#444: The Death of Angels

Question:

Assalamualaikum ustaz. Will the angels also die? When will they die? Are all of the angels going to die or will there be any exemptions? Thank you.

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.

The angels are sinless creations of Allah SWT and obey all of His commandments. Allah SWT has created them and determined that they will always obey and worship Him.

Among them, they are those who are tasked to convey the revelation, deliver the sustenance, maintain the hills and mountains or are tasked to always worship, pray and recite tasbih and dhikrs to Allah SWT.

The total number of angels are uncountable. The Prophet PBUH said:

إِنِّي أَرَى مَا لَا تَرَوْنَ، وَأَسْمَعُ مَا لَا تَسْمَعُونَ أَطَّتِ السَّمَاءُ، وَحُقَّ لَهَا أَنْ تَئِطَّ مَا فِيهَا مَوْضِعُ أَرْبَعِ أَصَابِعَ إِلَّا وَمَلَكٌ وَاضِعٌ جَبْهَتَهُ سَاجِدًا لِلَّهِ

“Indeed, I see what you do not see, and I hear what you do not hear. The Heavens moan, and they have the right to moan. There is no spot, the size of four fingers in them, except that there is an angel placing his forehead in it, prostrating to Allah.” [1]

Among the characteristics of an angel is stated in the book al-‘Aqidah al-Islamiyyah wa Ususuha by Syeikh Abd al-Rahman Hasan Habannakah al-Maidani, they are:

  • A creation made from light
  • The angels are with us but we are unable to see them
  • Angels can shapeshift into anything and form
  • They have supernatural strength and abilities such as carrying the Arasy and blowing the Horn
  • Obey only Allah SWT
  • Are near with Allah SWT and honour Him
  • Act as a messenger to the prophets
  • Can ascend and descend from the earth to the heavens without any difficulty
  • Fear only Him
  • Created before humans
  • Have two, three and four pairs of wings [2]

The death of the angels

Basically, every creation will die and perish. Allah SWT states:

كُلُّ مَنْ عَلَيْهَا فَانٍ ﴿٢٦﴾ وَيَبْقَىٰ وَجْهُ رَبِّكَ ذُو الْجَلَالِ وَالْإِكْرَامِ

“Everyone upon the earth will perish, and there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” [3]

Imam Ibn Kathir when explaining this verse states: Allah SWT informed all the residents of the earth will completely die and perish. The same applies to the residents of the heavens except for the few Allah SWT so wishes. [4]

Syeikh Dr Wahbah al-Zuhaili interpreted this verse by saying: All of the creations on this earth starting from humans all living creatures as well as the residents of the heavens except the few Allah SWT so wishes, all of them will perish and die. All of their lives will end. None is everlasting except the Essence of Allah SWT who owns All Greatness and Prowess. Temporary and destruction is a certainty for every creation in the heavens and earth on the Last Day. [5]

Imam al-Qurtubi in explaining this verse cited Ibn Abbas R.Anhuma who said:

لَمَّا نَزَلَتْ هَذِهِ الآيَةُ قَالَتِ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ : هَلَكَ أهْلُ الأَرْضِ. فَأَنْزَلَ اللهُ تَعَالَى : { كُلُّ شَيْءٍ هَالِكٌ إِلاَّ وَجْهَهُ } فَأَيْقَنَتِ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ بالْهَلاَكِ

“When this verse was revealed (كُلُّ مَنْ عَلَيْهَا فَانٍ) the angels said, “Destruction is for the residents of earth.” Then the verse “كُلُّ شَيْءٍ هَالِكٌ إِلَّا وَجْهَهُ” was revealed, and then, the angels realized that they are also temporary and will perish.”[6]

Indeed, the angels will also taste death and this is the opinion of the majority of scholars. Imam al-Munawi cited the ijma’ in this matter in his book Faidh al-Qadir. [7]

Allah SWT states in another statement:

كُلُّ شَيْءٍ هَالِكٌ إِلَّا وَجْهَهُ

“Everything will be destroyed except His Face.” [8]

Imam al-Tabari explained that some scholars state the meaning of this verse is that everything will be destroyed except what Allah SWT wishes. [9]

Imam Ibn Kathir said Allah SWT’s statement “كُلُّ شَيْءٍ هَالِكٌ إِلَّا وَجْهَهُ” declares that indeed Allah SWT is the One that is Everlasting (الدائم), Enduring (الباقي), alive, and stands on His own, decides on the death of His creations and will Never die. This is as affirms by Allah SWT in the verse “كُلُّ مَنْ عَلَيْهَا فَانٍ ﴿٢٦﴾ وَيَبْقَىٰ وَجْهُ رَبِّكَ ذُو الْجَلَالِ وَالْإِكْرَامِ”. The word “وَجْهُ” here means the Essence of Allah SWT. [10]

