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Archive for December, 2017

Angels or Angelic — Winged or Winged with Power?

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Angels1,2,3 or AngelicWinged or Winged with Power?

We frequently find references to various body parts in Quran, not simply in a literal sense, but mostly figuratively. For example, eyes and ears draw attention to awareness, lures and insights; hearts not only mean emotions but also intentions and beliefs.  Similarly, hands and wings symbolize power and means.

To insist that angels are winged creatures just because angels’ wings are mentioned in Quran is the same as the ridiculous notion that God has physical hands because Quran mentions so in context of Allah:

5:64. And the Jews said, `Allâh's hand is fettered (from assisting the helpless Muslims).' Fettered are their own hands (from assisting the enemies of Islam), and they are deprived of blessings of Allâh for what they said. Nay, (the truth of the matter is that) both His hands are wide open (and free). He spends as He pleases…4

Pagans of Makkah used to ascribe female gender to the angels, which is no different than believers now attributing wings to them. Quran refutes both:

37:150. Or did We create the angels as females (in their presence) while they were witnesses (of their birth).5

Quran shuts the door to any imaginary winged angels visible to human eye:

6:9. And if We had made him [–the Prophet] an angel, We would certainly have made him a man, and (thus) made confused to them what they confuse.6

Allah says that even if an angel were to appear as a messenger for mankind, he would appear in the form of a man because the human eye cannot see angels, let along winged angels. This would not solve the issue for the distrusting ones because they would not be able to tell the difference between men and angels in the form of men, and the same confusion would arise in their minds as when a human being was entrusted with the Divine message. Moreover, only a human being could serve as a model for people, not an angel.

As a word of caution from Quran, when all and sundry will be able ‘see’ angels, it might be a hard day:

25:22. (Do they not realize that) the day when they will see the angels there will be no good tidings that day for those who cut off their ties (with God), and they will say (in distress), `Would that there were some strong barrier (between us and this punishment).'7

Since verse 25:22 relates to after-life, a non-physical state, such ‘seeing’ of angels further affirms that physical eyes are not the correct medium to perceive angels.

Still, angels, as a general subject, remain mysterious. There are at least two influences on Muslim concept of angels with wings: the influence of imagery of European artworks of winged entities as well the use of the word 'wings' in Quran. Let’s analyze the Quranic verses addressing the angels’ wings first:

35:1. All kind of true and perfect praise belongs to Allâh, the Originator of the heavens and the earth, Who employs as (His) messengers the angels, having two or three or four pairs of wings [–Arabic: ajniḥatin] (and so possessed of powers, speed and qualities in varying degrees). He adds to the creation (of these wings and thus to the powers and abilities of the angels) as much as He will (in accordance with the importance of the work entrusted to each one of them), for Allâh is Possessor of power over (His) every desired thing.8

Abdul Manan Omar, in translating the above verse, gives further explanation of the use of the word – 'wings', in his Dictionary of The Holy Quran on p. 506:

The angels are called Malâ’ikah because they bring revelation and they are entrusted with the management, supervision and control of the forces of nature (79:5). The representation of angels as possessing wings (35:1) by no means indicates the forelimbs of a bird which fit it for flight. The wings of the angels are forces comprised within the designations of angels, obviously a metaphor to express speed and power with which God's revelations are conveyed and the power and speed with which their other functions are executed. In Arabic the word Janâh stands for power, as they say, Huwa Maqsûs al-janâh – He is the one who lacks strength or power or ability or he is not important. The multiplicity of the wings of the angels, two or three or four, means to stress the countless ways in which God causes His commands to materialize within the universe created by Him. The expression "they bear two, three, four or more" signify the number of Divine attributes. The angels possess powers and qualities in varying degrees and in accordance with the importance of the work entrusted to each of them. Some of the angels are endowed with powers and qualities greater than the others. Arch-Angel Gabriel is endowed with six hundred wings or six hundred attributes (Bukhârî, on the authority of Ibn Mas’ûd).9

If wings of an angel are for flight then the question becomes whether they are composed of reptilian skin or made of feathers or something else? Wings, as we know them, are used for flight through air to give aerodynamic stability. However, wings are useless beyond atmosphere as space travel needs no such design. If angels use their wings to move about, then where are they traveling to and fro? The more one believes in the physical wings of an angel, the more questions and doubts arise with the result that the actual purpose and function of angels is forgotten and the focus shifts and remains on the minutia.

