Among the most important matters of the belief (Iman) is to believe in the angels, i.e., to believe, although we don’t usually see them, that angels exist and they are one of the kinds of creations Allah created. Allah created the angels from light. They are neither males nor females. They all worship Allah and obey His orders; they do not sin.
As narrated by Imam Muslim in the famous hadith known as Hadith Jibril, the Prophet, sallAllahu ^alayhi wa sallam, when asked by Angel Jibril to inform him about the belief, said al-Iman (the belief) is:
which means: <<To believe in Allah, His Angels, His Revealed Books, His Messengers, the Day of Judgment, and to believe in destiny--both good and evil, (that is that both are decreed by Allah).>>
In the response of Prophet Muhammad to Angel Jibril, notice how he ordered those most important matters of the belief. He said the belief is (first) to believe in Allah, because this is the basis of the belief. To believe in Allah includes believing that Allah exists and that His existence is without time and without a place, unlike the existence of the created things. The belief in Allah includes believing that He is eternal; there never was a time Allah did not exist and then He came into existence. He is everlasting; there never will be a time when He will cease to exist. Rather, Allah is the Creator of everything. He created everything by his Power, Knowledge, and Will. He does not need any of His creations, nor does He resemble any of His creations. Allah is attributed with Sight and Hearing; He sees and hears all things without an eye, ear, or any other instrument. Allah is not a body and does not have parts. He is One, there is no god except Allah. He has no partner, no division, no sub-division.
The proper belief in Allah includes believing in all these issues. The one who believes in Allah, believes that Allah is the Creator of everything, the True Owner of everything, and that He deserves to be worshipped, and that He deserves to be obeyed. The one who believes that Allah deserves to be worshipped and obeyed needs to know how to worship and obey Him. Allah, by His great generosity and mercy, sent His Revelation to the people, so they would know how to worship and obey Him. The one who believes in Allah, believes in His Revelation.
After mentioning the belief in Allah, the Prophet mentioned the belief in the angels, the Books, and the Messengers of Allah, because this is how Allah’s orders reached us. The ones who convey the orders of Allah are the angels. What they came with are the revealed Books. These Books were revealed to the Messengers of Allah, who were ordered to convey them to the people.
Angels are wondrous creations of Allah and have a very high status among His creations. Allah created all the angels from light, all at once. Imam Muslim narrated the Prophet said:
which means: << Allah created the angels from light, created the jinn from the pure flame of fire, and Adam from that which was described to you (i.e., the clay.)>> This is a sahihhadith and proof Iblis was not an angel who blasphemed, thus becoming the devil--as some people claim. Iblis is a jinn and is the father of all the jinn-kind, as Adam is a human and is the father of all the human kind.
Allah created the angels as they are now. They do not grow or develop or age. In their original shape, they are gentle bodies; gentle bodies meaning they can’t be grasped or held by the hand. Although they are gentle bodies, they do not have internal cavities--unlike humans and jinn--and they do not eat or drink. This is why when Prophet Ibrahim gave food to the angels who were visiting him (in the shape of men), they did not eat. The angels have different body parts: feet, shoulders, ears, hands, and wings. Some angels have two (2) wings, some have three (3), others have four (4). Some, like Angel Jibril, have up to six hundred (600) wings. If just one of his wings was spread open, it would cover what is between east and west.
Allah gave the angels the power to change their shapes, and it is permissible that they would take the shape of a man, however, without the male genital organ. Often Angel Jibril would appear to the Prophet in the shape of a man to teach him the Revelation. Angels do not take the form of the woman. The one who believes that the angels are female is blasphemous, as Allah said in Surat an-Najm, Ayah 27:
which means: [Those who do not believe in the Hereafter are those who name the angels with feminine names, (i.e., believe that they are female.)]
Some of the angels are very big. It was narrated that the Prophet told us about one of the angels who carries the ^Arsh. He said that the distance between that angel’s ear lobe and his shoulder is equal to the distance that a fast flying bird would cover flying for 700 years. There are other angels whose feet are in the seventh earth and upper body above the seventh sky.
Allah created obedience inherent in the angels. They do not disobey Allah. All of them are obedient slaves to Allah, as Allah described them in Surat at-Tahrim, Ayah 6:
which means: [They do not disobey Allah in what He orders them (to do), and they do exactly what they were ordered.] Angels, like humans, have a will, but angels choose only to be obedient to Allah. They do not sin. They perform only that which Allah ordered them to do. What was falsely claimed about the two angels, Harut and Marut, committing sins is untrue. Some claimed that they were seduced by a woman named az-Zuhrah, and as a result, drank alcohol and committed adultery. It is also claimed they killed a soul unrightfully and prostrated to an idol. These claims are pure fabrication, none were confirmed by the Prophet. Such claims contradict the Qur’an, the Rules of the Religion, and the Sunnah of the Prophet. What is mentioned in the Religion about Harut and Marut is they came down in Babylon (in Iraq) to teach the people the matters of sorcery. This was not, however, to enable the people to practice sorcery, rather it was to enable the people to differentiate between sorcery and the true miracle.
