Lately, Hollywood has come out with a spate of movies on Angels. There was 'Meet Joe Black, City of Angels' and 'Michael', to name a few. There are indeed Angels all around us, but they are not visible to the human eye. Apart from the Prophets a.s., no human being has the ability to see the Angels in their original form.
Religious history has recorded several instances where Angels appeared in the form of pleasant-looking men to certain individuals, including Muhammad (SAW), Maryam (a.s.), Ibraheem (a.s.) and Lot (a.s.); and also to communities, such as the inhabitants of the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Neither male nor female, these intelligent beings do not eat, drink, sleep nor have desires. They are created in such a way that they always obey and never go against Divine commands and never tire of serving Allah SWT. For Muslims, the second Article of Faith stipulates that they must believe in the Angels, whose population is infinite. This command is contained in the Qur'anic verse:
"Uprightness is not to turn your faces towards east or west, but uprightness is to believe in Allah (SWT) and the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the Prophets,." (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:177)
As a rule, Muslims are required to know the names and functions of the 10 leading angels (a.s.).
Jibreel: To deliver the Divine Revelations from Allah SWT to His chosen Messengers from among the prophets (a.s).
Mikaaeel: To manage man's mundane necessities, bring forth rain and oversee the cultivation of crops.
Israafeel: To blow the Trumpet: once, for the destruction of the universe; and again, for the Resurrection of all accountable beings to face Judgment Day.
Izraaeel: Angel of Death, the most fearsome of them all, who does not delay nor expedite the hour of claiming the soul.
Maalik: Guardian of Hell, an unwelcome sight, for the unfortunate and wretched dwellers of the eternal fire.
Ridhuan: Guardian of Heaven, who welcomes the Prophets (a.s.) and the righteous who have been blessed by Allah SWT.
Munkar :To question the dead on issues relating to his/her God, prophet, religion, belief, deeds, etc.
Naakir: To question the dead on issues relating to his/her God, prophet, religion, belief, deeds, etc.
Raqeeb: Sits on man's right shoulder to record his/her good deeds.
Ateed: Sits on man's left shoulder to record his/her evil deeds.
Apart from the 10, there are numerous other angels whose duties are:
1. To carry the throne of Allah SWT
2. To glorify Allah SWT and to continuously prostrate to Him
3. To beg forgiveness from Allah SWT for believers and those who have repented.
4. To beg for goodness for those human beings doing good deeds, and to beg for the destruction of those reluctant to donate a portion of their wealth in the way of goodness
5. To say 'Ameen' together with those praying to Allah SWT in congregation
6. To take turns guarding humans all day and night, with the changing of the guard occurring in the late afternoon and at dawn. In a hadeeth narrated by Aishah, Prophet Muhammad SAW said:
"The Angels are created from light, the Jinn from the burning fire, and Adam (a.s.) from what has been expounded to you (i.e. fashioned out of clay)." [Muslim]
Although man is created from clay and Angels from light, the Qur'an categorically states that Man is the jewel of creation. Evidence of these is seen in the following Qur'anic verse:
"Verily, We created man of the best stature (mould)" (Surah at-Teen 95:4)
The Angels were commanded to prostrate to Adam (AS) to show their respect because his level of degree in the sight of Allah was greater. They all fell down prostrate, except for Iblees, aka, Satan, Lucifer. (7:11) Allah asked:
"What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?" He said: "I am better than he: You created me from fire, and him from clay." (Surah al-Aa'raf 7:12)
The reason for Iblees's capacity to disobey Allah SWT can be learnt from the following verse:
"And (remember) when We said to the Angels; "Prostrate to Adam." So they prostrated except Iblīs (Satan). He was one of the jinns; he disobeyed the Command of his Lord.." (Surah al-Kahf 18:50)
Here we see that although Iblees was a dweller of Paradise, he was not from the angel community. He, a jinn, is created from fire whereas the Angels are of light. Unlike the Angels, who are bound to serve and obey Allah SWT, the jinn are not free from sins (ma'soom). In this respect, they are more like humans: they may be obedient or disobedient to their Creator.
As the jinn are also generally invisible to the human eye, some people falsely regard them as gods. Allah SWT says in the Qur'an:
"Yet they make the Jinn equals with Allah, though Allah did create the Jinn; and they falsely, having no knowledge, attribute to Him sons and daughters. Praise and glory be to Him! (for He is) above what they attribute to Him!" (Surah al-An'aam 6:100)
The angels are nothing like we see in the movies. We only know about them what Allah revealed in the Qur'an and how the Prophet SAW described them in the ahaadith. But we do know that they are pure, sinless beings created from light with the mission to faithfully obey and serve their Lord, Allah.