The Review of Religions [English], January, February & March 1923
by Hazrat Chaudhry Ali Muhammadra BA BT (1892-1979)
The author of this article, Hazrat Chaudhry Ali Muhammad Sahibra BA BT was born in 1892 in the village of Hathur, Ludhiana. His elder brother, Chaudhry Nimatullah Guahar Sahib, saw certain books on Ahmadiyyat in Patiala and met some friends who were acquainted with the Promised Messiahas, so he paid a visit to Qadian with his wife and both of them pledged bai‘at. He preached to Ali Muhammad Sahibra and he thus sent his letter of bai‘at to Qadian.
On 23 August 1907, Ali Muhammad Sahibra took bai‘at of the Promised Messiahas in person. On the same day, he joined the 7th grade in Qadian and started living in the boarding house. Consequently, he was blessed with the opportunity to regularly meet the Promised Messiahas and go on walks with him. When the Promised Messiahas passed away, he also had the privilege of being one of the pallbearers.
In 1913, Hazrat Hakim Maulvi Nuruddin Sahib, Khalifatul Masih Ira announced his nikah with the daughter of Hazrat Maulvi Faizuddin Sahibra.
He completed his FA (Fine Arts) in 1915, his BA (Bachelor of Arts) in 1918, and passed the BT examination in 1920. In 1940, he served in Jamia Ahmadiyya and then in Nazrat Umur-e-Ammah. In 1946, he was appointed as a teacher of English at Jamia Ahmadiyya, where he worked until 1947. At the time of the partition of India, he was the editor of The Review of Religions. He also taught at Jamia Nusrat College, Rabwah, for some time. In 1977, he published his book, “In the Company of the Promised Messiah”.
Hazrat Chaudhry Ali Muhammad Sahibra BA BT passed away on 14 January 1979, in the early hours of the day.
Angelology, or the doctrine regarding the existence and functions of angels, is a subject more difficult to treat than any other for a student of religion, not because conclusive proofs for the existence of angels are not forthcoming but because materialism has got such a strong hold upon the minds of men that it has become well-nigh impossible to demonstrate any spiritual truth without being mocked and jeered at. But thanks to the advent of the Promised Messiah, peace be on him, spiritual treasures have been distributed so generously and broadcast that for us; his followers, it is now the most pleasant and easiest task to demonstrate the truth of spiritual themes. The existence of God, and His relation to man; the doctrine of angels and their functions relative to heavenly bodies and human beings; the appearance of prophets on earth and their revelations – doctrines that have remained so many puzzles to the world, have been brought within the easy comprehension of human intellect. It is the doctrine of angels that I am going to deal with in the following pages.
The subject has been touched upon by all the chief religions of the world – Zoroastrianism, Brahmanism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Islam has treated angelology even more fully than Zoroastrianism, which has surpassed all other religions in its description of these spiritual beings. Angelology in Hinduism has degenerated into angelolatry [the worshipping of angels]. Zoroastrianism has stumbled at many points. Christianity has had a divided camp, with some favouring the worship of angels, and others thinking otherwise. Even the [Muslims] of modern days have failed to realise the importance of including the doctrine of angels among the fundamental articles of belief.
Existence of angels
As angels cannot be seen with our eyes, most people have come to deny their very existence. “If they exist at all”, they say, “why do we not see them?” But it is an extremely ridiculous objection. Everything that is not seen with this material eye, cannot be said to be non-existent. There are lots of things that cannot be seen with the eye. Who has, for instance, seen air or ether? But nobody denies the existence of air because he has never seen it with his eyes. Sometimes we believe in the existence of something on the authority of others. Everybody has not seen London or New York, but no sane person would ever deny the existence of the great cities on the ground that he has not seen them with his own eyes. There are hundreds of thousands of good people who claim to have seen angels with their own eyes. In all fairness, we cannot contradict their statement, especially, when it comes from persons who lived in different climates and were absolutely isolated from one another. Again, it might be argued that such claimants lived long ago; who is now going to ask them for tangible proof and a true description of these invisible beings? But such great men are not wanting even in our days. God has made Qadian the fountainhead of things spiritual in modern times. The Promised Messiahas, his holy successors and many of his holy followers are eye-witnesses to the existence of angels. Our material eye, it is true, is not generally able to see angels, but it is as certain as day follows night that our inward eyes do see them in visions and dreams. Nay, I must go to the extent of saying that angels can be seen even when we are wide awake.
