Shaytaan (Devil)/Evil Purpose & Existence
Written by Asim Nazir
Student of Master in Islamic Studies
Islamic University Qatar
Shaytaan (Devil)/Evil Purpose & Existence
Who is Shaytaan (devil)?
Shaytaan’s name is IBLEES as Allah mentioned in several places in the Quran.
Sura Baqra (2:V34)“And remember when we said to the angels, prostrate yourselves before Adam, and they prostrated except Iblees (Shaytaan), he refused and was proud and was one of the disbelievers”.
Iblees (devil) was one of the Jinns as Quran said: Sura Kahf (18:V50) “And remember when We said to the angels: ‘Prostrate yourselves unto Adam.’ So, they prostrated themselves except Iblees (Shaytaan). He was one of the Jinn.
It was mentioned in the Quran when Iblees (Shaytaan) spoke to Allah and said: Sura Sadh (38:V75-76): “(Allah) said, ‘O Iblees (Shaytaan)! What prevents you from prostrating yourself to one whom I have created with Both My Hands, are you too proud (to fall prostrate to Adam) or are you one of the high exalted? Ibless (Shaytaan) said, ‘I am better than he, You created me from fire and you created him (adam) from clay.” Same story was revised in Sura A’raf (7:V12): Allah said: “What prevented you (O Iblees) that you did not prostrate yourself, when I commanded you? Iblees (Shaytaan) said, ‘I am better than him (adam), You created me from fire, and him you created from clay”.
He had been created from smokeless fire, whereas the angels had been created from light, as is stated in Sahih Muslim (Authentic Hadeeth Book) where it is reported that Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her), said that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “The angels were created from light, Iblees (Shaytaan) was created from smokeless fire, and Adam was created from that which has been described to you. (Shahih Muslim 4:hadeeth no 2294)
Who Created Shaytaan/Iblees (devil)?
As Shaytaan (devil) was one of the Jinn and Allah mentioned in the Quran, Sura Hijr (15:V26-27): “And indeed, We created man from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud. And the Jinn, We created earlier from the smokeless flame of fire”. Sura Adh-Dhariyat (51:V56): “ And I (Allah) did not create the Jinn and mankind except for My worship”.
So Jinns are also the creation of Allah and they will be accountable on the day of resurrection. Among them there are believers and disbelievers, those who obey Allah and those who disobey Him, as Allah tells us that they said in Sura Jinn (72:V11): “'There are among us some that are righteous, and some the contrary; we are groups having different ways (religious sects)”. The jinn will be rewarded or punished in the Hereafter just like mankind. Allah tells us that they said in Sura Jinn (72:V14-15): “…And of us some are Muslims (who have submitted to Allah, after listening to this Qur'aan), and of us some are Al-Qaasitoon (disbelievers those who have deviated from the Right Path)'. And whosoever has embraced Islam (i.e. has become a Muslim by submitting to Allah), then such have sought the Right Path.” Quran also said while speaking to Iblees (Shaytaan): Sura Sadh (38:V85): “….That I will fill Hell with you [Iblees (Shaytaan)] and those of them (mankind) that follow you, together”
How did Shaytaan/Iblees (devil) become Independent?
When Shaytaan/Ibless (devil) refused to obey Allah’s commands in regards to prostrating to Adam, Allah asked him for his reasons of disobedience against the Lord/worlds. Allah says in the Quran: Sura Hijr (15:V32-43): V32 “Allah said: ‘O Iblees (Shaytaan)! What is your reason for not being among the prostrators?’ V33 Iblees (Shaytaan) said: ‘I am not the one to prostrate myself to a human being, whom You created from dried (sounding) clay of altered mud.’ V34 Allah said: ‘Then, get out from here for verily, you are Rajim (an outcast or a cursed one)’. V35 ‘And verily, the curse shall be upon you till the Day of Recompense (day of resurrection)’. V36 Iblees (Shaytaan) said, ‘O my Lord! Give me then respite till the Day they (the dead) will be resurrected.’ V37 Allah said, ‘Then verily, you are of those reprieved.’ V38 ‘Till the day of the time appointed’. V39 Ibless (Shaytaan) said, ‘O my Lord! Because you misled me, I shall indeed adorn the path of error for them (mankind) on the earth, and I shall mislead them all.’ V40 ‘Except your chosen (guided) slaves among them.’ V41 Allah said, ‘this is the Way which will lead straight to Me.’ V42 ‘certainly, you shall have no authority over My slaves, except those who follow you of the Ghawun (disbeliever and those who go astray).’ V43 ‘And surely, Hell is the promised place for them all.”
