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Satan or Shaytan (Arabic: شیطان) is a common noun for any evil and rebellious creature. With a definite article, it usually refers to Iblis, who did not prostrate himself before Adam (a) and thus was cast out of Heaven. There is disagreement among scholars as to the nature of Satan, but the majority maintain that he was a jinn.

The word Shaytan and its plural Shayatin are used eighty-eight times in the Qur'an, and in most cases, Iblis is meant. According to the Qur'an, Satan disobeyed God's command to prostrate himself before Adam (a), and was consequently thrown out of Heaven. He asked God to reprieve him until the Day of Judgment, and God granted his request. In several verses of the Qur'an, God warns humans to beware of the danger of Satan lest they be deceived by his temptations.

There are many hadiths that contain information about Satan, his encounters with some of the prophets (a) and Imams (a), his characteristics, and how to be protected against him. Satan can only tempt human beings and encourage him to sin. Other than that, he has no control over them and cannot force them to commit sins. Satan and his followers are destined to Hell.

Contents

Terminology

There is disagreement among lexicographers as to the origin of the word "Shaytan". Some regard it as an originally Arabic word and some consider it an imported word from Hebrew or Syriac. Some maintain that its root is sh-t-n, which means going away, but others believe that the root is sh-y-t, which indicates burning.

Satan in the Qur'an

The word "Shaytan" is mentioned eighty-eight times in the Qur'an: sixty-four times singular and definite, six times singular and indefinite, and eighteen times plural. The word Shaytan and the word "Mala'ika" (angels) are repeated in the Qur'an the same number of times. In many instances where the word Shaytan is mentioned, Satan is meant by it, but in a few cases, it has been used as a common noun in the sense of an evil and rebellious creature.

According to the Qur'an, Satan is a jinn created of fire,[1] who tries to mislead human beings by means of their egos and desires. God has warned humans of Satan's danger in several verses of the Qur'an, and instructed them not to go astray by his temptations. He has introduced Satan as a manifest enemy of mankind[2] and commanded man to consider him as their enemy.[3] Satan can only tempt human beings and encourage them to commit sins; otherwise, he has no power or control over them and cannot force them to do anything.[4]

Satan and Iblis

The word Shaytan is a common noun, but Iblis is a proper noun. Shaytan indicates any evil and rebellious creature, whether a human being or a jinn, but Iblis is the name of the shaytan who did not prostrate himself before Adam (a) in Heaven and has been trying, with the help of other shaytans, to deceive mankind and lead them astray. From the Islamic viewpoint, Satan does not have an independent power before God, nor has he had any role in creation. In Christianity, however, Satan is an angel, who was cast out of heaven.

Satan in hadiths

Allama Majlisi has mentioned 177 hadiths regarding shaytan. In these hadiths, the accounts of the encounters of Satan with Prophet Muhammad (s), Noah (a), Solomon (a), Dhu l-Kifl (a), Adam (a), Ayyub (a), Ibrahim (a), Yahya (a), Moses (a), Jesus (a), and Imam Ali (a) are mentioned. Some of these hadiths, especially the one related to Yahya (a), contain moral themes.

According to some hadiths, remembering God, saying bismillah (in the name of God) in the beginning of such acts as eating, travelling, making wudu, praying, and sexual intercourse drives away Satan.

In some other hadiths, Satan is introduced as the inventor of such acts as sinful singing, gay sex, lying on the belly, and unjustified analogy (qiyas).

In Imam Ali's al-Qasi'a sermon, some of the characteristics of Satan are mentioned, including envy, zealotry, captiousness, taunting, boasting, and greed.

Many scholars maintain that in a few hadiths, the word shaytan refers to germs, and the reason for this usage is that both Satan and germs are invisible to the naked eye and both are harmful.

Satan in Other Religions

The belief in the existence of Satan or other evil beings is found in various world religions. In many sacred scriptures, one can find materials related to Satan or evil beings, their nature, the extent of their influence, and the ways to confront them.

Satan in Zoroastrianism

In Zoroastrianism, Angra Mainyu (in Middle Persian: Ahriman) is the "destructive" or evil spirit. In the earliest versions of the myth, he stood against Spenta Mainyu (Holy Spirit), his own twin brother, both being the sons of the supreme Zoroastrian deity, Ahura Mazda. In the later versions, Ahura Mazda himself becomes the force of good and Angra Mainyue becomes his evil counterpart.