Characteristics of angels
Before proceeding further, it may not be out of place to describe some of the characteristics of angels.
1. The first peculiarity about them is, that they are as truly a creation of God as human beings are. But most people believe that they are co-existent with God, though they are employed by the Almighty to perform various duties and functions. This belief has led them to worship angels. The Hindus, for instance, believe that the sun, the moon and the stars are all controlled in their movements and influences by their respective angels. They, therefore, have come to worship both the heavenly bodies and the angels controlling them. But it is not so in Islam which teaches that angels are a creation of God. The Holy Quran says:
اَمۡ خَلَقۡنَا الۡمَلٰٓئِکَةَ اِنَاثًا وَّہُمۡ شٰہِدُوۡنَ
“Did we create the angels as females, while they were witnesses to it?” [Surah as-Saffat, Ch.37: V.151] Thus, the co-existence of angels with God is denied by Islam, and it is indeed incompatible with the unity of God.
2. Another peculiarity about the angels is that they are sexless neither males nor females; sexes they have none, being spiritual beings. The above-mentioned verse denies the common belief that angels are females. Elsewhere we read in the Holy Quran:
لَيُسَمُّوۡنَ الۡمَلٰٓئِکَةَ تَسۡمِيَةَ الۡاُنۡثٰي
“And you call the angels females!” [Surah an-Najm, Ch.53: V.28]
3. Again, we find from the study of the Holy Quran that there are grades among the angels. Firstly, there are those who serve as mediums for the manifestation of the principal attributes of God in the universe and belong, therefore, to the first order. Secondly, there are those who are their assistants and they too enjoy the nearness of God. Thirdly, there are those who belong to the lowest order and are responsible for the manifestation of every property possessed by every atom in the universe. They are as numberless as the properties of different things. The Holy Quran says:
وَمَا يَعۡلَمُ جُنُوۡدَ رَبِّکَ اِلَّا ہُوَ
“And none but thy Lord knows the number of His hosts.” [Surah al-Muddaththir, Ch.74: V.32]
4. Unlike man, angels from their very nature are innocent and have no power to do evil; but they are subservient to God and carry out the orders of their Creator and Master, as says the Holy Quran:
لَا يَعۡصُوۡنَ اللّٰہَ مَاۤ اَمَرَہُمۡ وَيَفۡعَلُوۡنَ مَا يُؤۡمَرُوۡنَ
“They do not disobey their Master, rather they do what they are bid to do.” [Surah al-Tahrim, Ch.66: V.7] Whenever they receive orders from on High, they seem to be holding a council and discussing the best way to execute them.
Work of angels
Let us now see what is the work of angels. In the physical world, the angels are the ultimate cause of the laws of nature. The whole business of the universe is conducted through their agency. It is through their instrumentality that rain falls, the wind blows, the sun sends down its rays upon earth, and a poison and an antidote perform their respective functions. Of course, there is nothing in the world that can have its effect without their agency. But this does not mean that poison is not poison in its very nature, or that an antidote is not an antidote in itself; what we mean is that poison does not work unless the angel allows it to have its effect, and that an antidote cannot work, unless allowed to do so by the angel. Thus, we find from a study of the Holy Quran that the falling of rain, the blowing of winds, and several other physical phenomena are all the work of angels. The Holy Quran says:
وَالذّٰرِيٰتِ ذَرۡوًا۔ فَالۡحٰمِلٰتِ وِقۡرًا۔ فَالۡجٰرِيٰتِ يُسۡرًا۔ فَالۡمُقَسِّمٰتِ اَمۡرًا۔
“I swear by the winds which pick off moisture from the oceans and other bodies of water; I swear by the winds which are pregnant with watery vapours; and I swear by the winds which drive clouds to their places of destination; and I swear by the angels who regulate all these atmospheric phenomena from behind.” [Surah adh-Dhariyat, Ch.51: V.2-5]
In the spiritual world, the work of angels consists of imparting religious as well as secular knowledge to those who seek it. They are appointed to shed light of knowledge on the minds of men. Edison acknowledges the share of “inspiration” in his inventions (vide Edison, his Life and Inventions by FL Dyer and TC Martin, Vol. II, p. 607). He was fond of secular knowledge, which was imparted to him by the angels. Prophets and saints seek spiritual knowledge, and as a result, angels impart spiritual knowledge to them. Tastes differ, and the distribution of knowledge by the angels varies with tastes. Angels impart knowledge in a very peculiar way. Whatever they want to teach, they put it in the subconscious mind so that it may be recollected in time of need. “When I was seventeen years old”, says our leader, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih II[ra], “I had a vision. I heard a sound that resembled the ringing of a bell. It began to spread till it became as wide as a vast plain, out of which there appeared to me a figure, which I was told was an angel, He said to me, ‘May I teach you something in the way of knowledge?’ ‘You may’, said I. Then he began to instruct me the commentary on the opening chapter of the Holy Quran. When he came to the verse: اِيَّاکَ نَعۡبُدُ وَاِيَّاکَ نَسۡتَعِيۡنُ (‘Thee do we worship and from Thee do we seek help’), he said that all the commentators had written their expositions up to this verse and had not gone any further, but that he would explain to me the remaining verses of the same chapter, which, indeed, he did to the end. Ever since that day, whenever I have had the opportunity to speak on the opening chapter, I have always been able to interpret it in a new light. This, I think, is due to the knowledge imparted by the angel on that occasion.” [Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 17, p. 215]
Need for angels
After a discussion of the existence and work of angels, it seems necessary to say something about the need of angels, for it might be argued that the agency of angels betrays a sort of drawback in God. He, being Omnipotent, can do without angels, and He should not depend on them for the execution of His orders. Well, it is not difficult to find that a great law pervades the whole universe. The changes in the atmosphere and the heavenly bodies, the eclipses of the sun and the moon, the changes of seasons, the earthquakes and a world of other changes all take place in accordance with a law that wisely governs every atom of the universe. The rain that falls at a particular period of the year on a certain tract of land, is very helpful in causing our crops to grow; sunshine is the great killer of the germs of various epidemics; moonlight is instrumental in causing various vegetables to grow and so on. Again, it is our daily observation, that a particular tract of land is receiving rainfall while the adjoining field is being left absolutely dry; or a certain epidemic is ravaging a particular part of a city while the other parts are quite safe from its ravages. Is all this a mere chance? Is there no wise hand behind it, that regulates and controls these phenomena? Certainly, there is. Again, it might be said that God – the great Power of the scientists – has so arranged that everything in the universe should discharge its function in such a way as to unconsciously conduce to the good and well-being of the human race. Yes, God could possibly have done that; but if He had so willed, He should have granted every atom of the universe the wisdom and the sense to do so; but such is not the case; hence, it follows that there are other agents that have the sense and the wisdom to regulate the function and work of each atom. These agents we call angels.
Thus, all the phenomena in the world are controlled and regulated by the angels. The Holy Quran calls them: مُقَسِّمٰتِ اَمۡرًا or beings that distribute the work that is to be done through their agency.
In matters spiritual, angels are equally indispensable. Almighty God is the holiest of all beings and the great fountain of light. The Holy Quran says:
اَللّٰہُ نُوۡرُ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَالۡاَرۡضِ
“God is the light of heavens and earth”, [Surah an-Nur, Ch.24: V.36] so we cannot possibly associate anything material with Him, unless it is as holy as He Himself is. Human soul is enshrouded in a grossly material body and is, therefore, prevented from effecting a junction with God, but at the same time it possesses a keen desire to soar high and meet its creator and master, hence the necessity of a connecting link between God and man. This link is supplied by the angels.
Belief in angels
We are required to believe in certain things because they help us understand and know God and impel us to act upon His commandments. We believe, for instance, in prophets and the books that are revealed to them, because both prophets and heavenly books are means of acquiring knowledge of God. Angels, likewise, turn our attention towards God, hence the need for belief in them. Another purpose of the belief in angels is that we may believe not only in the existence of these invisible beings but also in their suggestions and promptings, which are always for our good. It is, therefore, to our advantage if we act upon the promptings of angels, which are exclusively meant for our benefit. If we reject them, we will, of necessity, be following the paths of evil, which are exactly opposite to those of the angels. If we refuse to act according to the promptings of these spiritual beings, the alternative course for us would be to fall prey to the insinuations of evil, which in Muslim theology is designated by the word Satan. There is no middle way between the forces of good and evil. If we leave the paths of one, we are sure to tread the paths of the other.
(Transcribed by Al Hakam from the original, published in The Review of Religions [English], January, February and March 1923)