Margoliouth gives one possible identification of these figures in the article, Harut and Marut.
Tisdall compares the account from the Qur'an and hadith explanations with Jewish sources:
The following is from the Araish al Majalis:-Then comparing with Jewish Sources, Tisdall said:
The Commentators say that when the angels saw the evil doings of mankind ascending up to heaven (and that was in the days of Idris), they were distressed and complained thus against them: Thou hast chosen these to be the rulers upon earth, and lo they sin against thee. Then said the Almighty: If I should send you upon the earth, and treat you as I have treated them, ye would do just as they do They said, O our Lord, it would not become us to sin against thee. Then said the Lord, Choose two angels from the best of you, and I will send them down unto the earth. So they chose Harut and Marut; who were among the best and most pious amongst them.
Al Kalby's version:-- The Almighty said: Choose ye three: so they chose (Azz, i.e) Harut, and (Azabi, i.e.) Marut, and Azrael; and the Lord changed the names of the two when they fell into sin, as he changed the name of the Devil, which was Azazil. And God placed in their heart the same fleshly lust as in the sons of Adam; and sending them down to the earth, bade them to rule righteously amongst mankind, to avoid idolatry, not to kill but for a just cause, and to keep free from fornication and strong drink. Now when Azrael felt lust in his heart, he prayed the Lord to relieve him, and was taken up to heaven, and for forty years was unable to raise his head for shame before his Maker. But the other two remained steadfast, judging the people during the day, and when night came ascending to the heavens, worshipping the name of the Almighty. Catada [Qatada] tells us that before a month had passed they fell into temptation; for Zohra. one of the most beautiful of women (whom Ali tells us was queen of a city in Persia), had a suit before them, and when they saw her they fell in love with her, and sought to have her, but she refused and went away. The second day she came again, and they did the same; but she said, Nay, unless ye worship what I worship, and bow down to this idol, or kill a soul, or drink wine. They replied, It is impossible for us to do these things, which God hath forbidden; and she departed. The third day again she came holding a cup of wine, and her heart inclined towards them; so when they desired her, she said the same as yesterday, but they replied, To pray to other than God is a serious thing, and so is the killing of anyone; the easiest of the three is to drink wine: so they drank the wine, and becoming intoxicated, fell upon her and committed adultery: and one saw it, and they slew him. And it is said that they worshipped an idol, and the Lord changed Zohra into a star. Ali and others tell us that she said, Come not near me till you teach me that by which ye can ascend to the heavens. They said, We ascend by the name of the great God. Again she said, Come not near me till ye teach me what that is. So they taught her; and forthwith she, repeating it, ascended to the skies, and the Lord changed her into a star. (W. St. Clair-Tisdall, The Sources of Islam)
Turning now to the Jews, the same account is given In two or three places of the Talmud, especially in this extract from the Midrash Yalkut: (Capp 44)Rabbi Joseph being asked by his disciples about Azael, told them as follows:-- After the Flood, idolatrous worship prevailing, the Holy One Was angry. Then two angels, Shamhazai and Azael arose and addressing him Said, O Lord of the Universe, when thou createdst the world, did we not say to thee, What is man that thou art mindful of him? and now we are anxious about him. The Lord replied: I well know that if ye be sent to rule over the earth, your evil passions will have possession of you, and ye will become tyrants over mankind. They answered: If thou wilt give us leave, and we shall dwell amongst them, thou shalt see in what wise we shall sanctify thy name. Go then, he said, and dwell amongst them.Now anyone comparing the two stories together, must see that they agree, excepting that in the Moslem one the angels are called Harut and Marut, and in the Jewish, Shamhazai and Azael. But if we search whence the names in the Koran and Tradition came, it will be seen that Harut and Marut were two idols worshipped far back in Armenia. For in writers of that country they are so spoken of, as in the following passage from one of them:
Soon after, Shamhazai saw a beautiful maiden called Esther, and turning his eyes upon her to come and be with him, she said, I cannot surrender myself to thee until thou teach me that great name by which thou canst ascend to the heavens above. He told her, and she having spoken it, ascended upwards undefiled. Then said the Holy One, -- Since she hath kept herself clear from defilement, she shall be raised aloft amid the Seven Stars, there to give praise unto the Lord. Forthwith the two went forth and consorted with the beautiful daughters of men, and children were born unto them. And Azael adorned the women he was inclined to with all kinds of beautiful ornaments.
