THE ABRAHAMIC BACKGROUND WITH EXPOSITORY NOTES
Stephen Lambden, UCMerced.
1996 +2005-6 + 2015. Being reformatted, corrected and supplemented
IN PROGRESS - Last updated 23-02-2023.
The Bahā'ī angelology or doctrine of angels (sing. Ar. malak, pl. malā'ika; Per. firishtih) is rooted in and interprets the scriptural references to angelic beings found in the Abrahamic (primarily Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and, to a lesser extent, Asian religious traditions (especially Zoroastrianism). Though angelic beings of various kinds are mentioned in Bābī and Bahā'ī scripture this terminology is usually meant to be understood "spiritually" or "allegorically". Yet, as we shall see, the Baha'i spiritual cosmology affirms the existence of many worlds populated by an infinite number of spiritual beings, especially elevated humans who have entered the afterlife. It is the Baha'i belief that there exists and has always existed an otherworldly angelic type "supreme concourse" (mala' al-a`la = a biblicaly rooted qur'anic phrase) situatred in the infinite worlds beyond this. This group is made up of developed human beings in worlds beyond this as well as pre-existent and ever-living mazhar-i ilahi (Manifestations of God) - including Moses, Zoroaster, the Buddhs Jesus, Muhammad, the Bab, Baha'u'llah. They channel spiritual forces related to the "Holy Spirit" ( ruh al-quds) which inspire human beings and thus directly contribute to the advance of human civilization. Progress in this world is intimately related in the Baha'i view to divine forces emanating from spiritual worlds beyond. In various of his scriptural Tablets (lawh pl.alwah) the founder of the Baha'i religion states :
"As to thy question concerning the worlds of God. Know thou of a truth that the worlds of God are countless in their number, and infinite in their range... [Gl. LXXIX]... And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure... If any man be told that which hath been ordained for such a soul in the worlds of God, the Lord of the throne on high and of earth below, his whole being will instantly blaze out in his great longing to attain that most exalted, that sanctified and resplendent station.… The nature of the soul after death can never be described, nor is it meet and permissible
to reveal its whole character to the eyes of men.. The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying Their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples... [Gl. LXXXI] ...
"I [Baha'u'llah] am but a servant of God Who hath believed in Him and in His signs, and in His Prophets and in His angels" (Gl. CLIII)
The English word "angel" derives from the Greek angelos which basically means -- like the Biblical Hebrew mal'ākh which it often translates -- `messenger'. On the most basic level angels are divine messengers though the word "angel" indicates a bewildering variety of largely benevolent spiritual beings with a wide range of functions. In religious and other literatures originating in both the orient and the occident, the varieties of angels have been reckoned so extensive that detailed listings of the angelic hierarchy have been set down. Bulky dictionaries of angels have been published.
Frequent mention is made within the Zoroastrian tradition of benevolent spiritual beings which may be loosely thought of as "Archangels" or angelic beings. Most importantly, six divine Immortal Beings (Amesha Spentas), including the primordial Holy/Bounteous Spirit (Spenta Mainyu, an active creative Reality) surround the great Divinity, Ahura Mazdā ("Wise Lord"; see Boyce, EIr. I:933f).
The Hebrew Bible and Post Biblical Jewish sources
The Hebrew Bible speaks of angels as heavenly beings a number of whom as seen as members of God's heavenly court (Job 1:6, Isaiah 6:2f etc.). God appears like an great monarch surrounded by hosts of angels who serve and adore Him (see below on the `council of the Lord' and the `Supreme Concourse').
The Fallen, Primordial Angelic Beings (Gen. 6:1-4).
Genesis 6:1-4 King James Version
1. And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 3 And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. 4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men (Heb. Nephilim) which were of old, men of renown.
Genesis 6:1–4 gave birth to the idea of "fallen angels", angelic beings cast out of paradise by God. I and II Enoch and other early Jewish writings are important in this respect. For details see Stuckenbruck, Loren T.
- 2004 'The origins of evil in Jewish apocalyptic tradition : the interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 in the second and third centuries BCE.', in The fall of the angels. Leiden: Brill, pp. 87-118
- 2014 "Origins of Evil in Jewish Apocalyptic Tradition: The Interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 in the Second and Third Centuries B.C.E.” In The Myth of Rebellious Angels: Studies in Second Temple Judaism and New Testament Texts. Pages 1-35. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 1 335. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014.
- The Myth of Rebellious Angels: Studies in Second Temple Judaism and New Testament Texts. Mohr Siebeck, 2014.
This myth of `fallen angels' has a variety of interpretations in Babi-Baha'i sacred writ as does the story of a celestial angel or angels being commanded to bow down or prostrate before the first man Adam.
Among other functions, angels may mediate divine revelation (Zech 1:9,11ff; 2:2ff; Ezek 40:3) or, for example, have destructive function. Among the special categories of angels are the six-winged seraphim (sing. seraph, "burning ones" see Isaiah 6:2) and the cherubim (sing. cherub) "those nigh unto God" (see Gen ).
Post-exilic Judaism greatly increased the number, names and powers of the multiplying angelic host. It is reported in the Jerusalem Talmud that the names of the angels were introduced after the return from exile in Babylon (Rosh ha-Shanah, 1.2). The following [Arch] angels are among those well-known: Michael (Heb. mikā'el = "Who is like God?"), Gabriel (perhaps, "man of God"), Raphael (Gk. [loosely] = "God heals"), Uriel ("the Flame of God") and Phanuel ("the Face of God"). In the book of Daniel multitudes of angels "appear as powerful intermediate beings with personal names, archangels, watchers, and angels of the nations." (Bietenhard, 101). They also figure prominently in the Jewish sectarian Qumran texts or "Dead Sea Scrolls" as they do in such pseudepigaphical texts as the various `Books of Enoch' (I,II & III). Many Jewish Rabbis reckoned that many references to "angels" the result of the avoidance of anthropomorphic language about God (Urbach 1979:135).
The figure Metatron
Biblical and traditional references to angels are often viewed symbolically or poetically within Reform Judaism and other sectors of modern Judaism (JE 2:976).
The role of celestial divinities ("angels") in Zoroastrianism and Judaism has formed the basis of Christian and Islamic angeology. Angels figure quite prominently in the New Testament -- (Gk.) angelos occuring 175 times in this sacred scripture -- especially in the Synoptic infancy narratives (Matt ; Luke ), the post-crucifixion burial and resurrection accounts (esp. ) and in the Book of Revelation (e.g. 2:1ff; 5:11, 7:11 etc). Gabriel and the archangel Michael occupy a preeminent position as archangels in the New Testament (Luke 1:26; 1 Thess. 4:16). That human beings can be viewed as "angels" is probably indicated at Hebrews 13:2 (cf. Gen. 18:1ff) where we read: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." At his second coming, Jesus Christ is expected to be send out "angels" who will gather the "elect" (Matt 24:31 cf. Mark 13:27).
