All of Allah’s creations are beautiful. As if the boundless ocean, blankets of dunes, breathless mountains and lush forests are not magnificent enough already, there is one that never ceases to blow my mind whenever I hear stories about them. They are heavenly beings beyond our imagination, beyond anything our brains could ever grasp. Yes, you guessed it. They are angels, the beautiful creatures of light. The word angel in Arabic is malak (plural: malaikah) and its root word means messenger or to assist/help. Different angels have different assigned tasks, all decreed by Allah SWT of course. Whether they are involved in the process of creation, prophecy, resurrection and/or death, their common sole purpose is to serve Allah and carry out His divine commandments. Hence believing in angels is the second pillar of iman as their role is pivotal, otherwise, you are considered a kuffar.
Besides Islam, Judaism and Christianity believe in angels as well but have their own different portrayals. Their belief is that angels are made of fire or that angels can be prone to fallibility hence they have fallen angels (satan). Instead, we Muslims believe that angels are made of light but they cannot be seen by the naked eye nor do they have their own free will. Angels do not have any gender but are referred to as he or him only because that is how the English language works. Essentially, they are obedient entities that are pure and cannot sin. Some angels even, are in constant worship/dzikir and have never raised their heads from prostration since they were created. These angels are found in space and there was actually research done by NASA debunking the idea that outer space is silent. In fact, from their recordings, one of the NASA researchers that published their findings mentioned that it sounds like a billion men chanting. Subhanallah.
How many angels are there, you may wonder? Countless. To put it into perspective, there is a house in the 7th level of Jannah called the Albaytul Ma’mur, also known as the ‘Frequented House’. Just as we perform tawaaf around the Kaaba, the angels also perform tawaaf around Albaytul Ma’mur. It is narrated in the Hadith that every day, 70 000 angels perform their prayers there and they never return again. They are then followed by another set of 70 000 angels who pray and leave and this continues as a cycle until the Day of Judgement. Amazing isn’t it? And that is just one realm, who knows how many there are that Allah has created.
Now also bear in mind that Allah has created every angel unique. Each has their own distinct characteristics, some may have a pair of wings and others may have a hundred pairs of wings. Some may be tiny and others may be colossal, but relative to what? It is said that the average size of angels, mostly the ones that pray alongside you, are the size of mountains. The greater the task, the greater the size of the angel. As I said, there are tiny angels that may be smaller than us but even so, do not underestimate their capabilities. I am sure we have all been shaken by the sound of thunder at some point in our lives, some even cry. You would think that an entity capable of producing such ‘terrifying’ and blaring sounds would be of great size, but actually, thunder is the voice of an angel that is no bigger than the size of your thumb. On the other end of the spectrum, there are 4 angels that carry the throne of Allah and they are said to be so massive, though massive is a severe understatement, that the distance from just the ear lobe to the shoulder of the angel is equivalent to a 700-year journey.
But there is 1 angel that is much greater than that, in size and strength, and he is Jibreel AS. It is narrated by the Prophet SAW, that in full form, Jibreel AS has 600 wings that span over the horizon. His wings and the soles of his feet are said to be green. If that is not breathtaking enough, our Prophet SAW also mentioned that there are constant rubies and pearls falling from his wings. Jibreel AS was part of many miracles that have been brought to earth by Allah. In the story Prophet Lut AS, the city was destroyed instantly just by the tip of Jibreel’s AS wings and when Jibreel AS struck the heel of his foot onto the ground causing groundwater to surface, a well that pumps 8000 litres of water per second was made giving us infinite Zamzam water.
Angels are also known to be forces of nature, some are responsible for matters of the universe, the tides of the seas, mountains or the course of winds. So the laws of physics we have all learnt in class is the work of angels. It is said that no other force can influence angels, rather they influence a substance they are commanded to influence. This aligns with the law of conservation which denotes that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it can only be converted from one form to another. Energy surrounds us but in no way can we see nor control energy.
What are the interactions between angels and humans? From before birth and after death, angels are integrated into the lives of humans in almost every aspect. After conception, life is breathed into it with the permission of God. An angel then writes the answer to four questions in this human being’s book of deeds. Will it be male or female? Will this person be happy or sad? How long will his or her life span be, and will this person perform good or bad deeds? For death, a black and a blue angel named Munkar and Nakir will come to the deceased in the grave and they will be responsible for questioning one’s faith. In this present moment, there are 4 angels around you by day and another 4 by night. The right angel records your good deeds while the left angel records your bad deeds. The other 2 angels that are in front and at the back serve to protect us from whatever is not being decreed upon us, otherwise, they will be instructed to stand down. This means that the hurt and harm that has come to you has a reason behind it. Allah knows best. One thing about most angels that may be surprising to some people is the fact that they are not given the ability to read the Quran. They can only listen to it and they love listening to it so they will gather around and embrace one reciting the word of God.
There is still so much to unfold about angels, however, there are not many studies done by scholars as indeed they are mystical creatures that are beyond our domain. I hope that this piece intrigued you with the exalting characteristics of angels but even more, I hope that it helped you recognise your own worth in the eyes of Allah SWT as we humans are His best creation. Sadly, we seem to forget that often.