|Angel of Death|
|Associated religions||Islam and Judaism|
|Attributes||Archangel; psychopomp; wings; cloak.|
|Associations||Jibrāʾīl, Mīkāʾīl, and Isrāfīl (in Islam)|
|Appearance in text|
Azrael (/ - -/,; Hebrew: עֲזַרְאֵל, romanized: ʿǍzarʾēl, 'God has helped'; Arabic: عزرائيل, romanized: ʿAzrāʾīl or ʿIzrāʾīl) is the angel of death in some Abrahamic religions, namely Islam and Christian popular culture.
Relative to similar concepts of such beings, Azrael holds a benevolent role as God's angel of death; he acts as a psychopomp, responsible for transporting the souls of the deceased after their death. In Islam, he is said to hold a scroll concerning the fate of mortals, recording and erasing their names at their birth and death, similar to the role of the Malakh ha-Maveth (Angel of Death) in Judaism.: 234
Depending on the perspective and precepts of the various religions in which he is a figure, he may also be portrayed as a resident of the Third Heaven, a division of heaven in Judaism and Islam. In Islam, he is one of the four archangels, and is identified with the Quranic Malak ul-Maut (ملك الموت, 'angel of death'), which corresponds with the Hebrew-language term Mal'akh ha-Maweth (מלאך המוות) in Rabbinic literature. In Hebrew, Azrael translates to "Angel of God" or "Help from God".
Etymology and place in Judaism
The Hebrew Bible does not mention an angel by the name Azrael, nor does it appear in the rabbinic literature of the Talmuds or Midrashim. No such angel is treated as canonical in traditional rabbinic Judaism. However an angel by a similar name, Azriel (עזריאל), is mentioned in Kabbalistic literature, such as the Zohar.
Despite the absence of such a figure in Judaism, the name Azrael is suggestive of a Hebrew theophoric עזראל, meaning "the one whom God helps". Archeological evidence uncovered in Jewish settlements in Mesopotamia confirm that it was indeed at one time used on an Aramaic incantation bowl from the 7th century. However, as the text thereon only lists names, an association of this angelic name with death cannot be identified in Judaism.
After the emergence of Islam, the name Azrael became popular among both Christian and Islamic literature and folklore. The name spelled as Ezrā’ël appears in the Ethiopic version of Apocalypse of Peter (dating to the 16th century) as an angel of hell, who avenges those who had been wronged during life.
Significance in Islam
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Along with Jibrāʾīl, Mīkāʾīl, and Isrāfīl, Azrael is one of the four major archangels in Islam. He is responsible for taking the souls of the deceased away from the body. Azrael does not act independently, but is only informed by God when time is up to take a soul.
In Quran and its exegesis
Surah 32:11 mentions the angel of death. Regarding Azrael's missions and function, interpretation from several groups of modern Islamic scholars from Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in Yemen and Mauritania has issued fatwa that taken the interpretation from Ibn Kathir regarding Quran chapter Al-An'am verse 61, and a hadith transmitted by Abu Hurairah and Ibn Abbas, that the angel of death has assisting angels who helped him taking souls. According to exegesis, these verses refer to lesser angels of death, subordinative to Azrael, who aid the archangel in his duty. Tafsir al-Baydawi mentions an entire host of angels of death, subordinative to Azrael.
The eighth Umayyad Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz once reported the commentary regarding Azrael in Quran chapter As-Sajdah verse 11 Quran 32:11, that taking many lives are very easy for the angel, that in caliph's words "it is as if the entire mankind of earth were only like a dish on a plate from the perspective of Malak al-Mawt (angel of death)". Meanwhile, Al-Qurtubi has narrated from the authority of Mujahid ibn Jabr that the world being between the hands of the Angel of Death is "similar to a vessel between the hands of a human; he takes from whatever place he wants", where Mujahid described that Azrael is able to seize many souls at the same moment because God made the earth shrunk for him until it seems as if it is a vessel between his hands. A similar Marfu' Hadith (i.e., with an elevated chain of transmission) was reported by Zuhayr ibn Muhammad. When the unbelievers in hell cry out for help, an angel, also identified with Azrael, will appear on the horizon and tell them that they have to remain. Other Quranic verses refer to a multitude of angels of death.
