Belief in God’s Angels
The Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) has further instructed us to have faith in the existence of God’s angels. This is the second article of Islamic faith and is very important; because it absolves the concept of Tawhid from all impurities and frees it from the danger of every conceivable shadow of shirk (polytheism). The polytheists have associated two kinds of creatures with God:
(a) Those which have material existence and are perceptible to the human eye, such as the sun, moon, stars, fire, water, animals, great men.
(b) Those who have no material existence and are not perceptible to the human eye: the unseen beings who are believed to be engaged in the administration of the universe; for instance, one controls the air, another imparts light, another brings rains, and so on and so forth.
The alleged deities of the first kind have material existence and are before man’s eye. The falsity of their claim has been fully exposed by the Kalimah — La ilaha illallah. This is sufficient to dispose of the idea that they enjoy any share in divinity or deserve any reverence at all. The second kind of things, being immaterial, are hidden from the human eye and are mysterious; the polytheists are more inclined to pin their faith in them. They consider them to be deities, gods and God’s children. They make their images and render offerings to them. In order to purify belief in the Unity of God, and to clear it from the admixture of this second kind of unseen creatures, this particular article of faith has been expounded.
Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) has informed us that these imperceptible spiritual beings, whom people believe to be deities of gods or God’s children, are really His angels. They have no share in God’s divinity; they cannot deviate from His commands even by the slightest fraction of an inch. God employs them to administer His Kingdom, and they carry out His orders exactly and accurately. They have no authority to do anything of their own accord; they cannot present to God any scheme conceived by themselves, they are not even authorized to intercede with God for any man.
To worship them and to solicit their help is degrading and debasing for man. For, on the very first day of man’s creation, God had made them prostrate themselves before Adam, granted to him greater knowledge than they possessed and bestowed on Adam His own vicegerency on this earth in preference to them.3 (3. See Al-Quran, ii.34 and vii.11.)What debasement can, therefore, be greater for man than prostrating himself before those who had prostrated themselves before him!
Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) forbade us to worship angels, and to associate them with God in His divinity. He also informed us that they were the chosen creatures of God, free from sin, from their very nature unable to disobey God, and ever engaged in carrying out His orders. Moreover, he informed us that these angels of God surround us from all sides, are attached to us, and are always in our company. They observe and note all our actions, good or bad. They preserve a complete record of every man’s life. After death, when we shall be brought before God, they will present a full report of our life’s-work on earth, wherein we shall find everything correctly recorded, not a single movement left out, however insignificant and however carefully concealed it may be.
We have not been informed of the intrinsic nature of the angels. Only some of their virtues or attributes have been mentioned to us, and we have been asked to believe in their existence. We have no other means of knowing their nature, their attributes and their qualities. It would therefore, be sheer folly on our part to attribute any form or quality to them of our own accord. We must believe in them exactly as we have been asked to do. To deny their existence is kufr for, first, we have no reason for such a denial, and, second, our denial of them would be tantamount to attributing untruth to Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him). We believe in their existence only because God’s true Messenger has informed us of it.
Faith in the Books of God
The third article of faith which Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) has commanded us to believe is faith in the Books of God; Books which He has sent down to mankind through His Prophets.
God had revealed His Books to His Prophets before Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) and these books were sent down in the same way as He sent down the Qur’an to Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him). We have been informed of the names of some of these books: Books of Abraham, the Torah of Moses. Zabur (Psalms) of David, and the lnjil (Gospel) of Jesus Christ. We have not been informed of the names of Books, which were given to other Prophets. Therefore with regard to other existing religious books, we are not in a position to say with, certainty whether they were originally revealed books or not.
But we tacitly believe that whatever Books were sent down by God are alt true.
Of the Books we have been told, the Books of Abraham are extinct and not traceable in existing world literature. David’s Zabur, the Torah and the Injil exist with the Jews and the Christians, but the Qur’an informs us that people have changed and added to these books, and God’s words have been mixed up with texts of their own making. This corruption and pollution of the Books has been so large and so evident that even the Jews and the Christians themselves admit that they do not possess their original texts, and have only their translations, which have been altered over many centuries and are still being changed. On studying these Books we find many passages and accounts, which evidently cannot be from God. God’s words and those of man are mixed together in these books, and we have no means of knowing which portions are from God and which from man.
