Will you explain the wisdom behind Hz. Musa's slapping the death of angel?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states the following in a narration reported by Abu Hurayra:  

"The angel of death (Azrail) was sent to take the spirit of Hz. Musa (Moses). When he arrived, Hz. Musa slapped him blinded one eye of him. Azrail returned to his Lord and said, "You sent me to a slave who does not want to die." Allah Almighty returned his eye to him." (Sahih Bukhari, 2/113 and 4/191; Sahih Muslim 4/1843)

Allah did not send the angel of death to take the spirit of Hz. Musa; He sent the angel to test him. As a matter of fact Allah ordered Hz. Ibrahim to slaughter his son but He did not really mean it. If Azrail had wanted to take his soul, he would have taken it when Hz. Musa slapped him. It was permissible to slap a person in the shari’ah of Hz. Musa. He saw a man that approached him. He did not recognize that he was the angel of death.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) rendered it permissible to blind a person who looked into the house of a Muslim without permission. It would have been impossible for Hz. Musa to blind the angel of death if he had known him. When the angels went to visit Hz. Ibrahim, he could not recognize them. If he had recognized them, he would not have given them veal to eat because angels do not eat.

When the angel went to see Maryam, she could not recognize him. If she had recognized him, she would not have taken refuge in Allah from him. When two angels entered into the presence of Hz. Dawud disguised as humans and listened to the case, he could not recognize them. Jibril came to the Prophet (pbuh) and asked him about belief, Islam, ihsan and the Day of Judgment. The Prophet (pbuh) could not recognize him; he realized that it was Jibril after he had left. (see Ibn Balaban, al-Ihsan fi Taqribi Sahihi Ibn Hibban, prepared by Shuayb al-Arnawut, Beirut-1991, XIV/115, number: 6223)

In that case, it should not be regarded odd that Hz. Musa could not recognize the angel of death.  

Jahmi's statement that Allah did not apply qisas (retaliation) for the angel shows his ignorance. Who says that qisas can take place between humans and angels or that the angel demanded qisas but qisas was not applied? What is the evidence showing that it was done deliberately?»

Both Ibn Khuzayma and Hattabi wrote a lot about the issue.

To sum up, scholars answered it in three different ways:

1. It is not impossible for Allah not to allow Hz. Musa to slap the angel. Allah does whatever He wishes and tests people as He wishes.

2. This blinding is metaphorical. What is meant by it is Hz. Musa’s debating with the angel and winning the debate. However, this view is regarded as weak.

3. Hz. Musa did not know that he was the angel sent by Allah; he thought he was somebody who wanted to attack him and tried to defend himself. This caused him to blind the angel unwillingly. That is the answer of Abu Bakr, Ibn Khuzayma and other scholars that lived in the first ages of Islam. Maziri and Qadi Iyad also preferred this view because it is not stated in the hadith that he did it deliberately.

Decrees deduced from the hadith:

1. Hz. Musa has a great degree in the eye of Allah. One of its evidences is that Allah did not question him when he blinded the angel.  

2. It is mustahab to be buried in virtuous places and near righteous people.

3. An angel can be disguised as other beings.  

Note: We advise you to read the following information regarding the issue:

Hadiths may contain allegorical obscurities like the Qur’an, and only experts can ascertain their meanings. Even the literal meaning of this Hadith suggests that it may belong to the allegorical category of those obscure ones

The angels are not restricted to a having single form like human beings; although they are individual beings, they are also universals. Azra’il (Upon whom be peace) is the supervisor of the angels who are charged with taking possession of the spirits of the dying.

Does Azra’il (UWP) himself take possession of them, or do his helpers do this?

There are three “ways” in this matter:

The First Way: Azra’il (Upon whom be peace) takes possession of every dying person’s spirit. Nothing is an obstacle to another, for he is luminous. Something luminous can be present in innumerable places by means innumerable mirrors and appear in them. The similitudes of luminous beings possess their characteristics; they may be deemed the same as them and not other than them. The sun’s image in mirrors displays it’s light and heat. Similarly, the images of such spirit beings as the angels in the various mirrors of the World of Similitudes are the same as them; they display their characteristics. But they are represented in accordance with the capacities of the mirrors. The same instant Gabriel (Upon whom be peace) appeared before the Companions in the form of Dihya, he appeared in different forms in thousands of places and was prostrating with his magnificent wings, which stretch from east to west, before the divine throne. His similitude was everywhere in accordance with the place’s capacity; at the same instant he was present in thousands of places.

According to this way, for the human and particular image of the Angel of Death represented in a human being’s mirror when he is taking possession of his spirit to receive the blow of a resolute, angry, awe-inspiring person like Moses (Upon whom be peace), and for that image-form, which resembled the Angel of Death’s clothes, to have his eye put out, would be neither impossible, nor extraordinary, nor irrational.

The Second Way:  The archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Azra’il are like general supervisors. They have helpers that are similar to them in kind and resemble them, but are lesser than them. The assistants differ according to the sorts of creatures; those who take possession of the spirits of the righteous are of one sort, while those who take possession of the spirits of the wicked are of another, as the following verses point out:

وَالنَّازِعَاتِ غَرْقًا - وَالنَّاشِطَاتِ نَشْطًا : By the angels who tear out the souls of the wicked with violence; By those who gently draw out the souls of the blessed.

In view of this way, it is perfectly reasonable that, because he was naturally awe-inspiring and brave, and was an acceptable suppliant of Allah, Moses (Upon whom be peace) should have dealt a blow not at Azra’il (Upon whom be peace), but at the wraith-like  body of one of his helpers.

The Third Way: "There are some angels who have forty thousand heads, and in each of their heads are forty thousand tongues, (which means that they also have eighty thousand eyes), and with each of those tongues they utter forty thousand divine glorifications."

Yes, since the duties the angels are charged with are in accordance with the sorts of beings of the Manifest World, they represent those species’ glorifications in the Spirit World. It is certain to be thus, for the globe of the earth is a creature; it glorifies Almighty Allah. It has not forty thousand, but perhaps a hundred thousand sorts of beings, which are like heads. Each sort has hundreds of thousands of individual members which are like tongues; and so on. That means the angel appointed to the earth must have not forty thousand heads but hundreds of thousands; and in every head must be hundreds of thousands of tongues; and so on.

Thus, according to this way, Azra’il (Upon whom be peace) has a face and an eye that looks to each person. When Moses (Upon whom be peace) struck Azra’il (Upon whom be peace), it was not directed at his essential self and his true form, and it was not an insult, or non-acceptance; he struck, and strikes, in the eye the being who drew attention to his death and wanted to prevent his work, because he wanted his duties of prophethood to continue forever. (Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, Mektubat, p. 350)

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