Devil (Islam)

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Depiction of Iblis in the epic poem Shahnameh

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 (or Eblis),[2] 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 God's judgment in commanding him to prostrate.[3] His primary activity is to incite humans and jinn to commit evil through deception, which is referred to as "whispering into the hearts."[4] The Quran mentions that devils are the assistants of those who disbelieve and commit immorality.[5]

Namings and etymology[edit]

The term Iblis (Arabic: إِبْلِيس‎) may have derived from the Arabic verbal root BLS ب-ل-س (with the broad meaning of "remain in grief")[6] or بَلَسَ (balasa, "he despaired").[7] Another possibility is that it is derived from Ancient Greek διάβολος (diábolos), also the ultimate source of English 'devil.'[8][9] However, there is no consensus on the root of the term. The term Shaytan (Arabic: شَيْطَان‎) also 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[10] who disobeys God and follows Iblīs and intends to harm someone or does mischief.

The Devil in Islamic theology[edit]

According to The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, shaytan in the singular and the plural shayateen are used in the Quran often interchangeably with Iblis, who is "considered to be a particular shaytan."[11] 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: "And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, "Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority." They said, "Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?" Allah said, "Indeed, I know that which you do not know."[12] All the angels prostrate, but Iblis does not. Iblis justified his decision, because he claims to be better than a human: "[Allah] said, "What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you? [Satan] said, "I am better than him. You created me from fire, and created him from clay."[13] Iblis requests a reprieve until the day of resurrection to try to mislead the people in any way he can. God reprieves Iblis but, He also warns that Iblis would have no authority over His ibād or "servants".[14] "As for My servants, no authority shalt thou have over them."[15]

Iblis appears 11 times and "shayaten" 88 times in the Quran. Iblis almost exclusively appears during the prostration of angels. However, Quran commentators often identified Al-Shaytan (if in singular) with Iblis and (if in Plural) with his lesser demons or devils. Furthermore, Iblis become an example of how people become unbelievers, in several parables, like the Nahjul Balagha and Sufi philosophy.[16] In further exegesis and Islamic legends Iblis is portrayed as the leader of demons and tempter, also appearing in several stories about Prophets including Idris,[17] Moses, Solomon and Jesus.

In some Tafsir works Iblis is portrayed to be believed in by pre-Islamic Arabs, as a Creator deity of evil [18] (probably an allusion to Zoroastrian and Manichaean dualism) besides God, who in contrast created good; and rejects this view, appealing to believe in the existence of only one God, more similar to Jewish monotheistic concept on God[19][20] as an all-embracing creator deity, who created good and evil, and demotes the devil from an independent God to a lower and created entity. However some scholars hold, God gave the angels a contradictional order, on one hand, the angels are not allowed to prostrate before something else than their creator, but on the other hand to prostrate before Adam. God, knowing Iblis would refused, gave that order, thereby Iblis will become the devil, thus creating the semblance of a dualism for humanity.[21] But the devil is still subordinate to God, a force striving against God is alien to Islam.

In Islamic belief, Iblis does not cause the theodicy problem, since Iblis doesn't generate evil. But the Ash'ari and Mu`tazilah discussed the theodicy problem, on free will.[22] Iblis becomes the tempter of the creatures endowed with free will and promotes the choice of evil.[23] Interpreted as a Jinni, Iblis himself is endowed with free will, and is the first one who choose to disobey.[24]

Mansur Al-Hallaj was probably the first who conceived Iblis as a positive figure. While he even claimed Islamic Prophets like Moses to be less monotheistic than Iblis, the Sunni theologian Ghazali adapted Hallaj narration, but removed the accusation towards Moses.[25] For Ibn Arabi, who suggested a monistic view, God's mercy embraces all things, due even the devil will be finally restored to the grace of God. Evil and despair are therefore sorrows for those who doubt in God's mercy.[26]

Iblis in Sufism[edit]

In Sufism, Iblis is often depicted as an example of a true lover of God, teacher of oneness despite physical separation and rather a tragically fallen angel[27] than a failed creature. According to a narration from Al-Hallaj, Moses met Iblis on the slopes of Mount Sinai, there he asked him, why he refused God's command to bow before Adam, thereupon he was transformed from an angel into a Satan. Iblis replied, this command was actually not a command but a test, to prove who loves God without expecting anything in return[28] and he would rather go to hell than bow down to something that is not God. And now he refines his love to God through longing. Iblis's function as a devil is therefore regarded as a penalty, which he readily accepts. Abd al-Karīm al-Jīlī stated, Iblis will be back, after the Day of Judgement, as one of his cherished angels.[29]