The church Fathers defended the created nature of angels who came to be seen as purely spiritual beings. Largely on the basis of alleged references to angelic beings by Paul (Eph. 1:21, Col. 1:16), their number and order were variously fixed. Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite (fl. c. 500 CE) in his influential, The Celestial Hierarchy spoke of three hierarchies of three choirs: (1) Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; (2) Dominions, Virtues, Powers; (3) Principalities, Archangels and Angels (see Rorem, 1993:49f). Catholic systematic theology has speculated about the substantiality, form and nature of the angels.
THE QUR'AN AND ISLAMIC SOURCES.
Often in the role of messengers of God, angels are mentioned more than fifteen times in the Qur'ān. The great angel Jibril/Jibrā'il or Gabriel ("The Mighty One of God") is three times named (2:97-8; 66:4). He came to be viewed as the primary bearer of divine revelation to Muhammad. In Islam the angel Gabriel
Believing Muslims affirm the existence of "God, His angels, His books, and His Messengers" (Qur'ān 2:285). As inhabitants of unseen celestial worlds, angels are usually understood to be independently existing celestial beings. They, according to the Qur'ān are immaterial beings "having wings two, three and four" (Qur'ān 35:1). The Muslim perspective has been thus summed up, "Angels are unseen beings of a luminoius and spiritual substance that act as intermediaries between God and the visible world." (Murata, 1987:324). Islamic angeology is complex and very highly developed. At he head of the angelic hierarchy according to some sources, stand "those brought nigh [unto God]" (al-muqarrabin; see Q. 4:172, 7:114, etc.), the karubiyyun ("Cherubim"). Most notable among them are the following four exalted angels who "rule the seven heavens and attend the divine throne" (Moezzi, EIr. 6:318):
- 1) Jibril / Jibrā'il (Gabriel), the angel of divine revelation.
- 2) Mikāl / Mikā'āl (Michael), the one like unto God (see Qur'ān 2:98)
- 3) Isrāfil,(Seraphiel), the Angel of the last trump on the Day of Resurrection.
- 4) `Izrā'il (Azrael), the principal Angel of Death (cf. Qur'ān 32:11),
Belief in Angels in Islamic Credal statements
The creation of the Seven Heavens, their Angelic Inhabitants and related angelogical traditions.
An Extract from the Qisas al-anbiya' (Stories of the Prophets) of Muhammad ibn 'Abd-Allāh al-Kisā`ī (fl. 10-11th cent. CE).
"The first heaven is of emerald and is called Birqi': its inhabitants are angels shaped like cows. God made one angel, named Ismael, the guardian. The second heaven is of ruby and is called Faydum: its inhabitants are angels shaped like hawks; the angel in charge of them is namecl Michael and is the guardian of this heaven. The third heaven is of topaz and is callecl Awn: its inhabitants are angels in the shape of eagles, and the angel responsible for them is namecl Saadiael. The fourth heaven is of silver and is called Arqlun: its inhabitants are angels shaped like horses, ancl the angel in charge of them is named Salsael. The fifth heaven is of red gold and is callecl Ratqa: the inhabitants are angels that look like the houris, and the angel in charge of them is callecl Kalkael. The sixth heaven is of white pearl and is called Rafqa: its inhabitants are angels that Iook like children, and the angel responsible for them is named Shan:khael. The seventh heaven is of Iight that glows like pearl and is callecl Gharibya: its inhabitants are angels in the form of men, ancl their warden is called Razqael" (trans. Thackston 1978:11-12)
al-Kisā`ī, Muhammad ibn 'Abd-Allāh (fl. 10-11thcent. CE?)
- Eisenburg, I (ed) Vita Prophetarumauctore Muhammed ben 'Abdallah al-Kisa'i, Lugduni-Batavorum: E. J. Brill. 2 vols. 1922-3.
- Kitab Bad` al-Khalq wa Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyā' li'l-Kisā'ī. ed. Dr. Ṭāhir ibn Muhammad al-`Amwarī / Dr. Ṭāhir ibn Sālimah. Tunis : Dār Nuqūsh `Arabiyya, 1998.
- Qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā' ed. Khālid Shibl. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-`Ilmiyya, 2004.
- Qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā'. trans. Wheeler M. Thackston, Jr., The Tales of the Prophets of al-Kisa’i. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1978.
Ka`ab al-Ahbar said: These angels never cease glorifying and praising God, be they stancling, sitting, kneeling, or prostrate, as He hath said: They praise him night and day; they faint not (21.20).
`Abdullah ibn Salam said: They are cherubim ancl seraphim, aligned and encompassing, kneeling and prostrate. Among them are those who stand between mountains of Iight on a high place ancl exalt Him and bless His name.
Wahb said: Above the seven heavens are veils in which are so imany angels that they do not even know each other. They praise God 111 chvers tongues, like peals of thunder.
Ibn Abhas said: Above the veils are angels whose legs have pierced as far as a five hundred years' journey below the seven heavens and earths. Their feet extend like white banners below the seventh and lowest earth..."
Jalal al-Din Rumi
In Discourse 17 of his Persian Fifi ma fihi (`In it what is in it'), Jalal al-Din Rumi gives a succinct Islamic definition of angels:
There are three kinds of creatures. First there are angels, who are pure spiritual conscience. Worship, service and the remembrance of God are their nature and their food. They eat and live upon that essence. Like fish in the water, their mattress and pillow are the water. Angels are pure and free of lust, so what favor do they gain by not yielding to such desires? Since they are free of these things, they have no struggle against them. If they obey God’s will it is not counted as obedience, for this is their nature, and they cannot be otherwise". (Trans. A.J. Arberry 19XX:139).
Primordial Archangels, Satan and the refusal of Iblìs (Diabolos) to worship Adam.
Satan (Heb. `Adversary', `Accuser') was not originally a proper name, but indicated a sometimes human or angelic functionary who later came -- under Zoroastrian influence (?) -- to be viewed as a malevolent source of evil.
Satan or Arabic al-Shaytan is mentioned in Babi-Baha'i texts or primary sources but is not regarded as a real primordial, once angelic figure. The story of Satan is demythologized. This such that he is not viewed as the source in evil within the cosmos or within human beings. All human beings have a lower or "satanic" self prompting to base thoughts and actions , along with a higher "angelic", true self, which generates good thoughts and deeds especially as prompted by the non-personified "Holy Spirit" whicg is the source of all good.
