Attributes and abilities of Angels
They are honourable and obedient to Allah
Almighty Allah has described the angels as being honourable and obedient in the verse (which means):
"[The Quran being Carried] by the hands of messengers (angels) noble and dutiful." [Quran 80:15-16] Meaning, the Quran is in the hands of scribes, i.e., the angels, because they are the emissaries of Allah to His Messengers and Prophets, may Allah exalt their mention.
Allah has described these angels as being "honourable and obedient", i.e., He has created them honourable, good and noble. Their actions are obedient, pure and perfect. Hence the one who learns the Quran by heart should be one whose actions and words are proper and correct.
The Messenger of Allah said:
"The one who reads the Quran and recites it perfectly will be with the honourable scribes (angels) and the one who reads the Quran and tries his best, and it is hard for him, will have his reward doubled." [Al-Bukhari]
Among the attributes of the angels mentioned by the Messenger is their modesty. `Aa'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said that the Messenger of Allah was lying down in his house with his thigh or his shin uncovered. Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, asked for permission to come in, and he let him in and spoke with him whilst he was in that state. Then 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, asked for permission to come in, and he let him in and spoke with him whilst he was in that state. Then `Uthmaan, may Allah be pleased with him, asked for permission to come in, and the Messenger sat up and rearranged his garment, then he let him come in and spoke with him. When he left, `Aa'ishah said: "Abu Bakr came in, and you did not stir or pay too much attention. Then 'Umar came in, and you did not stir or pay too much attention. Then `Uthmaan came in, and you sat up and fixed your garment." He said, "How could I not feel shy of a man of whom the angels feel shy?" [Muslim]
The phrase "you did not stir" means you did not welcome him warmly.
Khadeejah may Allah be pleased with her said to the Prophet : "… O cousin, can you inform me the next time your companion (i.e. Jibreel) comes to you?" He said: "Indeed". She may Allah be pleased with her said: "Tell me if he comes." Later, when the Prophet, Sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam was with her once, Jibreel came to him . Seeing him, the Prophet said to Khadeejah may Allah be pleased with her: "O Khadeejah, here comes Jibreel." She may Allah be pleased with her said: "Do you see him now?" He answered in the affirmative. She may Allah be pleased with her said: "Come and sit on my right side." The Prophet came and sat on her right side. Then she, may Allah be pleased with her said: "Do you see him now?" the Prophet said: "Yes". Then she, may Allah be pleased with her, asked the Prophet to sit in her lap. When he did, she, may Allah be pleased with her, asked him: "Do you still see him?" He again said: "Yes." Then she, may Allah be pleased with her, uncovered her head while the Prophet was still sitting in her lap and said: "Do you still see him?" He said: "No" She, may Allah be pleased with her, said: "He is not a devil; he is nothing but an angel …" [Al-Bayhaqi]
That fact that Jibreel disappeared when Khadeejah, may Allah be pleased with her, uncovered her head shows that angels are modest and bashful.
- They are able to take on different forms
Almighty Allah has given the angels the ability to take on forms different from their own. Allah sent Jibreel (the angel Gabriel) to Maryam (Mary) in human form, as stated in the verse (which means):
"And mention, [O Muhammad], in the Book [the story of] Maryam (Mary), when she withdrew from her family to a place toward the east. And she took, in seclusion from them, a screen. Then We sent to her Our Angel [i.e. Jibreel], and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man. She said, “Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, [so leave me], if you should be fearing of Allah.” He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you [news of] a pure boy [i.e. Son].'" [Quran 19:16-19]
The angels came to Ibraaheem (Abraham), may Allah exalt his mention, in human form, and he did not know that they were angels until they told him who they really were, as stated in the verses (which mean):
"And certainly did Our messengers [i.e. angels] come to Ibraaheem (Abraham) with good tidings; they said, “Peace.” He said, “Peace,” and did not delay in bringing [them] a roasted calf. But when he saw their hands not reaching for it, he distrusted them and felt from them apprehension. They said, “Fear not. We have been sent to the people of Lot.” [Quran 11:70]
The angels came to the Prophet Lot, may Allah exalt his mention, in the form of young men with handsome faces and he was grieved on account of them and feared that they may be harmed by his people, for they were an evil people who committed evil actions, and they used to commit sodomy. Almighty Allah Says (what means):
"And when Our messengers, [the angels], came to Lot, he was anguished for them and felt for them great discomfort and said, “This is a trying day.'" [Quran 11:77]
Ibn Katheer said: "The angels appeared to him (Prophet Lot) in the form of handsome young men as a test and a trial, so that proof might be established against the people of Loot, and Allah might seize them with a mighty punishment." [Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah, 1/43]
Jibreel used to come to the Messenger in different forms. Sometimes he came in the form of Duhyah Ibn Khaleefah Al-Kalbi, may Allah be pleased with him, (a companion who was of handsome appearance), and sometimes in the form of a Bedouin.
Many of the Prophet's companions, may Allah be pleased with them, saw him when he came in that form.