From the Glorious Qur’ān
I S S U E N O . 1 1 1 S T M A Y 2 0 0 9

The Nature of Angels
‫َ َ ً مْ ِ م‬ َ ‫أَ ْم خل َ ْقنَا الْ َمالئِكة إِاناث َو ُه شاهدون‬
Or did We create the angels females while they were witnesses? (al-Sāffāt [37]:150) thought about angels was considerably altered. Drawing on Mesopotamian iconography, artists and writers began to provide details for anthropomorphic angels, and an interest developed in the angels' garments, names, and relative ranks. highest rank among the angels. Over the ages, there has been some debate about the nature of angels. Some schools of thought think of angels in anthropomorphic terms since many traditions describe them in such terms mentioning, for example, how large they are or how many wings they have. Others hold the opinion that such descriptions are only metaphorical and used to describe something that is in reality beyond our comprehension. The pagan Arabs at the time of the Prophet (s) used to believe that angels were daughters of God, while themselves seeking only male offspring. In this verse, their belief is questioned by pointing to the evident fact that they were not present when the angels were created. Similar themes can be found in numerous other places in the Qur’an including the verses: 43:19, 53:27, 16:57 and 37:149. The majority of scholars are in agreement that angels are nonphysical genderless entities that perform the tasks assigned to them without question. There are numerous traditions that describe the nature of angels and many of their attributes can also be deduced from Qur’anic verses. Some of these attributes include: i) They possess intelligence (Q 2:31) ii) They bring and news to the Prophets and others (Q 3:39, 3:42...) iii) They are worshipped by some misguided people (Q 3:80) iv) They are sent to help the righteous believers in battle (Q 3:124) v) They take the souls (Q 4:97) vi) They punish evildoers (Q 8:50) vii) They bring glad tidings to believers. (Q 16:32)

 What do other religious traditions believe about angels?  What are the different roles that the angels are said to play?  What are the attributes of the angels mentioned in the Qur’an?

Angels are celestial beings that are mentioned in the texts of various world religions and described in different ways. In some religions, they are believed to play the role of messengers and intermediaries between God and mankind. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the literal meaning of the word ‘angel’ (from the Greek aggelos, meaning “messenger”) points more towards the function and status of such beings in a cosmic hierarchy rather than towards their essence or nature. However, the nature of angels has been discussed in great detail in different religious traditions. The ancient Greeks believed that there is a close connections between angels and souls since, they said, the best souls become angels. Hence a person who has been trained in spiritual perfection becomes in essence similar to angels. In Zoroastrianism, angels play a fundamental part in the perception of the divine. In the early sections of the Avesta, Ahura Mazdā is described as being accompanied by an entourage of spiritual beings called Amesha Spentas (the Beneficent Immortals) who are similar to angels. In Judaism, angels (malachim) are messengers of God who help carry out His work and plans. Some angels are said to intervene directly in the life of human beings by rescuing them from danger and distress, watching over them in their travels and even causing devastation and destruction. After the Babylonian exile (597-538 BC), Jewish

Angels are immaterial spiritual entities

In Christianity, angels play the role of intervening in central events involving the coming of the Messiah. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, the hierarchy of the angels is discussed and one of the central tenets of Christian theology is described as avoidance of idolatry and the worship of angels (Col 1:16, 2:10, 2:18). In the sixth-century work of Dionysius, another hierarchy of angels is mentioned based on their closeness to God. In Islam, the belief in angels is an important tenet of faith and is listed alongside belief in the Day of Resurrection, the Prophets and the Qur’ān (Q 2:177). Angels surround the Throne of Allāh, they praise and worship Him constantly and obey His every command (Q 39:75). They are ‘infinite’ in number and some are assigned specific tasks like Munkar and Nakir who are responsible for the questioning in the grave, Izrā’il who is the angel of death and Jibrā’il who occupies the

Please send your comments and suggestions to: tridhaj@yahoo.co.uk