The Sufi glorification of Satan
"Ḥallāj is also renowned for having identified closely with and glorified Satan. In by far the longest essay of the Ṭawāsin, the “Ṭā-sin al-azal wa’l-eltebās,”he depicts Satan as the most sincere and uncompromising of monotheists for refusing to bow in obeisance to anyone but God, even when ordered by Him to do so before Adam with the threat that he would be cursed as punishment for disobedience (Ṭawāsin, pp. 41-55). This glorification of Satan became popular among many Persian Sufi authors influenced by Ḥallāj, including most famously Aḥmad Ḡazāli, ʿAyn-al-Qożāt Hamadāni and Ruzbehān Baqli (qq.v.; see EBLĪS II; Awn, 1983)." Extract from Jawid Mojaddedi, `ḤALLĀJ, ABU’L-MOḠIṮ ḤOSAYN' in EIr, Vol. XI, Fasc. 6, pp. 589-592.
P. J. Awn, Satan’s Tragedy and Redemption: Iblis in Sufi Psychology, Leiden, 1983.
Harut and Marut.
The angels Hārāt and Marāt are sometimes reckoned two fallen angels who came to be associated with ancient Babylon and with the origins of sorcery (see Q. 2:102; cf. Gen 6:1f).
The Angel of Death
عزرائيل ʿIzrāʾīl or ʿAzrāʾīl; Azra'el ....
Qur'an 32: 11 (Surat al-Sajdah), not directly named
Say, "He shall indeed take thee, the angel of death (malak al-mawt) who has been entrusted to you (wulilla bi-kum). Then unto thy Lord (rabbikum) shall thou be returned (turja`una)." (Q.32:11).
See further, Wensinck, A.J. "Isrāfāl". EI2 4:211. "`Izrā'āl". EI2 4:292-3. Totolli, EI3
The Writings of the Bab.
In his Tafsīr Sura wa’l-`aṣr (" Commentary on the Surah of `By the Afternoon [Declining Day]', Q. 103) the Bab makes an interesting and instructive interpretation of the Lawḥ al-Ḥafīz or Lawḥ al-Mahfuz when commenting on letter twenty-three, namely the letter "L" (al-lām), the aforementioned Surat al-`Asr :
"Then regarding the 23rd letter which is [the letter] "L" (al-lām).
-  It signifieth on this level al-lawḥ al-a`ẓam (the Most Great Tablet) in which exist all modalities (al-shu’ūn).
-  Then [additionally it] signifieth the lawḥ al-amr (Tablet of the Command) for God did not send down [reveal] a single thing except He had it penned therein.
-  Then [additionally it] signifies the Lawḥ al-Ḥafīz ("Preserved Tablet") which indicates the actions [deeds] of the totality of all the creatures such as have been encompassed in the knowledge of God.
-  Then [additionally it] signifieth the Lawḥ which God hath assuredly created through the knowledge of `Azrā’īl [Azrael, `The Angel of Death', cf. Q. 32:11] through the constriction of all who are possessed of a spirit [soul] (bi-qaby rūḥ kull dhiya rūḥ). For he gazeth upon it [the Lawḥ] at every moment. And he followeth the amr (Cause-command) of His Lord in accordance with what hath been stipulated, with the permissionof God -- exalted and glorified be He -- in the dictates (aḥkam) of that Lawḥ".
The Angelic Carriers of the Throne of God.
A good example of Jewish-rooted Islamic angelology is found in a tradition cited in the Tafsir (Qur'an Commentary) of Muqātil ibn Sulayman (d. Basra, 150/767). In the commentary upon a phrase of the celebrated `Throne Verse’ (āyat al-kursī = Q. 2:255) without iṣnād, Muqātil quotes the following from the Yemenite Jewish convert Wahb ibn Munabbih (d. c. 110/728 or 732/114) as deriving from the ahl al-kitāb (People of the Book) :
"Four angels (arba`at amlāk) bear the [divine] Throne [Seat] (kursī); every angel has four faces. Their legs are situated beneath the [foundational] Rock (al-ṣakhra) which lies beneath the lowest earth (al-arḍ al-suflā) extending [for the distance of] a 500 year journey; and between all [of the seven] earth[s] is a 500 year journey!
(1) [There is] an angel (malak) whose face has the appearance of a man [human form] (alā ṣūrat al-insān) which is the archetype of forms (sayyid al-suwar). Of God he requests sustenance for the progeny of Adam (al-rizq li’l-ādamiyyīn).
(2) [There is] an angel whose face has the appearance of the exemplar of cattle (`malak wajhihi alā ṣūrat sayyid al-an’`ām) which is the Ox (al-thawr). Of God he requests sustenance for the cattle [animals] (al-bahā’im).
(3) [There is] an angel whose face has the appearance of the exemplar of the birds (sayyid al-ṭayr) which is the Eagle [Vulture] (al-naṣr). Of God he requests sustenance for the birds (al-ṭayr)...
(4) [There is] an angel whose face has the appearance of the exemplar of beasts of prey ( ṣūrat sayyid al-sibā`) which is the Lion (al-asad). Of God he requests sustenance for the beasts of prey (al-sibā`). (Muqātil, Tafsir I: 213 on Q. 2:255b cf. V:222).
Muqātil b. Sulayman al- Khurasani (d. Basra, 150/767), Tafsīr Muqātil ibn Suklayman. ed. `Abd-Allāh Maḥmūd Shahḥata . 4+1 vols. Cairo: 1979-1988.
This exegetical tradition is rooted in a version of the quasi-cosmological Merkabah (`throne-chariot’) vision of the first chapter of the biblical book of Ezekiel which is foundational for later Jewish merkabah mysticism (cf. Ezek.10). While Ezekiel 1:10 mentions "the four faces of the four creatures which he visioned", the Ezekiel Targum understands this to signify four multi-faceted faces (4X16) equaling 64 faces (tr. Levey, AB13:20; cf. Rev 4:6b-9). That the qur’ānic image of the celestial Throne of God was of central cosmological and mystical importance is evidenced by the `Throne verse’ (Q. 2:255). This text was given a variety of symbolic and esoteric significances by the twelver Imams and by numerous Sufi and other exponents of the `ulūm al-ghayb (Islamic esoterica). Angelology informs dimensions of these fascinating traditions some of which are found in Shi`i-Shaykhi and Babi-Baha'i primary literatures.
Archangels, Cherubs and the Theophany on Sinai.
Various Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions interpret the Sinaitic theophany as an angelophany. On these lines is the exposition of Qur'an 7:143 in an Arabic recension of Muhammad b. `Abd-Allāh Kisā'ī's Qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā' ("Tales of the Prophets," c. 1200 C.E.):
"God commanded the angels of heaven to present themselves to Moses, and they passed before him in ranks. As he witnessed their different forms and the magnificence of their shapes, fear and trembling overcame him; and Gabriel passed his wing over Moses' heart to quieten his fear. Then Gabriel stood on the summit of the mountain and ascended to heaven." (Tr. Kisa'i 237)
Moses, we are led to believe, witnessed the Sinaitic manifestation of an whole heavenly host, including Gabriel whose calming act should be viewed as an anti-anthropomorphic paraphrase of the biblical mention of God's shielding Moses from His "glory" with His own "hand." (Exodus 33:22b)
Cherubim have played a significant role in Islamic angelology. The sixth Shi`i Imām, Ja`far al-Sādiq (d. 765 CE) spoke about primordial, proto-Shī`ī cherubim existing behind the heavenly, Divine Throne (al-`arsh) who are bearers of a stunningly bright Divine Light.
