Question: What form should our belief in angels take?
The second fundamental of īmān is to believe in angels. The phrase wa malāikatihi in the Āmantu expresses the belief in Allahu taālās angels.
Angels have life and are alive. They are nūrānī (luminous, spiritual) creatures who have aql (reason). They are Allahu taālās 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 taālā 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 Suhūf (pl. of sahīfa, booklet) to prophets. For example, Anām Sūra was brought by Jabrāil alaihis-salām 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 taālā 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:
Jabrāīl (Gabriel) alaihis-salām: 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 Jabrāīl alaihis-salām may commit a sin or may do a wrong action, for Allahu taālā declared:
(O My Messenger, say: Whoever is an enemy to Jabrāīl is an enemy to Allah. For he, by Allahs leave, brought down the Qurān al-karīm to your heart as a confirmation of the Books that came before it, as a guidance, and as glad tidings for the Believers.) [Sūrat-ul-Baqara, 97]
Isrāfīl alaihis-salām: He is charged with blowing the Sūr. At his first blowing, except Allahu taālā, every living being who hear the sound will die. At his second blowing, all will be resuscitated.
Mikāīl alaihis-salām: It is his duty to make up cheapness, abundance, scarcity, expensiveness, and to move every object.
Azrāil alaihis-salām: 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 Muqarrabīn; leaders of torturing angels, called Karūbiyān; and angels of Mercy, named Rūhāniyān. The chief of angels of Paradise is Ridwān. The chief of angels of Hell is Mālik. Angels of Hell are called Zabānīs. 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 Kirāman Kātibīn, who are on peoples 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 Zabānī or He is a murderer like Azrāil or He is like a torturing Zabānī or If you do not discipline your children, they will become anarchists; they will become Azrāil and Zabānī. [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 taālās command, who observe His commandments and prohibitionsfor example, who perform namāz, 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 taālās 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. (Farāid-ul-Fawāid)
The other angels
Question: Other than the four archangels, what are the names and duties of other known angels?
Hadrat Mawlānā Khālīd-i Baghdādī 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 Muqarrabīn.
3. Leaders of those angels who inflict torment are called Karūbiyān.
4. Angels of Mercy are called Rūhāniyān.
All these are superior ones of angels.
The chief of angels of Paradise is Ridwān. Angels of Hell are called Zabānī. 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 Zabānīs. Their chief is Mālik.
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 Kirāman Kātibīn or Angels of Haphaza. It was also said that the Angels of Haphaza were different from Kirāman Kātibīn. The angel on ones 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 Bashīr.
Of all creatures, angels are the most plentiful. No one but Allahu taālā 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 rukū (bowing during salāt) 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 taālās commands everywhere. They are intermediaries between Allahu taālā 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 taālās Beauty. Angels stay at a certain place and cannot leave their places. (Itiqādnāma)