Is Gabriel an angel?

May God forgive me and guide me regarding any sign that would have been misinterpreted in this study and elsewhere. May He always guide us to a better understanding of His profound scripture so we can purify ourselves and increase our knowledge.

This is a very short article to point at the fact that it is not obvious in the Quranic text if Gabriel and Michael are angels: People refer traditionally to them as such, but a close reading of the Quran shows that they are never called angels. On the contrary they are made distinct from them:

﴾2:98﴿ Anyone who opposes (1) God, and (2) His angels, and (3) His messengers, and (4) Gabriel and Michael, should know that God opposes the disbelievers.

﴾66:4﴿ If the two of you repent to God, then your hearts have listened. But if you band together against him, then (1) God is his ally, as well as (2) Gabriel (3) and the righteous believers; (4) the angels, furthermore, are [also] his assistants.

1. Who is the Spirit?

A mathematical sign seems to identify pretty clearly Gabriel (GV 245) as being “the spirit” (GV 245). I don’t believe it is a coincidence if the two expressions have exactly the same gematrical value. We know that Gabriel was commanded to deliver the Quran on the 27th night of Ramadan in 610 CE, as acknowledged in sura 97 entitled “The decree”:

﴾97:4﴿ The angels and “the Spirit” (Gabriel) descend therein (on the night of destiny, 27th night of Ramadan), by their Lord’s leave, to carry out every command.

﴾16:2﴿ He sends down the angels with “the Spirit” (Gabriel) by His command upon whom He wishes of His servants that “you shall warn that there is no god but I, so be aware of Me.”

﴾16:102﴿ Say, “The Holy Spirit” (Gabriel) has brought it down on behalf of your Lord, truthfully, to reassure those who believe, as well as a guidance and good news for the Muslims.”

﴾26:193﴿ The Honest Spirit (Gabriel) came down with it.

﴾70:4﴿ The angels and “the spirit” ascend to Him in a day that equals fifty thousand years.

﴾78:38﴿ The day will come when “the Spirit” and the angels will stand in a row. None will speak except those permitted by the Most Gracious, and they will utter only what is right.

2. Additional Quranic context

Muslims are required to believe in God, angels, messengers, scriptures…:

﴾2:177﴿ Righteousness is not turning your faces towards the east or the west. Righteous are those who believe in (1) God, (2) and the Last Day, (3) and the angels, (4) and the scripture, and (4) the prophets;…

﴾2:285﴿ The messenger has believed in what was sent down to him from his Lord, and so did the believers. They believe in (1) God, (2) His angels, (3) His scripture, and (4) His messengers: “We make no distinction among any of His messengers.” They say, “We hear, and we obey. Forgive us, our Lord. To You is the ultimate destiny.”

Remark: Note the order of words: …GOD, His angels, His scripture, and His messengers…

﴾4:136﴿ O you who believe, you shall believe in (1) God and (2) His messenger, and (3) the scripture He has revealed through His messenger, and (4) the scripture He has revealed before that. Anyone who refuses to believe in (1) God, and (2) His angels, and (3) His scriptures, and (4) His messengers, and (5) the Last Day, has indeed strayed far away.

Remark: Let us meditate on the above order of words.

From the Quran it is clear that Angels can be also be messengers (رسلا):
﴾11:81﴿ (The angels) said, “O Lot, we are your Lord’s messengers (انا رسل ربك), and these people cannot touch you. You shall leave with your family during the night, and let not anyone of you look back, except your wife; she is condemned along with those who are condemned. Their appointed time is the morning. Is not the morning soon enough?”

﴾22:75﴿ God chooses from among the angels messengers (رسلا), as well as from among the people. God is Hearer, Seer.

Remark: Per 22:75, just like very few human beings are messengers of God, only some angels chosen by God have the title of “messengers”.

﴾35:1﴿ Praise be to God, Initiator of the heavens and the earth, and appointer of angels as messengers (رسلا) with wings – two, three, and four (wings). He increases the creation as He wills. God is Omnipotent.

Gabriel and Michael have to belong either to the category of angels, messengers,… “scripture” (?!) or several categories at the same time; but they are never specifically called angels directly in the text, and are apparently made distinct from them. Why?

3. What is the nature of “the Spirit”?

The Quran warns us that very little knowledge has been given to us concerning the nature of “the Spirit”:

﴾17:85﴿ And they ask you (second person singular) regarding (the nature of) “the Spirit” (Al Ruh). Say: “The Spirit originates from the command of my Lord, and you (second person plural) have been given but very little knowledge.

There are a number of issues in the Quran we cannot solve because God has purposely not given us full knowledge. As Muslims, we shall by definition submit and not try to guess what is beyond our understanding and knowledge, unless God clarifies specific information derived from well grounded knowledge directly in the Quran. It is understandable that it is hard for people to conceive the idea that Gabriel and Michael may not necessarily be angels because it is what all of us have been taught since childhood; still the Quran is fully detailed: They are not called angels, they are made clearly distinct from them; Gabriel is called “the spirit”, “the honest spirit” or “the Holy spirit”; why should we take a chance and call them angels simply because of inherited traditions if our goal in life is to base our faith and follow the Quran alone? Make no mistake, I am not saying Gabriel and Michael are not angels… and I am not saying that they are: I personally prefer to submit and call Gabriel in accordance with the Word of God, because it is how God himself defines him. I cannot go wrong following the Quran alone. Christianity calls Gabriel and Michael archangels, also making a distinction, but this is not acknowledged either in the final revelation.

Let’s also make it crystal clear that “the Holy Spirit” is not God, it is not divine (part of “the divinity”) as claimed in Christianity. God proclaims that He is not part of a trinity (4:171, 5:73). The example of Moses in the Torah and the Quran proves that no one can stand to see God physically. For the same reason, it is even less conceivable that Muhammad would have received the Quran in “his heart” if the “Holy Spirit” were to be divine, or that Jesus would have been strengthened by a divine entity:

﴾2:97﴿ Say, “Anyone who opposes Gabriel should know that he has brought down this (the Quran) into your heart (Muhammad’s heart), in accordance with God’s will, confirming previous scriptures, and providing guidance and good news for the believers.”

﴾5:110﴿ [Recall] when God said: “O Jesus son of Mary, remember My blessings upon you and your mother when I supported you with “the Holy Spirit”; you spoke to the people as you were in the cradle as well as when you reached maturity; and I taught you the Scripture and wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel; and you sculpted from clay, by My leave, the shape of a bird, then blew into it, and it became a [live] bird by My leave; and you healed the blind and the leaper by My leave; and you revived the dead by My leave. And I have restrained the Children of Israel from [harming] you. When you came to them with [clear] proofs, those who disbelieved among them said: “This is nothing but obvious magic!”

﴾5:72﴿ Pagans indeed are those who say that God is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah himself said, “O Children of Israel, you shall worship God; my Lord and your Lord.” Anyone who sets up any idol beside God, God has forbidden Paradise for him, and his destiny is Hell. The wicked have no helpers.