Question: What form should our belief in angels take?
The second fundamental of îmân is to believe in angels. The phrase wa malâikatihi in the Âmantu expresses the belief in Allahu ta’âlâ’s angels.
Angels have life and are alive. They are nûrânî (luminous, spiritual) creatures who have ‘aql (reason). They are Allahu ta’âlâ’s beloved and dear slaves. They are not His partners, nor are they His daughters. They obey His commands and never commit sins or disobey the commands. They are neither male nor female. They do not get married or give birth or multiply or have children. They neither eat nor drink. Allahu ta’âlâ has chosen some of them as prophets. He has honored them with the task of carrying wahy (message) to other angels. They are those who brought the Books and Suhûf (pl. of sahîfa, booklet) to prophets. For example, An’âm Sûra was brought by Jabrâil ‘alaihis-salâm together with seventy thousand angels. They do not make any mistakes, nor do they ever forget. They do not play tricks or deceive. What they bring from Allahu ta’âlâ is always true. It is never doubtful, nor does it depend upon probabilities. They have no other work than doing what they are commanded.
The most superior angels are the four archangels:
Jabrâîl (Gabriel) ‘alaihis-salâm: He is the most superior of angels. His duty is to bring wahy (revelation) to prophets and to inform them of the orders and prohibitions. It is very dangerous to presume that Jabrâîl ‘alaihis-salâm may commit a sin or may do a wrong action, for Allahu ta’âlâ declared:
(O My Messenger, say: “Whoever is an enemy to Jabrâîl is an enemy to Allah.” For he, by Allah’s leave, brought down the Qur’ân al-karîm to your heart as a confirmation of the Books that came before it, as a guidance, and as glad tidings for the Believers.) [Sûrat-ul-Baqara, 97]
Isrâfîl ‘alaihis-salâm: He is charged with blowing the Sûr. At his first blowing, except Allahu ta’âlâ, every living being who hear the sound will die. At his second blowing, all will be resuscitated.
Mikâîl ‘alaihis-salâm: It is his duty to make up cheapness, abundance, scarcity, expensiveness, and to move every object.
Azrâil ‘alaihis-salâm: He is charged with taking the souls of human beings.
After these four, there are four classes of angels: the four angels of Hamalat al-‘Arsh; angels in Divine Presence, called Muqarrabîn; leaders of torturing angels, called Karûbiyân; and angels of Mercy, named Rûhâniyân. The chief of angels of Paradise is Ridwân. The chief of angels of Hell is Mâlik. Angels of Hell are called Zabânîs. They carry out in Hell what they are commanded. The fire of Hell does not harm them, as the sea is not harmful to fish. The two angels called Kirâman Kâtibîn, who are on people’s two shoulders and who write down their good and bad deeds, and those angels who protect people against genies are called Angels of Haphaza. Of all creatures, angels are the most plentiful.
It is not appropriate to utter such statements as “He is a cruel person like a Zabânî” or “He is a murderer like Azrâil” or “He is like a torturing Zabânî” or “If you do not discipline your children, they will become anarchists; they will become Azrâil and Zabânî.” [It is not appropriate to use them as examples in metaphorical sense, either. Is it proper to use such words as ignorant, reactionary, or bigoted for Muslims who accept Faith by obeying Allahu ta’âlâ’s command, who observe His commandments and prohibitions—for example, who perform namâz, who fast, who do not appropriate others’ rights, who do not fornicate? In the same way, would it be proper to use such words as murderer, torturer, or cruel for angels who carry out Allahu ta’âlâ’s commandments? Such statements are very ugly no matter whether they are used metaphorically or as examples or as jokes.] A Muslim who speaks ill of angels will fall outside of Islam. All angels are sinless. They are not murderer, torturer, or cruel. They execute the command of Allah. (Farâid-ul-Fawâid)
The other angels
Question: Other than the four archangels, what are the names and duties of other known angels?
Hadrat Mawlânâ Khâlîd-i Baghdâdî says:
After the four archangels there are four superior classes of angels:
1. Angels of Hamalat al-‘Arsh are four.
2. Angels in Divine Presence are called Muqarrabîn.
3. Leaders of those angels who inflict torment are called Karûbiyân.
4. Angels of Mercy are called Rûhâniyân.
All these are superior ones of angels.
The chief of angels of Paradise is Ridwân. Angels of Hell are called Zabânî. They carry out in Hell what they are commanded. The fire of Hell does not harm them, as the sea is not harmful to fish. There are 19 leading Zabânîs. Their chief is Mâlik.
For each human being, there are four angels who record all the good and bad actions. Two of them come at night and the other two come during the day. They are called Kirâman Kâtibîn or Angels of Haphaza. It was also said that the Angels of Haphaza were different from Kirâman Kâtibîn. The angel on one’s right is commander of the one on the left and records the good deeds and acts of worship. The one on the left writes down the evil deeds.
There are angels who will torture disbelievers and disobedient Muslims in their graves, and angels who will ask questions in graves. The questioning angels are called Munkar and Nakir. Those who will question Muslims are also called Mubashshir and Bashîr.
Of all creatures, angels are the most plentiful. No one but Allahu ta’âlâ knows their number. There is no empty space in the skies where angels do not worship. Every place in the skies is occupied by angels in rukû’ (bowing during salât) or in sajda (prostrating). In the skies, on the earth, in grass, on stars, in every living and lifeless creature, in every rain-drop, in every plant leaf, in every atom, in every molecule, in every reaction, in every motion, in everything, angels have duties. They carry out Allahu ta’âlâ’s commands everywhere. They are intermediaries between Allahu ta’âlâ and creatures. Some of them are commanders of other angels. Some of them brought messages to the prophets. Some angels bring good thoughts, called ilham (inspiration), to the human heart. Some others are unaware of all human beings and creatures and have lost consciousness upon feeling Allahu ta’âlâ’s Beauty. Angels stay at a certain place and cannot leave their places. (I’tiqâdnâma)