(Azrael is the same as in the Talmud is called Azael)Certainly Horot and Morot, tutelary deities of mount Ararat, and Aminabegh, and perhaps others now not known, were Assistants to the female goddess Aspandaramlt. These aided her, and were excellent on the earth.In this extract, Aspandaramlt is the name of the goddess worshipped of old in Iran also; for we are told that the Zoroastrians regarded her as the Spirit of the Earth, and held that all the good products of the earth arise from her. Aminabegh also was held by the Armenians to be the god of vineyards, and they named Horot and Morot the assistants of the Spirit of the Earth, seeing that they held them as spirits who had control over the wind so as to make it bring rain. They sat on the top of the lofty mountain Ararat, and sent down showers that fertilized the earth; the two were thus rulers of the wind. [footnote: The origin of the name is traced still further East to the ancient Sanskrit wind-gods the Maruls.] The Armenians, - fancying that Morot came from Mor, genitive of Mair, "Mother," - formed Horot in the same way from Hair, "Father." When also it is said that the two angels came down to propagate mankind, the meaning is that they caused the earth to bring forth its produce for that end. Zohra in Hebrew reads as Ishtar or Esther, the same as of old was worshipped in Babylon and Syria as the goddess over the birth of children and promoter of passion and desire. In proof of all this, we find in the ruins between the Tigris and Euphrates the name Ishtar on the primeval tiles. The story of one Gilgamlsh, with whom Ishtar fell in love but was rejected, has been decyphered in ancient Babylonian character upon these tiles. Ishtar came to him having the crown upon her head and asked him to kiss her, and with many loving words and gifts to be her husband, when he would in her Palace have a quiet and happy life. Gilgamish in derision rejected her offer, whereupon she ascended to the sky and appeared before the God of the heavens. [footnote: Genesis 6:2-4"The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and took them wives of all which they chose... There were giants in those days,...when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children unto them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown." The "sons of God," according to our Author, mean righteous men of the seed of Seth. The Commentator quoted is Jonathan son of Uzziel.There is a Sanskrit story of the similar ascent of two angels, and a Houry like Zohra, from which the Armenians may possibly have taken their tale; and from this idolatrous source the Jews no doubt received it; and from them, the Moslems.] It is remarkable that the idolators of Babylon are shown in this primeval story to have held that Ishtar, that is Zohra, ascended on high, - exactly as is told us in Moslem tradition, as also in the Jewish commentaries.
Now if we search for the Source of the above tale, we shall no doubt find it in what the Talmud says of the angels associating with women, in its commentary on the two verses in Genesis quoted below.1. Speaking of the second verse, a Jewish commentator gives us the following interpretation: - "It was Shamhazai and Uzziel who in those days came down from heaven." Hence we see that the whole imaginative tale has come out of the mistake of this and other ignorant commentators. For the word giant, as shown below, was misconstrued by them to signify not those who tyrannically "fell" on the poor people around them, but angels who "came down, or fell, from heaven." [footnote: The term is Nefilim, i.e. persons who fell upon the helplessaround them and committed violence and oppression on the earth.] And this unhappy mistake has led to the spread of the strange idol-worship just narrated. Nor was there any apparent reason for the mistake; since in the Targum we find the name (Nefilim) explained in its right and natural sense as "giants." But by and by the Jews came to love the wild tales that spread abroad; and so in a counterfeit book ascribed to Enoch, we are told that 200 angels under Samyaza (i.e. Shamhazai) came down from the heavens to commit adultery on the earth, as we read:-The angels of heaven having seen the daughters of men, fell in love with them, and said to one another, Let us take for ourselves these women, the daughters of mankind, and beget children for ourselves. And Samyaza, who was their chief, said....Azaziel taught men to make swords, daggers, and shields, and taught them to wear breastplates. And for the women they made ornaments of kinds, bracelets, jewels, collyrium to beautify their eyelids, lovely stones of great pice, dresses of beautiful colours, and current money.(W. St. Clair-Tisdall, The Sources of Islam)
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