Belief In The Angels
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ فَاطِرِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ جَاعِلِ الْمَلَائِكَةِ رُسُلًا أُولِي أَجْنِحَةٍ مَّثْنَى وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ يَزِيدُ فِي الْخَلْقِ مَا يَشَاء إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (١:٤٥)
Gratitude is for God only, Creator of the heavens and the earth, He who has made the angels as messengers, with two, three or four wings. He increases His creation according to His will. Indeed, God has power over all things. (35:1)
The beings through whom the Almighty sends down His directives for His creation are called angels. The Quran uses the word المَلائِكَة (al-malaikah) for them, which is a plural of the word مَلَك (malak), and the word مَلَك (malak) itself has sprung from مَلاَك (malak). The word means “a messenger”. In the above quoted verses, the Quran itself has alluded to the fact that the word malaikah has been chosen for them to connote this very meaning. Consequently, it is evident from the Quran that it is through the angels that communication between this world and the one beyond it is established, and the Almighty is running the affairs of this world through them. The way this is done is that whatever directive they receive from the Almighty is implemented by them as His obedient subordinates. Their own intention or exercise of authority is not involved in this process in any way. They are an embodiment of obedience and are busy all the time in glorifying Him and in celebrating His praises and never disobey Him in the slightest of way:
وَالْمَلآئِكَةُ وَهُمْ لاَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ يَخَافُونَ رَبَّهُم مِّن فَوْقِهِمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ (١٦: ٤٩-٥٠)
And they are not defiant to the slightest and fear their Lord, who is above them and do exactly as they are bidden. (16:49-50)
While explaining the reasons for which man has been asked to profess belief in the angels, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
An inseparable part of faith in divine books and in prophets is faith in the angels. Without believing in the angels the channel between God and His prophets is rendered ambiguous and unclear. This ambiguity not only conceals an important step in the means of communicating guidance and knowledge but is also responsible in leading mankind astray in matters of divine guidance. Mankind has always acknowledged that there is a God and has also conceded that if there is a God then He should inform them of His likings; however, when He does not come before us face to face and we are not able to directly view Him, then the question arises about the means through which He communicates His guidance and directives to His creatures. If for this purpose, He selects certain outstanding individuals, who are called prophets and messengers, then the same question also arises about them: How does He communicate His directives to them? Does He come face to face with them or adopts some means for this purpose? The answer to this question is that the means through which God communicates with His creation is wahi (divine revelation), which He sends down through His angels, in particular, the exalted angel, Gabriel. These angels are the noblest and most superior of God’s creatures. They have the ability to directly acquire wahī from the Almighty … it is because of this strong connection of the angels with prophets and divine revelation that in order to profess faith in the prophets of God and in His books, it is essential that faith be professed in them as well. They are entrusted with the responsibility of communicating between God and His prophets and messengers and viewed thus they are essential as they are the only creatures which are able to have equal communication with both this world and the one beyond it. Because they are made from light, they are able to bear the glow and radiance of God and because they have been created they are also able to maintain communication with human beings. Except for them, no creature can attain this level of nearness with the Almighty. Hence it was deemed necessary that besides professing faith in prophets and messengers, faith should also be professed in messengers who can mediate and communicate between God and His messengers.