Angels are the most numerous kind of creation of Allah. There are more angels than the other creations of Allah, including the humans and jinn--even the trees. At-Tirmidhiyy related the hadith of the Messenger of Allah in which he said:
which means: <<There is no space equivalent to (the width of) four fingers in the sky except one would find an angel mentioning (worshipping) Allah--either standing, bowing or prostrating.>> They stay as such until the Day of Judgment worshipping Allah.
Allah endowed the angels with the strength to perform the obedience without getting tired, and without being in need of food, drink, sleep, or rest. They do not eat or drink or sleep. They perform only that which Allah ordered them to perform. Every angel has an assignment. Angel Jibril is the Messenger of Allah to his prophets. Angel Israfil is the angel assigned to blow the horn on the Day of Judgment. ^Asra’il is the Angel of death, whose assignment is to capture the soul of the person when it leaves his body at death. Ridwan is the angel in charge of Paradise, Malik the angel in charge of Hellfire. There are angels in charge of the clouds, the winds, and the plants. With each human there are eight (8) angels--whose assignment is to protect that person from the harm of the jinn. It was narrated that if it were not for these angels, the jinn would play with the person like the person plays with a ball. The zabaniyah are angels in charge of torturing the blasphemers in Hellfire. There are other angels who roam around, writing down the leaves that drop off the trees. Some angels are in charge of delivering the salutations to the Messenger of Allah in his grave of the one not present at the grave of the Prophet who says salams to him. There is an angel in charge of the womb of the woman. He writes matters on the forehead of the fetus when the fetus is 120 days old and his soul joins his body. There are the angels who carry the ^Arsh. Rata’il is the angel in charge of relieving the sadness of the believers; Mika’il is the angel in charge of the rain. Angel Isma^il is in charge of 12,000 angels in one sky who are his direct assistants. There are the angels who write down the deeds of the person-each one has two with him, one who writes the good deeds, and the other who writes the mubah and the bad deeds. There are the angels, Munkar and Nakir, who question the person in the grave, and many, many more.
Allah endowed the angels with great strength. Allah said about Angel Jibril:
which means: [He is very strong.] Among the examples of his strength is how he destroyed the cities of the people of Prophet Lut. With just the edge of one of his 600 hundred wings, Angel Jibril pulled out of the ground the (4 or 5) cities of Prophet Lut’s people, and raised them near to the first sky, until the angels inhabiting that sky could hear the barking of the dogs and the crowing of the roosters. Then he turned those cities upside down and sent them down to the earth. Allah ordered Angel Jibril to destroy those cities of the people of Prophet Lut to punish them because they belied Prophet Lut and harmed him.
Among all the angels, Angel Jibril is the one with the most merit and highest status. He is the Messenger of Allah to the messengers of Allah, meaning mostly it was Jibril who would bring the Revelation to the prophets. Angel Jibril would come to Prophet Muhammad and convey the Revelation to him, and the Prophet would hear his words and memorize them immediately. Angel Jibril used to come to the Prophet not in his own shape--usually he would take the shape of a man. However, when Angel Jibril brought the Revelation of prophethood to Prophet Muhammad in Cave Hira’, he retained his original shape. When Prophet Muhammad saw Jibril this first time in his original shape, he fainted. He fainted, not out of fear of what he was seeing, (because Jibril did not at all resemble what one usually sees, i.e., humans, animals, the sun, the moon, etc.) and not out of fear that Jibril would harm him. Rather, he felt that he was seeing a very strange and a very great thing, and was so affected by the aura of what he was seeing that he fainted. During the night of al-Mi^raj, the Prophet once again saw Angel Jibril in his original shape. However, this time the Prophet did not faint at the sight of Jibril , because before that the angels had washed his heart to make it stronger and ready to see the wondrous things in the upper world during the ascension. Allah gave Prophet Muhammad a great strength, enabling him to bear many unfamiliar sights and unusual matters that night.
Angels are truly wondrous creations of Allah. If one thinks about this creation of Allah, it will strengthen, with assurity, his belief in the One Who created the angels--the One Who Created Everything-- Allah.