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ANGELS IN ISLAM
Burge, S. (The University of Edinburgh)
Phd thesis, University of Edinburgh (2009)
This thesis presents a commentary with selected translations of Jalāl al-Dīn cAbd al- Raḥmān al-Suyūṭī’s Al-Ḥabā’ik fī akhbār al-malā’ik (The Arrangement of the Traditions about Angels). The work is a collection of around 750 ḥadīth about angels, followed by a postscript (khātima) that discusses theological questions regarding their status in Islam.
The first section of this thesis looks at the state of the study of angels in Islam, which has tended to focus on specific issues or narratives. However, there has been little study of the angels in Islamic tradition outside studies of angels in the Qur’an and eschatological literature. This thesis hopes to present some of this more general material about angels.
The following two sections of the thesis present an analysis of the whole work. The first of these two sections looks at the origin of Muslim beliefs about angels, focusing on angelic nomenclature and angelic iconography. The second attempts to understand the message of al-Suyūṭī’s collection and the work’s purpose, through a consideration of the roles of angels in everyday life and ritual. The translation and annotated commentary that follow focus on angels mentioned in the Qur’ān itself: Gabriel, Michael, Isrāfīl, the Angel of Death, the Bearers of the Throne, the Spirit, Riḍwān, Mālik, the Guardians of Heaven and Hell, al-Sijill, Hārūt, Mārūt and the Sakīna.
The aim of the thesis is to open up the study of the angelic world of the ḥadīth, beyond the eschatological material and to show the vitality of Muslim beliefs about angels in Islamic tradition.