The responsibilities of the angels which the Almighty has mentioned in the Quran are the following:
1. They implement the directives of God among His creation:
تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ مِنْ كُلِّ أَمْرٍ(٩٤ :٤)
In that [night] descend the angels and the Spirit by the permission of their Lord with commands in all affairs. (97:4)
2. Just as they descend with the directives of God, they also ascend upwards to be in the presence of God:
تَعْرُجُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ إِلِيْهِ فِي يَوْمٍ كَانَ مِقْدَارُهُ خَمْسِيْنَ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ (٧٠: ٤)
The angels and the Spirit ascend towards Him in a Day the measure of which [according to your calculation] is fifty thousand years. (70:4)
3. They reveal the messages of God to His prophets:
يُنَزِّلُ الْمَلآئِكَةَ بِالْرُّوحِ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ عَلَى مَن يَشَاء مِنْ عِبَادِهِ أَنْ أَنذِرُواْ أَنَّهُ لاَ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ أَنَاْ فَاتَّقُونِ (٢:١٦)
He sends down the angels with the revelation of His directive to those among His servants whom He chooses to warn people: “There is no god but Me: therefore fear Me.” (16:2)
عَلَّمَهُ شَدِيدُ الْقُوَى ذُو مِرَّةٍ فَاسْتَوَى وَهُوَ بِالْأُفُقِ الْأَعْلَى ثُمَّ دَنَا فَتَدَلَّى فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَى فَأَوْحَى إِلَى عَبْدِهِ مَا أَوْحَى (٥٣: ٥-١٠)
He is taught by one who is powerful and mighty. He stood on the uppermost horizon; then, drawing near, he came down within two bows’ length or even closer, and revealed to his servant that which he revealed. (53:5-10)
4. They write down and preserve the words and deeds of human beings:
وَإِنَّ عَلَيْكُمْ لَحَافِظِينَ كِرَامًا كَاتِبِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ مَا تَفْعَلُونَ (٨٢: ١٠-١٢)
Whereas [appointed] over you are guardians, noble scribes. They know what you do. (82:10-12)
5. They descend with glad tidings and punishment for people:
وَلَقَدْ جَاءتْ رُسُلُنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ بِالْبُـشْرَى قَالُواْ سَلاَمًا قَالَ سَلاَمٌ فَمَا لَبِثَ أَن جَاء بِعِجْلٍ حَنِيذٍ فَلَمَّا رَأَى أَيْدِيَهُمْ لاَ تَصِلُ إِلَيْهِ نَكِرَهُمْ وَأَوْجَسَ مِنْهُمْ خِيفَةً قَالُواْ لاَ تَخَفْ إِنَّا أُرْسِلْنَا إِلَى قَوْمِ لُوطٍ (١١: ٦٩-٧٠)
And our messengers came to Abraham with glad tidings. They said: “Peace be to you!” Abraham answered: “Peace be to you too!” Soon he brought them a roasted calf [to serve them]. But when he saw their hands being withheld from it, he felt strange and a little afraid of them. They said: “Have no fear; we have been sent forth to the people of Lot [to mete out punishment to them].” (11:69-70)
Another thing which is incidentally evident from the above verses is that angels can assume the form of human beings and in spite of this do not require food for their sustenance and are free from such wants.
6. They remain busy in glorifying and exalting the Lord and pray to Him for the forgiveness of those who inhabit the earth:
وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ يُسَبِّحُونَ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّهِمْ وَيَسْتَغْفِرُونَ لِمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ أَلَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ (٥:٤٢)
And the angels give glory to their Lord, celebrating His praises and seek forgiveness [from Him] for those on earth. Pay heed! Surely it is God Who is the Forgiving One, the Merciful. (42:5)
7. They take away the souls of people:
قُلْ يَتَوَفَّاكُم مَّلَكُ الْمَوْتِ الَّذِي وُكِّلَ بِكُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَى رَبِّكُمْ تُرْجَعُونَ (١١:٣٢)
Say: “The angel of death in charge of you will take away your souls. Then to your Lord shall you be returned.” (32:11)
8. They are the companions of the faithful both in this world and in the Hereafter and give them glad tidings of Paradise at their death:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ أَلَّا تَخَافُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا بِالْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي كُنتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ نَحْنُ أَوْلِيَاؤُكُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ وَلَكُمْ فِيهَا مَا تَشْتَهِي أَنفُسُكُمْ وَلَكُمْ فِيهَا مَا تَدَّعُونَ (٤١: ٣٠-٣١)
As for those who said: “Our Lord is God,” and remained steadfast on this, angles will descend to them [with the glad tidings]: “Fear not and grieve not and accept the glad tidings of the Paradise you used to be promised of. We were your companions in this world and [now] we are also your companions in the Hereafter. And here you shall be given everything you desire and everything that you ask for.” (41:30-31)
9. In the Hereafter, they shall be in the presence of God and shall be carrying His throne:
وَتَرَى الْمَلَائِكَةَ حَافِّينَ مِنْ حَوْلِ الْعَرْشِ يُسَبِّحُونَ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّهِمْ (٧٥:٣٩)
And you shall see the angels encircling the Throne, glorifying and celebrating the praises of their Lord. (39:75)
10. They shall be in charge of Hell:
عَلَيْهَا مَلَائِكَةٌ غِلَاظٌ شِدَادٌ لَا يَعْصُونَ اللَّهَ مَا أَمَرَهُمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ (٦:٦٦)
It [–Hell–] will be in the charge of stern and mighty angels shall who never disobey what God commands them and shall do exactly as they are directed. (66:6)
It is implicitly evident from the Quran that the angels shall also be in charge of Paradise and its affairs.