In another important Shī`ī tradition attributed to the sixth Imam Ja'far al‑Ṣādiq (d.c. 705 C.E.), the theophany before the Sinaitic mountain is explained in terms of the appearance of an allegedly proto-Shiite cherub :
"The Cherubim (al‑karūbiyyīn) are a [celestial] people of our [Shi`i] party created in primordial times (min al-khalq al-awwal). God established them behind the [divine] Throne (al‑`arsh). If the light (nūr) of but one of them should be distributed among the people of the earth, it would assuredly suffice them . . . When Moses asked his Lord what he asked [i.e., to see Him], He [God] commanded one of the Cherubim and it manifested itself unto the mountain (fatajallā i'l-jabal) and reduced it to dust" (Arabic text in Majlisi, Bihar 2nd ed. 13:223‑4. cf. Baha'-Allah, K.Iqan 61/50‑51.
Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i (d.1826) on the al-Karubiyyin, the Cherubim.
The early Qajar era sage, philosopher and mystic al-Ahsa'i in one pf fis numerous treatises had occasion to mention the Islamic cherubim (al-karubiyyin) :
"The intention of the heavenly Veil (al-hijab) [hiding God, the Throne] is the waystations of the cherubim (manazil al-karubiyyin) who are the embodiments of the Divine Unity (hayakil al-tawhid). Unto them the Commander of the Faithful [Imam `Ali ibn Abi Talib d. 40/661) alluded [in dialogue with Kumayl ibn Ziyad al-Nakha'i], as did [the sixth Imam Ja`far] al-Sadiq [d.c. 148/765] as recorded by [Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn al-Hasan] al-Saffar [d. 290/903] in the [book named] al-Baṣaʾir [al-darajāt, Ar. بَصائِر الدَرَجات ] as transmitted through a chain of tradition. He [Imam Ja`far] had been asked about the al-Karubiyyin, the Cherubim. He replied that they are a prople of our [Shi`i] party of primordial creation (al-khalq al-awwal) whom God fashioned beyond the Divine Throne (al-`arsh). If a portion of the Light (al-nur) of but one of them came to the people of the earth, it would indeed suffice them ...
The second Shaykhi leader Sayyid Kazim Rashti (d. 1259/1843) also reckoned that it was an angelic cherub who appeared before Moses on Sinai and expressed the Divine theophany (Lambden, 1987:89f, 165-6 fn.58).
In his Tafsir sūrat al‑kawthar (Commentary upon the Surah of the Abundance), the Bab quotes Qur'ān 7:143b and a tradition of Imam Ja`far al‑Sādiq to the effect that it was one of the cherubim of the party of `Alī which shone forth upon Mount Sinai and reduced it to dust. After quoting the same texts in his Tafsir al‑Hā' (INBMC 14:245) he writes:
"So when Moses asked his Lord that which he asked [i.e. to see Him] He [God] commanded a man (rajul) from among them [one of the heavenly cherubim ‑to appear before the Mount]. And he shone forth (tajallī) before it [Sinai] and the mountain [Sinai] was reduced to dust and Moses fell down in a swoon". (Refer T. surat al‑kawthar f. 94ff. For more details see also the letter of the Bab in reply to the questions of an unidentified tullab, (item 13, ) in INBMC 14:395ff.
The Commentary on the Sura of Abundance contains several paragraphs in which the Bāb underlines the absolute transcendence and incomprehensibility of God and rules out any notion of a direct theophany (tajallī) of His exalted Essence. Qur'an 7:143 is quoted and explained in terms of the manifestation of the proto-Shiite Cherub spoken about by Imam Ja`far Sādiq. Only seventy select Israelites were capable of sustaining the epiphany of this Cherub who represented the nafs or Logos-Self of God. (Cf. Exodus 24:9ff.) Direct vision of God is not possible. (see T. Kawthar f.9[b]ff).
While the tradition about the Cherub being the agent of the Divine Theophany is occasionally quoted and commented upon literally in early (pre-1848) Bābī scripture, the Bāb ultimately came to identify himself (as the expected Imam or Qā'im, or as one claiming independent prophethood and subordinate divinity) with the "Lord" (rabb) who addressed Moses from the Burning Bush. In one of his epistles to Muhammad Shāh (d. 1848) we read:
When Moses . . . asked God that which he asked [to see Him], God revealed His glory (tajallā) upon the Mountain (al-jabal) through the Light of one belonging to the party of `Alī [the Cherub] just as hath been made clear in that famous tradition [of Imam Ja`far] . . . By God! This was my Light (nurī for the numerical value of my name [`Alī Muhammad; i.e., 202] corresponds to that of the name of the "Lord" (rabb, also 202). Thus God, praised be He, said, "And when He revealed His glory (tajallā) before the Mountain . (Qur'ān 7:143b) " (INBAMC 64:109‑10)
According to Qur'an 7:143, Moses asked to see "his Lord" (rabbuhu). It was "his Lord" who "revealed His glory" (tajallī). Since the abjad numerical value of rabb (Lord) and the name `Alī-Muammad are both 202, the Bāb identified himself as the source of the epiphany (tajallī) before the Sinaitic mountain. The theophanic light (nūr) of the proto‑‑Shiite Cherub was ultimately the light of the Bāb.
In Qayyum al-asma' Sūrah 107, the Sūrat al-Nikah (The Surah of Matrimony), the Bab makes the following reference to the theophanic "Mount" Sinai of Baha' (divine Glory-Beauty) and pictures himself as a cherub like Arabian Youth uttering the eschatological proclamation of Divinity:
يا اهل العرش
اسمعوا ندائی من تلك الحروف المغنّية فی ذلك التّفسيرالاكبر علی لحن الحقّ من هذا الفتی العربیّ الكرّوبیّ علی طور البهاء انّی انا الحقّ لا اله الّا انا العلیّ و انّی قد كنت بالحقّ علی العالمين محيطاً ه
O Denizens of the Celestial Throne! (ahl al-`arsh)!
Hearken ye unto my Call from these letters (al-hurūf) warbled forth within this supreme Tafsir [Sūrat Yūsuf], in Truth, in very Truth, from this Cherubic (al-karrūbi) Arabian Youth (al-`fata al-`arabi) upon the Mount of Baha' (tūr al-baha'), [proclaiming], "I am indeed the True One (ana al-haqq), no God is there except I Myself, the Elevated. And I was indeed, in Truth All-Encompassing (al-muhit an) of all the worlds" (QA. CVII  INBMC III:222).
