Saturday, April 02, 2016

Doctrine - Creation according to Muhammad - Angels

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Muhammad describes angels as follows.
"who appointed [employeth] the angels to be messengers [envoys] having [pairs of] wings two, three and four: (Koran 35:1)
It is common today to depict angels as having wings and, in fact, most of us, when we think of angels, thing of them as being carried about on silvery wings. They are thus depicted both in sacred art and by our popular media. However, is this really the case? Interestingly, there are only two classes of heavenly beings that are described in scriptures as having wings. The first are the Cherubim. "The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the mercy seat." (Exodus 25:20) Later on, Ezekiel reports seeing Cherubim in a vision and describes them as having multiple wings. "Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another being, and two covering their bodies." (Ezekiel 1:11) The total number of Cherubim seem to be quite limited and they seem to be related to those who stand nearest to the thrown of God. It has been said that God is enthroned above the Cherubim. "O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth." (Isaiah 37:16)

The other celestial being that is described as having wings are the Seraphim. Isaiah says, "I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, 'Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.'" (Isaiah 6:1-3) Interestingly, this is the only passage of scripture where Seraphim are mentioned at all.

Beyond this, the Cherubim and Seraphim, there is no evidence that ordinary angels have wings, Most of the time they appear resembling human beings. The following is recorded of Abraham. "Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him." (Genesis 18:1-2) We know from the rest of the story that one of these men was the Lord and the other two were angels, yet they appeared as simple men and no wings were mentioned. Muhammad's image of angels having wings may have fit the popular notions of angles but is not founded by the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

The term "angel" in both the Greek and Hebrew means to be a "messenger". However, Muhammad also assigns to them the role of punishment and affliction, especially of those who die are are crossing over to the next life.
"If thou couldst only see when the angels take the unbelievers [cause the infidels to die], beating their faces and their backs: 'Taste the chastisement [torture] of the burning -- that, for what your hands have forwarded [sent on before you], and for that God is never unjust unto His servants.'" (Koran 8:52-53)
"Believers, guard [save] yourselves and your families against a Fire whose fuel is men and stones, and over which are harsh [fierce], terrible [mighty] angels who disobey not God in what He commands them and do what they are commanded. 'O you unbelievers [infidels], do not excuse yourselves today; you are only being recompensed for what you were doing.'" (Koran 66:6-7)
This view of angels, of being harsh, torturous, and judgmental, is consistent with Muhammad's view of God who is harsh, torturous, and judgmental but is totally inconsistent with the image of angels as presented in the Jewish and Christian scriptures. In the scriptures we never see angels beating the dead for their sins nor chiding them with their judgment to come.

Finally, Muhammad treats us to the story of two specific angels, Harut and Marut.
"but the Satans disbelieved, teaching the people sorcery, and that which was sent down upon Babylon's two angels, Harut and Marut [at Babel]; they taught not any man, without they said, 'We are but a temptation; do not disbelieve.' From them they learned how they might divide [cause division between] a man and his wife, yet they did not hurt any man thereby, save by the leave of God, and they learned what hurt them, and did not profit them, knowing well that whoso buys [that art] it shall have no share in the world to come; evil [vile] then was [the price] that they sold themselves for, if they had but known. Yet had they believed, and been godfearing, a recompense from God had been better, if they had but known." (Koran 2:96-97)
Rodwell describes this passage as follows. "Babel is regarded by the Muslims as the fountainhead of the science of magic. They suppose Haroot and Maroot to be two angels who, in consequence to their want of compassion for the frailties of mankind, were sent down to earth to be tempted. They both sinned; and being permitted to choose whether they would be punished now or hereafter, chose the former, and are still suspended by their feet at Babel in a rocky pit, and are the great teachers of magic." (J.M. Rodwell, The Koran, footnote 2.42) However, no such angels are represented in the Jewish or Christian scriptures and there are no such references to any angels teaching sorcery even though they first warn their learners, This story seems to be a complete fabrication by the mind of Muhammad.

More to come...
David Robison

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