Asalaamu Alaikum and Peace be Upon You
Angels in Islam hold a very high and sacred place. Some non-Muslims might be surprised to hear is that the Angel Gabriel is an important figure in Islam. It was actually Gabriel who recited the Qur’an to Muhammad (PBUH) in a cave, Hira’a, near Mecca. There are four archangels in Islam:
- Jibrail/Jibril (Judeo-Christian, Gabriel), the angel of revelation, who is said to be the greatest of the angels. Jibrail is the archangel responsible for revealing the Quran to Muhammad, verse by verse. Jibrail is widely known as the angel who communicates with (all of) the prophets and also for coming down with God’s blessings during the night of Laylat al-Qadr(“The Night of Power”).
- Israfil or Israafiyl (Judeo-Christian, Raphael), is an archangel in Islam who will blow the trumpet twice at the end of time. According to the hadith, Israfil is the angel responsible for signaling the coming of Qiyamah (Judgment Day) by blowing a horn. The blowing of the trumpet is described in many places in the Quran. It is said that the first blow will bring all to attention. The second will end all life, while the third blow will bring all human beings back to life again to meet their Lord for their final judgement.
- Mikail (Judeo-Christian, Michael), who provides nourishment for bodies and souls. Mikail is often depicted as the archangel of mercy who is responsible for bringing rain and thunder to Earth. He is also responsible for the rewards doled out to good persons in this life.
- 'Azrael/'Azraaiyl also known as Malak al-maut (Judeo-Christian, Azrael), the angel of death. He is responsible for parting the soul from the body. He is only referred as malak al-maut, meaning angel of death, in the Quran.
Angels, in general, are important to Islam. In fact, belief in angels is among the six articles of faith in Islam – if a Muslim does not believe in all six, including angels, there is no faith. Nobody knows the number of angels and when the angels were created, but they were around a long time before mankind and jinn.
The angels, like all of creation, are the work ofGod and are made of light. They can assume any shape and exist to do the work of God – which includes recording the good and bad deeds of man, receiving the souls of the dying and guard Heaven and Hell. They have no will of their own, so they cannot disobey God. Thus, this concept of “fallen angels” does not exist within Islam and Satan is not considered a fallen angel.
Muslims also believe in guardian angels. There are two for every believer and the angels follow a Muslim all through his or her life. One angel watches over the Muslim during the day, the other at night – writing down all of the good and bad deeds a person commits for Judgment Day.
What do they look like? & What is their Nature?
Angels in Islam have a very unique appearance. Even though there are very few humans who have seen angels in their original form, we know of several facts about angels from the Qur’an and Sunnah.
- The angels are made of light, whereas the Jinn are made from smokeless fire, and mankind is from earthen clay.
- The angels are very large.
- They have wings, sometimes in pairs of two, three or four.
- They are extremely beautiful. With the exception of the Angel of Death.
- They are neither male nor female.
- They do not sin or disobey.
- They can take on the form of humans.
- The angels do not eat. We know this from their visit to Prophet Ibrahim (AS) as mentioned in the Qur’an.
One well known example is when God sent the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) to Maryam (Mary) in the form of a human man, as God says in the Quran:
…then We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.—Quran, 19:17
The Quran also mentions that angels have qualities that may be typified by the word wings:
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):…—Quran, 35:1
However, according to hadith collected by Muhammad al-Bukhari, Muhammad (PBUH) said that Gabriel had 600 wings;
Narrated Abu Ishaq-Ash-Shaibani:
I asked Zir bin Hubaish regarding the Statement of Allah: “And was at a distance Of but two bow-lengths Or (even) nearer; So did (Allah) convey The Inspiration to His slave (Gabriel) and then he (Gabriel) Conveyed (that to Muhammad). (53.9-10) On that, Zir said, “Ibn Mas’ud informed us that the Prophet had seen Gabriel having 600 wings.”—Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 45
How many angels are there?
There is no clear number of angels within Islam. But according to this hadith, there are over 70,000 angels.
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said in the hadith of the Miraj (Night Journey) after his visit to the seventh heaven: “Then I was taken up to the Frequented House (Bait-ul Mamur) and every day 70,000 angels visit it, never returning to it again, another (group) coming after them.” [Sahih Bukhari]
The Bait-ul Mamur is a Mosque like the Kabah, opposite God’s Throne. Each day a fresh batch of 70,000 angels comes to it. Till the Day of Judgement the same batch of angels will not get a chance to return to it again.
Angels are not equal in status and consequently they have been delegated different tasks to perform.
There are guardian angels responsible for protecting the believer throughout his life, at home or traveling, asleep or awake.
There are also angels responsible for breathing the soul into the fetus and writing down its provisions, life-span, actions, and whether it will be wretched or happy.
Some angels are roamers, traveling around the world in search of gatherings where God is remembered.
There are also angels constituting God’s heavenly army, standing in rows, they never get tired or sit down, and others who bow or prostrate, and never raise their heads, always worshiping God.