Thursday, December 28, 2006

Angels- A Scientific Perspective

Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D.
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
Website: http://WWW.IRFI.ORG

Iman (faith) is to proclaim the Kalimah (principle) with the tongue and affirm its truth with the heart. In the Kalimah one has to bear/witness to the truth in the following words: "I bear witness that there is no god (deity) but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Servant and Apostle of Allah." By proclaiming this Kalimah one implicitly believes in the following Articles of Faith:

Existence and Attributes of Allah
Destiny or Measure (Taqdir)
Revealed Books
The Hereafter

Iman is the basis of acts of worship and righteous deeds in Islam.

One of the names and attributes of Allah is Al Haqq (The Truth). In reading and understanding the Qur'an, a Muslim man or a Muslim woman is seeking the truth. Muslims say Islam is the religion of Truth. As defined above our Iman (faith) is affirmation of the truths and not blind beliefs.

There are religions whose followers believe the idols to be gods or Jesus(AS) to be Son of God. There are people who worship fire as god or natural entities or phenomena as gods. There are people who even worship Satan. One can have belief or faith in anything. So what is the difference between a Muslim and a non-Muslim.? As pointed out before, the-Muslim's Iman is affirmation of the truth. In Dawah work a Muslim may encounter the challenge in the Article of Faith in "Angels." In other words a Muslim has to answer the question "Do Angels exist?" and what is the truth?

Belief in the Angels

The angels according to Western ideas are anthropomorphic (human-like appearance), female in sex, white in color, having two white wings and a halo above the head. In Islam this is a false representation of the angels.

From the Qur'an we know that human beings are made from clay and the Jinns are made of smokeless fire.

All life on earth is made of Carbon and water. Living things on earth need energy for their activities. Some of these activities are chemical reactions, which need a supply of energy. This supply of energy comes from the foods we eat, particularly the sugars. Fat is also a source of (stored) energy. When sugars (glucose) are oxidized by metabolism with oxygen they are converted into water, carbon dioxide and energy. This process is called respiration. Life as we know on earth consists of cells, etc., based on Carbon and chemical reactions and cannot be applied- to life and creatures based on physical reactions found on earth and elsewhere. For example, the author has shown that the Jinns have a more complex basis for their life involving electrical charges as well as magnetic forces. The positive and negative ions interact and respond to the presence of magnetic forces which in turn affect the stable structure and movement of the Jinns: This situation is similar to the influence of proteins and nucleic acids in earthly life.

Hadith and Qur'an

Having belief or Imaan in the Angels is a pillar of a Muslim's Aqeeda. Angels are a creation of Allah. According to Hadith they were created from light, they do not eat or drink, they are characterized by neither feminine nor masculine, and they do not tire. The are the creation of Allah, a creation that took place before the creation of Adam – Alayhis Salam.

In order to explain the existence of the angels, one must know the nature of the angels. From the Hadith we get the following information:

1.The angels are created from light' and are invisible.

‘Aa’ishah (ra) reported: "The Messenger of Allah (Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him) said: ‘The angels are created from light, just as the jinn are created from smokeless fire and mankind is created from what you have been told about.’ " (Reported by Muslim, No. 2996).

2.The angels have no gender (neither male nor female). They cannot commit sin nor disobey.

The angels are created without a father or a mother and that they do not eat and drink. This is indicated by the conversation between Prophet Ibrahim, the "friend" of Allaah and the angels who visited him. Allaah says "Then he turned quickly to his household, brought out a fatted calf, and placed it before them. He said, ‘Will you not eat?’ (When they did not eat), he conceived a fear of them. They said: ‘Fear not,’ and they gave him glad tidings of a son endowed with knowledge." (al-Dhaariyaat, 51:26-28) Elsewhere, Allah says : "But when he (Ibrahim) saw their hands went not towards the (meal), he felt some mistrust of them, and conceived a fear of them. They said: ‘Fear not: we have been sent against the people of Lut.’" (Hud, 11:70).

That is they do not have any emotions including passion and they are devoid of instincts (biological urges).

3. They do not have any free will or an independent will to act on their own. That is they have only a one-dimensional nature, something like a programmed robot.

4. They carry out without question all the Commands (laws) of Allah and do not oppose or neglect them in any way.

5.Like everything in the Universe, day and night they are engaged in praising and glorifying Allah and are never tired of this. They do not get bored or tired of remembering and worshipping Allah. Allah says: "They celebrate His praises night and day, nor do they ever slacken." (al-Anbiya', 21:20) ". . . For in the presence of your Lord are those who celebrate His praises by night and by day. Some spend their entire existence in Ruku’, others in Sujood.

