Belief in the Angels
Angels are created from light. They neither eat nor drink and never bring forth offspring. Allah the Most High says,
“They [the angels] never disobey Allah’s commands to them. They only do as they are ordered.” (Qur’ān, 66:6)
And their number is humanly innumerable. Allah the Most High says,
“No one knows your Lord’s forces except Him.” (Qur’ān, 74:31)
Among those mentioned in the Qur’ān are Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, the Bearers of the Throne, the angels commissioned to recapture the soul, and those who record the deeds of the humankind.
The Unseen World
Belief in the Angels
The angels are invisible beings to whose existence, the Qur’an and authentic Hadiths testify. Belief in the angels comes next to belief in God. As such, it is one of the articles of faith in Islam:
“The Messenger has believed in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and so do the believers. Every one (of them) has believed in God, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers.” (Qur’an, 2:285)
“Whoever disbelieves in God, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, or the Last Day, he has readily gone far astray.” (Qur’an, 4:136)
When Gabriel asked him about ‘imān, i.e. faith, the Prophet said, “It is to believe in God, His Angels, His Meeting and His Messengers and to believe in resurrection.”
In the light of these decisive texts, belief in the angels is regarded as one of the articles of the Islamic faith. Consequently, a denial or disbelief in the angels is, as unanimously asserted by Muslim scholars, a diversion from the true faith of Islam. Indeed, belief in the doctrine of prophecy and belief in the angels are concomitant. The same goes true about the belief in the heavenly revealed books. Evidently, revelation is the word of God transmitted by angels to the hearts of the prophets. In other words, angels are the channels between the prophets and the invisible world. Denying them is equal to the denial of prophecy and the Qur’an itself.
Angels are Servants of God
The Qur’an has come to correct previous beliefs and doctrines on the issue of the angels; the Brahmin, Buddhist and Sabaean paganists as well as some Arab pagans described angels as females and daughters or God. Some even took angels as gods or independent intercessors with God. However, the Qur’an rectifies all of these deviant beliefs and asserts that the angels are nothing but pure servants of God. Describing them as females is stark lying and groundless fallacy, devoid of any proof or logical reasoning to support.
“So, ask them for a pronouncement, ‘Does your Lord have daughters, and they have sons? Or did We create female Angels while they were witnesses? Verily, it is of their falsehood; indeed, they say, ‘God has begotten!’ Yet, they are liars indeed. Has he preferred females to males? How is it with you? How do you judge? Will you then not be mindful?” (Qur’an, 37:49-55)
“They have made the Angels, who are the servants of the All-Merciful, females. Did they witness their creation? Their testimony will be written down and they will be questioned (about it). And they have said, ‘If the All-Merciful had (so) decided, in no way would we have worshiped them.’ In no way do they have any knowledge of that; decidedly they are (doing nothing) except conjecturing.” (Qur’an, 43:19-20)
Attributes of the Angels
A review of the angels-related statements in the Qur’an and authentic Hadith helps us epitomize their attributes as follows:
1. Angels are heavenly illuminating beings, created from light. In corollary, they are not material creatures that human beings can see, hear or touch, given the human normal senses and perceptions. In this regard, the Prophet (PBUH) is quoted to have said, “Angels are created from light and jinn from fire, whereas Adam is created out of what is described to you [i.e. of clay as in the Qur’an].” Actually, the Qur’an mentions nothing about the origin from which the angels are created; it only describes them as winged beings:
“Praise be to God, The Originator of the heavens and the earth, The Maker of the angels (as) messengers endowed with wings, two’s, three’s and four’s. He increases in creation as He decides; surely God is Ever-Determiner over everything.” (Qur’an, 35:1)
According to one of al-Bukhari’s authentic narrations, “Gabriel is endowed with six hundred wings; each wing is as great in scope as the horizon.” The Qur’an also specifies three names of the Angels: Gabriel, Michael and Malik the Keeper of Hellfire. It also describes others with their distinctive missions, such as “the angel of death,” “the honorable writing angels,” and “the purely honorable and benign angels,” “the guardian” and “the constantly ready angel.”
