Whenever a revelation comes to them from their Lord, they (who are disbelievers) turn away from it. Thus they have denied the truth now that it has come to them. In time, they shall have full information about that which they used to deride.
Do they not see how many a generation, We have destroyed before them -- people whom We had made more powerful in the land than We have made you, and upon whom We had loosened heaven in torrents, and made rivers flow at their feet? Yet We destroyed them for their sins, and raised up another generation after them.
Even if We had sent down to you a book written on paper, and they had touched it with their own hands, surely the disbelievers would still say: "This is nothing but plain magic." They say: "Why has not an angel been sent down to him?" Yet if We were to send down an angel, the matter would be settled, and they would have been allowed no further respite. And even if We had appointed an angel (as a messenger), We would certainly have made him (appear as) a man, and thus We would have confused for them that which they themselves are confusing.
Indeed other messengers have been derided before your time, but those who scoffed at them were eventually overwhelmed by the very thing they had derided.
Say: Travel all over the earth and see what was the fate of those who denied the truth.
(Cattle; "Al An'aam": 6:4-11)
We have already referred to the futile suggestion made by the disbelievers to the effect that an angel should have been sent down to Prophet Muhammad to confirm his message. It was not a new suggestion; it was made previously by other disbelievers who demanded it from their own prophets. We mentioned that it would have served nothing, because it was not lack of proof of the honesty and truthfulness of Prophet Muhammad that led the disbelievers to continue to deny his message. It was simply that stubborn refusal to accept what they knew to be the truth. As we said last month, the suggestion raised several issues, the first of which we have already discussed pointing out that the Arabs who opposed Prophet Muhammad did not deny the existence of Allah, nor did they deny the surpassing excellence of the Qur'an. Indeed, they realized that it could not have been composed by a human being. Moreover, they were fully aware of the honesty and truthfulness of the Prophet. Faced with a rejection of the type the Arabs of Quraish showed, there was nothing to bring them round to admitting their error: "Even if We had sent down to you a book written on paper, and they had touched it with their own hands, surely the disbelievers would still say: This is nothing but plain magic."
The second issue was that the Arabs knew about angels and requested that Allah should send down an angel to support His messenger and confirm the truth of his message. They knew nothing, however, of the nature of this type of creation, i.e., the angels, which is known only to Allah. Hence, they formulated their own arbitrary conceptions of these creatures and the sort of relationship which existed between them and their Lord on the one hand, and with the earth and its inhabitants on the other.
The Qur'an refers to the Arabian misconceptions about the angels and the legends of pagan nations and points out their errors so that anyone of those people who may be properly guided to accept this faith would be able to revise his concepts about the universe and its creatures. As such, Islam provides a method to set man's reason, feelings, heart and conscience on the right course and to rectify situations and practices alike.
One of the Arabs' wrong concepts to which the Qur'an refers was their belief that the angels were Allah's daughters. Limitless is He, is His glory and sublimely exhalted above anything that people may ascribe to Him! As such, they believed angels were able to intercede with Allah and their intercession was never refused. It is thought that some of the more important idols were symbols of angels.
The Qur'an refutes the first erroneous concept. This is mentioned in several places in the Qur'an. From the surah entitled "An-Najm" the following verses may be quoted in translation: "Have you ever considered AI-Lat and Al-Uzza as well as Manat, the third of this triad? Why for yourselves would you choose only male offspring, whereas to Him, you assign female: that is indeed an unfair division! These (idols) are nothing but empty names which you have invented, you and your forefathers, for which Allah has bestowed no warrant from on high. They who worship them follow nothing but surmise in their own wishful thinking, although right guidance has indeed come to them from their Lord. Does man imagine that it is his due to have all that he might wish for, despite the fact that both the life to come and this present life belong to Allah alone? For, however many angels there be in the heavens, their intercession can be of no least avail to anyone, except after Allah has given leave to intercede, to whomever He wills and with whom He is well pleased. It is only such as do not truly believe in the life to come that regard the angels as female breedings, and since they have no knowledge of that at all, they follow nothing but surmise: yet, never can surmise take the place of truth." (53; 19-28).
The Qur'an also provides the facts correcting the erroneous concept of the nature of the angels held by the disbelievers. This is provided in these two verses in this surah as it is given elsewhere in the Qur'an: "They say: Why has not an angel been sent down to him? Yet if We were to send down an angel, the matter would be settled and they would have been allowed no further respite."
This is part of the information provided in the Qur'an of the nature of the angels created by Allah. The disbelievers proposed that an angel should be sent down, but it has been part of the laws that Allah has set in operation that He sends down angels to this planet only to destroy a particular community for having rejected their messenger. Had Allah responded to the suggestion of the disbelievers among the Arabs and sent down an angel, then the whole issue would have been resolved and they would have been destroyed without allowing them any further time to consider their position. Was this the alternative they wished? Would it not be better for them to realize how limitless the grace Allah has bestowed on them by not responding to their own suggestion, because it would have meant their own destruction? They are thus made to see the facts with their own eyes, so that they may realize how, ignorant they are about their own interest and about the process of sending down angels.
The other part of the definition of the angels, as Allah's own servants, is provided by the second verse: "And even if We had appointed an angel (as a messenger), We would certainly have made him (appear as) a man, and thus We would have confused for them that which they themselves are confusing."
What they demand is that Allah sends an angel to confirm the Prophet's message. Angels are of a type of creatures which are different from human beings. They have their own nature which is known only to Allah. Since we know nothing about them other than what we are told by their Lord who has created them, we know that they cannot walk on earth in their own form of creation, because they do not live on this planet. They have the ability, however, to take a human form when they undertake a task relevant to human life, such as conveying Allah's message or destroying those disbelievers whom Allah wishes to destroy or giving support to believers or fighting their enemies. The Qur'an tells us other duties they may be commanded to fulfill, and they do not disobey Allah in whatever He bids them to do. They simply do what they are asked to do.
Therefore, if Allah wanted to send an angel to confirm the message of His Prophet, that angel would have appeared to mankind in the form of a man, not in his own angel form. That would have made the confusion persist. They have confused the truth for themselves at a time when Muhammad (peace be on him) used to say to them: I am Muhammad whom you have known very well. Allah has sent me as a messenger to warn you and give you happy news. How much greater would their confusion be if an angel came to them in the form of a man whom they did not know and said: “I am an angel sent by Allah to confirm the message preached by His messenger”. To them, that angel would only appear as a man like them. They were confusing simple facts.
Thus Allah points out their ignorance about the nature of His creation and His laws, in addition to exposing their stubborn rejection which could have had no justification and no supporting evidence.