In another interpretation, Iblis' pride creates remoteness and separation.[30] So, Iblis became the instrument of divine anger,[31] and supported the Nafs, which lead man astray from divinity. Rumi describes Iblis as being blind in one eye.[32] That means, he saw in Adam just the clay, but was blind to his spirit, so his sin derived from spiritual blindness and inability to see the meaning behind form, caused by pride.[33] Iblis therefore represents humans psyche moving towards sin or shows how love can cause envy and anxiety losing a beloved one.[34]

Iblis' controversial affiliation[edit]

Angels bow before the newly created Adam, but the Iblis (top right on the picture) refuses to prostrate
Depiction of Iblis in the Annals of al-Tabari

The essence of Iblis has been a discussion subject among scholars. Some hold him to be an angel, a Jinn or neither an angel nor a jinni, but created from fire alone.[35] In terms of its essence, there are different criteria that are discussed. Since the command to prostrate addressed to the angels, and his stay in heaven, he occurs as an angel. On the other hand, the Quran calls him a Jinni in Surah 18:50. Some scholars prefer a metaphorical reading on this verse, thus its describing Iblis' actions ("he hid obedience from God") or read "Jinni", not as creature, but as meaning "one who came from Jannah" (from the verbal root: JNN).[36][37] Another criteria, based on hadithtraditions, Angels are generally created from light, and Jinn from a sort of fire, however based on traditions from Muhammed's companions, some angels are an exception and also made from fire, therefore Tabari stated, his origin from fire should not distract from accepting at least Iblis original identity as an angel.[38] Other scholars regarding his creation from fire indicates light and fire are akin,[39] and light actually originated from fire, thus fire and light should not be taken too precise. Additionally, some scholars argue if he was an angel, he couldn't disobey God's command,[40] stating angels strictly follow God's instructions, therefore he can not be a real angel, while other scholars assert, angels may commit errors, for example by doubting or opposing the creation of humans.[41]

Iblis as Angel[edit]

"All the angels were created from light, except this angel."

— Ibn Abbas[42]

Based on a narration from Abd Allah ibn Abbas Iblis was an angel created from fire, which made him special among the angels,[43] although some scholars added, there were also other angels created from fire among his tribe. According to this tradition, he was the most knowledgeable angel and called "Jinn" because he and his kind were superior to the lower angels of light, and therefore mostly invisible to them.[44] He and his tribe are assumed to have fought against the evil jinn on earth, after they shed blood. Even Jinn and angel both have a fiery origin, they are clearly distinct entities; angels created from "fire of samum" and the jinn from "mixture of fire".

Another opinion, which assigns him to an angelic origin, considers Iblis actually turned into a Jinn (Shaitan), by his act of disobience and after his fall, he became capable to procreate, therefore the devils among the Jinn are his descendants.[45] As a teacher among the angels Al-Hallaj proposes Iblis continued teaching after he was banished from the heavens; He teaches the angels in heaven good and teaches evil among the humans and jinn, in order that they learn evil to be able to recognize good.[46]

Notable scholars, who considered Iblis to be an angel: Ibn Abbas, Tabari,[47] Ash'ari,[48] Muhammad Asad.[49]

Iblis as Father of Jinn[edit]

"Iblis was not an angel even for the time of an eye wink. He is the origin of Jinn as Adam is of Mankind."

— Hasan of Basra[50]

According to Hasan of Basra Iblis was already a Jinni in heaven, and was banished after he sinned by refusing God's command to bow before Adam. Therefore, he was the first Jinni and he fathered the other Jinn, like Adam counts as the origin of mankind.[51] Ibn Arabi describes in his work Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya Iblis was not the first Jinni, but the first who refused to obey, thus he was the first demon.[52] Among some Muslim traditions assuming Iblis to be the father of the Jinn, still gives him an angelic origin, since he became a Jinni after his fall.[53]

Notable scholars, who considered Iblis was the first Jinni/Demon: Zayd ibn Ali, Hasan of Basra, Ibn Arabi.

Iblis as Jinn raised to the Angels[edit]

"Although Iblis was not an angel, he was trying to imitate the angels' behavior and deeds, and this is why he was included in this command."

