The Muslim Belief in Angels
Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D.
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462, USA
Iman (faith) is to proclaim the Kalimah (principle) with the tongue and affirm its truth with the heart. In the Kalimah one has to bear/witness to the truth in the following words: “I bear witness that there is no god (deity) but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Servant and Apostle of Allah.” By proclaiming this Kalimah one implicitly believes in the following Articles of Faith:
- Existence and Attributes of Allah
- Destiny or Measure (Taqdir)
- Revealed Books
- The Hereafter
Iman is the basis of acts of worship and righteous deeds in Islam.
One of the names and attributes of Allah is Al Haqq (The Truth). In reading and understanding the Qur’an, a Muslim man or a Muslim woman is seeking the truth. Muslims say Islam is the religion of Truth. As defined above our Iman (faith) is affirmation of the truths and not blind beliefs.
There are religions whose followers believe the idols to be gods or Jesus to be Son of God. There are people who worship fire as god or natural entities or forces as gods. There are people who even worship Satan. One can have belief or faith in anything. So what is the difference between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. As pointed out before, the-Muslim’s Iman is affirmation of the truth. In Dawah work a Muslim may encounter the challenge in the Article of Faith in “Angels.” In other words a Muslim has to answer the question “Do Angels exist?” and what is the truth?
Belief in the Angels
The Muslims conceptualize angels according to Western ideas as an anthropomorphic (human-like appearance), female in sex, white in color, having two white wings and a halo above the head. In Islam this is a false representation of the angels.
From the Qur’an we know that human beings are made from clay and the Jinns are made of smokeless fire. The angels have no gender (neither male nor female).
All life on earth is made of Carbon and water. Living things on earth need energy for their activities. Some of these activities are chemical reactions, which need a supply of energy. This supply of energy comes from the foods we eat, particularly the sugars. Fat is also a source of (stored) energy. When sugars (glucose) are oxidized by metabolism with oxygen they are converted into water, carbon dioxide and energy. This process is called respiration. Life as we know on earth consists of cells, etc., based on Carbon and chemical reactions and cannot be applied- to life and creatures based on physical reactions found on earth and elsewhere. For example, the author has shown that the Jinns have a more complex basis for their life involving electrical charges as well as magnetic forces. The positive and negative ions interact and respond to the presence of magnetic forces which in turn affect the stable structure and movement of the Jinns: This situation is similar to the influence of proteins and nucleic acids in earthly life.
Hadith and Qur’an
In order to explain the existence of the angels, one must know the nature of the angels. From the Hadith we get the following information:
- The angels are created from light’ and are invisible.
2. They do not have any free will or an independent will to act on their own. That is they have only a one-dimensional nature, something like a programmed robot
3. They carry out without question all the Commands (laws) of Allah and do not oppose or neglect them in any way.
- Like everything in the Universe, day and night they are engaged in praising and glorifying Allah and are never tired of this.
- They carry out their functions honestly, efficiently and responsibly and are never guilty of shirking work.
6. The number of angels is only known to Allah, however four of them are well known: Gabriel (conveys Allah’s revelations and messages to the Prophets); Israfil (by Allah’s Command will blow into the Trumpet on the Day of Resurrection); Michael (arranges for rainfall and supply of provisions to the creatures’ of Allah, with His Command); andIzrail (takes people’s souls at the time of death).
7. Two angels, called ‘Munkar’ and ‘Nakir’ arc sent to the graves to question a person after his/her death.
The Qur’an says:
Behold two (guardian angels) appointed W register (his doings): one sitting on the right and one on the left. Not a word does he (man) utter, but there is a sentinel by him ready (to register it). Surah L: 17-18
These angels are called the Noble Scribes (Karamun, Katibun). LXXXII: 10-12
And if it were
Our Will We could make angels
From amongst you, succeeding
Each other on the earth
- (Surah, XLIII: 60)
In explaining this Ayah one of the scholars says that the angels are created without a father or a mother and that they do not eat and drink. That is they do not have any emotions including passion and they are devoid of instincts (biological urges). They cannot commit sin nor disobey.
Man is superior to the angels because he has a two-dimensional nature. Firstly, he is endowed with an immortal spirit, which is breathed into him by Allah. Secondly, he is endowed with the faculty of reason and an independent will of his own (free will) so that he can obey or disobey Allah’s Commandments and choose his own way freely. Unlike the angels, man has a gender (sex), instincts and biological urges.
The author believes there is nothing wrong in attempting to understand or to interpret the concept of angels in the light of modern knowledge. After all, Muslims and scientists are seekers of the truth and truth is the same in either domain. Some Ulema or Islamic scholars have come very close to explaining the angels in terms of scientific terminology and have given the analogy of radio-waves, cinematography and the recordings of audio and video images on video-cassettes. It is the intention of the author to make efforts in better understanding and in conceptualization of angels, which are created by Allah in terms of nature, natural laws and natural forces, which are also created by Allah.
Angels can be interpreted as Messengers or Instruments of Allah’s Will, and may have a few or numerous errands entrusted to them.
The scientific concept which very closely describes the angels is the electromagnetic force (electromagnetic radiation). If angels are made of light then light is made of electromagnetic radiation, which travels at 186,000 miles per second. Like angels electromagnetic force obeys the laws of nature incessantly without mistake and has. No free will or an independent will of its own. Hence it has a one-dimensional nature like angels. Electromagnetic radiation has no gender, no emotions including passions and has no instincts or biological urges. It is invisible except in the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum (4,000 to 7,000 Angstroms wavelength).
The Qur’an mentions that angels came in -the form of humans to Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Lot and the Hadith mentions about angel Gabriel talking to Prophet Muhammad ” ” in the form of human being. This is also not difficult to understand because we can create Holographic images, which are three-dimensional human figures that can talk using laser light and white light (visible light). Again, laser light and white light are electromagnetic radiation. Communication is possible by means of radio waves or microwaves, which are also electromagnetic radiation.
The four angels can be explained in terms of the four forces that exist in nature. These four obey the laws of Allah incessantly without any mistake, without any disobedience. These four forces are the Gravitational Force, Electromagnetic Force, Weak Force, and the Strong or Nuclear Force.
PS The ideas, opinions and theories expounded by the author in this article may be proven wrong in the light of new knowledge available in the future and the author takes full responsibility for it. There is nothing wrong in expounding one’s ideas; today which may be proven inappropriate or obsolete in the future. One can witness this in the study of great scientists, both Muslim and non-Muslim, such as lbn Sina, Al-Razi, Al-Biruni, etc. and the giants of the Western civilization such as Plato, Aristotle, Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, etc.(courtesy-irfi.org)