Philosophy & Theology

Belief in the Angels

Belief in the Angels (Mala’ika)

  • Imam al-Bayhaqi mentions in Shu`ab al-Iman as cited by Imam al-Suyuti in al-Habai’k fi Akhbar al-Mala’ik that regarding the Angels we have to:

[1] Believe in them;

[2] Honour and respect them and

[3] To accept them as messengers of Allah.[1]

General info

  • Linguistically, the word mala’ika (= ملائكة is the pl. in form) comes from the root alaka meaning ‘to dispatch’, ‘to send’. Thus the nouns ma’likun (مئلك) or ma’likatun (مئلكة) would mean ‘messengers’.
  • Some linguists say it comes from the word mulk (ملك), meaning ‘dominion’, ‘governance’ and ‘control’ because the Angels have control over certain affairs of the world.[2]
  • In Arabic when the Arabs say, wa’likni ila fulanin (و ءلكني الى فلان) it means ‘give him something from me’.

POINT [1] 

  • We have to believe in the Angels because of textual stipulations such as [1]: Hadith of Jibril (as): akhbirni `an al-iman
  • Because the Qur’an explicitly mentions it: Q. 2:177 – {Birr is not to merely turn your faces towards the east and the west but true piety is to believe in Allah, The Last Day, the Angels, The Books and the Prophets…}. Belief in Angels is therefore is linked to true piety (birr) which is not just turning to the direction of Prayer.[3]
  • Belief in Angels is linked to what the Messenger (saw) used to believe: 2: 285 – {The Messenger and the believers used to believe in what his Lord revealed. Each one of them believed in Allah, his Angels and his Books…}
  • Belief in the Angels means we have to believe in their existence and their functions, duties, responsibilities, etc.
  • Belief in them is established decisively (qat`i) through revelation (wahy) which is itself established to be definitively from Allah by the mind (`aql).

Argument:

  • If God exists, and the Qur’an is the Word of God, then what it contains about reality and existence is necessary and sufficient for it to be true.
  • i.e. without revelation we could not know if Angels existed (necessary condition; impossible to have knowledge of X without Y).
  • i.e. the presence of the Qur’an informing us is guarantee that Angels existing are true (sufficient condition; impossible to have knowledge of X without Y).

POINT [2]

Basic Descriptions of Angels:

  1. Light: Angels are created from light:[4]

أخرج مسلم عن عائشة قالت: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: (خلقت الملائكة من نور، وخلق الجان من مارج من نار، وخلق آدم مما وصف لكم)

  1. Not human: They are not subject to the same norms and laws as human beings. Thus Imam al-Razi states in his tafsir:[5]

قال الإمام فخر الدين الرازي في تفسيره: اتفقوا على أن الملائكة لا يأكلون ولا يشربون، ولا ينكحون، وأما الجن فإنهم يأكلون ويشربون ولا ينكحون، وأما الإنس فإنهم يأكلون ويشربون وينكحون ويتوالدون

“The Angels do not eat, drink or marry…” > thus they have no physical appetites or desires nor physical ramifications like pregnancy, etc. They are also genderless.

  1. Innumerable:[6] Allah alone knows their true number – Q. al-Mudatthir:31: {and none but He knows the true number of His soldiers…}.
  2. They are Allah’s honoured creation: – Q. Anbiya’:26-28: {We have not sent before any messenger except that we have inspired him to say: ‘there is no deity but Me so worship Me!’ They say: ‘The Most Merciful has taken a walad’. Glory be to Him! They are nothing but honoured servants. They do not speak before Him and do what they are commanded…and they stand and wait in awe of Him}. Hence, Angels are perfect slaves of Allah; they don’t speak until Allah speaks; they carry out all of Allah’s commands; they have only power that is given by Allah; they are in absolute and continual awe of Allah. > Here the word walad refers to ‘Angels’.[7]
  3. They are Allah’s soldiers in creation: – Q. al-Fath:4 {…And Allah has soldiers in the heavens and the earth…}.
  4. Some Angels have 2, 3, or 4 wings: – Q. al-Fatir:1: {All praise be to Allah the Originator of the Heavens and the earth; Who made the Angels as messengers with two, three or four wings…}.[8]