— Ibn Kathir[54]

Similar to the traditions from Ibn Abbas, a third narration about Iblis hold, Jinn and angels were fighting on earth. However Iblis was not among the angels, but one of the Jinn. The angels took Iblis as a prisoner and he lived among them until it seemed as if he were one of them. Another interpretation of this narration hold, he was not captured but called up to heaven, due to his piety.[55] He lived among the angels until the command to bow down before Adam, which revealed his true nature as a Jinni.

Notable scholars, considered Iblis to be a Jinni taken up to heaven: Ja'far al-Sadiq,[56] Ibn Kathir,[57] Al-Munajjid.[58]

Other devils and demons[edit]

While "Shaitan" with the definite article "Al" in Islamic usage commonly refers to the particular Shaitan Iblis; the term also apply to other creatures and things including jinn and human ("al-ins", الإنس).[59] Furthermore, the "Shayateen" are a class of creatures distinguished from the aforementioned. "Shayateen" (translated as "devils", "satans" or "demons") are the offspring and servants of Iblis and in some traditions fallen angels, who sided with Iblis.[60] They help Iblis to mislead humans and jinn by whispering to their hearts. Unlike jinn, which have a limited lifespan like humans, they will only die together with Iblis, when the world perishes. Jinn are created from the blaze of fire; the shayateen come from the smoke of fire and created as a result of bad actions.[61] Additionally, the Shayateen are, unlike the jinn, always evil and not able to gain heavenly bliss.[62] The Ifrits (an infernal class of shayateen) are one of the most powerful classes of shayateen.[63]

According to hadith traditions, "Shaitan" is said to move through the blood vessels of humans. As Ghazali stated, this does not mean Iblis himself mingles with human blood; rather, his blood circulates through and thus affect humans.[64] Nishapuri argued to this tradition, the first Satan was actually the humans soul, leading towards sin.[65]

