What do you believe about angels regarding their function, appearance, form and powers?
Answer: Praise be to Allah.
Belief in angels is one of the six pillars of belief or faith without which there is no faith. Whoever does not believe in any of these pillars is not a believer (mumin). These pillars are belief in: Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day, and that predestination, both good and bad, comes from Allah.
Angels are a part of the world of the “Unseen” which we cannot comprehend. Allah has told us about them in many places in the Quran and via His Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). There follows a number of proven reports concerning the angels, which hopefully will make you realize the greatness of the Creator and the greatness of this religion which has told us so much about them:
Of what are they created?
They are created from light, as ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported:
"The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘The angels are created from light, just as the jinn are created from smokeless fire and mankind is created from what you have been told about.’" (Muslim).
When were they created?
We have no knowledge of precisely when they were created, because there is no text to tell us this. But they were created before mankind for certain, because the Quran says:
“Behold when your Lord said to the angels, I am going to place in the earth a vicegerent (human)………" (Al-Baqarah 2:30)
Their great size
Allah says concerning the angels of Hell:
"O ye who believe! save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who flinch not (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but do (precisely) what they are commanded.” (At-Tahrim 66:6)
The greatest of all the angels is Jibreel, upon whom be peace, who was described in the following report:
Related by ‘Abdullah ibnMas‘ood (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:
“The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saw Jibreel in his true form. He had six hundred wings, ……….” It was reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad, and Ibn Katheer
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, describing Jibreel:
"I saw Jibreel descending from heaven, and his great size filled the space between heaven and earth." (Muslim)
Among the greatest angels are those who carry the Throne (of Allah), who were described in the following report:
Reported From Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who said: ‘I have been given permission to speak about one of the angels of Allah who carry the Throne. The distance between his ear-lobes and his shoulders is equivalent to a seven-hundred-year journey.’" (Abu Dawood)
They have wings
“Praise be to Allah, Who created (out of nothing) the heavens and the earth, Who made the angels, messengers with wings,- two, or three, or four (pairs): He adds to Creation as He pleases: for Allah has power over all things” (Fatir 35:1)
Allah said, describing Jibreel, upon whom be peace (interpretation of the meaning):
“He (the prophet) has been Taught by One Mighty in power (5) Endued with Wisdom: for he appeared (in stately form) (An-Najm 53:5-6)
Ibn ‘Abbas said: "‘Dhoo Mirrah means that he has a beautiful appearance." Qutadah said: "He is tall and beautiful."
Their differences in size and status
The angels are not all of one size or status; there are differences between them just as there are differences in virtue. The best of them are those that were present at the battle of Badr, as is stated in the hadeeth narrated by Mu‘adh ibn Rifa‘ah al-Zuraqi from his father, who had been one of the people present at Badr. He said:
"Jibreel came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him) and asked, ‘How do you rate the people among you who were present at Badr?’ He said: ‘They are the best of the Muslims,’ or something similar. [Jibreel] said: ‘So it is with the angels who were present at Badr.’" (Al-Bukhaari)
They do not eat or drink
This is indicated by the conversation between Ibrahim, the "friend" of Allah, and the angels who visited him. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Then he (Ibraheem, pbuh) turned quickly to his household, brought out a fatted calf, (26) And placed it before them (angels), he said, "Will ye not eat?" (27) (When they did not eat), He conceived a fear of them. They said, "Fear not," and they gave him glad tidings of a son endowed with knowledge. (Adh-Dharyat 51:26-28)
They do not get bored or tired of remembering and worshipping Allah. Allah says:
They (i.e. the angels) glorify His Praises night and day, (and) they never slacken (to do so)” (Al- Anbiya’ 21:20)
The angels are many, and their number is known only to Allah. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, describing the Much-Frequented House (al-Bayt al-M’amoor) in the seventh heaven:
"Then I was taken up to the Much-Frequented House: every day seventy thousand angels visit it and leave, never returning to it again, another [group] coming after them." (Al-Bukhaari).
