Commentary on the Holy Quran
The management of universal affairs
Mufti Muhammad Qasim Attari
Allah Almighty has stated:
وَ النّٰزِعٰتِ غَرْقًاۙ(۱) وَّ النّٰشِطٰتِ نَشْطًاۙ(۲) وَّ السّٰبِحٰتِ سَبْحًاۙ(۳) فَالسّٰبِقٰتِ سَبْقًاۙ(۴) فَالْمُدَبِّرٰتِ اَمْرًاۘ(۵)
By the oath of those (angels) who harshly extract the soul (of the disbelievers). And (by those) who untie knots (i.e. remove the souls of believers) gently. And (by those) who float (in the heavens and the earth) with ease. Then (by those) who race forward reaching quickly (as though they are in a contest). Then (by those) who plan the operation (in the system of this universe), that the disbelievers will definitely be punished.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 30, Surah Al-Nazi’aat, Verse 1 - 5)
Exegesis: In these verses, five types of groups have been mentioned. Most scholars and Quranic exegetists (Mufassireen) are of the view that either all these are separate categories of angels, or that some are categories of angels whilst others are attributes that all the angels possess.
‘وَ النّٰزِعٰتِ غَرۡقًا’ refers to the angels who pull out the souls with extreme force. ‘وَّ النّٰشِطٰتِ نَشۡطًا’ denotes the angels that gently remove the souls of believers. ‘وَّ السّٰبِحٰتِ سَبۡحًا’ is in reference to the angels who float in the heavens with the believers’ souls. ‘فَالسّٰبِقٰتِ سَبۡقًا’ refers to angels who advance to carry out divine orders. ‘فَالۡمُدَبِّرٰتِ اَمۡرًا’ denotes the angels who manage universal affairs.
In these verses, the following oaths are referred to: oath by the angels who pull out the souls of disbelievers with extreme force; oath by the angels who gently remove the souls of believers; oath by the angels who float with the believers’ souls between the heavens and the earth; oath by the angels who advance in carrying out the task assigned to them; and oath by the angels who manage the affairs of the universe. The hidden reply to these oaths (jawab al-Qasam) is: ‘O disbelievers of Makkah, you will certainly be resurrected and be held accountable for your deeds.
It is a principle from Allah Almighty that things are done through some means (wasilah)
Allah is Almighty, and every matter—small or big—can happen by His command without any means. His might is such that the Quran states:
اِنَّمَاۤ اَمْرُهٗۤ اِذَاۤ اَرَادَ شَیْــٴًـا اَنْ یَّقُوْلَ لَهٗ كُنْ فَیَكُوْنُ(۸۲)
And His action is only this; that when He intends (to create) anything, so He (only) says to it, 'Be,' it immediately becomes.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 23, Surah Ya Seen, Verse 82)
اِنَّ اللّٰهَ عَلٰى كُلِّ شَیْءٍ قَدِیْرٌ۠(۲۰)
undoubtedly, Allah can do everything.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 1, Surah Al- Baqarah, Verse 20)
فَعَّالٌ لِّمَا یُرِیْدُؕ(۱۶)
(He) always does whatever He wills.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 30, Surah Al-Burooj, Verse 16)
لَمْ یَكُنْ لَّهٗ شَرِیْكٌ فِی الْمُلْكِ وَ لَمْ یَكُنْ لَّهٗ وَلِیٌّ مِّنَ الذُّلِّ
In kingship no one is His partner, and no one is His supporter due to weakness (because He is never weak)
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 15, Surah Bani Israel, Verse 111)
Despite such greatness, it is a principle set by Him that things are accomplished through some form of means. This is why every matter of the universe is assigned to the angels who manage its affairs.