The word janāḥa – '(the) wing' is used in another place for its similar metaphorical use:

17:23. Your Lord has enjoined you to worship none but Him and to be good to parents. If either or both attain old age (while living) with you, never say to them, `Fie!' (- any word expressive of disgust or dislike), nor reproach them (by your action). Rather address them with kind and respectful words (always).

17:24. And lower to them the wings [–Arabic: janāḥa] of submissiveness out of tenderness (treating them with humility and compassion). And say (praying for them), `My Lord! have mercy upon them just as they nourished and brought me up as a child.'10

When the 'wings' are used in their literal meanings in Quran, their corresponding flight is clearly stated:

6:38. There is no terrestrial creature (that crawls) in the earth nor a bird that flied (in the air) with its two wings [–Arabic: bi-janāḥa-yhi] but (they are) creatures like you, (all subject to the Divine Laws). We have neglected nothing in (Our) this perfect Book (of law). Then to their Lord shall they all be gathered.11

If angels and their wings are of physical nature, then we have to accept that friends of Joseph's accuser must have seen angels beforehand when they called Joseph an angel:

12:31. 30. And the women talked in the city, `The wife of the 'Azîz (- Potiphar, the captain of king's guard) seeks to seduce her young slave against his will. His love has indeed penetrated deep in her heart. Indeed, we see her in obvious error (in going too far in her love).'

12:31. And when she heard of their sly whisperings (and taunting remarks), she sent for them and prepared a repast for them, then (on the women's arrival) she gave to each one of them a knife (to eat fruit therewith) and said (to Joseph then), `Come forth in their presence.' So when they saw him they found him a dignified personality and cut their hands (through wonder and) said, `Glory be to Allâh! He is not a human being. He is but a noble angel [–Arabic: malakun].'

12:32. She said, `So (you have seen) this is he about whom you blamed me. I did seek to seduce him against his will, but he preserved himself (from sin), yet (I tell him aloud) if he do not what I bid him, he shall certainly be imprisoned, and he shall indeed be of the humiliated ones.'12

The response of guests after hearing the chaste character of Joseph and witnessing his dignified appearance – He is not a human being. He is but a noble angel, obviously signifies the metaphorical understanding of angels. Assuredly, Joseph had no wings of an angel.

The possibility to see an angel with a human eye and in some religions to even paint them in artworks is nothing but fantastic stories according to Quran. This curiosity of man to see angels is obvious in the following verse:

25:7-9. They say, `What sort of a Messenger is this that he even eats food and (also) goes about in the market-places? Why has no angel been sent down to him that he may (help him and) be a warner along with him? `Or a treasure should have been sent to him or there should have been a garden from which he might eat.' Not only that, these unjust people say, `You follow none but a (mere) man who is given food.' Look, what fantastic stories they concoct with regard to you! It is therefore that they have gone astray and are unable to find a way.13

Since angels occupy a prominent mention in Quran, it begets the obvious question of whether they can be seen with a physical eye. The answer is in the negative:

33:9. Believers! remember how Allâh favoured you when (the combined) forces (of the Quraish and their allies) came against you (in the Battle of Ahzâb) and We sent against them (the forces of nature) a strong wind and hosts (of angels) that you could not see. And Allâh is ever a close observer of your (painstaking efforts and toilsome) deeds.14

It is only the spiritual eyes to which the angels become manifest that we see in the case of Mary, who had such an experience in her spiritually devoted living:

