The Devil in Islamic Theology


In Islam, there are three sapient creatures of Allah: humans, angels, and the jinn (or genies). Jinn are referred to in the Qur’an as having been made by “scorching fire” (Qur’an 15:27). They are divided into five types:

“1. If one is mentioning the jinn purely of themselves, the are called jinni.
2. If one is mentioning the jinn that live among mankind, they are called aamar whose plural is amaar.
3. If one is mentioning the ones that antagonize the young, they are called arwaah.
4. If one is mentioning the evil ones that antagonize humans they are called shaitan for the singular [and shayateen for plural].
5. If they cause even more harm and become strong, they are called afreet.”

In Arabic, the word jinn (“several genies”) is in the plural form; the singular form is jinni (“one genie”).

In this metaphysics, angels are without sin, and therefore without free will; they obey the orders of Allah without question. The jinn, like humans, are capable of sin, and therefore free will; they can be good, evil, or neutral. Jinn (and humans) that exercise their free will to evil ends are called shayateen, or shaitan in the singular form.

The first (and most infamous) jinn of note in the Qur’an is Iblis, who, because of his rank among Allah’s sapient creatures, was considered equal to the angels prior to his fall. When Allah commands his followers in Jannah (Paradise) to prostrate themselves before Adam, “the Best of Creation,” all but Iblis obey. Iblis refuses to prostrate himself before Adam, whom he considers lesser for having been made of the dirt, whereas he was made of holy fire. Allah casts him out of Jannah as punishment, but spares him an eternity in Hell until Yawm al-Qiyāmah, the Day of Last Judgment.

“The Noble Qur’an – Ar-Rahmaan 55:15, 15

He created man (Adam) from sounding clay like the clay of pottery.
And the jinns did He create from a smokeless flame of fire.

The Noble Qur’an – Al-Hijr 15:26-42

26. And indeed, We created man from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud.
27. And the jinn, We created aforetime from the smokeless flame of fire.
28. And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: “I am going to create a man (Adam) from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud.
29. “So, when I have fashioned him completely and breathed into him (Adam) the soul which I created for him, then fall (you) down prostrating yourselves unto him.”
30. So, the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together.
31. Except Iblîs (Satan), – he refused to be among the prostrators.
32. (Allâh) said: “O Iblîs (Satan)! What is your reason for not being among the prostrators?”
33. [Iblîs (Satan)] said: “I am not the one to prostrate myself to a human being, whom You created from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud.”
34. (Allâh) said: “Then, get out from here, for verily, you are Rajîm (an outcast or a cursed one).”
35. “And verily, the curse shall be upon you till the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection).”
36. [Iblîs (Satan)] said: “O my Lord! Give me then respite till the Day they (the dead) will be resurrected.”
37. Allâh said: “Then, verily, you are of those reprieved,
38. “Till the Day of the time appointed.”
39. [Iblîs (Satan)] 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.
40. “Except Your chosen, (guided) slaves among them.”
41. (Allâh) said: “This is the Way which will lead straight to Me.”
42. “Certainly, you shall have no authority over My slaves, except those who follow you of the Ghâwîn (Mushrikûn and those who go astray, criminals, polytheists, and evil-doers, etc.).”

Ibn al-Qayyim wrote in his book Madarij as-Salikin that Iblis misguides humans through 7 gates (‘aqabahs):

1. Disbelief
2. Innovations (bid’ah)
3. Minor sins
4. Major sins
5. Busying with permissible deeds to the exclusion of rewardable deeds
6. Busying with deeds of lesser reward instead of greater reward
7. Unleashing the shayatin from among the jinn and humankind upon that person

Iblis (and other shaytans) are “whisperers,” who tempt the souls of mankind through the seven ‘aqabahs. The Qur’an details a prayer to stave off the whispers of Iblis:

“Say: I seek refuge with the Lord and Cherisher of Mankind,
The King (or Ruler) of Mankind,
The God (or Judge) of Mankind,-
From the mischief of the Whisperer (of Evil), who withdraws (after his whisper),-
(The same) who whispers into the hearts of Mankind,-
Among Jinns and among men.”
— Quran, sura 114 (Al-Nas), ayat 1–6

Some scholars argue that Iblis is the Father of all disobedient jinn.

“Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah called Iblees the father of the jinn in more than one place (see Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 4/346, 235), as did his student Ibn al-Qayyim, then al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Baari (6/369).

Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (9/370-371): The shaytaan is the father of the jinn according to a number of scholars. He is the one who disobeyed his Lord and was too proud to prostrate to Adam, so Allaah expelled him and cast him away. End quote.

It says in Fataawa Noor ‘ala al-Darb by Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (al-Jinn wa’l-Shayaateen, question no. 2):

Undoubtedly Iblees is the father of the jinn, because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And the jinn He created from a smokeless flame of fire”
[al-Rahmaan 55:15]
And He describes Iblees when he addressed the Lord of Glory (may He be glorified and exalted) (interpretation of the meaning) :
“ ‘I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay’”
[al-A’raaf 7:12]
And Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Will you then take him (Iblees) and his offspring as protectors and helpers rather than Me while they are enemies to you?”
[al-Kahf 18:50]

This evidence clearly indicates that Iblees has offspring and that the jinn are his offspring, but how did that come about? This is something of which we have no knowledge and it is something concerning which it does not matter if we are ignorant, and knowing it does not bring any benefit. And Allaah knows best. End quote.”

The Yezidi, a pre-Islamic Kurdish tribe with links to Zoroastrianism, worshiped Iblis and the shayateen under the name of Melek’Taus.


2 responses to “The Devil in Islamic Theology

  1. Pingback: Melek Taus of the Yezidi | Encyclopedia Satanica