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Angels (Arabic: ملائكة‎ malāʾikah; singular: ملاك malāk) are heavenly beings mentioned many times in the Quran and hadith. Unlike humans or jinn, they have no free will and therefore can do only whatGod orders them to do. An example of a task they carry out is that of testing of individuals by granting them abundant wealth and curing their illness. Believing in angels is one of the six Articles of Faith in Islam. Just as humans are made of clay, and jinn are made of smokeless fire, angels are made of light. Reality of Angels In common folklore, angels are thought of as good forces of nature, hologram images, or illusions.  Western iconography sometimes depicts angels as fat cherubic babies or handsome young men or women with a halo surrounding their head.  In Islamic doctrine, they are real created beings who will eventually suffer death, but are generally hidden from our senses. They are not divine or semi-divine, and they are not God’s associates running different districts of the universe.  Also, they are not objects to be worshipped or prayed to, as they do not deliver our prayers to God.  They all submit to God and carry out His commands. In the Islamic worldview, there are no fallen angels: they are not divided into ‘good’ and ‘evil’ angels.  Human beings do not become angels after death.  Satan is not a fallen angel, but is one of the jinn, a creation of God parallel to human beings and angels. Angels were created from light before human beings were created, and thus their graphic or symbolic representation in Islamic art is rare.  Nevertheless, they are generally beautiful beings with wings as described in Muslim scripture. Angels form different cosmic hierarchies and orders in the sense that they are of different size, status, and merit. The greatest of them is Gabriel.  The Prophet of Islam actually saw him in his original form.  Also, the attendants of God’s Throne are among the greatest angels.  They love the believers and beseech God to forgive them their sins.  They carry the Throne of God, about whom the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said: “I have been given permission to speak about one of the angels of God who carry the Throne.  The distance between his ear-lobes and his shoulders is equivalent to a seven-hundred-year journey.” (Abu Daud) They do not eat or drink.  The angels do not get bored or tired of worshipping God: “They celebrate His praises night and day, nor do they ever slacken.” (Quran 21:20)

The Number of Angels

How many angels there are? Only God knows.  The Much-Frequented House is a sacred heavenly sanctuary above the Kaaba, the black cube in the city of Mecca.  Every day seventy thousand angels visit it and leave, never returning to it again, followed by another group.

The Names of Angels

Muslims believe in specific angels mentioned in the Islamic sources likeJibreel (Gabriel), Mika’eel (Michael), Israfeel, Malik - the guard over Hell, and others.  Of these, only Gabriel and Michael are mentioned in the Bible.

Angelic Abilities

The angels possess great powers given to them by God.  They can take on different forms.  The Muslim scripture describes how at the moment of Jesus’ conception, God sent Gabriel to Mary in the form of a man: “…Then We sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.” (Quran 19:17) Angels also visited Abraham in human form.  Similarly, angels came to Lot to deliver him from danger in the form of handsome, young men.  Gabriel used to visit Prophet Muhammad in different forms.  Sometimes, he would appear in the form of one of his handsome disciples, and sometimes in the form of a desert Bedouin. Angels have the ability to take human forms in some circumstances involving common people. Gabriel is God’s heavenly messenger to mankind.  He would convey the revelation from God to His human messengers.  God says: “Say: whoever is an enemy to Gabriel – for he brings down the (revelation) to your heart by God’s will…” (Quran 2:97)

