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The Angels are of Different Forms

According to a narrative by Hadrat Umar (RadhiAllahu Anhu), once Hadrat Jibril (Alaihis Salam) appeared in the form of an a’rabi [Bedouin]. The narration goes that: Once, we were sitting in the company of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) when a person, dressed in neat and white clothes, having very bright colour black hair and having no trace of the languor of journey, came in.  He was a stranger for all of us. He raised some questions, before the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) about Islam, Iman, Ihsan, and the doomsday and its tokens. After a while, he departed. Shortly after, he had left, the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) asked: O Umar do you know, who he was? Hadrat Umar (RadhiAllahu Anhu) replied, Allah and His apostle know better. The Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) informed, that he was Jibril, who had come down to teach to you your religion (Al-Bukhari & Muslim). He sometimes used to come in the form of angle. Explaining the state of revelation [Wahy] the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  said that : Sometimes Hadrat Jibril (Alaihis Salam) came to me in the form of an angel, conversed with me and whatever he dictated I preserved in my memory (Al-Bukhari & Muslim). According to the Quran, the angels who came to Abraham as his guests had come in the form of human beings:

هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ ضَيْفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ الْمُكْرَمِينَ (24) إِذْ دَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ فَقَالُوا سَلاماً قَالَ سَلامٌ قَوْمٌ مُنكَرُونَ (25) فَرَاغَ إِلَى أَهْلِهِ فَجَاءَ بِعِجْلٍ سَمِينٍ (26) فَقَرَّبَهُ إِلَيْهِمْ قَالَ أَلا تَأْكُلُونَ (27) فَأَوْجَسَ مِنْهُمْ خِيفَةً قَالُوا لا تَخَفْ وَبَشَّرُوهُ بِغُلامٍ عَلِيمٍ (28) (الذاريات: 24-28)

(Translation of meaning) [“Hath the story of Abraham’s honoured guests reached thee [O Muhammad]? When they came in unto him and said: Peace! He answered, Peace! [And thought]:  Folk unknown [to me]. Then he went apart unto his house folk so that they brought them a fatted calf; and he set it before them, saying:  Will ye not eat? Then he conceived a fear of them. They said: Fear not! And gave him the tidings of [the birth of] a wise son” (Adh-Dhariat: 24-28)]. Likewise, Hadrat Jibril (Alaihis Salam) had visited Hadrat Maryam (Alaihas Salam) in the form of a human being, to convey her good news of the birth of Jesus. Allah says:

فَأَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْهَا رُوحَنَا فَتَمَثَّلَ لَهَا بَشَراً سَوِيّاً (17) (مريم: 17)

(Translation of meaning)  “Then We sent unto her Our spirit and it assumed for her the like of a perfect man” (Maryam: 17)].

Similarly, according to a narrative, there were among the Bani Israil one leper, one lame man and one blind man. Allah wished to put them on trial and so He sent to them an angel in the form of a human being.

The angel asked the leper what was his favourite thing. He said I wish I’m given a fair face and fair skin and get rid of leprosy so that people do not disdain me. The angel touched him and he became well (Al-Bukhari & Muslim). Allah has given them the power to assume any form or figure which they desire.

The Dwelling Place of Angels

As narrated by Hadrat Abu Bakr (RadhiAllahu Anhu), the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

«إِنِّي أَرَى مَا لَا تَرَوْنَ، وَأَسْمَعُ مَا لَا تَسْمَعُونَ أَطَّتِ السَّمَاءُ، وَحُقَّ لَهَا أَنْ تَئِطَّ مَا فِيهَا مَوْضِعُ أَرْبَعِ أَصَابِعَ إِلَّا وَمَلَكٌ وَاضِعٌ جَبْهَتَهُ سَاجِدًا لِلَّهِ» (الترمذي ، ابن ماجه)

