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Iblis

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Iblīs (Arabic: اِبلیس) is the name of a jinn who did not prostrate (perform sujud) before Adam (a) and was dismissed from his position. According to some exegetes of the Qur'an, he was an angel.

The word, "Iblis", has been used 11 times in the Qur'an—9 times in the story of the creation of Adam (a) and the order to prostrate for him. The word, "Shaytan" (Satan) and its plural form, "Shayatin", are used 88 times in the Qur'an in many cases of which they refer to Iblis.

When he refused to prostrate for Adam (a), he was cursed by God and was dismissed from his position. He then asked God to let him stay alive until the Day of Judgement, but God promised to give him a certain time. Iblis swore to try his best to mislead people—the children of Adam—as long as he has time. The only thing he does is to call people to the vice without forcing them to do so. He and his followers will eventually end up in the Hell.

Etymology

There are two views about the etymology of the word, "Iblis":

  • Some philologists[1] and exegetes of the Qur'an[2] take "Iblis" to be an Arabic word from the root, "b-l-s" (ب-ل-س). The root literally means disappointment, remorse, frustration, sorrow out of fear, repentance, and wonder. Iblis was called so because he was disappointed about any divine mercy.[3] On this view, "Iblis" is diptote[Note 1] because it is very similar to non-Arabic words.[4]
  • Most philologists take "Iblis" to come from non-Arabic languages, and take the reason for its being diptote to be that it is a non-Arabic proper name.[5]

Other Names of Iblis

According to some hadiths, Iblis's original name was Ḥārith (حارث) or Ḥarath (حَرَث) who later came to be called "'Azāzīl" (God's dear) because he worshiped God for long periods of time. When he became proud of himself he was called Iblis, and when he refused to prostrate for Adam (a) and was dismissed from the divine court he came to be called "Shaytan" (Satan).[6]

His other names are "Ḍarīs" (ضریس), "Sarḥūb" (سرحوب), "al-Mutakawwin" (المتکوّن), and "al-Mutakawwiz" (المتکوّز).[7] Zoroastrians call him "Angra Mainyu". Iblis's kunyas and titles are: Abu Murra (Abu Qurra), Abu Kardus, Abu Lubna (attributed to his daughter's name),[8] Na'il, Abu l-Hasban, Abu Khilaf, and Abu Dajjana.[9]

Relationship between Iblis and Shaytan

"Iblis" is used 11 times in the Quran, 9 of which occurred in the story of the creation of Adam (a) and God's order to prostrate for him.[10]

The words, "Shaytan" and "Shayatin", occurred 88 times in the Quran in many cases of which they refer to Iblis. "Shaytan" is a generic noun referring to any vicious, disobedient, and deceiving creature. An examination of the uses of the word, "Shaytan", in the Quran and what the exegetes have said shows that in most cases, "Shaytan" refers to Iblis or at least has him as his primary referent.[11] Some people hold that "Shaytan" is often used to refer to Iblis[12] and is almost a proper name.[13] According to others, "al-Shaytan" is always equivalent to "Iblis".[14]

The Story of Iblis

As narrated in the verses of Sura al-A'raf in the Quran, the story is that when God created the human being—Adam (a)—from mud and blew His spirit in it, He ordered the angels to prostrate for Adam (a). All the angels prostrated except Iblis. He was being proud and refused to prostrate for Adam (a). When God asked him why, he said: "I am superior to Adam (a), since you have made me from fire and him from mud." Then God dismissed Iblis from where he was and cursed him. Iblis asked God to let him stay alive until Dooms Day and God gave him a certain time. Then Iblis swore that he would mislead all the servants of God except a selected few, and God promised that He would throw him and his followers into the Hell.

There are two other cases in which "Iblis" occurs in the Quran:

  • In 34:20 referring to the people of Sheba as followers of Iblis.
  • 26:95 concerning the fate of Iblis and his followers on Dooms Day.

In volume 60 of Bihar al-anwar, al-'Allama al-Majlisi cited 177 hadiths from the Infallibles (a) regarding Iblis or Shaytan.

