Islamic view of angels
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Belief in Angels (Arabic: ملائكة malāʾikah; singular: ملاك or مَلَكْ malāk) is one of the six Articles of Faith in Islam. They are regarded as celestial beings who, unlike men, are not endowed with ability to make decisions and instead perform different tasks of God. The imagination of angels in Islam developed from the Quran and was influenced by other religions like Judaism and expanded by tafsir (exegesis) and the hadith literature.
Concept of angels
Angels take the role of intermediaries performing different tasks of God. They are (mostly) said to be created out of light. Unlike humans or jinn, they have no biological needs and therefore no lower desires predicted by the natural world. Angels in Islam are believed to be able to take human form, this is known in the Quran and Hadith literature where Jibrail came in human form to announce to Mary, mother of Jesus, and to Muhammad about reciting the message that is the divine will of God, known to Muslims as the Quran. They may be described as creatures of pure emotion. It has been said that angels lack free will since they are known from the Quran to strictly obey God's commands; but different schools of Islam debate the extent of free will which angels have not as beings of endowed with human reason but as beings who may error, and if they are endowed with free will they are not subject to temptation. The implications of a well-known hadith concerning an argument that took place between the angels of Mercy and the angels of Punishment about, what to do with a notorious murderer who repented of his crimes but died before reaching a pre-destination that would have ensured his forgiveness. This is narrated in Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, book 56. This can be seen in Islamic scholarly analysis which suggests the decision-making framework of angels is different from that of mankind, as their souls are composed of light rather than mud-like clay.
The astrophysicist Nidhal Guessoum in his book "Islam's Quantum Question" has pointed to modern Islamic scholars such as Muhammad Asad and Ghulam Ahmed Parwez who have suggested a metaphorical reinterpretation of the concept of angels.
Islam has no standard hierarchical organization that parallels the division into different "choirs" or spheres, as hypothesized and drafted by early medieval Christian theologians, but does distinguish between archangels and angels. Angels are not equal in status and consequently, they are delegated different tasks to perform.
- Jibra'il/Jibril/Jabril (Judeo-Christian, Gabriel), the angel of revelation. Jibra'il is the archangel responsible for revealing the Quran to Muhammad, verse by verse. Jibrail is the angel who communicates with (all of) the prophets and also for coming down with the blessings of Allah during the night of Laylat al-Qadr ("The Night of Divine Destiny (Fate)").
- Mikail (Judeo-Christian, Michael), who provides nourishments for bodies and souls. Mikail is often depicted as the archangel of mercy who is responsible for bringing rain and thunder to Earth.
- Israfil or Israafiyl (Judeo-Christian, Raphael), is an archangel in Islam who will blow the trumpet at the end of time. According to the hadith, Israfil is the angel responsible for signaling the coming of Qiyamah (Judgment Day) by blowing a horn.
- 'Azrael/'Azraaiyl/Azrail also known as Malak al-maut (Judeo-Christian, Azrael), is the angel of death. He is responsible for parting the soul from the body of the deads.
Other angels and angel groups
- The angels of the Seven Heavens.
- Hafaza, (The Guardian Angel):
- Kiraman Katibin (Honourable Recorders), two of whom are charged to every human being; one writes down good deeds and another one writes down evil deeds. They are both described as 'Raqeebun 'Ateed' in the Qur'an.
- Mu'aqqibat (The Protectors) who keep people from death until its decreed time and who bring down blessings.
- Jundullah, those who helped Muhammad in the battlefield .
- Those who 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
- 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.
- 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, the keeper of the Paradise.
- Maalik is the chief of the angels who govern Jahannam (Hell)
- Zabaniah are 19 angels who torment sinful persons in hell
- Harut and Marut are sometimes considered to be fallen angels, who taught the humans in babylon, magic.
- Azazil is sometimes considered as an angel, who was the keeper of paradise and leader of an angelic army. He is also the instrument of divine anger. Otherwise he is held for a Jinni raised to the angelic realm.
Distinction between Angels and Jinn
In addition to the angels, the Islam assumes the existence of other invisible creatures called Jinn. Besides they also belong to the supernatural creatures, they have some characteristics in common with humans and differ from the angels. Unlike angels, the Jinn are mortals and it is said, they also eat, drink, procreate, die and have desires. Furthermore, the angels belong to the celestial realm, even they can travel to other realms, if their tasks requires it, while Jinn are assumed to live either next to humans on earth or in an intermediary realm.
According to a hadith from Sahih Muslim, the distinction between jinn and angels depends on, if they are created out of fire or light:
A'isha reported that Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him) said: The Angels were born out of light and the Jinns were born out of the spark of fire and Adam was born as he has been defined (in the Qur'an) for you (i. e. he is fashioned out of clay)— Muslim 2996, also, #Sahih Muslim Vol-7, Book of Zuhd & softening of hearts, Hadeeth 7134
Meaning of angels in mysticism
Sufism also notices angels as messengers between the divine and the human realms. But additionally, angels are viewed as the original state of a soul, before it touches the earthly plane. Those who stay in heaven, remain as angels. Angels rank lower than humans, because they are, as already flawless and desireless beings, not capable to love God like humans do. Then humans die, they can return to the heavenly spheres with all deeds, experiences and thoughts accomplished on the earthen plane. Furthermore, angels can inspire the Sufi. These angelic inspirations are also related to Khidr encounters.
Iblis occupies a special position in Sufism and is often viewed as a true monotheist rather than a failed creature, because his refusal to prostrate before someone else than God and preferring to be cast out of heaven, proved his love to God without any expectations. Otherwise he is also considered as the cause of separation and attempts to prevent the development of the human spirits.
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- Stephen Burge Angels in Islam: Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti's al-Haba'ik fi akhbar al-mala'ik Routledge 2015 ISBN 978-1-136-50473-0 chapter 1.1
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