BELIEF IN ANGELS
Belief in Angels is one of the important articles of faith in all the revealed religions. Along with the belief in the Creator of the Universe, His Messengers, and the Commandments brought by them, the Life Hereafter and the Day of Judgment, the belief in Angels stands out as the common factor between all great religions of the world.
Originally the term "Angels" must have connoted spiritual beings or spirits who act as media between the Creator and the Created for carrying His messages to the Prophets, complying with His Commandments faithfully in respect of the working of this Universe, its chain of cause and effect, the control of the natural forces and working out the Divine Will without any volition on their part. If this universe may be likened to a machine, the angels are like the power moving it in accordance with the Will of the Creator. They possess no discretion but carry out the Divine Commandments as ordered. They have been created by God like other creatures but by nature they are incapable of disobeying the Divine Commandments.
With the passage of time, however, the conception in respect of the Angels underwent a change in the various religions and resulted in great confusion. For example, the Zoroastrians called these beings as Amshashpund: sometimes they treated them as angels, sometimes they treated them as the opponents of the Almighty and sometimes they treated the Creator as one of them. Gradually, when the distinction between the Creator of Evil and the Creator of Good became more and more marked, the two Gods started their perpetual war and led their armies of angels against each other.
Similarly the Hindus corrupted their belief in Angels into male and female Angels and called them Davtas and Davis. According to them these beings could have promiscuous sexual relations with each other.
The Jews, however treated these beings as angels (Cherubim) but they too exalted them to a higher position and sometimes even called them as the Children of God. The Christians went one step further and made the angel Gabriel (the Holy Ghost) as part of the Trinity and hence a sharer in the Godhead. The Sactians used to offer sacrifices in the name of the angels for whom they also built temples, while the pre-Islamic Arabs considered them as the daughters of God and used to worship them.
The Qur'aan, the last Divine message, cleared the human mind from the cobwebs of confusion and restored the angels to the position which every Prophet had revealed to his followers. Accordingly, the angels have been shown in the Qur'aan as spiritual beings who worship and praise Allaah and carry out His Commandments. They are free from sex and material conceptions and are obedient instrument of the Divine Will. In fact, in the story regarding the genesis of the human race, the Qur'aan makes it clear that it is the angels who were asked to bow down before Adam and not vice versa. When the Angels recognised the inherent qualities of Adam they exclaimed:-
"Glory to thee: of knowledge we have none, save what thou hast taught us: in truth it is Thou who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom." (S. 11: 32).
The position of the angels becomes crystal clear in the Qur'aan which in various verses throws light on their functions and status:-
(1) Angels serve as messengers:-
"God chooses Messengers from the angels and from among the men: For God is He Who knows what is before them and what is behind them; and to God go back all questions (for decisions)." (S. XXII: 75-76).
"Praise be to God, 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 God has power over all things."
"What God out of His Mercy doth bestow on mankind there is none who can withhold: what He doth withhold, there is none who can grant, apart from Him: It is He, the Exalted in Power, Full of Wisdom." (S. XXXV: 1-2).
This verse also makes it clear that the angels have no personal discretionary power to open the doors of prosperity and blessings on human beings. It is Allaah alone who does it and therefore He alone is to be worshipped.
(2) They enforce the Divine Will in the world:
"Remember thy 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 ye above their necks and smite all their finger tips off them.'" (S. VIII: 12).
"We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power. And what will explain to thee what the Night of Power is? The Night of power is better than a thousand Months. Therein come down the angels and Spirit by God's permission, on every errand. Peace... this until the rise of Morn." (S. XCVII: 1-5).
(3) Angels take the spirit out of the human bodies at the time of their death:
"Say, 'The Angels of Death, put in charge of you, will (duly) take your souls: Then shall ye be brought back to your Lord.'" (S. XXXII: 11).
"If thou couldst but see how the wicked (do fare) in the flood of confusion at death - the angels stretch forth their hands, (saying), 'Yield up your souls: This day shall ye receive your reward, - a penalty of shame, for that ye used to tell lies against God, and scornfully to reject of his signs'." (S. VI: 93).
"If thou couldst 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 - because of (the deeds) which your (own) hands sent forth: for God is never unjust to His servants.'" (S. VIII: 50-51).
"He is the Irresistible, (watching from above over his worshippers, and He sets guardians over you. At length, when death approaches one of you, Our angels take his soul, and they never fail in their duty." (S. VI: 61).
"By the (angels) who tear out (the souls of the wicked) with violence; by those who gently draw out (the souls of the blessed); and by those who glide along (on errands of mercy), then press forward as in a race, then arrange to do (the Commands of their Lord)." (S. LXXIX: 1-5).
