The Meaning of the Angels “Ascent” to Allah

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: How do you interpret Qur’anic verses that mention angels “ascending” to their Lord in light of our belief that no direction contains Allah? What about `Isa being raised “to” his Lord?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

I pray you are well.

All scriptural texts that lend themselves to striking similitude between Allah and His creation when understood literally are interpreted figuratively in a manner that negates such similitude.

For example, the verse, “the angels and the spirit will ascend to Him/it (ilayhi)…” [32:5] was interpreted to refer Allah’s throne, or the lote tree of the furthest boundary (sidra al-muntaha), among other interpretations.

Similarly, Allah’s statement to our liege-lord `Isa (Allah bless him), “raise you to Myself…” [3:55] was interpreted to mean a place of Allah’s generosity and honoring due to the rank of the one being raised. This akin to the statement of our liege-lord Ibrahim (Allah bless him), “I am going to my Lord” when he traveled from Iraq to the Levant. It is also akin to the phrase “visitors of Allah” used for those performing pilgrimage.

Understanding such verses in a figurative way is permitted to ward off doubts and devilish whispers. Otherwise, there is no need ponder over the potential meanings of these verses, unless one is someone firmly grounded in knowledge.

For most of us, the descent of such ambiguous verses is a test from Allah to see whether we submit to His command to say, “We believe in it, all of it is from our Lord…” [3:7] Therefore, the best recourse is to simply focus on that which is clear within the Qur’an, not that which is ambiguous, while consigning the knowledge of the latter to Allah and knowing that He is transcendent beyond anything our minds can comprehend.

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Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani