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The Belief in Angels

“You had gone to kill Muhammad but how is it that you yourself appear to be out of your senses?” This question was addressed to Abu Jahl by the chieftains of Makkah when they saw him scared. It so happened that the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to pray in the holy Ka’ba. On seeing him pray there Abu Jahl once became very furious. In his rage he vowed that by Lat and Uzza [the idols of the pagans of Makkah], if I see Muhammad praying in Ka’ba again I will finish him off by my sword. The Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was not perturbed at all about Abu Jahl’s threat. He continued to pray in Ka’ba. One day while he was engaged in prayers Abu Jahl on seeing him, sprang towards him with the intention of killing him. But he retreated swiftly. The on looking pagans of Makkah who saw him quite terrified asked him: Abul Hakam! You had gone to kill Muhammad but how is it that you have come back? On their question, Abu Jahl who was trembling with fear told them that when I moved towards him I saw a trench of fire between me and Muhammad. I saw many winged creatures as well as other frightening scenes. The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told later that had he advanced any further, the angels of Allah would have picked out every joint of him (Muslim). Thus, the angels are surely one of the greatest creations of Allah. Allah has assigned them, their fixed functions. Allah has revealed many particulars about them. Among other things, we are enjoined to have belief in the angels, too. It must be remembered that belief in the angels is an integral part of our faith. By denying their existence, we can no longer remain a believer.

The Creation of Angels

Allah has created the angels out of light [nur]. There can be no count of their numbers. They have been endowed only with good and their nature is untouched by evil so no evil deed can emanate from their figures. Their function is to carry out the commands of Allah. They can never defy or disobey Him. They are all the time engaged in praising Him, invoking His name, and venerating and sanctifying Him. They do not become weary of worshipping and obeying Allah. About the reality of their creation the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said that:

«خُلِقَتِ الْمَلَائِكَةُ مِنْ نُورٍ، وَخُلِقَ الْجَانُّ مِنْ مَارِجٍ مِنْ نَارٍ، وَخُلِقَ آدَمُ مِمَّا وُصِفَ لَكُمْ» (مسلم).

Translation of meaning: They have been made of light while the jinn’s have been made of the flame of fire and you humans of the material which you have been told of (Muslim). The angels differ from each other in their shape and structure. For instance, Hadrat Jibril (Alaihis Salam) has 600 wings. It is narrated through Hadrat Ja’bir (RadhiAllahu Anhu) that the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said that:
«أُذِنَ لِي أَنْ أُحَدِّثَ عَنْ مَلَكٍ مِنْ المَلَائِكَةِ مِنْ حَمَلَةِ الْعَرْشِ، مَا بَيْنَ شَحْمَةِ أُذُنِهِ إِلَى عَاتِقِهِ مَسِيرَةُ سَبْعِة مِائَةِ عَامٍ» (أبو داوود).

Translation of meaning: I have been permitted to tell you about one of the angels bearing the Throne of Allah. The distance between the ear lobe and the shoulder of this angel is equal to the distance of a journey of 700 years (Abu Dawood). From the narration of Hadrat Ayesha (RadhiAllahu Anha) we know about the proportions and enormity of their body mass. She narrates that the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said that:

«رَأَيْتُ جِبْرِيلَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامُ مُهْبِطًا، قَدْ مَلَأَ مَا بَيْنَ الْخَافِقَيْنِ، عَلَيْهِ ثِيَابُ سُنْدُسٍ، مُعَلَّقٌ بِهَا اللُّؤْلُؤُ وَالْيَاقُوتُ» (أحمد).

Translation of meaning: Once I saw Jibril descending from the heavens to earth. His mass had filled the entire horizon from the east to west and he had put on a dress made of “sandas” embedded with pearls and rubies (Ahmad).

The Angels have No Gender

The angels are a creature of Allah devoid of gender and sex. They are neither male nor female. But the polytheists used to describe the angels as the daughters of Allah. Allah has vehemently contradicted their belief in these words:

وَجَعَلُوا الْمَلائِكَةَ الَّذِينَ هُمْ عِبَادُ الرَّحْمَنِ إِنَاثاً أَشَهِدُوا خَلْقَهُمْ سَتُكْتَبُ شَهَادَتُهُمْ وَيُسْأَلُونَ (الزخرف: 19)

(Translation of meaning) [“And they make the angels, who are the slaves of the Beneficent, females. Did they witness of their creation? Their testimony will be recorded and they will be questioned” (Az-Zukhruf: 19)].

In another place Allah proclaims:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ لا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالآخِرَةِ لَيُسَمُّونَ الْمَلائِكَةَ تَسْمِيَةَ الأُنْثَى (27) وَمَا لَهُمْ بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِنْ يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلاَّ الظَّنَّ وَإِنَّ الظَّنَّ لا يُغْنِي مِنْ الْحَقِّ شَيْئاً (النجم: 27، 28)

(Translation of meaning) [“Lo! It is those who disbelieve in the Hereafter who name the angels with the names of females. And they have no knowledge thereof. They follow but a guess, and lo! A guess can never take the place of the truth” (An-Najm: 27-28)].

The Angels are Infallible

Service and obedience is written into the nature of the angels. They are all the time hymning the praise of Allah. They are always engaged in venerating and sanctifying Him. Allah says:

وَقَالُوا اتَّخَذَ الرَّحْمَنُ وَلَداً سُبْحَانَهُ بَلْ عِبَادٌ مُكْرَمُونَ (26) لا يَسْبِقُونَهُ بِالْقَوْلِ وَهُمْ بِأَمْرِهِ يَعْمَلُونَ (27) (الأنبياء: 26، 27)

(Translation of meaning) [“And they say: The Beneficent hath taken unto Himself a son. Be He glorified! Nay, but [those whom they call sons] are honoured slaves; they speak not until He hath spoken, and they act by His command” (Al-Anbiya: 26-27)].

In another place He proclaims:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَاراً وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ عَلَيْهَا مَلائِكَةٌ غِلاظٌ شِدَادٌ لا يَعْصُونَ اللَّهَ مَا أَمَرَهُمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ (6) (التحريم: 6)

(Translation of meaning) [“O ye who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families from a Fire, whereof the fuel, is men and stones, over which are set angels strong, severe, who resist not Allah in that which He commandeth them, but do that which they are commanded” (At-Tahrim: 6)].

He further says:

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلائِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً قَالُوا أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَنْ يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لا تَعْلَمُونَ (البقرة: 30)

(Translation of meaning) [“And when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth, they said: Wilt Thou place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Thy praise and sanctify Thee? He said: surely I know that which ye know not: (Al-Baqarah: 30)].
In this verse, the question from the angels was not in the nature of an objection but of an inquiry, because they were unaware of divine wisdom, which was reserved with Allah Himself. That is why, Allah replied that I know what you know not.