Angel in a Mughal miniature, in the style of Bukhara, 16th century
Angel Blowing a Woodwind', ink and opaque watercolor painting from Iran, c. 1500, Honolulu Academy of Arts

In Islam, angels (Arabic: ملك malak; plural: ملاًئِكة malā'ikah)[1] are celestial beings, created from a luminious origin by God to perform certain tasks he has given them. Islam acknowledges the concept of angels both as anthropomorphic and abstract.[2] The angels from the angelic realm are subordinates in a hierarchy headed by one of the archangels in the highest heavens.[3] Belief in angels is one of the six articles of faith in Islam.[4]

Contents

Corporeal angelsEdit

CreationEdit

Angels are another kind of creature created by God, known to mankind, commonly dwelling in the heavenly spheres. Although the Quran does not mention the time when angels were created, they are generally considered as the first creation of God. According to Tabari, the angels had been created on Wednesday,[5] while other creatures on the following days. Although not mentioned in the Quran,[6] angels are believed to be created from a luminous substance, repeatedly described as a form of light. The probably most famous hadith regarding their origin is reported in Sahih Muslim: "The Angels were created out of light and the Jann was created out of a mixture of fire and Adam was created out of what characterizes you."[7][8] Nur, the term used for the light from which the angels are created from, usually corresponds to the cold light of night or the light of the moon,[9] contrasted to nar, which corresponds to fire or the diurnal and solar light from which the angels of punishment are said to be created of.[10] Dividing angels into two groups created from different types of light is also attested by Tabari,[11] Abd al-Ghani al-Maqdisi,[12] Al-Jili[13] and Al-Suyuti.[14] Suyuti distinguishes in his work Al-Hay’a as-samya fi l-hay’a as-sunmya angels as created from "fire that eats, but does not drink" in opposition to devils created from "fire that drinks, but does not eat" which is also identified with the fire of the sun.[15] Scholars also argued that there is no distinction between nur and nar at all. Althought not his conclusion, Tabari argued that both can be seen as the same substance, since both pass into each other but refer to the same thing on different degrees.[16] Asserting that both fire and light are actually the same but on different degrees can also be found by Qazwini and Ibishi.[17][18] The lack of distinction between fire and light might be explained by the fact that both are closely related morphologically and phonetically.[19] Al-Baydawi argued that light serves only as a proverb, but fire and light refers actually to the same substance.[20] Apart from light, other traditions also mention expections about angels created from fire, ice or water.[21]

CharacteristicsEdit

One of the Islamic major characteristic is their lack of bodily desires; they never get tired, do not eat or drink and have no anger.[3] As with other monotheistic religions, angels are characteristical for purity and their obedience to God.[22] However, their constant loyalty towards God does not necessarily imply impeccability. Other scholars, among Hasan of Basra was the first, thought however, angels as generally infallible.[23] Angels are usually described in anthropomorphic forms combined with supernatural images, such as wings, being of great size, wearing heavenly clothes and great beauty.[24] Some angels are identified with specific colors, often with white, but some special angels have a distinct colors, such as Gabriel is associated with the color green.[25]

Scholars debated whether human or angels rank higher. The prostration of angels before Adam is often seen as evidence for humans' supremacy over angels. Nevertheless, other hold angels to be superior, as being free from material deficits, such as anger and lust, angels are free from such inferior urges and therefore superior, a position especially found among Mu'tazilites and some Asharites.[26] A similiar opinion was asserted by Hasan of Basri, who argued, that angels are superior to humans due to their infallibility, originally opposed by both Sunnis and Shias.[27] This view is based on the assumption of superiority of pure spirit against body and flesh. Contrary argued, humans rank above angels, since for a human it is harder to be obedient and to worship God, hassling with bodily temptations, in contrast to angels, whose life is much easier and therefore their obedience rather insignificant. Islam acknowledges a famous story about competing angels and humans in the tale of Harut and Marut, who were tested to determine, whether or not, angels would do better than humans under the same circumstances.[28] Some Sufi traditions argue, that a human generally ranks below angels, but developed to Al-Insān al-Kāmil, he ranks above angels.[29] Comparable to another major opinion, that prophets and messengers among humans rank above angels, but the ordinary human below an angel, while the mesengers among angels rank higher than prophets.[26] Maturidism generally holds, angels and prophets superiority and obedience derive from their virtues and insights to God's action, but not as their original purity.[30]