Ibless (Shaytaan) asked respite from God till the day of resurrection to mislead human beings and Allah granted him by saying that My righteous slaves would not follow you except those who disbelieve. The underling fact is Allah knew Iblees was proud and arrogant, that’s why Allah put him into a test of prostration to Adam to show the whole universe that Allah is not unjust whereas he could have just exiled him before testing him. Allah knew he would not prostrate due to his arrogance as described in earlier verses in Sura Baqra (2:V34) “…he refused and was proud and was one of the disbelievers”. In the end Allah gave him respite till the last day so that He could test His mankind as He mentioned in above verses Sura Hijr (15:V42-43): “Certainly, you shall have no authority over My slaves, except those who follow you of the Ghawun (disbeliever and those who go astray).’ V43 ‘And surely, Hell is the promised place for them all.”
Allah also explained the same theory when He mentioned Adam’s creation in Sura Baqra (2:V35-36): “And We said, ‘O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Paradise and eat both of you freely with pleasure and delight, of things therein as wherever you will, but come not near this tree or you both will be of the Zalimun ( wrong doers). Then Iblees (Shaytaan) made them slip therefrom and got them out from that in which they were…….”. This was clearly a test from Allah that He only prohibited them from just one tree whereas everything else was permitted. Allah knew that Iblees (Shaytaan) would trap them in the end. It was undoubtedly a trial for them so that Allah could show them that Iblees (Shaytaan) is your open enemy and he will mislead you against Allah’s commands as Allah mentioned in the Quran: Sura Yaseen (36:V60-61): “Did I not charge you, O children of Adam! that you should not serve the Iblees (Shaitan)? Surely he is your open enemy, And that you should serve Me; this is the right way.
Evil as a Test for Mankind
No calamity occurs in this universe without the permission of Allah, Allah said in Sura Taghabun (64:V11): “And no calamity strikes except by Allah’s permission”. Allah is not just seen as ‘Good’ as mentioned in various religions, in Islam Allah is most merciful as well as severe in punishment as Allah mentioned in Sura Hashr (59:V7): “Allah is Severe in Punishment” and many other places in the Quran. Allah also described Himself most merciful, in Sura Baqra (2:V199): “Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” Islamically there are three possibilities of evil in this world, which are the followings:
- Reminder from Allah
Sometime Allah reminds His creation through sufferings when they go astray. Quran said: Sura Rome (30:V41): “Evil has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds), that He (Allah) may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allah).” Similar verse; Sura Sajdah (32:V21): “And verily, We will make them taste of the near torment (calamities of this life) prior to the supreme torment (in the hereafter), in order that they may (repent) and return”.
- Due to Individual Sins/Disobeying
Another possibility of evil/calamity existence in someone’s life could be due to his/her individual sins or disobeying of Allah. Allah mentioned in Sura Ash-Shura (42:V30): “And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much.” Means whatever disasters happen to you, O mankind, are because of sins that you have committed in the past. In one hadeeth, Aishah (prophet’s wife) reported that Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “If a person commits many sins and has nothing that will expiate for them, Allah will test him with some grief that will expiate for them.” (Masnad-e-Ahmed 6:157)
- For Test & Patience
Allah also tests His righteous human beings with calamities and sufferings through patience. Allah described this life as a trial for believers; In Sura Baqra (2:V155): “ Surely We will test you with fear, hunger, loss of wealth, life and fruits of your work, but give glad tidings to those who are patient.” This verse is clearly mentioning that Allah will test His believers to perceive whether they are liars or firm in their faith. Another verse confirms previous statement, in Sura Ankabut (29:V2-3) “Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: ‘We believe’ and will not be tested. And WE indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will know those who are truthful and those who lie.”
