The angels are mystical beings that Allah the Almighty created from light. They can take multiple forms, and they cannot be described as males or females. Belief in angels, as mentioned in the Qur’an and the authentic narrations from the Prophet (peace be upon him), is an indispensable part of the Muslim faith. In Arabic, angels are called Malaika, which means “to assist and help.” Angels are involved in carrying out duties in both the unseen and physical worlds. The Quran says that angels have been created to worship Allah and carry out His commands: Allah says:
آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَمَلَائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ وَقَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ
“The Messenger (Muhammad) believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers. Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:285)
It is known that the angels do not eat, drink or copulate. They are free from such desires. When they came to Ibrahim (Abraham, peace be upon him) in the shape of full men he presented for them some food but they refused to eat. Allah says:
وَلِلَّهِ يَسْجُدُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مِن دَابَّةٍ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ وَهُمْ لَا يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ
“And to Allah prostrate whatever (is) in the heavens and whatever (is) in the earth of moving creatures and the Angels, and they (are) not arrogant.” (Surah An-Nahl 16:49)
The angels cannot be described as males or females and they are not subject to any kind of procreation or sexual reproduction. Rather, all of them are created directly by Allah, the Almighty. They do not have any inclination to sex or food or whatever because they are created solely for the service of man and the worship of God. Allah says:
وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً قَالُوا أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“And when said your Lord to the angels, “Indeed, I (am) going to place in the earth a vicegerent, they said, “Will You place in it (one) who will spread corruption in it and will shed [the] blood[s], while we, [we] glorify (You) with Your praises and we sanctify [to] He said, “Indeed, [I] know what not you know.” (Surah Al-Baqara, 2:30)
Muslims believe that angels were created by God from pure light. Belief in their existence encompasses the Islamic faith itself. Only Allah knows the number of angels. There is no clear information about the number of angels in the Qur’an and hadiths. However, we can say that they are far more than we can count based upon hadiths. Allah says:
وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الْأَسْمَاءَ كُلَّهَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلَى الْمَلَائِكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاءِ هَٰؤُلَاءِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
“And He taught Adam the nature of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: “Tell me the nature of these if ye are right.” (Surah Al-Baqara, 2:31)
They were created for the sole purpose of serving God and being made from light, they can assume almost any form, which will appear real to the human eye. They belong to a level of existence beyond the perceptible world of phenomena, called `Alam al-ghayb.
The Significance of Angels in Islam
Belief in angels
Jinn, humans, and angels together comprise the sentient creations of Allah. However, among these three types of conscious beings, it is the belief in angels that is necessary for the completion of a Muslim’s faith. In Islam, the six articles of faith are as follows:
- Belief in the one God
- Belief in predestination
- Belief in the angels of God
- Belief in the day of judgment
- Belief in the books of God, especially the Quran
- Belief in the prophets of God, especially Mohammed
To argue for the significance of angels in Islam, historical and written referencing of their tasks, roles in Islamic events, physical appearances and the ranks that exist within the Angelic network must be taken into consideration.
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 do not eat.
- The angels are very large.
- They are neither male nor female.
- They can take on the form of humans.
- They have wings, sometimes in pairs of two, three or four.
- They are extremely beautiful. Except for the Angel of Death.
- The angels are made of light, whereas the Jinn are made from fire, and mankind is from earthen clay.
“Is it not enough for you that Allah should help you with three thousand angels (Especially) sent down?” (Surah Al-Imran, 124)
Belief in the Angels is a big part of our faith as Muslims, like the belief in ONE God and the belief in many Prophets of God. Some very special angels are given extra special tasks by Allah. Some of them are mentioned below…
The Nature of Angels in Islam
In Islam, it is believed that angels were created out of light, before the creation of humans from clay/earth. Angels are naturally obedient creatures, worshipping Allah and carrying out His commands. Angels are genderless and do not require sleep, food, or drink; they have no free choice, so it is simply not in their nature to disobey.
Angels Mentioned by Name
Several angels are mentioned by name in the Quran, with a description of their responsibilities:
- Jibreel (Gabriel): The angel in charge of communicating Allah’s words to His prophets.
- Israfeel (Raphael): He is in charge of blowing the trumpet to mark the Day of Judgment.
- Mikail (Michael): This angel is in charge of rainfall and sustenance.
- Munkar and Nakeer: After death, these two angels will question souls in the grave about their faith and deeds.
- Malak Am-Maut (or Azrael) (Angel of Death): This character is in charge of taking possession of souls after death.
- Kiraman Katibin: These two angels sit on every person’s right and left shoulder to record his/her good and bad.
- Malik: He is the guardian of hell.
- Ridwan: The angel who serves as the guardian of heaven.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَمَاتُوا وَهُمْ كُفَّارٌ أُولَٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ لَعْنَةُ اللَّهِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ
“Indeed, those who disbelieve[d] and die[d] while they (were) disbelievers, those, on them (is the) curse (of) Allah, and the Angels, and the mankind, all together.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:161
Other angels are mentioned, but not specifically by name. Some angels 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. Allah says:
فَاتَّخَذَتْ مِن دُونِهِمْ حِجَابًا فَأَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْهَا رُوحَنَا فَتَمَثَّلَ لَهَا بَشَرًا سَوِيًّا
“Then she took from them a screen. Then We sent to her Our Spirit then he assumed for her the li (of) a man well-proportioned.” (Surah Maryam 19:17)
The Role of Angels
Angels mentioned in the Quran are:
Gabriel (upon whom be peace): Gabriel is the angel whose task is to convey the revelation from Allah to His Messengers. Other names of Gabriel are Jibreel, al Ruh (the Spirit), al Ruh al Qudus (the Holy Spirit), al Ruh al Ameen (the Trustworthy Spirit), al Ruh al Haq (the Spirit of Truth) and al- Namus al Akbar.
