What is the belief in angels in islam? What quran says about angels?
A-) The Concept Of Angels And Belief In Angels
The word malak lexically means “angel, messenger, envoy, power, and strength”. These are invisible, luminous, and spiritual beings that fulfill various duties by Allah’s command, and operate in accordance with the purpose of their creation. Almighty Allah created angels from light, jinn from fire, and human beings from earth. It is known that the creation of angels preceded the creation of the human being.
There are many verses in the Qur’an stating that belief in angels is obligatory, two of these are the following: “The Messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His messengers…”, and “…but it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers…”
Belief in angels precedes the belief in prophets since Almighty Allah sends His revelation to His prophets, and therefore to people, through angels. Just as this order is observed in the Qur’an, it is noted that the same order is observed in the hadiths in which the articles of faith are established. In the Qur’an, those who are hostile to angels are described as the “people of disbelief” and it is emphasized that such people are enemies of Allah.
Angels are in the heavens and, by the command of Allah, they descend for various tasks. The following is stated in the Qur’an: “And [the angels say]: “We do not descend again and again, other than by your Lord’s command: unto Him belongs all that lies open before us and all that is hidden from us and all that is in between. And never does your Lord forget [anything].”
Angels are luminous and spiritual beings that cannot be perceived by the senses, and cannot be seen with the naked eye. They always serve Allah, fulfill their assigned duties, and do not commit any sin. Since angels are metaphysical beings, they fall outside the realm of positive science. However, when reason accepts the Supreme Being who created the universe, it also accepts the truth of the messages that He has sent. The only source of information about them is the verses of the Qur’an and the authentic hadiths. In these sources, limited information is given about the angel’s features and functions.
B-) Characteristics Of Angels
It is possible to list the features that distinguish angels from other beings as follows:
1) Angels are luminous and spiritual beings that are free from certain actions and features such as eating, drinking, gender, marital relationship, sleeping, being tired, youth, and old age. The Qur’an states: “…those who are in His (very) Presence are not too proud to serve Him, nor are they (ever) weary (of His service): they celebrate His praises night and day, nor do they ever flag or intermit.”, and “And [yet] they claim that the angels – who in themselves are but beings created by the Most Gracious – are females: [but] did they witness their creation? This false claim of theirs will be recorded, and they will be called to account [for it on Judgment Day]!”
2) Angels perform the task for which they were created and they do not commit sin. The following is stated in the Qur’an regarding this matter: “They fear their Lord high above them, and do whatever they are bidden to do.”
3) Angels are extremely fast-moving, strong, and powerful beings. In the Qur’an, they are described as, “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.” Only God knows the nature of these wings. It is possible that the multiplicity of wings indicates the extent of speed and power of the individual angel.
4) Angels can take on various disguises and shapes with Allah’s permission and command. As a matter of fact, Gabriel (as) appeared to Mary in the form of a human, and a group of angels came in the form of men when they brought the good news to Abraham that he would have a son. In fact, Abraham mistook these angels for men and invited them to his table, only later to learn that they were angels. It is proven by sound hadiths that Gabriel (as) came in human form and that some of his companions, especially Umar, saw him. Only prophets are able to see angels in their original form.
5) Angels do not know the knowledge of the ghayb (unseen). If certain knowledge of the unseen has been given to them by Allah, they can only know that much of it. As a matter of fact, when Allah Almighty taught Adam the names of the things that He had created, He asked the angels for their names, and they replied: “Glory to You, of knowledge We have none, save what You have taught us: In truth, it is You Who are perfect in knowledge and wisdom.”
C-) Duties Of Angels
The basic duties of the angels, whose numbers are not disclosed in the Qur’anic verses or in the hadiths but which are understood to be numerous, are to worship Allah and to fulfill the duties appointed to them. Angels can be classified into the following groups in terms of their duties:
1) Archangels and Their Duties
There are four of them:
- a) Jibrīl (as): He is also referred to in the Qur’an by other names such as Rūḥ al-Amīn, Rūḥ al-Qudus, and Rūḥ. He acts as a messenger between Allah and his prophets. This is the angel that brought all the different revelations of Allah to the individual prophets. Gabriel (as) is mentioned in the Qur’an as follows: “With it (the Qur’an) came down the spirit of Faith and Truth (Rūḥ al-Amīn) to your heart and mind, that you may admonish.”, “Say, the Holy Spirit (Rūḥ al-Qudus) has brought the revelation from your Lord in Truth, in order to strengthen those who believe, and as a guide and glad tidings to Muslims.”, and “Therein come down the angels and the Spirit (Rūḥ) by Allah’s permission, on every errand.” It is also stated concerning Jesus: “…We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit (Rūḥ al-Qudus)…” Also, because Gabriel (as) is considered the highest and greatest of the angels, he is known as “sayyid al-malāikah (master of angels)”.
