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Why Religion?

Discover Islam


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I take refuge in God from the accursed Satan.
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

The Angels and the Spirit descend in (the Night of Power) by the leave of their Lord. Say: ‘The Spirit is of my Lord’s Command.


Since our sensory powers are limited, it is not wise to deny outright the existence of realms beyond our senses. Also, we know so little about existence that what we do know is considerably less than what we do not. Our sciences are still in their “childhood,” and the future will witness dazzling scientific discoveries and developments.

Sciences are supported by theories and develop through trial-and-error investigation of those theories. Numerous “established” facts were once considered false, and many other “established” facts are now known to be incorrect. We accept unquestionably, and without any scientific basis, the existence of many things. Since the beginning of time, most people have believed in the existence of the spirit and angels, jinn and Satan. So, it would seem to be more scientific to allow their existence in theory and then investigate it. Denying their existence is unscientific, insofar as such a judgment or conclusion must be based on concrete proof. No one can prove and therefore scientifically claim the non-existence of the invisible realm of existence.

Many physical qualities, such as heat and cold, and such abstract qualities as beauty and charm, and feelings of joy, sorrow, and love, can be experienced directly and measured to some degree. Materialists attribute these to some biochemical processes in the brain, and some scientists (like psychologists and psychiatrists) still try to explain them by natural or physical laws. However, our nonphysical side (namely, our feelings, beliefs, potentialities, desires, and so on that vary enormously from individual to individual, although everyone has the same material elements) is too profound to be explained by physics, chemistry, or biology. Believers can (and do) observe that the stronger their belief, the deeper and more regular their worship; and the higher their morality, the more radiant and lovable their faces appear to be. Can this fact be explained in merely physical terms?

The existence of the angels and other spiritual beings is as evident as the existence of human beings and animals

It can be argued that the existence of the angels and other spiritual beings is as evident as the existence of man and animals. Reality and universal wisdom require that the heavens should have conscious inhabitants of their own as does the earth. These inhabitants of many different kinds are called ‘angels and spirit beings’ in the language of the Shari‘a.

It is true that reality and universal wisdom require the existence of the angels and other spirit beings because the earth, although insignificant in size compared with the heavens, is continually being filled with and emptied of conscious beings. This clearly indicates that the heavens, which resemble decorated castles having awe-inspiring towers, are filled with living beings who are the perfect class of living creatures. These beings are conscious and have perception, and they are the light of existence; these are the angels, who, like the jinn and mankind, are observers of the universal palace of creation and students of this book of the universe and heralds of their Lord’s Sovereignty. Through their comprehensive worship, they manifest the praises of God by the whole of creation.

The universe requires the existence of the angels because the finely adorned works of art and meaningful decorations and purposeful, delicate embroideries displayed in it demand sentient beings who will reflect upon those perfections, and praise and commend them in full appreciation. Just as a beauty needs a lover, and food is given to the hungry, so the food for the souls and the hearts, provided through this infinite beauty of art, is, first of all, related to the existence of the angels and other spirit beings. The infinite beauty and majesty of the universe calls for a response, which has to be an infinite duty of contemplation and servanthood, but since the capacity of the jinn and mankind is inadequate for this duty, countless angels and spirit beings fill the great mosque of existence with rows arranged in worship of the Creator. This is what the bands of the angels and other spirit beings do in every corner of the universe. Each band has a duty of servanthood particular to itself. This is implied by some Prophetic sayings, and the order of the universe manifests it: some mobile objects, from certain heavenly bodies like stars to raindrops, for example, provide vehicles for the angels, who mount them by the leave of God and travel through the material world praising and glorifying God.

Furthermore, certain sorts of living bodies provide vehicles for some souls. For example, there is a hadith that the souls of the people of Paradise enter into ‘green birds’ of Paradise in the Intermediate Realm--the world of the grave--and travel around Paradise in them, and those birds, and even some flies are from these groups of living bodies. These souls, by the authority of God, enter into these living things and observe the wonders of creation through their senses and perform the glorification of the Creator on their behalf. Reality and the Divine Wisdom require this, since, just as God has breathed life into gross clay and muddy water, which have little to do with the spirit, and produced numerous conscious beings, so too, He surely creates certain sorts of intelligent beings from light and other subtle substances like air and electricity as they are more appropriate for the creation of the spirit and life.

A parable to understand the existence of angels

If you wish to understand how true and rational it is to accept the existence of angels and other spirit beings, and as the Quran shows, how contrary to truth and wisdom, and what a superstition and foolishness it is not to accept them, consider the following parable :

Two men, a wild nomad and a civilized person, went to Istanbul. In a remote corner of that well-ordered and magnificent city they came across an old building which contained a factory. They observed that the factory was full of miserable workers. They also noticed that there were numerous living beings in the neighborhood, some living upon vegetables and some eating fish only. Whilst they were watching these people, they had a vision of palaces and castles, amongst which were huge workshops. However, they could see no inhabitants living in them, either because of their defective eyesight or because the inhabitants were hiding. There was no comparison between the living conditions of the old building and these palaces, and because of this, the wild man of the desert concluded that these palaces were devoid of inhabitants. His friend, who was civilized and sensible, admonished him by saying, ‘O you unfortunate man, you can see this poor, dilapidated factory is inhabited by workers-somebody very powerful and wise is employing them, and replacing them by new ones. Furthermore, there is no empty space around the factory, everywhere has been made use of, so how is it possible that those palaces and castles should be unoccupied? They are certainly inhabited by beings who have different conditions of life; you should never consider them unoccupied, you cannot see those inhabitants only because they hide themselves. Because you cannot see, something does not mean that it does not exist.

The earth, although many times smaller than other heavenly bodies, is so densely inhabited by countless living creatures that even a most insignificant part of it is the home of numerous living things like microorganisms. This shows that those infinite firmaments with numerous stars and constellations are inhabited by conscious, living beings created from fire, light, air, ether, and other subtle forms of matter. Such living beings, in the language of the Holy Qur’an and the pure teaching of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, are known as angels, jinn and spirit entities, and like earthly creatures, they have their kinds. The angel in charge of a raindrop is certainly different from the one in charge of the sun, and the jinn are also of different kinds.

Life and angels

The perfection of a thing’s existence is through life. Moreover, life is the real basis and the light of existence, and consciousness, in turn, is the light of life. It is also life that constitutes the foundation of everything. Life appropriates everything for each living thing, and only through life can a living creature claim that everything belongs to it. The whole world, it can claim, is its home and the entire universe is its property conferred upon it by the Owner.

Just as light causes (concrete) things to be seen and, according to one theory, is the real cause of color, so life may be said to unveil the creation. It is life again which causes the qualities to be realized, and the archetypes to gain material existence, thus making the particular acquire universality and universals be concentrated in a particular.

Life also causes existence to attain to perfection and achieve the rank of possessing a soul, by making countless factors unite into a whole to become a sentient, percipient being. Furthermore, life is the manifestation of oneness in the realm of multiplicity, and the reflection of unity in plurality. See how lonely a substance is without life, even though it is as big as a mountain. Its interactions are restricted to its own location, and whatever else exists in the universe means nothing to it since it is unconscious of other existents. Now observe a minute living being such as a honeybee, what close interactions it has with the universe, particularly with its environment of plants and flowers--so that it can properly argue that the earth is the garden or the market- place where it does business. The bee has, through the unconscious instinctive senses which enthuse and motivate it, in addition to its external and inner senses, close relations and familiarity with most of the species in the world.

If the effect of life upon the humble honeybee is so great, how much more will it be upon man, as it expands into his consciousness, reason and intellect. Man, by means of reason and consciousness, which are the light of life, travels through the higher worlds of corporeal and spiritual existence as easily as he passes from one room to another in his house. That is, just as that conscious and living being may go in spirit as a guest to those worlds, those worlds too come as guests to his mirror-like spirit by being reflected there.

Life is a most manifest evidence of God’s Unity, a greatest source of His bounty and a most subtle manifestation of His Compassion; it is also a most hidden and delicate embroidery of His art. Life is really so mysterious and subtle that even the life of plants, which is the simplest of the levels of life, and the awakening of the life-force in seeds as the beginning of a plant’s life, is still not fully understood. Although it is something commonly observed by man, it has remained a mystery from the time of Adam, since the human mind has been unable to grasp the nature of life.