Satan in Judaism and Christianity

In Christianity and Judaism, Satan is an evil creature. Although in Genesis, Adam (a) and Eve are said to be deceived by a serpent, in the New Testament, the serpent is identified as Satan.[5] The Bible repeatedly warns against the temptations of Satan and describes him as follows:

  • The chief of devils[6]
  • The chief of evil spirits[7]
  • A murderer since the beginning, who detested the truth; no truth can be found in him; essentially a liar; the father of liars
  • The real father of disbelievers[8]
  • Your enemy, who goes everywhere like a hungry lion to find a prey and devour it.[9]

Satan is considered in the Bible an angel. His extent of power is so vast that he is said to be the ruler of this world, the ruler of this sinful world, and the cause of insanity and epilepsy. He can even appear as an angel of light to deceive people. According to the Bible, hardheartedness prepares the ground for his domination, and people are to equip themselves with all divine weapons so that they can resist his temptations and deceptions. Forgiving others in order not to be outwitted by Satan and getting married in order to be immune from Satan's temptations are advised in the Bible. Moreover, distancing oneself from disbelievers, trusting God, and perseverance are mentioned as effective ways for combating Satan. Eternal stay in Hell is regarded in the Bible as the destiny of Satan and evil spirits.

The Nature of Satan

Some thinkers have identified Satan as human carnal desires, which, if followed blindly, lead him to evil. However, according to the Qur'an, Satan is a real creature that invites human beings to evil, and it is not the same as the human carnal soul or desires. Qur'anic verses such as Qur'an 20:117 [10] indicate that God informed Adam (a) and Eve about Satan clearly, and verses such as Qur'an 20:120 [11], and Qur'an 7:21 [12], which contain the conversation between Adam (a) and Satan, show that Adam (a) was familiar with Satan in person. According to hadiths, Satan appeared and talked to several prophets such as Noah (a) and Ibrahim (a), and the Imams (a) heard his voice. The Qur'an also indicates that Satan has "offspring",[13] a "party",[14] and an "army".[15]

Angel or Jinn

There are two viewpoints as to the nature of Satan. Most scholars maintain that he is a jinn, but a minority of scholars, including Ibn 'Abbas, Ibn Mas'ud, Qatada, Sa'id b. Musayyib, Ibn Jurayh, Ibn al-Anbari, al-Tabari, al-Shaykh al-Tusi, al-Baydawi, have considered him an angel. According to al-Alusi, the latter viewpoint was held by most of the Companions and Followers.

Satan's Characteristics

In the Qur'an, various nouns and adjectives are used to refer to Satan:

  • Mustakbir: Arrogant[16]
  • Kāfir: Faithless[17]
  • Kafur: Ungrateful [18]
  • Fāsiq: Transgressor [19]
  • Āsi: Disobedient[20]
  • Mārid and Marid: Froward Satan[21]
  • Madh'um: Blameful[22]
  • Rajim: Outcast Satan[23]
  • Mad,hur: Banished[24]
  • Mal'un: Cursed[25]
  • Munzar: Reprieved[26]
  • Aduww mubin: Manifest enemy[27]
  • Qarin su': Evil companion[28]
  • Khadhul: Deserter of man[29]
  • Mudil mubin: Misguiding enemy[30]
  • Gharur: Deception[31]
  • Pseudo promiser[32]
  • Caller to the punishment of the Blaze[33]

The Wisdom Behind Creating and Reprieving Satan

According to the Qur'an, when Satan disobeyed God and refused to prostrate himself before Adam (a), he was cast out of the place he had in heaven. Then, he asked God to reprieve him until the Day of Judgment,[34] and God granted his request. But why did God create this source of evil in the first place, and why did He grant his request and reprieved him? Although only God knows all the wisdom behind His actions, Muslim scholars have given various responses to these questions:

Satan Was Not Essentially Evil

God did not create Satan as essentially bad and evil. Satan was among the angels and worshippers of God for a very long time (according to some hadiths, 6000 years), but then he rebelled against God by his own choice. Satan is not pure evil, but a mixture of evil and good, and in a holistic view, his existence is better than his non-existence; otherwise, he would not have been created.