Calamities have started from Adam and will end on the last day. Quran says in Sura Mulk (67:V2): “(it is He) Who created death and life to test which of you is best in conduct, and He is the Mighty, the Forgiving.” Quran says in another place; Sura Kahf (18:V7): “Surely I have created all that is on earth as its ornaments that I may test which of them is best in conduct.” But Allah also stated in Sura Baqra (2:V286): “Allah does not burden a soul beyond its capacity”.
Allah described wealth and children as also being a test in life. Quran says in Sura Anfal (8:V28): “Know that your wealth and children are a test.” Sometime by giving more wealth and sometime putting them into poverty, similarly some of mankind have been blessed with children but some of them crave for children. Main purpose is to test whether a believer in his/her state will remember Allah or not. Allah said in Sura Munafiqun (63:V9): “O believers! Do not allow your wealth and children to divert you from the remembrance of Allah.” Allah is consoling us as well to be patient in any kind of test, like Allah mentioned in Sura Ash-Sharh (94:V5-6): “For surely with difficulty comes (a period of) ease. Surely with the difficulty comes (another period of) ease.” Then Allah said in Sura Talaq (65:V3): “Whoever trusts in Allah will find Him sufficient.” And one of my favourite verse is, in Sura Baqra (2:V155-156): “….so announce glad tidings to those who are patient, those who, when afflicted with calamity, say: ‘Truly we belong to Allah and to Him we will return.”
I will conclude with a beautiful hadeeth, where Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “The affair of the believer is amazing! The whole of his life is beneficial, and that is only in the case of the believer. When good time comes to him, he is thankful and it is good for him, and when bad time befalls him, he is patient and it is also good for him.” (Sahih Muslim vol 4, No 713)
Islamically it’s very simple, Allah knows everything from the beginning to the end as being the Creator but as a creation we don’t. As He has created everything in this universe, He therefore knows every mechanism. He knows the future but as a creation we don’t. Sometimes we are confused in the dilemma of what free will really is? There are two things need to be considered.
- Allah’s Knowledge
- Allah’s Permission [consists of Allah’s Wish & Allah’s Creational Will)
- Allah’s Knowledge
Allah has knowledge of everything as being the Creator. Quran says when angels spoke to Allah in Sura Bara (2:V32): “Verily, it is You (Allah), the All-Knower, the All-Wise”. Allah has knowledge of everything even what will happen in the future, Quran says in Sura Baqra (2:V6-7): "Whether you warn them or warn them not, they will not believe you. God has placed a seal on their hearts; there is a veil over their ears and their eyes, and a painful torment awaits them." In this verse Prophet Muhammad (saw) was preaching Makkhans and got disappointed at one point because they were continuously in denial, but Allah is consoling Prophet Muhammad (saw) through this verse that it does not matter if you will warn them or not they would not accept it because Allah knows they have chosen the wrong path because of their free will and their hearts, eyes and ears have been blocked. At another place Allah said: “If I wanted they all would have been converted in to Islam but I have given them a choice and I know who would choose the wrong path and who would select right path for his life”. We should understand that Allah has knowledge and has given us free will in choosing the right and wrong path, Allah confirms it in Sura Insan (76:V3): "We have shown man the path of truth and the path of falsehood; he may choose either the path of guidance and offer the thanks, or choose the path of ingratitude."
- Allah’s Permission [consists of Allah’s Wish & Allah’s Creational Will)
Allah said in the Quran, Sura Al-Kahf (18:V49): “Your Lord does no wrong to anyone.” The evil which humans do is by Allah’s permission, so the degree it is from Allah. Humans are responsible for their evil because it is a product of their choice. Regarding God’s permission, Muslim scholars of the past have distinguished between God’s wish and His will. His wish is sometimes referred to as His Legal Wish, meaning that He wishes for humans to follow Islam; the right way of life consisting of submission to whatever God has instructed. However, He also gave humans the ability to accept His wish or reject it. Consequently, humans may go against God’s Legal Wish. His will, on the other hand, is referred to as His Creational Will, meaning that what takes place is by his permission alone. Among the things which take place are events beyond human will and events which are in accordance with human will. For example, humans are governed by the laws of “nature” which they cannot escape. If one jumps up, he or she must fall back down. If one’s knee is struck by the doctor, the foot kicks out, no matter how hard the mind fights the reaction. Humans cannot go against Allah’s Creational Will.