Angel of Death

The Angels of Death

6:93: “If thou couldst see, when the wrong-doers reach the pangs of death and the angels stretch their hands out,  saying: Deliver up your souls.”

32:11: “Say: The Angel of Death, who hath charge concerning you, will gather you and afterward unto your Lord ye will be returned.” 

In these verses the Angel of Death and his assistants are sent to take the soul of those destined to die.
Who is the Angel of Death? When God wanted to create Adam, he sent one of the Angels of the Throne to
bring some of the earth’s clay to fashion Adam from it. When the angel came to earth to take the clay, the
earth told him: “I beseech you by the One Who sent you not to take anything from me to make someone
who will be punished one day.” When the angel returned empty-handed, God asked him why he did not
bring back any clay. The angel said: “The earth beseeched me by Your greatness not to take anything from
it.” Then God sent another angel, but the same thing happened, and then another, until God decided to
send Azra’il, the Angel of Death. The earth spoke to him as it had spoken to the others, but Azra’il said:
“Obedience to God is better than obedience to you, even if you beseech me by His greatness.” And Azra’il
took clay from the earth’s east and its west, its north and its south, and brought it back to God. God poured
some water of paradise on this clay and it became soft, and from it He created Adam.

Prophet Abraham questions Azra’il

The Prophet Abraham once asked Azra’il who has two eyes in the front of his head and two eyes in the
back: “O Angel of Death! What do you do if one man dies in the east and another in the west, or if a land is
stricken by the plague, or if two armies meet in the field?” The angel said: “O Messenger of God! the
names of these people are inscribed on the lawh al-mahfuz: It is the ‘Preserved Tablet’ on which all human
destinies are engraved. I gaze at it incessantly. It informs me of the moment when the lifetime of any living
being on earth has come to an end, be it one of mankind or one of the beasts. There is also a tree next to
me, called the Tree of Life. It is covered with myriads of tiny leaves, smaller than the leaves of the olive-tree
and much more numerous. Whenever a person is born on earth, the tree sprouts a new leaf, and on this
leaf is written the name of that person. It is by means of this tree that I know who is born and who is to die.
When a person is going to die, his leaf begins to wilt and dry, and it falls from the tree onto the tablet. Then
this person’s name is erased from the Preserved Tablet. This event happens forty days before the actual
death of that person. We are informed forty days in advance of his impending death. That person himself
may not know it and may continue his life on earth full of hope and plans. However, we here in the heavens
know and have that information. That is why God has said: ‘Your sustenance has been written in the
heavens and decreed for you,’ and it includes the life-span. The moment we see in heaven that leaf wilting
and dying we mix it into that person’s provision, and from the fortieth day before his death he begins to
consume his leaf from the Tree of Life without knowing it. Only forty days then remain of his life in this world,
and after that there is no provision for him in it. Then I summon the spirits by God’s leave, until they are
present right before me, and the earth is flattened out and left like a dish before me, from which I partake
as I wish, by God’s order.”

Two Deaths

A certain king once went on a trip to one of his provinces. He set out on his journey, dressed in a
pompous array and puffed up with pride. A man poorly dressed approached and greeted him from the
side of the road; but the king would not answer. The man caught the bridles of the king’s horse and none of
the king’s soldiers could make him let go. The king cried: “Let go of the bridle!” The man said: “First grant
me my request.” The king said: “Release the bridle and I promise to hear your request.” The man said:
“No, you must hear it right away,” and he pulled harder on the reins. The king said: “What is your request?”
The man replied: “Let me whisper it in your ear, for it is a secret.” The king leaned down and the man
whispered to him: “I am the Angel of Death.” The king’s face became pale and he stammered: “Let me go
home and bid farewell to my family, and wrap up my affairs.” But Azra’il said: “By the One Who sent me,
you will never see your family and your wealth in this world again!” He took his soul there and then, and the
king fell from his horse like a wooden log. The Angel of Death went on his way and saw a believer walking
by himself on the road. The angel greeted him, and he gave back his greeting. The angel said: “I have a
message for you.” “Yes, my brother, what is it?” “I am the Angel of Death.” The believer’s face brightened
with a big smile. “Welcome, welcome!” He said. “As God is my witness, I was waiting for you more
impatiently than for anyone else.” “O my brother!” the Angel of Death said, “perhaps you have a matter that
you wish to settle first, so go and take care of it, for there is no rush.” “As God is my witness,” the believer
said: “there is nothing I wish more dearly than to meet my Lord.” The angel said: “Choose the way in which
you would like me to take your soul, for so I have been ordered to ask you.” The believer said: “Then let me
pray two cycles of prayer, and take my soul while I am kneeling in prostration.”