19:16-17. And give an account of Mary in this Book when she withdrew from her people to an eastern spacious place (of the temple). Then she screened herself off from them. Then We sent to her Our (angel of) revelation and he presented himself to her in the form of a perfect and well-proportioned man.15

Thus, even Mary ‘saw’ a man and not a winged creature. With the nature of angels out of the way, reader is encouraged to review a detailed discussion about angels by Maulana Muhammad Ali in his book “The Religion of Islam” under the chapter 'Angels', p. 133-134, where he discussed the role angels:

Angelic function

In the Qur'an, angels are generally described as having a connection with the spiritual state of man. It was an angel, Gabriel by name, who brought revelation to the Prophet (2:97; 26:193, 194) and the prophets before him (4:163). The same angel is mentioned as strengthening the prophets (2:87) and the believers (58:22). While angels generally are spoken of as descending on believers and comforting them (41:30), they are also intermediaries in bringing revelation to those who are not prophets, as in the case of Zacharias (3:38) and Mary (3:41, 44). Angels were sent to help the believers against their enemies (3:123, 124; 8:12); they pray for blessings on the Holy Prophet (33:56) and on the believers (33:43); they ask forgiveness for all men, believers as well as non-believers (42:5); they cause believers to die (16:32) and also non-believers (4:97; 16:28); they write down the deeds of men (82:10, 12); they will intercede for men on the Day of Judgment (53:26). There is no clear reference to their function in the physical world unless the causing of death may be treated as such, but I have classed it as a spiritual function because death makes both the believers and unbelievers enter a new life. It may be added here that the Tradition mentions an angel of birth, that is an angel appointed for every man when he quickens in the mother's womb (Bukhari. 59:6). There are, however, verses in the Qur'an which show that the angelic hosts have some sort of connection with the physical world. The most important of these verses are those which speak of the creation of man (Adam). When God wished to create man, He communicated His wish to the angels (2:30; 15:28; 38:71). This shows that the angels were there before man was created, and, therefore, must have had some sort of connection with the physical world and with the forces which brought about the creation of man. Unless they are treated as intermediaries carrying out the Divine will, the communication to them of the Divine will to create man is meaningless. These verses, therefore, lead us to the conclusion that the laws of nature find expression through angels. It is due to this function of theirs that they are called messengers (rusul) (22:75; 35:1). Expression of the Divine will is a Divine message, and the angels as bearers of that message carry it into execution. Their description as bearers of the Throne ('Arsh) of the Lord (40:7; 69:17) leads to the same conclusion for, as already stated, the Arsh stands for the Divine control of the universe, and the angels, the bearers of that control, are in fact the intermediaries through whom that control is exercised.

Vastly greater importance is, however, attached to the angelic function in the spiritual world, because it is primarily with the spiritual development of man that the Qur'an is concerned. To put it briefly, the function of the angel in the spiritual world is the same as his function in the physical world — to serve as an intermediary in carrying out the Divine will which, in the latter case, is to bring about the evolution of creation, and in the former, the evolution of man. According to the teachings of Islam, the angel has a close connection with the life of man from his birth, even from the time he is in the mother's womb till his death, and even after death, in his spiritual progress in Paradise and his spiritual treatment in Hell. The different functions of the angel in connection with the spiritual life of man may be broadly divided into seven classes which are detailed below.

[Editor’s note: The seven classes can be read directly from the book itself, only their titles are reproduced below]

Angels as intermediaries in bringing revelation

Angels as intermediaries in strengthening believers

Angles as intermediaries in carrying out Divine punishment

Angles's intercession and prayers for men

Angels help in spiritual progress of man

Angel's promptings to noble deeds

Angels recording deeds of men

Another myth that pervades common Muslim understanding is that Shaitan, the Iblis, commonly known as Satan or Devil was an angel who unlike rest of the angels refused to make obeisance to Adam when the latter was created:

2:34. And (recall) when We said to the angels, `Make obeisance to Adam.' So they obeyed except Iblîs, he refused stubbornly and waxed proud, and he was already one of the disbelievers.16