A common belief among Muslim hold, devils and demons can not approach them, then recite a certain Du'a, Audhubasmala, Al-Nas Sure or Al-Falaq Sure.[66] Additionally demons and rebellious Jinn are believed to be locked up in hell by Malik during Ramazan.[67]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Charles Mathewes Understanding Religious EthicsJohn Wiley & Sons ISBN 978-1-405-13351-7 page 249
  2. ^ Constance Victoria Briggs The Encyclopedia of God: An A-Z Guide to Thoughts, Ideas, and Beliefs about GodHampton Roads Publishing 2003 ISBN 978-1-612-83225-8
  3. ^ Quran 2:30
  4. ^ Quran 114:4
  5. ^ Quran 7:27
  6. ^ Ebrahim Kazim Scientific Commentary of Suratul Faateḥah Pharos Media & Publishing 2010 ISBN 978-8-172-21037-3 page 274
  7. ^ "Iblis". 
  8. ^ "Iblīs - BrillReference". 
  9. ^ Meriam-Webster, "Devil"[dead link]
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ Esposito, Oxford Dictionary of Islam, 2003, p.279
  12. ^ Quran 2:34
  13. ^ Quran 7:12
  14. ^ Quran 2:30
  15. ^ Quran 17:65. ""As for My servants, no authority shalt thou have over them:" Enough is thy Lord for a Disposer of affairs."
  16. ^ "Sermon 192: Praise be to Allah who wears the apparel of Honour and Dignity… | Nahjul Balagha Part 1, The Sermons | Books on Islam and Muslims". Al-Islam.org. Retrieved 2017-11-29. 
  17. ^ Robert Lebling Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar I.B.Tauris 2010 ISBN 978-0-857-73063-3
  18. ^ http://www.altafsir.com/Books/IbnAbbas.pdf page 518
  19. ^ "Judaism 101: The Nature of G-d". jewfaq.org. Retrieved 2017-11-29. 
  20. ^ Joseph Hell Die Religion des Islam Motilal Banarsidass Published 1915 page 237
  21. ^ Ludo Abicht Islam & Europe: Challenges and Opportunities Leuven University Press 2008 ISBN 978-9-058-67672-6 page 128
  22. ^ Eric Linn Ormsby Theodicy in Islamic Thought: The Dispute Over Al-Ghazali's Best of All Possible Worlds Princeton University Press 2014 ISBN 978-1-400-85633-6 page 16
  23. ^ Charles Mathewes Understanding Religious EthicsJohn Wiley & Sons ISBN 978-1-405-13351-7 page 249
  24. ^ Mona Siddiqui The Good Muslim: Reflections on Classical Islamic Law and Theology Cambridge University Press 2012 ISBN 978-0-521-51864-2 page 119
  25. ^ Joseph E. B. Lumbard Ahmad al-Ghazali, Remembrance, and the Metaphysics of Love SUNY Press 2016 ISBN 978-1-438-45966-0 page 111
  26. ^ Michel Chodkiewicz An Ocean Without Shore: Ibn Arabi, the Book, and the Law SUNY Press 1993 ISBN 978-0-791-41625-9 page 42
  27. ^ Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 44
  28. ^ Joseph E. B. Lumbard Ahmad al-Ghazali, Remembrance, and the Metaphysics of Love SUNY Press 2016 page 111 ISBN 9781438459660
  29. ^ Al insan Al Kamel (the perfect human), Abdul Karim Jili
  30. ^ Eric Geoffroy, Roger Gaetani Introduction to Sufism: The Inner Path of Islam World Wisdom 2010 ISBN 9781935493105
  31. ^ University of California, Berkeley Sufism, Godliness and Popular Islamic Storytelling in Farid Al-Din ProQuest, 2007 Page 42
  32. ^ William C. Chittick The Sufi Doctrine of Rumi World Wisdom 2005 ISBN 9780941532884
  33. ^ Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (Maulana), William C. Chittick The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi SUNY Press 1983 ISBN 978-0-873-95723-6 page 83
  34. ^ Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, Rumi Collected Poetical Works of Rumi (Delphi Classics) Delphi Classics 2015 story XI
  35. ^ Patrick Hughes, Thomas Patrick Hughes Dictionary of Islam Asian Educational Services 1995 page 135 ISBN 978-8-120-60672-2
  36. ^ https://islaambooks.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/the-commentary-on-the-quran-volume-i-tafsir-al-tabari.pdf page 139
  37. ^ M. Th. Houtsma E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913–1936, Band 5 BRILL, 1993 ISBN 978-9-004-09791-9 page 191
  38. ^ Richard Gauvain Salafi Ritual Purity: In the Presence of God Routledge 2013 ISBN 978-0-710-31356-0 page 302
  39. ^ M. Th. Houtsma E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913–1936, Band 5 BRILL 1993 ISBN 978-9-004-09791-9 page 191
  40. ^ Amira El-Zein Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 46
  41. ^ Christian Krokus The Theology of Louis Massignon CUA Press 2017 ISBN 978-0-813-22946-1 page 89
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  43. ^ Leo JungFallen Angels in Jewish, Christian, and Mohammedan LiteratureWipf and Stock Publishers 2007 ISBN 978-1-556-35416-8 page 60
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  48. ^ Miguel Asin Palacios Islam and the Divine Comedy Routledge 2013 ISBN 978-1-134-53643-6 page 109
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  56. ^ Mahmoud M. Ayoub Qur'an and Its Interpreters, The, Volume 1, Band 1 SUNY Press ISBN 978-0-791-49546-9 Seite 86 (englisch)
  57. ^ 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
  58. ^ "Is Iblees a Jinn or an Angel?". islamqa.info. Retrieved 2017-11-29. 
  59. ^ 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
  60. ^ name="Robert Lebling ">Robert Lebling Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar I.B.Tauris 2010 ISBN 978-0-857-73063-3page 141
  61. ^ Yaron Friedman The Nuṣayrī-ʻAlawīs: An Introduction to the Religion, History, and Identity of the Leading Minority in Syria BRILL 2010 ISBN 978-9-004-17892-2 page 120
  62. ^ R. M. Savory Introduction to Islamic Civilization Cambridge University Press 1976 ISBN 978-0-521-09948-6 page 42
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  64. ^ Islam and Rationality: The Impact of al-Ghazālī. Papers Collected on His 900th Anniversary, Band 1 BRILL 2015 ISBN 978-9-004-29095-2 page 102
  65. ^ Robert Morrison, Associate Professor of English Robert Morrison Islam and Science: The Intellectual Career of Nizam Al-Din Al-Nisaburi Routledge 2007 ISBN 978-1-135-98114-3 page
  66. ^ Rudolf Macuch "Und das Leben ist siegreich!": mandäische und samaritanische Literatur ; im Gedenken an Rudolf Macuch (1919–1993) Otto Harrassowitz Verlag 2008 ISBN 978-3-447-05178-1 page 82
  67. ^ Tobias Nünlist Dämonenglaube im Islam Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG 2015 ISBN 978-3-110-33168-4 page 229 (german)

Bibliography[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 (ebook Kindle Edition); Charleston 2016 (book CreateSpace IPP)

External links[edit]