Do angels have free will?
Do angels have free will?
One of the claims of the traditional scholars is that angels do not have free will, and thus they obey God at all times without having a choice. The verse that is usually referred to in making this claim is: 66:6
O you who believe, safeguard yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones. Over it are stern and powerful angels who do not disobey God in respect of what He commands them, and they do what they are commanded to do. 66:6
Indeed, the underlined words in 66:6 tell us that the angels do not disobey God. However, these words do not say that angels do not have free will.
Let us examine the following two statements:
1- The angels do not disobey God
2- The angels do not have free will
On the first impression, it may appear that the two statements lead to the same conclusion, that being that the angels do not have free will, but is this the accurate deduction from these two sentences? The fact that the angels do not disobey God could be a result of two possibilities:
1- They do not disobey God because they do not have free will.
2- They do not disobey God because, out of their own choice, they do not wish to disobey God. In this case, they do as God commands them willingly and not because they have no choice.
When we examine the Quranic evidence, we find that it all points to the second possibility being the correct interpretation.
First and foremost, we do not find any Quranic words that state that the angels are not given free will. The claim of some scholars that the angels do not have free will is merely derived from their own interpretation of 66:6. As we know, human interpretations can be correct or incorrect.
We are given in the Quran identical words to the words in 66:6 and they assert that the words “do not disobey” do not necessarily mean lack of free will:
He said, “You will find me, God willing, patient and I will not disobey any command of yours.” 18:69
These words were spoken by Moses to the teacher who taught him a number of lessons. When Moses said to the teacher that he will not disobey any of his commands, was that a result of Moses being robbed of his free will? Or was it a decision that Moses made willingly that he would not disobey the teacher? Clearly, Moses chose to do so out of his own free will.
The words “angels who do not disobey God” in 66:6 are identical in concept to the words in 18:69.
Considering that there are no words anywhere in the Quran that say that angels do not have free will, it follows that the words in 66:6 carry the same meaning as those spoken by Moses in 18:69.
The angels do not disobey God and they do so willingly and not because God deprived them of free will.
The case of Satan disobeying God is another indictor that angels have free will. The Quran tells us that Satan was an angel when God commanded the angels to prostrate to Adam. When he disobeyed God he was turned into a jinn.
God gave the command (to prostrate to Adam) to the angels. Then God tells us that all the angels obeyed except Satan:
Your Lord said to the angels, “I will create a human being from clay, formed from putrid dark mud.
Once I have fashioned him, and blown into him from My Ruh, you shall fall prostrate to him.”
So all the angels fell prostrate, every one of them
except Satan. He refused to be with the prostrators. 15:28-31
1- Since the command to prostrate was issued to the angels, then if Satan was not an angel at the time, the command from God would not apply to him.
The words, “every one of them except Satan” also confirm that Satan was one of the angels.
The traditional scholars offer a totally irrational excuse in their denial that Satan was an angel. They explain that Satan was not an angel but he was in the company of the angels when God issued the command to prostrate to Adam.
This excuse is totally unacceptable for it contradicts God’s clear words:
God said that He commanded the angels to prostrate, God did not say that He commanded the angels to prostrate and whoever was in their company!
2- Since Satan was an angel who disobeyed God, then this is yet another Quranic indication that angels have free will.
The fourth Quranic indication that confirms that the angels indeed have free will is found in the following words:
And you see the angels surrounding the Throne, glorifying their Lord with praise. Judgement was passed among them equitably and it was said, “Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds.” 39:75
The underlined words tell us that the angels will also be subject to God’s Judgement. Had the angels been without free will, and they can never disobey God, then why would they be subject to judgement?