FAQ in the category of Angels

1 Why did Hz. Jibril (Gabriel) appear as a man before Hz. Maryam (Mary)?

In this visible realm, there is a movement toward the invisible like the evaporation of water, transformation of solid substances into gas, liquid and vapor, atom's breaking and becoming energy waves and quants, and stars becoming black holes. When we think of this divine activity in the opposite way, it is possible to observe a movement from the invisible to the visible and from the unknown to matter, which is seen.

Angels, jinn and spiritual beings, which are invisible beings, are not seen in this world with their structures peculiar to themselves but they can be seen by using the means peculiar to this realm as sheaths and clothes. The visibility of the angels and jinn like that is called “appearance”. The following is stated in the Quran when appearance is described:

“And he (the angel) appeared before her as a man in all respects.” (Maryam, 19/17)

The angel that conveyed the revelation to the Prophet (pbuh) sometimes came in a state peculiar to him, sometimes as a warrior and sometimes in various forms. When it was time to walk against the tribe of Banu Qurayza, Jibril came in the form of a warrior with dust on him. He said, “O Messenger of Allah! You took off your armors but we, the angels, did not take off our armors.” The same angel sometimes came in the form of Dihya, a Companion, and sometimes like a guest who had no sign of a journey on him; he asked the Prophet (pbuh) questions like “What is belief (iman), what is ihsan and what is Islam? He confirmed the answers given to them by saying, “Right!”

Imam Shibli says that spiritual beings cannot change their forms on their own, that they have no power to do it and that when they utter one of the words and names that functioned like passwords and that were taught to them by Allah, Allah changes their forms and shapes. Accordingly, Allah puts them in the shape of men, women or some other things if He wishes. 

There are several wisdoms behind Hz. Jibril's appearing in the form of a perfect and very handsome young man (Razi, the interpretation of the relevant verse) before Hz. Maryam.

- Hz. Maryam, who was alone in a closed place, was tested when she saw such a person all of a sudden. As a matter of fact, the verses related to the incident are as follows:

"Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them: then We sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects. She said: 'I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah.'" (Maryam, 19/16-18)

This speech of Maryam's indicated her taqwa because she took refuge in Allah from the extraordinary beauty of Hz. Jibril. For, the appearance of Jibril in this beautiful manner before Maryam served to test Maryam and her chastity. Hz. Maryam passed this test perfectly.  

- On the other hand, if Jibril had appeared in the form of a woman before her, she would not have taken refuge in ar-Rahman (the Most Gracious). Thus, Allah showed that Maryam always lived with the feeling of being in the presence of Allah and the first thing that came to her mind was to take refuge in ar-Rahman:

Maryam said: 'I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah!'

It is understood from this statement that Hz. Maryam had passed the age of puberty, that she knew what it meant when a man approached her and that there would be a problem about sexual ethics. She knew what to do in such a situation and what to say to the person opposite her.  

     a) "If you fear Allah": The word "taqiyyan" is derived from "taqwa", which means "protect/safeguard/abstain. Accordingly, the verse means "If you are a person that fear Allah". Hz. Maryam knew the word/concept taqwa in her language and used it. Therefore, she addressed the feeling of abstinence of the person opposite her.

     b) "I seek refuge from you to ar-Rahman." Hz. Maryam knew Allah's name ar-Rahman and she was taught to take refuge in Him from bad deeds. That is, she was educated enough to say that one could take refuge in Allah from bad deeds.  

Besides, the generations to come are taught a lesson through this incident:

Women and girls are taught what to say when they are left alone with a man and feel a danger in terms of sexuality in this verse. Hz. Maryam addresses the feeling of taqwa of the man opposite her and takes refuge in Allah, serving as an example for women and placing it in their minds.

2 What are the duties of Mikail (Michael)? Did he see and talk to the Prophet (pbuh)?

Hz. Mikail is one of the four great angels. He is the angel that supervises natural events, human beings, animals, plants, sustenance and rain. His name is mentioned once in the Quran:

“Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and prophets to Gabriel and Michael-Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject faith.” (al-Baqara, 2/98)

The issue whether life exists in the skies, which are too vast to imagine, occupies many people’s minds. The following determination settles the issue: “The skies are destinations, planes and mosques of angels...” Yes, the divine power, which does not leave any place in this small world without living beings, did not leave the vast sky without inhabitants. Angels and spiritual beings are the inhabitants of the country of the sky.

Angels are

• the spectators of the palace of the realm,
• the readers of the book of the universe,
• the criers of the divine sultanate,
• the representatives and agents of the law in good deeds in the universe.

Mikail, who is one of them, is one of “the carriers of the Throne of sustenance”; he is a general overseer of the divine arts sown in the field of the face of the earth and the head all the angels like a farmer through the permission, command, power, and wisdom of God Almighty.