18:50. And (recall the time) when We said to the angels, `Submit to Adam.' So they all submitted (bowing), but Iblîs (did not); he was one of the jinn, he disobeyed the command of his Lord…17

Abdul Manan Omar, while discussing Iblis, the Satan, debunks the myth of Fallen Angel, in his Dictionary of The Holy Quran on p. 62-63:

Balasa/Ablasa: Balasa: Person of desperate character. There is no verbal root of this word in the first form. Ablasa: To be overcome with grief, be desperate, struck dumb with despair, remain disheartened and gloomy, stupefied, remain speechless. Iblîs: It is derived from ablasa which means: Who despaired; Good and virtue became less or decreased, who became broken in spirit, mournful, who was perplexed and was unable to see his way, who became silent on account of grief or despair, who was cut short or silenced in argument, who became unable to prosecute his journey, who was prevented from attaining his wish. The Greek word ‘dislos’ from which the English word ‘devil’ is derived is probably hellenized form of Ibilîs: It is a fact that the Greeks derived a good deal of their mythological concepts from the much earlier Arabian civilization. On the other hand there is no evidence that the pre-Islamic Arabs borrowed this or any other mythological term from the Greeks. Iblîs was not one of the angels. He was one of the Jinn and transgressed (18:50). In verse 2:36 he is called satan. Iblîs has been described in 2:34 as disobeying God, while the angels have been described as ever submissive and obedient. (16:49; 66:6) Jinn are from fire and angels from that of light. The fact of his rebellion is repeatedly stressed in the Holy Qur’ân. Hence Iblîs could not be an angel. The theory of “fallen angel” is contrary to the Qur’ânic teachings.

Similarly, Maulana Muhammad Ali in his book 'The Religion of Islam', p. 142, exposes that Iblis was not an angel:

Iblis is not an angel but one of the jinn

There is a popular misconception, into which many writers of repute have fallen, that Iblis or the Devil is one of the angels. The misconception has arisen from the fact that where the angels are commanded to make obeisance to Adam, there is also mention of Iblis and his refusal to make obeisance: "And when We said to the angels, Be submissive to Adam, they submitted, but Iblis (did not). He refused and was proud, and he was one of the disbelievers" (2:34). From these words it is clear enough that Iblis or the Devil was one of the unbelievers and refused to obey, and, therefore, he could not be an angel, because, of the angels, it is plainly said that "they do not disobey Allah in that which He commands them, but do as they are commanded" (66:6). And elsewhere it is stated in so many words that Iblis was not from among the angels but from among the jinn: "And when We said to the angels, Make submission to Adam, they submitted except Iblis. He was of the jinn, so he transgressed the commandment of his Lord" (18:50). Now jinn and angels are two different classes of beings; their origin and their functions have nothing in common. The jinn, as we have seen, are mentioned as being created from fire, while the angels are created from light [nur – al-Sahih al-Muslim 52:22]; and the function of the jinn has also been shown to be quite different from the function of the angel. It is, therefore, an obvious error to look upon the jinn as being a branch of the angelic creation. [Note: the author is referring to details in the beginning of the chapter ‘Angels’ from which paragraph is excerpted]

Dr. Zahid Aziz in his book “Introduction to Islam” under the chapter 'Angels', p. 14, answers a fundamental question about angels:

Why are angels necessary to bring God's messages to man?

Just as light is needed as a medium for our eyes to see things, and air is needed to carry sound to our ears, similarly an agency is required to activate our spiritual senses. The angels are that agency. They bring God's messages to the 'inner' eyes and ears of righteous people, and also cast good and noble thoughts into the 'hearts' of all people. But it is only the righteous who, because of their highly-developed spiritual senses, may be able to perceive the working of angels.

