Devil (Islam)

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"Iblis" redirects here. For other uses, see Iblis (disambiguation).
"Shaytan" and "Shaitan" redirect here. For the 2011 Indian film, see Shaitan (film). For the 1974 film, see Shaitaan (film). For the village in Iran, see Gerd Sheytan.

In Islam, the devil is called Shayṭān, (Arabic: شيطان‎‎, plural: شياطين shayāṭīn) and refers to all evil forces under leadership of the archdevil[1] known as Iblīs, who was cast out of heaven, after he refused to prostrate before Adam.

The primary characteristic of Iblis is hubris; not only did he deem himself a superior creation to Adam, he also demonstrated arrogance by challenging Allah's judgment in commanding him to prostrate.[2] His primary activity is to incite humans and jinn to commit evil through deception, which is referred to as "whispering into the hearts."[3] The Quran mentions that satans are the assistants of those who disbelieve in God: "We have made the evil ones friends to those without faith."[4]

Namings and etymology[edit]

The term Iblis (Arabic: إِبْلِيس‎‎) may have derived from Ancient Greek διάβολος (diábolos), also the ultimate source of English 'devil.'[5][6] Or it may derive from the Arabic verbal root بَلَسَ (balasa, "he despaired").[7] The term Shaytan (Arabic: شَيْطَان‎‎) has the same origin as Hebrew שָׂטָן (Sātān), source of the English Satan.

In Islamic theology, "Shaytan" (Arabic: شيطان‎‎), is often simply translated as "the Devil," but the term can refer to any being[8] who disobeys God and follows Iblīs and intends to harm someone or does mischief.

The Devil in Islamic theology[edit]

Iblis (top right on the picture) refuses to prostrate before the newly created Adam

According to The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, shaytan in the singular and the plural shayatin are used in the Quran often interchangeably with Iblis, who is "considered to be a particular shaytan."[9] In Islamic theology, Iblis is a being created from fire who was allowed to mingle with Angels in the heavens until he rejected the command of God to bow before Adam. When God created Adam, the first human, He said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth.". The angels respond: "Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?"[10] God affirms and all the angels prostrate, but Iblis does not. Iblis justified his decision, because he claims to be better than a human: "I am better than he: Thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay."[11] Iblis requested trying to mislead the people to prove that he was right. Although God grants the request, he also warns Iblis that he would have no authority over his ‘ibād or "servants".[12] As for My servants, no authority shalt thou have over them.[13]

Controversial Affiliation[edit]

The essence of Iblis has been a discussion subject among scholars. Because of his presence in heaven, he is also held for an angel, while jinn are often considered to be earthly beings. But otherwise, he is called a Jinni in Surah 18:50. Those who reject Iblis angelic nature argue if he were an angel, he couldn´t disobey God´s command.[14] Therefore scholars designate different interpretations about the essence of Iblis:

  • Iblis was the leader of an angelic tribe, called jinn. One tribe was created of fire and the other was created of light. When Iblis refused to prostrate, he and his tribe, were cast out of heaven.[15]
  • Iblis was the only angel created of fire and with a free will, while he is the only Jinni created in heaven. When he was cast out of heaven, he fathered the jinn as his children. So Iblis would be the father of the jinn, like Adam is mentioned to be the father of mankind.[16]
  • Iblis was an angel, who was not able to bow before someone else than God. But by refusing God´s command, he was cast out of heaven and turned into a jinni. So he did not refuse, because of lower desires, but because of his pride, and doubt in the good of mankind.[17]
  • Iblis was one of the last believers of the jinn, when God sent the angels to earth to punish the evil jinn. Because Iblis was a great believer, he was evoke to heaven among the angels.[18]

Meaning of Iblis according to Islamic theology[edit]

Iblis takes various roles in islamic theology and traditions, but the majority gives him a depiction as a failed and evil creature, while other interpretations can also be positive:

  • He counts as the origin of sin and evil to mankind.[19]
  • Iblis represents those, who believe in God but do not believe in human and their dignity.[20]
  • The devil serves God as a tempter for human and jinn, so they can learn to master their imperfect nature.[21]
  • Iblis is an example for a true monotheist, who loves God so much and selfless, that he does not prostrate before something else, than his creator, even if he orders.[22]

Iblis in Sufism[edit]

In Sufism, Iblis is often viewed as a fallen angel who was a true monotheist,[23] because he would rather go to hell than bow down to something that is not God. Iblis's function as a devil is therefore regarded as a penalty, which he readily accepts. So, Iblis became the instrument of divine anger,[24] and supported the Nafs, which lead man astray from divinity. In another interpretation, Iblis's pride creates the remoteness and separation.[25]Rumi describes Iblis as being blind in one eye. He saw in Adam just the clay, but was blind to his spirit.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Charles Mathewes Understanding Religious EthicsJohn Wiley & Sons ISBN 978-1-405-13351-7 page 249
  2. ^ Quran 2:30
  3. ^ Quran 114:4
  4. ^ Quran 7:27
  5. ^ "Iblīs - BrillReference". 
  6. ^ Meriam-Webster, "Devil"[dead link]
  7. ^ "Iblis". 
  8. ^ Mirza Yawar Baig, Understanding Islam - 52 Friday Lectures: Keys to Leveraging the Power of Allah in Your Life (Standard Bearers Academy 2012 ISBN 9781479304189), p. 507
  9. ^ Esposito, Oxford Dictionary of Islam, 2003, p.279
  10. ^ Quran 2:34
  11. ^ Quran 7:12
  12. ^ Quran 2:30
  13. ^ Quran 17:65. ""As for My servants, no authority shalt thou have over them:" Enough is thy Lord for a Disposer of affairs."
  14. ^ Amira El-Zein Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 46
  15. ^ Amira El-Zein Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 978-0-815-65070-6 page 46
  16. ^ Yana Korobko Arabs in Treatment:: Development of Mental Health System and Psychoanalysis in the Arabo-Islamic World Xlibris Corporation 2016 ISBN 978-1-524-52631-3
  17. ^ Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9-780-81565-070-6 page 44
  18. ^ Thomas Patrick Hughes Dictionary of Islam Asian Educational Services ISBN 978-8-120-60672-2 Page 134
  19. ^ Mr Ibrahim M Abu-Rabi Theodicy and Justice in Modern Islamic Thought Ashgate Publishing 2013 ISBN 978-1-409-48095-2
  20. ^ Mouhanad Khorchide, Sarah Hartmann Islam is Mercy: Essential Features of a Modern Religion Verlag Herder GmbH ISBN 978-3-451-80286-7 chapter 4.3
  21. ^ Charles Mathewes Understanding Religious EthicsJohn Wiley & Sons ISBN 978-1-405-13351-7 page 249
  22. ^ Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 44
  23. ^ Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 44
  24. ^ University of California, Berkeley Sufism, Godliness and Popular Islamic Storytelling in Farid Al-Din ProQuest, 2007 Page 42
  25. ^ Eric Geoffroy, Roger Gaetani Introduction to Sufism: The Inner Path of Islam World Wisdom 2010 ISBN 9781935493105
  26. ^ William C. Chittick The Sufi Doctrine of Rumi World Wisdom 2005 ISBN 9780941532884


  • G. Basetti Sani, Il peccato di Iblis e degli angeli nel Corano, Iperbole, Palermo 1987
  • C. Saccone, Iblis, Il Satana del Terzo Testamento. Santità a perdizione nell'Islam. Letture coraniche II, Centro Essad Bey, Padova 2012 (ebook Kindle Edition); Charleston 2016 (book CreateSpace IPP)

External links[edit]