By Editorial Staff
This article tries to shed some light on the concept of angels in Hinduism. Some writers say that there is no concept of angels in Hinduism. However Hindus believe that there are certain super-beings, which perform acts, which cannot be done by normal human beings. These super-beings are worshipped as deities by some Hindus.(1)
The Numbers of Deva and Devta:
Some authorities of Hinduism assert that there are many Devi and Devtas in the Hindu belief. A Hindu writer says in this regard: “We have 33 million Devi and Devta who are considered as gods and goddesses, but I estimate that the number might be higher than this. This number is merely based on the probability not certainty. The truth is that the number of Devi and Devta in Hindu belief is unlimited and countless.”(2)
The above mentioned passage verifies that Devi and Devta in Hinduism are innumerous and they are gods. While Islam declares that the angels are a creation of Allah Almighty, however, the number of angels in Islam is untold.
Allah Almighty says:
And none can know the hosts of your Lord but He. (Al-Mudaththir 74:31)
It is also noteworthy that Hinduism is based on the concept of incarnation that means God and spiritual beings manifest in bodily forms. That is why Hindus believe that even God appears in human shape and the human entity is named Avtar. This concept turns a human being into a god and the god into a human being as well. Due to this belief, it is hard to differentiate between what is divine and what is earthly, what is angel and what is devil, and what should be worshipped and what should be cursed.
In Islam, the angels are soft, spiritual and luminous beings, who were created out of light. They are not like humans, they do not eat, drink or sleep and they are free from carnal desires and lusts. They are infallible so they never commit any sin or disobedience of Allah Almighty. They can appear in human form.3
Sometimes Angel Jibril came down to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the shape of his companion Dihyah Al-Kalbi. Also the Glorious Qur’an asserts that Angel Jibril came to Maryam in the form of a young man.
Allah Almighty says:
Then We sent to her Our Ruh [angel Jibril (Gabriel)], and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects. (Maryam 19:17)
It is possible that Hindu culture had the concept of angels in its earliest time similar to the concept of angels in Islam. Perhaps, Devi and Devta were the words that denoted the angels but during the later periods of Hindu culture, the notion of angels was distorted and perverted as happened with the concept of monotheism in Hindu religion. Thus the pure and spiritual beings were worshipped by Hindus and images and statues of Deva and Devta were made.
In fact, the Hindu faith is a loose and a ductile system in the subject of worship and adoration. Who deserves worship and who does not is obscure and undefined and that led them to the worship of Devi and Devta or supernatural beings of this world while they might be synonymous with the concept of angels in Islam.
On the contrary, Islam is clear in every subject including the matter of worship. In Islam no one deserves worship or adoration whomsoever; prophets, angels, spiritual mentors, or their images, statues or idols. No one is worshipped in Islam except Allah Almighty that has neither any shape nor any form.
It is also notable that Deva in Hindi language denotes the gender of male while Devta denotes the gender of female. Most Hindus use the words Deva and Devatā interchangeably, and the feminine form of Deva is देवी (Devī). Yet there is no such gender change for the word Devatā which implies both masculine and feminine genders.(4)
If the matter of masculinity and femininity was limited to the use of such words interchangeably without believing in the presence of the real meaning of gender in the nature of these supernatural beings, there was no prohibition or objection. But the statues and idols of Devi and Devta that are found abundantly in Indian civilization indicate to the deep-rooted doctrine of masculinity and femininity in Hindu gods and Devtas.
Undoubtedly, it contradicts the concept of angels in Islam which asserts that the nature of angels is contrary to the meaning of gender. Their nature is not in a state that accepts the masculinity or femininity.
Some polytheists of Arab also believed in the female gender of angels during the revelation of the Glorious Qur’an. They regarded angels as the daughters of Allah Almighty, though they hated daughters for themselves, rather, it was seen as an insult to their dignity and social prestige. Allah (Glory be to Him) says:
And they assign daughters unto Allah! – Glorified (and Exalted) is He above all that they associate with Him! And unto themselves what they desire. (An-Nahl 16:57)
And Allah Almighty says:
And they make the angels who themselves are slaves of the Most Gracious (Allah) females. Did they witness their creation? Their testimony will be recorded, and they will be questioned! (Az-Zukhruf 43:19)
The Literal Meaning of Deva and Devta
The word Deva has been derived from the root-word Dev that has 10 meanings; 1- to become happy
2-the will of defeating the evils
3- to deal
6-to be happy and pleased
7- to be fearful or to tremble with fear
9-beauty and charm
10-to move or to exist.(5)
These connotations do not contradict the nature of angels in Islam except the meaning listed under No. 8 or to sleep. According to the doctrine of Islam, angels do not sleep since their nature is totally different from that of humans. But if the word sleep is understood in a metaphorical style that denotes deep absorption in the remembrance of Allah because angels are always absorbed in the obedience of Allah Almighty then there is no objection from an Islamic point of view. As well as, angels are far strong who can defeat the evils. They always praise Allah Almighty and they are happy with the worship of their Lord. Also they are fearful of Allah Almighty due to their true perception and full awareness of the Dignity of their Lord. They are a beautiful creation of Allah who can move from the earth to the sky very fast.
The Worship of Deva and Devta
Dayanand Sarsati elucidates that the sun, moon and lights are not luminous by their own, they are only radiant by the help and light of Parmeshvar, so Parmeshvar is the highest Devta and He is the One Who deserves our worship.6
It is clear that Dayannd rejects any kind of worship for Deva and Devta, sun and moon making the worship for Parmeshvar only. Yet we find the worship of Deva and Devta shockingly prevalent in the Indian society.
On the other hand, Islam presents a comprehensive, accurate, well defined and complete concept about angels that asserts that angels are a pure creation of Allah Almighty who never disobey the commands of Allah and they are sincere slave of Allah.
The Reality of Deva and Devta
Some Hindu writers say: “The root दिव् (div) in Sanskrit means to shine or to be bright. Primarily it refers to the natural light that is received on earth as the source of illumination and that which is the cause of all life on earth. The Deva are supportive of life.”7
When we think in the aforementioned passage about Deva and Devta we can not extract any specific or defined nature of Deva and Devta as it makes the light coming from the sky on the earth or the natural light as Deva. If it is true, then why do you worship it instead of the Creator? Why do you make idols for that light while the natural light has no specific form or shape? And the shape and form of the idols made by you defy the nature of light.
In brief, we can say that Islam presents the idea of angels in an evident and clear style, far from any kind of obscurity or darkness. Islam does not describe what they do not worth. In fact, faith of Islam in angels will keep you from mazes and delusions. So it is more deserving of acceptance and faith if we hope for safety in this world and the Hereafter.
(1) http://www.islamandhinduism.com/ih/Concept%20of%20Angels.html (Last accessed July 23, 2013).
(2) http://mantrashastra.com/sastra/mantra-parts/devata-the-enlightener/ (Last accessed July 23, 2013).
(3) `Abdul-Latif Muhammad Al-`Abd, “Definition of Angels”, in Encyclopedia of Islamic Concepts (Egypt: The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, 2009).
(4) http://mantrashastra.com/sastra/mantra-parts/devata-the-enlightener/ (Last accessed July 23, 2013).
(5) Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Rigvedadi Bhashya Bhumika, Urdu translation by Nehal Singh Arya, first edition, Vidya Darpan Meerath, Press,1898.p.42.
(7) http://mantrashastra.com/sastra/mantra-parts/devata-the-enlightener/ (Last accessed July 23, 2013).