BELIEF IN THE ANGELS

By Abu’l-Hasan “Al-Jumu`ah” magazine

 

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Belief in the angels is the second pillar of faith. “The Messenger believes in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord, and [so do] the believers. All believe in Allah, His angels and His messengers.” [2 (Al-Baqarah), 285]

 

What are angels?

 

Angels are invisible beings created from light. On the authority of `A’ishah : The Messenger of Allah sallallahu alayhe wa sallam said, “Angels were created from light, jinn were created from smokeless fire, and Adam was created from that which has been described to you [in the Qur’an].” (Related by Muslim) They do not have desires of their own, nor do they eat or drink. They are honored servants of Allah, and never disobey Him. They are perpetually in His service, in prostration, in a standing posture, or through various other forms of worship. “And those who are before Him are not scornful of worshipping Him, nor do they tire or get bored. They glorify [Him] night and day; they do not halt.” [21 (Al-Anbiya’), 19-20] “They are honored servants, who do not precede Him in speech, and they act according to His command. He knows what is ahead of them and what is behind them, and they do not intercede, except for those whom He approves. [21 (Al-Anbiya’), 26-27]

 

They have wings : “Praise be to Allah, the Originator of the heavens and the earth, the creator of angels having wings – two, three or four.” [35 (Al-Fatir), 1] However, we should not try to guess the nature or form of these wings. Certainly, there is no basis in Islam for the corrupt notion, prevalent in the West, that angels are like beautiful little girls with a pair of wings on their backs. We should be careful that our children are not exposed to those books which contain such misleading pictures, so that they do not grow up with an incorrect concept of angels. No gender is attributed to angels, nor do they procreate. Allah has denounced those who regard them as females. Indeed, to do so is the way of the disbelievers. “Those who do not believe in the Hereafter surely call the angels with female appellations.” [53 (Al-Najm), 27] The pagan Arabs, for example, called the angels daughters of Allah, in spite of the fact they themselves were disdainful of female offspring, and were so ashamed of them that they were inclined to bury their daughters alive. “Or, has He taken, out of that which He [Himself] created, daughters, and honored you with sons? And, when one of them receives tidings of that which he sets up as a likeness to [Allah] Most Gracious, his face becomes black, and he is full of rage. . . . And they consider the angels, who are worshippers of Allah, to be females. Did they witness their creation?! Their testimony shall be recorded, and they will be asked.”[43 (Al-Zukhruf), 16,17,19]

 

Prophets can see angels in their natural form. `A’ishah has narrated that the Prophet twice saw Gabriel in his natural form. (Related by Bukhari) However, ordinary human beings (i.e. non-prophets) cannot see them unless they take on a visible form. Angels can indeed materialize, and when they do so it is in a pleasant form, such as a handsome man. An example of this is found in the Qur’an [11(Hud), 69-83], where Allah sent angels to firstly give Prophet Abraham alayhis salam glad tidings of a son, and then to assist the Prophet Lot alayhis salam. Lot’s people, being homosexuals, lusted after these angels, but the Allah destroyed the depraved sinners. Also in the Qur’an [19 (Maryam), 17-21] is the incident in which the angel Gabriel came to Mary, the mother of Jesus alayhimas salam to inform her that she would miraculously give birth to Jesus. And, in the sunnah, we have the Gabriel hadith, in which Gabriel came to the Prophet sallallahu alayhe wa sallam in the form of a man, and asked him about Islam, Iman and Ihsan. This was done in public view, and its purpose was to teach the people about their religion. (Related by Muslim)

 

Angels have various duties, with each having a well-defined role. “And there is not any among us, except that he has a known position. And we are indeed the ones who are arranged in ranks [for prayer]. And we are indeed the ones who glorify [Allah].” [37 (As-Saaffaat), 164-166] They thus serve as role models for us, teaching us that specialization leads to greater efficiency. So, in the Islamic society, some must specialize in the Qur’an and its sciences, some in hadith science, others in medicine, still others in agriculture and so on and so forth, so that the Muslim community is efficient and well-balanced. Similarly, in the home, the responsibilities are divided. While the man is responsible primarily for financially supporting the family, the woman has an important role in the upbringing of the children, although she is by no means confined to only taking care of the children.

 

Only Allah knows all the details and roles of all the angels : “And none know the hosts of your Lord except He.” [74 (Al-Muddath-thir), 31] but He has told us about some of these through the Qur’an and sunnah.


Gabriel is the most distinguished of the angels, and is entrusted with carrying revelation to prophets. This included bringing the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhe wasallam, which is referred to in the following: “And it is surely the revelation of the Lord of the Worlds. The trusted spirit has brought it down to your heart, in order that you might be one of the warners, in clear Arabic speech.” [26 (Ash-Shu`araa’), 192-195] Gabriel is also called “the Holy Spirit”, as mentioned in the Qur’an. “And We gave Jesus, son of Mary, clear proofs, and supported him with the Holy Spirit.” [2(Al-Baqarah), 253] Michael is entrusted with the sustenance of creatures, and is also one of the most prominent angels.

