Beliefnet
Eastern Orthodoxy

Angel basics:
Angels and archangels are part of the hierarchy of nine bodiless powers in Orthodox tradition. Angels are workers and messengers of God.

Form:
Angels are usually described in a physical way, either as having the form of man, or being six-winged. However, angels do not actually have physical bodies.

Intervention:
Of all the nine types of spirit beings, the angels are the closest to man. They are appointed to guard and help believers.

Important angels:
Orthodox Christians follow a hierarchy of angels similar to Catholicism, also divided into three levels. The Seraphim are the closest to the Holy Trinity. The most important of all angels is the archangel Michael. Other archangels include Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Selaphiel, Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Jeremiel. Satan, the fallen angel, plays a similar role to that of other Christian denominations.

Hinduism

Angel basics:
While not specifically referred to as angels, Hinduism does have many different types of spirit beings who act in a similar capacity. One example is the minor gods, or devas, literally "shining ones," who inhabit the higher astral plane. Gods, devas, planets like Sani (Saturn), gurus (teachers), and ancestors can all play a protective role for humans. Also present in Hinduism are asuras, evil spirits or demons. They are fallen devas who inhabit the lower astral plane, the mental plane of existence. If asuras do good, they can be reincarnated into devas and do not have to remain eternally in the lower plane. Hinduism also includes apsaras, who are heavenly nymphs, angiris, who preside over sacrifices, and lipika, who regulate karma.

Form:
Devas and apsaras are spiritual beings, but they are often depicted in physical form. Apsaras are seductively beautiful and the devas often look like royalty, stately and handsome.

Intervention:
Devas and asuras can inspire or bring down aspirants, helping or hindering people's spiritual journey.

Important angels:
No specific individual angels.

Islam

Angel basics:
Angels in Islam, or malaikah, play an essential role as messengers and intermediaries from Allah to the world, beginning with the angel Jabrai'il (Gabriel) who revealed the Qur’an, Islam's holy book, to the Prophet Muhammad.

Form:
Angels do not have a real physical shape. Though at certain times angels may materialize in different forms in dreams or visions, their true form is incomprehensible to humans.

Intervention:
Every person has two guardian angels in their lives. Guardian angels watch and record everything people do.

Important angels:
The most important of these messengers was the angel Gabriel, or Jabra'il, who Muslims believe revealed the Qur'an from Allah to Muhammad. The other Islamic archangels are Mika'il (Michael), who patrols the Israelites, Israfil, who will sound the trumpet on the last day, and Izra'il, who is the angel of death. Munkar and Nakir are two other angels who visit graves and test the faith of the recently deceased. Shaitan, the Muslim equivalent of the devil, is also important in Islam. Also called Iblis, Shaitan is the source of evil in the world. He is not considered an angel, but instead is a member of the jinn, invisible spirit beings who can be good or bad. Shaitan tempts humans are tries to mislead them.

Judaism

Angel basics:
Angels in Judaism, or malachim, are messengers of God who help carry out God's work and plans. For a complete explanation of the role of angels in Judaism, see this column on angels in Jewish tradition.

Form:
Angels are purely spiritual beings who do not have a physical form. Biblical angels do take on physical form, though Maimonides, the great Jewish sage and biblical commentator, later wrote that physical descriptions of angels were metaphorical.

Intervention:
Angels intervene in stories in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) as God's messengers, such as when an angel stops Abraham from sacrificing his son Isaac. There is also the famous story of Jacob wrestling with an angel. But in general, angels initiate the communication from God, not vice-versa. There is no angel worship in Judaism, and Jews believe that it is only God who determines what happens on earth—angels merely carry out God's will.

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