Izrail Takes the Life on an Ascetic

One day, the master of ascetics, Ibrahim ibn Adham, was by the sea-shore on a snowy day. Heavy, dark
clouds were filling the sky and he was shivering with cold. He made his prayers on a plank of wood and sat
in meditation all night. In the early morning he took a shower and made a small hut out of the wood to
shelter him from the weather. He resumed his meditation and thanked God for his life. At that moment, God
said to the Angel of Death: “My servant Ibrahim’s fervent love for Me has become unbearable upon him,
therefore go down and take his soul and let him enter My paradise.” The Angel of Death thought that
Ibrahim ibn Adham would be like others, unwilling to give up his soul and putting up resistance. He veiled
himself with seven veils so that he would not be recognized, and he appeared to Ibrahim as a very old man.
He said to him: “O my brother! can you share your shelter with me?” Ibrahim replied: “It is not necessary to
share it, I will give it to you, because I was expecting you since last night to come and take me to my Lord.”
The angel of death was very surprised and asked him: “How did you recognize me despite my veils?”
Ibrahim replied: “When God ordered you to take my soul, I was present there with you. Take me and let me
be in the presence of my Beloved.”

The Death of a Subject of King Solomon (as)

One day, the Angel of Death entered King Solomon’s presence and looked at one of Solomon’s subjects
in a fierce way, then left. The man asked Solomon: “Who was that?” He said: “That was the Angel of
Death.” The man said: “I saw him looking at me as if he wanted my soul!” Solomon said: “What do you
want me to do?” He said: “I want you to order the winds to take me and carry me to India so that I will be
safe.” Solomon summoned the angel of the winds, who appeared in front of him with his 660 wings. He
carried all winds within his wings. He put the man inside one of his wings and took him to India. The Angel
of Death then came to Solomon again and Solomon said to him: “I saw you looking at one of my people.”
“Yes,” replied the angel, “I was surprised to see him here with you, because I was ordered to take his soul
from a place in India!”

Dede Korkut

Dede Korkut was the bravest warrior of his time. His exploits reached a point where he considered himself
invincible in the land, and challenged all creation to defeat him and his brave young men in combat. God
heard his words and was displeased with his pride. So he sent him the Angel of Death to take his soul.
Azra’il came to him as he was feasting in his palace and stood before him without saying a word. Dede
Korkut said: “I did not see you come in; who are you?” The angel replied: “I am not one to ask permission
from the likes of you, and I came to teach you a lesson.” The young man immediately rose to his feet and
ordered that the visitor be caught, but he changed himself into a bird and flew out through the chimney.

Dede Korkut ordered his horse saddled and everyone rushed in hot pursuit of the strange bird. Soon he
found himself lost in the middle of the forest, and the angel suddenly appeared again in front of him. “I got
you now!” exclaimed Dede Korkut. “No,” said the angel, “I got you,” and he brought him down from his
horse and stood on his chest, pinning him to the ground. Dede Korkut began to cry and said: “I feel weaker
than I ever felt before. What did you do to me?” Azra’il said: “I am the angel of death, so prepare yourself to
leave this life.” He replied: “I beseech you to give me more time and I apologize to you if my boasting
offended you.” Azra’il said: “Do not apologize to me and do not beseech me. I am a creature like you, and I
only follow orders from the Almighty.” Dede Korkut said: “Then get out of my way, and stop wasting my
time!” And he began to pray to God: “Forgive my boasting, O my God! and give me another chance, as I
apologize for offending you. You are the Almighty over your creation.”

God liked Dede’s words and instructed Azra’il to give him a respite. Azra’il said: “God has decided to let
you live on the condition that you find someone else to die in your place.” Dede Korkut thought: “I will ask
my father, he is old and will not refuse me.” He went to him and told him his story, but he replied: “O my
son! I slaved my lifelong in order to relish my old age. I am sorry, but I am not ready to die in your place.”
Dede Korkut thought: “Surely my mother will not refuse me.” He went to her but she said: “O my son! I gave
my life to you many times already, when I bore you, fed you, raised you and took care of you. Now the rest
of my life belongs at your father’s side, as company for his old age.”

The young man was crestfallen and he went home, resigned to die. When his young wife saw his sadness,
she asked what troubled him and he said: “O my beloved wife! the Angel of Death is about to come and
take my life unless I find someone else willing to die in my place, and my own father and mother have
refused me, so who can I find now?” His wife answered, “O my beloved husband! why didn’t you ask me? I
am happy to give you what even your father and mother cannot give you. Take my life so that yours can be
spared.” When Dede Korkut, the Fierce Warrior heard these words, his heart melted and tears came to
his eyes. He turned to God and said: “O my Lord! forgive me, take my life and spare my wife, for she is
worthier and braver than me.” God was again pleased to hear those words, and he decided to spare both
Dede Korkut and his wife. Instead, He sent Azra’il to take the life of his parents as they had been blessed
with a long and happy life.

God wrote on the palms of the Angel of Death in letters of light: “In the Name of God, Most Merciful, Most
Beneficent.” He ordered the angel, whenever he had to take the soul of a Knower of God, to show him
those letters of light which cause the soul of the Knower to come out of is body like an element attracted to
a magnet, or like light returning to its source.

The Passing of King David, peace be on him

The Prophet narrated that David never accepted anyone entering his house, and he always locked all his
doors whenever he went out. One day he went out for a certain matter and when he came back, he found a
man in his house, standing and waiting for him. David was surprised to see him and he asked him what he
was doing there. The man replied: “I am the one who needs no permission to enter, who does not fear
kings, and whom no-one can resist.” David said: “Then you are the Angel of Death, so welcome to you with
fond love, for I was eagerly waiting for the moment when I shall be with my Beloved.” And the Angel of
Death took David’s soul. 



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