Quran Contradiction:

Can Angels take away life?

Sam Shamoun

The Quran, by way of rebuking the Christians and idolaters, claims that none of those individuals that they called upon and worshiped could intercede, create, give life, or cause to die:

Is He then Who creates like him who does not create? Do you not then mind? … And those whom they call on besides Allah have not created anything while they are themselves created; Dead (are they), not living, and they know not when they shall be raised. S. 16:17, 20-21 Shakir

And they have taken besides Him gods, who do not create anything while they are themselves created, and they control not for themselves any harm or profit, and they control not death nor life, nor raising (the dead) to life. S. 25:3 Shakir

No intercessor will they have from those whom they made equal with Allah (partners i.e. their socalled associate gods), and they will (themselves) reject and deny their partners. S. 30:13 Hilali-Khan

And those whom they invoke besides God HAVE NO POWER OF INTERCESSION;- only he who bears witness to the Truth, and they know (him). If thou ask them, who created them, they will certainly say, God: How then are they deluded away (from the Truth)? (God has knowledge) of the (Prophet's) cry, "O my Lord! Truly these are people who will not believe!" S. 43:86-88

The Quran also rebukes and warns individuals from venerating and calling on angels, which presupposes that angels were being worshiped:

And he commanded you not that ye should take the angels and the prophets for lords. Would he command you to disbelieve after ye had surrendered (to Allah)? S. 3:80 Pickthall

Say: Cry unto those (saints and angels) whom ye assume (to be gods) beside Him, yet they have no power to rid you of misfortune nor to change. Those unto whom they cry seek the way of approach to their Lord, which of them shall be the nearest; they hope for His mercy and they fear His doom. Lo! the doom of thy Lord is to be shunned. S. 17:56-57 Pickthall

According to the Quran, some of those nearest to Allah include both Jesus and the angels:

Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to God; S. 3:45 Y. Ali

The Messiah does by no means disdain that he should be a servant of Allah, nor do the angels who are near to Him, and whoever disdains His service and is proud, He will gather them all together to Himself. S. 4:172 Shakir

Thus, we can conclude from the foregoing that Sura 17:56-57 is referring to the veneration given to Christ and the angels by unbelievers. Ibn Kathir confirms this exegesis in his comments on Sura 17:56:

<Say: "Call upon those whom you pretend> Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn ‘Abbas, "The people of Shirk used to say, ‘we worship the angels and the Messiah and ‘Uzayr,’ while these (the angels and the Messiah and ‘Uzayr) themselves call upon Allah." …

<Those whom they call upon, desire) Al-Bukhari recorded from Sulayman bin Mahran Al-A’mash, from Ibrahim, from Abu Ma’mar, from ‘Abdullah …

<Those whom they call upon, desire a means of access to their Lord,> "Some of the Jinn used to be worshipped, then they became Muslims.'' According to another report: "Some humans used to worship some of the Jinn, then those Jinn became Muslim, but those humans adhered to their religion (of worshipping the Jinn)." (Source; bold emphasis ours)

Ibn Kathir wrote regarding another text (cf. Sura 21:98-103) that:

<Verily, those for whom the good has preceded from Us.> It was said that this referred to the angels and ‘Isa, and others who are worshipped instead of Allah. This was the view of ‘Ikrimah, Al-Hasan and Ibn Jurayj. Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar said in his book of Sirah: "According to what I have heard, the Messenger of Allah sat down one day with Al-Walid bin Al-Mughirah in the Masjid, and An-Nadr bin Al-Harith came and sat down with them. There were also other men of Quraysh in the Masjid. The Messenger of Allah spoke, then An-Nadr bin Al-Harith came up to him and the Messenger of Allah spoke to him until he defeated him in argument. Then he recited to him and to them, …

