Assalamualaikum SS Dato’ Seri Mufti. My question is, can humans see Gabriel AS?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Originally, humans are not able to see angels. They may able to see angels only if the angels are in another form, and not in their original form. This happens upon the companions of the Prophet PBUH. They had encountered Gabriel AS in the form of Dihyah al-Kalbi. (Refer Sahih Bukhari, no. 4980 and Muslim, no. 2451). They also had encountered Gabriel in the form of an unknown man as mentioned in a lengthy hadith on Gabriel, which is the hadith narrated by Umar RA. (Refer Sahih Muslim, no. 8)
Gabriel also took the form of human in front of Saidatina Maryam as stated in the Quran:
فَتَمَثَّلَ لَهَا بَشَرًا سَوِيًّا
“and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man”
Syeikh Tahir al-Jazairi in his book, al-Jawahir al-Kalamiyyah said:
لَا يَرَى البَشَرُ غَيْرَ الأَنْبِيَاءِ الملَائِكَةَ إِذَا كَانُوا عَلَى صُوَرِهِمْ الأَصْلِيَّةِ لِأَنَّهُمْ أَجْسَامٌ لَطِيفَةٌ كَمَا أَنَّهُمْ لَا يَرَوْنَ الهَوَاءَ مَعَ كَوْنِهِ جِسْمًا مَالِئًا لِلفضَاءِ لِكَوْنِهِ لَطِيفاً وَأَمَّا إِذَا تَشَكَّلُوا بِصُورَةِ جِسْمٍ كَثِيفٍ كَالإِنْسَانِ فَيَرَوْنَهُمْ وَرُؤْيَةُ الأَنْبِيَاءِ لَهُمْ عَلَى صُوَرِهِمْ الأَصْلِيَّةِ خُصُوصِيَّةً خَصُّوا بِهَا لِتُلْقِيَ المسائِلَ الدِّينِيَّة وَالأَحْكَام الشَّرْعِيَّة
“Humans are not able to perceive angels in their original form, except the prophets. The reason is, angels are made up of a subtle form (jsmun lathif) like air which is unseen by naked eyes (but its presence is sensed). However, when angels present themselves in physical form (jismin kathif) like humans, then all humans will be able to see them. Whereas, it is one of the special abilities of the prophets to be able to perceive the angels in their original form (subtle form) for them to handle religious affairs as well as the rulings.” (Refer al-Jawahir al-Kalamiyyah, page 29)
Hence, we state, indeed, it is possible. This is based on valid hadith recorded by Muslim where the companions saw Gabriel AS in the form of a man, asking on Islam, iman, ihsan, the Doomsday and its signs.
بَيْنَمَا نَحْنُ عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ذَاتَ يَوْمٍ إِذْ طَلَعَ عَلَيْنَا رَجُلٌ شَدِيدُ بَيَاضِ الثِّيَابِ شَدِيدُ سَوَادِ الشَّعَرِ لاَ يُرَى عَلَيْهِ أَثَرُ السَّفَرِ وَلاَ يَعْرِفُهُ مِنَّا أَحَدٌ حَتَّى جَلَسَ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَأَسْنَدَ رُكْبَتَيْهِ إِلَى رُكْبَتَيْهِ وَوَضَعَ كَفَّيْهِ عَلَى فَخِذَيْهِ وَقَالَ يَا مُحَمَّدُ أَخْبِرْنِي عَنِ الإِسْلاَمِ . فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم " الإِسْلاَمُ أَنْ تَشْهَدَ أَنْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَتُقِيمَ الصَّلاَةَ وَتُؤْتِيَ الزَّكَاةَ وَتَصُومَ رَمَضَانَ وَتَحُجَّ الْبَيْتَ إِنِ اسْتَطَعْتَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلاً . قَالَ صَدَقْتَ . قَالَ فَعَجِبْنَا لَهُ يَسْأَلُهُ وَيُصَدِّقُهُ . قَالَ فَأَخْبِرْنِي عَنِ الإِيمَانِ . قَالَ " أَنْ تُؤْمِنَ بِاللَّهِ وَمَلاَئِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَتُؤْمِنَ بِالْقَدَرِ خَيْرِهِ وَشَرِّهِ " . قَالَ صَدَقْتَ . قَالَ فَأَخْبِرْنِي عَنِ الإِحْسَانِ . قَالَ " أَنْ تَعْبُدَ اللَّهَ كَأَنَّكَ تَرَاهُ فَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ تَرَاهُ فَإِنَّهُ يَرَاكَ " . قَالَ فَأَخْبِرْنِي عَنِ السَّاعَةِ . قَالَ " مَا الْمَسْئُولُ عَنْهَا بِأَعْلَمَ مِنَ السَّائِلِ " . قَالَ فَأَخْبِرْنِي عَنْ أَمَارَتِهَا . قَالَ " أَنْ تَلِدَ الأَمَةُ رَبَّتَهَا وَأَنْ تَرَى الْحُفَاةَ الْعُرَاةَ الْعَالَةَ رِعَاءَ الشَّاءِ يَتَطَاوَلُونَ فِي الْبُنْيَانِ " . قَالَ ثُمَّ انْطَلَقَ فَلَبِثْتُ مَلِيًّا ثُمَّ قَالَ لِي " يَا عُمَرُ أَتَدْرِي مَنِ السَّائِلُ " . قُلْتُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَعْلَمُ . قَالَ " فَإِنَّهُ جِبْرِيلُ أَتَاكُمْ يُعَلِّمُكُمْ دِينَكُمْ
“One day we were sitting in the company of Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) when there appeared before us a man dressed in pure white clothes, his hair extraordinarily black. There were no signs of travel on him. None amongst us recognized him. At last he sat with the Apostle (peace be upon him) He knelt before him placed his palms on his thighs and said: Muhammad, inform me about al-Islam. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Al-Islam implies that you testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and you establish prayer, pay Zakat, observe the fast of Ramadan, and perform pilgrimage to the (House) if you are solvent enough (to bear the expense of) the journey. He (the inquirer) said: You have told the truth. He (Umar ibn al-Khattab) said: It amazed us that he would put the question and then he would himself verify the truth. He (the inquirer) said: Inform me about Iman (faith). He (the Holy Prophet) replied: That you affirm your faith in Allah, in His angels, in His Books, in His Apostles, in the Day of Judgment, and you affirm your faith in the Divine Decree about good and evil. He (the inquirer) said: You have told the truth. He (the inquirer) again said: Inform me about al-Ihsan (performance of good deeds). He (the Holy Prophet) said: That you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, for though you don't see Him, He, verily, sees you. He (the enquirer) again said: Inform me about the hour (of the Doom). He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: One who is asked knows no more than the one who is inquiring (about it). He (the inquirer) said: Tell me some of its indications. He (the Holy Prophet) said: That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress and master, that you will find barefooted, destitute goat-herds vying with one another in the construction of magnificent buildings. He (the narrator, Umar ibn al-Khattab) said: Then he (the inquirer) went on his way but I stayed with him (the Holy Prophet) for a long while. He then, said to me: Umar, do you know who this inquirer was? I replied: Allah and His Apostle knows best. He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: He was Gabriel (the angel). He came to you in order to instruct you in matters of religion.”
Sahih Muslim (8)
Syeikh Abdul Muhsin al-Abbad said: “In this hadith of Gabriel AS, there is evidence that angels if they present themselves in front of humans, they are able to take the form of humans. It is also mentioned in the Quran that Gabriel AS come to Maryam in the form of a man. So is the case in which they (the angels) come to the Prophet Ibrahim and Luth in the form of a man. They are able to transform from their original form to human form by the will of Allah SWT. (Refer al-Kafi Syarah Hadis 40, page 18-19)
Allah SWT mentions their form of creation in His saying:
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ فَاطِرِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ جَاعِلِ الْمَلَائِكَةِ رُسُلًا أُولِي أَجْنِحَةٍ مَّثْنَىٰ وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ ۚ يَزِيدُ فِي الْخَلْقِ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
“[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Creator of the heavens and the earth, [who] made the angels messengers having wings, two or three or four. He increases in creation what He wills. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.”
Syeikh Abdul Halim Mahmud states: “However, this does not mean anyone is able to see the angels as they wish.”
Preceding scholars hold the opinion: “They will never be able to perceive angels in their original form. Even if We send them down, We will descend them in human form, until the humans cannot distinguish between angels and humans. They will never get any benefits from the angels (in their original form), hence We send them in the form of human which are same with them, able to be seen and come face-to-face with them. This is a form of ihsan and blessing upon the creatures” (Refer Minhaj Sunnah Nabawiyyah, 2/333)
Syeikh Umar al-Asyqar said: If the angels are in the subtle form, then servants (humans) will not be able to see them, especially when Allah does not bestow us eyes that have this special ability. This means humans are not able to see angels in their original form apart of Prophet Muhammad PBUH. He perceived Gabriel AS twice in its original form created by Allah. This is based on the evidences which state that humans are able to perceive the angels in human form. (Refer ‘Alam al-Malaikah al-Abrar, page 11)
It is mentioned in a hadith where a man visited his brother in another town and Allah deputed an Angel to wait for him on his way and when he came to him he said: Where do you intend to go? He said: I intend to go to my brother in this town. He said: Have you done any favour to him (the repayment of which you intend to get)? He said: No, excepting this that I love him for the sake of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious.
فَإِنِّى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ إِلَيْكَ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَحَبَّكَ كَمَا أَحْبَبْتَهُ فِيهِ
Thereupon he said: I am a messenger to you from Allah: (to inform you) that Allah loves you as you love him (for His sake).
Sahih Muslim (2567)
May Allah SWT make us understand and have a strong faith in the six pillars of faith including belief in the angels. Ameen.