Translation of Meaning: I see what you don’t see and I hear what you don’t hear. Whatever, humming is heard from the heavens is in order as there is no space of even four digits which is devoid of the presence of an angel in prostration before Allah (Tirmizi, Ibn Majah). In the narration about Meraj (Ascension) the Apostle of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is reported as having said that:

« فَرُفِعَ لِي البَيْتُ المَعْمُورُ، فَسَأَلْتُ جِبْرِيلَ، فَقَالَ: هَذَا البَيْتُ المَعْمُورُ يُصَلِّي فِيهِ كُلَّ يَوْمٍ سَبْعُونَ أَلْفَ مَلَكٍ » (متفق عليه)

Translation of Meaning: I was taken for a visit to the Baitul Ma’moor. I asked Jibril about it who replied that it is Baitul Ma’moor where seventy thousand angels pray daily (Al-Bukhari & Muslim).

The Prayers of Angels

Allah proclaims:

وَالصَّافَّاتِ صَفّاً (1) فَالزَّاجِرَاتِ زَجْراً (2) فَالتَّالِيَاتِ ذِكْراً (3) إِنَّ إِلَهَكُمْ لَوَاحِدٌ (4) (الصافات: 1-4)

(Translation of meaning) [“By those who set the ranks in battle order. And those who drive away [the wicked] with reproof.  And those who read [the Word] for a reminder, Lo! Thy Lord is surely one” (As-Saffat: 1-4)].

In this verse Allah has sworn by those who form the ranks. They mean the angels who stand before Allah in ranks to offer their prayers. The Apostle of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) asked his Companions:

«أَلَا تَصُفُّونَ كَمَا تَصُفُّ الْمَلَائِكَةُ عِنْدَ رَبِّهَا؟» فَقُلْنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ، وَكَيْفَ تَصُفُّ الْمَلَائِكَةُ عِنْدَ رَبِّهَا؟ قَالَ: «يُتِمُّونَ الصُّفُوفَ الْأُوَلَ وَيَتَرَاصُّونَ فِي الصَّفِّ» (مسلم).

(Translation of meaning) Why don’t you set the ranks like the angels do before their Creator? The Companions asked: How do they set their ranks? The Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  said: First they complete one rank, then the second and so on and they keep close to each other (Muslim). The status of the angels has been described in the Quran in these words:

وَإِنَّا لَنَحْنُ الصَّافُّونَ (165) وَإِنَّا لَنَحْنُ الْمُسَبِّحُونَ (166) (الصافات: 165 ، 166)

 (Translation of meaning) [“Lo! We, even We are they who set the ranks. Lo! We, even We are they who hymn His praise” (As-Saffat: 165-166)].

When Iqamat was called Hadrat Umar Bin Al-Khattab (RadhiAllahu Anhu) used to turn towards the congregation and asked them to straighten their ranks and to stand straight. Because Allah desires that you emulate the angels in respect of formation of the ranks, then he recited the verse: “Wa Inna la Nahnus-Saffeen”, then he asked particular persons to move forward or come backward, and then he moved to lead the prayer and started it by calling the takbir.

The Angels are God-Fearing

The angels always fear Allah and tremble before Him. The more close a slave is to Allah, the more he fears Him. Not because angels are afraid that Allah will punish them for their wrong-doings, as they are innocent and infallible. But they are afraid of Allah because of His greatness and His majesty. One who is nearer to Allah has greater knowledge of the grandeur and majesty of Allah and the more he fears Him. Hadrat Haris Muhasibi (Rahemahulah) said that those who are close to Allah whether angels or the apostles fear Him most because of his grandeur and majesty though they are immune from his punishment. Once Hadrat Jibril (Alaihis Salam) came to the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and asked him: What status do you accord to the warriors at Badr? The Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied we give them the highest rank among the Muslims. Then Jibril (Alaihis Salam) said we also give the highest rank to those angels who fought in the battle of Badr (Bukhari).The angels are also divided into ranks. Some among their leaders are: Jibril, Mikail, Israfil, and Malakul Maut [The Angel of Death]. Each one of them has a specific function to perform by the command of Allah. It was inquired from Hadrat Ayesha (RadhiAllahu Anha) about how the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  began with when standing for the salat at-tahajjud.  She replied that when he stood for prayer he recited this supplication [duaa]:

«اللهُمَّ رَبَّ جَبْرَائِيلَ، وَمِيكَائِيلَ، وَإِسْرَافِيلَ، فَاطِرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ، عَالِمَ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ، أَنْتَ تَحْكُمُ بَيْنَ عِبَادِكَ فِيمَا كَانُوا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ، اهْدِنِي لِمَا اخْتُلِفَ فِيهِ مِنَ الْحَقِّ بِإِذْنِكَ، إِنَّكَ تَهْدِي مَنْ تَشَاءُ إِلَى صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ» (مسلم)

 (Translation of meaning) [“O my Allah the Creator of Jibril, Mikail and Israfil, the maker of the heavens and earth, the knower of the unseen and the present. Verily Thou judge between your slaves in respect of what they dispute. Guide me in matters of dispute towards the right by your permission. Verily thou guideth whom you wish to the straight path” (Muslim)]. From the above traditions it can be understood that Allah has assigned different ranks to his angels and the above-mentioned angels occupy the highest status before Allah. The most prominent of them Hadrat Jibril (Alaihis Salam) whose other description is Ruhul Quds (Holy Spirit) has been endowed with qualities of strength and trustworthiness. Allah proclaims:

إِنَّهُ لَقَوْلُ رَسُولٍ كَرِيمٍ (19) ذِي قُوَّةٍ عِنْدَ ذِي الْعَرْشِ مَكِينٍ (20) مُطَاعٍ ثَمَّ أَمِينٍ (21) (التكوير: 19-21)

(Translation of meaning) [“That this is in truth the word of an honoured messenger; Mighty, established in the presence of the Lord of the Throne” [At-Takwir: 19-20)].

His chief function was to transmit Allah’s word to His apostles and messengers. Allah pronounces:

وَإِنَّهُ لَتَنْزِيلُ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (192) نَزَلَ بِهِ الرُّوحُ الأَمِينُ (193) عَلَى قَلْبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنْ الْمُنذِرِينَ (194) (الشعراء 192 – 194(

(Translation of meaning) [“And lo! It is a revelation of the Lord of the worlds; which the True Sprit has brought down; upon thy heart, that thou be [one] of the warners” (Ash-Shu’ara: 192-194)].

According to the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  Hadrat Jibril (Alaihis Salam) accompanied him on his heavenly journey on the Night of Ascension and took him to the highest point of the Sidratul Muntaha. Likewise there is Hadrat Mikail (Alaihis Salam) whose duty it is to arrange for the rains on which depends the life of all animals, human beings and the vegetations. Then there is Hadrat Israfil (Alaihis Salam) upon whose blowing of the trumpet on the Day of Resurrection all the dead will arise. Allah has pronounced:

فَإِذَا نُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ نَفْخَةٌ وَاحِدَةٌ (13) وَحُمِلَتْ الأَرْضُ وَالْجِبَالُ فَدُكَّتَا دَكَّةً وَاحِدَةً (14) فَيَوْمَئِذٍ وَقَعَتْ الْوَاقِعَةُ (15) وَانشَقَّتْ السَّمَاءُ فَهِيَ يَوْمَئِذٍ وَاهِيَةٌ (16) (الحاقة: 13-16)

(Translation of meaning) [“And when the trumpet shall sound one blast; and the earth with the mountains shall be lifted up and crushed with one crash; Then on that day the Event will befall. And the heaven will split asunder, for that day it will be frail” (Al-Haqqah: 13-16)].

And so far as the Malakul Maut [the Angel of Death] is concerned, his function is to take out souls from human bodies.

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