Angels in Islam

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

In Islam, angels (Arabic: ملكmalak; plural: ملاًئِكة malā'ikah) [1] are believed to be celestial beings, created from a luminous origin by God. They have different functions, including praising God in heavens, interacting with humans ordinary life, and carrying laws of nature. Islam acknowledges the concept of angels both as anthropomorphic and abstract. [2] Belief in angels is one of the six articles of faith in Islam. [3] The Quran is the principal source for the Islamic concept of angels, but more extensive features of angels appear in hadiths, Mi'raj literature, Islamic theology and Islamic philosophy. [4] The angels differ from other spiritual creatures in their attitude as creatures of virtue in contrast to impure demons and morally ambivalent jinn. [5]

Contents

Corporeal angels

Creation

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, [6] while other creatures on the following days. Although not mentioned in the Quran, [7] 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." [8] [9] 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, [10] 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. [11] Dividing angels into two groups created from different types of light is also attested by Tabari, [12] Abd al-Ghani al-Maqdisi, [13] Al-Jili [14] and Al-Suyuti. [15] 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. [16] Scholars also argued that there is no distinction between nur and nar at all. Although 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. [17] Asserting that both fire and light are actually the same but on different degrees can also be found by Qazwini and Ibishi. [18] [19] The lack of distinction between fire and light might be explained by the fact that both are closely related morphologically and phonetically. [20] Al-Baydawi argued that light serves only as a proverb, but fire and light refers actually to the same substance. [21] Apart from light, other traditions also mention exceptions about angels created from fire, ice or water. [22]

Characteristics

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. [23] As with other monotheistic religions, angels are characteristics of their purity and obedience to God. [24] However, their constant loyalty, towards God, emphasized by some Quranic verses such as 16:49, does not necessarily imply impeccability, [25] and the motif of erring angels is also known to Islam. [26] Some scholars on the other hand, among Hasan of Basra as one of the first, [27] extend their loyalty towards God to assume general impeccability. Those who accept the possibility of erring angels, advocate that actually only the messengers among the angels are infallible, [28] since the Quran also describes angels as being tested. [29] Al-Baydawi argued, that angels only remain impeccable if they do not fall. Ibn Arabi stated that angels may err in opposing Adam as a vice-regent and fixing on their way of worshipping God to the exclusion of other creatures. [30] [31]

Angels are usually described in anthropomorphic forms combined with supernatural images, such as wings, being of great size, wearing heavenly clothes and great beauty. [32] Some angels are identified with specific colors, often with white, but some special angels have a distinct color, such as Gabriel being associated with the color green. [33]

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. [25] A similar 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. [34] This view is based on the assumption of superiority of pure spirit against body and flesh. Contrarily 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 is 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, [35] a tradition opposed by later scholars, such as ibn Taimiyya, but still accepted by earlier scholars, such as ibn Hanbal. [36] Some Sufi traditions argue that a human generally ranks below angels, but developed to Al-Insān al-Kāmil, he ranks above angels. [37] Comparable to another major opinion, that prophets and messengers among humans rank above angels, but the ordinary human below an angel, while the messengers among angels rank higher than prophets. [25] Maturidism generally holds that angels' and prophets' superiority and obedience derive from their virtues and insights to God's action, but not as their original purity. [38]

Purity

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 being repelled by humans' state of impurity. [39] Such angels keep a distance from humans, who polluted themselves by certain actions (such as sexual intercourse). However, angels might return to an individual 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 people's actions, [40] and the Guardian angel, [41] will not perform their tasks assigned to the individual. Another hadith specifies, during the state of impurity, bad actions 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. [42] Angels also depart from humans when they are naked or are having a bath out of decency, but also curse people who are nude in public.

Abstract angels

Philosophy

In Islamic philosophy, angels appear frequently as incorporeal creatures. Al-Kindi and Ibn Sina both define angels as simple substances, which means, they belong to the Celestial spheres comparable to Ptolemaic astronomy, endowed with life, reason, and immortality, in contrast to sublunary entities such as humans and animals, who are endowed with life, and the former also with reason, but are mortal. [43] [44] 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. [45] Such cosmological thought, maintained by scholars such as Al-Farabi and Ibn Sina, has strong resemblance with the Neo-Platonistic emanation cosmology, identifying the different angels in Islam with intellects, dividing the cosmos into different spheres. However, Islamic scholars repeatedly insist that all heavenly spheres as a whole form a single body and are moved by God, in contrast to Aristotelian cosmology in which God only moves the outer sphere. [46] According to ibn Sina, but differing from Al-Farabi, God is not part of the scheme of emanation. God emanated things in accordance with his will. In his Theologia Aristotelis he shows that through the manifestation of God, the intellects are aware of God and their role in the universe. Further Ibn Sina seems to distinguishes between two types of angels: One completely unrelated to matter, and another one, which exists in form of a superior kind of matter. The latter ones can carry messages between the heavenly spheres and the sublunary world, appearing in visions. Therefore, the higher angels dwell in higher spheres, while their subordinate angels appear in an intermediary realm. Ibn Sina's explanation might imply an attempt to consider revelation as part of the natural world. [23] [47] Also Qazwini lists a lower type of angels; 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 proved by reason and effects of these angels on their assigned object. [48]