A Means for Test

Satan was created to function as a means for testing mankind.[35] Satan tempts human beings through their carnal desires, and in this way, they are tested. If Satan did not exist, the purpose of worshipping God by choice and willingly following His guidance would not realize. Satan and other sources of evil are not in themselves good or bad for mankind; rather, their goodness or evilness for us depends on our reaction to them. If we follow them, we go astray, but if we oppose them, we grow and reach our ultimate perfection.

The Extent of Satan's Activities

The Qur'an states that the stratagems of Satan are weak.[36] Satan and his progeny do not have any share in the creation of heavens and earth or even the creation of themselves.[37]

Satan's Knowledge of the Hidden

Satan, devils, and jinn in general are no longer able to receive Knowledge of the unseen.[38] According to the Qur'an, they said that when they want to eavesdrop, they find "mighty sentries and flames."[39] They do not know about the future of mankind either. In the story of the death of Solomon (a), the jinn only realized that he had died when his body fell on the ground; "had they known the Unseen, they would not have remained in a humiliating torment". Qur'an 34:14.

Control Over Human Beings

Satan and his tribe do not have any control over mankind. In response to Satan's threat to deceive and lead humans astray, God said, "Indeed as for My servants, you do not have any authority over them, except the perverse who follow you".[40]

Satan's Incarnation

Whether Satan can appear in the form of a human or another creature is a matter of discussion. This is what is meant by incarnation, not the dwelling of Satan in the body of another creature. Some scholars maintain that Satan can appear in all forms other than the form of a prophet or an Imam. According to some hadiths, Satan can appear in all forms other than the forms of the Friends of God and Shiites. The following evidence has been adduced to support the possibility of Satan's incarnation:

Those who deny the possibility of the appearance of Satan in other forms adduce Qur'an 7:27, according to which Satan and his tribe see human beings from where they do not see them.

Marriage and Reproduction

Some scholars maintain that Satan, like any other creature, reproduces, because the Qur'an states, "In all things We have created pairs"[41]. Al-Turayhi reports that God create a wife for Satan from a flame of fire of His wrath. The fruit of this marriage is Satan's progeny, which is mentioned in the Qur'an.[42] There is no mention of the quality or quantity of Satan's reproduction. Al-Turayhi has reported that Satan used to worship God among his people since his youth. When he reached the age of marriage, he married "Lahba" the daughter of "Rawha" from jinn. She bore many children, who also worshipped and praised God for a long time.

Satan's Purposes and Stratagems

The Qur'an counts the following among the stratagems of Satan to deceive mankind:

  • Creating enmity [43]
  • Distracting from the remembrance of God and especially from prayer [44][45]
  • Creating sadness and depression among Muslims and developing fear in their hearts [46]
  • Making people afraid of poverty and other worldly afflictions [47]
  • Adorning sins and evil thought and actions [48]
  • Adorning worldly pleasures [49]
  • Giving false hopes and wishes [50]
  • Promoting corruption, evil, and indecency [51]
  • Encouraging the consumption of wine, idolatry, gambling, and magic.[52]
  • Encouraging to magic [53]
  • Creating envy and conflict [54][55]
  • Inspiring his followers to dispute with the believers. [56]

The Destiny of Satan and His Followers

In the story of the creation of Adam (a), God proclaimed the destiny of Satan and his followers to be Hell [57] and His wrath.[58] According to the Qur'an, when God judges between people on the Day of Judgment, Satan blames his followers and says, "Indeed Allah made you a promise that was true and I [too] made you a promise, but I failed you. I had no authority over you, except that I called you and you responded to me" [59].

Satanism

Satanism means worshipping Satan, a tradition found even today among Satanist groups. According to some scholars, this tradition can be traced back to ancient times, when some people would worship any powerful being, or to the ancient dualism of the god of good and the god of evil. Some Satanist are so called because of their inclination to anti-religious and anti-ethical acts; they are in reality self-worshippers and do not worship Satan as a deity. Magic has a major place in most Satanist traditions.