2. However immaterial and invisible they are, angels are well able to appear and assume physical forms, such as the human shape, for example. Gabriel frequently assumed a human form in his visits to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He also assumed a human form when he appeared to Mary (peace be upon her) and so did the delegation of angels who visited Prophet Abraham (PBUH).
3. Angels are honorable servants.
“They do not disobey God in whatever He commands them and they perform whatever they are commanded to do.” (Qur’an, 66: 6)
In other words, the angels never break the divine commands since their wills, intents, acts and movements are all concerned with carrying out the commands they receive from God.
4. They are different from humankind and jinn in the following characteristics:
A. They neither eat, nor drink.
B. They neither marry, nor procreate.
C. They are neither males, nor females.
Functions of the Angels
It is beyond our knowledge to identify the job of each angel; this issue is reliant on the revealed texts in the Qur’an and authentic Hadith. In this regard, our knowledge is confined to the information we get from Qur’anic texts specifying some of these jobs as follows:
1. Deliverance of revelation and divine messages to the Prophets (Peace be upon them). Angel Gabriel (peace be upon him) is entrusted with this mission.
2. Bearing the Throne: Eight angels are entrusted with this mission:
“On that Day, eight [angels] will bear above them the Throne of your Lord.” (Qur’an, 69:17)
3. Safeguarding and preserving humankind:
“For her/him are (angels) taking turns (on end) even before him and even behind him, preserving him from the Command of God.” (Qur’an, 13:11)
4. Taking the souls of human beings and causing them to die:
“The Angel of Death who has been entrusted with you will cause you to die; thereafter to your Lord you will be returned.” (Qur’an, 32:11)
“When death comes to any of you, Our Messengers cause him to die, and they do not ever neglect.” (Qur’an, 6: 61)
5. Giving glad tidings to good people:
“Surely, the ones who have said, ‘Our Lord is God,’ thereafter they have gone straight, upon them the angels keep coming down (saying), ‘Do not fear (anything), nor grieve, and have good tidings of the Garden that you are promised’”. (Qur’an, 41: 30)
Belief in the Jinn
The jinn are a group of hidden creatures whose nature is invisible to our senses; we can neither see, nor hear them. They are endowed with feelings, perceptions and special behaviors. However, we know nothing about most of their conditions and acts. The Qur’an mentions them, so we must believe in their existence, following the manner specified in the Qur’an and illustrated in the authentic prophetic Hadith. Beyond these two sources, our information on this issue is groundless, as we have no physical or rational evidence otherwise. There is a Sura (Chapter) in the Qur’an named after their genus: “Surat ul-Jinn.” Muslim scholars have been in unanimous agreement that the realm of Jinn forms a real fact. Any denial of this fact directly goes against the evident texts of the Book and Hadith. Imam ul-Ḥaramayn al-Juwayniy averred that, “There is no need to stick to evident texts and solitary narrations when we have the unanimous consensus of all scholars in the generations of the Prophet’s Companions and their successors that the Jinn and Devils really exist and that we shall seek refuge in God from their evils. No religious Muslim holding fast to the religion would oppose to this consensus.” Likewise, Ibn Taymiyah said, “No one of the Muslim schools of theology ever disputed the existence of Jinn.”
Man is created from mud and angels from light, whereas the jinn are created from fire:
“Indeed, We have already created man of dry clay of modeled mud. And the jinn We had earlier created of the fire of a pestilential wind.” (Qur’an, 15:26-27);
“He created the jinn (race) of a merging of fire.” (Qur’an, 55: 15)
The fact that the Jinn are created of fire does not mean that their entities and bodies are of flaming fire. It only means that the original substance from which the Jinn are created is fire in the same manner that the original substance of man is mud; thought after creation man is neither mud nor dust. In elaboration of this point, some scholars say, “Know that God has attributed devils and jinn to fire as man to dust and mud. In purpose, it only means that man’s origin is mud but a human being is not mud in essence, even if s/he assumed the substance of mud. Likewise, the substance of Jinn is fire but in form they are not fire.” On equal footing with man, the jinn live, die and experience resurrection:
“Those are they against whom the Saying has come true among nations that had already passed away even before them, of the jinn and humankind (alike).” (Qur’an, 47: 18)
Like humankind, the Jinn marry, procreate and have both genders: male and female:
“Some individuals of the humankind used to take refuge with some of the jinn; so they (the latter) increased them (the former) in fatigue.” (Qur’an, 72: 6)
Furthermore, the jinn have their own feelings and wills; they are endowed with extraordinary abilities and can do relatively marvelous acts, move very quickly and undertake enormous hard missions. Examples of their actions are found in the account of Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) with the Queen of Sheba.
