Angels in Islam
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In Islam, angels (Arabic: ملك malak; plural: ملاًئِكة malā'ikah) are celestial beings, created from a luminious origin by God to perform certain tasks he has given them. Islam acknowledges the concept of angels both as anthropomorphic and abstract. The angels from the angelic realm are subordinates in a hierarchy headed by one of the archangels in the highest heavens. Belief in angels is one of the six articles of faith in Islam.
- 1 Corporeal angels
- 2 Abstract angels
- 3 In Ibn Abbas Mi'raj narrative
- 4 Individual angels
- 5 Sufism
- 6 Salafism
- 7 Relation to jinn
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
Angels are another kind of creature created by God, known to mankind, commonly dwelling in the heavenly spheres. Although the Quran does not mention the time when angels were created, they are generally considered as the first creation of God. According to Tabari, the angels had been created on Wednesday, while other creatures on the following days. Although not mentioned in the Quran, angels are believed to be created from a luminous substance, repeatedly described as a form of light. The probably most famous hadith regarding their origin is reported in Sahih Muslim: "The Angels were created out of light and the Jann was created out of a mixture of fire and Adam was created out of what characterizes you." Nur, the term used for the light from which the angels are created from, usually corresponds to the cold light of night or the light of the moon, contrasted to nar, which corresponds to fire or the diurnal and solar light from which the angels of punishment are said to be created of. Dividing angels into two groups created from different types of light is also attested by Tabari, Abd al-Ghani al-Maqdisi, Al-Jili and Al-Suyuti. Suyuti distinguishes in his work Al-Hay’a as-samya fi l-hay’a as-sunmya angels as created from "fire that eats, but does not drink" in opposition to devils created from "fire that drinks, but does not eat" which is also identified with the fire of the sun. Scholars also argued that there is no distinction between nur and nar at all. Although not his conclusion, Tabari argued that both can be seen as the same substance, since both pass into each other but refer to the same thing on different degrees. Asserting that both fire and light are actually the same but on different degrees can also be found by Qazwini and Ibishi. The lack of distinction between fire and light might be explained by the fact that both are closely related morphologically and phonetically. Al-Baydawi argued that light serves only as a proverb, but fire and light refers actually to the same substance. Apart from light, other traditions also mention expections about angels created from fire, ice or water.
One of the Islamic major characteristic is their lack of bodily desires; they never get tired, do not eat or drink and have no anger. As with other monotheistic religions, angels are characteristical for purity and their obedience to God. However, their constant loyalty, towards God, emphazised by some Quranic verses such as 16:49, does not necessarily imply impeccability, and the motif of erring angels is also known to Islam. Some scholars on the other hand, among Hasan of Basra as one of the first, extend their loyalty towards God to assume generall impeccability. Whose who accept the possibility of erring angels, advocate that actually only the messengers among the angels are infallible, since the Quran also describes angels as being tested. Al-Baydawi argued, that angels only remain impeccable if they not fall. Ibn Arabi stated that angels may err in opposing Adam as a vice-regent and fixing on their way of worshipping God to the exclusion of other creatures.
Angels are usually described in anthropomorphic forms combined with supernatural images, such as wings, being of great size, wearing heavenly clothes and great beauty. Some angels are identified with specific colors, often with white, but some special angels have a distinct color, such as Gabriel being associated with the color green.
Scholars debated whether human or angels rank higher. The prostration of angels before Adam is often seen as evidence for humans' supremacy over angels. Nevertheless, other hold angels to be superior, as being free from material deficits, such as anger and lust, Angels are free from such inferior urges and therefore superior, a position especially found among Mu'tazilites and some Asharites. A similar opinion was asserted by Hasan of Basri, who argued that angels are superior to humans due to their infallibility, originally opposed by both Sunnis and Shias. This view is based on the assumption of superiority of pure spirit against body and flesh. Contrarily argued, humans rank above angels, since for a human it is harder to be obedient and to worship God, hassling with bodily temptations, in contrast to angels, whose life is much easier and therefore their obedience is rather insignificant. Islam acknowledges a famous story about competing angels and humans in the tale of Harut and Marut, who were tested to determine, whether or not, angels would do better than humans under the same circumstances. Some Sufi traditions argue that a human generally ranks below angels, but developed to Al-Insān al-Kāmil, he ranks above angels. Comparable to another major opinion, that prophets and messengers among humans rank above angels, but the ordinary human below an angel, while the messengers among angels rank higher than prophets. Maturidism generally holds that angels' and prophets' superiority and obedience derive from their virtues and insights to God's action, but not as their original purity.