Psychology

Islamic philosophy stressed that humans own angelic and demonic qualities and that the human soul is seen as a potential angel or potential demon . [49] Depending on whether the sensual soul or the rational soul develop, the human soul becomes an angel or a demon. [50] Angels may also give inspirations opposite to the evil suggestions, called waswās, from Satan. [51]

In Ibn Abbas Mi'raj narrative

Muhammad requests Maalik to show him Hell during his heavenly journey. Miniature from The David Collection. Maalik opens the gates of hell.jpg
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 encountering the angel of fire and ice.jpg
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. [52] [53] 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 heavensecond heaventhird heavenfourth heavenfifth heavensixth heavenseventh heaven
Habib Angel of Death Maalik Salsa'il Kalqa'il Mikha'il (Archangel) Israfil
Rooster angel Angels of death Angel with seventy headsAngels of the sun- Cherubim Bearers of the Throne
Ismail (or Riḍwan) Mika'ilArina'il--Shamka'ilAfra'il

Individual angels

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.

Archangels

Mentioned in Quran

In canonical hadith collections

Other

Disputed

Sufism

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 guidance, light and beauty. [77] 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". [78] Sufi cosmology divides 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. [79] Some authors have suggested that some individual angels in the microcosmos represent specific human faculties on a macrocosmi level. [80] According to a common belief, if a Sufi can not find Shaikh to teach him, he will be taught by the angel Khidr. [81] [82]

Contemporary Era

Contemporary Salafism continues to regard the belief in angels as a pillar of Islam and regards the rejection of the literal belief in angels as unbelief and an innovation brought by secularism and Positivism. Modern reinterpretations, as for example suggested by Nasr Abu Zayd, are strongly disregarded. Simultaneously, many traditional materials regarding angels are rejected on the ground, they would not be authentic. The Muslim Brotherhood scholars Sayyid Qutb and Umar Sulaiman Al-Ashqar reject much established material concerning angels, such as the story of Harut and Marut or naming the Angel of Death Azrail. Sulayman Ashqar not only rejects the traditional material itself, further he disapproves scholars who used them. [83]

Islamic Modernist scholars such as Muhammad Asad and Ghulam Ahmed Parwez have suggested a metaphorical reinterpretation of the concept of angels. [84]

See also

Notes

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  3. "BBC - Religions - Islam: Basic articles of faith". Archived from the original on 13 August 2018. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  4. Stephen Burge Angels in Islam: Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti's al-Haba'ik fi akhbar al-mala'ik Routledge 2015 ISBN   978-1-136-50473-0 p. 22-23
  5. Amira El-Zein Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN   9780815650706 page 20
  6. Tobias Nünlist Dämonenglaube im Islam Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG, 2015 ISBN   978-3-110-33168-4 p. 43 (German)
  7. Jane Dammen McAuliffe Encyclopaedia of the Qurʼān Brill: VOlume 3, 2005 ISBN   9789004123564 p. 45
  8. "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.
  9. 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.
  10. Jane Dammen McAuliffe Encyclopaedia of the Qurʼān Brill: Volume 3, 2005 ISBN   9789004123564 p. 45
  11. Jane Dammen McAuliffe Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān Volume 5 Georgetown University, Washington DC p. 118
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Dumah is an angel mentioned in Rabbinical and Islamic literature as an angel who has authority over the wicked dead. Dumah is a popular figure in Yiddish folklore. I. B. Singer's Short Friday (1964), a collection of stories, mentions Dumah as a "thousand-eyed angel of death, armed with a fiery rod or flaming sword". Dumah is the Aramaic word for silence.

Rūḥ A persons immortal, essential self or alternatively an Archangel

In Islam, especially Sufism, rūḥ is a person's immortal, essential self — pneuma, i.e. the "spirit" or "soul". The Quran itself does not describe rūḥ as the immortal self. Nevertheless, in some contexts, it animates inanimate matter. Further, it appears to be a metaphorical being, such as an angel. In one instance, rūḥ refers to Jesus. Further, the Quran refers to rūḥ as Ruh al-qudus and al-ruh al-amin.

Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God (Allah), and that Muhammad is a messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with over 1.8 billion followers or 24.1% of the world's population, known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 49 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and has guided mankind through prophets, revealed scriptures and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, believed to be the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative examples of Muhammad.

Angel Supernatural being in various religions and mythologies

An angel is generally a supernatural being found in various religions and mythologies. Abrahamic religions often depict angels as benevolent celestial beings who act as intermediaries between God and humanity. Other roles of angels include protecting and guiding human beings, and carrying out tasks on behalf of God. Abrahamic religions often organize angels into hierarchies, although such rankings may vary between sects in each religion. Such angels may receive specific names or titles. People have also extended the use of the term "angel" to various notions of spirits or figures found in other religious traditions. The theological study of angels is known as "angelology". Angels expelled from Heaven are referred to as fallen angels as distinct from the heavenly host.

Harut and Marut two angels mentioned in the Quran

Harut and Marut are two angels mentioned in ayah (verse) 102 of the second surah of the Quran, who were present during the reign of Sulaymân, and were located at Bābil. According to some narratives, those two angels were in the time of Idrîs. The Quran indicates that they were a trial for the people and through them the people were tested with sorcery. The names are probably etymologically related to Haurvatat and Ameretat, two Zoroastrian archangels.

Shaitan A demon or devil in Islam

Shayāṭīn, singular: Shayṭān (شَيْطٰان) are evil spirits in Islamic belief, inciting the heart via waswasaħ. By such, they always try to lead humans astray. Although demons are usually spoken of in abstract terms, and more often described by their evil influences only, they are depicted as ugly and grotesque creatures of hell-fire.

Ishim (angel)

The Ishim or Eshim are a class of angels said to be the closest to the affairs of mortals. The Ishim are also comparable with the Erelim or the Bene Elim/Bene Elohim, both of whom are a part of the order of Thrones or Angels.

Death in Islam is the termination of worldly life and the beginning of afterlife. Death is seen as the separation of the soul from the body, and its transfer from this world to the afterlife.

In Islam the Zabaniyah are the forces of hell, who torment the sinners, also called the Angels of punishment or Guardians of Hell. They are often identified with the Nineteen Angels of Hell mentioned in Quran 66:6 and 74:30 or as their subordinates. Namely they appear in Surah 96:18. Traditionally they are contrasted with the angels of mercy by their creation from fire instead of light. Some scholars regard them, nevertheless, as created from light, along with other angels.

Samūm is a demon in Ancient Arabic lore and later Islamic beliefs. As a kind of fire, it is also the origin of some kinds of evil spirits and further identified with both the fires of hell and the fire of the sun. The Samum probably originated from Jewish lore as an anthropomorphization of poisonous wind, which was probably also the origin of the concept of Samael and his lesser devils. Islam further developes the relation between the fires of Samum and Satan by asserting, that he or at least his minor devils, are created from the fires of Samum.

Artiya'il is an angel in Islamic lore, believed to remove the grief of humans. He is mentioned in the hadith collection of Jalal Al-Din Al-Suyuti: when Abu Muslim al-Khawlani was awaiting news from Byzantium, the angel came down in the shape of a bird and introduced himself as the angel Artiya'il, the angel who removes the memories of anxiety.

Riḍwan Arabic name

Riḍwan is an angel in Islam, who guards the gates of heaven. His name is absent in the Quran and early tafsir, named by Ibn Hisham Ismāʿīl instead, he namely appears in later reports and Mi'raj narration. Ridwan also plays an important role as the guardian of heaven in the Qisas Al-Anbiya, here he must prevent Iblis from entering the keep of Adam, but was tricked by a serpent, who consealed Iblis in his mouth, carrying him past the guardian. His name probably developed from the Quranic term riḍwan. However, in the Quranic usage, it does not refer to an angel.

Bearers of the Throne Group of angels in Islam

Bearers of the Throne or ḥamlat al-arsh are a group of angels in Islam. The Quran mentions them in Quran 40:7 and Quran 69:17. In Islamic traditions, they are often portrayed in zoomorphic forms. They are described as resembling different creatures: An eagle, a bull, a lion and a human. They would intercede with the creature that corresponds to their form. Other hadiths describes them with six wings and four faces. The portrayal of these angels is comparable to the Seraphim in the Book of Revelation. These four angels are also held to be created from different elements: One from light, one from fire, one from water and one from mercy.