Devil (Islam)

"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), Shayṭān (Arabic: شيطان, plural: شياطين shayāṭīn) or Shaitan.

The primary characteristic of the Devil 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.[1] His primary activity is to incite humans and jinn to commit evil through deception, which is referred to as "whispering into the hearts".[2] 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."[3]

Namings and etymology

The term Iblis (Arabic: إِبْلِيس) may have derived from Ancient Greek διάβολος (diábolos), also the ultimate source of English 'devil'.[4][5] Or it may derive 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 Islamic theology, "Shaytan" (Arabic: شيطان), is often simply translated as "the Devil", but the term can refer to any Being[7] who disobeys God and follows Iblīs and intends to harm someone or does mischief.

The Devil in Islamic theology

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."[8] 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?"[9] 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."[10] 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".[11] As for My servants, no authority shalt thou have over them.[12] Islamic scholars discussed the essence of Iblis. Because he was in heaven and among the angels, he could be an angel. But otherwise, he is called a Jinn in Surah 18:50. Those who reject Iblis angelic nature argue if he were an angel, he couldn´t disobey God´s command.[13] Therefore scholars developed different interpretations about the essence of Iblis:

1) 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.[14]

2) Iblis was the only angel created of fire and with a free will, while he is the only Jinn created in heaven. When he was cast out of heaven, he fathered the Jinns as his children. So Iblis would be the father of the Jinns, like Adam is mentioned to be the father of mankind.[15]

3) 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 Jinn. So he did not refuse, because of lower desires, but because of his pride, and doubt in the good of mankind.[16]

4) 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.[17]

Iblis in Sufism

In Sufism Iblis is often viewed as a fallen angel, who became a true monotheist,[18] because he would rather go to hell, than bow down to something that is not God. Iblis' function as a devil is therefore regarded as a penalty, which he readily accepted. So, Iblis became the instrument of divine anger,[19] and supports the Nafs, which lead man astray from the divinity. In another interpretation, Iblis' pride presents the remoteness and separation.[20]Rumi describes Iblis as being blind in one eye. He saw in Adam just the clay, but was blind to see his spirit.[21]

See also


  1. Quran 2:30
  2. Quran 114:4
  3. Quran 7:27
  4. "Iblīs - BrillReference".
  5. Meriam-Webster, "Devil"
  6. "Iblis".
  7. 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
  8. Esposito, Oxford Dictionary of Islam, 2003, p.279
  9. Quran 2:34
  10. Quran 7:12
  11. Quran 2:30
  12. Quran 17:65. ""As for My servants, no authority shalt thou have over them:" Enough is thy Lord for a Disposer of affairs."
  13. Amira El-Zein Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 46
  14. Amira El-Zein Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 46
  15. Yana Korobko Arabs in Treatment:: Development of Mental Health System and Psychoanalysis in the Arabo-Islamic World Xlibris Corporation 2016 ISBN 9781524526313
  16. Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 44
  17. Thomas Patrick Hughes Dictionary of Islam Asian Educational Services ISBN 9788120606722 Page 134
  18. Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 44
  19. University of California, Berkeley Sufism, Godliness and Popular Islamic Storytelling in Farid Al-Din ProQuest, 2007 Page 42
  20. Eric Geoffroy, Roger Gaetani Introduction to Sufism: The Inner Path of Islam World Wisdom 2010 ISBN 9781935493105
  21. William C. Chittick The Sufi Doctrine of Rumi World Wisdom 2005 ISBN 9780941532884


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