Several modern contemporaries, such as Wahbah al-Zuhayli, and scholars from Islamic University of Madinah, Indonesian religious ministry, Saudi Islamic affair ministry, and Masjid al-Haram have compiled the classical exegesis from chapter Al-Anfal verse 50 Quran 8:50, that the angel of death has special tasks during the battle of Badr.
In Hadiths & other non-canon traditions
According to one Muslim tradition, 40 days before the death of a person approaches, God drops a leaf from a tree below the heavenly throne, on which Azrael reads the name of the person he must take with him. Al-Qurtubi narrated commentary from classical scholar, Ibn Zhafar al-Wa'izh, that Azrael, has a shape resembling a blue colored ram, has numerous eyes in numerous places, and according to Ikrimah Mawlâ Ibn 'Abbâs, a Tabi'un scholar,[Notes 1] the size of Azrael were so huge that "if the Earth were put on his shoulder, it would be like a bean in an open field". He also had 4,000 wings which consisted of two types, "wings of grace" and "wings of punishment". The "wings of punishment" are made from iron rods, hooks, and scissors. Muqatil ibn Sulayman has recorded his commentary in his commentary work, as-Suluk, the angel possessed 70,000 limbs of foot.[Notes 2]
Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, a caliph of Umayyad dynasty, has reported a narration that the angel of death (Malak al-Mawt) is armed with flaming whip. Caliph Umar also reported a narration that the angel of death was so huge that he even dwarfed Bearers of the Throne, group of angels which are known as the biggest among angels.
According to another famous narrative which was recorded by Ibn Kathir in his work, Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyā (Stories of the Prophets), God once ordered Gabriel, Mikael, Israfil, and Azrael to collect dust from earth from which Adam is supposed to be created. Only Azrael succeeded, whereupon he was destined to become the angel concerning life and death of humanity.
Relationship between Azrael and Death
Islam elaborated further narratives concerning the relation between Azrael and Death. Christian Lange mentioned that according to some scholars Azrael and Death were one entity; other exegesis scholars opined Azrael and Death were different entities, with Death as some kind of tool used by Azrael to take life.: 129
One account explains death and its relation to Azrael, representing Death and Azrael as former two separate entities, but when God created Death, God ordered the angels to look upon it and they swoon for a thousand years. After the angels regained consciousness, Death recognized that it must submit to Azrael. This opinion were shared among scholars of Islam such as Sultan ibn ‘Abdirrahman Al-‘Umairi, in his book Al-‘Uquud Adz-Dzahabiyyah ‘alaa Maqaasid Al-‘Aqiidah Al-Waasithiyyah where he adds commentary the Hadith about Death will be materialized after the judgment day in form of a Ram, which said as different entity than Angel Azrael. According to one narration, Azrael is rewarded to become the angel of death for successfully carrying the dirt of the earth from which Adam would be created.
The identification of "Death" and angel Azrael as one entity were explained in a Hadith about the fate of "Death" entity itself after the judgment day, where classical Hanafite scholar Badr al-Din al-Ayni has interpreted in that Hadith which compiled in Sahih Bukhari collection, that Death would take on the form of a ram, then placed between paradise and hell, and finally slaughtered by God himself, causing Death cease to exist, which followed by God to declare to both people of paradise and hell that eternity has begun, and their state will never end. Lange mentioned that according to some scholars, the ram in that Hadith narration is no other than the angel of death himself, while others assert, this to be death's own form in the hereafter. In other account sourced from Muqatil ibn Sulayman, Azrael and death were said as one entity as he reported the angel has number of faces and hands equal to the number of living creatures on his body, where each of those faces and hands are connected with the life of each souls in the living world. Whenever a face within Azrael body vanished, then the soul which connected with it will experience death.
Saints and prophets
A common belief holds that the lesser angels of death are for the common people, while saints and prophets meet the archangel of death himself. Great prophets, such as Moses and Muhammad are invited politely by him, but saints are also said to meet Azrael in beautiful forms.
It is said that, when Rumi was about to die, he laid in his bed and met Azrael in human shape. The belief that Azrael appears to saints before they actually die to prepare themselves for death, is also attested by the testament of Nasir Khusraw, in which he claims to have met Azrael during his sleep, informing him about his upcoming death. According to the Sufi teacher Al-Jili, Azrael appears to the soul in a form provided by its most powerful metaphors.