(4) The angels serve as messengers between God and the Prophets:
"It is not fitting for a man that God should speak to him except by inspiration, or from behind a veil, or by the sending of a Messenger to reveal, with God's permission, what God wills: for He is Most High, Most Wise." (S. XLII: 51).
"He doth send down His angels with inspiration of His command, to such of His servants as He pleaseth, (saying): 'Warn (Man) that there is no god but I: so do your duty unto Me.'" (S. XVI: 2).
"Say: Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel - for he brings down the (revelation) to thy heart by God's Will, a confirmation of what went before, and guidance and glad tidings for those who believe, - " (S. II: 97).
(5) Angels bring the blessings and the wrath of God on the humanity:
Prophet Zakariah (Peace be upon him) and many others received the tidings
through the angels:
"There came Our messengers to Abraham with glad tidings. They said, 'Peace!' He answered 'Peace.' And hastened to entertain them with roasted calf."
(S. XL: 69).
"Relate in the book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the east. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects. She said: 'I seek refuge from thee to (God) Most Gracious: (come not near) If thou dost fear God.'
"He said, 'Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son.'
"She said, 'How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?"
"He said: 'So (it will be): thy Lord saith, 'That is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a sign unto men and a mercy from Us: It is a matter (so) decreed.'" (S. XIX: 16-21).
"(The Messengers) said: 'Oh Lut! We are messengers from thy Lord: by no means shall they reach thee: now travel with thy family while yet a part of the night remains, and let not any of you look back: but thy wife (will remain behind): to her will happen what happens to the people. Morning is their time appointed: is not the morning nigh?'" (S. XI: 81).
The Angels visited Prophet Lut and broke the news of the impending destruction of the non-believers. These very angels opened the mouth of a volcano on these people and destroyed them, but as they had simply carried out the Divine Commandment, God attributed this act to Himself as in the following verse:-
"When our decree issued, We turned (the cities) upside down, and rained down on them brimstones hard as baked clay, spread, layer on layer - marked as from thy Lord: Nor are they ever far from those who do wrong." (S. XI: 82-83).
(6) Angels keep watch on human actions and record their good and evil deeds:
"But verily over you (are appointed angels) to protect you, - kind and honourable, - writing down (your deeds): they know (and understand) all that ye do." (S. LXXXII: 10-11)
"Behold, two (guardian angels) appointed to learn (his doings) learn (and note 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)." (S. L: 17-18).
"It is the same (to Him) whether any of you conceal his speech or declare it openly; whether he lie hid by night or walk forth freely by day. For each (such person) there are (angels) in succession, before and behind him: they guard him by command of God." (S. XIII: 10-11).
(7) Angels bring the blessings or the curse of God on human beings:
"The great terror will bring them no grief: but the angels will meet them (with mutual greetings): 'This is your Day, (the day) that ye were promised.'"
(S. XXI: 103).
"In the case of those who say, 'Our Lord is God,' and, further, stand straight and steadfast, the angels descend on them (from time to time):"
"Fear ye not (they suggest), nor grieve! But receive the glad tidings of the garden (of bliss), the which ye were promised. We are your protectors in this life and in the hereafter: Therein shall ye have all that your souls shall desire; therein shall ye have all that ye ask for! - " (S. XLI: 30-31).
"He it is Who sends blessings on you, as do His angels, that He may bring you out from the depths of darkness into light: And He is full of Mercy to the believers. 'Their salutation on the Day they meet Him will be "Peace!'; and He has prepared for them a generous Reward." (S. XXXIIL: 43-44).
"If any one desires a religion other than Islam (submission to God), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good). How shall God guide those who reject faith after they accepted it and bore witness that the apostle was true and that clear signs had come unto them? But God guides not a people unjust. Of such the reward is that on them (rests) the curse of God, of His angels and of all mankind. (S. III: 85-87).
"Those who reject faith, and die rejecting, - on them is God's curse, and the curse of angels, and of all mankind; they will abide therein: their penalty will not be lightened, nor will respite be their (lot)." (S. II: 161-162).
(8) The affairs of Paradise and Hell have also been entrusted to them:
"The unbelievers will be led to Hell in crowds: Until, when they arrive there, its gates will be opened. And its keepers will say, 'Did not apostles come to you from among yourselves, rehearsing to you the signs of your Lord, and warning you of the meeting of this day of yours?' The answer will be: 'True; but the decree of punishment has been proved true against the unbelievers.'"
"(To them) will be said: 'Enter ye the gates of Hell, to dwell therein: and evil is (this) abode of the arrogant.'