Lesser orders of Angels
There are myriads of lesser celestial angels apart from these four (Majlisi, Bihār 59:144ff). Islam knows of a pair of "guardian angels" who record the "good" and "bad" deeds of human beings (see. Q. 82:10-12; 86:4; Netton, 1992:35 cf. QA LXIII). According to many Islamic traditions, Munkar and Nakār are the names of the two angels who question the dead (`ashāb al-qabr cf. Q. ) in their graves -- after the "body" has been united to its "soul" prior to to the general Day of Judgement. Female celestial beings, the modest and beautiful `houris' (Ar. sing. ḥūrriyya, pl. ḥūr) of Paradise, are explicitly mentioned four times in the Qur'ān (44:54; 52:20; 55:72; 56:23). According to numerous Islamic traditions, these heavenly virgins ("houris") are to be companions of the blessed who enter Paradise (see Qur'ān 52:20 and numerous post-Qur'ānic traditions).
Ibn Sīnā (= Avicenna, d. 1037 CE) identified a series of Intellegences (`Angel-Intellects') with super intelligent cherubim, the tenth of which he considered to be Gabriel, the Holy Spirit (Corbin, 1990:46ff; Peters, 1973:629f). Like some later Muslim thinkers and mystics Ibn Sinā sometimes gave an allegorical interpretation to aspects of traditional angelology. Islamic angelology was greatly enriched by the founder of the Ishrāqī school, Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyā Suhrawardī (d. 1191 CE). He reinterpreted aspects of Zoroastrian angelology and wrote a treatise called, `The Sound of Gabriel's Wing' (trans. Thackston Jr. 1982: 26ff; Corbin, 1992, index). Islamic traditions about the Cherubim inform Bahā'-Allāh's references to the "cherubim" in his Kitāb-i āqān (text, 1934/1980: 61, trans. 1961:50-51), Hidden Words (HWP:77; karrūbiyyūn trans. Shoghi Effendi, "dwellers of the realms above") and other writings.
In various of their writings the Muslim harbingers of the Bābī-Bahā'ī religion, Shaykh Aḥmad al-Aḥsā'ī (d. 1826) and Sayyid Kāim Rashtī (d. 1843) interpret the Islamic angelological tradition. The former for example, proposed an intimate relationship between the Logos-like Muammadan Light (nūr) and the being of angelic figures such as Jibrā'il (= Gabriel; 30:xxx). In his Sharḥ al-qaṣīdā.. and other writings, Sayyid Kāẓim Rashti (d.1259/1843) indulges in sometimes elaborate angelological speculations. Utilizing kabbalistic type numerology (jafr) he occasionally refers to angels with exotic names which reflect Hebrew nomenclature. e.g. Hakthā'ēl, alā'ēl (cf. Ibrāhimi, Fihrist, 200f). On one level he regarded the cherubim (al-karrūbiyyīn) as the archetypal reality of the Prophets who possess corresponding names (Lambden, 1988:91-2, 165-6 fn. 58)
The Jinn and Azazel in Shaykhi and Babi-Baha'i Texts
The following paragraphs are an extract from the Lamben Phd (1980s/2002).
At one point within the Risala al-Qaṭifiyya, Shaykh Aḥmad al-Ahsa'i (d.1241/1826) makes the following statement pertinent to satanic activity and the effect of the Prophet Muhammad upon it,
I say that the satans (al-shayāṭīn) are the manifestations of primal ignorance (maẓāhir al-jahl al-awwal) just as the angels (al-malā’ikat) are the manifestations of the First Intellect (al-`aql al-awwāl). They were assuredly born of Iblīs whose pre-fall [`archangelic’] name was `Azāzīl (= "Empowered of God"). When he was expelled his name became Iblīs (Jawami` al-kilam 1/ii :126)
Here satanic beings become symbols of ignorance while angelic figures are indicative of the (Neoplatonic) First Intellect (al-`aql al-awwāl). Most likely derived from the Greek diabolos (διάβολος = `the slanderer’) the demoniac adversary Iblīs is one of the qur’ānic names of the mythic being who, after refusing to bow down before Adam, became the source of evil (Q.2:34, 7:11; 15:31-2, etc).1 Jewish traditions associate Azazel with the Levitical scapegoat (Lev.16:8,10; Azazel = Heb. ,
"Fierce of God", Wright, AB 1:536). Originally among the archangelic watchers `Azāzīl ultimately became a demoniac figure associated with the primordial [Arch] angelic fall.2 Black associates Azazel with Leviticus 16 and notes that he appears in fact as the forerunner or prototype in Hebrew demonology of Satan or Belial in later traditions." (Black, 1985:121).
1 Algar,`Eblīs’ EIr. VII:656-661; Awn, 1983:25f.
2 1 Enoch 8:1; 9:6; 4 Q180 1 7-8; Milik, 1976:314; Apocalypse of Abraham (c. 100
CE? originally Hebrew?) 13:6-14; etc; Janowski, `Azazel’ DDD:240f; cf. Enc.Jud. 3:999-1002.
It is likely that Shaykh Aḥmad derived his information about Azazel from Islamo-Biblica (Isrā’īliyyāt) informed tafsīr works. His comments are echoed, for example, by al-Ṭabarī in his massive Jāmi` al-bayān (1:100) and by Shaykh Tabrizi [al-Ṭabarsī] in weighty his Majma` al-bayān where the following prophetic tradition is recorded:
Before he committed rebellion Iblīs was one of the angels whose name was Azazel (`Azāzīl) He was reckoned among the watchers [inhabitants] of the earth (sākin al-arḍ); such watchers of the earth (sākin al-arḍ) were among the angels designated as jinn. When he waxed proud before God and refused to prostrate before Adam, he renounced him, cursed him, made him [a] Satan and named him Iblīs." (Majma` 1:83 on Q. 2:34)
Qur'an 72:1. = Say: `It hath been revealed to me [Muhammad] that a group of the Jinn hearkened and said, "We have indeed heard an astonishing recitation/Qur'an (qur'an an `ajib an)".
The existnce of the shadowy jinn (Ar.pl. الجن, al-jinn, sing. الجني, al-jinnī, jinnā, `genie'; loosely "spirits", cf. Arabic majnūn = "possessed", "Madness", "insane") is presupposed in the Qur'ān. Surah 72 is entitled Surat al-Jinn, "The Surah of the Jinn". The Jinn are mentioned around 22 times in eleven surahs the Qur'an (refer Kassis, Concordance, 604). Unlike human beings (created from "clay") they are said to have been created from "smokeless fire" (Q. 55:14;15:26f).
Jinn are not viewed by Bahā'īs as independently existing benevolent or malevolent supernatural beings. References to them in the Qur'ān, traditions and Bābī-Bahā'īs scripture, are generally held to be symbolic. Shoghi Effendi reckoned that the jinn of the Qur'ān, "have no positive existence of any kind." (Hornby, Lights2 No. 1667). The satanic Iblīs, reckoned one of the jīnn and a `fallen angel' in the Qurān (Q.18:50;2:34, etc) is also interpreted symbolically in Bahā'ī scripture.