It is believed to resist the pulling of the soul by the angel of death by accusing him of acting arbitrarily. In that case, the angel of death returns to heaven to bring proof for following heavenly instructions.
The Islamic notion of Azrael, including some narratives such as the tale of Solomon, a hadith reaching back to Shahr Ibn Hawshab, was already known in the United States in the 18th century as attested by Gregory Sharpe and James Harris.
Some Western adaptions extended the physical description of Azrael, hence the poet Leigh Hunt depicts Azrael as wearing a black-hooded cloak. Although lacking the eminent scythe, his portrayal nevertheless resembles the Grim Reaper. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow mentions Azrael in "The Reaper and the Flowers" as an angel of death, but he is not equated with Samael, the angel of death in Jewish lore who appears as a fallen and malevolent angel, instead. Azrael also appears in G. K. Chesterton's poem "Lepanto" as one of the Islamic spirits commanded by "Mahound" (Muhammad) to resist Don John of Austria's crusade. In The Smurfs, the cat of the evil wizard Gargamel is called Azrael.
- Angels in Islam
- Azriel (disambiguation)
- Baron Samedi, personification of Death in Haitian Vodou
- Death (personification)
- Destroying angel (Bible)
- Dumah (angel)
- List of angels in theology
- Punishment of the Grave
- Saureil, angel of death in Mandaeism
- Santa Muerte
- Thanatos, the personification of Death in Greek mythology
- According to the narrator, Ikrimah, he saw this narration from non-canonical source which he named the "scroll of Seth".
- Muqatil ibn Sulayman were neglected by numbers of Islamic scholars, such as Abu Hanifa (d. 150 H/ 767 CE) who criticised his theology, Ibn al-Mubarak (d. 181 H/ 797 CE) who criticised his methodology (particularly that he did not quote Hadith with chains of transmission), and Wakee ibn al-Jarrah (d. 197/ 812 CE) who criticize Muqatil as lying in his narration. Ibn Hajar in particular quotes the following from him: "Two disgusting opinions came to us from the east: Jahm the negator [of God’s attributes] and Muqatil the anthropomorphist." Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali stated that the early scholars (as-salaf) rejected Muqatil's views after they became known after his debate with Jahm. However, more recent scholars has argued while Muqatil are not trustworthy, his theology as antrophomorphist are falsely attributed, as Ibn Abi al-Izz (d. 731), a follower of Ibn Taymiyyah, argued that al-Ash'ari's material originated from the Mu'tazila and/or must have been tampered with. Contemporary Saudi scholar Abdullah al-Ghunayman, author of the commentary on Ibn Taymiyyah's Al-Aqidah Al-Waasitiyyah, argues that he could not find anything he would consider anthropomorphic from Muqatil, arguing that to be reliable, ones views must be taken from one's own works, and not from the works of an opponent. Al-Ghunayman says "Mushabbih" has become a catch word to accuse one's opponents because of their different views.
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حدثنا عمر بن حفص بن غياث ، حدثنا أبي ، حد; فيقولون : نعم هذا الموت ، وكلهم قد رآه ، ثم ينادي : يا أهل النار ، فيشرئبون وينظرون ، فيقول : هل تعرفون هذا ؟ فيقولون : نعم هذا الموت ، وكلهم قد رآه فيذبح ثم يقول : يا أهل الجنة ، خلود فلا موت ، ويا أهل النار خلود فلا موت ، ثم قرأ ; Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "On the Day of Resurrection Death will be brought forward in the shape of a black and white ram. Then a call maker will call, 'O people of Paradise!' Thereupon they will stretch their necks and look carefully. The caller will say, 'Do you know this?' They will say, 'Yes, this is Death.' By then all of them will have seen it. Then it will be announced again, 'O people of Hell !' They will stretch their necks and look carefully. The caller will say, 'Do you know this?' They will say, 'Yes, this is Death.' And by then all of them will have seen it. Then it (that ram) will be slaughtered and the caller will say, 'O people of Paradise! Eternity for you and no death O people of Hell! Eternity for you and no death."' ثنا الأعمش ، حدثنا أبو صالح ، عن أبي سعيد الخدري رضي الله عنه قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : يؤتى بالموت كهيئة كبش أملح فينادي مناد : يا أهل الجنة ، فيشرئبون ، وينظرون ، فيقول : هل تعرفون هذا ؟
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