Question # 250: Assalam u Alaikum Wa Rehmatullahi Wa Barakatahu. Why did the disbelievers falsely claim the angels to be the daughters of الله (سبحانه و تعالى)? I mean why particularly daughters as they killed daughters when born n wr happy wid sons so why specially daughters as angels why not sons BarakAllahu Feekum

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: The pre-Islamic Arabs committed infanticide (especially girls) by burying them alive for one of two reasons: fear of poverty (as girls were considered less productive than boys) or fear of disgrace. Paradoxically, the idolaters claimed that the angels are Allah’s daughters and worshipped them so as to get closer to Allah. Even, Allah refuted their claim and admonished them for their behavior in the Qur’an questioning that how can they attribute to Allah, the share that they would not choose for themselves and how did they decide that the angels are female when they did not witness their creation, while referring to the specific three idols Al-Lat and Al-`Uzza and Manat, among others. According to historian, since the mother’s blood rather than the father’s formed the original bond of kinship among the Semites and because the family organization was first matriarchal, the Arabian goddess preceded the god as an object of worship.

The state of affairs in Arabia before the advent of Islam is aptly referred to as Jahiliyyah (Age of Ignorance) because of ignorance and foolishness. Although Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) sent His Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) with guidance and the religion of truth, the ignorance did not disappear from all places and all eras. In the modern times as well, we have an exact replica of such practices among Hindus who worship goddesses and are guilty of committing female feticide by way of abortion.

Long Answer: Before we on go to analyze the paradoxical issue of disbelievers’ custom of female infanticides and at the same time claiming angels to be the daughters of Allah in the pre-Islamic era, we will review some of the historical evidences of their traditions as well as study verses of the Qur’an, where Allah admonished them for their claim and practices.

Female Infanticides

There is no doubt that Arabs committed infanticide before Islam. It was not a new thing nor was it limited to one group of tribes. Young girls were usually the victims of this dreadful practice; however, young boys may have also been killed once there were no more girls left. It was said proverbially, “The dispatch of daughters is a kindness” and “The burial of daughters is a noble deed.” In Arabia, as among other primitive people, child-murder was carried out in such a way that no blood was shed, the infant was buried alive. Often the grave was ready by the side of the bed on which the daughter was born. Although the practice of infanticide had once been general, it had nearly died out by the time of The Prophet, except among a few tribes, such as the Tamim.

Female infanticide was usually prompted by one of two reasons: fear of poverty or fear of disgrace. The first reason is associated with the frequent famines caused by lack of rain and the fear of poverty that would result from providing for girls who were viewed as less productive than boys. Fathers were afraid that they would have useless mouths to feed, since daughters were considered mere “ornaments,” as pointed out in the Qur’an: “And if one of them is informed of the news of (the birth of a girl) that which he sets forth as a parable to the Most Gracious (Allah), his face becomes dark, and he is filled with grief! (17). (Like they then for Allah) a creature who is brought up in adornments (wearing silk and gold ornaments, i.e. women), and who in dispute cannot make herself clear? (18). And they make the angels who themselves are slaves of the Most Gracious (Allah) females. Did they witness their creation? Their testimony will be recorded, and they will be questioned. (19) (Soorah az-Zukhruf, 43:17-19).

The Qur’an admonishes the Arabs against killing their children for fear of poverty and promises sustenance for them: “Hence, do not kill your children for fear of poverty: it is we who shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily, killing them is a great sin. (Soorah Al-Isra, 17:31). The second reason for infanticide was a perverted sense of pride on the part of the fathers who wanted to avoid shame and disgrace, should their daughters be captured by the enemy in war, a common occurrence at that time. The murder of female children for fear of disgrace began with Qais bin Assam, a leader of the Tamim tribe, as related in the following story.

It is quoted by W. Robertson Smith in his book “Kinship & Marriage in Early Arabia” that: “The Yashkorite Musharmaraj raided the Sa’ad and carried off, among other women, the daughter of a sister of Qais, who was then married to the son of her captor. As Qais came to ransom her, she refused to leave her husband. Qais was so indignant that he killed all his girls by burying them alive and never again allowed a daughter to live. One daughter born in his absence was sent by the mother to her own kin and on Qais’s return he was told by his wife that she had been delivered of a dead child. Years passed till the girl grew up and came one day to visit her mother. “I came in,” so Qais himself had told the story to Muhammad, “and saw the girl. Her mother had plaited her hair, and put rings in the side-locks, and strung them with sea-shells and put on her a chain of cowries, and given her a necklace of dried dates. I said, ‘Who is this pretty girl?’ and her mother wept and said, ‘She is your daughter,”’ and told me how she had saved her life. So, I waited till the mother ceased to be anxious about her, then I led her out one day and dug a grave and laid her in it, she crying, ‘Father, what are you doing with me?’ Then I covered her up with the earth, and she still cried, ‘Father, are you going to bury me? Are you going to leave me alone and go away?’ but I went on filling in the earth till I could hear her cries no longer; and that is the only time that I felt pity when I buried a daughter.” It is reported that Qais’s example found imitators until every chief destroyed his daughters for fear they might cause him shame.