Life in both its outer or material and inner or immaterial aspects is pure. The Divine Power creates life directly without the participation of causes, while on the other hand It employs natural causes in the creation of everything else. The reason why God operates behind the veil of natural causes in the creation of things other than life is that man, being unable to discern Divine Wisdom in some occurrences, might ignorantly ascribe to Him some things which he deems unpleasant.

In short: It may be argued that inanimate things cannot be regarded as really existent, not being substantially different from non-existence. Life is the light of the spirit, and consciousness is the light of life. Since life and consciousness are so important, and a perfect harmony evidently prevails over the whole creation, and again since the universe displays a firm cohesion, and as this small ever-rotating sphere of ours is full of countless living and intelligent beings, so it is equally certain that those heavenly castles, those lofty constellations, should have conscious living inhabitants peculiar to themselves. Just as the fish live in water, so those spirit beings may exist in the heat of the sun. Fire does not consume light, on the contrary, light becomes brighter because of fire. We observe that the Eternal Power creates countless living beings from inert, solid substances and transforms the densest matter into subtle living compounds by life. Thus It radiates the light of life everywhere in great abundance and furnishes most things with the light of consciousness.

From this we can conclude that the All-Powerful, All-Wise One would certainly not make subtle forms of matter like light and ether, which are close to and fitting for the spirit, without life and consciousness; indeed He creates animate and conscious beings in great numbers from light, darkness, ether, air and even from meanings (conceived) and words (uttered). As He creates numerous species of animals, He also creates from subtle forms of matter numerous different spirit creatures. One of their kinds are the angels, others are the varieties of spirit beings and jinn.*

*Scientists restrict the concept of life to the conditions that obtain on or beneath the outer surface of our planet. Therefore, when they look for extraterrestrial life, they look for conditions that are the same as or closely correspond to the conditions for life on Earth. But surely, if they had retained a sufficient sense of the absolute wonder of life (an aspect of life’s being a direct manifestation of the Ever-Living), they should not have ruled out forms and conditions of life currently beyond their understanding. In their view, the arguments put forward by Said Nursi for the existence of angels and other spirit beings may not be worthy of consideration. However, the latest discoveries in deep-sea biology may persuade them to review his arguments. V. Tunniclife writes:

All life requires energy, and nearly all life on Earth looks to the sun as the source. But solar energy is not the only kind of energy available on the Earth. Consider the energy that drives the movement and eruption of the planet’s crust. When you look at an active volcano, you are witnessing the escape of heat that has been produced by radioactive decay in the Earth’s interior and is finally reaching the surface. Why should there not be biological communities associated with the same nuclear energy that moves continents and makes mountains? And why could not whole communities be fuelled by chemical, rather than, solar energy?

… Most of us associate the escape of heat from the interior of the Earth with violent events and unstable physical conditions, with extreme high temperatures and the release of toxic gasses-circumstances that are hardly conducive to life. The notion that biologic communities might spring up in a geologically active environment once seemed fantastic. And until recently, few organisms were known to survive without a direct or indirect way to tap the sun’s energy. But such communities do exist, and they represent one of the most startling discoveries of 20th century biology. They live in the deep ocean, under conditions that are both severe and variable. (Discover, 8.20.93)

Matter serves life, not the other way

As may be established empirically, matter is not essential so that existence may be made subject to it and be dependent upon it. Rather, matter subsists by means of a meaning, and that meaning is life, it is spirit.

Also, as may be established through observation, existence is not in the service of matter so that everything should be ascribed to it. Rather, matter exists so that it may serve for the perfection of a reality, which is life, and spirit is the foundation of life.

Also, it is evident that matter does not rule over existence so that perfections may be sought from it. Rather, it is dominated; it is subject to the decree of a fundamental and fashioned according to the dictates of that decree. That fundamental is life, spirit, consciousness.

Life does not depend on matter

Furthermore, matter is not the unchanged essence of existence and the source of perfections, rather, it is a form and outer covering subject to disintegration. It can be observed that a microorganism possesses acute senses; it can hear the voice of its mate, and see its food. This demonstrates that the more refined matter becomes, the more manifest are the effects of life and the brighter the light of the spirit grows.

