Introduction to Islam

by Dr. Zahid Aziz


“And We indeed created you, then We fashioned you, then We said to the angels: Make submission to Adam (or mankind).” (The Holy Quran, 7:11)

What are angels?

Angels are ‘spiritual’, non-material beings who put God’s commands and laws into action in this world. They have no ‘will’ of their own, unlike man, and are intermediaries between God and the world.

What do angels look like?

As angels are not physical beings, they cannot be seen by man’s eye. So, this question does not arise. However, Prophets of God and other righteous persons can ‘see’ angels on occasions, but it is with their spiritual (or mind’s) eyes, in dreams and visions.

What functions do angels perform?

These are of two kinds: their functions in the physical world, and their functions in the spiritual development of man. In the physical world, the working of nature is governed by laws, as science has shown by discovering many of these laws. Islam teaches that these laws have been devised by God, and the angels—the obeying functionaries of God—put them into action. On the spiritual side, the angels communicate God’s revelation to the Prophets and other righteous ones, bring comfort and strength to the hearts of true believers, and inspire noble thoughts in the minds of all persons. They do this, of course, by acting through the spiritual senses of human beings, not their physical senses like the eyes or ears.

Why are angels necessary to bring God’s messages to man?

Just as light is needed as a medium for our eyes to see things, and air is needed to carry sound to our ears, similarly an agency is required to activate our spiritual senses. The angels are that agency. They bring God’s messages to the ‘inner’ eyes and ears of righteous people, and also cast good and noble thoughts into the ‘hearts’ of all people. But it is only the righteous who, because of their highly­developed spiritual senses, may be able to perceive the working of angels.

Is there any other important point Islam tells us about angels?

A most important point disclosed in the Holy Quran is that mankind has been given by God the ability to acquire knowledge of all things in the universe. The Quran further tells us that the angels, who put God’s laws into action in the world, submit to man because of his great knowledge. In other words, man can use his knowledge of the laws of nature to control the world. So, the Holy Quran disclosed many centuries ago that man can make the greatest progress in science and technology, because the angels, the agencies who automatically put God’s laws into action in the running of the world, all submit to man.

Is there a key significance of belief in angels?

As stated earlier, every belief in Islam requires a Muslim to do something practical and positive, and belief in angels means that we should follow our good impulses and reject the bad ones. The Holy Quran also says that there exist ‘devils’ which put low, selfish thoughts in man’s mind. However, even though they exist, the Quran does not require a Muslim to ‘believe’ in the devils, but in fact to disbelieve in them. This shows that in Islam ‘belief’ does not just mean believing in the heart but also acting in accordance with the belief.