Iblis's Disbelief (Kufr)

The Quranic verse 34 of Sura al-Baqara (2) and verse 74 of Sura Sad (38) say about Iblis that "he was a disbeliever". There is a disagreement among the exegetes over whether disbelief (kufr) here refers to disbelief out of malice or out of ignorance. Some scholars have appealed to Iblis's admission that he will mislead the servants of God to show that he is not ignorant of the right and wrong, and so his disbelief is out of malice; and other scholars who take disbelief to be essentially incompatible with knowledge of the right path maintain that Iblis's disbelief is out of ignorance.[15]

Also, the explanation of why Iblis's disbelief is reported in past tense ("was" a disbeliever) has led to various views.

Iblis in Other Religions

The belief in evil forces has for long been held by different religions and denominations. Thus, there are remarks about the devil—Iblis—and his nature, the extent of his activities, the ways to resist him, where he stays, and his fate in the Scriptures of earlier religions and denominations which are very similar in many cases, though slightly different at some points.

The Devil in Zoroastrianism

Iblis is referred to in Avesta as Angra Mainyu, and, in Pahlavi, it is called "Ahriman" which means "hostile spirit" and in Persian literature, it is referred to as "Gana-Minu" which means "destructive spirit".[16]

The Satan in Judaism and Christiaity

For Jews and Christians, the Satan—Iblis—is known as a negative, detested creature. Although the creature who deceived Adam (a) and Eve (a) and made them fall from Eden is introduced in the Book of Genesis as a "snake",[17] the New Testimony explicitly identifies the snake with Iblis.[18]

In the Bible, Iblis is identified with the Satan (Shaytan)[19] and the angel of a never-ending well. In Hebrew, he is called "Abaddon" and in Greek, it is called "Apollyon" (which means destructive).[20] The Bible frequently warns about his temptations and deceptions,[21] characterizing him as follows:

  • The head of demons[22]
  • The head of evil spirits (Poltergeists)[23]
  • The head of evil forces[24]
  • Essentially liar and the father of all liars[25]
  • The true father of disbelievers


In the Bible, Iblis is taken to be an angel[26] whose power is so wide-ranging that he is characterized as the ruler of this mundane[27] and sinful world[28] and the source of madness[29] and epilepsy.[30] According to the Bible, Iblis has the power to appear in any form, even that of angels, in order to deceive people.[31]

The Bible takes the hardened heart to be easy preys to Iblis,[32] and recommends human beings to equip themselves with divine weapons in order to be able to resist his temptations and deceptions.[33] It also talks about forgiving others in order to prevent Iblis's abuse,[34] and takes marriage to help one be freed from Satanic temptations.[35] Other ways of countering the Satan is to quit any relationships with disbelievers,[36] to rely on God, and to be steadfast.[37] According to the Bible, the eternal fire will be the place and the fate of the Satan and evil spirits. [38]

Satan in the Movies

Given the Christian conception of the Satan as a powerful and dismissed angel who is the current ruler of this world,[39] many screenwriters and directors have highlighted the independent power of the Satan from God in their work, thus reinforcing Satanism. This is contrary to the Islamic view according to which the Satan is a weak creature who has no control over anything and anyone.

Jinn or an Angel

There are two views about the nature of Iblis:

Philosophy of Creation and the Time given to Iblis

According to some hadiths, after refusing to comply with the divine command to prostrate before Adam (a), and then being dismissed from his position in heaven, Iblis asked God to give him time to live until the day of judgement, and as a reward for his previous worship, God gave him a "certain (known) time".[49]

Since Iblis is a source of devils, the question is usually asked why God has created him and accepted to give him some time after he was dismissed. Although there are many reasons why Iblis was created and these reasons are comprehensively known only by God,[50] philosophers, scholars of kalam and exegetes of the Quran have tried to provide answers to the question.

The Fate of Iblis and the "Certain Time"

There are different accounts of when and how Iblis will die ("certain time" in the Quran 38:80-81):

After citing different hadiths, 'Allama Majlisi concludes that the Satan will be alive until the Dooms Day and will die at the Blowing of the Trumpet.[53]

According to 'Allama Tabataba'i, there is no necessary relation between human obligations and the existence of the Satan to deceive them. The human society might be reformed, and despite the existence of the Satan, all people might worship God only.[54]

In Quranic verses, the fate of Iblis and his followers is said to be the Hell. According to such verses, on Dooms Day after the divine judgment, Iblis will declare acquittal with respect to the sins of his followers, holding them responsible for their own actions: "I had no authority over you except to call you but you listened to me: then reproach not me, but reproach your own selves" (the Quran 14:22). Finally, they will all be thrown into the Hell.

