The Angels: Who Are They?

Published August 1, 1990

By Ibrahim B. Syed

Although belief in the angels is an integral part of a Muslim’s faith, questions often abound in the minds of many believers: are angels scientifically provable, what are they made of, and what do they look like?

The angels are made of light, just like human beings are made of clay and jinns of a “smokeless fire.” And Allah describes them as servants incapable of disobeying. From the Hadith we get the following information about the angels:

  1. The angels are created from “light” and are invisible.
  2. They do not have free will, that is, they have only a one-dimensional nature, something like

a programmed robot.

  1. They carry out, without question, all the orders of Allah and do not oppose or neglect

them in any way.

  1. Like everything in the universe, they are engaged in praising and glorifying Allah day and night and are never tired of this.
  2. They carry out their functions honestly, efficiently, and responsibly and are never guilty of shirking their responsibility.
  3. The number of angels is only known to Allah, however, four of them are well-known: Jibreel, who conveyed Allah’s revelations and messages to the prophets; Israfeel, who will blow the trumpet on the Day of Resurrection, Meckaail, who arranges for rainfall and supply of provisions to the creatures of Allah; and Izraeel, who takes away peoples souls at the time of death.

Among the other known angels are Munkar and Nakir, who are sent to the graves to question a person after death.

The angels are created without a father or mother and they do not eat or drink. They do not have any emotions, including passion, and they are devoid of biological urges. They cannot commit sin or disobey.

Man is superior to the angels because he has a two-dimensional nature. Firstly, he is endowed with an immortal spirit which is breathed into him by Allah. Secondly, he is endowed with the faculty of reason and an independent will of his own so he can obey or disobey Allah’s Commandments and choose his own way freely. Unlike the angels, man has a gender, instincts, and biological urges.

The scientific concept that very closely describes the angels is the electromagnetic force (electromagnetic radiation). If angels are made of light then light is made of electromagnetic radiation, which travels at 186,000 miles per second. Like angels, electromagnetic force obeys the laws of nature incessantly without mistakes and has no free will. Hence it has a one-dimensional nature like the angels. Electromagnetic radiation has no gender, no emotions including passions, and has no instincts or biological urges. It is invisible except in the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum (4,000 to 7,000 Angstroms wavelength).

From the Qur’an and Hadith, we learn that angels came to the prophets in a human form. This is also not difficult to understand because with the help of laser light and white light we can create holographic images that are three-dimensional human figures that can talk.

Again, laser light and white light are forms of electromagnetic radiation. Communication is possible by means of radio waves or microwaves, which also are electromagnetic radiation.

Allah is all-knowing.

Ibrahim B. SyedAuthor Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed is a professor of nuclear medicine at the school of Medicine, University of Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Syed believes that it is not necessary nor pertinent to explain Qur’anic revelations in scientific terminology. However, there is nothing wrong with attempting to understand or interpret Islam in light of modern knowledge. Some Ulemas have come very close to explaining the angels in terms of scientific terminology and have given the analogy of radio waves, cinematography, and the recordings of audio and video images on videocassettes. Through this article, the writer wants to encourage free-thinking, stimulate research ideas among Muslim scholars, scientists, and students so that our understanding of the Qur'an can be furthered.

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