 

It is disbelief to have hate or animosity towards any of the angels. Similarly, it is disbelief to curse them. Some wretched, ignorant individuals curse the angel of death when they are angry. It is obligatory, and in fact an essential part of faith, to respect all of the angels, and particularly Gabriel and Michael. Some Jews once came to the Prophet sallallahu alayhe wa sallam and told him that they had five questions for him, which were such that if he were to answer them all satisfactorily, they would follow him. The Prophet answered the first four to their satisfaction, and then they asked the final question; they said, “There is not any prophet except that he has an angel [assigned to him] who brings him news [from Allah], so tell us, who is your companion?” The Prophet sallallahu alayhe wa sallam replied, “Gabriel, alayhissalam.” They said, “That is the one who brings down war, fighting and punishment; our enemy. If only you had said Michael, who brings down mercy, rain and vegetation, it would have been [that we follow you]!” Then, Allah revealed a reply. “Say : Who is an enemy to Gabriel? For, it is he who has brought it down to your heart, by Allah’s leave, confirming that which was before it, and as a guidance and a mercy to the believers. Whoever is an enemy to Allah, and [to] His angels, and [to] His messengers, and [in particular to] Gabriel and Michael, then [let him know that] Allah is an enemy to the disbelievers.” [2 (Al-Baqarah), 97-98] (Related by Ahmad, Tirmidhi and Nasa’i)

 

Every human being has two angels who accompany him and record his deeds. The generous one records his good deeds, and is so named because each good deed is rewarded ten times over or even more. The recorder of evil deeds is called simply the recorder, because each evil deed counts only onefold. “And, indeed, there are over you scribes, generous and recording. They know what you do.” [82 (Al-Infitaar), 10-12] These angels record our deeds, words and thoughts. “He utters not any word except that there is with him an observer, ready.” [50 (Qaaf), 18] The system for recording of deeds is detailed in the Hadith Qudsi, narrated by `Abdullah ibn `Abbas : The Messenger of Allah sallallahu alayhe wa sallam said, regarding that which he narrates from his Lord, the Possessor of Blessings, the Exalted, “Indeed, Allah has defined the good and the evil deeds, and then explained them. So, whoever had the thought to do a good deed, but did not do it, Allah writes it for him as a complete good deed, while if he [actually] did it, Allah writes it for him as ten good deeds, [or] upto seven hundred fold, [or] up to [even] many times [more over]. And, if he had the thought to do an evil deed, but [dispelled the thought and] did not do it, Allah writes it for him as a complete good deed, while if he [entertained the thought and] acted on it, Allah writes it as a single evil deed.” (Related by Bukhari and Muslim)

 

In addition to the recording angels, we have with us other angels who protect us from whatever evil Allah wills to save us from. “He has a succession of angels in front of him and behind him, who guard him by Allah’s command.” [13 (Ar-Ra`d), 11] The succession of angels referred to here is clarified by a hadith, narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, which tells us that the angels of the day and the angels of the night succeed one another, meaning that they perform their duty in shifts. At the time of the dawn (Fajr) and `Asr prayers, both the angels of the night and the angels of the day are present. Then, the angels of the night ascend, and their Lord asks them, although He is the All-Knowing, “How did you leave my servants?” They say, “We came to them while they were praying, and we left them while they were praying.” The Fajr prayer, then, is of special blessing, and we should take great care to perform it on time, and to recite long portions of the Qur’an, for “indeed, the recitation of Fajr is witnessed.” [17 (Al-Israa), 78] i.e. it is witnessed by the angels of the night and the angels of the day. The protecting angels only leave us when we answer the call of nature and when we are have conjugal relations, and so we should recite the appropriate supplications from the sunnah prior to performing these acts. Angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog or pictures (of animate beings). (Related by Bukhari and Muslim)

 

The angel of death is entrusted with taking the souls of all creatures in the universe. [32 (Al-Sajdah), 11] There are angels who torture wrongdoers at the time of death. “If only you could see, when the angels take the souls of those who disbelieve, [the angels are] beating their faces and their backs.” [8 (Al-Anfaal), 50] Munkar and Nakeer are the two angels in charge of questioning people in their graves about their faith. Israfil will blow the Horn to mark the end of this world. There are angels who watch over Heaven and Hell. The custodian of heaven is named Ridwaan, while Maalik is the custodian of Hell. Hell has nineteen angels who watch over it. [74 (Al-Muddath-thir), 30] There are angels who welcome the believers into heaven, greeting them with peace. [13 (Ar-Ra`d), 23-24] Eight angels will carry the `Arsh, which is Allah’s greatest creation, on the Day of Judgement. [40 (Al-Haaqqah), 7]

 

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