■ Bābī and Bahā'ī Angelology
In a number of his works the Bāb refers to angels often repeating or interpreting Islamic references allegorically. In his earliest extant work, the incomplete Tafsīr sūrat al-baqara ("Commentary on the Sura of the Cow" 1843-4), the Bāb gives a number of interpretations to the word "angels" (al-malā'ika) in Qur'ān 2:34. He first seems to give them a qabbalistically oriented interpretation, by stating that "angels are the mediatory realities which are as letters (rawābi ka-'l-ḥurūfāt). Among other things he adds that they represent "categories of Lordship" (shu'ūnāt al-rububiyya) through which the Divine theophany (tajallī) is realized. God made them "transcendental mediators" (rawābi al-`alawiyyāt) which are the "essences of things mundane" (jawāhir al-sufliyyāt).
A wide ranging significance for "angels" is presupposed when the Bāb states that this term signifies everything which is other than the Divine Will (al-mashiyyā = the primordial creative reality) and its related spheres (kuwarihā). The existence and operations of the "angels" is carried out by the leave of Imām `Alī who is privy to full knowledge of them (INBMC 69:119f). He and other early Shī`ī worthies (i.e. Salmān and Miqdād) are indicated in the "deep esoteric" (bāṭin) sense of "angels" (ibid, 131 on 2:34).
Within the Qayyum al-asmā' the Bāb states that "the angels and spirit[s] (al-malā'ika wa'l-rūḥ) arrayed rank upon rank descend, by the leave of God, upon this Gate [the Bāb] and circle round this Focal Point in a far-stretching [ cosmic/ alphabetical] line." (QA XXIV tr. SWB:50 cf. Qur'ān 78:38).
In his Persian Bayān and other writings, the Bāb gave an allegorical interpretation to many aspects of Islamic eschatology (Lambden, Eschatology, EIr.) including the matter of the interrogation of the dead by Munkar and Nakār prior to the Day of Judgement. In Persian Bayān 2:10 he gives a detailed allegorical interpretation of the expected Islamic `questioning in the grave.' It is interpreted as a this worldly questioning about faith-status in the "tomb" of the body during the dispensation of `Him whom God shall make manifest' (the Bābī Messiah = Bahā'-Allāh). Human believers take the place of Munkir and Nakīr in the questioning role.
It is reported that the Bāb interpreted the twin, probably `fallen angels' Hārut and Mārut allegorically. He related them with the possibly veiling nature of undue attention to grammatical rules which distract from the true senses of sacred scripture:
"Hārūt and Mārūt are two fixed habits, which, descending from the superior world, have become imprisoned in the well of the material nature, and teach men sorcery. And by these [two] habits are meant Accidence [naw] and Syntax [sarf ] from which, in the Beyānic Dispensation, all restrictions have been removed." (words attributed to the Bāb in the Hasht Bihisht, cited Browne, New History, 422).
Bahā'ī cosmology presupposes the existence of other "worlds" and universes apart from and beyond this physical world. In Bahā'-Allāh's Sura-yi vafā such "worlds" (al-`awālim) are said to be "countless in their number", "infinite in their range" and basically beyond human comprehension. Bābī and Bahā'ī scripture contains numerous references to celestial realms inhabited by all manner of spiritually evolved beings (e.g. the `Supreme Concourse', see below). While Bahā'ī scripture affirms the existence of life on other planets in the universe[s] and "creatures apart from these [human] creatures (khalq ba`da khalq"; see Gl LXXVIII), such references do not seem to presuppose the existence of orders of "angels" as spoken about figuratively in past sacred texts, popularly conceived, or as a distinct order of superhuman celestial beings. Explicit references to "angels" as a celestial order of beings distinct and separate from spiritually evolved human beings -- existing in this material world or in the spiritual worlds after death -- is lacking. Highly spiritually evolved human beings can be considered "angels" when alive on earth or after they have passed away. Being angelic however, does not imply the perfection of spirituality. For Bahā'is spiritual progress never comes to an end for human travellers of the spiritual path. Progress towards God is eternal path which has no end.
In Islam "angels" have sometimes been thought of as having a role in maintaining or controlling forces active in the cosmos, the affairs of the natural order (e.g. winds, eclipses, paths of the stars, etc., cf. Qur'ān 79:5; Moezzi, EIr 6:318). In one of his meditations Bahā'-Allāh gives a human psychologizing interpretation to the "angels of fire and snow" (malā'ikāt... min al-nār wa'l-thulj) traditionally believed to exist and be responsible for controlling such incompatible natural phenomena as "fire" and "ice" (see P&M 94:108 trans, 120). These angels find early reference in certain recensions of the the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch (ADD REFS). `Abdu'l-Bahā is reported to have interpreted the angelic figures `Isrā fil (a life infusing angel) and `Izrā'il (a life removing angel) as the powers of "composition" and "decomposition" respectively (Goodall, 1908:43-4).
Aside from indicating those forces active in the natural world the term "angel" can also indicate supernatural spiritual bounties, forces or powers:
"...the meaning of `angels' (Per. firishtagān) is the confirmations of God (tā'idiyyāt-i- ilāhiyya) and His celestial powers (qawā'-yi raḥmāniyyih)." (SWAB 39:78, trans, 81).
Perhaps the dominant of Bahā'ī interpretation of scriptural angelology is symbolic interpretation or the aried application of angelic qualities to to human beings. Spiritual men and women are seen as "angels". Whilst living in this world they are detached from it:
"Likewise angels (Per. firishtagān) are blessed beings (nufās-i mubārakā) who have severed all ties with this nether world, have been released from the chains of self and of the desires of the flesh, and anchored their hearts to the heavenly realms of the Lord" (SWAB 78:81; trans, 81).
The existence of infinite transcendent spiritual worlds is an important aspect of Bahā'ī cosmology. Spiritually advanced human beings may also be thought of as "angels" after they have died and passed on to one of the infinite heavenly worlds of the afterlife. As this mortal world and the worlds after death are not completely separated, they may mediate spiritual blessings to persons in this world. This is not to say though that they are transformed "angels "after mythology of past ages, celestial winged beings. The spiritually advanced souls who have passed away may be thought of as "angels" in the sense of being celestial communicators of divine blessings. This is not to say, however, that Baha'is view the afterlife as having inhabitants focused upon this world and its mundane affairs.
The Supreme Concourse (al-malā' al-a`lā)
The Hebrew Bible has a clear doctrine of heavenly beings who make up the `council of the Lord' which probably lies behind the Qur'anic-Islamic idea of the mala' al-a`la (Supreme Concourse'). Israelite and other prophets were believed to have a relationship with this `council of the Lord' some. in fact, being among their number. Worth noting in this connection is the following passage from the 1997 article of Conrad (see bib. below) :
Of course, other passages in the Old Testament prescribe other means for determining
who is a true prophet. For example, Jer. 23.18-22 (see also 1 Kgs 22. 19-28) understands that it is only the true propbet 'who has stood in the council of the LORD' (vv. 18 ard 22). This passage, of course, relates to Zechariah whose visions suggest that he is standing in the council of the LORD.
