Will you give information about HARUT and MARUT?

The Details of the Question
Will you give information about HARUT and MARUT?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,


They are the two people whose names are mentioned in verse 102 of the chapter of al-Baqara. We lack definite and clear knowledge about Harut and Marut since the Quran does not give detailed information about them. There are various narrations and interpretations that are different from one another regarding the issue. However, most of the scholars agree that they were two people who lived in Babylon during the reign of Hz. Sulayman (Solomon) and who taught magic to people. There are various reasons for the different ideas about who Harut and Marut are. Firstly, it is controversial whether these two beings are humans, angels or devils. There are four views regarding the issue.

They are Jibril (Gabriel) and Mikail (Michael); they are two tribes; they are two angels other than Jibril and Mikail; they are two human beings. Before dealing with the issue, let us have a look at the verse in the Quran:

In many verses of the chapter of al-Baqara, Jews are mentioned; after it is stated that what an obstinate nation they are and how much their hearts hardened when they heard the true word, the reign of Hz. Sulayman is mentioned in verse 102:  "They followed what the evil ones gave out (falsely) against the power of Solomon; the blasphemers were not Solomon but the evil ones, teaching men magic and such things as came down at Babylon to the angels Harut, and Marut. But neither of these taught anyone (such things) without saying: "We are only for trial; so do not blaspheme." They learned from them the means to sow discord between man and wife. But they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah's permission. And they learned what harmed them not what profited them. And they knew that the buyers of (magic) would have no share in the happiness of the Hereafter. And vile was the price for which they did sell their souls, if they but knew!" (al-Baqara, 2/102).

The issue is not Jews or Hz. Sulayman, but Harut and Marut cannot be understood fully unless the general state of that period is known. Hz. Sulayman was equipped with so much authority by Allah that he dominated not only human beings but also animals and jinn; and he established a powerful kingdom. Due to this superiority given to him by Allah, those who opposed him claimed that Sulayman committed magic and he carried on his activities thanks to magic.  Besides, magicians emerged in the community and magic increased. The magicians produced some things that were not known before and some of them claimed to be prophets. Allah appointed Harut and Marut in order teach this community, which did not understand that the power was given to Hz. Sulayman was a miracle and which thought it was magic, that magic and miracle were not the same. 

After this short initial explanation, we can deal with the views put forward about Harut and Marut.

The identity of Harut and Marut: The word "malakayn" is used in the verse for them.  According to those who pronounce it as "malakayn", Harut and Marut are two angels. If it is pronounced as "malikayn" as some scholars do, it will mean two kings or two authorities. The most common pronunciation is "malakayn" and the view that they are two angels is stronger. Those who pronounce the word as "malikayn" put forward their own evidence.   

According to them, it is not possible for angels to teach magic since magic is defined as unbelief. Another view is that Allah sent down the angels disguised as humans; accordingly, even if Harut and Marut were angels, they needed to seem and live as humans and teach magic.  The people who contacted them saw them as humans not as angels. There is no need to say that they are angels also in this case. The first one of these two views, that is, the view that they are angels, is stronger due to the following reasons: The most common pronunciation of the word in the verse is "malakayn". On the other hand, Allah sends down angels in the form of human beings. As a matter of fact, Jibril went to the Prophet (pbuh) in the form of a man looking like Dihyatu'l-Kalbi (r.a). As for the issue that magic is unbelief and hence angels would not deal with magic, the community that dealt with magic and used in a bad way were sent two angels to teach them the magic that would not be used for bad things. On the other hand, two angels were sent to the people in order to protect themselves against the magicians that tried to deviate them so that they would teach them to protect themselves using their methods. They are assumptions; they are used to explain that the angels' dealing with magic is not unbelief. For, it is not unbelief to learn and to teach in order to avoid the harms of magic.

Harut and Marut did not teach anybody who came to them magic unless they said to them, "We are only for trial; so do not blaspheme." There are two views at this point. Firstly, according to those who understood the verse directly, the angels taught people magic on condition that they would not blaspheme. Those who oppose this view say, "What was sent down to those two angels was shari'ah, religion and call to good deeds, not magic.  They did not teach it to anybody; on the contrary, they prohibited people from doing it."

Another point is as follows: There are differences among the interpretations of the following sentence: "They learned from them the means to sow discord between man and wife."

According to some Islamic scholars, the phrase "the means to sow discord between man and wife" is to learn and commit magic.  When the wife or the husband becomes involved in magic, he/she becomes an unbeliever and their marriage ends. That is, the separation here is a legal state and it is religiously compulsory. According to another view, this separation is a kind of magic that eliminates the love between the husband and the wife. Those people used magic in a bad way and caused mischief in the community. They exaggerated it so much that they developed ways of separating the wife from the husband.

There are some other legends and views similar to those of Jews regarding the issue and they are included in some tafsir books. However, it is meaningless to mention them since they will confuse the minds of Muslims.

After analyzing different views, we can summarize the issue as follows: under the light of the strong view, Harut and Marut were two angels who emerged in the form of humans in Babylon during the reign of Hz. Sulayman and who taught people on condition that they would not blaspheme and use it in a bad way; they caused people to be tested through this way. Unlike the sinful people and devils who used magic in a bad way and in the way of unbelief, Harut and Marut taught people magic after they made people promise that they would not use it in a bad way.

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