Malaika or belief in the angels is another fundamental articles of faith in Islam. A Muslim should believe in the existence of Angels, although they may be unseen to us in this world.
Of the many beings created by God, the angels are of special importance. They have been invested by God with the supernatu¬ral power to keep order in the functioning of the universe. They do not, however, deviate in the slightest from the path of God, for all their actions are in complete obedience to His will. This is because they have not been invested with a free will by God Almighty.
Diverse and numerous events are taking place at every moment in the universe, for instance, the movement of the stars, the shining of the sun and moon, the falling of the rain, the alternation of the seasons, and so on. All of these, and many other continually recurring events are attended to by the angels. Working in the universe as extremely faithful and obedient servants of God, they ensure the continued existence of the human and animal species on earth.
As well as running the world’s systems, these angels, a numerous band, take charge of all matters in heaven and hell.
The role of the angels can be understood by the example of a large factory. In any such factory, there are many big and complex machines, which produce the goods for which the factory has been established. But these machines do not run on their own. To facilitate their smooth running, many human hands are required. Therefore, in every factory there are always a number of people whose duty it is to attend constantly to their proper and efficient functioning. Similarly, countless angels are appointed to ensure the proper functioning of the great factory of the universe.
The difference between the two factories is simply that in the material one, the human hands are visible, while in the metaphorical one—the great mechanism of the universe—the angels remain invisible.
Angels (malaika, literally meaning ‘messenger’) serve as intermediaries between God and man. They transmit messages to His envoys, worthy individuals who are specially chosen by God for the task of being His messengers. These messengers are called prophets, and it is the prophets alone who receive the divine revelations, through an angel, who is the celestial messenger. According to the Quran, the angel Gabriel (Jibrail), meaning the ‘power of God,’ — also alluded to in the Quran as a “trustworthy spirit” (al-ruh-al-amin)—brought divine revelations to the Prophet of Islam.
Most important among the angels are Jibrail, Mikail, Izrail and Israfil.
Jibrail, as we have said, is the ‘holy spirit’, who brings revelations from God to His prophets.
Izrail is called the angel of death, for he takes away the souls of the dying.
Israfil will blow the trumpet when the time comes for the world to end and on the Day of Judgement.
The angels, who continuously praise and glorify the Lord, have been given the necessary qualities and powers to perform specific functions. They have no free will. They always obey God and never displease Him. Man, on the other hand, has been given free will and can choose between right and wrong.
Angels are creatures of light (nur) who pervade the whole universe. Although in the kingdom of God there are many millions of them, they belong to the realm of the invisible, so that the only way we can see them is if they appear in human form. Jibrail used to appear to the Prophet in various forms. Sometimes he hung suspended in the air, sometimes he appeared in the shape of a man, and sometimes he sprouted wings, etc. The angel Jibrail once appeared before a gathering of the companions of the Prophet in order to teach them about Islam. On that occasion, he took the form of a Companion of the Prophet. Angels can take any suitable form in order to perform their duties, and are constantly occupied in carrying out God’s orders.
Angels are continuously present on earth, particularly at prayer times. Man may not be able to see the angels, but the angels can certainly see man and are in constant touch with human beings. They keep a watch on them on behalf of God and many of them are eternally busy recording all of our thoughts, words and deeds. They are called the ‘respected recorders’ (kiraman katibin). Not a single word we say goes unrecorded. (50:18)
They are the friends and protectors (41:30-32) of human beings, and are God’s most obedient and loyal servants.
Man may not be able to see the Angels, but the Angels can certainly see man, and keep a watch on him on behalf of God. It is these very Angels who take man’s soul away after death.