Iblis

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Iblīs (or Eblis)[1] is the Islamic equivalent of Satan. Iblis was cast out of heaven by God after he refused to prostrate himself before Adam.

Depiction of Iblis in the epic poem Shahnameh

Naming and etymology[edit]

The term Iblis (Arabic: إِبْلِيس‎) may have been derived from the Arabic verbal root BLS ب-ل-س (with the broad meaning of "remain in grief")[2] or بَلَسَ (balasa, "he despaired").[3] Furthermore, the name is related to talbis meaning confusion.[4] Another possibility is that it is derived from Ancient Greek διάβολος (diábolos), which is also the source of the English word 'devil'.[5] However, there is no general agreement on the root of the term. The name itself could not be found before the Quran.[6]

Theology[edit]

Although Iblis resembles the Christian notion of Satan, there is no direct correlation. In respect of their disobedience to God the motivation of Iblis and that of the Christian Satan differ, and unlike the Christian notion of Satan there is no mention of Iblis trying to take God's throne[7] Also, given the strict monotheism of Islam, Iblis is not considered the adversary of God with a duel between God and another entity regarded as impossible.[8][9] The enmity of Iblis applies just to God's creation. Iblis only has the power God granted him after his request for permission to tempt humans away from God's path. He is not the cause of evil, but takes advantage of the inclination of humans to be self-centered.[10] Furthermore, the transformation of Iblis from angelic into demonic is a reminder of God's capacity to reverse injustice even on an ontological level.[11] It is both a warning and a reminder because the special gifts given by God can also be taken away by him.[12]

Quran[edit]

Angels bow before the newly created Adam, but Iblis (top right on the picture) refuses to prostrate

Iblis is mentioned 11 times in the Quran by name, 9 times related to his rebellion against God's command to prostrate himself before Adam. More often occurs the term Shaitan, that is, sometimes related to Iblis. Then God created Adam, He ordered all the angels to bow before the new creation. All the angels bowed down, but Iblis refused to do so. He argued that since he himself was created from fire, he is superior to humans, made from mud, and that he should not prostrate himself before Adam.[13] For his haughtiness, he was banished from heaven and condemned to hell. Therefore, Iblis made a request for the ability to try to mislead Adam and his descendants. God grants his request but also warned that he will have no power over God's servants.[14]

Sufism[edit]

Sufism rejects any concept of dualism and instead believes in the unity of existence. Therefore, some mystics hold, Iblis refused to bow to Adam because he was fully devoted to God alone and refused to bow to anyone else. Accordingly, he is regarded together with Muhammad as the two most perfect monotheists. But while Muhammad is the instrument of God's mercy, Iblis is the instrument of God's anger. Furthermore, Iblis is depicted as an example of a true lover of God, teacher of oneness despite physical separation [15] than a failed creature, since he preferred to go to hell than to prostrate himself before someone else other than the "Beloved" (here referring to God). Thus Iblis became an example for unrequited love.

However, not all Sufis are in agreement with a positive depiction of Iblis. Rumi's viewpoint on Iblis is much more in tune with Islamic orthodoxy. Rumi views Iblis as the manifestation of the great sins haughtiness and envy. He states: "(Cunning) intelligence is from Iblis, and love from Adam."[16] Iblis represents the principle of "one-eyed" intellect; he only saw the outward earthly form of Adam, but was blind to the Divine spark hidden in him, using an illicit method of comparison.[17] Hasan of Basra holds that Iblis was the first who used "analogy", comparing himself to someone else, this causing his sin. Iblis therefore also represents humans' psyche moving towards sin or shows how love can cause envy and anxiety losing a beloved one.[18]

Depictions[edit]

Another painting of angels prostrating before Adam with Iblis refusing, here depicted with a headcover

Illustrations of Iblis in Islamic paintings often depict him black-faced, a feature which would later symbolize any Satanic figure or heretic, and with a black body, symbolizing his corrupted nature. Another common depiction shows Iblis wearing special headcovering, clearly different from the traditional Islamic turban. In one painting however, Iblis wears a traditional Islamic headcovering.[19] The turban probably refers to a narration of Iblis' fall: there he wore a turban, then he was sent down from heaven.[20]

Affiliation[edit]

Illustration from an Arabic manuscript of the Annals of al-Tabari showing Iblis refusing to prostrate before the newly created Adam

There are different opinions regarding the affiliation of Iblis and there are certain major arguments, found in Quran and hadith literature, to determine his essence:

  • The term 'الجِنِّ' (al-jinni) in Surah 18:50 that is interpretated as:
  1. an inhabitants designation related to 'Jinan' (lit. the Gardens here referring to Jannah), meaning he was from the guardians of heaven.[21][22][23]
  2. a jinn, a species apart from the angels.
  3. a designation for a bodiless entity in comparation to al-Ins, a bodily object such as Adam.[24][25][26]
  • The verse 2:34 stating: "so they prostrated, except for Iblis" interpretated as:
  1. since the angels prostrated themselves "except Iblis", Iblis was one of the angels.[27]
  2. "except for Iblis" means, that he was also not one of them in essence.
  3. Iblis was like an angel and therefore titled as an angel and outwardly one of them.[28]
  • Iblis as being created from fire:
  1. since the Quran does not state from that the angels were created, there are angels created apart from those created from light, in this case it is from "fire".[29][30]
  2. "Fire" is the origin from any spiritual creature, either angel, jinn or demon, but all derived from different parts of the fire.
  3. The fire refers to the smokeless fires, from which the jinn were created and Iblis is a jinn in essence.
  4. "Fire" and "light" refer to the same thing in this subject.[31]
  • residence among the angels:
  1. Iblis was an angel and therefore among them.
  2. Although Iblis was not an angel, he was elevated to the rank of an angel.[32]
  • progeny:
  1. angels do not have progeny and Iblis is asexual like the other angels.[33] His progeny mentioned in 18:51 are symbolically referring to those, who follow him.[34]
  2. after he was turned into a demon, he became a hermaphrodite creature, begatting the demons.[35]
  3. like with other jinn, he is able to procreate and started procreating after his fall.
  • the infallibility of angels, stressed out by some scholars based on certain verses in the Quran:
  1. Iblis is distinguished by the angels from having free-will, thus he was not an angel, but a jinn or another entity.[36]
  2. verses designating the angels as noble beings can not prove the impeccability of all angels, since humans are also designated as sinning, while there are people not sinning, such as the prophets.
  3. angels also err and can be degraded or rewarded, also referring to other narration containing erring angels.
  4. Iblis disagreement was subject to predeterminism, such that God appointed him as Satan to create the illusion of dualism.[37]
  5. God gave a contradictional order knowing only Iblis would refuse the latter instruction,[38] since it is forbidden to prostrate before someone else than God. Out of love, Iblis passed the test by refusing to prostrate himself.

The majority of classical Sunni Islam generally accepted an angelic origin of Iblis.[39] However contemporary scholars, especially among Salafism[40] and Wahhabism[41], frequently insist that Iblis was not an angel,[42]

Notable scholars who clearly consider Iblis an angel or at least an angel in origin, include Ibn Abbas,[43] Tabari,[44] Ash'ari,[45] Al-Baydawi,[46] and Muhammad Asad.[47] Notable scholars who clearly consider Iblis a jinn include Hasan of Basra, Ja'far al-Sadiq,[48] Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Kathir, and Al-Munajjid.

Conclusions[edit]

Finally, the following four interpretations are commonly accepted among Islamic traditions:[49][citation needed]

  • Before the creation of Adam, there was a tribe of angels, created from fire and called 'Jinn', and Iblis belongs to this tribe. After Iblis disobeyed, he and those from his tribe, who followed him, were cast out from heaven and became Demons.[50][citation needed]
  • Iblis was the first Jinn, created from fire and became the father of all the Jinn.[citation needed]
  • Iblis was one of the earthly jinn taken captive by the angel during a battle. Due to his piety, he was elevated to the level of the angels. So even though he was not an angel, he became like one of them.[citation needed]
  • Once an angel, Iblis turned into a Jinn by his act of disobedience.[citation needed]

Extra-Quranic narratives[edit]

Before the creation of mankind[edit]

As an Angel[edit]

Iblis was once an Archangel and God's dearest creature. He was the teacher of the other angels, and God gave him authority over the lower heavens. When the jinn increasingly caused corruption on earth, God sent him with an army of angels to battle the jinn and they drove them into the mountains. Iblis felt superior to any other creature, especially since he was, unlike the other angels, created from fire. Then God created Adam and commanded the angels to prostrate before him, Iblis felt humiliated, and refused to accept the superiority of man, who was, according to Iblis, just another fallible entity, who would corrupt God's earth, like the jinn he just defeated before, while he would praise God's glory day and night.[51] Therefore he was cast out of heaven, but God allows him to proof Iblis objection concerning humanity by tempting them into sin, and gave him a chance to redeem himself.[52][53] Thus although Iblis's pride lost him his position in heaven, he remained part of God's plan.[54]

As a Jinn[edit]

Once the angels battled the earthen jinn and took prisoners. One of these was Iblis, who grew up among the angels in heaven, and because of his piety was elevated to their rank. When God ordered the angels to prostrate themselves before Adam, Iblis abused his free-will and refused haughtily, considering himself superior because of his physical nature constituted of fire and not of clay.[55]Therefore he was damned to hell but was given respite until the Day of Judgment.