Tasks of the Angels

Some angels are put in charge of executing God’s law in the physical world.  Michael is responsible for rain, directing it wherever God wishes.  He has helpers who assist him by the command of his Lord; they direct the winds and clouds, as God wills.  Another is responsible for blowing the Horn, which will be blown by Israafeel at the onset of the Day of Judgment.  Others are responsible for taking souls out of the bodies at the time of death: the Angel of Death and his assistants.  God says: “Say: the Angel of Death, put in charge of you, will (duly) take your souls, then shall you be brought back to your Lord.” (Quran 32:11) Then there are guardian angels responsible for protecting the believer throughout his life, at home or traveling, asleep or awake. Others are responsible for recording the deeds of man, good and bad.  These are known as the “honorable scribes.” Two angels, Munkar and Nakeer, are responsible for testing people in the grave. Among them are keepers of Paradise and the nineteen ‘guards’ of Hell whose leader is named ‘Malik.’ There are also angels responsible for breathing the soul into the fetus and writing down its provisions, life-span, actions, and whether it will be wretched or happy. Some angels are roamers, traveling around the world in search of gatherings where God is remembered.  There are also angels constituting God’s heavenly army, standing in rows, they never get tired or sit down, and others who bow or prostrate, and never raise their heads, always worshiping God. As we learn from above, the angels are a grandiose creation of God, varying in numbers, roles, and abilities. God is in no need of these creatures, but having knowledge and belief in them adds to the awe that one feels towards God, in that He is able to create as He wishes, for indeed the magnificence of His creation is a proof of the magnificence of the Creator. Islam is clear on the nature of angels. The functions that the angels perform vary, one of the most prominent of these functions is their function as messengers. The angel Jibraaiyl (Gabriel) is the most important (prominent) messenger angel, as in Islam, he delivers the message of God (Allah) to theIslamic prophets. Angels cannot be seen as they are heavenly beings but that can take on different forms, including human. One well known example is when God sent the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) to Maryam (Mary) in the form of a man, as God says in the Quran:

…then We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects. —Quran, sura 19 (Maryam), ayat 17

Similarly, angels also came to Abraham (ʾIbrāhīm) in human form, and he was not aware that they were angels until they told him so. Lot (Lūṭ) also had angels come to him to warn him of the impending doom of his people. All angels praise and glorify God and they never become tired of doing this.

They celebrate His praises night and day, nor do they ever flag or intermit. —Quran, sura 21 (Al-Anbiya), ayah 20[9]

…for in the presence of thy Lord are those who celebrate His praises by night and by day. And they never flag (nor feel themselves above it). —Quran, sura 41 (Fussilat), ayah 38

There are angels standing in rows, who never get tired or sit down, and others who bow or prostrate, and never raise their heads. Abu Dharr al-Ghifari is quoted as saying:

“The Messenger of Allah (Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him) said: ‘I see what you do not see and hear what you do not hear. The heaven makes a noise like groaning, and it has the right to (or it is no surprise), for there is no space in it the width of four fingers, but there is an angel there, placing his forehead in sujood(prostration) to Allaah. By Allaah, if you knew what I know, you would laugh little and weep much, you would not enjoy your relationships with women and you would go out in the street praying to Allaah.’” —Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi, Jami` at-Tirmidhi

No angel is able to disobey God due to the way God created angels. For this reason, Islam does not teach that Iblīs or Shayṭan (the Devil or Satan) was a fallen angel, rather he was one of the jinn.

O ye who believe! save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who flinch not (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but do (precisely) what they are commanded. —Quran, sura 66 (At-Tahrim), ayah 6

The Quran also mentions that angels have qualities that may be typified by the word wings:

Praise be to Allah, Who created (out of nothing) the heavens and the earth, Who made the angels, messengers with wings,- two, or three, or four (pairs):… —Quran, sura 35 (Fatir) ayah 1

The preceding sentence does not imply that all angels have two to four wings. Most notably, archangels (namely Gabriel and Michael) are described as having thousands of wings.[citation needed] However, according to hadith collected by Muhammad al-Bukhari, Muhammad said that Gabriel had 600 wings;

Narrated Abu Ishaq-Ash-Shaibani: I asked Zir bin Hubaish regarding the Statement of Allah: “And was at a distance Of but two bow-lengths Or (even) nearer; So did (Allah) convey The Inspiration to His slave (Gabriel) and then he (Gabriel) Conveyed (that to Muhammad). (53.9-10)[13] On that, Zir said, “Ibn Mas’ud informed us that the Prophet had seen Gabriel having 600 wings.” —Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 455

