Understanding Islam

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Who is Satan?


In my Bible Class we are going to study a lesson on Satan. To a Christian, Satan is a Fallen Angel who seeks to bring destruction and ruin to mankind. I just wanted to know an Islamic and Judaist viewpoint of Satan. I was surprised to learn that in Judaism Satan is seen as an agent of God, used to test believers. What do Muslims think of Satan? I would appreciate any help you could give to me. I like to study what people of other religions believe.

Question from United States of America

According to the Qur'an (the basic source of Islamic belief), when God created Adam (pbuh) and directed the assembly of angels to prostrate before Adam (pbuh), Iblis - a Jinn - was also present in the court. All the angels obediently prostrated before Adam (pbuh). However, Iblis - the Jinn - arrogantly refused to do so. This, obviously, was a transgression on the part of Iblis. It was this transgression of Iblis that made him deserving of the name 'Al-Shaitaan'[1] (the Satan). As a result of this transgression, God turned Iblis out of His court and sentenced him to punishment. However, Iblis asked God for respite till the Day of Judgment and declared that because God had turned him out of his court and had sentenced him to punishment because of man, he would therefore always be an enemy to man. He, and those who become his agents, would do all that they can to turn man away from the path of God and as a consequence, suffer the everlasting punishment of hellfire..

Thus, according to the Islamic belief, Iblis - the Satan - is neither a fallen angel, as the Christians believe, nor an agent of God. Islam introduces Iblis as a Jinn, who by his freewill opted to disobey God and transgress. God allowed Satan respite from punishment till an appointed time and gave him the authority only to the extent of suggesting evil to man. Iblis and his agents[2] - from among jinn as well as men - cannot force man into evil. They, however, can incite man to do what is against God's commandments and thereby lose the path of eternal success.

It should be kept in mind that the basic scheme of things in giving man life, according to the Qur'an, was to test him by giving him authority to choose between 'good' and 'evil'. It is, in fact, the incorrect use of this authority, which results in evil. It seems that the Jinn are also given the same authority. Iblis became 'the Satan' for no other reason except for using this freedom of choice for the wrong end.

4th March 2000

[1] The Arabic word 'Al-Shaitaan' means 'the transgressor'.

[2] Those who, by their freewill, have opted to live a life of evil and transgression.

Answer published by Moiz Amjad