If Allah knows what we are doing, why does He sometimes ask the angels?

The Details of the Question

​- When people talk about Allah, He asks His angels, “What are My servants doing?” The angels say, “They are talking about you, our Lord”.
- Well, if Allah knows everything, why does He ask the angels?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

One of the hadiths regarding the issue is as follows:

“Allah has some angels who wander and determine those who celebrate His Praise. When they come across a group mentioning God Almighty, they say to one another, ‘Come! What you are looking for is here!’ They surround those who mention Allah their wings until they reach the heavens of the world. Then, although Allah knows better than the angels, He asks them:

“What do my servants say?” The angels say:

- By saying Subhanallah, they free You of the attributes that do not befit Your divinity; they utter takbir and say Allahu akbar. They praise and express your glory. The conversation continues as follows:

“And did they see me?”

- No, by Allah, they did not see You.

“What would they do if they saw Me?”

- If they saw you, they would worship you more, glorify you more, and would free You of the attributes that did not befit Your divinity more.

“What do my servants want from Me?”

- They want Paradise.

“Did they see Paradise?”

- No, Lord! By Allah, they did not see Paradise.

“What would they do if they saw Paradise?”

- If they saw Paradise, they would want it with great enthusiasm and they would make great efforts to attain it.

“Why do they seek refuge in Allah?”

- They take refuge from Hell.

“And did they see Hell?”

- No, by Allah, they did not see Hell.

“What would they do if they saw it?”

- If they saw hell, they would escape from it more and they would fear it more.

Thereupon, Allah says to His angels:

“I say, making you witnesses, that I have forgiven those servants of Mine who have remembered and mentioned Me.” One of the angels says,

- Such and such a person among them is not actually one of them. He has come to deal with something and sat there. Thereupon, Allah says:

“Those people are such good people that anyone among them is also good.” (Bukhari, Daawat 66; see Muslim, Dhikr 25, Tirmidhi, Daawat 129; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, 2/251-252, 358-359)

Although Allah knows what His servants do better than the angels, He still asks them, “What do my servants say?” There are many reasons why He asks; some of them can be explained as follows:

- Allah indirectly criticizes the angles in a way.

As it is known, when Allah informed the angels that He would create a vicegerent on earth, the angels said that there was no need to create man who would cause mischief on earth and shed blood there. They said, “We praise You anyway and we free You from the attributes that do not befit Your divinity.” (see al-Baqara, 2/30)

By asking the angels various questions about His servants who remember Him and getting answers from them, God Almighty virtually says to them, “You see, there are such people among My servants. They are no different from angels in terms of remembering and mentioning me.”

- Allah points out the value of dhikr and other deeds of worship performed by His servants by asking the angels separately - as it is mentioned in some narrations - if His servants remember Him sincerely, if they saw Him, Paradise and Hell like you, and by making each of them answer that they did not see that they would mention Him more if they saw and would be more afraid of Hell.

- Another point that God Almighty does not say so as not to embarrass His angels but that they know very well is that angels, whose sole duty is to remember Allah, are not subject to the delusions and temptations of Satan, like humans. Since these people who remember Allah have overcome all the tricks of Satan and gathered there to attain Allah’s consent, their place and value in the sight of Allah Almighty is very high.

- Allah wants to show His servants and inform them about His mercy that He has bestowed upon them, His forgiveness and that He meets their needs.

- Allah shows how He responds to the righteous deeds of His servants and the beauty of the servants’ desire for the virtues of their Lord.

- It is ensured that people have information about the names and attributes of Almighty Allah.

- Allah informs us about the virtue and superiority of the righteous servants who fear Allah and hope for His mercy though they do not see Him.

- Although the person asking knows better than who is asked, it is done to inform us about the importance of what is asked and to show its rank and superiority. (See Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari; Ayni, Umdatul-Qari, the explanation of the hadith in question)

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