Like humankind, the jinn, as competent beings, should abide by the religious commands and proscriptions, and perform the regular acts of worship:
“In no way did I create the jinn and humankind except to worship Me.” (Qur’an, 51: 56)
The Qur’an also states that the jinn said,
“Surely we have heard astounding Qur’an guiding to right-mindedness; so we believe in it and we will never associate anyone with our Lord.” (Qur’an, 72:1-2)
Some of them are Muslims and others are unbelievers; some are righteously good and others are transgressors. According to the Qur’anic account of the statement of jinn, they said:
“Among us are the submissive (Muslims), and among us are the inequitable.” (Qur’an, 72: 14)
“Among us are the righteous, and among us are less than that.” (Qur’an, 72: 11)
Apparently, the Qur’anic revelation indicates that the Satan is a member of the jinn, who has his own children and folk:
“We said to the Angels, ‘Prostrate (yourselves) to Adam.’ So they prostrated themselves, except Satan, who was one of the jinn; so he impolitely rebelled against his Lord’s Command. Do you then take him and his offspring to be (your) patrons, apart from Me, while they are an enemy to you? Miserable is it (as) an exchange for the unjust (ones).” (Qur’an, 18:50)
The Qur’anic account on angels is different from that on the jinn; the Qur’an describes the angels as “honorable servants” inclined wholly to good and obedience; whereas the jinn are partly good and partly evil. In some contexts, the jinn -like deviant human counterparts- are branded with tempting humankind to do evils:
“He [Satan] whispers in the breasts of humankind; of the jinn and humankind.” (Qur’an, 114:5-6)
Unlike the angels, the Qur’anic accounts of the jinn -though many- do present the belief in jinn as an article of the Islamic faith. These accounts only tell of the jinn as telling of man and other things. As such, the belief in the existence and news of jinn is a corollary of the belief in the Qur’an and the information it delivers about them.
What is the truth about the angels and the jinn? And what is the relationship between them and man?
This is a thorny issue because it has much to do with the unseen world about which we have only little knowledge. Therefore, I will go cautiously throughout this topic, guided by the intellectual abilities I have and my knowledge of the divine teachings.
At the outset, I should assert the fact that existence is extremely greater than man and that man’s delusion that he is the dominant being on earth reflects his arrogance and ignorance, simply because the universe is incomparably greater than humans and its inhabitants overpower humans and outnumber them.
I understand from the Glorious Qur’ān that the jinn have come to existence and perhaps had received the obligation to worship Allah before man did; Allah says,
“And indeed We already created man of dry clay of mud modeled. And the jinn race We had earlier created of pestilential fire.” (Qur’ān,15:26-27)
It seems that ˀIblīs, (Satan) the father of all the jinn, did not feel happy with the advent of the new creature, namely man, and thought man would compete for a position which was well-established for him. Therefore, ˀIblīs hated Adam and his offspring, objecting to his creation and asked the Creator, “Why have You created that man of fragile nature? And why did You ask me to me prostrate to him? Indeed, I am mightier and tougher than him. If we were allowed to compete against each other, I will put man and his offspring to rout.” The following verse shows clearly ˀIblīs’ reaction to the creation of man:
“Said he (ˀIblīs to Allah), ‘Do You see this one (man) whom you have honored above me? Indeed in case you defer me to the Day of Resurrection, I will definitely bring his offspring under my subjection except a few.’” (Qur’ān, 17:62)
Behaving this way, ˀIblīs proved to be such a fool! Indeed, he was nothing but one of the servants to the Lord of the earth and the heavens. How dared he take up such a stance? Surely, Allah has the absolute right to creating whatever He wishes. if He wills so, He would favor a weak but modest creature over a mighty but arrogant one. Has ˀIblīs ever known that of his rival’s children there will be those who set an impressive example of good obedience and sincere servitude to Allah by overcoming whatever challenges they face until their Lord becomes fully pleased with them?
