Can humans be better than angels in piety/taqwa?
In the name of Allah, the most beneficent, the most merciful.
Imam Qurtubi states that there is difference of opinion of the scholars in regards to who is superior in taqwa, humans or angels?
1. Angels are superior to humans. This is deducted from the following verses and Hadith:
“…The angels are but His honored servants. They do not precede Him in speaking and they act according to His commandment. (Al Ambiyaa; 26 & 27)
“O believers! Save yourselves and your families from hellfire, whose fuel is men and stones; in the charge of fierce and mighty angels who never disobey Allah’s command and who promptly do what they are commanded to do.” (At Tahrim: 6)
“The Messiah (Jesus) never disdained to be the worshipper of Allah nor do the angels who are nearest to Allah.” (An Nisaa: 172)
Say: “I do not claim that I possess the treasures of Allah, or that I know the unseen nor do I claim that I am an angel.” (Al Anaam: 50)
The Prophet said, “Allah says: ‘I am just as My slave thinks I am, (i.e. I am able to do for him what he thinks I can do for him) and I am with him if He remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in a group of people, I remember him in a group that is better than they…” (Bukhari, 9.502)
2. The human messengers are superior to the messengers from amongst the angels and likewise the human saints from the saints from amongst the angels. The scholars of this opinion derive their evidence from the following.
“Surely those who believe and do good deeds are the best of all creatures.” (Al Baiyyina: 7)
“…The angels will lower their wings in their great pleasure with one who seeks knowledge…” (Abu Dawood: 1631)
3. There is no definite answer as to who is superior as there is no clear evidence to support this.
(Tafsir Qurtubi, Vol 1, P330)
Only Allah knows best.
Darul Ifta Birmingham