Angels in Islam: Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti's al-Haba'ik fi akhbar al-mala'ik

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Angels are a basic tenet of belief in Islam, appearing in various types and genres of text, from eschatology to law and theology to devotional material. This book presents the first comprehensive study of angels in Islam, through an analysis of a collection of traditions (hadīth) compiled by the 15th century polymath Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūtī (d. 911/1505).

With a focus on the principal angels in Islam, the author provides an analysis and critical translation of hadith included in al-Suyuti’s al-Haba’ik fi akhbar al-mala’ik (‘The Arrangement of the Traditions about Angels’) – many of which are translated into English for the first time. The book discusses the issues that the hadīth raise, exploring why angels are named in particular ways; how angels are described and portrayed in the hadīth; the ways in which angels interact with humans; and the theological controversies which feature angels. From this it is possible to place al-Suyūtī’s collection in its religious and historical milieu, building on the study of angels in Judaism and Christianity to explore aspects of comparative religious beliefs about angels as well as relating Muslim beliefs about angels to wider debates in Islamic Studies.

Broadening the study of Islamic angelology and providing a significant amount of newly translated primary source material, this book will be of great interest to scholars of Islam, divinity, and comparative religion.

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About the author

Stephen Burge is a Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies. His main areas of research are in the life and works of al-Suyūtī, hadīth studies, tafsīr and angelology.

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Published on
Dec 22, 2015
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Religion / Islam / General
Social Science / Regional Studies
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The second edition of The Encyclopedia of Angels is significantly

changed from the first edition, published in

1996. Content is increased with the addition of several

hundred new entries and more than 70 new illustrations.

Nearly all major entries and numerous smaller

ones have been revised, reorganized, and cross-referenced

to make the book more valuable as a resource. I

have included many more entries on individual angels,

including fallen angels. If you use the “angels” and

“angelology” entries as starting points, you will find

your way to all of the principal entries in the book.

In particular, I have added significant depth and

detail from apocryphal, mystical, and esoteric texts,

which are rich sources of our angel beliefs and lore.

Visionary recitals of journeys into the heavens written

nearly two millennia ago retain their power today in

their vivid portrayals of mighty beings called angels.

The angels experienced then are different in many ways

from the angels experienced today; the history of that

evolution is a fascinating one. The angel of the prophets

is fierce and enigmatic. Today’s angel is more accessible,

more personal, more like us. What remains unchanged,

however, is the alluring mystery that surrounds angels.

I am indebted to the groundwork laid by Gustav

Davidson’s Dictionary of Angels, which I do not attempt to

re-create. Readers who are familiar with that work will

appreciate the longer treatments and discussions of topics

related to angels made possible in this book by an encyclopedia

format. The “further reading” recommendations

at the ends of many entries are not intended to be exhaustive

references but to direct readers to useful sources.

In the years since I completed the first edition of this

encyclopedia, my views on angels have not changed in

any profound ways, but they have in more subtle ways.

I consider angels to exist in their own right, but also as

part of us and all creation. To attempt to define them too

precisely shatters their mystery. Angels exist in a realm

that can be grasped only through intuitive knowing and

visionary experience. Nonetheless, intellectual inquiry and

study of angels is valuable, for consciousness is raised to a

higher plane and made fertile for visionary understanding.

Readers will notice at times that the names of angels

can be confusing. Even within a single text, the name of

an angel may be spelled in different ways. The entries on

individual angels give alternative spellings and names in

parentheses. Sometimes variant names describe what

appear to be different angels altogether, or perhaps

aspects of an angel. For example, Sariel is the alternate

name of Uriel, but Sariel is not always Uriel. An alternate

name of Sariel is Saraqael, which is also an alternate

name of Sarakiel. There are both overlaps and differences

in identities and duties, depending on the texts in

which the angels are mentioned. As noted in the entry

NAMES, many early angel names were the products of

trance recitations of prayers and incantations. Readers

may wish to read the names entry as one of the first,

along with ANGELOLOGY as an orientation to this book.

The literature on angels describes their many roles:

messenger, protector, guardian, punisher, destroyer,

administrator, minister, teacher, and servant and

worshiper of God. These roles capture only pieces of

their essence. Above all, angels are participants with us

in the glory of creation. They sing the wonders of God

and the cosmos. Their song is ours to sing too.

—Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Ph.D.



It's fall, 1959, and Homer "Sonny" Hickam and his fellow Rocket Boys are in their senior year at Big Creek High, launching handbuilt rockets that soar thousands of feet into the West Virginia sky. But in a season traditionally marked by celebrations of the spirit, Coalwood finds itself at a painful crossroads.

The strains can be felt within the Hickam home, where a beleaguered HomerSr. is resorting to a daring but risky plan to keep the mine alive, and his wife Elsie is feeling increasingly isolated from both her family and the townspeople. And Sonny, despite a blossoming relationship with a local girl whose dreams are as big as his, finds his own mood repeatedly darkened by an unexplainable sadness.

Eager to rally the town's spirits and make her son's final holiday season at home a memorable one, Elsie enlists Sonny and the Rocket Boys' aid in making the Coalwood Christmas Pageant the best ever. But trouble at the mine and the arrival of a beautiful young outsider threaten to tear the community apart when it most needs to come together. And when disaster strikes at home, and Elsie's beloved pet squirrel escapes under his watch, Sonny realizes that helping his town and redeeming himself in his mother's eyes may be a bigger-and more rewarding-challenge than he has ever faced.

The result is pure storytelling magic- a tale of small-town parades and big-hearted preachers, the timeless love of families and unforgettable adventures of boyhood friends-that could only come from the man who brought the world Rocket Boys
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