Azrael, meaning "One Whom God Helps", "Help from God" or "Angel of God", is the Archangel of Death and leader of the Angels of Death. He is also known as the Pale Rider, King of Atrocity, King of Skulls.
Azrael is perhaps best known for being the one who took the lives of all the firstborn sons in Egypt during a time when the Hebrews were being persecuted and enslaved by the Pharaoh. It was this act under God's command that the Pharaoh relented into releasing the Hebrews.
Rather than merely representing death personified, Azrael is usually described in Islamic and Biblical sources as subordinate to the will of God with the most profound reverence, when he extracts the soul from a dying person, a good dying person will not feel the pain from the removal of the soul from his body, Azrael removing it with ease, and for those who are bad, the removal of the soul is tough and difficult.
He helps dying people make the transition from Earth to the afterlife, and he comforts people who are grieving the death of a loved one. In art, Azrael is often depicted wielding a sword or scythe, or wearing a hood, since these symbols represent his role as the angel of death who is reminiscent of the popular culture’s Grim Reaper.
Depending on the outlook and precepts of various religions in which he is a figure, Azrael may be portrayed as residing in the Third Heaven. In one description, he has four faces and four thousand wings, and his whole body consists of eyes and tongues whose number corresponds to the number of people inhabiting the Earth. He is constantly recording and erasing in a large book the names of men at birth and death, respectively. Azrael was also the final plague of the ten plagues that God unleashed upon Egypt, causing the deaths of the firstborn children of Egypt but sparing the lives of the Hebrews. This event has since become known as the "Passover". His name became known when carries souls up to Heaven to be judged by God.
Azrael can also fiercely hunt down people who are unfaithful and unrepentant for their sins in their time of dying. Azrael appears on Earth in human form and hits sinful people on the head with his scythe to kill them and extract their souls from their bodies. Then he takes their souls to Hell, and makes it certain that they get their severe punishment. A damned soul stated that when Azrael was extracting his soul, it felt as though that every fiber of his muscles, bones, and even molecules were being violently and ferociously pulled, all while being devoured at the same time.
Azrael reveals that the reason he will not reveal his true form is due to his absolute hideousness. Azrael's true form is in fact so terrifyingly awful, the mere sight of it could not only kill a human, but can drive even a lower class angel, demon, and other monsters to madness. Only his archangel brethren and the most powerful demons and gods are immune to this, though some admit being uncomfortable when in the presence of his true form. Azrael is described as being completely covered in eyes and tongues, and the number of eyes and tongues constantly changes to reflect the number of people who are currently alive on Earth.
Description in Islam
Azrael is, along with Jibrail, Mīkhā'īl and Isrāfīl, one of the four major archangels in Islam, and is identified with the Quranic Malak al-Mawt. He is responsible for transporting the souls of the deceased after death. In comparison to similar concepts of death, Azrael holds a rather benevolent role as the angel of death. However, Azrael is not necessarily the only angel of death. Tafsir al-Baydawi mentions an entire host of angels of death (which includes Rahab, Samael and Sariel), subordinative to Azrael.
Also, the Quran speaks about many angels of death. Islamic traditions explains that the lesser angels of death are for the common people, but saints and prophets meet the archangel of death himself. Azrael does not act independently, but is only informed by God when time is up to take a soul. According to one Muslim tradition, forty days before the death of a person approaches, God drops a leaf from a tree below the heavenly throne, on which Azrael reads the name of the person he must take with him. He also assisted God in the creation of Adam when he gathered clay for Him.