We have been commanded to believe in previously revealed Books only in the sense of admitting that, before the Qur’an, God had also sent down books through His Prophets, that they were all from one and the same God, the same God Who sent the Qur’an and that the sending of the Qur’an as a Divine Book is not a new and strange event, but only confirms, restates and completes those divine instructions which people had mutilated or lost in antiquity4. (4. Even a cursory study of the first books of the Old Testament and the four Gospels of the New Testament reveals that they are the productions of men and in these writings some parts of the original Psalms of David and the Gospels of Christ have been incorporated. The first five books of the Old Testament do not constitute the original Torah, but parts of the Torah have been mixed up with other narrative written by human beings and the original guidance of the. Lord is lost. Similarly, the four Gospels of Christ are not the original Gospels as they came from the Prophet Christ (peace be upon him). They are in fact, the life histories of Christ compiled by four different persons on the basis of knowledge and hearsay, and certain parts of the original Gospel also fell into them. But the original and the fictitious, the Divine and the human, are so intermingled that the grain cannot be separated from the chaff. The fact is that the original Word of God is preserved neither with the Jews nor with the Christians. The Qur’an, on the other hand, is fully preserved and not a syllable has been changed or left out of it.)
The Qur’an is the last of the Divine Books sent down by God and there are some very pertinent differences between it and the previous Books. These differences may briefly be stated as follows:
1. The original texts of most of the former Divine Books were lost altogether, and only their translations exist today. The Qur’an, on the other hand, exists exactly as it was revealed to the Prophet: not a word — nay, not a syllable of it — has been changed. It is available in its original text and the Word of God has been preserved for all time.
2. In the former Divine Books man mixed his words with God’s, but in the Qur’an we find only the words of God — and in their pristine purity. This is admitted even by the opponents of Islam.
3. In respect of no other sacred Book possessed by different peoples can it be said on the basis of authentic historical evidence that it really belongs to the same Prophet to whom it is attributed. In the case of some of them it is not even known in what age and to which Prophet they were revealed. As for the Qur’an, the evidence that it was revealed to Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) is so voluminous, so convincing, so strong and so compelling that even the fiercest critics of Islam cannot cast doubt on it. This evidence is so detailed that even the occasion and place of the revelation of many verses and injunctions of the Qur’an can be known with certainty.
4. The former Divine Books were sent down in languages, which died long ago. No nation or community now speaks those languages and there are only a few people who claim to understand them. Thus, even if the Books existed today in their original and unadulterated form, it would be virtually impossible in our age to correctly understand and interpret their injunctions and put them into practice in their required form. The language of the Qur’an, on the other hand is a living language; millions of people speak it, and millions more know and understand it. It is being taught and learnt in nearly every university of the world; every man can learn it, and he who has not time to learn it can find men everywhere who know this language and can explain to him the meaning of the Qur’an.
5. Each one of the existing sacred Books found among different nations of the world has been addressed to a particular people. Each one contains a number of commands which seem to have been meant for a particular period of history and which meet the needs of that age only. They are neither needed today, nor can they now be smoothly and properly put into practice. It is evident from this that these Books were particularly meant for that particular people and not for the world. Furthermore, they were not sent to be followed permanently by even the people they were intended for; they were meant to be acted upon only for a certain period. In contrast to this the Qur’an is addressed to all mankind; not a single injunction of it can be suspected as having been addressed to a particular people. In the same manner, all the commands and injunctions in the Qur’an can be acted upon at any place and in any age. This proves that the Qur’an is meant for the whole world, and is an eternal code for human life.
6. There is no denying the fact that the previous divine Books also enshrined good and virtue; they also taught the principles of morality and truthfulness and presented the mode of living, which was to God’s pleasure. But none of them was comprehensive enough to embrace all that is necessary for a virtuous human life. Some of them excelled in one respect others in some other. It is the Qur’an and the Qur’an alone which enshrined not only all that was good in the former Books but also perfects the way of Allah and presents it in its entirety and outlines that code of life which comprehends all that Is necessary for man on this earth.
7. On account of man’s interpolations, many things have been inserted in those Books, which are against reality, revolting to reason and an affront to every instinct of justice. There are things, which are cruel and unjust, and vitiate man’s beliefs and actions. Furthermore, things have unfortunately been inserted that are obscene, indecent and highly immoral. The Qur’an is free of all such rubbish. It contains nothing against reason, and nothing that can be proved wrong. None of its injunctions is unjust; nothing in it is misleading. Of indecency and immorality not a trace can be found. From the beginning to the end the Book is full of wisdom and truth. It contains the best of philosophy and the choicest of law for human civilisation. It points out the right path and guides man to success and salvation.
It is on account of these special features of the Qur’an that all the peoples of the world have been directed to have faith in it, to give up all other Books and to follow it alone.
The study of the difference between the Qur’an and other divine Books makes one easily understand that the natures of faith in the Qur’an and of belief in the former Books are not similar.
Faith in the earlier divine Books should be limited to the confirmation that they were all from God, were true and were sent down to fulfill, in their time, the same purpose for which the Qur’an has been sent. On the other hand, belief in the Qur’an should be of the nature that it is purely and absolutely God’s own words, that it is perfectly true, thatevery word of it is preserved, that everything mentioned therein isright, that it is the bounden duly of man lo carry out in his life each and every command of it and that whatever be against it must be rejected.