Friday, July 12, 2013

Angels in Islam

Nature and role of Allah's faithful servants

The fundamental articles of faith in Islam are to believe in Allah, His prophets, His revealed books, the angels, the afterlife, and destiny/divine decree. Faith in the unseen world created by Allah is thus a required element of faith in Islam. Among the creatures of the unseen are angels, which are mentioned in the Quran as faithful servants of Allah.

Nature of Angels

In Islam, it is believed that angels have been created out of light, before the creation of humans from clay/earth. They are naturally obedient creatures, worshipping Allah and carrying out His commands. Angels have no free choice, so it is simply not in their nature to disobey. The Quran says, "They do not disobey Allah's commands that they receive; they do precisely what they are commanded" (Quran 66:6). Angels are genderless and do not require sleep, food, or drink.

Role of Angels

In Arabic, angels are called mala'ika, which means "to assist and help." The Quran describes that angels have been created to worship Allah and carry out His commands: "Everything in the heavens and every creature on the earth prostrates to Allah, as do the angels. They are not puffed up with pride. They fear their Lord above them and do everything they are ordered to do" (Quran 16:49-50). Angels are involved in carrying out duties in both the unseen and physical worlds.

Angels Mentioned by Name

Several angels are mentioned by name in the Quran, with a description of their responsibilities:
  • Jibreel (Gabriel) - in charge of communicating Allah's words to His prophets
  • Israfeel (Raphael) - in charge of blowing the trumpet to mark the Day of Judgment
  • Mikail (Michael) - in charge of rainfall and sustenance
  • Munkar and Nakeer - after death, these angels will question souls in the grave about their faith and deeds
  • Malak Am-Maut (Angel of Death) - in charge of taking possession of souls after death
  • Malik - guardian of hell
  • Ridwan - guardian of heaven
Other angels are mentioned, but not specifically by name. There are angels who carry Allah's throne, angels who act as guardians and protectors of believers, and angels who record a person's good and bad deeds, among other tasks.

Angels in Human Form

As unseen creatures made from light, angels have no specific bodily shape but can rather take on a variety of forms. The Quran does mention that angels have wings (Quran 35:1), but Muslims don't speculate on what exactly they look like. Muslims find it blasphemous, for example, to engage in making images of angels as cherubs sitting in clouds. It is believed that angels can take the form of human beings when required to communicate with the human world. For example, the Angel Jibreel appeared in human form to Mary the mother of Jesus, and to the Prophet Muhamaad when questioning him about his faith and message.

"Fallen" Angels?

In Islam, there is no concept of "fallen" angels, as it is in the nature of angels to be faithful servants of Allah. They have no free choice to disobey. Unseen beings who do have free choice, and who are often confused with "fallen" angels, are called jinn (demons). The most famous of the jinn is Iblis, who is also known as Shaytan (Satan). Muslims believe that Satan is a disobedient jinn, not a "fallen" angel.

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