreed a stated term (for you). (6:2)
Our mission in life is, on one hand, to decorate our bodies with beautiful colors and designs, just as the potter takes a piece of clay (ceramic) and shapes and decorate it. On the other hand we are ordained by the Lord of the worlds to polish and shine it, just as the worker will take a piece of stone (metal) and polish it and shine it till it becomes a beautiful diamond or some other expensive ornament.
Our mission in life is to change our small piece of earth which (i.e. our bodies) into another piece resembling a beautiful jewel. Perhaps, it is in this context Allah says in the Holy Qur'an:
The day the earth will be changed into another earth. (14:48)
The goldsmith takes the piece of metal which is a piece of stone taken from the ground, heats it, beats it, makes designs on it and finally produces a beautiful piece of jewel. So too, the human being can accept the trials of the world as the process for refining the personality. If we can withstand the heating and beating (trials of life) and emerge successful, we will be able to absorb the Light of the Lord inside of us and become a jewel in the presence of man and a gem for the Hereafter.
And the earth will shine with the Light of the Lord. (39:69)
There are personalities of bygone times who were able to polish their pieces of the earth, to such an extent, that they are today called saints. Their bodies were not different from ours, but the life style made them outstanding. They submitted to the Lord as He ordained, and when their neighbors, families and friends were enjoying the material life they were toiling (in the night) to improve their relationship with the Creator, and in the day they were humbly submitting to His commands.
Believers are expected to work ceaselessly by upholding the Islamic principles of submission, to polish and brighten their souls so that the light of them can penetrate the cells of the bodies and make them bright. Allah says:
Allah is the Protector of those who have faith; from the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into light. Of those who reject faith their patrons are the evil ones; from the light they will lead them forth into the depth of darkness. They will be the companions of the fire. They will dwell therein forever. (2:257)
With pain and suffering, with trials and tribulations, with the numerous challenges of life, the believer undertakes the journey; all the time hoping for Allah's Grace and praying that the Light of the Lord will ultimately reach his heart. Along with these programs of activities he prays sincerely as follows:
O our Lord, perfect our light for us, and grant us Forgiveness, for surely, You have power over all things. (66:8)
May the Gracious and Merciful Lord bless every believer, fill his or her heart with light, instill in his personality humility, and fill his mind with sincerity, so that he will live and love for the sake of Allah alone. May He cause every one of us to leave this world believing in His Oneness.