The qur'ānic expression "supreme concourse" (Q. 37:8; 38:69; as Shoghi Effendi often translated, al-malā' al-a`lā' is quite frequent in Bahā'ī scripture. On one level this expression describes heavenly beings who mediate spiritual powers to this earthly world. At one point in the Kitāb-i aqdas, (Most Holy Book, c. 1873) Bahā'-Allāh states that after his ascension his spiritual aid will be vouchsafed by "the hosts of the Concourse on high (junād min al-malā' al-a`lā) and a company of favoured angels (prominent Bahā'īs? qabāl min al-malā'ika al-muqarribīn)" (Aqdas, 53:38#). `Abdu'l-Bahā' stated that "The faithful are ever sustained by the Presence of the Supreme Concourse". He counted Jesus, Moses, Elijah (cf. Matt 17:1f etc) and Bahā'-Allāh, as well as elevated souls and martyrs, among the members of this elevated assembly, this sublime, celestial retinue (ABL:97).
The Teachings do not contain any explanation of what is meant by Guardian Angel. (26 January 1939 to an individual) Letter of Shoghi Effendi.
The above letter of Shoghi Effendi does not categorically reject the existence of "Guardian Angels" though this terms is most likely for Baha'is deceased relatives and other sanctified souls who channel spiritual grace and intellestual realization towards designated or select living persons. `Abdu'l-Baha' indicated that elevated human, celestial beings, pray for persons living and living individuals may pray for the dead. There are many Babi-Baha'i prayers for the dead most notably Ziyarat Nameh (Visitation) texts in Arabic and Persian to be recited in commemoration and celebration of deceased friends, spiritual worthirs and notables of various kinds, Within Babi-Baha'i primary sources are hundreds, if not thousands of visitation alwah or sacred. scriptural Tablets.
Heavenly "Maidens" , houris, Ar. ḥurr / ḥūriyya)
Bābī and Bahā'ī scripture contains numerous references to the houris (Ar. ḥūr) or maidens of Paradise (see AA 3:133f). The Bāb sometimes uses maiden imagery in his writings. He called the XXIXth chapter (surah) of his first major work, the Qayyūm al-asmā' (mid. 1844 CE), the "Surah of the Maiden (sūrat al-ḥuriyya)". At one point in this lengthy Arabic work, he, speaking with the voice of God, addresses the people f the earth and proclaims, "I am the Maid of Heaven (al-ḥūriyya) begotton by the Spirit of Bahā (al-bahā')..." (QA XXIX trans. SWB:54). Bahā'-Allāh applied this reference to himself in his Sūat al-Bayān and thus claimed to be the heavenly Maiden. In his Book of Names (Kitāb al-Asmā'), the Bāb, drawing upon the Qur'ān (esp. Q. 56:22-23) refers to "houris like hidden pearls" (INBMC 29:90).
Bahā'-Allāh, furthermore, named certain of his Tablets after these female beings, the "maidens" (houris) who figure prominently within certain of them. This imagery derived most closely from the writings of the Bab especially from the abovementioned Surat al-ḥūriyya of the Qayyūm al-asmā'. Dating from the Baghdad period are the ḥūr-i` ujāb ("The Wondrous Maiden" c.1858?), Lawḥ-i ḥuriyya ("Tablet of the Maiden") and the Munājat-i ḥūriyya ("Prayer of the Heavenly Maiden"). Such "maidens" references figure prominently in other Tablets of this period, including the Lawḥ-i Mallāḥ al-quds ("Tablet of the Holy Mariner", 1863). They are also found in alwah (Tablets) of the Edirne (1863-1868) and West Galilean (`Akka - Acre) period (1868-1892). The Lawḥ-i ru'yā ("Tablet of the Vision", 1873) is especially important in this respect. URL =
The qur'ānic references to the "houris" who are to be heavenly companions of the righteous are symbolically interpreted in Bahā'ī scripture. In the Kitāb-i-Iqān, Bahā'-Allāh makes it clear that the "houris" (hūrīs) who are the companions of the blessed are essentially the deep, inner meanings of sacred scripture; the "húrís of inner meaning". Both the Bab and Bahā'-Allāh in many writings claimed to bring the deeper or batini senses of the Qur'an and other sacred scriptures. They claimed to unveil the mysteries of the Divine Word in the eschatological age or promised age (KI:54 [text]/45-6 [tr.]).
Notes: Shoghi Effendi often translated ḥūriyya ("houris") by the English word "maiden". He wrote that symbolically speaking it was the "Most Great Spirit" in the form of a "Heavenly Maiden" (ḥūriyya) which informed Bahā'-Allāh of his mission (ESW: cf. SAQ 16:85). Certain references to the heavenly maidens found in Bahā'-Allāh's Tablets as translated by Shoghi Effendi, has led some western Bahā'īs to speculate that a future Manifestation of God (expected after a millennium or more) might be female though there seems to be no authoritative text to substantiate this viewpoint..
Seraphim & Cherubim
It has been noted that cherubim feature in Bahā'ī scripture. A Seraph (= one of the Seraphim) in the form of the (Islamic) angel Isrā'fīl (loosely = Seraphiel), the one expected to sound the trumpet-blast signaling the onset of the Day of Judgement, is also among the categories of angels mentioned in Bābī-Bahā'ī scripture. In the Kitāb-i-Iqān for example, the "Seraph of God" (so Shoghi Effendi's translation of "Isrā'fāl") is mentioned as one of God's "servants". He is referred to by Shoghi Effendi as an "angel of the Judgement Day" (KI Ar. 88 trans. SE* 75 cf. Wensinck, EI2 Isrāfīl).
A Traditional Islamic Image of Gabriel.
Heb. גַּבְרִיאֵל, (Gabrīʾēl) - Greek Ⲅαβριήλ (Gabriēl) - Arabic جبريل (Jibrīl or Jibrāʾīl)
Gabriel meaning "God is my Strength/Might" is mentioned three times in the eighth and ninth chapters of the Biblical book of Daniel (Dan. 8:15,16; 9:21) and twice in the first chapter of the New Testament Gospel of Luke (1:19, 26), In Luke 1:19 we read, "And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you [Zechariah], and to bring you this good news [of the birth of your son, John the Baptist" (RSV trans.). Here Gabriel who stands in the presence of God gives Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist the good news of the birth of his son John the Baptist. Subsequently Gabriel gives Mary the good news of the birth of Jesus, Thus at Luke 1:26 we read, "In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth [the scene of the birth of Jesus]. 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary."