Besides referring to these obligations and responsibilities, the Quran has at several places negated the various erroneous concepts people had formed about them. Consequently, it was clarified that angels are not the daughters of God the way these foolish deem them to be; in fact, the angels are the near ones of God. They have attained this nearness not because they are able to have their way with God by influencing or cajoling Him but because they conform to every standard of serving and obeying Him. They cannot even take the initiative in conversing with Him unless He allows them to – what to speak of having their way with Him in such a manner. Then whatever they are asked, they reply with all due respect and always speak the truth. They can neither intercede for someone nor take any step on their own; on the contrary, they always await the directives of God and tremble with His fear:
وَقَالُوا اتَّخَذَ الرَّحْمَنُ وَلَدًا سُبْحَانَهُ بَلْ عِبَادٌ مُّكْرَمُونَ لَا يَسْبِقُونَهُ بِالْقَوْلِ وَهُم بِأَمْرِهِ يَعْمَلُونَ يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَلَا يَشْفَعُونَ إِلَّا لِمَنِ ارْتَضَى وَهُم مِّنْ خَشْيَتِهِ مُشْفِقُونَ وَمَن يَقُلْ مِنْهُمْ إِنِّي إِلَهٌ مِّن دُونِهِ فَذَلِكَ نَجْزِيهِ جَهَنَّمَ كَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الظَّالِمِينَ (٢١: ٢٦-٢٩)
They say: “The Merciful has children.” [Certainly not] He is above this! In fact [these angels] are but His honoured servants. They never take the initiative in speaking to Him and in all circumstances obey His command. He knows everything what is before them and in front of them and do not intercede for anyone save those whom He accepts, and tremble in awe of Him. And whoever of them says: “I am also a god besides God,” We shall punish Him with Hell. Thus do We reward the wrongdoers. (21:26-29)
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
Human intellect has always been curious about the spirits that live in the world beyond and so vehemently has it remained in going after them that if it has not been able to lay hands on the truth in this matter, it has even adopted the most erroneous and flawed notions about it. The soothsayers and magicians of Arabia regarded the jinn, devils and voices from the beyond to be a means to communicate with the world beyond; the astrologers of Hindustan would try to unravel the secrets of the unknown world through the paths followed by heavenly bodies. The worshippers of Chinese temples would try to contact the unknown world by means of the spirits of their forefathers. The Quran negated all these unfounded means of communication with the unknown world and regarded knowledge gained through these means to be an amalgam of truth and untruth and at the same time explained that the only reliable means of communicating with God is the angels who come to His Messengers and whatever God asks them to deliver these messengers, they do so in its original form.
(Javed Ahmed Ghamidi)
(Translated by Shehzad Saleem)
. Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, Tadabbur-i Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 423.
. Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, Tadabbur-i Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 424.
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