The Angels Michael and Gabriel in Islam

Christian depiction of the Angel Michael
and Gabriel
"Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and messengers, to Gabriel and Michael,- Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject Faith." - The Holy Qur'an 2:98

The first sura of the Qur’an, titled “The Opener,” begins with the phrase: “Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.” Note the plural, worlds, does not refer to other planets and stars but rather to other sacred realms of unseen spiritual beings. (Martin, R 1982, p.92)

Allah not only created mankind but Angels and Jinn as well. Both Angels and Jinn are intelligent creatures with a sense of knowledge, allowing them to know and understand their Lord; what He desires from these creatures. Humankind are creatures that have a physical and touchable body that survive on this earth, however both angels and jinn are unable to be seen from the human eye or touched, as they do not have physical bodies. It was Allah that mentioned of their existence in the Qur’an. (Balagh, n.d.) It is questioned whether Jinn are angels or a different spirit altogether. (Awn, 1983, p.26)

The Qur’anic universe inhabited by all creatures is made up of three realms: the heavenly Paradise, the earth, and fiery hell which is Governed by its creator – Allah. (Esposito, JL 2005, p.25) In addition there are the “seen” and “unseen” realms. Later Islamic cosmologies, particularly among the Shi’ites and Sufis, significantly expanded the number of distinct realms within heaven and hell. (Martin, R 1982, p.94)

Angels serve as the link between human beings, acting as Allah’s agents. Created out of light, immortal and sexless, they function as recorders and guardians. (Esposito, JL 2002, p.27) All angels are men and Allah also confirms that his angels have wings – unsure on the number but about two, three or four. (Kasem, n.d.)

The angels serve Allah by guarding humans, passing on His messages, or performing multiple other tasks. (Esposito, JL 2002, p.27) For angels to rebel is unimaginable, and in fact impossible. The Qur’an 66:6 states ‘They (the angels) do not disobey what God orders them; they do what they are commanded’. (Awn, 1983, p. 27)

The most important of the angels is Gabriel (Jibril), he is responsible for conveying the message of Allah to Muhammad. The angel Michael provides nourishment for human bodies and knowledge to human minds; the angel Israfil sounds the trumpet at the Final Judgement. Many others are responsible for multiple different things, for example: death and capturing human souls, guarding hell and tormenting sinners, controlling and recording human deeds. (Balagh, n.d.)(Martin, R 1982, p.17,92)

The angel of death is known as either Azazil or Azrail. Islamic believers cringe when he is referred to, as the act of Azazil is in this horrible way:

God sends guardian angels to look over humans; the Angel of Death has angels who pull the soul from its body and when it reaches the throat, the Angel of Death captures it. They guard the soul of the dead person and take it to wherever Allah wills, to Illiyyin if he was among the righteous and to Sijjin if he was among the wicked (Kasem, n.d.).

Many Muslims believe that two angels watch over or attend each human being, recording all of their actions and words until death. The angel will present the recorded behaviour on the Day of Judgement. It is believed that the two angels are on either sides of the body. The angel on the ‘right’ is accountable for recording good actions, whilst the angel on the ‘left’ is accountable for recording bad actions. (Balagh, n.d.; Esposito, JL 2002, p.28) Allah is not scholarly however he created the angels to be highly educated, more so than himself. (Kasem, n.d.)

Other unseen creatures include the jinn. Along with humankind and the angels, the Jinn appear in Islamic tradition as intelligent individuals that similar to man, are subject to being saved or led astray. Usually defined as invisible creatures, even though they have the power to assume visible form from time to time. (Martin, R 1982, p.93-94)

Islamic folklore has associated the Jinn with enchanted performances of magic. Numerous stories in the popular romances of the Thousand and One Nights represent Jinn as agents of marvellous feats of magic. Related to the Jinn are the shayatin (singular shaytan, i.e. Satan). They appear in the Quran as proud and rebellious demons who, through their disobedience, will suffer punishment in hell-fire. The Quran (sura 26) had suggested that the poets and the other Arab contemporaries of Muhammad who persisted in the cultural and religious attitudes of the “Time of Ignorance” were inspired to go astray by the satans. (Martin, R 1982, p.93-94)

The Qur’an details about the jinn as an invisible creature, similar to humankind. There are two key groups of Jinn: Jinn that believe and obey Allah and Jinn that are disobedient to Allah and corrupt. Both of the groups are the exact same to humankind when concerning being believers or disbelievers, obedient or disobedient. (Balagh, n.d.)

Verse 72:6–7 states that humankind desired the jinns power, however they only brought hardship to humans. The humans that were chasing Jinns power as well as the non-Muslim Jinns themselves did not believe in Resurrection day (Kasem, n.d.). Ibn Abbas wrote about three different kinds of Jinns: non-Muslim Jinns that look like animals like snakes and dogs, Jinns that fly and Jinns that rise and fall wherever they want. (Kasem, n.d.) However, according to Ghazali there are four types of jinns: Scorpions, Worms, Serpents and Jinns in the sky. Additionally the humans seeking power from the Jinns and non-Muslim Jinns were compared to the unbelievers of Mecca by Ibn Abbas. Thus there are Muslim and non-Muslim jinns. (Kasem, n.d.)

Allah divided two camps of humankind: Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, similarly Allah created Islamic Jinns and un-Islamic Jinns; two different worlds of Jinns. Allah suggests in verse 72:14 that a Jinn is only on the right path if they embrace Islam, however those Jinns (non-Muslim) that don’t believe in Islam will be used as stimulation of the hellfire. (Kasem, n.d.)

Ibn Kathir also talks about Muhammad reciting the Qur’an at Nakhla along with nine Jinns visiting him. Verse 72:19 clarifies that multiple Jinns surrounded Muhammad, listening to him in prayer. (Kasem, n.d.) When hearing Muhammad recite the Qur’an, their enthusiasm got out of hand and almost found them on top of him. Despite their enthusiasm, Muhammad was oblivious of his audience; it was not until Gabriel warned Muhammad of his unknown Jinn visitors. (Kasem, n.d.)

Islamic faith is lost if anybody within the religion doesn’t accept the concept and idea of the angels and jinns existence. Within verse 4:47, Allah suggests that he has firm consequences planned for these disobedient individuals. (Kasem, n.d.) In 4:47, Ibn Kathir understands Allah’s consequences in this way: ‘Effacing means turning them blind; turn their faces backward means put their faces on their backs and make them walk backwards; curse them means to turn them into animals’ (Kasem, n.d.).

Belief of the Islamic world of angels and jinns is an important ingredient of the Islamic faith system. Muslims living within this view of the world seem to perceive life with special meaning. The cosmos had a beginning and will have an end, therefore a purpose. The revelation of God’s word in the Quran and the guidance of the prophetic Sunna, maps the way of the believer to that end. (Martin, R 1982, p.94)

Bibliography

Awn, PJ 1983, Satan’s Tragedy and Redemption: Iblis and Sufi Psychology, E. J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands.

Balagh, n.d., Jinn and Angels, viewed 20 October 2010,

<http://www.balagh.com/english/child/18.htm

Esposito, JL 2005, Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University Press, New York.

Esposito, JL 2002, What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam, Oxford University Press, New York.

Kasem, A n.d., Islamic Voodoos: Angels and Jinns, viewed 20 October 2010,

<http://www.islam-watch.org/AbulKasem/IslamicVoodoos/Part3.htm

Martin, RC 1982, Islam: A Culture Perspective, Prentice-Hall, Inc., United States of America.

The Holy Qur’an.

Relevant source: http://discoveringislam.org/angels_vs_jinn.htm


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