- b) Azrāil (as): He is called “malak al-mawt (angel of death)” because his duty is to take the souls of all living things at the time of death. His duty is stated in the Qur’an as follows: “Say: “The Angel of Death, put in charge of you, will (duly) take your souls: then shall you be brought back to your Lord.””
- c) Israfīl (as): He is in charge of blowing the sūr (the Trumpet) twice, first for the apocalypse and then for the resurrection. In the Qur’an, this event, which is the end of all living beings, is described as follows: “The Trumpet will (just) be sounded, when all that are in the heavens and on earth will swoon, except such as it will please Allah (to exempt). Then will a second one be sounded, when, behold, they will be standing and looking on!”
- d) Mika’īl (as): He is the angel who is responsible for the occurrence of some natural events, such as rain, wind, and crop failure, both on earth and outside earth. Mika’īl (as) is mentioned in the Qur’an as follows: “Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and messengers, to Gabriel and Michael, Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject Faith.”
2) Other Angels
Apart from these four great angels, some other angels are in charge of various worship, obedience, and other works. The main ones whose special duties are known are as follows:
The angel scribes: These are called “kirāman kātibīn”. They are two angels on the right and left of the human being. The angel on the right is in charge of writing good deeds and behaviors, and the one on the left is in charge of writing bad deeds and behaviors. They will also witness the deeds during the reckoning on the Day of Judgment. The following is stated about these angels in the Qur’an: “Behold, two (guardian angels) appointed to learn (his doings) learn (and noted them), one sitting on the right and one on the left. Not a word does he utter but there is a sentinel by him, ready (to note it).”, and “But verily over you (are appointed angels) to protect you, kind and honorable, writing down (your deeds).”
Angels carrying the Throne: These angels, also known as “Ḥamala al-‘Arsh”, are the angels who take on the burden of the Throne. The following is stated in the verses: “Those who sustain the Throne (of Allah) and those around it sing Glory and Praise to their Lord; believe in Him…”, and “And the angels will be on its sides, and eight will, that Day, bear the Throne of thy Lord above them.” According to a narration, these angels, who are the bearers of the throne, are four, and according to the above verse, their number will increase to eight on the Day of Judgment. Their bearing the Throne means that they are in charge of protecting and managing it, or they are called so because of their honor and closeness to Allah Almighty. However, it is also stated in the Qur’an that many angels are surrounding the Throne. Together with those who carry the Throne, all of them are called “qarūbiyyūn (angels closest to Allah)”.
Munkar and Nakir: They are two angels in charge of questioning the dead in the grave after death. Munkar and Nakir, meaning “unknown, unidentified, and strange”, got this name because they would appear to the dead in the grave in a way never seen before and thus the dead find them unidentified and strange. These two angels will ask the person in the grave; “Who is your lord? Who is your prophet? and What is your book?” and they will treat the dead well or severely according to the response received.
Apart from these, aiding believers in wars, dhikr, glorification of Allah, obedience to Allah, praying to Allah for the prophets, watching people,and praying to Allah for the believers can be counted among the duties and tasks of the angels.
All prophets and divine books have been informed about the existence of angels. The inability to see angels is due to our eyes’ lack of power and ability to see them. As a matter of fact, we cannot see spiritual and abstract things such as spirit, reason, and soul that do not have physical consistency, but we have no doubt about their existence. Moreover, germs are also invisible to the naked eye, but their image appears with a microscope. However, before the germ was discovered by science, there were those who denied its existence. But as observed today, the denial has no meaning anymore. For this reason, only a person with a clear vision that arises from a spiritual vision or vision of the heart is able to see such invisible beings.
D-) Jinn And The Devil
Apart from the angels, the existence of jinns, who are also subtle beings, is confirmed by the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Its singular form is jinnī, and the plural term jānn is synonymous with jinn. Gūl and ifrīṭ are different types of jinns.
According to the Qur’an, humans were created from clay, and jinn were created from fire. “And He created Jinns from fire free of smoke.”, and “We created man from sounding clay, from mud moulded into shape; And the Jinn race, We had created before, from the fire of a scorching wind.” The latter verse shows that the jinn were created before the human species. Jinns exist on earth and there are believers and disbelievers among them. Like humans, they are responsible for Allah’s orders and prohibitions, and prophets have been sent to them as well. The following is stated in the Qur’an, “O you assembly of Jinns and men! Came there not unto you messengers from amongst you, setting forth unto you My signs, and warning you of the meeting of this Day of yours?”
Jinns do not have the knowledge of the ghayb (unseen). However, they may know some events of the past, or present to human beings, that which people do not know, due to the length of their life span, the fact that they are spiritual beings, and the fact that they sneak away certain communications found in the angelic sphere. However, this does not mean that they are somehow superior to human beings. For jinns can transmit assorted information of both right and wrong to the human being that they are in contact with, such as dark magic practitioners. In Islam, it is forbidden to deal with these affairs of the jinns.