Angels believed to be engaged in human affairs are closely related to Islamic purity and modesty rituals. Many hadiths, including Muwatta Imam Malik from one of the Kutub al-Sittah, talk about angels being repelled by humans' state of impurity. Such angels keep a distance from humans, who polluted themselves by certain actions (such as sexual intercourse). However, angels might return to an indiviual as soon as the person (ritually) purified himself or herself. The absence of angels may cause several problems for the person. If driven away by ritual impurity, the Kiraman Katibin, who record people's actions, and the Guardian angel, will not perform their tasks assigned to the individual. Another hadith specifies, during the state of impurity, bad acitions are still written down, but good actions are not. When a person tells a lie, angels nearly are separated from the person from the stench it emanates. Angels also depart from humans when they are naked or are having a bath out of decency, but also curse people who are nude in public.
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In Islamic philosophy, some scholars held angels to be incorporeal creatures. Scholars such as Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and drew upon the Neo-Platonistic emanation cosmology, identifying the different angels in Islam with intellects, dividing the cosmos into different spheres. Al-Kindi and Ibn Sina both define angels as simple substances endowed with life, reason, and immortality. In contrast to humans, who are substances endowed with life and reason but are mortal, who is, in turn, distinguished by unreasonable but also mortal animals. Similar Qazwini assigns the angels to heavenly spheres, distinguishing them from among the animals, although both are said to possess the attribute of life. Significantly, Al-Damiri includes in his zoological works, animals, humans, jinn and even demons, but not angels.
As forces of nature or human psyche
Angels as abstract concepts belong to Al-Ghaib (the unseen). Angels here are used as expressions of natural laws. They carry the Divine command into execution. References to specific angels, like Jabra'il or Azrail, are respective leaders, with a multitude of subordinative angels, who perform for a specific function.
Qazwini portrays the earthly angels as indwelling forces of nature, who keep the world in order and never deviate from their duty. Qazwini believed that the existence of these angels could be proven by reason and the things these angels affect.
Islamic philosophy stressed that humans own angelic and demonic qualities and that the human soul is seen as a potential angel or potential demon. Depending on whether the sensual soul or the rational soul develop, the human soul becomes an angel or a demon. Angels may also give inspirations opposite to the evil suggestions, called waswās, from Satan.
The modern astrophysicist Nidhal Guessoum has pointed to modern Islamic scholars such as Muhammad Asad and Ghulam Ahmed Parwez in his book "Islam's Quantum Question" who have suggested a metaphorical reinterpretation of the concept of angels.
In Ibn Abbas Mi'raj narrative
Muhammad's encounter with several significant angels on his journey through the celestial spheres, play a major role in Ibn Abbas version. Many scholars such as Al-Tha`labi drew their exegesis upon this narrative, however it never led to an established angelology as known in Christianity.
|first heaven||second heaven||third heaven||fourth heaven||fifth heaven||sixth heaven||seventh heaven|
|Habib||Angel of Death||Maalik||Salsa'il||Kalqa'il||Mikha'il (Archangel)||Israfil|
|Rooster angel||Angels of death||Angel with seventy heads||Angels of the sun||-||Cherubim||Bearers of the Throne|
Islam has no standard hierarchical organization that parallels the division into different "choirs" or spheres 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. Jibra'il is the angel who communicates with (all of) the prophets and also descends with the blessings of God during the night of Laylat al-Qadr ("The Night of Divine Destiny (Fate)"). Jibra'il is also acknowledged as a magnificent warrior in Islamic tradition, who led an army of angels into the Battle of Badr and fought against Iblis as he tempted Jesus (Isa).
- Mikail, also spelled Mīkāl or Mīkāʾīl (Judeo-Christian: Michael), the archangel of mercy, is often depicted as providing nourishment for bodies and souls while also being responsible for bringing rain and thunder to Earth. Some scholars pointed out that Mikail is in charge of angels who carry the laws of nature. According to legend, he was so shocked at the sight of hell when it was created that he never laughed again.