Allah SWT also states:

وَنُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ فَصَعِقَ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا مَن شَاءَ اللَّـهُ

“And the Horn will be blown, and whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth will fall dead except whom Allah wills.” [11]

Imam Ibn Kathir explained: “This is the second blowing of the horn, that is the blow of death where all the residents of the heavens and earth will death except whom Allah wills. This is stated as the affirmation of the interpretation of the famous hadith regarding the blowing of the horn. Then, the remaining souls of His creations are gripped until the last creation that will die is the angel of death. And the All Living (الحي) and All Standing (القيوم), the Beginning and Everlasting is the only One that remains forever.”

He stated: “لِّمَنِ الْمُلْكُ الْيَوْمَ” (To whom belongs [all] sovereignty this Day?) (Surah Ghafir: 16). He asked it rhetorically thrice, then He answered Himself through the verse: “لِلَّـهِ الْوَاحِدِ الْقَهَّارِ” (To Allah, the One, the Prevailing!) That is, it is He the One and Only. Indeed, He transcends everything and decides the destruction of everything. Next, the first creation to be resurrected is Israfil who is then commanded to blow the Horn for the third time as the blow of resurrection. [12]

Imam al-Suyuti in the book al-Haba’ik fi Akhbar al-Mala’ik said: “I was asked: ‘Will the angels die due to the blowing of the horn?’ I answered: Yes. Allah SWT states: “وَنُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ فَصَعِقَ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا مَن شَاءَ اللَّـهُ” (And the Horn will be blown, and whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth will fall dead except whom Allah wills).

We (Imam al-Suyuti) explained that the exemptions are the bearer of Arasy, Gabriel, Israfil, Michael and the angel of death and all of them will die afterwards. And it is stated by Wahb bin Munabbih that the angels are the first creation created and the last to die and the first to be resurrected. This is strengthened by the words in the evidence that says the death of the residents of the heavens and earth, until the angels Gabriel, Israfil, the bearer of the Arasy and the last is the angel of death.[13]

Who is exempted by Allah SWT from dying when the Horn is blown?

Scholars have differing opinions as to who is exempted by Allah SWT, they are as the following:

  • In Imam Ahmad’s opinion, they are the residents of paradise from amongst the women of paradise and al-wildan. Some of his students added the keeper of the ages of paradise, Ridhwan and hell, Malik.
  • Muqatil and some scholars are of the opinion that they are Gabriel, Michael, Israfil and the angel of death. Some of them added the angels who are the bearers of the Arasy.
  • Abu al-Abbas al-Qurtubi gives a different opinion saying: “It means (the ones who are exempted) all those who have passed away for they can no longer feel or experience. Thus, they no longer experience death at the time.”

Tarjih: Imam al-Qurtubi issued his opinion citing the opinion of his teacher Abu al-Abbas, the sahih is that there aren’t any sahih evidences that specify those who are exempted from destruction due to the blowing of the Horn. All the evidences are muhtamal (assumption). [14]

Conclusion

According to the stated evidences, it can be understood that all angels will taste death after the second blowing of the Horn. The last angel that will die is mentioned to be the angel of death.

We end with the supplication:

اللَّهُمَّ اخْتِمْ لَنَا بِحُسْنِ الْخَاتِمَةِ وَلَا تَخْتِمْ عَلَيْنَا بِسُوْءِ الْخَاتِمَةِ

O Allah! End our life with husnul khotimah (good ending) and please don’t end our life with suul khotimah (bad ending). Amin.

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] Narrated by al-Tirmizi (2312), Ibn Majah (4190) and Ahmad (21516). Syeikh Syu’aib al-Arnaut  evaluated this hadith ashasan li ghairihi in takhrij al-Musnad (21516)

[2] See al-‘Aqidah al-Islamiyyah wa Ususuha, by Syeikh ‘Abd al-Rahman Hasan Habannakah al-Maidani, pg. 235-240

[3] Surah al-Rahman (26-27)

[4] See Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim, 7/110

[5] See al-Tafsir al-Munir, 14/243

[6] See al-Jami’ li Ahkam al-Quran17/165 and al-Kasyf wa al-Bayan ‘an Tafsir al-Quran9/182

[7] See Faidh al-Qadir, 3/561.

[8] Surah al-Qasas (88)

[9] See Jami’ al-Bayan ‘an Ta’wil Ay al-Quran, 6/53

[10] See Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim, 3/403

[11] Surah al-Zumar (68)

[12] See Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim, 4/69

[13] See al-Haba’ik fi Akhbar al-Mala’ik, pg. 91

[14] See al-Tazkirah by Imam al-Qurtubi, pg. 167

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