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 known as Iblīs (Arabic: إبليس‎, plural: ابالسة abālisah), Shayṭān (Arabic: شيطان‎, plural: شياطين shayāṭīn) or Shaitan. In Islam, Iblis is a jinn who refused to bow for Adam. One Islamic scholar[Muhammad Asad] believed him to be one of the angels, but this view is hard to reconcile with Iblis' own statement that he was created from fire).[1]

The primary characteristic of the Devil is hubris.[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) is probably altered from Ancient Greek διάβολος (diábolos), also the ultimate source of English devil.[5] An alternative folk etymology derivation is from the Arabic verbal root بَلَسَ (balasa, "he despaired").[6] The term Shaytan (Arabic: شَيْطَان‎) has the same origin as Hebrew שָׂטָן (Sātān), source of the English Satan.

In popular Islamic culture, "Shaytan" (Arabic: شيطان‎), is often simply translated as "the Devil", but the term can refer to any of the jinn who disobey God and follow Iblīs. Some scholars are of the view that Iblīs is the father of all of the jinn, just as Adam is the father of all of humanity[7] as mentioned in the Quran (sura 18, Al-Kahf), "Will you then take him and his progeny as protectors rather than Me? And they are enemies to you!"[8]

The Devil in Islamic theology[edit]

According to The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, shaytan is used in the Quran in the singular, and the plural shayatin often interchangeably with Iblis, who is "considered to be a particular shaytan."[9]

According to basic Islamic teachings, God revealed the creation of three intelligent species: angels (malāʾikah), demons (jinn), and humans (basher), of which the latter two have been granted free will to choose between good and evil,[10][1] and the Quran states that there is other creation beyond human knowledge "and He has created (other) things of which we have no knowledge."[11]

The angels, being creatures of pure reason without lower animal desires, do not sin. When God created Adam, he commanded all the angels and Iblis (whose high rank allowed him to worship Allah with the angels) to prostrate to Adam.[2] All the angels did so, but Iblis refused, and was deprived of Allah's Mercy because of his arrogant disobedience.[12] For this God cast him out of Jannah (paradise), and intended to punish him. Iblis begged God to delay the punishment until Yawm al-Qiyāmah (Last Judgment), and his request was granted.[13]

It is We Who created you and gave you shape; then We bade the angels prostrate to Adam, and they prostrate; not so Iblis; He refused to be of those who prostrate.
(Allah) said: "What prevented thee from prostrating when I commanded thee?" He said: "I am better than he: Thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay."

— Quran, sura 7 (Al-A'raf) ayat 11-12[14]

Iblis was proud and considered himself superior to Adam, since Adam was made from clay and Iblis from smokeless fire.[2] For this act of disobedience, God cursed him to Jahannam (Hell/Purgatory) for eternity, but gave him respite until the Day of Judgment, after Iblis requested it.[15] Iblis obtained permission from God and vowed that he would use this time to lead all men and women astray to Hell. In this way, he would prove humanity's inferiority, and justify his act of defiance.[citation needed] For refusing to abide by the will of God, Iblis was cast out of Heaven, and thereafter he was called "Shaytan" (Satan).

He said: "Give me respite till the day they are raised up."
(Allah) said: "Be thou among those who have respite."
He said: "Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy straight way:
"Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor wilt thou find, in most of them, gratitude (for thy mercies)."
(Allah) said: "Get out from this, disgraced and expelled. If any of them follow thee,- Hell will I fill with you all.

— Quran sura 7 (Al-Aʻraf), ayah 14-18[16]

Although God grants the request, he also warns Satan that he would have no authority over his sincere 'ubūd or 'servants'.[12]

"As for My servants, no authority shalt thou have over them:" Enough is thy Lord for a Disposer of affairs.

— Quran, sura 17 (Al-Isra), ayah 65[17]

Such individuals had previously been mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel as the Elect.

Shaytan as a "whisperer"[edit]

In Islamic theology, Shaytan and his minions are "whisperers", who whisper into the hearts of humans and jinn, urging them to sin.

The Quran provides a supplication for mankind which is effective in repelling the evil of Satan and his minions:

Say: I seek refuge with the Lord and Cherisher of Mankind,
The King (or Ruler) of Mankind,
The God (or judge) of Mankind,-
From the mischief of the Whisperer (of Evil), who withdraws (after his whisper),-
(The same) who whispers into the hearts of Mankind,-
Among Jinn and among men.

— Quran, sura 114 (Al-Nas), ayat 1–6[18]

Difference between Iblis and Shaytan[edit]

Shaytan is translated as demon - in plural Shayateen Al-shaytan translated as "the demon" or "the devil" which is mostly referring to the first demon or devil. According to Islam Azazel was the name of the devil before losing God's mercy. Iblis which cab translated as the outcast or "thrown from god's mercy" in Arabic is the name that was given to him after.

See also[edit]



  • 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 (Amazon, Kindle Edition)

External links[edit]