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Artistic depiction of Azrael, the Angel of Death, by Evelyn De Morgan.

Azrael is the name of the Archangel of Death in some extrabiblical traditions. He is also the angel of death in Islamic theology. It is an English form of the Arabic name ʿIzrāʾīl (عزرائيل) or Azra'eil (عزرایل), the name traditionally attributed to the angel of death in Islam and Sikhism, as well as some Hebrew lore.[1][2] The Qur'an never uses this name, referring instead to Malak al-Maut (which translates directly as angel of death). It is also spelled Izrail, Azrin, Izrael, Azriel, Azrail, Ezraeil, Azraille, Azryel, Ozryel, or Azraa-eel. Chambers English dictionary uses the spelling Azrael. The name literally means Whom God Helps.,[1] an adaptation form of Hebrew.


Azrael, the angel of death in the Jewish and Islamic religions. He watches over the dying, separates the soul from the body, and receives the spirits of the dead. Although some sources have speculated about a connection between Azrael and the human priest Ezra,[3] he is generally depicted as an archangel whose history long predates this figure. Rather than merely representing death personified, Azrael is usually described in Islamic sources as subordinate to the will of God "with the most profound reverence."[4] In Jewish mysticism he is identified as the embodiment of evil, not necessarily or specifically evil itself.[1] Depending on the outlook and precepts of various religions in which he is a figure, Azrael may be portrayed as residing in the Third Heaven.[5] In one of his forms, he has four faces and four thousand wings, and his whole body consists of eyes and tongues, the number of which corresponds to the number of people inhabiting the Earth. He will be the last to die, recording and erasing constantly in a large book the names of men at birth and death, respectively.[6] Riffian (Berber) men of Morocco had the custom of shaving the head but leaving a single lock of hair on either the crown, left, or right side of the head, so that the angel Azrael is able " pull them up to heaven on the Last Day."[7]

In Islam

Azrael, also pronounced as Izrael, is the name given to the angel of death in Muslim literature as well. Along with Gabriel, Michael, Raphael (archangel) and other angels, Azrael is believed by Muslims to be one of the archangels[8]. The Qur'an states that the angel of death takes the soul of every person and returns it to God[9]. However, the Qur'an makes it clear that only God knows when and where each person will be taken by death[10], thus making it clear that Azrael has no power of his own. Several Muslim traditions recount meetings between Azrael and the prophets, the most famous being a conversation between Azrael and Moses[11].

In art and literature

Azrael, as both a character or a more abstract concept has been adopted by many different artists, musicians, poets, and authors over the centuries to express or evoke a variety of different meanings or emotions in the reader – often drawing on the cultural resonance of the name for effect.

Depiction of Azrael by Mikhail Vrubel.

In literature, Azrael has been featured by a variety of authors, across a broad range of styles and countries.

  • The Mexican poet Amado Nervo wrote a poem entitled "Azrael".
  • Azrael is a character in Arthur Miller's play "The Creation of the World and Other Business".
  • Asrael is a symphony by Czech composer Josef Suk, dating from 1906.
  • In Salman Rushdie's 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, voiceover artist Saladin Chamcha has a vision of Azrael.
  • In Edgar Allan Poe's story "Ligeia", Ligeia's husband "struggled desperately in spirit with the grim Azrael." and in his story Mesmeric Revelation the corpse of the sleep-waker appears as if pressed by Azrael's hand.

In popular culture

  • In music, Azrael has been written about in both songs and albums by such varied acts as Toyah, Metallica, Demons & Wizards, Coil, The Nice, Crimson Glory, VNV Nation, Marduk, Masada and Udo.
  • In the Kevin Smith movie Dogma, Azrael was a character played by Jason Lee as a fallen muse and demon.
  • Azrael is the main character in Anne Rice's Servant of the Bones.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld universe, Azrael is an entity of immense scope and size which is to universes what the character Death is to living beings on the Discworld. The Apocalyptic Horseman representing Death in Pratchett and Gaiman's book Good Omens also calls itself Azrael before its final exit.
  • In DC Comics, Azrael is an assassin trained by the religious cult of the Order of St. Dumas. The most famous version of the character was Jean Paul Valley, who briefly filled in as Batman during the Knightfall saga. The current Azrael is former Gotham City cop Michael Lane.
  • In Marvel Comics, Azrael is the warrior/angel of death whom Wolverine has to fight every time he suffers a lethal wound in order to save his soul, which is returned to his physical body if he is victorious.[12]
  • In Melissa de la Cruz's Blue Bloods series, Azrael is portrayed as the New York City socialite Madeleine 'Mimi' Force.
  • The Baron of Hell Azrael, is a character in Paul Doherty's novel The Plague Lord.
  • In the episode Stowaway from Fringe, a nun tells Dana Gray the story of The Ascension of Azrael, a sinner condemned to purgatory who the angels interceded to God on behalf of him, but God denied their request to allow him into heaven. Because of this, the angels descended into purgatory and brought Azrael into heaven, telling God he had suffered enough as reason. The combined innocence of the angels outweighed Azrael's sin and allowed him into heaven, similar to Tyconius's rule on The Lord's Bipartite Body, wherein Jesus Christ outweighs any and all sinners in The Church.
  • In King's Quest: Mask of Eternity, Azriel is the Lord of Death, the ruler of the Dimension of Death.
  • In Diablo II A character Tyrael is featured in Act IV that is a similar representation of Azrael as an Arch Angel that brings you back to life from the dead.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Davidson, Gustav (1967), A Dictionary of Angels, Including The Fallen Angels, Entry: Azrael, pp. 64, 65, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 66-19757
  2. Shri Guru Granth Sahib, Section 07 - Raag Gauree - Part 165, "Azraa-eel, the Angel of Death, shall crush them like sesame seeds in the oil-press."
  3. Who is Azrael? The Man to the Myth, The Azrael Chronicles: A Compendium of the Books of Azrael ha'Malak,
  4. Hanauer, J.E. (1907), Folk-lore of the Holy Land: Moslem, Christian and Jewish, Chapter V: The Angel of Death, at
  5. Davidson, Gustav (1967), A Dictionary of Angels, Including The Fallen Angels, Entry: Third Heaven, p. 288, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 66-19757
  6. Hastings, James, Selbie, John A. (Editors) (2003), Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Part 3, Kessinger Publishing, 2003, ISBN 076613671X
  7. El Maghreg: 1200 Miles' Ride Through Morocco, Hugh Edward Millington Stutfield pppp
  8. Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, Brannon M. Wheeler, Azrael
  9. Qur'an 32:11
  10. Qur'an 31:34
  11. Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, Brannon M. Wheeler, Azrael
  12. Wolverine, vol.3, #58, writer Marc Guggenheim, artist Howard Chaykin, color artist, Edgar Delgado (Oct. 2007)

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