Iblis and the serpent[edit]

Painting of the expulsion from "The Garden" by Al-Hakim Nishapuri.The main actors of the narration about Adams fall are drawn: Adam, Hawwa (Eve), Iblis, the serpent, the peacock and an Angel, probably Ridwan, who guards paradise.
This painting is coming from a copy of the Fālnāmeh (Book of Omens) ascribed to Ja´far al-Sādiq. Iblis characteristically depicted black-faced is bottom-left in picture above the Angels.

Although the Serpent is not mentioned in the Qur'an, Qur'anic commentaries as well as the Stories of the Prophets added the serpent borrowed from Gnostic and Jewish oral tradition circulating in the Arabian Peninsula.[56] Iblis tries to enter the abode of Adam, but the angelic guardian keeps him away. Then Iblis invents a plan to trick the guardian. He approaches a peacock and tells him that all creatures will die and the peacock's beauty will perish. But if he gets the fruit of eternity, every creature will last forever. Therefore, the peacock convinces the serpent to slip Iblis into the Garden, by carrying him in his mouth. In the Garden, Iblis speaks through the serpent to Adam and Eve, and tricks them into eating from the forbidden tree. Modern Muslims accuse the Yazidis of devil-worship for venerating the peacock. [57]

Moses and Iblis on Sinai[edit]

Ghazali told a tale about Iblis meeting Moses on the slopes of Sinai. Accordingly, Moses asks Iblis why he refused God's order. Iblis replied that the command was actually a test. Then Moses replied, obviously Iblis was punished by being turned from an angel to a devil. Iblis responds, his form is just temporary.[58][59]

Iblis' fate in Endtime[edit]

Just as there are different views on the origin of Iblis, there are different opinions regarding his lot during the Endtime:

  • Iblis and his host are the first who enter hell and will dwell there for eternity.[60]
  • After the world perishes, Iblis assignment as tempter for humanity and his punishment alike are over. Therefore Iblis will be forgiven and he will return to heaven as one of God's cherished Angels.[61]
  • Still before the world perishes, Iblis will be killed in a battle by the Mahdi, an interpretation especially prevalent among Shia Muslims.[62]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Ebrahim Kazim Scientific Commentary of Suratul Faateḥah Pharos Media & Publishing 2010 ISBN 978-8-172-21037-3 page 274
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  4. ^ Nicholson Studies In Islamic Mystic Routledge 2013 (first published 1998) ISBN 978-1-136-17178-9 page 120
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  7. ^ Vicchio, Stephen J. Biblical Figures in the Islamic Faith. Wipf and Stock. 2008. ISBN 9781556353048, pages 175-185.
  8. ^ N. Ahmadi Iranian Islam: The Concept of the Individual Springer 1998 ISBN 978-0-230-37349-5 page 80
  9. ^ Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 46
  10. ^ Charles Mathewes Understanding Religious Ethics John Wiley & Sons 2010 ISBN 978-1-405-13351-7 page 248
  11. ^ Richard Gauvain Salafi Ritual Purity: In the Presence of God Routledge 2013 ISBN 9780710313560 page 74
  12. ^ Richard Gauvain Salafi Ritual Purity: In the Presence of God Routledge 2013 ISBN 9780710313560 page 74
  13. ^ Quran 7:12
  14. ^ Quran 17:65. ""As for My servants, no authority shalt thou have over them:" Enough is thy Lord for a Disposer of affairs."
  15. ^ Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 44
  16. ^ Annemarie Schimmel The Triumphal Sun: A Study of the Works of Jalaloddin Rumi Annemarie Schimmel SUNY Press 1993 ISBN 978-0-791-41635-8 page 255
  17. ^ Walī Allāh al-Dihlawī Shāh Walī Allāh of Delhi's Hujjat Allāh Al-bāligha BRILL 1996 ISBN 978-9-004-10298-9 page 350
  18. ^ Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, Rumi Collected Poetical Works of Rumi (Delphi Classics) Delphi Classics 2015 story XI
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  28. ^ Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman Tafsir Ibn Kathir Juz' 1 (Part 1): Al-Fatihah 1 to Al-Baqarah 141 2nd Edition MSA Publication Limited 2013 ISBN 978-1-861-79826-8 page 136
  29. ^ Patrick Hughes, Thomas Patrick Hughes Dictionary of Islam Asian Educational Services 1995 ISBN 978-8-120-60672-2 page 135
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  57. ^ Birgül Açikyildiz The Yezidis: The History of a Community, Culture and Religion I.B.Tauris 2014 ISBN 978-0-857-72061-0 page 161
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