PurityEdit

Angels believed to be engaged in human affairs are closely related to Islamic purity and modesty rituals. Many hadiths, including Muwatta Imam Malik from one of the Kutub al-Sittah, talk about angels repelled by humans state of impurity.[31] Such angels keep distance to humans, who polluted themselves by certain actions (such as sexual intercourse). However, angels might return to an indiviual as soon as the person (ritually) purified himself or herself. The absence of angels may cause several problems for the person. If driven away by ritual impurity, the Kiraman Katibin, who record peoples actions,[32] and the Guardian angel,[33] who keep harm away from an individual, will not perform their tasks assigned to the individual. Another hadith specifies, during the state of impurity, bad acitions are still written down, but good actions are not. When a person tells a lie, angels nearly are separated from the person from the stench it emanates.[34] Angels also depart from human when they are naked or are having a bath out of decency, but also curse people, who are nude in public.

Abstract angelsEdit

PhilosophyEdit

In Islamic philosophy, some scholars held angels to be incorporeal creatures. Scholars such as Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and drew upon the Neo-Platonistic emanation cosmology, identifying the different angels in Islam with intellects, dividing the cosmos into different spheres. Al-Kindi and Ibn Sina both define angels as simple substances endowed with life, reason, and immortality. In contrast to humans, who are substances endowed with life and reason but are mortal, who is, in turn, distinguished by unreasonable but also mortal animals.[35] Similar Qazwini assigns the angels to heavenly spheres, distinguishing them from among the animals, although both are said to possess the attribute of life. Significantly, Al-Damiri includes in his zoological works, animals, humans, jinn and even demons, but not angels.[36]

As forces of nature or human psycheEdit

Angels as abstract concepts belong to Al-Ghaib (the unseen). Angels here are used as expressions of natural laws.[37] They carry the Divine command into execution. References to specific angels, like Jabra'il or Azrail, are respective leaders, with a multitude of subordinative angels, who perform for a specific function.[38]

Qazwini portrays the earthly angels as indwelling forces of nature, who keep the world in order and never deviate from their duty. Qazwini believed that the existence of these angels could be proven by reason and the things these angels affect.[39]

Islamic philosophy stressed that humans own angelic and demonic qualities and that the human soul is seen as a potential angel or potential demon.[40] Depending on whether the sensual soul or the rational soul develop, the human soul becomes an angel or a demon.[41] Angels may also give inspirations opposite to the evil suggestions, called waswās, from Satan.[42]

The modern astrophysicist Nidhal Guessoum has pointed to modern Islamic scholars such as Muhammad Asad and Ghulam Ahmed Parwez in his book "Islam's Quantum Question" who have suggested a metaphorical reinterpretation of the concept of angels.[43]

Debate about impeccabilityEdit

A question in Islamic theology deals with the impeccability of the angels. The majority of Islamic scholars prefer the opinion that angels are sinless. Advocates of angels' infallibility commonly cite certain verses from the Quran, which support their claim such as 16:49: "To Allah prostrates whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth, including animals and angels, and they are not arrogant". However, these verses cannot prove the impeccability for all angels at any time and in any situation.[26] The motif of erring angels is also known to Islam.[44] This is supported by verses describing angels with personal traits and being tested.[45] Al-Baydawi argued, angels are only impeccable until they fall.[46] Others speak of Islamic angels as continuously obedient and also refer to Ijma (scholary consensus).[47] One of the first scholars who asserted the doctrine of impeccable angels was Hasan of Basra. He not only advocated the impeccability of angels by quoting certain Quranic verses, but also reinterpreted verses, which speak against the impeccability of angels.[48] According to Maturidism, both angels and prophets are more obedient, because of their virtues and insights of God's actions. Here, the angels are also exemplary for humans as they discontinued to judge over the belief of others, based on Surah 2:31-32.[49]

If fallible angels are assumed, as long they carrying out the laws of nature, they are considered infallible. However, as personified angels, they may indeed sin. Their obedience and worship consist of their awareness of God, rather than lack of free will.[50] They are endowed with human reason neither are they subject to temptation but beings who may err; also explaining the implications of a well-known hadith concerning an argument that took place between the angels of Mercy and the angels of Punishment.[51] Ibn Arabi stated that some angels may err in opposing Adam as a vice-regent and fixing on their way of worshipping God to the exclusion of other creatures.[52][53]

In Ibn Abbas Mi'raj narrativeEdit

 
Muhammad requests Maalik to show him Hell during his heavenly journey. Miniature from The David Collection.
 