Jinns, just like humans, are legally responsible for their beliefs and other Islamic rulings. The Qur’anic verse “I have only created Jinns and men so that they may serve Me” is the proof of this fact. It is verified by the sources that jinn eat, drink, including males and females, marry, reproduce, are born, grow and die just like humans. However, although their lifespan is described as 60-70 years according to their own time unit, this period can be up to a thousand years according to the units of how human beings measure time.
The jinn are suited to take various forms and perform heavy works. As a matter of fact, when the Prophet Solomon (as) wanted to bring the throne of Balqis from Yemen, a jinn named Ifrīṭ said: “I’ll bring it to you before you even get up, I estimate I have the strength to do this.” Solomon (as) was in Jerusalem, and the throne to be brought was in Yemen. However, later, Asaf Ibn Barhiya, a servant of Allah, brought that throne in the blink of an eye. Allah Almighty explains this situation as follows: “Said one who had knowledge of the Book: “I will bring it to thee within the twinkling of an eye!”” This seems to indicate that a substance can be transported “by teleportation”. It is also known that Prophet Solomon (as) made the jinns work in heavy and difficult jobs.
Another narration is about the time the Prophet Muhammad (saw) was going to the Uqaz fair. He led the morning prayer in a place called Nahla and a group of jinn came and listened to the Qur’an being recited. They then converted to Islam. This situation was conveyed to the Messenger of Allah (saw) in the first verses of chapter al-Jinn. According to what Abdullah Ibn Mas’ūd (ra) narrated, one night, the Messenger of Allah (saw) disappeared among them and could not be found despite the search even in the valleys outside the city. In the morning, they saw him coming from the direction of Hira. The Messenger of Allah explained the situation as follows: “A summoner from the jinns came to me. I went with him. I read the Qur’an to them.”
Although jinns have advanced abilities in terms of their natural characteristics, they are generally behind humans in terms of their level of thought and consciousness. Their characters appear to be weaker than humans so they are more prone to negative and harmful behaviors. However, there are also many good, pious, and virtuous jinns. An important feature of the negative jinns is that just like germs have a negative effect on the sick body, such jinn can try to harm people by taking advantage of the weaker side of human beings or a situation in which they are low in morale. However, a person who puts his trust in Allah and believes that no entity can harm another entity without His will cannot be harmed by the jinn. As a matter of fact, it is known that the Prophet (saw) recited the “verse of the Throne” and the Qur’anic chapters of “al-Falaq and al-Nās” against the influence of jinn on humans. These last two chapters of the Qur’an are called “Muawwizatayn (two protective chapters)”. In these two chapters, it is recommended that people take refuge in Almighty Allah against the jinn, the devil, the visible and the invisible, and anything that tends to harm people.
Jinns, who are invisible but whose existence is certain, who go excessively far in their wickedness and evil, and who try to mislead people, are called devils.
In the Qur’an, the first devil is mentioned as Iblīs. It is reported that he is a jinn who rebelled against the order of his Lord and went astray. “And behold, We said to the angels: “Bow down to Adam” and they bowed down. Not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject Faith.”, and “…He was one of the Jinns, and he broke the Command of his Lord…”
Another name of Iblīs is shaiṭān (Satan) who is from the jinns and is the representative of evil, wickedness, and heresy. When Allah commanded Iblīs, the father of the devils, to prostrate to Adam, Iblīs rebelled against Allah, claiming superiority, since he was created from fire and Adam, was created from earth. Since he considered himself superior to Adam, he became arrogant and became one of the unbelievers.
It is narrated that Iblīs and his descendants were expelled from Allah’s mercy, and they were given time until the Day of Judgment in order to mislead people and lead them to evil.
Every human being has been allocated such a wicked jinn or devil. While the Prophet also was allocated such a wicked jinn, Allah Almighty assisted the Prophet, and his jinn converted to Islam. The duties of the devil can be summarized in six items: a) Leading people to disbelief, polytheism, and rebellion against Allah and His Messenger, b) inciting them to innovate in religion, c) leading them to commit major sins, d) causing them to be preoccupied with minor sins, e) making people busy with permissible things excessively, and f) stalling their spiritual development with lesser virtuous deeds.
Allah Almighty warned the believers against Satan and asked them not to follow him. In the Qur’an, it is stated that Satan is a clear enemy to human beings: “Verily Satan is an enemy to you: so treat him as an enemy. He only invites his adherents, that they may become Companions of the Blazing Fire.”
