Kiraman Katibin: Muslim Recording Angels

In Islam, Two Angels Record People's Deeds for Judgment Day

Reading the Quran during Ramadan
A Muslim man reads the Quran during Ramadan, London. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Allah (God) appoints two angels to serve as "Kiraman Katibin" (honorable recorders or noble writers) for each person on Earth during his or her lifetime, Muslims believe. This angelic team is mentioned in Islam's main holy book, the Qur'an: "And indeed, [appointed] over you are keepers, noble and recording; they know whatever you do" (Chapter 82 (Al-Infitar), verses 10-12).

Careful Records

The Kiraman Katibin are careful not to miss any details of what people do, and they can clearly see people's actions because they accompany the people to whom they're assigned by sitting on their shoulders, believers say.

The Qur'an declares in Chapter 50 (Qaf), verses 17-18: "When the two receivers receive, seated on the right and on the left, man does not utter any word except that with him is an observer prepared [to record]."

Good on the Right and Bad on the Left

The angel on a person's right shoulder writes down the person's good deeds, while the angel on the left shoulder records the person's bad deeds. In his book Shaman, Saiva and Sufi: A Study of the Evolution of Malay Magic, Sir Richard Olof Winstedt writes: "Recorders of [a person’s] good and evil deeds, they are termed the Kiraman Katibin, the Noble Writers; good deeds are written down by the angel on his right, bad by the angel on his left."

"A tradition records that the angel on the right is more merciful than the angel on the left," writes Edward Sell in his book The Faith of Islam. "If the latter has to record a bad action, the other says, 'Wait a little for seven hours; perhaps he may pray or ask for a pardon.'"

In her book Essential Islam: A Comprehensive Guide to Belief and Practice, Diane Morgan writes that during the Salat prayer, some worshipers give a peace greeting (saying "Peace be upon all of you and the mercy and blessings of Allah") by "addressing the angels perched on their right and left shoulders.

These angels are the kiraman katibin, or 'noble writers,' who keep a record of our doings."

Judgment Day

When Judgment Day arrives at the end of the world, the angels who have served as Kiramin Katibin throughout history will present to Allah all of the records they've kept on people during their earthly lifetimes, Muslims believe. Then Allah will decide the eternal destiny of each person according to what they have done, as recorded by the Kiramin Katibin.

In his book The Narrow Gate: A Journey to Life Moon writes: "Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgment, the record book will be presented to Allah by the Kiraman Katibin. If they have more positive points (thawab) than negative points (ithim), then they enter into heaven. On the other hand, if they have more negative points than the positive points, they enter into hell. If thawab and ithim are equal, then they will be in limbo. However, the tradition believes that no Muslims can go to heaven unless recommended by Muhammad on the Day of Judgment."

People will also be able to read the records that the Kiramin Katibin have kept about them, Muslims believe, so on Judgment Day, they can understand why Allah is sending them to either heaven or hell.

Abidullah Ghazi writes in the book Juz' 'Amma: "Human beings, in their pride, may deny the Day of Judgment, but Allah has appointed Kiraman Katibin, the two angels, who record everything good or bad word, or action for each individual. The angel on the right notes the good actions while the angel on the left notes the bad actions. On the Day of Judgment, these records will be presented to each individual so that he may see for himself all that he did. There will be a clear division between the wicked and the righteous on the Day of Judgment. The righteous will be happy as they enter the bliss of Jannah [paradise or heaven], while the wicked will be unhappy as they enter the Fire [hell]."

The Qur'an describes the destiny of those with enough good deeds in Chapter 85 (Al-Buruj), verse 11: "Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds will have gardens beneath which rivers flow.

That is the great attainment."

A Constant Presence

The constant presence of the Kiraman Katibin recording angels with people helps remind them of Allah's constant presence with them, believers say, and that knowledge can encourage them and motivate them to intentionally choose good deeds often.

In his book Liberating the Soul: A Guide for Spiritual Growth, Volume 1, Shaykh Adil Al-Haqqani writes: "At the first level, Allah Almighty says: 'Oh people, you have two angels, two honorable angels, with you. Therefore, you must know that you are not alone. Anywhere you may be, those two honorable angels are with you.' That is the first stage for the mumin, for the believer. But concerning the highest degree, Allah Almighty says, 'Oh my servants, you must know that more than angels, I am with you.' And we must keep that."

They continue: "Oh servants of our Lord, he is with us at every time, everywhere. You must keep his being with you. He knows where you are looking. He knows what you are listening. He knows what you are thinking about. Keep your heart, especially during Ramadan, and then Allah Almighty will keep your heart the whole year."

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Hopler, Whitney. "Kiraman Katibin: Muslim Recording Angels." ThoughtCo, Aug. 11, 2017, thoughtco.com/kiraman-katibin-muslim-recording-angels-124021. Hopler, Whitney. (2017, August 11). Kiraman Katibin: Muslim Recording Angels. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/kiraman-katibin-muslim-recording-angels-124021 Hopler, Whitney. "Kiraman Katibin: Muslim Recording Angels." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/kiraman-katibin-muslim-recording-angels-124021 (accessed May 26, 2018).