[It is mentioned in al-Mu’jam al-Kabir of Tabrani that ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) was asked regarding the verse of the Quran, “And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) is questioned” (Soorah At-Takwir, 81:8) ‘Umar replied, “Qays bin ‘Asim (رضي الله عنه) came to Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and said, “During the days of ignorance, I buried eight of my daughters alive.” Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) told him, “Free one slave on behalf of every daughter.” Qays bin Asim said, “I possess many camels.” Therefore, Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “If you wish, sacrifice one camel on behalf of each daughter.”]

It seems reasonable to conclude that the murder of a daughter to avoid shame, under the horrible circumstances described in this story, is altogether different from the ordinary type of infanticide practiced on newborn infants in primitive nations. This suggests that the two motives for infanticide were unrelated. The scarcity of food during famines had perhaps more to do with the origin of infanticide than family pride, since the nomads of Arabia suffered constantly from hunger during most of the year. The only persons who had enough to eat were great men, and it was them who, following Qais’s precedent, killed their daughters out of pride. To the poor people, daughters were a burden, and killing them was a natural means of survival, as it was to other uncivilized people.

(‘Women and The Glorious Qur’an: An Analytical Study of Women-Related Verses of Sura An-Nisa’ by Gunawan Adnan)

Claiming Angels to be daughter of Allah 

The following references appear in the Qur’an with respect to the disbelievers claiming the angels, daughters of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى):

  • “Has then your Lord (O pagans of Makkah!) preferred for you sons, and taken for Himself from among the angels daughters? Verily you indeed utter an awful saying.” (Soorah al-Israa, 17:40)

Explaining the above verse, Ibn Katheer writes in his Tafseer: “Allah refutes the lying idolaters who claim, may the curse of Allah be upon them, that the angels are the daughters of Allah. They made the angels, who are the servants of Ar-Rahman (the Most Beneficent), females, and called them daughters of Allah, then they worshipped them… [On the other hand, they did] not like for [themselves daughters] and may even kill them by burying them alive. That is indeed a division most unfair…”

  • “Now ask them (O Muhammad): “Are there (only) daughters for your Lord and sons for them?” Or did We create the angels, female while they were witnesses? Verily, it is of their falsehood that they (Quraish pagans) say:”Allah has begotten (offspring – the angels being the daughters of Allah)?” And, verily, they are liars! Has He (then) chosen daughters rather than sons?What is the matter with you? How do you decide? Will you not then remember?Or is there for you a plain authority?Then bring your Book if you are truthful!And they have invented a kinship between Him and the jinn, but the jinn know well that they have indeed to appear (before Him) (i.e. they will be called to account). Glorified be Allah! (He is free) from what they attribute unto Him!Except the slaves of Allah, whom He chooses.” (Soorah As-Saaffaat, 37:149-160)

Explaining the above verses, Ibn Katheer writes in his Tafseer: “Allah denounces those idolaters who attribute daughters to Allah and attributed to themselves what they desired, i.e., they wanted male offspring to themselves. “And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief!” (Soorah An-Nahl, 16:58) i.e., that upsets him, and he would only choose sons for himself. Allah says: `Then how can they attribute to Allah the share that they would not choose for themselves’… ‘quiz them by way of denunciation… How did they decide that the angels are female when they did not witness their creation? This is like the ayah: “And they make the angels who themselves are slaves of the Most Gracious (Allah) females. Did they witness their creation? Their testimony will be recorded, and they will be questioned!” (Soorah az-Zukhruf, 43:19) … They will be questioned about that on the Day of Resurrection [and] it is a part of the lies they tell… that offspring have been born to Him… Mujahid said, “The idolaters said that the angels were the daughters of Allah. Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه) said, `Then who are their mothers’ They said, `The daughters of the leaders of the Jinn.”’ Qatadah and Ibn Zayd also said this…”

  • “They (all those who worship others than Allah) invoke nothing but female deities besides Him (Allah), and they invoke nothing but Shaitan (Satan), a persistent rebel!” (Soorah an-Nisa’a, 4:117)

Explaining the above verse, Ibn Katheer writes in his Tafseer: “said that Ad-Dahhak said about Allah’s statement… “The idolaters claimed that the angels are Allah’s daughters, saying, `We only worship them so that they bring us closer to Allah.’ So, they took the angels as gods, made the shapes of girls and decided, `These (idols) resemble the daughters of Allah (i.e., the angels), Whom we worship. ”’ This is similar to Allah’s statements, “Have you then considered Al-Lat and Al-`Uzza. And Manat (another idol of the pagan Arabs), the other third? Is it for you the males and for Him the females? That indeed is a division most unfair!” (Soorah An-Najm, 53:19-22)

Who are these: Al-Lat, Al-`Uzza and Manat?