It is noteworthy that not all the jinn have followed the deviant path of ˀIblīs. A number of the jinn has remained loyal servants to Allah, steadfast in obeying Him, and constantly carrying out the obligations they have received from Him. In fact, there among the jinn are those who do righteous deeds, exalt the name of their Lord and totally deny that Allah would ever have a son. They seek guidance and obey the commandments of Allah’s Messengers. Yet, there are among the jinn those who continue to show enmity to Adam and his offspring and use their evil wiles to seduce the humans and cause them eternal misery.
“And that among us are the righteous, and among us are others besides that. We have been of discrete roads. We surmised that we can never defy Allah in the earth, and we can never defy Him by escaping. As soon as we heard the guidance, we believed in it. So whoever believes in his Lord, then he fears neither depreciation nor oppression. Among us are the submissive and among us are inequitable ones. So, whoever have submitted (to Allah), then those are the ones who earnestly sought rectitude. As for the inequitable, then they are firewood for Hell.” (Qur’ān, 72: 11-15)
Since there is always a sort of friction between Adam’s offspring and ˀIblīs’, what is the nature of such friction between the two sides? Apparently, all that the devils–the sinful ones of the jinn–can do is whispering evil into the breasts of Adam’s offspring and causing them to be heedless. In spite of the enormous physical power the jinn have, they are not allowed to use it against the humans. So, they only would target a hesitant human on the way of righteousness and seduce him into showing cowardice, approach a rude person and fill his heart with arrogance, or come to someone who is longing for worldly desires and seduce him into debauchery and immorality.
However, when all creatures are held accountable for their actions before Allah on the Day of Judgement, the Satan will tell those whom he misguided in the worldly life:
“Verily, Allah promised you a promise of truth. I too promised you, but I betrayed you. Yet, I had no authority over you except that I called you, and you responded to me. So blame me not, but blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me.” (Qur’ān, 14:22)
As it is often said, the law does not protect the fool. Thus, when a man gets astray, he becomes responsible forhis own destiny because no one would ever be able to force him to be astray or make fun of him if he makes use of the gifts Allah bestowed upon him. Perhaps our life story is similar to that of our father Adam before he was expelled from the heavens. If Adam remained heedful and did not forget the commands of his Lord managed to maintain his strength, and did not show weak will, ˀIblīs’ plot would have backfired. Unfortunately, Adam did not manage to meet those high expectations. Allah says,
“Indeed We had covenanted with Adam earlier, yet he forgot and We found in him no resolve.” (Qur’ān, 20:115)
Those who are slipping down into worldly desires have such internal imbalance that causes them to fall into the wiles of the devil and be caught in his trap. Allah underlines this reality, saying,
“Indeed ˀIblīs have already verified his expectation of them, so they closely followed him, except a group of the believers. In no way did he have any all-binding authority over them, except that We would distinguish him who believed in the Hereafter from him who was in doubt thereof. Your Lord is Ever-Preserving over everything.” (Qur’ān, 34:20-21)
When a man commits a sin, the Satan feels pleased and works hard on beautifying the sin in the sinner’s eyes, so that he might never abandon it. This is all that the Satan aspires for. For a criminal man, the pleasure he feels in making an illegal livelihood, steeling somebody’s properties, defiling their honor, or doing injustice to weak people is just passing pleasure which the Satan does not celebrate at all or care about.