Notes

  1. Rāghib al-Iṣfahānī, Mufradāt alfāẓ al-Qurʾān, p. 143; Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs al-lugha, vol. 1, p. 300; Farāhīdī, al-ʿIyn, p. 93.
  2. Ālūsī, Rawḥ al-maʿānī, vol. 1, p. 364; Ṭabarī, Jāmiʿ al-bayān, vol. 1, p. 325.
  3. Zubaydī, Tāj al-ʿarūs, vol. 8, p. 208.
  4. Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān al-ʿArab, vol. 1, p. 483; Ṭurayḥī, Majmaʿ al-baḥrayn, vol. 1, p. 239.
  5. Dāʾirat al-maʿārif al-Islāmīyya, vol. 14, p. 51; Hawks, Qāmūs-i Kitāb-i Muqaddas, p. 545.
  6. Ḥāʾirī, Dāʾirat al-maʿārif al-Shīʿīyya al-ʿāmma, vol. 2, p. 199.
  7. Ṭurayḥī, Majmaʿ al-baḥrayn, vol. 1, p. 239.
  8. Shabistarī, Aʿlām al-Qurʾān, p. 78.
  9. Rāghib al-Iṣfahānī, Mufradāt alfāẓ al-Qurʾān, p. 143; Zubaydī, Tāj al-ʿarūs, vol. 8, p. 208; Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs al-lugha, vol. 1, p. 300.
  10. Qurʿān: 2: 34; 7: 11; 15:31-32; 18:50; 20:116; 38:74-75.
  11. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīyān, vol. 7, p. 321.
  12. Ālūsī, Rawḥ al-maʿānī, vol. 1, p. 364.
  13. Shabistarī, Iʿlām al-Qurʾān, p. 83.
  14. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 6, p. 478.
  15. Fakhr al-Rāzī, al-Tafsīr al-kabīr, vol. 14, p. 39.
  16. Genesis: chapter 3.
  17. Genesis: 3:1-14.
  18. Book of Revelation, 12:9.
  19. Book of Revelation, 12:9; 20:2.
  20. Book of Revelation, 9:11.
  21. Ephesians, 4:27; 6:11.
  22. Matthew: 9: 34.
  23. Ephesians, 2:2.
  24. John: 8:45.
  25. John: 8:44.
  26. Hawks, Qāmūs-i Kitāb-i Muqaddas, p. 545.
  27. John: 12:31.
  28. Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 4:3-5.
  29. Mark: 5:1-20.
  30. Mark: 5:17-27.
  31. Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 11:14-16.
  32. Mark: 4:15.
  33. Ephesians, 6:11.
  34. Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 2:11.
  35. First Epistle to the Corinthians, 7:5.
  36. Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 6:12-15.
  37. First Epistle of Peter, 5:8.
  38. Matthew: 25: 41; Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 11:14.
  39. John:12:31-32.
  40. Ṭūsī, al-Tibyān, vol. 1, p. 151.
  41. Abū l-Futūḥ al-Rāzī, Rawḍ al-Jinān, vol. 1, p. 212.
  42. Zamakhsharī, al-Kashshāf, vol. 1, p. 127.
  43. Qummī al-Mashhadī, Kanz al-daqāʾiq, vol. 1, p. 351.
  44. Sayyid Quṭb, Fī ẓilāl al-Qurʾān, vol. 1 ,p. 58.
  45. Mughnīya, al-Kāshif, vol. 1, p. 83.
  46. Ṭūsī, al-Tibyān, vol. 1, p. 152; Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 60, p. 217, 218, 249, 259, 262.
  47. Ṭūsī, al-Tibyān, vol. 1, p. 150; Ṭabarī, Jāmiʿ al-bayān, vol. 1, p. 321.
  48. Ālūsī, Rawḥ al-maʿānī, vol. 1, p. 364.
  49. Ṣadūq, ʿIlal al-sharāyiʿ, p. 178.
  50. Mullāṣadrā, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān, vol. 5, p. 286-287.
  51. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 60, p. 244.
  52. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 60, p. 244.
  53. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 60, p. 244.
  54. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 12, p. 160.
  1. It is a grammatical rule in Arabic. For more information about it check out this website: http://allthearabicyouneverlearnedthefirsttimearound.com/p3/p3-ch2/diptotes/

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