Israfil – also known as Israfel, Isrephel, Sarafiel, etc. His name means “The Burning One”. And he found mostly in Islamic lore. Although, The Koran does not mention the angel by name, there are numerous tales and legends about this angel. In Islam, Israfil has many duties, one of them is blowing the trumpet on Judgment Day.
Israfil – The Angel of Resurrection
Islamic lore believes that Israfil is the holy angel of Resurrection. He will blow the trumpet on Judgment Day. And the trumpet will be the sign for every creation, including the angels, that they will be destroyed by the conflagration that will be unleashed.
Israfil accompanied Muhammad, the prophet, for three years. He is one of the four Kerubims. Being one of the “mightiest of angels”. The Koran says that there are 4 archangels or Kerubims. But it only names two of them (Gabriel and Michael). The other three being Jibril (Gabriel), Michael and Azrail (Izrail, Azrael). The were created from the Highest Angel. Each of the Kerubim has different origins:
- Israfil comes from his heart;
- Gabriel comes from his intelligence;
- Azrael comes from his judgment;
- Michael comes from his “himma” (also known as spiritual aspiration).
The Koran speaks a lot about these four archangels. One of the most terrifying passages describe their death. Because the four archangels or kerubims will be destroyed on the Judgment Day, after the third and final blast. But many believe that Allah will revive them.
Israfil is also known as the angel of music and singing, in Islam. And he is the one who can breath life into souls.
The creation of Adam
Israfil also appears, alongside the other 3 archangels, in the story about the creation of Adam. The story says that Allah sent the four archangels to the four corners of the earth. Their mission was to bring seven handfuls of dust. But only one of them succeeded. Azrael was the only one who accomplished his mission. Therefore, he received the ability to separate the soul from the body. Hence, becoming the Angel of Death.
Sufi iconography actually illustrates and describes how Israfil looks like. The archangel is covered in hairs and tongues. Over which there are veils stretched. The archangel glorifies Allah each tongue in thousands of languages. Allah uses the archangel’s breath to create millions of angels who glorify him. The archangel looks every day and nigh toward hell. He approaches without being seen and weeps. Other sources say that he looks down into hell 3 times during the day and 3 times during the night. He is so traumatized by what he sees in Hell that his tears of grief could inundate the whole earth if Allah wouldn’t stop their flow.
But there are many other descriptions. Therefore, according to other sources, he has 4 wings. He is so high that “his feet are under the 7th earth” and “his head reaches to the pillars of the divine throne”.
His powerful trumpet looks like a beast’s horn and he carries it with him. It contains cells that look like a bee’s honeycomb. In each cell the souls of the dead repose.
Israfil in modern literature
This powerful angel inspired numerous writers and poets. One of the most popular is Edgar Allen Poe. He mentions the archangel in one of his poem’s footnotes – “And the angel Israfel, whose heart strings are a lute, and who has the sweetest voice of all God’s creatures”. The problem is, that the poet mentioned as source The Koran. But The Koran never mentions the archangel by name. Therefore, his source must have been Arabic folklore. The archangel also appears in “Heavenly Discourse” by C. E. S. Wood.