By Sheikh Bandar b. Muhammad al-Rabâh
It is popularly assumed that the Angel of Death goes by the name Azrael, but there is really no evidence to support this claim.
This name “Azrael” does not appear anywhere in the Qur’ân, not does it appear in the Prophet’s Sunnah.
Some of the Successors were known to refer to the Angel of Death by this name, including al-Hasan al-Basrî. However, none of them ever attributed this practice to the Prophet (peace be upon him) or even to one of the Companions.
This leads us to believe that the name was taken from Jewish traditions. We know that the name derives from the Hebrew words for “Helper of God” – from the Hebrew (‘azar) “help” and (‘el) “God”. It is the name of three minor characters in the Old Testament.
In Islamic traditions, the angel is referred to as the Angel of Death (Malak al-Mawt).
Allah says “Say: The angel of death, who has charge concerning you, will gather your souls, and afterward unto your Lord you will be returned.” [Sûrah al-Sajdah: 11]
Al-Tahâwî says in his `Aqîdah: “We believe in the Angel of Death who is assigned the task of taking up the souls of all beings in Creation.”
Al-Albânî, in his commentary of al-Tahâwî’s work, writes: “(Malak al-Mawt) is his name in the Qur’ân. As for calling him “Azrael” as the general public does, this is a baseless practice.”
We would say that it is preferable for us to refer to this angel in the way that Allah refers to him – as the “Angel of Death” – rather than by some other name.
And Allah knows best.