Translated by Ahmed Abu Turaab
How was it possible for Musa alaihis-salaam to hit an angel? And the Angel of Death at that? And knock his eye out too?
Shaikh al-Albaani continues, “As for the difficulty described in the question asking how Musa عليه السلام could hit the Angel of Death, then the answer is–and in this is an indication of what I had said earlier about these people not studying the Sunnah–the answer is found in a narration present in the Musnad of Imaam Ahmad with an authentic chain of narration that, “The Angel of Death used to come to people in the form of a man.”
So when the Angel of Death came to Musa and said to him, “Answer your Lord,” he didn’t come with a sign which made Musa عليه السلام note the fact that this person who just told him to submit his soul to Allaah was sent by Allaah, for he came in the form of a man.
And if someone were to come to any one of us and say to him, “Give me your soul.” What would ones stance be towards him? It would be just like that of Musa عليه السلام, because he would have transgressed into the [area of] duty of a noble angel which no other angels share in with him.
So how can a man go to another like him and say, ‘Submit your soul.’ So his reaction was but to strike him and knock his eye out, this is something natural. Thus every aspect of doubt disappears when we remember this other narration [which states] that the Angel of Death used to come to people in plain view and in the form of a man.
For this reason you can see that at the end of the hadith when the Angel of Death complained about his situation to Allaah saying, “You sent me to a servant who hates death.” Allaah gave him a sign, saying, “Go back to Musa and say to him, ‘Indeed your Lord orders you to place your hand on …” to the end of the hadith, “… on the back of a bull and you will have life for every hair under your hand …’” when the Angel went back to Musa عليه السلام with this clear proof he said, “And what is after that?” He said, “Death.” He replied, “So then let it be now,” and so he took his soul at that time.
Why did he submit the second time and not the first? The answer is now clear. The first thing is that the request was from one man to another … and Musa did not know that he was an angel sent from Allaah and so he hit him. So when the angel came back with a sign from Allaah the Mighty and Majestic he said, “Then let it be now.”
Thus, Musa didn’t hate death but he struck that man’s eye out based on his assumption that he was a man.
When we look at the hadith in light of the explanation of the narration of Imaam Ahmad in his Musnad, the doubt disappears and the saying of those people that this hadith is possibly from the Israaeeli narrations is nullified–which is a futile statement.
For when it is said that a certain narration or hadith is from the Israaeleyat it means that it is something which the People of the Book, the Jews and the Christians, used to speak about which they received from their predecessors. Some contain truth and others falsehood, for this reason he عليه السلام said, “When the People of the Book narrate to you do not believe or reject them.” This is what something being from the Israaeleyat means.
But there is some detail which must be mentioned due to the fact that I know that this explanation is very rarely read in the books of the scholars. Israaeleyat are [called Israaeleyat due to them being] attributed to the narrating of stories connected to the Children of Israa’eel.
And they are of two categories: the first category, and it is the one which is narrated more and is more common, is that which is reported, as we have just mentioned, from the People of the Book.
And these narrations are very many in number. Like the story, for example, of [the two angels] Harut and Marut and that they were two who were brought close to Allaah the Blessed and Most High, and that when Allaah the Mighty and Majestic, said to the angels, “And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.” They said, “Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?” He said, “Indeed, I know that which you do not know.” [Baqarah 2:30].
He said: Allaah wanted to test these angels who said, “Will You place upon it …” He said: Choose two angels from among you who I will send down to earth to test them. So He chose Harut and Marut … a long story the summary of which is: that Allaah the Mighty and Majestic clothed them in the garments of human beings and they were put to trial by a woman so they seduced her but she resisted saying she would not do anything until they killed a boy. But they did not since they knew it was forbidden.
So she presented alcohol to them and they drank it, became drunk, killed the boy and committed fornication with the woman. So Allaah the Blessed and Most High punished them in this world by casting them into a well, upside down, their heads at the bottom and their legs towards the top, and smoke was coming out from the bottom of the well and entered their nostrils and came out from their posterior.
This story is reported in the exegesis of this aayah, and it is from the Israaeleyat and is something which negates the saying of Allaah the Mighty and Majestic about the angels where He said, “…over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allaah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded.” [Tahreem 66:6]
So the above story contradicts aayahs like this which openly state that the angels are free from sin and that it is not possible to [even] imagine that they would fornicate or kill a soul without just reason [or do any of the other sins that have] been reported in those Israaeleyat narrations.
There is another type [of Israaeleyat narrations] even if it is less common but it cannot be treated in the same way as the first. This other type is that which the Prophet of Allaah spoke about concerning the Children of Israaeel, such Israaeleyat are correct–because the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم spoke about them and [so] it is not from the type reported by the People of the Book.
The examples of this are many and there is no problem in reminding [ourselves] by making mention of one hadith which he عليه السلام said.
That there was a man from the people before you walking in the desert when he heard a voice from the clouds saying, “Water the land of so and so.” The man was amazed and so turned towards the cloud, following it until he saw it emptying its load of water on a [particular] garden.
He approached the garden until he saw its owner who was working there. He gave the greeting of salaam to him and it is as though he called him with the name that he had heard from the sky, so the owner was astounded and said, ‘How do you know?’
He related the story to him, that he heard an angel mention it, ordering the cloud to move to this piece of land which you are working in, so why is that? [He said] I do not know of anything for which I deserve this honour from Allaah except for the fact that I own this land and when I sow the seeds and harvest the crop I divide it into three. I return a third of it to the earth, another third is for me and my family and I give the last third in charity to the poor people around me. So the man said to him, ‘It is because of this,’ i.e., by performing these obligatory duties you deserved this divine care where the cloud was made subservient for you. [Reported by Muslim, no. 7664].
This is a hadith speaking about the Children of Israaeel but who is the one who said it? The Prophet of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم who has been described in the Quraan as the one who does not speak out of desire, “It is only a Revelation revealed.” [Najm 53:4].
So since this hadith has been reported in the two Saheehs and is from the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم it is not permissible for us to say, ‘It is from the Israaeleyat in meaning,’ and if it must be said that it is then the answer is that it is from the Israaeleyat which the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said …”
Mowsu’atul-Allaamah, vol. 8, pp. 172-179.