The dictionaries of classical Arabic give various meanings of the word ‘Rooh’, including: Breath of life; soul; spirit; the vital principle (i.e. A hypothetical force to which the functions and qualities peculiar to living things are sometimes ascribed); inspiration; Revelation; essence; the Quran; joy and happiness; Mercy; Life-giving words of Allah; Prophet’s Divine Message (because of its life giving qualities); Angel; Arch-angel Gabriel.
In the Holy Quran, the word Rooh has also been used in different meanings. Please see the following references:
Rooh as Allah’s Revelation [16:2, 17:85, 40:15, 42:52]
Allah sent His Rooh (i.e. His Angel) to Mary who appeared to her in the form of a person [19:17]
Allah breathed in a chaste lady (Mary) of His Rooh [21:91, 66:12]
Alrroohu al-ameen (who brought down the Revelation) [26:193]
Roohi alqudus, (who brought down the Revelation and strengthened Jesus) [2:87, 2:253, 5:110, 16:102]
Allah strengthens the believers with Rooh from Him [58:22]
The Universal forces (Malaika) and the Divine Energy (Ar-Rooh) ascend unto Him in a Day the measure of which is fifty thousand years [70:4]
Ar-Rooh wa al-Malaika [78:38]
Al-Malaika wa ar-Rooh [97:4]
Jesus, as a Rooh from Allah [4:171]
Allah breathed into man of His Rooh. Before the Rooh was breathed into man, he has been addressed in third person (as ‘he’). After having breathed in the Rooh, man has been addressed in second person (as ‘you’) [32:9].
Allah said to Malaika to bow down to Adam When He would breathe into him of His Rooh [15:29, 38:72]. Now the question is what is this ‘Rooh’ that was breathed into man?
First of all, let us distinguish ‘Life’ from ‘Rooh’. ‘Life’ is the energy which makes various parts of living beings work and function. As long as there is ‘life’ (i.e. energy), various parts or a part of a living being can work or function. As soon as a living being exhausts or loses all of its energy (i.e. life) [like the power of a battery], all of its parts cease to work or function and that living being is dead. So death is the absence of (manifestation of) energy in a being without which it cannot work or function. As far as this ‘life’ or energy is concerned, all living beings have got it as long as they are ‘alive’. All animals and plants have got life, as long as there is any manifestation of life (i.e. energy) in them. Rooh, as it is referred to in 15:29, 38:72 and 32:9, is different from life. This (Rooh) is something because of which Malaika bowed down to Adam. Except man, there is only One Being, Allah, to whom Malaika bow down [16:49]. This suggests that Rooh is the essence (of Divine Attributes), which when breathed into man made him worthy of obeisance by Malaika. This ‘Rooh’ is like a ‘software’; you can see or experience its manifestation but you cannot touch or feel it like the body (i.e. the hardware).