It is as though the more closely matter resembles the realm of spirit and consciousness, the more ethereal it becomes, and the light of life is manifested more brightly. Therefore, could the inner world of existence fail to be occupied with conscious living beings, whilst the reflections of life and consciousness continue to be manifested upon the veil of matter? Besides, is it possible that the countless manifestations and reflections of meaning, spirit, life, and consciousness in the corporeal world could be ascribed solely to matter and its motion? On the contrary, these countless manifestations and reflections indicate that the corporeal world is nothing more than a lace veil over the world of the spirit, and the inner worlds.

While accepting the existence of natural laws, why should we not accept the existence of invisible beings?

We accept the existence of natural laws and forces unquestionably, and even go so far as to attribute to them all phenomena in the universe. We ascribe a tiny seed’s growth into a huge, elaborate tree to the law of germination and growth in that seed, and the universe’s incredible balance to the laws of gravitation and repulsion. But we ignore the absolute will, knowledge, power, and wisdom necessary for the universe’s very existence, operation, and balance. The One Who has absolute Will, Knowledge, Power, and absolute Wisdom uses such powerful invisible beings as winds or gales, and others much more powerful than natural forces or laws, behind natural forces and laws to make those very natural laws and forces operative. These beings are angels.

Human existence depends on the spirit

This spirit-body relation can be likened to that between electrical power and a factory operating by electricity. If there is no electricity, the factory is reduced to heap of junk. Likewise, when the spirit leaves the body because of some rupture or disconnection (e.g., illness or death), despite our matchless value when alive, we are reduced to mass of tissue and bone that decomposes in the soil. This means that our real existence and uniqueness depend on this spirit.

Consensus on the existence of angels

There has been a consensus of most philosophers and religious scholars on the existence of angels and spirit beings of all kinds, although there have been some differences in naming them. Of the schools of philosophy, the Peripatetics (Mashshaiyyun), who were inclined to explain the origin of existence in materialistic terms, had to admit the existence of angels, on the ground that there exists a spiritual, incorporeal essence of each species. As for the Illuminists (Ishraqiyyun), they could not deny the existence of angels but wrongly called them ‘Ten Intellects and Masters of Species’. On the other hand, the followers of all the Divine religions, guided by the Divine Revelation, have believed that there is an angel in charge of each kind of existence. They called them by the name of that kind of existence such as ‘the Angel of the mountains, the Angel of the seas, the Angel of rain’, and so on. Even the naturalists and materialists, who have restricted themselves only to what they see, cannot help but admit the meaning of the angels by calling them ‘pervasive forces’.

Philosophers and religious scholars have unanimously agreed that creation is not limited to this visible world; although this world is material and, accordingly, is not suitable to receive and be the ‘home’ of spirits, it has been decorated by countless living creatures. It is this very fact which causes us to conclude that there are many degrees of existence, over which this material world is, as it were, a lace curtain. Furthermore, as the sea is the home of the fish, so the unseen world of the spirit is occupied by spirit beings. In short, all the arguments we have mentioned and many more others that can be concluded from the operation of the universe indicate the existence of the angels, and the Qur’an explains the meaning of the angelic existence so reasonably that every sensible person can understand it. As the Qur’an puts it, mankind is a community responsible for carrying out the Divine Commandments issuing from the Divine Attribute of Speech, and the angels constitute a community whose ‘working’ stratum carry out the Divine laws of nature issuing from the Attribute of Will. They are God’s honored servants who perform whatever He commands them.

The angels are spiritual, subtle bodies divided into different classes. Being servants of God, they obey the commandments issuing from the Eternal Will and the Creative Power, which rules over the universe. Each of the heavenly bodies is a place of worship for the angels.

All of the Prophets reported the invisible dimension of existence

All Prophets, numbering 124,000 in reliable religious sources, unanimously report the existence of angels, spirit beings, jinn, and Satan. All saints and religious scholars agree on this invisible realm’s existence. We hardly need to say that two specialists in a matter are preferable to thousands of non-specialists. In addition, it is an established fact that once a matter is confirmed by two people, its denial by thousands carries no weight. Furthermore, all people of religion and followers of almost all religions unanimously accept the existence of these beings.

