We always talk about Azrael as being the angel of death, but some days ago I read in a place that Azrael’s name has no mention in hadith or the Qur’an, and I checked out the information and it was true. The name Azrael apparently came to Islam when a Jewish man reverted to Islam and he introduced the name Azrael to the deen. Can you clarify this issue regarding Azrael (as) name’s origin?
wa `alaykum salam,
Qadi Iyad toward the very end of al-Shifa (IV, 3, fi hukm man sabba sa’ir anbiya’ Allah wa-mala’ikatah), cites “the common knowledge and agreement by categorical consensus” of the Ummah that the name of the angel of death is `Izra’eel (or `Azra’eel, both vocalizations being used: see Taj al-’Arus s.v. ‘-z-r), which al-Qurtubi glosses as meaning “the slave of Allah” (Tafsir, sub 32:11).
This name is found in several early hadith compilations such as the books of Imams al-Tabarani, Ibn Abi al-Dunya, Abu al-Shaykh al-Asfahani’s al-’Azama, Ibn Abi Hatim’s Tafsir, and Abu Nu’aym’s Hilya among others).
The arch-master of hadith, Ibn Hajar, was specifically asked about this issue and replied: “The collected weight of the reports indicates that there is an established basis to the name `Izra’eel for the Angel of Death” (al-Imta‘ p. 108).
He is identified thus in many Qur’an commentaries on Q 32:11, including those of Muqatil, Ibn al-Kalbi, al-Tha’labi, al-Baghawi, Ibn Juzayy, al-Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir—the latter stating, “This is well-known, and it was related by Qatada and others” (such as Wahb b. Munabbih)—al-Khazin and al-Shawkani who both categorically asserted it, The Javanese mufassir Nawawi al-Jawi, and al-Suyuti in his angelology al-Haba’ik fi Akhbar al-Mala’ik, his Hawi lil-Fatawa, his Itqan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, his Durr al-Manthur, his commentaries on Muslim and al-Nasa’i, etc., as well as in al-Jalalayn.
Hajj Gibril Haddad