6.They carry out their functions honestly, efficiently and responsibly and are never guilty of shirking work.

7. The number of angels is only known to Allah, however four of them are well known:

Gabriel (conveys Allah's revelations and messages to the Prophets); Israfil (by Allah's Command will blow into the Trumpet on the Day of Resurrection); Michael (arranges for rainfall and supply of provisions to the creatures of Allah, with His Command); and Izrail (takes people's souls at the time of death).

Fifth one is Malik. He is the Keeper of Hell, as Allah says : "They (the people in Hell) will cry: : ‘O Malik (Keeper of Hell)! Let your Lord make an end of us.’ He will say: ‘Verily you shall abide forever.’" (Al-Zukhruf 43:77).

Two angels, called 'Munkar' and 'Nakir' arc sent to the graves to question a person after his/her death.

The Prophet (Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him) described the Much-Frequented House (al-Bayt al-Ma‘moor) in the seventh heaven, and said: ‘Hell will be brought forth that day by means of seventy thousand ropes, each of which will be pulled by seventy thousand angels." (Reported by Muslim, No. 2842).

The Qur'an says:

Behold two (guardian angels) appointed Who register (his doings): one sitting on the right and one on the left. Not a word does he (man) utter, but there is a sentinel by him ready (to register it)( Surah, Qaf, 50: 17-18). These angels are responsible for recording the deeds of man, good and bad, are called the Noble Scribes Kiraaman (honourable), kaatibeen - writing down (your deeds)." (Al-Infitaar 82:10-11). ". . . and He sends guardians (angels guarding and writing all of one’s good and bad deeds) over you . . ." (al-An‘aam 6:61). Others are responsible for testing people in the grave. These are Munkar and Nakeer.

Some of the angels are the keepers of Paradise. Some of them are the keepers of Hell, the "guards of Hell", whose number is nineteen and whose leader is Malik, upon whom be peace.

About Haaroot and Maaroot, Allah says : ". . . and such things as came down at Babylon to the angels Haaroot and Maaroot . . ." (al-Baqarah 2:102) ". . . and none can know the forces of your Lord, except He. And this is no other than a warning to mankind." (al-Muddaththir 74:31)

And if it were Our Will, We could make angels from amongst you, succeeding Each other on the earth. (Surah, Az-Zukhruf, 43: 60).

8. Their speed :

The greatest speed known to man today is the speed of light; the angels are able to travel much faster than this. However the Jinn are particularly mentioned in the Qur'an (Al-Naml, 27:38-40). Hardly had an enquirer completed a question to the Prophet (Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him), but Jibreel would bring the answer from Allah. Their duties Among the angels is one whose task it was to convey the revelation from Allah to His Messengers; this is al-Rooh al-Ameen, Jibril, upon whom be peace.

Their powers :The angels have great powers given to them by Allaah, including the following:

9. The ability to take on different forms.

Allah has given the angels the ability to take on forms other than their own.

Allah sent Jibreel to Maryam (Mary) in the form of a man, as Allah says: ". . . Then We sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects." (Maryam 19:17). Angels also came to Ibrahim(AS) in human form, and he did not know that they were angels until they told him so. Similarly, angels came to Lut in the form of young men with beautiful faces. Jibreel used to come to the Prophet (Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him) in different forms: sometimes he would appear in the form of Dihyah al-Kalbi, a Sahaabee who was very handsome, and sometimes in the form of a Bedouin. Many other ahaadeeth refer to the angels taking human forms, such as the hadeeth about the one who killed a hundred, in which it says ". . . there came to them an angel in human form . . ." and the hadeeth about the blind man, the bald man and the leper.

Scientific Views

The author believes there is nothing wrong in attempting to understand or to interpret the concept of angels in the light of modern knowledge. After all, Muslims and scientists are seekers of the truth and truth is the same in either domain. Some Ulema or Islamic scholars have come very close to explaining the angels in terms of scientific terminology and have given the analogy of radio-waves, cinematography and the recordings of audio and video images . It is the intention of the author to make efforts in better understanding and in conceptualization of angels, which are created by Allah in terms of nature, natural laws and natural forces, which are also created by Allah.

The word Malaa'ikah - Malak - (Alif-Lam-K'af or Meem-Lam-K'af), in English means "angels," but the common religious notion of the word is very different from its Quranic concept. Some scholars think that its root is "Alkun" which means to convey a message and Al-Malaa'ikah means the messengers. Alaka, means to chew something according to Ibn-e-Faris. Jinns as per the Qur'an were created from smokeless fire. Qur'an does not mention as to how angels were created. Only Allah knows what they are and what they are made of. In the Qur'an Jibrail (AS) has been called 'rooh' (spirit) but not an angel.