Closely associated with the prophet Muhammad (c. 570-632 CE) the angel Gabriel (Arabic, Jibrāʾīl or Jibrīl) is three times directly mentioned in the Qur'an (2:97-8; 66:4 cf. 53:1-11 not directly named).
Gabriel is quite frequently mentioned in symbolic terms in Bahā'ī scripture. At one point in the Kitāb-i-Iqān his symbolic significance is indicted in the phrase, Jibrā 'il-i waḥy (lit. "Gabriel of Divine Inspiration") which is translated by Shoghi Effendi as "Gabriel, the Voice of Inspiration" (KI:89/75). In one of his Tablets Bahā'-Allāh responds to a question about Gabriel, and seems to equate himself and his power of revelation with the outward, exterior personification of the angel Gabriel:
"In view of that which which thou asked about Gabriel, did Gabriel rise up before the Face [= Bahā'-A'llāh] and exclaim, `O Thou questioner! Know thou that when the Tongue of the Divine Oneness (lisān al-aḥadiyya) uttereth His Sublime Word, "O Gabriel Thou shalt see Me [Bahā'-Allāh; cf. Q. 7:143) existing in the most comely of forms (aḥsan al-ṣūr), in the most concrete of existences (ẓāhir al-ẓāhir).' Be not astonished at this for thy Lord is assuredly, Mighty and All-Powereful." ( Ar. text cited Māzandārāni, Asrar al-athar III:8).
According to Shoghi Effendi is was "the Angel Gabriel" in the form, symbolically speaking, of the "Most Great Spirit" -- personified as a "Maiden" ("houri") -- which appeared to Bahā'-Allāh in 1852/3 at the time of his inaugural mystical experience in the Siyāh Chāl ("Black Pit") dungeon in Tehran (GPB:101).
Bahā'ī scripture does not affirm the reality of angelic or archangelic beings who were banished from Paradise. Scriptural references to a class of `fallen angels' are symbolically interpreted as are references to Satan, demons and other varieties of malevolent beings (Hornby, 1988:1730ff). They generally indicate human opponents of the religion of God or their lower, undeveloped persona.
Riḍwān as an angelic keeper of Paradise.
Riḍwān facing Gabriel and Muhammad
Occurring twice in the Qur'ān (Q. 9:21 and 57:20), the word Riḍwān (lit. "Good pleasure") is sometimes understood by Muslims to be the proper name of that angel which is in charge of Paradise (Majlisi, Biḥār ADD ref. XX:XX?). In his Qayyūm al-asmā' and other writings the Bāb quite frequently addresses the inmates or "inhabitants of Paradise" (ahl al-ridwān). He quite frequently uses this term as in ADD
The word Riḍwān is commonly used in Bābī and Bahā'ī scripture. Among other things it designates the annual festival (April 21-May 2) observed by Bahā'īs in commemoration of Bahā'-Allāh's declaration of his mission in 1863, in the garden of Najīb Pāshā on the outskirts of Baghdad where this declaration took place and the garden of Na`mayn near `Akkā /Acre Palestine/Israel ADD
The Bahā'ī demythologization of Apocalyptic angeology
Both the Bible and the Qur'ān speak of the appearance of angels at the time of the second coming of Jesus and/ or the advent of Divinity (see Matt 24:31 Mk 13: Qur'ān 2:111). While in the 51st surah of the Qayyūm al-asmā' (51:200) the qur'ānic reference to the advent of God with an entourage of angels (Q. 2:111) is restated, in the 67th Sāra of the same work, the Bāb, rewriting and interpreting Qur'ān 2:110 states, "Muhammad will come upon a cloud with his angels (al-malā'ikat) round about him..". The advent of Divinity with accompanying angels becomes the eschatological appearance of Muhammad. A phrase from the same qur'ānic verse seems to be related to the expected eschatological Dhikr or Dhikr-Allah (messianic "Remembrance of God" = the hidden Imām / the Bāb) when in QA 88:355 it is stated,
"We, verily, created the angels around the [messianic] Dhikr."
References to the eschatological manifestation of "angels" are often demythologized in Bahā'ī scripture. Interpreting the Gospel references to the appearance of the "Son of Man" (= Jesus) and his sending of his "angels" (see Matt 24:31 cf. Mark 13:27) in his Kitāb-i īqān (c.1862 CE), Bahā'-Allāh interprets these "angels" (malā'ika) as human beings of exalted spirituality (vujādāt-i qudsiyyih / nufus-i muqaddisih): persons who,
" reinforced by the power of the spirit, have consumed, with the fire of the love of God, all human traits and limitations, and clothed themselves with the attributes of the most exalted Beings (`āliyyīn) and of the Cherubim (karrūbiyyān)." (KI:61 [text)/50-51 [trans.]).
Referring to this same text, `Abdul-Bahā has stated that Bahā'īs may be such "angels": CORRECT THIS
et thoughts pure, your eyes consoled, your ears opened..." (TAB 1:145 = BWF:360).
Maẓāhir-i īlāhī (Manifestations of God) as angels.
It is sometimes the case that the pre-existent Messengers or Manifestations of God (maẓhar-i ilāhī) are themselves referred to in sacred writ as angels. There are angelomorphic (spiritually formed as an angelic being) aspects to the depiction of Jesus in the New Testament and the writings of later Christian theologians. References are made today to Angelomorphic Christologies (see bib.). This term is indicative of views of the exalted sanctity of Jesus expressed in angelomorphic terms. The mediators of the Divine Father have been pictured as being angelic in form and nature as they communicate the Divine will to humankind. They have been also been considered elevated Archangels of the highest order. ADD
The Bahā'ī doctrine of the Manifestation of God is, in a sense, an Angelophany. The "seventh angel" referred to in Rev. 11:15 is interpreted by `Abdu'l-Bahā as "a man qualified with heavenly attributes"; apparently a "Divine Manifestation ( ADD )" (= the Bāb?)" (SAQ:56)
General and Miscellany
- 1990 A Book of Angels. New York: Ballantine Books
- "Angels" in ER. (ed. Eliade) 1:282-286.
- 1967 A Dictionary of Angels XX:XX
EREL. = Eliade, M. (et al., eds.)
- Encyclopedia of Religion. London: Macmillan & Free Press: New York, 1987.
- 1990 Angels, An Engangered Species. London: Boxtree Ltd.
Lambourn Wilson, Peter.
- 1993 The Little Book of Angels. Shaftesbury, etc.: Element Books.
- A History of Zoroastrianism 3 Vols. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1975-8?
- `Amesha Spentas' Encyclopedia Iranica I:933-6.
Judaism & Christianity
- 1992 The Great Angel, A Study of Israel's Second God. London: SPCK.
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Conrad, Edgar W.
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Davidson, Maxwell J.
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Segal, A. E.
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Stuckenbruck, Loren T.
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Urbach, E. E.
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Bahā'-Allāh,Mirza Husayn `Ali Nuri
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Māzandarāni, Fādil, Mirza Assadu'llāh
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