Angels known names
The angels have names, but we know only the names of a few of them. We have to believe in the names reported in the Quran and Sunnah (prophetic teachings) texts, as a part of general belief in the angels. Among the names of angels that are known to us are:
(1) Jibreel and (2) Mikail
"Say: Whoever is an enemy to Jibreel - for he brings down the (revelation) to your heart by Allah’s will, a confirmation of what went before, and guidance and glad tidings to those who believe" (Al-Baqara 2:97)
From Abu Salamahibn ‘Abd al-Rahmanibn ‘Awf, who said:
"I asked ‘Aishah, the Mother of the Believers, about what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to start his prayer with when he got up to pray at night (qiyam al-layl). She said: ‘When he got up to pray at night, he would start his prayer (with the words): ‘O Allah, Lord of Jibreel, Mikail and Israfil, Creator of heaven and earth, Knower of the unseen and the seen, You are the Judge of the matters in which Your slaves differ; guide me with regard to disputed matters of truth by Your permission, for You guide whomever You will to the straight path.’" (Muslim)
He is the Keeper of Hell, as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): "They [the people in Hell] will cry: "… O Malik (Keeper of Hell)! Let your Lord make an end of us…" (Az- Zukhruf 43:77)
(5) Munkar and (6) Nakeer
From Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:
"The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘When the deceased is buried (or he said: when one of you is buried), there come to him two blue-black angels, one of whom is called Munkar and the other Nakeer. They ask him, ‘What did you used to say about this man?’ and he says what he used to say: ‘He is the slave and Messenger of Allah: I bear witness that there is no god except Allah and that Muhammad is the slave and Messenger of Allah. They say, ‘We knew beforehand that you used to say this.’ Then his grave will be widened for him to a size of seventy cubits by seventy cubits and it will be illuminated for him. Then they tell him, ‘Sleep.’ He says, ‘Go back to my family and tell them.’ They tell him, ‘Sleep like a bridegroom whom no-one will wake up except his most beloved,’ until Allah raises him up. If (the deceased) was a hypocrite, he says, ‘I heard the people saying something so I said something similar; I do not know.’ They say: ‘We knew beforehand that you used to say this.’ The earth will be told to squeeze him, so he will be crushed until his ribs are interlocked, and he will remain like that until Allah raises him up.’" (Al-Tirmidhi).
(7) Haroot and (8) Maroot
Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“….. they taught men sorcery and that was sent down to the two angels at Babel, Harut and Marut, yet these two taught no man until they had said, "Surely we are only a trial, therefore do not be a disbeliever….”(Al-Baqarah 2:102)
The angels have great powers given to them by Allah, including the following:
The ability to take on different forms. Allah has given the angels the ability to take on forms other than their own. Allah sent Jibreel to Maryam in the form of a man, as Allah says:
“…. then We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects” (Maryam 19:17)
Angels also came to Ibrahim in human form, and he did not know that they were angels until they told him so. Similarly, angels came to Lut in the form of young men with beautiful faces. Jibreel used to come to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him) in different forms: sometimes he would appear in the form of Dihyah al-Kalbi, a sahaabee (companion) who was very handsome, and sometimes in the form of a Bedouin. The sahaabah (companions) saw him in his human form, as is reported from ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) in the two Saheehs Al-Bukhari and Muslim). (‘Umar) said:
"One day while we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), there appeared before us a man whose clothes were exceedingly white and whose hair was exceedingly black; no signs of travel were to be seen on him, and none of us knew him. He walked up and sat down by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Resting his knees against his and placing his hands on his thighs, he said: ‘O Muhammad, tell me about Islam.’..." (Muslim).
Many other ahadeeth (report) refer to the angels taking human forms, such as the hadeeth (report) about the one who killed a hundred, in which it says "... there came to them an angel in human form . . ." and the hadeeth about the blind man, the bald man and the leper.
The greatest speed known to man today is the speed of light; the angels are able to travel much faster than this. Hardly had an enquirer completed a question to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), but Jibreel would bring the answer from Allah.
