From Moroni To Jibril, They're All Angels

YOU DON'T HAVE TO be Christian to believe in angels. From the spirit guides of Native American religions to the wingless angels of Mormonism, many of the world's faiths have angels, or at least spirits who perform angellike functions. For the Mormons, it was the angel Moroni himself who traveled to upstate New York to guide Joseph Smith down the path to revelation. And what are the Zoroastrian Fravashis if not angels: guardian spirits that accompany a newborn soul to earth and remain to guide it through the shoals of life.

The closest parallels to the angels of Christianity, however, are in the two other great faiths of the Middle East--Judaism and Islam. The cherubim who swell the Judeo-Christian heavens become the ranks of Islamic karubiyun. The Judaic angel of death finds his Islamic counterpart in the fearsome Azrail, whose eyes and tongues equal the number of the living. If anyone shivers, says the folk belief, Azrail must be staring at him.

But angels are not merely decorative features of the celestial topography. In their essential role as Biblical messengers, says Prof. Daniel C. Matt of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., "they provide a way to protect the pure transcendence of God, while carrying out the divine will." The Talmud is full of references to angels occupied with tasks both large and small--exhorting blades of grass to grow and leading nations in battle. In Jewish mysticism, angels fashion wreaths from the words of prayers and adorn God with the crowns.

In Islam, angels are no less prominent. Every individual has two, to record his good and bad deeds. More important, angels are bearers of revelation. It is Jibril (Arabic for Gabriel) who transmits the Koran to Muhammad, reciting it verse by verse. And in legends of his ascension through the seven heavens, Muhammad meets exotic angels: one half fire, half snow; others with 4,900 tongues, the better to praise Allah.

"Angels add color and richness to the spiritual life," says Arthur Green, professor of Jewish Thought at Brandeis University. The angels of all creeds are part of that mystery.

From Moroni To Jibril, They're All Angels | News