Gabriel J. Gomes writes in his book “Discovering World Religions: A Guide for the Inquiring Reader”, pre-Islamic Arabian religion was polytheistic, with 360 gods and goddesses worshipped in Makkah. Housed in the Ka’bah, these tribal deities were believed to be protectors of the tribes. Among them stood the Supreme deity “Allah”, who was believed to have three daughters called Al-Lat (the moon), Al-Uzza [(the mighty one)] and Manat (the goddess of fate).

Ibn Katheer writes in his Tafseer:

  • Al-Lat was a white stone with inscriptions on. There was a house built around Al-Lat in At-Ta’if with curtains, servants and a sacred courtyard around it. The people of At-Ta’if, the tribe of Thaqif and their allies, worshipped Al-Lat. They would boast to Arabs, except the Quraysh, that they had Al-Lat. Ibn Jarir said, “They derived Al-Lat’s name from Allah’s Name, and made it feminine. Allah is far removed from what they ascribe to Him. It was reported that Al-Lat is pronounced Al-Lat because, according to `Abdullah bin `Abbas, Mujahid, and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Al-Lat was a man who used to mix Sawiq (a kind of barley mash) with water for the pilgrims during the time of Jahiliyyah. When he died, they remained next to his grave and worshipped him.”
  • [The pagan Arabs adopted al-‘Uzza as their goddess. She is, in point of time, more recent than either Al-Lat or Manat.The person who introduced al-‘Uzza was Zilim ibn-As’ad. al-‘Uzza was the greatest idol among the Quraysh. They used to journey to her, offer gifts unto her, and seek her favors through sacrifice.] Ibn Jarir said, “They derived the name for their idol Al-`Uzza from Allah’s Name Al-`Aziz. Al-`Uzza was a tree on which the idolaters placed a monument and curtains, in the area of Nakhlah, between Makkah and At-Ta’if. The Quraysh revered Al-`Uzza.” During the battle of Uhud, Abu Sufyan said, “We have Al-`Uzza (their idol), but you do not have Al-`Uzza. (honor)” Allah’s Messenger replied, “Say, “Allah is Our Supporter, but you have no support.”
  • [The most ancient of all these idols was Manat. She was the goddess of destiny and her idol was erected on the seashore in the vicinity of] Mushallal near Qudayd, between Makkah and Al-Madinah. The tribes of Khuza`ah, Aws and Khazraj used to revere Manat during the time of Jahiliyyah. They used to announce Hajj to the Ka`bah from next to Manat. Al-Bukhari collected a statement from `A’ishah with this meaning.

There were other idols in the Arabian Peninsula that the Arabs revered just as they revered the Ka`bah, besides the three idols that Allah mentioned in His Glorious Book. Allah mentioned these three here because they were more famous than the others.

(Some of the information on the description of idols was taken from ‘Book of Idols’ (Kitab Al-Asnam) by Hisham Ibn al-Kalbi)

Final Analysis

In consideration of the above-mentioned practices of disbelievers relating to female infanticides, coexisting with the claim that angels are daughters of Allah, the state of affairs in Arabia before the advent of Islam is aptly referred to as Jahiliyyah (Age of Ignorance) comprising ignorance and foolishness. As for regarding idols/angels as feminine gender or in other words, daughters of Allah, Philip K. Hitti writes in his book, “The History of Arabs”, “Since the mother’s blood rather than the father’s formed the original bond of kinship among the Semites and because the family organization was first matriarchal, the Arabian goddess preceded the god as an object of worship.”

Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) sent His Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) with guidance and the religion of truth; by means of him, Allah dispelled the darkness of ignorance and kufr (disbelief) and brought forth people to light. Although, with his coming, the era of Jahiliyyah ended, the ignorance did not disappear from all places and all eras. In the modern times as well, we have some societies living in the depths of Jahiliyyah especially, among the non-Muslims. We have an exact replica of practices of pre-Islamic pagans among Hindus in this twentieth century. Hindu goddesses like Radha, Durga, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Sita and many more are worshipped among Hindus and at the same time, female feticide is rampant by way of high rate of abortion. As reported in “The Times of India” (an Indian newspaper), “The United Nations has observed that an overwhelming majority of the 117 million “missing girls” in Asia is from India and China… In post-colonial India, the female infanticide has crossed all the limits because of the easily available modern technology….” (8 October 2011) and according to “The Hindu” (another Indian newspaper), “…female child population in the age group of 0-6 years was 78.83 million in 2001 which declined to 75.84 million in 2011.The population of girl child was 15.88 per cent of the total female population of 496.5 million in 2001, which declined to 12.9 per cent of total number of 586.47 million women in 2011…” (1 April 2011).

(Note: The reference to Indian Hindu goddesses and female feticide is only to show resemblance and we do not intend to provide any reasoning or research on this matter)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.