However, the Satan does enjoy the utmost pleasure in seeing man engaged in a vice and being humiliated as he continues to displease his Lord. That is why Allah, the Most Exalted, rebukes the children of Adam saying,
“Do you then take him (the Satan) to yourselves and his offspring to be your patrons, apart from Me when they are an enemy to you? Miserable is it as an exchange for the unjust ones!” (Qur’ān, 18:50)
It seems that that the Satan’s offspring have various specializations and some of them would dedicate their entire life to seducing certain categories of the humans into misguidance and obedience. Allah says,
“Whoever is purblind to the Remembrance of the All-Merciful, We preordain for him a devil who becomes his comrade.” (Qur’ān, 43:36)
Although, the sinners among the humans have their comrades of the devils who lead them astray, the resilient believers often make the Satan feel disappointed and never fall in his traps. Allah says,
“Surely over My servant you will have no all-binding authority.” (Qur’ān, 15:42)
Let us move now from talking about the world of the jinn and its relation to man to another much purer and righteous world, namely the world of angels. The humans and the jinn are both required to discharge certain obligations from Allah due to their ability to choose between evil and good. They remember and forget and for this Allah often counts His blessings upon them and reminds them with these blessings, saying,
“Then, which of the blessings of your Lord will you both (the jinn and men) deny?!” (Qur’ān, 55”13)
In contrast, the world of the angels has been created to act in harmony with the will of Allah. Their lives are fully dedicated to acting in accordance with Allah’s will. They often aspire to the divine light, praise Allah, and glorify His name forever. Allah Almighty says,
“To Him belongs whoever is in the heavens and the earth; whoever are with Him do not wax too proud to do Him worship, nor do they grow weary. They extol (Him) by night and by daytime and they do not flag.” (Qur’ān, 21:19-20)
Angels have many roles. They accompany man since the very moment he is created until he is buried in the ground. ‘Ibn Masʻūd reported that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “The creation of you (humans) is gathered in the form of semen in the womb of your mother for forty days, then it becomes a clinging thing in a similar period, then it becomes a lump of flesh like that, then Allah sends an angel who breathes the life into it. Then the angel is commanded to record four things about it: its provision, its term of life (in this world), its conduct, and whether it will be happy or miserable.”
If we may call these angels, whose role is to breathe the soul into human beings while they are still being created in their mothers ‘wombs, “the angels of life”, there are also “the angels of death” who take these souls back. Allah says,
“Say, ‘The Angel of Death who has been entrusted with you will take you up; thereafter to your Lord you will be returned.’” (Qur’ān, 32:11)
Undoubtedly, it is Allah Who is Al-Muḥyῑ (the Giver of Life) and Al-Mumῑt (the Inflictor of Death), Glory be to Him. He is the One Who inspires His angels and gives them the means for doing whatever He wills.
In terms of physical power, the angels are incomparably much greater and powerful than the jinn. For example, if a demon can touch the sky or carry something from Yemen to Palestine in an hour, the angels are more powerful than that. There are angels who can overcome the most powerful demon and take him to the lowest position.
Interestingly enough, the angels closely follow the humans’ lives and record their minute details, whether in terms of the intentions hidden in their hearts or the actions they do by their organs. Undoubtedly, this proves the unique vision and the complete alertness the angels have. Allah says,
“As the two Receivers (Angels) receive, on the right hand and on the left hand, they are constantly seated. In no way does he utter a saying except that close to him is a guardian constantly ready (to record it).” (Qur’ān, 50: 17-18)
It is needless to stress that our Lord, Exalted is He, does not need anyone to inform or remind Him of anything. However, He has set a perfect system for the whole universe where He has counted every creature and defined the role assigned to it. Allah says,
“In no way can anything, even as much as an atom's weight, either in the earth or in the heavens, shift away from your Lord, nor anything smaller or greater except that it is (recorded) in an Evident Book.” (Qur’ān, 10:61)
There are also the recording angels who constantly record every detail and action in man’s life. Allah says,
“Whoever are in the heavens and the earth ask Him. Every Day He is upon some (momentous) affair. Then which of the blessings of your Lord will you both (the jinn and men) deny?” (Qur’ān, 55: 29-30)
The angels are also considered good friends to a believer as they feel happy when one does a righteous deed. Thus, when a Muslim enters into the mosque, the angels give him a warm welcome; and when he obeys Allah, they pray to Allah for him, saying, “O Allah, have mercy on him and forgive his sins”. It was reported in authentic Ḥadīths that the angels come amongst the humans in successive groups in shifts. They meet at the Dawn prayer (Fajr) and at the Mid-afternoon prayer (ʻAṣr). Allah asks the angels who ascend to Him about the condition of his servants. Indeed, Allah knows best but this is how the flawless system Allah, the Exalted, has set for his creation works.