Among the angels is one whose task it was to convey the revelation from Allah to His Messengers; this is al-Rooh al-Ameen, Jibreel, upon whom be peace. Allah says:
“Say: whoever is an enemy to Jibreel – for he brings down the the (revelation) to your heart by Allah’s will ….." (Al-Baqara 2:97)
They can even enter body and relay Allah message in heart.
“Which the trustworthy spirit has brought down, upon your heart(193) That you may be (one) of the warners.” (Ash-Shura 26:193-194)
Another is responsible for rain, directing it wherever Allah wishes. This is Mikail, upon whom be peace. He has helpers, who do what he tells them, by the command of his Lord; they direct the winds and clouds, as Allah wills.
Another is responsible for blowing the Trumpet, which will be blown by Israfil at the onset of the Hour (the Day of Judgement).
Others are responsible for taking people’s souls: these are the Angel of Death and his helpers. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
"Say: "The Angel of Death, put in charge of you, will (duly) take your souls: then shall ye be brought back to your Lord."(As-Sajda 32:11)
There is no proof in any saheehhadeeth (authentic report) that his name
“It is the same (to Him) whether any of you conceal his speech or declare it openly; whether he be hid by night or walk forth freely by day” (10) For each (person), there are angels in succession, before and behind him. They guard him by the Command of Allah. Verily! Allah will not change the good condition of a people so long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves (by committing sin and by being ungrateful and disobedient to Allah). But when Allah wills a people’s punishment, there can be no turning back of it, and they will find besides Him no protector” (Ar-Rad 13:10-11)
Others are responsible for recording the deeds of man, good and bad. These are the "honourable scribes" (kiramankatibeen) and are referred to in the ayat/verses (interpretation of the meanings):
"…. And He sends guardians (angels guarding and writing all of one’s good and bad deeds) over you …..” (Al-An’am 6:61)
“Or do they think that We hear not their secrets and their private counsel? (Yes We do) and Our Messengers (appointed angels in charge of mankind) are by them, to record” (Az-Zukhruf 43:80)
“Behold, two (guardian angels) appointed to learn (his doings) learn (and noted them), one sitting on the right and one on the left. (17)Not a word does he (or she) utter, but there is a watcher by him ready (to record it). (Qaaf 50:17-18)
“But verily, over you (are appointed angels in charge of mankind) to watch you (10) Kind and honourable,- Writing down (your deeds) (11) They know (and understand) all that ye do” (Al-Infitar 82:10-12)
Others are responsible for testing people in the grave. These are Munkar and Nakeer. From Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:
"The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘When the deceased is buried (or he said: when one of you is buried), there come to him two blue-black angels, one of whom is called Munkar and the other Nakeer. They ask him, ‘What did you used to say about this man?’ . . ." [The hadeeth is quoted in full above]
Some of them are the keepers of Paradise. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
"And those who feared their Rabb will be led to the garden in crowds, until, behold, they arrive there; its gates will be opened and its keepers (angels) will say "Peace be upon you! Well have you done! Enter here, to dwell therein" (Az-Zumr 39:73)
Some of them are the keepers of Hell, the "guards of Hell", whose number is nineteen and whose leader is Malik, upon whom be peace. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
"The Unbelievers will be led to Hell in crowd: until, when they arrive, there, its gates will be opened. And its keepers will say, "Did not messengers come to you from among yourselves, rehearsing to you the Signs of your Lord, and warning you of the Meeting of This Day of yours?" The answer will be: "True: but the Decree of Punishment has been proved true against the Unbelievers!" (Az-Zumr 39:71)
“Over it (Hell) are nineteen (angels as guardians and keepers of Hell) (30) And We have set none but angels as Guardians of the Fire; and We have fixed their number only as a trial for Unbelievers ….” (Al-Mudadathir 74:30-31)
“And they will cry: "O Malik (Keeper of Hell)! Let your Lord make an end of us." He will say: "Verily you shall abide forever" (Az-Zukhruf 43:77)
One of the angels is responsible for the sperm in the womb, as is mentioned in the hadeeth (report) of Ibn Mas‘ood (may Allah be pleased with him), who said:
"The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), whose truthfulness is confirmed, said: ‘The way that each of you is created is that he is gathered in his mother’s womb for forty days as a sperm drop, and then for a similar length of time as a blood-clot, and then for a similar length of time as a lump of flesh. Then an angel is sent and he breathes the spirit into (the fetus), and is charged with four commands: to write down his provision, his life-span, his actions, and whether he will be wretched or happy. By the One besides Whom there is no other god, one of you may do the deeds of the people of Paradise until he is just a cubit away from entering it, then his fate will overtake him and he will begin to do the deeds of the people of Hell, so he will enter Hell; and one of you may do the deeds of the people of Hell until he is just a cubit away from entering it, then his fate will overtake him and he will begin to do the deeds of the people of Paradise, so he will enter Paradise." (Al-Bukhaari, Muslim).