- “Whoever is the enemy of Jibreel– for surely he revealed it to your heart by Allah’s command, verifying that which is before it and guidance and good news for the believers.” (Surah al Baqara, 97)
- “If you aid one another against him (Muhammad) then lo! Allah, even He, is his Protecting Friend, and Gabriel and the righteous among the believers; furthermore the angels are his helpers.” (Surah al Tahrim, 4)
Mikaa’eel (upon whom be peace): Mikaa’eel is the angel responsible for the distribution of sustenance wherever Allah wishes.
“Whoever is the enemy of Allah and His angels and His apostles and Jibreel and Meekaeel, so surely Allah is the enemy of the unbelievers.” (Surah al Baqara, 98)
Israafeel (upon whom be peace): Israfeel (a.s.) is the angel who is charged with blowing the trumpet on the Day of Judgment.
- “And on the day when the trumpet shall be blown, then those who are in the heavens and those who are in the earth shall be terrified except such as Allah please, and all shall come to him abased.” (Surah al Naml, 87)
- “And the Trumpet will be blown (the second blowing) and behold! From the graves, they will come out quickly to their Lord.” (Surah al Yasin, 51)
- “On that day they shall follow the inviter (Israafeel), there is no crookedness in him, and the voices shall be low before the Beneficent God so that you shall not hear aught but a soft sound.” (Surah al Ta-ha, 108)
- “Hastening to the inviter (Israafeel). The unbelievers shall say: This is a hard day.” (Surah al Qamar, 8)
Azrael (upon whom be peace): He is the Angel of death to take the souls with the order of Allah SWT. He is mentioned in the hadiths and ayahs as “Angel of Death.”
- “The angel of death who is given charge of you shall cause you to die, then to your Lord, you shall be brought back.” (Surah al Sajda, 11)
- “When death approaches one of you, Our angels take his soul, and they never fail in their duty.” (Surah al An’am, 61)
- “When our messengers (of death) arrive and take their souls, they say: “Where are the things that ye used to invoke besides Allah.” (Surah al A’raf, 37)
Kiram al Katibin: kiram al katibin” angels that are the two angels recording the deeds.
- Raqib: Sits on man’s right shoulder to record his/her good deeds.
- Atid: Sits on man’s left shoulder to record his/her evil deeds.
- “And most surely there are keepers over you. Honorable recorders, They know what you do.” (Surah al Infitar; 10-12)
- “And He is the Supreme, above His servants, and He sends keepers over you.” (Surah al An’am, 61)
Hafaza (The Guardian Angels): “Witnesses” mentioned in the ayah above are the hafaza angels who are charged with guarding.
- “And the earth shall beam with the light of its Lord, and the Book shall be laid down, and the prophets and the witnesses shall be brought up, and judgment shall be given between them with justice, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly.”
- “Yea, – if ye remain firm, and act aright, even if the enemy should rush here on you in hot haste, your Lord would help you with five thousand angels Making a terrific onslaught.” (Surah Al-Imran, 125)
Hamalat al-‘Arsh: They are the angels carrying the Arsh (throne) mentioned in the following ayah:
- “Those (angels) who bear the Throne (of Allah) and those around it glorify the praises of their Lord, and believe in Him, and ask forgiveness for those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah) (saying): “Our Lord! You comprehend all things in mercy and knowledge, so forgive those who repent and follow Your Way, and save them from the torment of the blazing Fire!” (Surah al-Mu’ min, 7)
- “And the angels will be on the sides thereof, and eight will uphold the Throne of thy Lord that day, above them.” (Surah al Haqqah, 17)
Angels in Human Form?
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ فَاطِرِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ جَاعِلِ الْمَلَائِكَةِ رُسُلًا أُولِي أَجْنِحَةٍ مَّثْنَىٰ وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ يَزِيدُ فِي الْخَلْقِ مَا يَشَاءُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
“As unseen creatures made from light, angels have no specific body shape but rather can take on a variety of forms. The Quran does mention that angels have wings.” (Surah Fatir 35:1)
The angels are a grandiose creation of God, varying in numbers, roles, and abilities. God is in no need of these creatures, but having knowledge and belief in them adds to the awe that one feels towards God, in that He can create as He wishes, for indeed the magnificence of His creation is proof of the magnificence of the Creator. Allah says:
وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِآدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ أَبَىٰ وَاسْتَكْبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ
“And when We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam,” [so] they prostrated except Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers.” (Surah Al-Baqara, 2:34)
Faith in the unseen world created by Allah is a required element of faith in Islam. Among the required articles of faith are a belief in Allah, His prophets, His revealed books, the angels, the afterlife, and destiny/divine decree. Among the creatures of the unseen world are angels, which are mentioned in the Quran as faithful servants of Allah. Every truly devout Muslim, therefore, acknowledges the belief in angels. Allah says:
وَلَوْ جَعَلْنَاهُ مَلَكًا لَّجَعَلْنَاهُ رَجُلًا وَلَلَبَسْنَا عَلَيْهِم مَّا يَلْبِسُونَ
“And if We had made him an Angel, certainly We (would) have made a man, and certainly We (would) have to them what they are obscuring.” (Surah Al-Anam, 6:9)
The position in Islam is that angels are a grandiose creation of God, varying in numbers, roles, and abilities. God is in no need of these creatures, but having knowledge and belief in them adds to the awe that one feels towards God, in that He can create as He wishes, for indeed the magnificence of His creation is proof to believers of the magnificence of the Creator.