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What Kind of Beings are Angels?


Angels are created from “light”

Angels are created from light. The Arabic word for angel is malak. According to its root form, malak means “messenger,” “deputy,” “envoy,” “superintendent,” and “powerful one.” The root meaning also implies descent from a high place. Angels are beings who build relations between the macrocosmic world and the material one, convey the commands of God, direct the acts and lives of beings (with God’s permission), and represent their worship in their own realms.


Angels move very rapidly and permeate all realms of existence

Having refined or subtle bodies of light, angels move very rapidly and permeate or penetrate all realms of existence. They place themselves in our eyelids or in the bodies of other beings to observe the works of God through our or their eyes. They also descend into the hearts of Prophets and saintly people to bring them inspiration. Such inspirations are usually from God, but sometimes they may be from angels.


Each thing has a collective identity and performs a unique function

When we examine the creation carefully, we discern that each thing, whether universal or particular, has a collective identity and performs a unique, universal function. As each flower displays a superlative design and symmetry and recites, in the tongue of its being, the Names of the Creator, so the whole earth performs a universal duty of glorification as though it was a single flower. A single fruit glorifies God within an order and regularity, and a tree does the same on a larger scale through the ‘words’ of its leaves, flowers, and fruits. Likewise, the vast oceans of the heavens give praise to and glorify the Majestic Maker through suns, moons and stars, which are like words, and so on. Even inert material bodies perform a vital function in praising God, although they are outwardly inanimate and unconscious. Angels are the representatives of such bodies in the world of the inner dimensions of things, and express praises on behalf of them, and these bodies are, in turn, the representatives, dwellings, and mosques of the angels in the material world.


Some angels represent species of earthly creatures and control and protect them

Some animals, like honeybees, act according to Divine inspiration, although science asserts that all animals are directed by impulses. But science cannot explain what an impulse is and how it occurs. Scientists are trying to discover how migrating birds find their way, how young eels hatched in the waters of Europe find their way to their nature waters in the Pacific. Even if we attribute this to information coded in their DNA, this information is assuredly from God, Who knows everything, controls the universe, and assigns angels to direct the lives of such creatures. If science says we must accept without question the existence of such invisible forces as the law of growth in living creatures, then it is even more scientific to attribute such forces to angels, God’s special servants.

Everything that exists, either as an individual or as a species, has a collective identity and performs a unique, universal function. Each flower displays a superlative design and symmetry and recites, in the tongue of its being, the Names of the Creator manifested on it; the entire Earth performs a universal duty of glorification as though it were a single flower; the vast “ocean” of the heavens praises and glorifies the Majestic Maker of the universe through its suns, moons, and stars. Even inert material bodies, although outwardly inanimate and unconscious, perform a vital function in praising God. Angels represent these immaterial bodies in the world of the inner dimensions of things, and express their praise. In return, these immaterial bodies are the angels’ representatives, dwellings, and mosques in this world.

There are various classes of angels. One class is engaged in constant worship; another worships by working. These working angels have functions that resemble human occupations, like shepherds or farmers. In other words, the face of the Earth is like a general farm, and an appointed angel oversees all of its animal species by the command of the All-Majestic Creator, by His permission and power and strength, and for His sake. Each species of animal is overseen by a lesser angel appointed to act as its shepherd.

The face of the Earth is also an arable field where all plants are sown. Another angel is appointed to oversee all of them in the Name of Almighty God and by His power. Lower ranking angels worship and glorify Almighty God by supervising particular plant species. Archangel Michael, upon him be peace, one of the bearers of God’s Throne of Sustenance, oversees the angels of the highest rank.

Angels who function as shepherds or farmers bear no resemblance to human shepherds or farmers, for their supervision is purely for God’s sake, in His Name, and by His power and command. They observe the manifestations of God’s Lordship in the species they are assigned to supervise, study the manifestations of Divine Power and Mercy in it, communicate Divine commands to it through some sort of inspiration, and somehow arrange its voluntary actions.

Their supervision of plants, in particular, consists of representing in the angelic tongue the plants’ glorification in the tongue of their being. In other words, they proclaim in the angelic tongue the praises and exaltations that all plants offer to the Majestic Creator through their lives. These angels also regulate and employ the plants’ faculties correctly and direct them toward certain ends. Angels perform such services through their partial willpower and a kind of worship and adoration. They do not originate or create their acts, for everything bears a stamp particular to the Creator of all things, meaning that only God creates. In short, whatever angels do is worship, and it is therefore not like the ordinary acts of human beings.

Since there is one angel to represent every kind of creature and present its service and worship to the Divine Court, the Prophet’s, upon him be peace and blessings, description of the angels is entirely reasonable and true. According to him, there are angels with 40,000 heads, each with 40,000 mouths, and 40,000 praises sung by 40,000 tongues in each mouth. This Prophetic tradition means that angels serve universal purposes, and that some natural creatures worship God with 40,000 heads in 40,000 ways. The firmament, for example, praises the Majestic Creator through its suns and stars; the Earth, although a single body, worships with many thousands of “heads,” each with many thousands of “mouths,” and each with many thousands of “tongues.” Thus this tradition is considered to refer to the angel who represents the Earth in the world of the inner dimensions of things, or in the world of immaterial bodies.


This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.