- Israfil or Israafiyl (Judeo-Christian: Raphael), is the archangel of music often depicted with a trumpet, he will blow in the end time. Therefore, Israfil is responsible for signaling the coming of Qiyamah (Judgment Day) by blowing a horn.
- 'Azrail/'Azraaiyl/Azrael, is the archangel of death. He and his subordinative angels are responsible for parting the soul from the body of the dead and will carry the believers to heaven (Illiyin) and the unbelievers to hell (Sijjin).
Mentioned in Quran
- Nāzi'āt and Nāshiṭāt, helpers of Azrail who take the souls of the deceased.
- 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.
- Angels of Hell:
- 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.
- Harut and Marut, often depicted as Fallen angels who taught the humans in Babylon magic; mentioned in Quran (2:102).
- Ar-Ra'd, said to be the Angel of Thunder; mentioned in Quran (13:13). According to Tafsir al-Qurtubi: "It is said that he is the angel in charge of clouds and he drives them as ordered by Allah, and he glorifies His Praises".
In canonical hadith collections
- The angels of the Seven Heavens.
- Jundullah, those who helped Muhammad in the battlefield.
- 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, met by the Prophet after his ordeal at Taif.
- Munkar and Nakir, who question the dead in their graves.
- Ridwan, the keeper of Paradise.
- Artiya'il, the angel who removes grief and depression from the children of Adam.
- Habib, an angel Muhammad met during his night journey composed of ice and fire.
- The angels charged with each existent thing, maintaining order and warding off corruption. Their number is known only to God.
- Darda'il (The Journeyers), who travel the earth searching out assemblies where people remember God's name.
- Dhul-Qarnayn, believed by some to be an angel or "part-angel" based on the statement of Umar bin Khattab.
- Khidr, sometimes regarded as an angel which took human form and thus able to reveal hidden knowledge exceeding those of the prophets to guide and help people or prophets.
Angels play an important role in Sufism. Just as in non-Sufi-related traditions, angels are thought of as created of light. Al-Jili asserts that the angels are actually created from the Light of Muhammad and in his attribute of guidiance, light and beauty. Influenced by Ibn Arabis Sufi metaphysics, Haydar Amuli identifies angels as created to represent different names/attributes of God's beauty, while the devils are created in accordance with God's attributes of Majesty, such as "The Haugthy" or "The Domineering". Sufi cosmology divids the world into several realms. The realm of Malakut is the plane in which symbols take on form. It is also the sphere in which humans may encounter angels, during their dreams. Some authors have suggested that some individual angels in the microcosmos represent specific human faculties on a macrocosmi level. According to a common belief, if a Sufi can not find Shaikh to teach him, he will be taught by the angel Khidr.
Contemporary Salafism continues to regard the belief in angels as a pillar of Islam and regards the rejection of the literal belief in angels as unbelief and an innovation brought by secularism and Positivism. Modern reinterpretations, as for example suggested by Nasr Abu Zayd, are strongly disregarded. Simultaneously, many traditional material regarding angels are rejected on the ground, they would not be authentic. The Muslim Brotherhood scholars Sayyid Qutb and Umar Sulaiman Al-Ashqar reject much established material concerning angels, such as the story of Harut and Marut or naming the Angel of Death Azrail. Sulayman Ashqar not only rejects the traditional material itself, further he disapproves scholars who used them.
Relation to jinn
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Closely connected to the angels are another category of invisible creatures called jinn. While the exact correlation between angels, jinn and demons remains vague, the jinn are generally a category of beings apart from the angels. The jinn differ from the angels in regard of their position; while the angels dwell in heaven, the jinn lie on earth along with humans, underground or in an intermediary realm. Further the jinn have, unlike the angels, desires, have an extended measure of free decisions, thus able to choose between good and evil. Based on this fact, many scholars argued, that Iblis was not actually an angel, but one of the jinn. However, those scholars who assume Iblis is a fallen angel, consider the jinn be more free, with Iblis having only a limited possibility of choice. The jinn on the other hand are free to roam on earth, can even raise families and build up societies, however are mortal thus sharing many characteristics with humans. Additionally, the final abode of demons, Iblis and the angels, is predestined, while the extended measure of free-will of the jinn, makes it possible to enter hell or heaven depending on how they lived their lives.
Otherwise, jinn are thought of as a sub-category of angels, who guarded the heavens, and distinguished from the other angels, by their creation out of fire and their ability to disobey and procreate their kind.
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