 POINT [3]  

Basic Duties:

  • Some Angels guard Hellfire: – Q. al-Tahrim:7: {…over which are angels stern and severe. They do not disobey Allah when He commands them. They do what they are commanded}.
  • Some carry the throne of Allah: al-Haqqa:17: (…and angels standing on the sides of it. Eight in total on that day will carry the Throne of your Lord above them.
  • Some angels descend down with the revelation: Q. al-Nahl:2: {He sends down the Angels with the ruh[9] with His command to whoever He wants of his servants to warn them that: ‘there is no deity except Me so fear Me!’}:
  • Some record your deeds (guardian Angels): Q. al-Infitar:10-12: {they have guardians over them. Honoured scribes that know everything you do…}.
  • Some protect every person from perils and dangers: Q. al-Ra’d:11: {…he has mu`aqqibat surrounding him from all sides protecting him from Allah’s commands…}.
  • We know there are 4 distinct Angels that are stewards of the world: Jibril, Mika’il, Azra’il and Israfil (as).
  • Their functions are as mentioned in the hadith include, but not restricted to, the following:[10]

وأخرج أبو الشيخ عن عكرمة بن خالد أن رجلا قال: يا رسول الله أي الملائكة أكرم على الله? قال: لا أدري فعرج جبريل ثم هبط فقال: جبريل، وميكائيل، وإسرافيل، وملك الموت، فأما جبريل فصاحب الحرب، وصاحب المرسلين، وأما ميكائيل: فصاحب كل قطرة تسقط، وكل ورقة تنبت، وكل ورقة تسقط، وأما ملك الموت: فهو موكل بقبض روح كل عبد في بر، أو بحر، وأما إسرافيل: فأمين الله بينه وبينهم

  • From Abu Shaykh > `Ikrima b. Khalid > a man > the Messenger of Allah: Jibril: sahib al-harb, sahib al-mursalin = in charge of battles (e.g. victory, helping the believers, etc.) and messengers: Mika’il: steward of the rain, leaves that fall, plants = vegetable world; The Angel of death: seizes all souls = Angel of death; Israfil: Amin Allah = secretary of Allah amongst them.

POINT [4]

Effects of this belief in Angels:

  • Majesty of Allah: Allah commands this many Angels, He created them and He controls them and governs His creation through them. This should build awe and adoration of Allah in us that He is infinitely Glorious and Mighty without equal in His dominion. > this understanding should shape our nafsiyyah so we can know and understand our Lord and enter into that intimate relationship with Him.[11]
  • Mercy of Allah: Allah gives each of us protective Angels, watching over us, caring for us, looking after us. This should build love and trust and thankfulness in us for this favour. Allah’s mercy is an act of contingency on His part yet He pours it out for His servants out of benevolence and love for them > this understanding should shape our nafsiyyah so we can know and understand our Lord and enter into that intimate relationship with Him.

= this should make us run to Allah; desire Him; yearn for Him because He is supremely benevolent and loving to His creatures.

  • Obedience to Allah: Angels obey Allah’s command, they do not contest, argue, deny or reject it; they have no moral freedom to do this. This should teach us that the camp of the angels is submission, obedience, humility, love, worship and adoration of Allah and His commands and hence if Allah commands us to live by Islam, give da`wa, call to the Islamic way of life, establish Shari`a in life then we must obey and not make excuses. In other words, failure to submit to hukm shar`i leads to Allah’s displeasure.

= this should make us hasten to adhere to the Shari`ah; follow the commands of Allah and gain His pleasure which will be the highest reward because this is the true success and end that human beings want.

  • Actions: Angels that record deeds and everything we do. It also makes us acutely aware that we are monitored and so our actions must be based on the criteria of halal and haram. We will thus be accountable for the criteria we use for our actions.

= This should build in us conscientiousness of our actions as well as the idea of consequences in the Hereafter because Allah is Omniscient and knows everything we do.

