As per the Commandment of Allah Almighty, each human being has been assigned two recording angels. These angels write down all our good and bad deeds, thoughts and feelings. "He is the Omnipotent over His slaves. He sendeth guardians over you until, when death cometh unto one of you, Our messengers receive him, and they neglect not." (6:61) Al-Anam. Also "Or deem they that We cannot hear their secret thoughts and private confidences ? Nay, but Our envoys, present with them, do record." (43:80) Az-Zukhruf.
Allah Almighty created angels just as He created humans and other species. Angels are incapable of disobeying Allah. They follow His orders meticulously and most loyally. Angels worship Allah Almighty alone. As ordained by Allah, angels have a significant role in the life of human beings. They are present with us (invisibly), they record our deeds and they are present with us while we worship Allah Almighty .. constantly noting every act and intent. More on angels on our post Angels.
Allah Almighty created everything for a purpose. HE created the angels to worship Him and carry out His orders in the universe. ".. who resist not Allah in that which He commandeth them, but do that which they are commanded." (66:6) Surah At-Tahrim.
These two recording angels are referred in the Glorious Quran as Kiraman-Katibin (كراماً كاتبين ). This expression means "honorable recorders" or "noble recorders." An example of this expression are the following Verses. "Lo! there are above you guardians, Noble and recording, Who know (all) that ye do." (80:10-12) Surah Intifitaar.
The Arabic terms "raqibun atidun" ( رَقِيبٌ عَتِيدٌ ) also used for the recording angels means "observer ready" as in Verse 50:18 quote: "He uttereth no word but there is with him an observer ready." In many articles written by our Muslim teachers who are not well informed mention of the recording angels named as "Raqib" and "Atid." This is a totally wrong concept. Please note, raqib means observer or watcher and atid means to be ready or can also be interpreted as being prepared. Hence, the vigilance or the alertness of the two recording angels are being described in the Verse as observers who are ready for their job of recording the deeds of every person. Similar to the expressiion "two Receivers" in the previous Verse 50:17 quote "When the two Receivers receive (him), seated on the right hand and on the left,"
Another point that needs to be clarified emphatically is that uneducated clerics are spreading the story that the angel on one side of our shoulder is named 'Raqib' (Observer) while the one on the other side is called 'Atid' (Ready). Needless to say, this idea is completely false. First of all, the terms raqib and atid are NOT proper nouns. The word raqib or observer is a common noun and atid or ready is an adjective. Secondly, the Quran does NOT mention any angels by their particular names placed on our shoulders. We only know that there are 2 angels recording our deeds by our sides. That's all.
The Quran mentions only four angels by name - Gibreel, Mikaeel, Harut and Marut. For details kindly check our post Names of angels in the Quran.
Our acceptance of the presence of angels around us makes us feel that we are surrounded by other creatures of Allah everywhere we go, and that Allah Almighty is in charge of everyone and everything. Alhumdulilah. We can only confirm what's confirmed in the Quran that there are angels responsible for guarding people throughout their lives. "For him are) successive (Angels) from (before) (him) and from and behind him, who guard him by (the) command (of) Allah." (13:11) Ar Raad. Human curiosity often runs wild with queries asking "if angels are guarding humans all the time then how do we fall prey to dangers?" Well, God Almighty never promised anyone in this world that they wouldn't face a variety of unpleasant and difficult situations. Neither did God ever guarantee anyone that they would never be victims of tyranny or tragedies. This earthly world is a place for trials & tribulations, pain & misery. The Quranic expression in the above Verse "They guard him ...." refers to the fact that no humankind is ever truly alone. Allah has appointed His creatures, the angels, to watch each one of us, humans. The basic purpose of angels guarding us refers to the existence of permanent witnesses recording all our deeds. It's yet another display of the amazing power of Allah The Almighty, His creation (in this case the angels) constantly working for Him, following His orders and obeying Him.
Then again, some folks may ask: Since Allah can see everything and knows everything, what need is there for angels to be on our shoulders to write down what we do? The answer is simple. Yes, of course, Allah Almighty knows everything. The reason why deeds are written down or recorded is only to serve as witnesses against us on the Day of Judgement, to confront us with the precise acts and intents we performed or harbored that will leave us wonderstruck and fearful as most humans presume that Allah isn't aware of everything they do. They take HIS All-Knowing Supreme Power as a joke. But when they see their own kitab (book) spelling out each and every deed of theirs noted in it, they will be dumbfounded and unable to make excuses nor refute it. The recording book will be a pleasure for the righteous, but will leave the wrong doers numb with fright. They will be left with no other argument but to concede that they were sinners / violators / transgressors. This is Allah's purpose of writing our deeds, to prove to our own selves everything we did as evidence that Divine Justice is flawless; that in the Hereafter Allah only punishes us for the violations we committed in earthly life. Thus, Allah says: "And every human being's destiny have We tied to his neck; and on the Day of Resurrection We shall bring forth for him a record which he will find wide open; [and he will be told:] "Read your record! Sufficient is your own self today to make out your account!" (17:13-14) Surah Al-Israa.
Verses 17 to 21 of Surah Qaf are worth noting.
"When the two Receivers receive (him), seated on the right hand and on the left, He uttereth no word but there is with him an observer ready. And the agony of death cometh in truth. (And it is said unto him): This is that which thou wast wont to shun. And the trumpet is blown. This is the threatened Day. And every soul cometh, along with it a driver and a witness." (50:17-21) Surah Qaf.
The above Verses describe the time of the soul's departure, that is, death. The "two Receivers" are apparently the recording angels who will receive the departing soul at the time of death. And then on the Day of Resurrection and the Day of Judgement, the same two recording angels - "driver and a witness" - will accompany each soul.
There are several more Verses in the Glorious Quran that refer to the recording angels. Those Verses are quoted as follows for a clearer understanding of this aspect.
"And every man's augury have We fastened to his own neck, and We shall bring forth for him on the Day of Resurrection a book which he will find wide open. (And it will be said unto him): Read your Book. Your soul sufficeth as reckoner against you this day. " (17:13-14 Al-Isra) NOBLE QURAN.
"And the Book is placed, and you see the guilty fearful of that which is therein, and they say: What kind of a Book is this that leaves not a small thing nor a great thing but has counted it! And they find all that they did confronting them, and your Rab wrongs no one." (18:49 - Al-Kahf) NOBLE QURAN.
"Say: Allah is more swift in plotting. Lo! Our messengers write down that which ye plot." (10:21) Yunus - NOBLE QURAN.
"And thou (Muhammad) art not occupied with any business and thou recitest not a Lecture from this (Scripture), and ye (mankind) perform no act, but We are Witness of you when ye are engaged therein. And not an atom's weight in the earth or in the sky escapeth your Lord, nor what is less than that or greater than that, but it is (written) in a clear Book." (10:61) Yunus - NOBLE QURAN.
"Or deem they that We cannot hear their secret thoughts and private confidences ? Nay, but Our envoys, present with them, do record." (43:80) Az-Zukhruf.