The Role of Angels in Islam

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Faith in the unseen world created by Allah is a required element of faith in Islam. Among the required articles of faith are a belief in Allah, His prophets, His revealed books, the angels, the afterlife, and destiny/divine decree. Among the creatures of the unseen world are angels, which are clearly mentioned in the Quran as faithful servants of Allah. Every truly devout Muslim, therefore, acknowledges the belief in angels.

 

The Nature of Angels in Islam

In Islam, it is believed that angels were created out of light, before the creation of humans from clay/earth. Angels are naturally obedient creatures, worshipping Allah and carrying out His commands. Angels are genderless and do not require sleep, food, or drink; they have no free choice, so it is simply not in their nature to disobey. The Quran says:

They do not disobey Allah's commands that they receive; they do precisely what they are commanded"(Quran 66:6). 

The Role of Angels

In Arabic, angels are called mala'ika, which means "to assist and help." The Quran says that angels have been created to worship Allah and carry out His commands:

Everything in the heavens and every creature on the earth prostrates to Allah, as do the angels. They are not puffed up with pride. They fear their Lord above them and do everything they are ordered to do. (Quran 16:49-50).

Angels are involved in carrying out duties in both the unseen and physical worlds.

 

Angels Mentioned by Name

Several angels are mentioned by name in the Quran, with a description of their responsibilities:

  • Jibreel (Gabriel): The angel in charge of communicating Allah's words to His prophets.
  • Israfeel (Raphael): He is in charge of blowing the trumpet to mark the Day of Judgment.
  • Mikail (Michael): This angel is in charge of rainfall and sustenance.
  • Munkar and Nakeer: After death, these two angels will question souls in the grave about their faith and deeds.
  • Malak Am-Maut (Angel of Death): This character is in charge of taking possession of souls after death.
  • Malik: He is the guardian of hell.
  • Ridwan: The angel who serves as the guardian of heaven.

Other angels are mentioned, but not specifically by name. There are angels who carry Allah's throne, angels who act as guardians and protectors of believers, and angels who record a person's good and bad deeds, among other tasks.

Angels in Human Form?

As unseen creatures made from light, angels have no specific bodily shape but rather can take on a variety of forms. The Quran does mention that angels have wings (Quran 35:1), but Muslims don't speculate on what exactly they look like. Muslims find it blasphemous, for example, to make images of angels as cherubs sitting in clouds.

It is believed that angels can take the form of human beings when required to communicate with the human world. For example, the Angel Jibreel appeared in human form to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and to the Prophet Muhamad when questioning him about his faith and message.

"Fallen" Angels?

In Islam, there is no concept of "fallen" angels, as it is in the nature of angels to be faithful servants of Allah.

They have no free choice, and hence no ability to disobey God. Islam does believe in unseen beings who do have free choice, however;  often confused with "fallen" angels, they are called jinn (spirits). The most famous of the jinn is Iblis, who is also known as Shaytan (Satan). Muslims believe that Satan is a disobedient jinn, not a "fallen" angel.

Jinn are mortal—they are born, they eat, drink, procreate, and die. Unlike the angels, which dwell in celestial regions, Jinn are said to coexist next to humans, even though they normally remain unseen. 

Angels in Islamic Mysticism

In Sufism—the inward, mystical tradition of Islam—angels are believed to be divine messengers between Allah and mankind, not simply servants of Allah. Because Sufism believes that Allah and mankind may be more closely united in this life rather than waiting for such a reunion in Paradise, angels are seen as figures that can assist in communicating with Allah.

Some Sufists also believe that angels are primordial souls—souls that have not yet achieved earthly form, as humans have done.