The Prophet (pbuh) saw and talked to Hz. Mikail several times, like their meeting at the Battle of Badr and during the Ascension (Miraj). (Bukhari, Maghazi: 18, Libas: 24; Muslim, Fadail: 46, 47, no. 2306; Qadi Iyad, ash-Shifa, 1:361)

3 How should we understand the statement of the angels "Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?" when Allah created Hz. Adam?

When Allah Almighty allowed the angels to ask questions during consultation, they asked, “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?”  This question by angels must not be thought in the form of criticizing Allah – God forbid. For, angels have no ability to object to the deeds of Allah Almighty. They are innocent beings. They do not and cannot commit sins. Therefore, their innocence prevents such an objection.

Then, what is the wisdom behind the angels’ asking that question?

The angels had some knowledge about what they witnessed before. As a matter of fact, the jinn that lived on earth before caused mischief on earth, shed blood and inflicted cruelty. The angels knew about it. They feared that humans would disobey Allah and cause mischief on earth; therefore, they asked such a question. The angels knew about it because Allah informed them or because they saw in in Lawh al-Mahfuz (the Preserved Tablet) or deduced it from the fact that man would be given the power of fury and lust.

The angels knew that humans would shed blood and cause mischief acting upon the community of jinn; there was no human community before Hz. Adam.

4 Will you give information about the appearance (embodiment) of angels, jinn and devils?

In this visible realm, there is a movement toward the invisible like the evaporation of water, transformation of solid substances into gas, liquid and vapor, atom's breaking and becoming energy waves and quants, and stars becoming black holes. When we think of this divine activity in the opposite way, it is possible to observe a movement from the invisible to the visible and from the unknown to matter, which is seen.

Angels, jinn and spiritual beings, which are invisible beings, are not seen in this world with their structures peculiar to themselves but they can be seen by using the means peculiar to this realm as sheaths and clothes. The visibility of the angels and jinn like that is called “appearance” (tamaththul). The following is stated in the Quran when appearance is described:

“And he (the angel) appeared before her as a man in all respects.” (Maryam, 19/17)

The angel that conveyed the revelation to the Prophet (pbuh) sometimes came in a state peculiar to him, sometimes as a warrior and sometimes in various forms. When it was time to walk against the tribe of Banu Qurayza, Jibril came in the form of a warrior with dust on him. He said,

“O Messenger of Allah! You took off your armors but we, the angels, did not take off our armors.”

The same angel sometimes came in the form of Dihya, a Companion, and sometimes like a guest who had no sign of a journey on him; he asked the Prophet (pbuh) questions like “What is belief (iman), what is ihsan and what is Islam?” He confirmed the answers given to them by saying, “Right!”

Imam Shibli says that spiritual beings cannot change their forms on their own, that they have no power to do it and that when they utter one of the words and names that functioned like passwords and that were taught to them by Allah, Allah changes their forms and shapes. Accordingly, Allah puts them in the shape of men, women or some other things if He wishes. Jinn and devils cannot do this transformation based on their own talents and wills; if they try to do it, they will break into pieces and die.

5 Will you give information about Hz. Jibril’s coming disguised as Dihya?

Hz. Jibril can take the form of anything. The Prophet saw him in his original shape twice: The first one: at the beginning of revelation while returning to Makkah from Hira; the second one in Sidratul-Muntaha while returning from Miraj (Ascension). (as-Saati, al-Fathur-Rabbani, VIII, 5)

Jibril sometimes brought the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) revelation disguised as a human being. He often came disguised as Dihya al-Kalbi, who was a handsome and young Companion. (Tajrid Sarikh Translation, IX / 35)

Dihya was one of the most handsome Companions who had a white skin. The resources report unanimously that Jibril came disguised as Dihya. When the Companions found out about it, they could not tell whether the person sitting next to the Prophet (pbuh) was Dihya or Jibril.

The appearance of Jibril as a human being in the presence of the Companions is a miracle of the Prophet (pbuh). Another important issue is that luminous beings can appear in various places simultaneously because they are not subject to certain conditions. For instance, Jibril can appear disguised as Dihya in the presence of the Prophet (pbuh) while he can do something else somewhere else.

After the death of the Prophet, Dihya participated in the Expedition of Syria during the caliphate of Hz. Abu Bakr. He took part in the Battle of Yarmuq during the caliphate of Hz. Umar as the commander. After the conquest of Syria, he went to Damascus and settled in the neighborhood of Mizza. He died in 670.

Hz. Jibril accompanied the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) from Makkah to Quds (Jerusalem) and then to Sidratul-Muntaha in the Incident of Isra and Miraj. (Bukhari, Bad'u'l-Khalq 6; Salah 1)

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Will you give information about the appearance (embodiment) of angels, jinn and devils?