<and therein they will hear not.> Then the Messenger of Allah got up and went to sit with ‘Abdullah bin Al-Zab’ari As-Sahmi. Al-Walid bin Al-Mughirah said to ‘Abdullah bin Al-Zab’ari, "By Allah, An-Nadr bin Al-Harith could not match the son of ‘Abd Al-Muttalib in argument. Muhammad claims that we and these gods that we worship are fuel for Hell."' ‘Abdullah bin Az-Zab’ari said: "By Allah, if I meet with him I will defeat him in argument. Ask Muhammad whether everyone that is worshipped instead of Allah will be in Hell with those who worshipped him, for we worship the angels, and the Jews worship ‘Uzayr, and the Christians worship Al-Masih, ‘Isa bin Maryam." Al-Walid and those who were sitting with him were amazed at what ‘Abdullah bin Az-Zab’ari said, and they thought that he had come up with a good point. He said this to the Messenger of Allah, who said … (Source; bold, italic and underline emphasis ours)

To summarize what we have learnt thus far, the Quran rebukes unbelievers for worshiping beings that cannot intercede, create, give life, or cause death. Some of these entities that the unbelievers were worshiping included the angels, with the implication therefore being that none of these angelic creatures are able to intercede, create life or take it away.

In fact, one Muslim used some of the very references cited above to prove that Jesus could not create anything, leading him to allegorize those Quranic references which say that he could:

"... The act of khalq (creating) in the sense of creation cannot be attributed to any being except Allah. The Quran has laid the greatest stress upon this point. It again and again speaks of the Divine Being as the Creator of everything, so that there is nothing of which any one else may be said to be a creator. And of those who are taken as gods by any people, it says in particular that they do not create anything, while they are themselves created (16:20; 25:3)." (Ali, Holy Qur'an - Arabic Text, English Translation & Commentary [Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at Islam Lahore Inc. USA 1995], f. 49: http://www.muslim.org/english-quran/ch003-59.pdf; bold and underline emphasis ours)


"To understand the significance of this passage it is necessary to bear in mind that the chief characteristic of Jesus' speeches is that he spoke in parables and preferred to clothe his ideas in allegorical language... It is perfectly intelligible if taken as a parable, but quite incomprehensible as a statement of fact. If on the one hand a prophet's dignity is much above such actions as the making of clay birds, on the other hand the act of creation is not attributable to any but the Divine Being..." (Ibid.; bold emphasis ours)

The above logic, if it is to be consistent, must also apply to the belief that angels can create.

Yet the Quran plainly teaches that angels actually bring death upon persons, which means that they do indeed cause death, thereby contradicting itself!

Verily, those whom the angels cause to die while they are wronging their own souls, the angels will say to them: ‘What were you after?’ They will say: ‘We were treated as weak in the land.’ The angels will say, ‘Was not ALLAH's earth spacious enough so that you could have emigrated therein?’ It is these whose abode shall be Hell, and an evil destination it is; 4:97 Sher Ali

Those whom the angels CAUSE TO DIE while they are unjust to themselves. Then would they offer submission: We used not to do any evil. Aye! surely Allah knows what you did. … Those whom the angels CAUSE TO DIE in a good state, saying: Peace be on you: enter the garden for what you did. S. 16:28, 32 Shakir

Say, `The angel of death that has been put in charge of you will cause you to die; then to your Lord will you be brought back.' S. 32:11 Sher Ali

The Islamic narrations go so far as to even say that angels are used to create a person’s soul while still in the womb:

'Abdullah b. Mas'ud reported: Evil one is he who is evil in the womb of his mother and the good one is he who takes lesson from the (fate of) others. The narrator came to a person from amongst the Companion of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) who was called Hudhaifa b. Usaid Ghifari and said: How can a person be an evil one without (committing an evil) deed? Thereupon the person said to him: You are surprised at this, whereas I have heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saving: When forty nights pass after the semen gets into the womb, Allah sends the angel and gives him the shape. Then he creates his sense of hearing, sense of sight, his skin, his flesh, his bones, and then says: My Lord, would he be male or female? And your Lord decides as He desires and the angel then puts down that also and then says: My Lord, what about his age? And your Lord decides as He likes it and the angel puts it down. Then he says: My Lord, what about his livelihood? And then the Lord decides as He likes and the angel writes it down, and then the angel gets out with his scroll of destiny in his hand and nothing is added to it and nothing is subtracted from it. (Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6393)

