Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra
Question: 3:124 says there were 3 thousand angels present at the battle of badr, and then 8:9 says there were a thousand. How can we respond to this – which seems like a contradiction?
Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious Most Merciful,
As salamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
May Allah Most High reward you for having such concern, and may He guide your friend.
These two verses do not contradict one another at all, nor is there any inconsistency whatsoever, once one quotes the Arabic text properly and understands what is being said.
The two verses, which occur in two different chapters in the Quran, both ask the Prophet (peace be upon him) to recount how Allah Most High promised to send His angels to strengthen the believers when they were sorely outnumbered by their oppressors at Badr. It is not a report of the actual numbers.
In the first verse, the Most Merciful says:
“Remember when you [O Muhammad, peace be upon him] were saying to the Believers, ‘Is it not enough for you that your Lord will reinforce you with 3000 angels sent down?’ / Of course [it is enough for you]! [In fact,] if you all are steadfast and God-fearing, and they rush in attack towards you, then your Lord will reinforce you with 5000 angels bearing distinguished markings.” [Quran 3:124-125]
In the next verse, the Lord says:
“Remember when you all cried out for help from your Lord, and so you were answered thus: “Indeed, I will reinforce you with a thousand angels, rank after rank.” [Quran 8:9]
Clearly, both verses are not reporting the final number of angels that were actually present- only, how many were successively offered to the believers as the crisis ensued. The more they were patient despite their fear, the more the Lord helped them with a heavenly host. So at the initial instance that they pleaded for help, the Lord promised them 1000 angels, as a first wave of support, which was followed up by rank upon rank of more angels, as many exegetical works on the Quran explain.
Then, the Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged them to stay the course for more divine support, in the form of 3000 angels, and when they showed true faith despite the oppression, Allah would pour even more of His divine mercy onto the believers, with another wave, making it 5000 angels. In fact, an authentic narration spells this out clearly, when Rabee’ ibn Anas says: “Allah aided the Muslims on the day of Badr with 1000 [angels], then He increased them in help, so they were 3000, then He increased them in help, so they were 5000.” [as quoted in Fath al Bari, al-Asqalani]
For all we know, it could have been many more-no maximum number is mentioned, rather it was a series of successive promises, and the Most Generous Lord can increase His promises and rewards, without doubt. Thus, properly understood, there is no numerical conflict, even outwardly.
My instinct tells me that your friend may not have done the misreading himself. There are many anti-Islam websites that specialize in misquoting and twisting the Qur’an, without any regard for academic accuracy or even honesty. This is done in order to dissuade an innocent reader from connecting with the message of the Qur’an: that God is One, that He loves us, and He wants nothing more from us but that we know Him and worship Him sincerely, so we can live a peaceful and wholesome life in this world, and one of bliss and happiness in the next.
If your friend searches for the truth in God’s words, rather than other people’s baseless claims, he will find the guidance his soul is yearning for, God-willing.
Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani