Question: It is said that angels are not responsible because they do not have aql (reason), that they are not pious since religions are for humans and genies, that they are beings who carry out only what they are commanded, like robots. Some others claim that angels are male. Do such statements not mean disbelieving one of the six fundamentals of īmān?
The fact that angels are neither male nor female is written in all Islamic books that deal with the tenets of belief. In earlier times some people who emulated the Christians were saying that angels were female, and they were drawing winged girl pictures. From now on, will they draw pictures of winged men?
Angels have been created from nūr (light). Iblīs and genies have been created from fire. All of them are beings who have aql (reason, mind) and will. Allahu taālā put both angels and Iblīs to test. The purport of an āyah (Quranic verse) is as follows:
(When We said, Fall prostrate before Ādam [before Ādam for Allah], all of the angels fell prostrate, save Iblīs. As for Iblīs, he refused it and became arrogant. So he became one of the disbelievers.) [Sūrat-ul-Baqara, 34]
If angels were like robots, Allahu taālās ordering them to fall prostrate would have been something meaningless (never!). If they had not been in test, Iblis would not have become a disbeliever and would not have been punished. If there had been any among angels who refused to fall prostrate, those disobedient ones would certainly have been going to be punished. Can those who do not have reason, who are like robots be held responsible and thus punished? If they were not responsible, would they have been subjected to such a test? If they were not pious, would they have obeyed the command and would Allahu taālā have praised them in such a manner? After this test, angels were bestowed with the attribute of not committing sins and being sinless. This attribute exists in prophets as well. Their being sinless does not mean that they do not have aql (reason). He who does not have reason cannot be a prophet. The Qurān al-karīm declares that there are also prophets from angels. Jabrāīl, Mikāīl, Isrāfīl, and Azrāīl alaihimus-salam are the prophets of angels. All angels are owners of knowledge. The purport of two Quranic verses is as follows:
(Angels said, O our Rabb! We absolve You from all defective attributes and describe You with all perfect attributes that we have no knowledge other than what You have taught us.) [Sūrat-ul-Baqara, 32]
(Allah, angels, and the people of knowledge who enforce justice have testified that there is no god but He.) [Sūrat-u Āl-i Imrān, 18]
When our master the Prophet asked Jabrāil alaihis-salām, Did a share fall to your lot too from my being mercy for the worlds? he answered, Yes, I was looking forward to my destiny with terror. But when the verses in Takwīr Sūra were revealed, my value in the sight of Allah was made manifest (Shifā-i Sharīf).
(This Qurān is a word brought by an honorable messenger [Jabrāil] who is valuable in the sight of Allah, the Owner of Arsh, who is mighty, whose word is heeded, and who is trustworthy.) [Sūrat-ut-Takwīr, 19-21]
If Jabrāil alaihis-salām were not pious, would he be valuable and honorable in the sight of Allah?
Allahu taālā has charged angels with different duties. The purport of a Quranic verse is as follows:
(By the angels who race [to carry the souls of the Believers to Paradise and those of the disbelievers to Hell] and who direct the affairs!) [Sūrat-u Nāziāt, 4-5]
Allahu taālā swears on angels who direct the affairs in order to emphasize their superiority. If angels were beings who not have reason, like robots, would Allahu taālā have chosen from them messengers and directors? The purport of a verse is as follows:
(Allah chooses messengers from angels as well as from human beings.) [Sūrat-ul-Hajj, 75]
Saying that angels are devoid of reason and that they are like robots is another way of denying their existence. Belief in angels is one of the six fundamentals of īmān. The purport of a verse is as follows:
(He who disbelieves in Allah, His angels, His books, His prophets, and the Day of Judgement has gone far astray.) [Sūrat-un-Nisā, 136]
Angels are genderless. When the polytheists asserted that angels were female and that they were the daughters of Allah, Allahu taālā revealed the following:
([O polytheists!] Has your Rabb allotted you sons and taken for Himself daughters from among angels? Verily, you utter a saying the consequence of which is very grievous.) [Sūrat-ul-Isrā, 40]
(Ask the polytheists: Do daughters belong to your Rabb and sons to them? Did We create the angels as females before their eyes? They are definitely telling a lie.) [Sūrat-us-Saffāt, 149-151]
(Those who do not believe in the Hereafter name the angels with female names.) [Sūrat-un-Najm, 27]
Angels came to the aid in the Battles of Badr and Hunain. The purport of two verses is as follows:
(Then [at Badr] you were saying to the Believers, Is it not sufficient that your Rabb helps you by sending down three thousand angels.) [Sūrat-u Āl-i Imrān, 124]
(You were seeking aid from your Rabb for victory. He responded to you by saying, I am helping you with a thousand angels, following one another in succession.) [Sūrat-ul-Anfāl, 9]
They participate in a battle and fight against the enemy. How can one characterize them as being devoid of reason and as unconscious robots?
It was stated that the helpers of our master Rasūlullah were the angels:
(His friends and helpers are Allah, Jabrāil, and the pious Believers. Furthermore, the angels are his helpers.) [Sūrat-ut-Tahrīm, 4]
Also, it was declared in hadīth-i sharīfs that angels are beings with reason. As a matter of fact, the following three hadīth-i sharīfs purport:
(Angels of compassion do not enter a residence where there is a living beings picture, a dog, or a junub person.) [Nasāī]
(Let him who has eaten onion or garlic not come to our mosque. The reason is that what causes humans discomfort causes angels discomfort, too.) [Tabarānī]
(Do not remain naked! Feel ashamed of the Angels of Haphaza, who leave you only during sexual intercourse or when you are in the restroom, and be respectful to them.) [Tirmudhī]
This means to say that angels can come to houses for mercy and can recognize the junub person if there is. These are not simple matters. They can be bothered by the unpleasant smells that bother humans, and it is not appropriate to remain naked near them. If they are like robots, why are they bothered by junub person or bad smells? Why should one feel ashamed of them and why are we ordered to be respectful to them? The purport of a hadīth-i sharīf is follows:
(The angel on ones right is the commander of the one on ones left. He writes ten thawābs when a born servant does a good deed. When the born servant does a bad deed, the angel on ones right commands the one on the left to wait. He then waits for six hours. If the born servant makes repentance, he does not write anything at all. If he does not make repentance, he writes a single sin.) [Tabarānī, Bayhaqī]
The purport of a Quranic verse is as follows:
(Do they [polytheists] think that We do not hear what they conceal in their hearts and their whispers? Yes, We do, and Our messengers [angels] near them record.) [Sūrat-uz-Zukhruf, 80]
It would be utterly fallacious and ridiculous to say that the angels who assess and write down our deeds are robot-like beings devoid of reason, despite these scriptural proofs demonstrating that they have knowledge and reason.