Some angels carry the Throne of Allah, as He describes in the Quran (interpretation of the meaning):
“Those (angels) who sustain the Throne (of Allah) and those around it Sing Glory and Praise to their Lord; believe in Him; and implore Forgiveness for those who believe: "Our Lord! Thy Reach is over all things, in Mercy and Knowledge. Forgive, then, those who turn in Repentance, and follow Thy Path; and preserve them from the Penalty of the Blazing " (Al-Ghafir 40:7)
Some of the angels travel throughout the world, seeking out gatherings of dhikr (remembrance of Allah). Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
"The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him) said:
‘Allah, be He blessed and exalted, has angels who travel the highways
seeking out the people of dhikr. When they find people remembering
Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, they call out to one another, "Come to
what you hunger for!" and they enfold them with their wings, stretching
up to the lowest heaven. Their Lord asks them, and He knows better than
them, "What are My slaves saying?" They say: "They are glorifying,
magnifying, praising and extolling You." He asks, "Have they seen Me?"
They say, "No, by Allah, they have not seen You." He asks, "And how
would it be if they saw Me?" They say, "They would be even more fervent
and devoted in their praise and worship." He asks, "What are they asking
me for?" They say, "They ask You for Paradise." He asks, "And have they
seen it?" They say, "No, by Allah, O Lord, they have not seen it." He
asks, "And how would it be if they saw it?" They say: "They would be
even more eager for it and they would beseech You even more earnestly."
He asks, "And what do they seek My protection from?" They say, "From the
Fire of Hell." He asks, "Have they seen it?" They say, "No, by Allah,
they have not seen it." He asks, "And how would it be if they saw it?"
They say: "They would be even more afraid and anxious to escape it."
Allah says: "You are My witnesses that I have forgiven them." One of the
angels says: "So-and-so is not really one of them; he came (to the
gathering) for some other reason." Allah says, "They were all in the
gathering, and one of them will not be excluded (from forgiveness)." (Al-Bukhaari).
"Have you ever faced any day more difficult than the day of Uhud?" He said: "I suffered at the hands of your people and the worst that I suffered was what I suffered at their hands on the day of ‘Aqabah. That was when I went to call Ibn ‘AbdYalaylibn ‘Abd al-Kalal to Islam, and he did not respond. I left, feeling depressed and hardly knowing where I was going. I did not recover until I found myself in Qarn al-Tha‘alib. I raised my head and saw that I was being shaded by a cloud. I looked, and saw Jibreel in the cloud. He called me and said: ‘Allah has heard what your people said and how they responded to you. He has sent the Angel of the Mountains so that you can tell him to do to them whatever you want.’ The Angel of the Mountains called me and greeted me, then said: ‘O Muhammad, tell me what you want me to do. If you want, I can crush them between two mountains.’" The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "All I hope for is that Allah will bring forth from their loins people who will worship Allah alone and not associate any partner with Him." (Al-Buhaari).
Some of them visit the Much Frequented House (Al-Bayt al-M’amoor). In the lengthy hadeeth describing the Isra and M’iraj (the Night Journey and the Ascent to Heaven), the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
"Then I was taken up to the Much-Frequented House: every day seventy thousand angels visit it and leave, never returning to it again, another [group] coming after them."
