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THE CHARACTERISTICS OF ANGELS

Angels are created from “light”

Angels are created from light. The Arabic word for angel is malak. According to its root form, malak means “messenger,” “deputy,” “envoy,” “superintendent,” and “powerful one.” The root meaning also implies descent from a high place. Angels are beings who build relations between the macrocosmic world and the material one, convey the commands of God, direct the acts and lives of beings (with God’s permission), and represent their worship in their own realms.

Angels move very rapidly and permeate all realms of existence

Having refined or subtle bodies of light, angels move very rapidly and permeate or penetrate all realms of existence. They place themselves in our eyelids or in the bodies of other beings to observe the works of God through our or their eyes. They also descend into the hearts of Prophets and saintly people to bring them inspiration. Such inspirations are usually from God, but sometimes they may be from angels.

Some angels represent species of earthly creatures and control and protect them

Some animals, like honeybees, act according to Divine inspiration, although science asserts that all animals are directed by impulses. But science cannot explain what an impulse is and how it occurs. Scientists are trying to discover how migrating birds find their way, how young eels hatched in the waters of Europe find their way to their nature waters in the Pacific. Even if we attribute this to information coded in their DNA, this information is assuredly from God, Who knows everything, controls the universe, and assigns angels to direct the lives of such creatures. If science says we must accept without question the existence of such invisible forces as the law of growth in living creatures, then it is even more scientific to attribute such forces to angels, God’s special servants.

Everything that exists, either as an individual or as a species, has a collective identity and performs a unique, universal function. Each flower displays a superlative design and symmetry and recites, in the tongue of its being, the Names of the Creator manifested on it; the entire Earth performs a universal duty of glorification as though it were a single flower; the vast “ocean” of the heavens praises and glorifies the Majestic Maker of the universe through its suns, moons, and stars. Even inert material bodies, although outwardly inanimate and unconscious, perform a vital function in praising God. Angels represent these immaterial bodies in the world of the inner dimensions of things, and express their praise. In return, these immaterial bodies are the angels’ representatives, dwellings, and mosques in this world.

There are various classes of angels. One class is engaged in constant worship; another worships by working. These working angels have functions that resemble human occupations, like shepherds or farmers. In other words, the face of the Earth is like a general farm, and an appointed angel oversees all of its animal species by the command of the All-Majestic Creator, by His permission and power and strength, and for His sake. Each species of animal is overseen by a lesser angel appointed to act as its shepherd.

The face of the Earth is also an arable field where all plants are sown. Another angel is appointed to oversee all of them in the Name of Almighty God and by His power. Lower ranking angels worship and glorify Almighty God by supervising particular plant species. Archangel Michael, upon him be peace, one of the bearers of God’s Throne of Sustenance, oversees the angels of the highest rank.

Angels who function as shepherds or farmers bear no resemblance to human shepherds or farmers, for their supervision is purely for God’s sake, in His Name, and by His power and command. They observe the manifestations of God’s Lordship in the species they are assigned to supervise, study the manifestations of Divine Power and Mercy in it, communicate Divine commands to it through some sort of inspiration, and somehow arrange its voluntary actions.

Their supervision of plants, in particular, consists of representing in the angelic tongue the plants’ glorification in the tongue of their being. In other words, they proclaim in the angelic tongue the praises and exaltations that all plants offer to the Majestic Creator through their lives. These angels also regulate and employ the plants’ faculties correctly and direct them toward certain ends. Angels perform such services through their partial willpower and a kind of worship and adoration. They do not originate or create their acts, for everything bears a stamp particular to the Creator of all things, meaning that only God creates. In short, whatever angels do is worship, and it is therefore not like the ordinary acts of human beings.

Since there is one angel to represent every kind of creature and present its service and worship to the Divine Court, the Prophet’s, upon him be peace and blessings, description of the angels is entirely reasonable and true. According to him, there are angels with 40,000 heads, each with 40,000 mouths, and 40,000 praises sung by 40,000 tongues in each mouth. This Prophetic tradition means that angels serve universal purposes, and that some natural creatures worship God with 40,000 heads in 40,000 ways. The firmament, for example, praises the Majestic Creator through its suns and stars; the Earth, although a single body, worships with many thousands of “heads,” each with many thousands of “mouths,” and each with many thousands of “tongues.” Thus this tradition is considered to refer to the angel who represents the Earth in the world of the inner dimensions of things, or in the world of immaterial bodies.

Angels carry out whatever God commands them

The Majestic Maker of this huge palace of creation employs four kinds or classes of laborers: angels and other spirit beings; inanimate things and vegetable creations, which are quite important servants of God working without wages; animals, which serve unconsciously in return for a small wage of food and pleasure; and humanity, which works in awareness of the Majestic Creator’s purposes. Men and women learn from everything, and supervise lower-ranking servants below in return for wages in the form of rewards here and in the Hereafter.