Abu Tufail reported: I visited Abu Sariha Hudhaifa b. Usaid al-Ghifari who said: I listened with these two ears of mine Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The semen stays in the womb for forty nights, then the angel gives it a shape. Zubair said: I think that he said: One who fashions that and decides whether he would be male or female. Then he (the angel) says: Would his limbs be full or imperfect? And then the Lord makes them full and perfect or otherwise as He desires. Then he says: My Lord, what about his livelihood, and his death and what about his disposition? And then the Lord decides about his misfortune and fortune. (Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6395)

Here is another version that is translated from the Arabic:

Abdullah ibn Masud said: "The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who is the most truthful (of human beings) and his being truthful (is a fact) told us: ‘The constituents of one of you is gathered in his mother’s womb for forty days, then it becomes a clot of blood within another period of forty days. Then it becomes chewed lump of flesh, and forty days later, Allah sends His angel to it to breathe into it the spirit. The angel comes with instructions concerning four things, so the angel writes down his livelihood, his death, his deeds and whether he will doomed or blessed." (Sahih Muslim, Book 33, Number 6893 (??), text and reference are quoted as given in this Muslim article)

Moreover, the Quran and ahadith teach that angels do intercede:

And We did not send before you any apostle but We revealed to him that there is no god but Me, therefore serve Me. And they say: The Beneficent God has taken to Himself a son. Glory be to Him. Nay! they are honored servants. They do not precede Him in speech and (only) according to His commandment do they act. He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they do not intercede except for him whom He approves and for fear of Him they tremble. And whoever of them should say: Surely I am a god besides Him, such a one do We recompense with hell; thus do, We recompense the unjust. S. 21:25-29 Shakir

Note that this reference says that at least some of those honored servants who were worshiped as gods or considered children of God will indeed intercede! That this clearly includes angels can be seen from the following references:

Those who sustain the Throne (of God) and those around it Sing Glory and Praise to their Lord; believe in Him; and implore Forgiveness for those who believe: "Our Lord! Thy Reach is over all things, in Mercy and Knowledge. Forgive, then, those who turn in Repentance, and follow Thy Path; and preserve them from the Penalty of the Blazing Fire! And grant, our Lord! that they enter the Gardens of Eternity, which Thou hast promised to them, and to the righteous among their fathers, their wives, and their posterity! For Thou art (He), the Exalted in Might, Full of Wisdom. And preserve them from (all) ills; and any whom Thou dost preserve from ills that Day, - on them wilt Thou have bestowed Mercy indeed: and that will be truly (for them) the highest Achievement". S. 40:7-9 Y. Ali

The heavens wellnigh are rent above them, when the angels proclaim the praise of their Lord, and ask forgiveness for those on earth. Surely God -- He is the All-forgiving, the All-compassionate. S. 42:5 Arberry

... "Surely! Allah wrongs not even of the weight of an atom (or a smallest ant) but if there is any good (done) He doubles it." (4.40) The Prophet added, "Then the prophets AND ANGELS and the believers will intercede, and (last of all) the Almighty (Allah) will say, 'Now remains My Intercession. He will then hold a handful of the Fire from which He will take out some people whose bodies have been burnt, and they will be thrown into a river at the entrance of Paradise, called the water of life. ..." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 532s)

Let us now take a moment to reflect on the implications of the above references by summarizing all of the points:

  1. The Quran says that the beings that the unbelievers were calling upon cannot intercede, create anything or cause death.
  2. Some of these beings that the unbelievers worshiped included the angels.
  3. The Quran, obviously forgetting what it said elsewhere, asserts that angels can cause persons to die.
  4. Certain Islamic narrations state that Allah uses an angel to create the soul of a human being, and to give it its shape during its formation in the womb. They also teach that angels do in fact intercede for others.
  5. The unbelievers were therefore justified in worshiping angels even by the Quran's own criteria, since they are conscious beings that can create life and cause death.
  6. Hence, not only are the hadiths contradicting the Quran, but the Quran is also contradicting itself.

Further Reading


Further discussion: Our answer to a Muslim response.

Qur'an Contradictions
Articles by Sam Shamoun
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