During the big gatherings that feature noble purposes and righteousness, the angels too take part as they would send supplicate to Allah for the believers. For example, if a Muslim starts to advise his fellow Muslims, a noble angel would support him. Or if a Muslim composes a poem in defense of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH), Rūḩ ul-Qudus (the Holy Spirit, Angel Gabriel), the leader of all angels, would support him.
Moreover, during the battles that take place between truth and falsehood where Allah’s true servants sacrifice their lives in defense of His religion, the angels descend to encourage and help Allah’s servants. Allah says,
“As Your Lord was revealing to the Angels, (saying), ‘I am with you; so make the ones who believe stand firm. I will soon cast horror into the hearts of the ones who have disbelieved. So, strike above the necks, and strike every finger-tip of them.’” (Qur’ān, 8:12)
Meanwhile, there are other angels that take away the souls of those who disbelieved while they smite their faces and backs. Allah Almighty says,
“If only you could see the Angels as they take up the ones who disbelieved, striking their faces and their hind parts and (saying), ‘Taste the torment of the burning fire.’” (Qur’ān, 8:50)
These Qur’ānic verses require a comprehensive interpretation as they clearly show that the angels do not come to a drunkard in a bar and pray to Allah to show him mercy and forgive his sins. However, they would pray for a person who seeks to purify himself buy performing the obligatory prayers in spite of the distractions of the daily life and all sorts of entertainment he sees around. It is because such a person has wisely preferred the remembrance of Allah over those worldly desires and, as a result, has become worthy of receiving prayers from the noble recording angels of Allah Almighty.
Comparably, the angels would not ask Allah to make firm and steadfast those who turn their backs to the enemies in the battle but rather they would do so for the sake of a man who has defeated his love for this worldly life and chosen to fight for the sake of Allah. Indeed, such a person is worthy of being supported by the angels and being provided with glad tidings. Such interpretation is clearly supported by the following Qur’ānic verse:
“Surely the ones who have said, ‘Our Lord is Allah,’ thereafter they have gone straight, upon them the Angels keep coming down (saying), ‘Do not fear (anything), nor grieve, but have good tidings of the Garden that you are promised.’” (Qur’ān, 41:30)
As such, the verse above shows that the angels descend for all the affairs of the worldly life and not only to witness the last moments of a person’s life to take away his soul as some would misunderstand it. This interpretation is further supported by the fact the verse above was revealed in contrast with another verse in the immediate context showing the bad company of those who are heedless and misled. Allah, Glory be to Him, says,
“We have preordained for them comrades; so they have adorned for them that which is before them and that which is behind them. Against them the Command has come true among nations that passed even before them of the jinn and of humankind. Surely they were losers.” (Qur’ān, 41:25)
Thus, the evil persons are misguided by the devils while the pious ones are supported by the angels on the path of righteousness. Eventually, every person will be accountable for his own actions since Allah has granted each human an intellectual faculty and a free will that make him accountable for whatever he does.
 Shaikh ‛Aṭiya Ṣaqr, Former Chairman of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, “Understanding Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 20.
 Belief in angels is entirely dependent on the revealed scriptures. As such, it is appropriate to discuss this issue following the theme of prophecies and before the issues related to the Invisible World (issues of the Last Day). We preferred to explore the “Belief in Angels” dependently under the title of “Eschatology”, an approach widely followed by many writers.
 Al-Bukhari’s Kitab ul-Imān, “Book of Faith”, vol. 1.
 Al-Buti’s Kubra l-Yaqīniyyāt, p. 223.
 Al-Razi’s at-Tafsīr, 26:167.
 ‘Adnān Zarzūr, Dirasāunt fi l-Fikr il-‘Islamiy, (Kuwait: Maktabat al-Falah, 1986), p. 201.
 Fath ul-Bari, 6:21; 4:90.
 Al-Tabatiba’i, Tafsīr, 17:12.
 Dr. ‘Adnān Zarzūr, op. cit., p.202.
 See, al-Irshad as quoted by Dr. Yahya Hashim, Asasiyyāt ul-‘Aqīdati l-‘Islamiyyah, p. 95.
 Dr. ‘Adnān Zarzūr, Dirasātun fi l-Fikr il-‘Islamiy, p. 193.
 Muḩammad El-Ghazāli, “A Hundred Questions on Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, page 335.