 

s.c.z. 

Allah knows best.

Peace and blessings upon our Master Muhammad.

His family, Companions and all who follow them.

 


[1] al-Suyuti, al-Haba’ik, p.6.

[2] al-Fayruz Abadi, Basa’ir Dhawi ’l-Tamyiz, 4:524.

[3] Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, 1:178 states the meaning of “birr” as being: [1] iman; [2] taqwa and [3] actions that draw one closer to Allah:

وفي المراد بالبر ثلاثة أقوال. أحدها: الإيمان. والثاني: التقوى. والثالث: العمل الذي يقرب إلى الله

[4] al-Suyuti, al-Haba’ik, p.6.

[5] al-Suyuti, al-Haba’ik, p.168.

[6] al-Suyuti, al-Haba’ik, pp.1-4.

[7] Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, 5:346-347: “…and the meaning of “walad” here refers to the Angels…”

المراد بالولد: الملائكة، وكذلك المراد بقوله: { بل عباد مُكْرَمون }، والمعنى: بل عباد أكرمهم الله واصطفاهم، { لا يسبقونه بالقول }، أي: لا يتكلَّمون إِلا بما يأمرهم به. وقال ابن قتيبة: لا يقولون حتى يقول، ثم يقولون عنه، ولا يعملون حتى يأمرهم. قوله تعالى: { يعلم ما بين أيديهم } أي: ما قدَّموا من الأعمال { وما خَلْفَهم } ما هم عاملون، { ولا يشفعون } يوم القيامة، وقيل: لا يستغفرون في الدنيا { إِلا لِمَن ارتضى } أي: لِمَن رضي عنه، { وهم مِنْ خشيته } أي: من خشيتهم منه، فأضيف المصدر إِلى المفعول، { مُشْفِقون } أي: خائفون.

[8] Ibn al-Jawzi mentions in Zad al-Masir, 6:472: “{as messengers} i.e. they are sent to the Prophets or to any matter that Allah wishes…”

{ رُسُلاً } يرسلهم إِلى الأنبياء وإِلى ما شاء من الأمور { أُولي أجنحة } أي: أصحاب أجنحة، { مَثنى وثُلاثَ ورُباعَ } فبعضُهم له جناحان، وبعضُهم [له] ثلاثة، وبعضهم له أربعة،

[9] Ibn al-Jawzi in Zad al-Masir, 4:427-428 lists the different meanings of the word “ruh”: [1] revelation (wahy); [2] Prophethood (nabuwwa); [3] Allah’s commands; [4] mercy (rahma); [5] souls (arwah) of all created beings and [6] the Qur’an. Each category is a means by which something is given life and revived anew just like a soul animates and gives life to a body.

وفي المراد بالروح ستة أقوال. أحدها: الوحي، رواه ابن أبي طلحة عن ابن عباس. والثاني: أنه النبوَّة، رواه عكرمة عن ابن عباس. والثالث: أن المعنى: تنزل الملائكة بأمره، رواه العوفي عن ابن عباس. فعلى هذا يكون المعنى: أن أمر الله كلَّه روح. قال الزجاج: الروح ما كان فيه من أمر الله حياة النفوس بالإِرشاد. والرابع: أنه الرحمة. قاله الحسن، وقتادة. والخامس: أن أرواح الخلق: لا ينزل ملك إِلا ومعه روح، قاله مجاهد. والسادس: أنه القرآن، قاله ابن زيد.

[10] al-Suyuti, al-Haba’ik, p.5.

[11] As Allah himself states this need to known Him in the Qur’an as mentioned by Imam al-Mawardi in al-Nukat wa ’l-`Uyun, 5:375: “{I have created jinn and human beings only to worship me} […] and the fourth meaning is ‘to come to know Me’. This was held by al-Dahhak…”

{ وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالإِ وَالإِنسَ إلاَّ لَيَعْبُدُونِ } فيه خمسة تأويلاتالرابع: إلا ليعرفوني، قاله الضحاك.

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