Some scholars think that the root word of Malaa'ikah is "Malkun" which means force. And some Scholars are of the opinion that Malaa'ikah, in fact, are the forces (M'alakun) that are given the responsibility to carry out certain duties. Even among human-beings, people who are given some authority and responsibility are called Maalikun. In 1850s, Mufti Muhammad Abduhu of Egypt , in his Tafseer Al-Minar, writes that everything in the universe has some basic energy or force by virtue of which it exists, survives, or retains balance. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan of India, a contemporary of Shaikh Abduhu also interpreted that Angels are forces. People who are trying to understand Wahi call these forces, the forces of nature, but in the Qur'anic language they are called Malaa'ikah. Anyway, the name should not make much difference as long as one acknowledges the existence of these forces.

In the Quran Malaa'ikah means messengers as in verse (Al-Hajj, 22: 75). This, of course, is one aspect of their functions or duties, otherwise they are those who are appointed for planning and administration of the universe in general (An-Naziat, 79:5-Tafseer-E-Usmani, p.2521, New Delhi, India, 1992) and as Muqassimat (angels) who divide provision, rain, etc. by the order of Allah (Zariyat, 51: 4). If the root of Malaa'ikah is taken as "Malkun" (the forces) then it sounds better than "Alkun.". These forces are not given any free-will, independent power or choice to do whatever they like, but carry out the given responsibility as decreed by Allah. The knowledge as to how these forces function has been given to man (Al-Baqarah, 2:31) and, therefore, it is within human beings' ability to annex these forces. This is the meaning of the verse (2: 34), where it is stated that all the Malaa'ikah bowed before Adam and man is made vicegerent of Allah on earth.

Malaa'ikah are the forces not only operating externally, they are also referred to as the subjective forces that can have a psychological effect ( Ha-Mim, 41:30). Nazul-al-Malaa'ikah, or Malaa'ikah's descent, is interpreted as " to bring about psychological changes" in man. The positive psychological change is one which removes all fears, apprehensions and replaces them with positive emotions such as : interest, enthusiasm , laughter, empathy, action, curiosity, confidence and steadfastness.

Negative emotions such as: apathy, grief, fear, hatred, shame, blame, regret, resentment, anger, hostility, depression, dejection are referred to as negative forces of Iblees. The forces which boosted the morale and strengthened the hearts of the Mujahideen in the battles of Badar and Huneyn are referred to, in the Verses of Al-Anfal, 8:12 , and Al-Taubah, 9:26 respectively.

Malaa'ikah are also referred to as the forces which constantly record human actions and then bring about their destined results (Jonah, 10:21; Az-Zukhruf, 43:80); in another place, this responsibility is attributed to Allah (Maryam, 19:79). So Malaa'ikah are the heavenly forces which are operating in the universe according to the charter of duties assigned to them by Allah (SWT).

Angels can be interpreted as Messengers or Instruments of Allah's Will, and may have a few or numerous errands entrusted to them.

In 1926 Oskar Klein, a Swedish mathematician showed that the spatial fabric of our universe may have both extended (the three spatial dimensions of everyday experience) and many curled-up dimensions. The additional dimensions in the universe are tightly curled up into a tiny space- a space so tiny that it has so far eluded detection by even our most advanced experimental equipment.

The equations of string theory show that the universe has nine space dimensions and one time dimension. Why is it that three space and one time dimensions are large and extended while all of the others are tiny and curled up? At present there is no answer to this question.

1 dimension of time + 9 dimensions (6 hidden and 3 known) of space = 10 dimensions.

It is possible for creatures who are made of and living in one time dimension and the tiny, curled up spatial dimensions that are invisible to human beings and that is eluding detection by even our most advanced equipment.

Symmetry is a property of a physical system that does not change when the system is transformed in some manner. For example, a sphere is rotationally symmetrical since its appearance does not change if it is rotated.

Supersymmetry (a mathematical transformation) is a symmetry principle that relates the properties of particles with a whole number amount (integer) of spin (bosons) to those with half a whole (half-integer or odd) number amount of spin (fermions). Bosons tend to be the mediators of fundamental forces, while fermions make up the "matter" which experiences these forces. Bosons can occupy the same space, and have integral spin (0,1,….), while fermions cannot occupy the same space and have half-integral spin ( 1/2, 3/2, ….). Bosons are particles that transmit forces such as photons (Electromagnetic Force), gravitons (Gravitational Force), W, Z, particles( Weak Nuclear Force), mesons and gluons(Strong Nuclear Force). Many bosons can occupy the same state at the same time. Fermions( matter) such as electrons, muons, tau, protons, neutrons, quarks, neutrinos, can occupy a given state at a given time, and this is why fermions are the particles that make up matter. This is the reason why solids cannot pass through one another. This explains why we cannot walk through walls--- the inability of fermions(matter) to share the same space the way bosons (forces) can.

