Fruits for the Week


3. Their most important physical characteristics

(a) The wings of the angels

The angels have wings, as Allah has informed us. Some of them have two wings, some have three of four, and some have more than that. Allah (swt) said:” All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the only Originator (only Creator) of the heavens and the earth, who made the angels messengers with wings, two or three or four. He increases in creation what He wills. Verily, Allah is able to do all things.” (Qur’an 35: 1).

What is meant by saying that Allah made them with wings is that some of them have two wings, some have three or four, and some have more that that. We have already mentioned the hadith in which the Messenger (saw) stated that Jebreel has six hundred wings.

(b) The beauty of the angels

Allah has created them in a noble and beautiful form, as Allah says of Jibreel:” He has been taught (this Qur’an) by one mighty in power (Jibreel). One free from any defect in body and mind then he (Jibreel in his real shape as created by Allah) rose and became stable).” (Qur’an 53: 5-6).

Ibn Abbas said:’ one free from any defect in body or mind’ means one whose appearance is beautiful. Qatadah: one whose form is tall and beautiful. And it is said that ‘one free from any defect in body or mind’ means one who is possessed of strength. There is no contradiction between the two views, for he is both strong and of a beautiful appearance.

The idea that angels are beautiful is well-established in people minds, just as the idea that devils are ugly is also well-established. Hence we see them likening beautiful human beings to angels. Look at what the women said when they saw Yusuf (as):” Then, when they saw him, they exalted him (at his beauty) and (in their astonishment) cut their hands. They said:’ How perfect is Allah! No man is this! This is none other than a noble angel!” (Qur’an 12: 31).

(c) Is there any similarity in appearance and form between angels and human?

Muslim narrated in his Saheeh, and Tirmidhi narrated in his Sunan from Jabir (ra) that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:” The Prophets were shown to me, and I saw Musa, a man of average build, looking like one of the men of (the tribe of) Shanu’ah. And I saw Isa ibn Maryam, and the person I have seen who most resembles him is Urwah ibn Mas’ud. And I saw Ibrahim, and the one who most resembles him is your companion (meaning himself). And I saw Jibreel (as); the person who I have seen who most resembles him is Duhyah.” According to another report: Duhyah ibn Khaleefah.” (Muslim). 

(d) Variations in their physical shape and status

The angels are not all the same in their physical shape and status. Some of the angels have two wings, some have three, and Jibreel has six hundred wings. They vary in their status before their Lord:” And there is not one of us (angels) but has his known place.” (Qur’an 37: 164). And Allah said concerning Jibreel:” Verily, this is the word (this Qur’an brought by) a most honourable messenger (Jibreel, from Allah to Prophet Muhammad). Owner of power, (and high rank) with (Allah) the Lord of the Throne.” (Qur’an 81: 19-20). Jibreel has a high status and important rank before Allah.

The best of angels are those who were present at the battle of Badr. In Saheeh Al-Bukhari it is narrated from Rafa’ah ibn Rafi’ that Jibreel came to the Prophet (saw) and said:” What do you think of the people of Badr among you?” He said,” They are among the best of the Muslims” or similar words. Jibreel said,” The same is true of the angles who were present at the Badr.” (Bukhari).

(e) They cannot be described as being male or female

One of the reasons why the children of Adam go astray when speaking about the worlds of the unseen is because they subject those worlds to human criteria. So we see one of them expressing his amazement, in one of his articles that Jibreel used to come to the Messenger (saw) a few seconds after a question had been put to the Messenger (saw) that needed a reply from Allah. How could he come at such an extraordinary speed? When light needs millions of light-years in order to reach nearby heavenly bodies.

This poor man did not realize that he is like a mosquito trying to measure the speed of an airplane using its own standards. If he had thought about the matter, he would have realized that the world of the angels has its own standards which are completely different from our human standards.

The Mushrik Arabs also went astray in this regard, as they used to claim that the angels were female, and they mixed this idea, which is far removed from the truth, with an even greater myth, when they claimed that these females were the daughters of Allah.

The Qur’an refuted them on both counts. It pointed out that they had no sound evidence for their claims, and that this notion was nonsense. It is strange indeed that they attributed daughters to Allah, when they themselves hated daughters; when the news of the birth of a baby girl brought to any of them, his face would become dark, and he would be filled with inward grief, and he would hide himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he had been informed.

by Dr. Umar S. Al-Ashqar