Notes

  1. ‘I am better than him,’ he said. ‘You created me from fire and You created him from clay. Qur'an 38:76
  2. Qur'an 43:62, 12:5, 18:50, 17:53, 2:168
  3. Qur'an 35:6
  4. I had no authority over you, except that I called you and you responded to me. So do not blame me, but blame yourselves. Qur'an 14:22
  5. [Revelation 7]:10-12
  6. [Matthew 12]:24
  7. [Ephesians 2]:2
  8. [John 8]:43-45
  9. [1 Peter 5]:8
  10. "We said, ‘O Adam! This is indeed an enemy of yours and your mate's. So do not let him expel you from paradise, or you will be miserable.’"
  11. "Then Satan tempted him. He said, ‘O Adam! Shall I show you the tree of immortality, and an imperishable kingdom?’"
  12. "And he swore to them, ‘I am indeed your well-wisher.’"
  13. Qur'an 18:50
  14. Qur'an 58:19
  15. Qur'an 26:95 & 17:64
  16. Qur'an 2:34
  17. Qur'an 2:34, 38:74
  18. Qur'an 17:27
  19. Qur'an 18:50
  20. Qur'an 19:44
  21. Qur'an 4:117, 37:7
  22. Qur'an 7:18
  23. Qur'an 81:25, 38:77, 16:98
  24. Qur'an 7:18
  25. Qur'an 38:78, 15:35
  26. Qur'an 7:15
  27. Qur'an 36:60, 18:50, 35:6, 2:208-168, 6:142, 12:5
  28. Qur'an 4:38
  29. Qur'an 25:29
  30. Qur'an 28:15, 38:82
  31. Qur'an 7:22-27, 20:20-120
  32. Qur'an 4:120
  33. Qur'an 31:21
  34. He said, ‘My Lord! Respite me till the day they will be resurrected.’ Said He, ‘You are indeed among the reprieved, until the day of the known time.’ Qur'an 15:36-38
  35. He had no authority over them, but that We may ascertain those who believe in the Hereafter from those who are in doubt about it. Qur'an 34:21
  36. indeed the stratagems of Satan are always flimsy. Qur'an 4:76
  37. I did not make them witness to the creation of the heavens and the earth, nor to their own creation, Qur'an 18:51
  38. and We have guarded them from every outcast Satan, except someone who may eavesdrop, whereat there pursues him a manifest flame. Qur'an 15:17,18
  39. We do not know whether ill is intended for those who are on the earth, or whether their Lord intends good for them. Qur'an 72:10
  40. Qur'an 15:42, 17:65, 16:99
  41. Qur'an 51:49
  42. Will you then take him and his offspring for guardians in My stead, Qur'an 18:50
  43. Indeed Satan seeks to cast enmity and hatred among you through wine and gambling, Qur'an 5:91
  44. and to hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. Qur'an 5:91
  45. but Satan made me forget to mention it! Qur'an 18:63
  46. Indeed [malicious] secret talks are from Satan, that he may upset the faithful, Qur'an 58:10
  47. Satan frightens you of poverty and prompts you to [commit] indecent acts. Qur'an 2:268
  48. He said, ‘My Lord! As You have consigned me to perversity, I will surely glamorize [evil] for them on the earth, Qur'an 15:39, also 8:48, 16:63, 6:43, 27:24, 29:38
  49. Qur'an 2:212, 3:14
  50. and I will lead them astray and give them [false] hopes, Qur'an 4:119
  51. Whoever follows in Satan’s steps [should know that] he indeed prompts [you to commit] indecent and wrongful acts. Qur'an 24:21
  52. Indeed wine, gambling, idols, and the divining arrows are abominations of Satan’s doing, so avoid them. Qur'an 5:90
  53. but it was the devils who were faithless—teaching the people magic, Qur'an 2:102
  54. after that Satan had incited ill feeling between me and my brothers. Qur'an 12:100
  55. Indeed Satan incites ill feeling between them, and Satan is indeed man’s manifest enemy. Qur'an 17:53
  56. like someone seduced by the devils and bewildered on the earth, Qur'an 6:71, also 112 and 121
  57. Said He, ‘Begone! Whoever of them follows you, indeed the hell shall be your requital, an ample reward. Qur'an 17:63
  58. Said He, ‘The truth is that—and I speak the truth— I will surely fill hell with you and all those who follow you.’ Qur'an 38:84,85
  59. Qur'an 14:22

References