It is common knowledge, as scientists teach, that thunder is a sound caused by the impact between electrical charges found in the clouds. Yet Muhammad, the prophet of Muslims, has a different opinion in this matter. He claims that the thunder and the lightning are two of God’s angels—exactly like Gabriel!
In the Qur’an there is a chapter under the title of “Thunder” in which it is recorded that the thunder praises God. We might think that it does not mean that literally because thunder is not a living being—although, spiritually speaking, all of nature glorifies God. The expounders of the Qur’an and its chief scholars, however, insist that Muhammad said that the thunder is an angel exactly like the angel Gabriel. In his commentary (p. 329), the Baydawi comments on verse 13 of chapter of the Thunder,
“Ibn ’Abbas asked the apostle of God about the thunder. He told him, ‘It is an angel who is in charge of the cloud, who (carries) with him swindles of fire by which he drives the clouds.”’
In the commentary of the Jalalan (p. 206), we read about this verse:
“The thunder is an angel in charge of the clouds to drive them.”
“On the authority of Ibn ’Abbas, he said the Jews came to the prophet (peace be upon him) and said, ‘Tell us about the thunder. What is it?’ He told them:
‘It is one of God’s angels in charge of the clouds. He carries in his hand a swindle of fire by which he pricks the clouds to drive them to where God has ordered them.’ They said to him, ‘What is this sound that we hear?’ He said: ‘(It is) his voice (The angel’s voice).”’
The same incident—the question of the Jews and Muhammad’s answer are mentioned by most scholars. Refer, for instance, to al-Sahih al-Musnad Min Asbab Nuzul al-Ayat (stories related to the verses of Qur’an, p. 11) and al-Kash-shaf by the Imam al-Kamakhshari (part 2, pp. 518, 519). He reiterates the same story and the same words of Muhammad. Thus, the incident is in vogue among all Muslim scholars, and the story and the dialogue between Muhammad and the Jews is well-known.
We have mentioned what the Baydawi, Jalalan, Zamakhshari, Suyuti, and ibn ’Abbas have said. We do not know (among the ancient scholars) any who are more famous than these. Concerning lighting, Muhammad affirms that it is an angel like the thunder and like Gabriel and Michael. On page 230 of the above references, Suyuti alludes to it. Also on page 68 of part 4 of the “Itqan”, the Suyuti records for us the names of the angels, which are: “Gabriel, Michael, Harut, Marut, the Thunder and the Lightning (He said) that the lightning has four faces.”
The Suyuti listed all these under the sub-title, “The names of God’s Angels”. He also indicated that Muhammad said that the lightning is the tail end of an angel whose name is Rafael (refer to part 4, p. 230 of the Itqan).