"And those who feared their Lord will be led to the Garden in crowds: until behold, they arrive there; It s gates will be opened; and its keepers will say; 'Peace be upon you! Well have ye done! Enter ye here, to dwell therein.'" (S. XXXIX: 71-73).
"Those who patiently persevere, seeking the countenance of their Lord; establish regular prayers; spend, out of (the gifts) We have bestowed for their sustenance, secretly and openly; and turn off evil with good: for such is the final attainment of the (Eternal) Home, - Gardens of perpetual bliss: they shall enter there, as well as the righteous among their fathers, their spouses, and their offspring: and angels shall enter unto them from every gate (with the salutation): 'Peace unto you for that ye persevered in patience! Now how excellent is the final Home.'"
(S. XIII: 22-24).
"And we have set none but angels as guardians of the fire, and we have fixed their number only as a trial."
(9) Angels also remain in the Divine presence:
"And thou wilt see the angels surrounding the Throne (Divine) on all sides, singing glory and praise to their Lord and decision between them (at judgment) will be in (perfect) justice, and the cry (on all sides) will be: 'Praise be to God, the Lord of the Worlds.'" (S. XXXIX: 75).
"We have indeed decked the lower heaven with beauty (in) the stars, - (for beauty) and for guard against all obstinate rebellious evil spirits, (so) they should not strain their ears in the direction of the Exalted Assembly, but be cast away from every side." (S. XXXVII: 6-8).
And on the Day of Judgment they will carry the divine canopy.
(10) Angels are not rebellious or disobedient but always remain trembling before
His Might and Dignity. They chant His praises and pray for the salvation of the
good among the human beings:
"Those who sustain the Throne (of God) and those around it sing Glory and Praise to Their Lord; believe in Him; and implore Forgiveness for those who believe: 'Our Lord!, Thy Reach is over all things, in Mercy and Knowledge. Forgive, then, those who turn in Repentance, and follow Thy Path: and preserve them from the Penalty of the Blazing Fire.'" (S. XL: 7).
"To him belong all (creatures) in the heavens and on earth: even 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." (S. XXI: 19-20).
"O ye who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern and severe, who flinch not (from executing) the Commands they receive from God, but do (precisely) what they are commanded." (S. LXVI: 6).
"And to God doth obeisance all that is in the heavens and on earth, whether moving (living) creatures or the angels: for none are arrogant (before their Lord). They all revere their Lord, high above them, and they do all that they are commanded." (S. XVI: 49-50).
(11) The Qur'aan further clarifies their position in the following verses: -
"And they say: '(God) most Gracious has begotten offspring.' Glory to Him! They are (but) servants raised to honour.
"They speak not before he speaks, and they act (in all things) by His command.
He knows what is before them, and what is behind them, and they offer no intercession except for those who are acceptable, and they stand in awe and reverence of His (glory)."
"If any of them should say: 'I am a god besides Him', such a one We should reward with Hell: thus do We reward those who do wrong." (S. XXI: 26-29).
"The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand forth in ranks, none shall speak except any who is permitted by (God) Most Gracious, and He will say what is right.
That Day will be the sure Reality; therefore, whoso will, let him take a (straight) Return to his Lord." (S. LXXVIII: 38-39).
"One Day He will gather them all together, and say to the angels: 'Was it you that these men used to worship?'"
"They will say, 'Glory to Thee! Our (tie) is with Thee - as Protector - not with them. Nay, but they worshipped the Jinns: most of them Believed in them.'"
(S. XXXIV: 40-41).
"Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of God, and His word, which he bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in God and His apostles. Say not 'Trinity': desist: it will be better for you; for God is one God: Glory be to Him: (Far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is God as a Disposer of affairs."
"Christ disdaineth not to serve and worship God, nor do the angels, those nearest in rank (to God): those who disdain His worship and are arrogant, - He will gather them all together unto Himself (to answer)." (S. IV: 171-172).
It will thus be seen that by giving the correct and clear description of the angels and their functions the Qur'aan has removed one of the greatest sources of error which has dogged the path of the various civilizations. The confusion in the conception of angels has led to idolatry and ascribing partners to God and all the resultant evils including materialism eventually the denial of God. The various elements of nature which became the objects of worship in different ages and climes were obviously the result of the confusion in the human mind in regard to these intrinsic power to do harm or good to human beings. Subsequent interpolations of the Divine teachings always added to the process of confusion. But the last Divine message contained in the Qur'aan has been faithfully preserved so that there is absolutely no chance of the slightest change in its words it is preserved not only in book form but also in minds of millions of human beings who remember it by heart and transmit it to the succeeding generations.
(Courtesy: Yaqeen International)