The angels also accompanied Muhammad up to Jannah (Heaven) when he received commands from God. Instead of riding on an angel, Muhammad rode a creature called a Buraq whose stride spans from horizon to horizon. Angels are not equal in status and consequently they have been delegated different tasks to perform. The names and roles of some angels have been mentioned to us:

  • The angels of the Seven Heavens.
  • Hafaza, (The Guardian Angel):Jundullah, those who help Muhammad in the battlefield
    • Kiraman Katibin (Honourable Recorders), two of whom are charged to every human being; one writes down good deeds called Raqib, and the another one called Atid writes down evil deeds.
    • Mu’aqqibat (The Protectors) who keep people from death until its decreed time and who bring down blessings.
  • The angels who violently pull out the souls of the wicked,
  • Those who gently draw out the souls of the blessed,
  • Those angels who distribute (provisions, rain, and other blessings) by (God’s) Command.
  • Those angels who drive the clouds.
  • Hamalat al-’Arsh, those who carry the ‘Arsh (Throne of God), comparable to the Christian Seraph
  • Arham, those that give the spirit to the foetus in the womb and are charged with four commands: to write down his provision, his life-span, his actions, and whether he will be wretched or happy.[22]
  • The Angel of the Mountains
  • Munkar and Nakir, who question the dead in their graves.
  • Darda’il (The Journeyers), who travel in the earth searching out assemblies where people remember God’s name.
  • The angels charged with each existent thing, maintaining order and warding off corruption. Their number is known only to God.
  • Ridwan is the angel who is responsible for Jannah (Paradise)
  • Maalik is the chief of the angels who govern Jahannam (Hell)
  • Zabaniah are 19 angels who torment sinful persons in hell

These angels take no pity on punishing them as they do what the Lord has commanded them to precisely and perfectly. A verse stipulates this:

O ye who believe! save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who flinch not (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but do (precisely) what they are commanded. —Quran, sura 66 (At-Tahrim), ayah 6

The following is a Quranic verse that mentions the meeting of an angel with Mary, mother of Jesus (ʿĪsā):

Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah; —Quran, sura 3 (Ali-Imran), ayah 45

Muhammad, speaking of the magnitude of the angel Gabriel, has said that his wings spanned from the eastern to the western horizon.

Narrated Aisha: Whoever claimed that (the Prophet) Muhammad saw his Lord, is committing a great fault, for he only saw Gabriel in his genuine shape in which he was created covering the whole horizon. —Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 457

Verses in the Quran that directly name angels Gabriel (Jibreel) and Michael (Mikaa’eel) are mentioned early on the Quran in sura Al-Baqarah:

Say: Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel-for he brings down the (revelation) to thy heart by Allah’s will, a confirmation of what went before, and guidance and glad tidings for those who believe,- Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and messengers, to Gabriel and Michael,- Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject Faith. —Quran, sura 2 (Al-Baqara) ayat 97-98

Another angel, Maalik is defined in the Quran as a being who is the warden of Hell. However Maalik is not an evil angel, nor a fallen one, a notion Islam rejects, rather Maalik is merely doing what he is commanded to do by God. In Islam, Iblīs or Shayṭan (the Devil or Satan) is considered by many to be a jinn rather than a fallen angel, since he questioned God when He ordered the angels to prostrate themselves before Adam, an act that suggested he possesses free will. An alternative view holds that rather than “defying” God, Iblis was acting in a manner predetermined by God.

They will cry: “O Malik! would that thy Lord put an end to us!” He will say, “Nay, but ye shall abide!” —Quran, sura 43 (Az-Zukhruf ) ayah 77

Two other angels are also mentioned directly in the Quran: Haaroot and Maaroot (Harut and Marut):

…and such things as came down at Babylon to the angels Harut and Marut. —Quran, sura 2 (Al-Baqara) ayah 102

Several angels such as Azrael, Israfil, Munkar and Nakir are not mentioned directly in the Quran but are explained further in the hadiths of Muhammad.