In conclusion, it is a requirement of faith to believe in angels and model angelic behaviors and not to dwell on how the angels look like:

2:177. It is not the sole virtue that you turn your faces to the east or the west but true virtue is theirs, who believe in Allâh, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and in the Prophets, and who give away their wealth (and substance) out of love for Him, to the near of kin, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarer and to those who ask (in charity) and in ransoming the slaves; and who observe the Prayer, who go on presenting the Zakât (- the purifying alms) and those who always fulfill their pledges and agreements when they have made one, and those who are patiently persevering in adversity and distress and (steadfast) in times of war. It is these who have proved truthful (in their promises and in their faith) and it is these who are strictly guarded against evil. 18

 


1A detailed discussion about angels can be found in “The Religion of Islam” by Maulana Muhammad Ali, chap: ‘Angels,’ p. 128-151

2 Harut and Marut, the mythical angels are discussed in chapter – You Can Do Magic♫ You Can Have Anything That You Desire♪1 – But, Not So In Quran – HarutMarut and the not so Holy Masons. Link: http://ahmadiyya.org/WordPress/2015/10/05/you-can-do-magic%E2%99%AB-you-can-have-anything-that-you-desire%E2%99%AA-but-not-so-in-quran-harut-marut-and-the-not-so-holy-masons/
3 The discourse between God and Angels about creation of Adam is discussed in chapter – Adam Who? But, Son Of Adam I.E. You And Me – At Least According To Quran. Link: http://ahmadiyya.org/WordPress/2017/10/03/adam-who-but-son-of-adam-i-e-you-and-me-at-least-according-to-quran/
4 Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin
5 Al-Saffat – Those Ranging in Ranks: Nooruddin
6 Al-Anam – Cattle: Muhammad Ali, Zahid Aziz
7 Al-Furqan – The Standard of True and False: Nooruddin
8 Fatir – Originator: Nooruddin
9 Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar
10 Isra – The Night-Journey: Nooruddin
11 Al-Anam – The Cattle: Nooruddin
12 Yusuf – Joseph: Nooruddin
13 Al-Furqan – The Standard of True and False: Nooruddin
14 Al-Ahzab – The Confederates: Nooruddin
15 Maryam – Mary: Nooruddin
16 Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
17 Al-Kahaf – The Place of Refuge: Nooruddin
18 Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin

Death of Mrs Samina Ahmed of UK

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

I have to report with regret, grief and sadness, the death of Mrs Samina Ahmed of UK, which took place on 14 December 2017. Inna lillahi wa Inna ilaihi rajioon.

She was 55 years of age and had suffered from multiple sclerosis since her youth. She was my sister, and sister of Mr Shahid Aziz.

She was married to Mr Paul Selim Ahmed, an English convert to Islam and a regular and valuable contributor to the literary work of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement (including the revision of the volume of Muhammad in World Scriptures dealing with prophecies from the Bible; see this link.)

In her prime Samina used to write articles in Lahore Ahmadiyya magazines and give talks at the UK Lahore Ahmadiyya Centre. Here are two examples of her articles: (1) The Light (Lahore), 24 April 1981, and (2) The Islamic Guardian, July-December 1983.

The photo below is from the summer of 1970 and shows Samina, with her mother Mrs Akhtar Aziz on the left, and on the right Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi (the father of Mrs Aziz):

The photo below is from September 2012, at Samina's 50th birthday:

 

— Zahid Aziz

Allegation against Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of so-called “misquoting” of the Quran

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

This post is in further reference to the first part of my post of 2015 at this link, where I replied to the allegation that what Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad quoted as a verse of the Quran "does not exist".

There is a hadith in Sahih Bukhari, reported by Anas, whose translation by Muhsin Khan begins as follows:

Zaid bin Haritha came to the Prophet (ﷺ) complaining about his wife. The Prophet (ﷺ) kept on saying (to him), "Be afraid of Allah and keep your wife." Aisha said, "If Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) were to conceal anything (of the Qur'an) he would have concealed this Verse."

(See this link for the translation as well as the original Arabic.)