Muhammad encounters the Angel composed of fire and ice during his Night journey. Miniature from a copy of al-Sarai’s Nahj al-Faradis from The David Collection

Muhammad's encounter with several significant angels on his journey through the celestial spheres, play a major role in Ibn Abbas version.[54][55] Many scholars such as Al-Tha`labi drew their exegesis upon this narrative, however it never led to an established angelology as known in Christianity.

first heaven second heaven third heaven fourth heaven fifth heaven sixth heaven seventh heaven
Habib Angel of Death Maalik Salsa'il Kalqa'il Mikha'il (Archangel) Israfil
Rooster angel Angels of death Angel with seventy heads Angels of the sun - Cherubim Bearers of the Throne
Ismail (angel) Mika'il Arina'il - - Shamka'il Afra'il

Individual angelsEdit

Islam has no standard hierarchical organization that parallels the division into different "choirs" or spheres hypothesized and drafted by early medieval Christian theologians, but does distinguish between archangels and angels. Angels are not equal in status and consequently, they are delegated different tasks to perform.

ArchangelsEdit

  • Jibra'il/Jibril/Jabril (Judeo-Christian: Gabriel),[56] the angel of revelation. Jibra'il is the archangel responsible for revealing the Quran to Muhammad, verse by verse. Jibra'il is the angel who communicates with (all of) the prophets and also descends with the blessings of God during the night of Laylat al-Qadr ("The Night of Divine Destiny (Fate)"). Jibra'il is also acknowledged as a magnificent warrior in Islamic tradition, who led an army of angels into the Battle of Badr and fought against Iblis as he tempted Jesus (Isa).[57]
  • Mikail, also spelled Mīkāl or Mīkāʾīl (Judeo-Christian: Michael),[58] the archangel of mercy, is often depicted as providing nourishment for bodies and souls while also being responsible for bringing rain and thunder to Earth.[59] Some scholars pointed out that Mikail is in charge of angels who carry the laws of nature.[60] According to legend, he was so shocked at the sight of hell when it was created that he never laughed again.
  • Israfil or Israafiyl (Judeo-Christian: Raphael), is the archangel of music[61] often depicted with a trumpet, he will blow in the end time. Therefore, Israfil is responsible for signaling the coming of Qiyamah (Judgment Day) by blowing a horn.
  • 'Azrail/'Azraaiyl/Azrael, is the archangel of death. He and his subordinative angels are responsible for parting the soul from the body of the dead and will carry the believers to heaven (Illiyin) and the unbelievers to hell (Sijjin).[62][63]

Mentioned in QuranEdit

In canonical hadith collectionsEdit

  • The angels of the Seven Heavens.
  • Jundullah, those who helped Muhammad in the battlefield.
  • Those that give the spirit to the foetus in the womb and are charged with four commands: to write down his provision, his life-span, his actions, and whether he will be wretched or happy.[72]
  • The Angel of the Mountains, met by the Prophet after his ordeal at Taif.[73]
  • Munkar and Nakir, who question the dead in their graves.[74]

OtherEdit

  • Ridwan, the keeper of Paradise.
  • Artiya'il, the angel who removes grief and depression from the children of Adam.[2]
  • Habib, an angel Muhammad met during his night journey composed of ice and fire (according to Ibn Abbas' Mi'raj narrative).
  • The angels charged with each existent thing, maintaining order and warding off corruption. Their number is known only to God.[75]
  • Darda'il (The Journeyers), who travel the earth searching out assemblies where people remember God's name.[76]

DisputedEdit

  • Dhul-Qarnayn, believed by some to be an angel or "part-angel" based on the statement of Umar bin Khattab.[77]
  • Khidr, sometimes regarded as an angel which took human form and thus able to reveal hidden knowledge exceeding those of the prophets to guide and help people or prophets.[78]