Hence creatures that are made of Bosons are invisible can walk through the walls, enter human bodies. These Bosonic creatures do not eat or drink. They do not have emotions and no biological urges. They perform their duties ceaselessly. They can travel at the speed of light. Human beings are made of Fermions (matter).

Man is superior to the angels because he has a two-dimensional nature. Firstly, he is endowed with an immortal spirit, which is breathed into him by Allah (SWT). Secondly, he is endowed with the faculty of reason and an independent will of his own (free will) so that he can obey or disobey Allah's Commandments and choose his own way freely. Unlike the angels, man-a fermionic creature, has a gender (sex), instincts and biological urges.

Supersymmetry is the principle that treats all particles of the same mass as different varieties of the same superparticle. Supersymmetry means an equal matching between bosons(particles that transmit forces) and fermions (particles that make up matter).

The Bosonic creatures can be converted into fermionic creatures like human beings by Supersymmetry. "He (the Prophet) has been taught by one Mighty in Power, Dhoo Mirrah (free from any defect in body and mind), then he rose and became stable." (al-Najm 53:5-6). Ibn ‘Abbaas said: "‘Dhoo Mirrah means that he has a beautiful appearance.". The idea that angels are beautiful is firmly established in all people’s minds, so much so that they liken a beautiful human to an angel, as the women said about Yusuf(AS): ". . . When they [the women] saw him, they did extol him and (in their amazement) cut their hands: they said: ‘Allah preserve us! no mortal is this! This is none other than a noble angel!’" (Yusuf 12:31).

Angels are made of light. We know that light is made of electromagnetic radiation, which travels at 186,000 miles per second. Like angels electromagnetic force obeys the laws of nature incessantly without mistake and has no free will or an independent will of its own. Hence it has a one-dimensional nature like angels. Electromagnetic radiation has no gender, no emotions including passions and has no instincts or biological urges. It is invisible except in the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum (4,000 to 7,000 Angstroms wavelength).

The Qur'an mentions that angels came in -the form of humans to Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Lut and the Hadith mentions about angel Gabriel talking to Prophet Muhammad " " in the form of human being.

This is also not difficult to understand because we can create Holographic images, which are three-dimensional human figures that can talk, using laser light and white light (visible light). Again, laser light and white light are electromagnetic radiation. Communication is possible by means of radio waves or microwaves, which are also electromagnetic radiation.

In the light of current knowledge there are four forces that exist in nature. These four forces obey the laws of Allah incessantly without any mistake, without any disobedience. These four forces are the Gravitational Force, Electromagnetic Force, Weak Force, and the Strong or Nuclear Force.

According to String Theory which supports the concept of the existence of multi-dimensions in our universe and this does not violate the laws of physics. Living and experiencing only in the three dimensional space and one dimensional time, we just do not or rather cannot comprehend them. Furthermore Allah says that he has hundreds of angels around us protecting us. Can you see them? If you cannot see them does not mean they are not here. What about the verse in Al-An'am, 6:61(…He sendeth guardians over you…)? We cannot see them; they thus exist in another dimension but next to us. What about also the verses in Al-Imran, 3:124-125 (support of 3,000 angels sent down to help) ; and in Al-Anfal, 8:9 (a thousand of the angels)? Perhaps these angels appeared in the same dimension. Nevertheless they had to have change of dimension to be able to bodily appear on earth so others could see them. This is possible with Supersymmetry as mentioned earlier.

Belief in angels is one of the six pillars of belief or faith without which there is no faith. Whoever does not believe in any of these pillars is not a believer (mu’min). These pillars are belief in: Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day, and the predestination- both good and bad- comes from Allah.

When were they created?

Exact date is not known, however they were created before mankind for certain, because the Qur’an says : "Behold, your Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a vicegerent on earth.’ . . ." (al-Baqarah 2:30). The fact that Allah told them of His intention to create man indicates that they already existed.


The ideas, opinions and theories expounded by the author in this article may be proven wrong in the light of new knowledge available in the future and the author takes full responsibility for it. There is nothing wrong in expounding one's ideas today which may be proven inappropriate or obsolete in the future. One can witness this in the study of great scientists, both Muslim and non-Muslim, such as lbn Sina, Al-Razi, Al-Biruni, etc. and the giants of the Western civilization such as Plato, Aristotle, Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and many others.

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