Does the statement given in this hadith, "Be afraid of Allah and keep your wife" (اتَّقِ اللَّهَ، وَأَمْسِكْ عَلَيْكَ زَوْجَكَ‏), occur anywhere in the Quran? According to the criterion applied to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's writings by his opponents, no such verse exists in the Quran which contains this statement.

Of course, what this hadith is referring to is the verse 33:37 which contains the statement: "Keep your wife and be afraid of Allah" (اَمۡسِکۡ عَلَیۡکَ زَوۡجَکَ وَ اتَّقِ اللّٰہَ).

No one with any sense of fairness or having the least commonsense would say that there is any material difference between the statement as quoted in this hadith and the same statement as it occurs in the Quran.

Will our opponents allege that someone in this hadith has quoted a verse "which does not exist"? Will our opponents say, absurdly, that the Holy Prophet had actually uttered the words to Zaid "Be afraid of Allah and keep your wife", but Allah when revealing the Quran misquoted the Holy Prophet and wrongly stated that the Prophet had said: "Keep your wife and be afraid of Allah"?

It is our opponents who now need to answer these questions.


However, to introduce a little commonsense into the matter, please read below.

The Life of Muhammad is the English translation of a voluminous Arabic biography of the Holy Prophet by the late Muhammad Husein Haykal of Egypt, one of the greatest writers of modern Arabic literature, and a renowned novelist, politician and journalist. The translation was done by Ismail Ragi Al -Faruqui, a reputable scholar of Islam.

The following passage occurs in this translation:

'The eternal truth is that man does not fulfil his iman until he has desired for his fellow man that which he has loved for himself, and has acted and lived in accordance with the principle, "The worthier among you in the sight of God is the more pious, the more virtuous … Work and realize the good, for God will reckon your achievement" and you will be given exactly what you have earned.'

(Bolding is mine. Chapter Conclusion in two Essays, Essay II, p. 569. Edition published by Shorouk International of London and Cairo, 1983)

Referring to the quotation in this extract (which I gave in bold text above), the translator has added a note at this point which is as follows:

"Qur'an, 49:13; 4:106. The author does not quote these words in the manner proper to Quranic words, but uses them as his own — a perfectly permissive literary feature in Arabic. The last part of the sentence not included within quotation marks sounds Quranic in construction and phrasing, but it is not of the Qur'an. — Translator."

(Notes and References, note 15 of Essay II, p. 611).

Shown below is a screenshot of this passage from the version of this book at www.archive.org (see link):

(In my printed edition, the translator's footnotes occur as endnotes at the end of the book, and not inserted within the text in red colour as in the pdf edition above.)

Haykal has given a quotation consisting of three segments beginning respectively as follows: (1) The worthier among you… (2) Work and realize the good… (3) and you will be given …

The translator says in his note that (1) and (2) are from the Quran, taken from 49:13 and 4:106, and that (3) is not from Quran although it sounds Quranic. He says that the author is using the words of the Quran "as his own", which is "a perfectly permissive literary feature in Arabic". This is a sufficient answer to those opponents who pick out a few places from the writings of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to allege, without any justification, that he has misquoted the Quran.

I may add here the following observation, as an aside, and not related to my main point.

Firstly, the translator has made an error in giving reference to 4:106. The verse of the Quran corresponding to the words "Work and realize the good, for God will reckon your achievement" is, in fact, 9:105.

Secondly, as regards segment (3) of Haykal's quotation ("and you will be given…"), I have looked up Haykal's original Arabic book and display from it below the image of the relevant text (this book is also available at www.archive.org and the text below is on p. 558-559):

Haykal's words in Arabic are: Wa lā tujzauna illā mā kuntum taksibūn.

I think this is a mixing of 36:54: Wa lā tujzauna illā mā kuntum ta‛lamūn ("you are only recompensed for what you did").

with 10:52: Hal tujzauna illā bi-mā kuntum taksibūn ("you are only recompensed for what you earned").

It is perfectly legitimate to say that, in this final case too, Haykal is quoting from the Quran, even though he has substituted a word from 10:52 into 36:54.