SufismEdit

Angels play an important role in Sufism. Just as in non-Sufi-related traditions, angels are thought of as created of light. Al-Jili asserts that the angels are actually created from the Light of Muhammad and in his attribute of guidiance, light and beauty.[79] Influenced by Ibn Arabis Sufi metaphysics, Haydar Amuli identifies angels as created to represent different names/attributes of God's beauty, while the devils are created in accordance with God's attributes of Majesty, such as "The Haugthy" or "The Domineering".[80] Sufi cosmology divids the world into several realms. The realm of Malakut is the plane in which symbols take on form. It is also the sphere in which humans may encounter angels, during their dreams.[81] Some authors have suggested that some individual angels in the microcosmos represent specific human faculties on a macrocosmi level.[82] According to a common belief, if a Sufi can not find Shaikh to teach him, he will be taught by the angel Khidr.[83][84]

Relation to jinnEdit

Closely connected to the angels are another category of invisible creatures called jinn. While the exact correlation between angels, jinn and demons remains vague, the jinn are generally a category of beings apart from the angels. The jinn differ from the angels in regard of their position; while the angels dwell in heaven, the jinn lie on earth along with humans, underground[85] or in an intermediary realm.[81] Further the jinn have, unlike the angels, desires, have an extended measure of free decisions, thus able to choose between good and evil. Based on this fact, many scholars argued, that Iblis was not actually an angel, but one of the jinn. However, those scholars who assume Iblis is a fallen angel, consider the jinn be more free, with Iblis having only a limited possibility of choice. The jinn on the other hand are free to roam on earth, can even raise families and build up societies, however are mortal[86] thus sharing many characteristics with humans. Additionally, the final abode of demons, Iblis and the angels, is predestined, while the extended measure of free-will of the jinn, makes it possible to enter hell or heaven depending on how they lived their lives.

Otherwise, jinn are thought of as a sub-category of angels, who guarded the heavens, and distinguished from the other angels, by their creation out of fire and their ability to disobey and procreate their kind.[87]

Even more blurred is the dinstinction between angels, jinn and demons by the fact, the term jinn can also encompass any creature concealed from human eye.[88][89]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Webb, Gisela (2006). "Angel". In Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. Brill.(subscription required)
  2. ^ a b Stephen Burge Angels in Islam: Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti's al-Haba'ik fi Akhbar al-malik Routledge 2015 ISBN 978-1-136-50473-0
  3. ^ a b Cyril Glassé, Huston Smith, The New Encyclopedia of Islam Rowman Altamira 2003 ISBN 978-0-759-10190-6 page 49-50
  4. ^ "BBC - Religions - Islam: Basic articles of faith". Archived from the original on 13 August 2018. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  5. ^ Tobias Nünlist Dämonenglaube im Islam Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG, 2015 ISBN 978-3-110-33168-4 p. 43 (German)
  6. ^ Jane Dammen McAuliffe Encyclopaedia of the Qurʼān Brill: VOlume 3, 2005 ISBN 9789004123564 p. 45
  7. ^ "كتاب الزهد والرقائق Book 55, Hadith 78. The Book of Zuhd and Softening of Hearts. (10) Chapter: Miscellaneous Ahadith(10) باب فِي أَحَادِيثَ مُتَفَرِّقَةٍ". sunnah.com. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  8. ^ Burge, Stephen (2015). Angels in Islam: Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti's al-Haba'ik fi akhbar al-mala'ik. Routledge. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-136-50473-0.
  9. ^ Jane Dammen McAuliffe Encyclopaedia of the Qurʼān Brill: Volume 3, 2005 ISBN 9789004123564 p. 45
  10. ^ Jane Dammen McAuliffe Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān Volume 5 Georgetown University, Washington DC p. 118
  11. ^ al-Tabari. Tafsir al-Tabiri (PDF). Islaam Books. p. 241. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  12. ^ Gibb, Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen (1995). The Encyclopaedia of Islam: NED-SAM. Brill. p. 94.
  13. ^ Awn, Peter J. (1983). Satan's Tragedy and Redemption: Iblīs in Sufi Psychology. Leiden, Germany: Brill Publishers. p. 182 ISBN 978-9004069060.
  14. ^ Burge, Stephen (2015). Angels in Islam: Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti's al-Haba'ik fi Akhbar al-malik. Routledge. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-136-50473-0.
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