The verse illustrates how some attributes—at least in terms of their wording–are used for both Allah Almighty and His creation. Examples of this are علی, سمیع and بصیر. Managing universal affairs is also one such example, because in reality, it is Allah Almighty who manages its affairs, but angels are also مُدَبِّراتِ اَمر, meaning they too manage affairs. Many Quranic verses allude to this role of the angels, some of which are as follows:
Some angels carry the throne (Arsh) of Allah. The Quran states:
وَ یَحْمِلُ عَرْشَ رَبِّكَ فَوْقَهُمْ یَوْمَىٕذٍ ثَمٰنِیَةٌؕ(۱۷)
And on that Day, eight angels will carry the Throne of your Lord above themselves.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 29, Surah Al-Haaqqah, Verse 17)
Revelation is sent through some angels. The Quran states:
یُنَزِّلُ الْمَلٰٓىٕكَةَ بِالرُّوْحِ مِنْ اَمْرِهٖ عَلٰى مَنْ یَّشَآءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهٖۤ اَنْ اَنْذِرُوْۤا اَنَّهٗ لَاۤ اِلٰهَ اِلَّاۤ اَنَا فَاتَّقُوْنِ(۲)
He sends down the angels with the soul of faith i.e. the revelation towards those of His bondsmen He wills. That (O Prophets) 'Give warning that there is no one worthy of worship except Me; so, fear Me.'
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 14, Surah Al-Nahl, Verse 2)
An individual’s actions are recorded by some angels. The Quran states:
وَ اِنَّ عَلَیْكُمْ لَحٰفِظِیْنَۙ(۱۰) كِرَامًا كَاتِبِیْنَۙ(۱۱) یَعْلَمُوْنَ مَا تَفْعَلُوْنَ(۱۲)
And there are some guardians indeed (appointed) over you. The honourable scribes (i.e. Kiraaman Kaatibeen). That they know whatever you do.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 30, Surah Al-Infitaar, Verse 10-12)
Some angels act as guardians. The Quran states:
وَ یُرْسِلُ عَلَیْكُمْ حَفَظَةًؕ-
And sends guardians over you
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 7, Surah Al-An’aam, Verse 61)
Furthermore, it is stated in another verse:
لَهٗ مُعَقِّبٰتٌ مِّنْۢ بَیْنِ یَدَیْهِ وَ مِنْ خَلْفِهٖ یَحْفَظُوْنَهٗ مِنْ اَمْرِ اللّٰهِؕ-
For mankind there are alternating angels; in front and behind him, who guard him by Allah's command.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 13, Surah Al-Ra’d, Verse 11)
Removing the soul is the duty of some angels. The Quran states:
حَتّٰۤى اِذَا جَآءَ اَحَدَكُمُ الْمَوْتُ تَوَفَّتْهُ رُسُلُنَا وَ هُمْ لَا یُفَرِّطُوْنَ(۶۱)
To the extent that when death comes to one of you, Our angels remove his soul, and they do not make mistakes
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 7, Surah Al-An’aam, Verse 61)
In another place, it is stated:
قُلْ یَتَوَفّٰىكُمْ مَّلَكُ الْمَوْتِ الَّذِیْ وُكِّلَ بِكُمْ ثُمَّ اِلٰى رَبِّكُمْ تُرْجَعُوْنَ۠(۱۱)
Say you (O Beloved), ‘The angel of death, who is appointed over you, causes you to die and then towards your Lord you will return.’
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 21, Surah Al-Sajdah, Verse 11)
Angels also arrive to assist the people of faith. The Quran states:
یٰۤاَیُّهَا الَّذِیْنَ اٰمَنُوا اذْكُرُوْا نِعْمَةَ اللّٰهِ عَلَیْكُمْ اِذْ جَآءَتْكُمْ جُنُوْدٌ فَاَرْسَلْنَا عَلَیْهِمْ رِیْحًا وَّ جُنُوْدًا لَّمْ تَرَوْهَاؕ-
O believers! Remember the Favour of Allah upon you when some armies came to (attack) you, so We sent on them a windstorm and the armies which you do not see,
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 21, Surah Al-Ahzaab, Verse 9)
Divine punishment also befalls the disbelievers through angels. The Quran states:
وَ لَمَّا جَآءَتْ رُسُلُنَا لُوْطًا سِیْٓءَ بِهِمْ وَ ضَاقَ بِهِمْ ذَرْعًا وَّ قَالَ هٰذَا یَوْمٌ عَصِیْبٌ(۷۷)
And when Our angels came to Loot (in the form of handsome young boys), he was grieved for them and was distressed due to them, and he said, ‘This is a day of great hardship.’