All Divine Scriptures record the existence of spirit beings and the human spirit, and the story of Satan and his intrigues to seduce us exist in all of them. Above all, can one doubt the report of the Qur’an and the testimony and experiences of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings? The proofs of the Qur’an’s Divine authorship, the mission of Prophethood, and the Prophethood of Muhammad and all other Prophets, upon them be peace, also prove the invisible realm’s existence and thus the existence of the spirit, angels, jinn, and Satan.

The best and most rational way of establishing the existence of such beings is expounded by Islam, described by the Qur’an, and was seen by the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, during his Ascension through the heavens. The Qur’an explains the meaning of angelic existence so reasonably that anyone can understand it. It relates that we are a community responsible for carrying out the Divine Commandments issuing from the Divine Attribute of Speech, and angels are a community whose “working class” carry out the Divine Laws of nature issuing from the Attribute of Will. They are God’s honored servants who do whatever He commands. The existence of angels and other spirit beings can be established by proving the existence of an individual angel, because their denial amounts to denial of the species. Thus, the acceptance of the individual requires the acceptance of the species.

The experience of some people with invisible beings prove their existence

A consensus has formed, especially among followers of religions, that there have always been some who can see and converse with angels, jinn, Satan, and other spirit beings. Had angels not existed, if a single angel had never been seen, or the existence of one or more angels not been established through observation, how could such a general belief continue? If this belief were not based on strong evidence, could it have come down to us despite the changing ideas and beliefs and the passage of time? Therefore, we can conclude that religious belief in the existence of such beings is based on the experiences which the Prophets and other godly persons have had with them. Such accounts have been narrated by reliable sources.

Existence of a species can be proved by establishing the existence of one individual

The existence of the angels and other spirit beings can be established by proving the existence of an individual angel, because their denial amounts to the denial of the species. Thus, the acceptance of the individual requires the acceptance of the whole species. Does it not suffice to prove the existence of the angels and other spirit beings that all the people of religion from the beginning have unanimously believed in their existence, and that a consensus has been formed that some human beings have seen and conversed with them, and related from them. Had the angels not existed, and if a single angel had not been seen or the existence of one or numerous individual angels not been established through observation, would it have been possible for such a general belief to continue, and had this belief not been based on strong evidences, could it have come down to the present time in spite of the changing of ideas and beliefs along with the passage of time? Besides, is it possible that such a religious belief and the consensus of the religious scholars is not based on a certain intuition and an experienced certainty which originated in countless signs and numerous experiences? Therefore, we can conclude that the religious belief in the existence of the angels and other spirit beings is based on the experiences which the Prophets and some other godly persons have had with them, and this has been narrated by reliable sources.

Angels stand for the good aspect of humanity, while Satan represents the bad one

Angels are purely spirit beings that stand for the purely good aspect in existence, while Satan and his descendants represent the purely evil aspect. God is One and Infinite, without opposite. All other beings and existents have an opposite. Since we have two opposite aspects in our nature, one inclined toward good and the other toward evil, angels represent this good aspect while Satan represents the evil one. Angels invite us to our purely spiritual or “angelic” aspect, while Satan tries to seduce us through tempting us to do evil. The resulting struggle in each individual, and in the universe as a whole, has been ongoing since the beginning of existence. Everyone feels a stimulus toward good and evil at the same time. The former comes from the angels or our unpolluted spirit; the latter comes from Satan collaborating with our carnal self, which represents our animal aspect.

Each thing has a collective identity and performs a unique function

When we examine the creation carefully, we discern that each thing, whether universal or particular, has a collective identity and performs a unique, universal function. As each flower displays a superlative design and symmetry and recites, in the tongue of its being, the Names of the Creator, so the whole earth performs a universal duty of glorification as though it was a single flower. A single fruit glorifies God within an order and regularity, and a tree does the same on a larger scale through the ‘words’ of its leaves, flowers, and fruits. Likewise, the vast oceans of the heavens give praise to and glorify the Majestic Maker through suns, moons and stars, which are like words, and so on. Even inert material bodies perform a vital function in praising God, although they are outwardly inanimate and unconscious. Angels are the representatives of such bodies in the world of the inner dimensions of things, and express praises on behalf of them, and these bodies are, in turn, the representatives, dwellings, and mosques of the angels in the material world.


Recommended Reading:
The Characteristics of Angels 

Last Updated on August 02, 2000

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