The first class consists of angels. These beings are never promoted for what they do, for each has a fixed, determined rank and receives a particular pleasure from the work itself, as well as a radiance from worship. That is, their reward is found in their service. Just as we are nourished by and derive pleasure from air and water, light and food, angels are nourished by and receive pleasure from the lights of remembrance and glorification, worship and knowledge, and love of God. Since they are created of light, light sustains them. Even fragrant scents, which are close to light, are a sort of enjoyable nourishment for them. Indeed, pure spirits take pleasure in sweet scents.

From their jobs performed at the command of the One Whom they worship, their actions for His sake, their service rendered in His Name, their supervision through His view, their honor gained through connection with Him, their “refreshment” found in studying His Kingdom’s material and immaterial dimensions, and their satisfaction in observing His Grace and Majesty’s manifestations, angels receive such elevated bliss that we cannot even begin to comprehend it. In addition, only they can perceive this bliss.

Angels have no sexes and they have no evil-commanding souls

Angels do not sin or disobey, for they do not have an evil-commanding soul that must be resisted. They have fixed stations, and so are neither promoted nor abased. They are also free of such negative qualities as envy, rancor, and enmity, and from all lusts and animal appetites found in human beings and jinn. They have no gender, do not eat or drink, and do not feel hunger, thirst, or tiredness. Although they receive no wages for their worship, they derive special pleasure from carrying out God’s commands, delight in being near to Him, and receive some sort of spiritual pleasure from their worship. Praise, worship, recitation of God’s Names, and glorification of Him are their nourishment, as are light and sweet fragrances.

On the other hand, we struggle with our evil-commanding soul and Satan. While angels invite us to true guidance, inspire us with belief and good conduct and virtue, and call us to resist the temptations of Satan and our evil-commanding self, Satan and our evil-commanding self try to seduce us. A person’s life is the history of his or her continuous struggle between angelic inspiration and satanic temptation. This is why we can be elevated to the highest rank or abased to the lowest rank. Also, this is why the elect of humanity, the Prophets and great saints, are higher in rank than the greatest angels, and why ordinary believers are higher than common angels. Also, although angels have more knowledge of God and His Names and Attributes than we do, we are more comprehensive mirrors of God’s Names and Attributes by virtue of our developed human senses, or ability to reflect, and our complex nature.

Angels have different kinds

There are different kinds of angels. Besides those deputed to represent and supervise various species on the Earth and present their worship to God, there are four Archangels and the angels who carry God’s Throne. (We do not know what God’s Throne is like and how It is carried.) There are other groups of angels known as Mala’-i A‘la (the Highest Council), Nadiyy-i A‘la (the Highest Assembly), and Rafiq-i A‘la (the Highest Company), as well as angels appointed to Paradise and Hell. Angels who record a person’s deeds are called Kiramun Katibun (the Noble Recorders), and, as stated in a hadith, 360 angels are responsible for each believer’s life. They guard their charges, especially during infancy and old age, pray for them, and ask God to forgive them. Other angels help believers during times of war, attend assemblies that praise and glorify God, as well as study meetings held for God’s sake and to benefit people.

Angels, particularly angels of mercy, do not enter houses containing statues or places where dogs are fed, and refrain from close contact with ritually impure people and menstruating women. They also avoid those with bad breath, derived from eating onions or garlic or from smoking, and do not visit those who sever relations with their parents and relatives.

God Almighty is powerful over everything. Even though He can guard everyone by Himself, He may appoint angels to guard His servants. To earn such a guardianship and the company of angels, one has to willingly do what is good and establish a close relation with God Almighty. One must have strong belief in God and all other pillars of faith, never abandon regular worship and prayer, lead a disciplined life, and refrain from forbidden things or sinful acts.

Angels helped the believers during the battles of Badr and Uhud, and also during the conquest of Makka. They always help believers who sincerely struggle in the way of God, regardless of time and place.

Belief in angels has many benefits. For example, it provides us with some sort of peace and removes our loneliness. The inspiration breathed by angels exhilarates us, enlightens us intellectually, and opens new horizons of knowledge and thought. Awareness of the continuous company of angels also helps us abstain from sin and improper behavior.

The Quran’s description of angels

We may use some Quranic verses, such as the following, to observe angels:

By the loosed ones successively, storming tempestuously; by the scatterers scattering, and the severally severing and those hurling a reminder, excusing or warning. (77:1-6)

By those that pluck out violently; and those that draw out gently; by those that float serenely, and those that outstrip suddenly; by those that direct an affair. (79:1-5)

... in (the Night of Power) the angels and the spirit descend, by the leave of their Lord, upon every command. (97:4)

... a Fire whose fuel is men and stones, and over which are harsh, terrible angels who disobey not God in what He commands them and do what they are commanded. (66:6)

Glory be to Him! Nay, but they are honored servants that outstrip Him not in speech, and perform as He commands. (21:26-7)

 


Recommended Reading:
Shooting Stars: The Clash Between the Inhabitants of the Heavens and Devils 

Last Updated on August 02, 2000

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