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 12, Surah Hood, Verse 77)
Important points to note
1. Although only a few Quranic verses have been mentioned here, there are many verses and Hadith that mention how the angels manage the affairs of the universe. This is a sign of the great Might of Allah. One ascertains from the Quran that the authority granted to those chosen by Allah is significant. Believing that those granted permission by Allah Almighty can carry out a range of actions in the universe is a sound belief that corresponds with the Quran and Hadith.
2. Allah Almighty did not only grant angels the authority to carry out different works in the universe, rather His chosen people amongst humans have also been given this honour. For instance, the Prophets علیھمُ الصّلوٰۃ والسَّلام were given great abilities, as is evident from the Quranic example of Prophet Isa عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم about whom it is said:
وَ اِذْ تَخْلُقُ مِنَ الطِّیْنِ كَهَیْــٴَـةِ الطَّیْرِ بِاِذْنِیْ فَتَنْفُخُ فِیْهَا فَتَكُوْنُ طَیْرًۢا بِاِذْنِیْ وَ تُبْرِئُ الْاَكْمَهَ وَ الْاَبْرَصَ بِاِذْنِیْۚ-وَ اِذْ تُخْرِ جُ الْمَوْتٰى بِاِذْنِیْۚ-
When you used to mould a birdlike figure from clay by My command and breathed into it. It would therefore fly by My command, and you used to cure him who was born blind and cure the leper by My command, and when you used to raise the dead (back to life) by My command,
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 7, Surah Al-Maa’idah, Verse 110)
Such manifestations at the hands of the Prophetsعلیھمُ السَّلام are called Mu’jizaat (prophetic miracles).
3. Saints have also been permitted to intervene in the affairs of the universe by Allah Almighty. The Quran states:
قَالَ یٰۤاَیُّهَا الْمَلَؤُا اَیُّكُمْ یَاْتِیْنِیْ بِعَرْشِهَا قَبْلَ اَنْ یَّاْتُوْنِیْ مُسْلِمِیْنَ(۳۸) قَالَ عِفْرِیْتٌ مِّنَ الْجِنِّ اَنَا اٰتِیْكَ بِهٖ قَبْلَ اَنْ تَقُوْمَ مِنْ مَّقَامِكَۚ-وَ اِنِّیْ عَلَیْهِ لَقَوِیٌّ اَمِیْنٌ(۳۹) قَالَ الَّذِیْ عِنْدَهٗ عِلْمٌ مِّنَ الْكِتٰبِ اَنَا اٰتِیْكَ بِهٖ قَبْلَ اَنْ یَّرْتَدَّ اِلَیْكَ طَرْفُكَؕ-فَلَمَّا رَاٰهُ مُسْتَقِرًّا عِنْدَهٗ قَالَ هٰذَا مِنْ فَضْلِ رَبِّیْ ﱎ لِیَبْلُوَنِیْۤ ءَاَشْكُرُ اَمْ اَكْفُرُؕ-
Said Sulayman, ‘O members of my chamber, which one of you can bring me her throne before this; that they come in my respected court; submitting? An extremely evil Jinn said, ‘I will present that throne in your respected court before this; that your highness terminates this assembly, and I am indeed powerful and trustworthy upon it’ He who had knowledge of the Book submitted; that, ‘I will present it in your majesty’s court before the blink of an eye.’ When he then saw it placed next to him, Sulayman said, ‘This is from the Favours of my Lord; so that He may test me whether I give thanks or I am ungrateful;
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 19, Surah Al-Naml, Verses 38-40)
May Allah Almighty give us the ability to hold beliefs according to the Quran and Sunnah.
اٰمِیْن بِجَاہِ النَّبِیِّ الْاَمِیْن صَلَّی اللہ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلہٖ وَسَلَّم