Al-Malaa’ikah: The Angels
The concept of angels in Islam is probably very different from anything you’ve ever heard before. Western society has idealized angels to the point most people think they’re naked babies with arrows and blonde locks. This concept is actually derived from pagan Greek and Roman beliefs in the false deity Cupid. But angels in Islam hold a very high and sacred place.
Let’s first discuss the concept of Angels in Islam. Popular mythology suggests that there are angels who have disobeyed and rebelled against Allah (God). To Muslims, this idea is foolishness. Angels in Islam do not have the ability to choose as humans do. In Islam, angels were not created with a will and therefore do not disobey Allah. They do whatever Allah tells them to do.
Nobody knows when the angels were created, but they were around a long time before humans. We know this from the Quran when Allah states:
Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood, whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” He said: “I know what ye know not.” 2:30.
How Do the Angels Look?
Angels in Islam have a very unique appearance. Even though there are very few humans who have seen angels in their original form, we know of several facts about angels from the Quran and Sunnah.
- The angels are made of light, whereas the Jinn are made from fire, and mankind is from earthen clay.
- The angels are very large.
- They have wings, sometimes in pairs of two, three or four.
- They are extremely beautiful. With the exception of the Angel of Death.
- They are neither male nor female.
- They can take on the form of humans.
- The angels do not eat. We know this from their visit to Prophet Ibrahim as mentioned in the Quran.
Unlike other faiths, Islam gives us clear information about the angels. Hence, we do not have to create myths and legends about them. We simply have to learn the information given to us about angels in Islam in the Quran and the sayings of Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him).
Here are several quotations from the Quran describing the angels and their duties in Islam. Please note; this is not an exhaustive list. There are dozens of verses in the Quran relating to the role of the angels in Islam.
The Prophet and his followers believe in the angels.
The Messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His apostles. 2:285.
The angels will greet the inhabitants of heaven.
Gardens of perpetual bliss: they shall enter there, as well as the righteous among their fathers, their spouses, and their offspring: and angels shall enter unto them from every gate (with the salutation): “Peace unto you for that ye persevered in patience! Now how excellent is the final home!” 13:23-24.
The angels carry the Throne of Allah.
And the angels will be on its sides, and eight will, that Day, bear the Throne of thy Lord above them. 69:17.
The angels are not female.
And they make into females angels who themselves serve Allah. Did they witness their creation? Their evidence will be recorded, and they will be called to account! 43:19.
The guardians of the hell-fire are angels.
Over it are Nineteen. And We have set none but angels as Guardians of the Fire; and We have fixed their number only as a trial for Unbelievers,- in order that the People of the Book may arrive at certainty, and the Believers may increase in Faith,
And that no doubts may be left for the People of the Book and the Believers, and that those in whose hearts is a disease and the Unbelievers may say, “What symbol doth Allah intend by this ?” Thus doth Allah leave to stray whom He pleaseth, and guide whom He pleaseth:
None can know the forces of thy Lord, except He and this is no other than a warning to mankind. 74:30-31
The souls of humans will be collected by the Angel of Death.
Say: “The Angel of Death, put in charge of you, will (duly) take your souls: then shall ye be brought back to your Lord.” 32:11.
The angels also have names. However, we only have the names of a few.
- Jibreel (Gabriel): This is the highest of all the angels. One of Jibreel’s primary responsibilities was transferring the Words of Allah to the Prophets of Allah. Jibreel is also known as the Holy Spirit in Islam, as he carried the inspiration to Prophet Mohammed and several other Prophets of Allah (may Allah be pleased with them all).
- Mikaeel (Michael): Responsible for directing the rain and winds according to the will of Allah.
- Israafeel: Responsible for blowing the trumpet that will signal the end of creation.
- Malik: The primary guardian of hell.
- Munkar and Nakeer: Questions humans upon their death as to their belief and what they knew of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). These two angels also punish those in the grave who did not believe, or were hypocrites, while alive.
- Haroot and Maroot: Two angels who came to earth and taught men some of the dark arts, such as ruining a marriage, as a test.
There are potentially hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of angels. We have not been told how many there are. But we have been told of their various duties. Here are some of the duties of many angels.
- To praise, glorify, and pray to Allah.
- Deliver the message of Allah.
- Deliver the punishment of Allah.
- Protecting mankind according to the will of Allah.
- Recording the deeds and statements of humans throughout their life.
- Sending blessings upon humans who are praising Allah and behaving righteously.
Muslim beliefs require us to believe in the angels in Islam. One who denies the angels does not have true faith.