What is the belief in angels in Islam?
Angels are benevolent non-material beings. That is why we cannot see them in their actual form with our eyes. Yet, they have the ability to be seen in whatever form is deemed best. However, they were allowed to be seen by some of the great prophets in their non-materialized form. Their nature requires no food, drink or sleep. As they are created to spend their entire existence in the service of Allah they are not given a soul (nafs). Therefore, their nature does not allow disobedience to Allah. They are uncountable in number. It is said that the rain drops are brought down by the angels and each angel can have just one turn until the Day of Judgment. That is why rain drops or snowflakes do not come into collision while coming down.
Angels have different levels in accordance with different responsibilities. Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi says in this regard:
“Each angel has a different value or degree as the difference between the new moon and the fullmoon.”
“Each angel has a share from the Divine Light. And they are endowed with the Divine Light according to their levels.”
There are four prominent angels whom we may call at the level of “prophets” of angels. They are Jibra’il (Gabriel), Mika’il (Michael), Izra’il (Azrail), and Israfil (Israfil).
Gabriel was given the duty of bringing revelation to the prophets. Mika’il is responsible for natural events. Azra’il is responsible for ending our life. Israfil will blow the trumpet at the time of the end of the world and on the Day of Judgment.
Angels are, in a manner of speaking, like the spirit that is given to us. As we cannot see our spirit, so we cannot see them. As we cannot deny the existence of our spirit we cannot deny the existence of angels. It is said that to deny the existence of angels is like denying the existence of prophets as an angel transmitted the divine truth to humanity. Thus, the Qur’an warns those who deny Jibra’il, the angel of revelation:
“Say: Whoever is an enemy to Jibra’il –for he brings down the (revelation) to your heart by Allah’s Will, a confirmation of what went before, and guidance and glad tidings for those who believe.” (Baqara, 2:97).
As we have already seen, angels, apart from divine service to Allah, have other duties as well. Some help humans in difficulty on the command of Allah. This type of angel, helping the men of faith, have often been observed in the history of Islam. The companions of the Prophet, veterans of the Battle of Badr, testified to this fact as follows:
“During the hot hours of the Badr battle we have witnessed the deaths of enemies even without our swords touching their bodies.”
Allah declares this fact in the Qur’an saying:
“Remember your Lord inspired the angels (with the message). ‘I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smite you above their necks and smite you all their finger-tips off them.’” (Anfal, 8:12).
“If you could see, when the angels take the souls of the unbelievers (at death), (how) they smite their faces and their backs, (saying): ‘Taste the penalty of the blazing fire!’” (Anfal, 8:50).
Some angels are occupied in protecting us. They are called Angels of Hafaza; and some angels are recording all that we do. They are called the Honorable Recorders (Kirâman Kâtibîn). And the angels Munkar-Nakir are engaged in questioning the person immediately after his/her death. There are also angels who pray for humans to be forgiven by Allah and not to go astray.
Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, ISLAM SPIRIT AND FORM, Erkam Publications