Satan misled the first humans, Adam and Eve, and caused them to leave Paradise. Considering this fact, it is stated in the Qur’an that it is necessary to be vigilant against his tricks and traps, “O you Children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you, in the same manner as He got your parents out of the Garden, stripping them of their raiment, to expose their shame: for he and his tribe watch you from a position where ye cannot see them: We made the evil ones friends (only) to those without faith.”
When the Qur’an is recited, Almighty Allah orders people to take refuge in Him from the rejected Satan. He also categorically states that Satan will not have any influence or dominion over those who worship with firm faith and those who do not violate divine prohibitions.
It has been foretold that the struggle between good and evil, goodness and wickedness, and faith and unbelief on earth will continue until the Day of Judgment. There will always be an angel supporting all that is good, and there will always be a devil lurking behind all that is evil. If humankind decides to use the willpower given by Almighty Allah in a good way and is determined, Allah’s help will be manifested in that matter. The servant will find strength and power in himself to do good deeds. However, if the human being decides to go in the direction of evil and wickedness, he will find the support of the devil behind him.
 Al-Baqara, 2: 30. Al-Baqara, 2: 285. Al-Baqara, 2: 177. Al-Baqara, 2: 285. Muslim, Imān, 1; al-Bukhari, Imān, 37. Al-Baqara, 2: 98. Maryam, 19: 64. Al-Anbiya, 21: 19, 20. Al-Zukhruf, 43: 19. See al-Ṣaffāt, 37: 49; al-Najm, 53: 27, 28. Al-Naḥl, 16: 50. See al-Anbiya, 21: 26-28; al-Taḥrīm, 66: 6. Fāṭir, 35: 1. Maryam, 19: 16, 17. Hūd, 11: 69, 70; Maryam, 19: 16, 17. Al-Bukhari, Imān, 37; Muslim, Imān, 1; Abu Dawūd, Sunnah, 15. Al-Baqara, 2: 32. Al-Shuʿarā, 26: 193, 194. Al-Naḥl, 16: 102. See al-Shuʿarā, 26: 193. Al-Qadr, 97: 4. See al-Naba’, 78: 38; al-Ma’arij, 70: 4. Al-Baqara, 2: 87; Regarding the verses about Gabriel see Mu’jam al-Mufahras li Alfāẓ al-Qur’ān, “Jibrīl”; Nevzat Yüksel, Konularına Göre Kur’an-ı Kerim Fihristi, 4th ed. Istanbul 1990, p. 63. Al-Sajda, 32: 11. Al-Zumar, 39: 68. Al-Baqara, 2: 98; See al-Nazi’āt, 79: 5. Qāf, 50: 17-18. Al-Infiṭār, 82: 10-12. See al-Zukhruf, 43: 80. Al-Ghāfir, 40: 7. Al-Ḥāqqa, 69: 17. See al-Zumar, 39: 75 See Āl ʿImrān, 3: 123-126; al-Anfāl, 8: 9, 13, 50; al-Tawba, 9: 25-26; al-Aḥzāb, 33: 9; Al-Fatḥ, 48: 47. Al-Aʿrāf, 7: 206; al-Naḥl, 16: 49, 50; al-Ṣaffāt, 37: 165-166; al-Ghāfir, 40: 7; Fussilat, 41: 38; al-Shūrā, 42: 5. Al-Anbiya, 21: 27-28. Al-Aḥzāb, 33: 56. Al-Ṭāriq, 86: 1-4. Al-Ghāfir, 40: 7-9; al-Shūrā, 42: 5. Al-Raḥmān, 55: 15. Al-Hijr, 15: 26-27. Al-Anʿām, 6: 130. ez-Al-Dhariyat, 51: 56. Al-Naml, 27: 39. Al-Naml, 27: 40. Saba, 34: 12, 13. Al-Jinn, 72: 1-3. Al-Qurṭubī, Jāmi’ li Aḥkām al-Qur’ān, Beirut 1967, XIX, 2 ff. Ahmed Hulusi, Ruh-İnsan, 1972, n.p., p. 57-58. See al-Bukhari, Wakalah, 10, Ṭibb, 39, Faḍā’il al-Qur’ān, 10, 14; al-Tirmidhī, Ṭibb, 16, Daʿāwāt, 21. Abu Dawūd, Adab, 98. Al-Baqara, 2: 34. Al-Kahf, 18: 50. This last verse clearly states that he is from the Jinn. Al-Baqara, 2: 34. Tajj, V, 233 Fāṭir, 35: 6. Al-Aʿrāf, 7: 27. See al-Naḥl, 16: 98-100; Al-’Isrā, 17: 65; al-Aʿrāf, 7: 21.
Source: Basic Islamic Principles (ʿilmi ḥāl) According to the Four Sunni Schools With Evidence From The Sources of Islamic Law, Prof. Hamdi Döndüren, Erkam Publications