There are also angels standing in rows, who never get tired or sit down, and others who bow or prostrate, and never raise their heads, as was reported by Abu Dharr, may Allah be pleased with him, who said:
"The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘I see what you do not see and hear what you do not hear. The heaven makes a noise like groaning, and it has the right to (or it is no surprise), for there is no space in it the width of four fingers, but there is an angel there, placing his forehead in sujood (prostration) to Allah. By Allah, if you knew what I know, you would laugh little and weep much, you would not enjoy your relationships with women and you would go out in the street praying to Allah.’" (Al-Tirmidhi).
This is a summary of Islamic teachings concerning the noble angels of Allah. We ask Allah to make us believe in them and love them. May Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
And Allah knows best.
NATURE OF ANGELS
Angels were created from light before human beings were created, and thus their graphic or symbolic representation in Islamic art is rare. Nevertheless, they are generally beautiful beings with wings as described in Muslim scripture.
Also, angels love the believers and beseech God to forgive them their sins. They do not eat or drink. The angels do not get bored or tired of worshipping God, Angels are genderless and do not require sleep, food, or drink.
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.” (At-Tahrim 66:6)
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. (49) They are not puffed up with pride. They fear their Lord above them and do everything they are ordered to do” (An-Nahl 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. Seven of them are specially described.
Jibreel (Gabriel) - The greatest of them is Gabriel. The Prophet of Islam actually saw him in his original form.
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 (Faatir 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 Muhamad (pbuh) when questioning him about his faith and message.
The Number of Angels
How many angels are there? Only God knows. The Much-Frequented House is a sacred heavenly sanctuary above the Kaaba, the black cube in the city of Mecca. Every day seventy thousand angels visit it and leave, never returning to it again, followed by another group.
The angels possess great powers given to them by God. They can take on different forms. The Muslim scripture describes how at the moment of Jesus’ conception, God sent Gabriel to Mary in the form of a man:
“…. then We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects” (Maryam 19:17)
Angels also visited Abraham in human form. Similarly, angels came to Lot to deliver him from danger in the form of handsome, young men. Gabriel used to visit Prophet Muhammad in different forms. Sometimes, he would appear in the form of one of his handsome disciples, and sometimes in the form of a desert Bedouin.
Angels have the ability to take human forms in some circumstances involving common people.
Gabriel is God’s heavenly messenger to mankind. He would convey the revelation from God to His human messengers. God says:
“Say: whoever is an enemy to Jibreel – for he brings down the the (revelation) to your heart by Allah’s will ….." (Al-Baqara 2:97)
Tasks of the Angels
Some angels are put in charge of executing God’s law in the physical world. Michael is responsible for rain, directing it wherever God wishes. He has helpers who assist him by the command of his Lord; they direct the winds and clouds, as God wills. Another is responsible for blowing the Horn, which will be blown by Israafeel at the onset of the Day of Judgment. Others are responsible for taking souls out of the bodies at the time of death: the Angel of Death and his assistants. God says:
"Say: "The Angel of Death, put in charge of you, will (duly) take your souls: then shall ye be brought back to your Lord." (As-Sajda 32:11)
Then there are guardian angels responsible for protecting the believer throughout his life, at home or traveling, asleep or awake.
Others are responsible for recording the deeds of man, good and bad. These are known as the "honorable scribes."
Two angels, Munkar and Nakeer, are responsible for testing people in the grave.
Among them are keepers of Paradise and the nineteen ‘guards’ of Hell whose leader is named ‘Malik.’
There are also angels responsible for breathing the soul into the fetus and writing down its provisions, life-span, actions, and whether it will be wretched or happy.
Some angels are roamers, traveling around the world in search of gatherings where God is remembered. There are also angels constituting God’s heavenly army, standing in rows, they never get tired or sit down, and others who bow or prostrate, and never raise their heads, always worshipping God.
As we learn from above, 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 is able to create as He wishes, for indeed the magnificence of His creation is a proof of the magnificence of the Creator.
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 (spirits).
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.
The World of the Angels (Part 1 ) by KarimAbuZaid