In Islam, the Devil is known as Iblīs (Arabic: إبليس, plural: ابالسة abālisah) or Shayṭān (Arabic: شيطان, plural: شياطين shayāṭīn). In Islam, Iblis is a jinni who refused to bow to Adam.
The primary characteristic of the Devil, besides hubris, is that he has no power other than the power to cast evil suggestions into humans and jinn, although the Quran mentions appointing jinn to assist those who are far from God in a general context. “We made the evil ones friends (only) to those without faith.”
Namings and etymology
Iblis in Arabic verbal root balasa بَلَسَ, meaning ‘he despaired’; therefore, the meaning of Iblīs would be ‘he/it that causes despair’.
In popular Islamic culture, “Shaytan” (Arabic: شيطان), is often simply translated as “the Devil”, but the term can refer to any of the jinn who disobeyed God and followed Iblīs. Some scholars are of the view that Iblīs is the father of all of the jinn, as Adam is the father of all of humanity as mentioned in the Quran (sura 18, Al-Kahf), “Will ye then take him and his progeny as protectors rather than Me? And they are enemies to you!”
The Devil in Islamic theology
According to The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, shaytan is used in the Quran in the singular, and the plural shayatin often interchangeably with Iblis, who is “considered to be a particular shaytan.”
According to basic Islamic teachings, God revealed the creation of three intelligent species: angels (malāʾikah), jinn, and humans, of which the latter two have been granted free will to choose between good and evil, and the Quran states that there is other creation beyond human knowledge “and He has created (other) things of which we have no knowledge.”
The angels do not have free will and cannot sin because they were not granted the freedom by God to disobey. When God created Adam, he commanded all the angels and Iblis (whose rank allowed him to be considered equal to that of an angel) to prostrate to Adam as was termed “the Best of Creation”. All the angels did so, but Iblis refused to obey, and was brought into a state of rebellion against God. For this God cast him out of Jannah (paradise), and intended to punish him. Iblis begged God to delay the punishment until Yawm al-Qiyāmah (Last Judgment), which was granted by God.
It is We Who created you and gave you shape; then We bade the angels prostrate to Adam, and they prostrate; not so Iblis; He refused to be of those who prostrate.
(Allah) said: “What prevented thee from prostrating when I commanded thee?” He said: “I am better than he: Thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay.”
—Quran, sura 7 (Al-A’raf) ayat 11-12
Iblis was proud and arrogant and considered himself superior to Adam, since Adam was made from clay and Iblis from smokeless fire. For this act of disobedience, God cursed him to Jahannam (Hell/Purgatory) for eternity, but gave him respite until the Day of Judgment, after Iblis requested it. Iblis obtained permission from God and vowed that he would use this time to lead all men and women astray to Hell. In this way, he would prove humanity’s inferiority, and justify his act of defiance. For refusing to abide by the will of God, Iblis was cast out of paradise, and thereafter he was called “Shaytan” (Satan).
He said: “Give me respite till the day they are raised up.”
(Allah) said: “Be thou among those who have respite.”
He said: “Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy straight way:
“Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor wilt thou find, in most of them, gratitude (for thy mercies).”
(Allah) said: “Get out from this, disgraced and expelled. If any of them follow thee,- Hell will I fill with you all.
—Quran sura 7 (Al-Aʻraf), ayah 14-18
Although God grants the request, he also warns Satan that he would have no authority over his sincere ‘ubūd or ‘servants’.
“As for My servants, no authority shalt thou have over them:” Enough is thy Lord for a Disposer of affairs.
—Quran, sura 17 (Al-Isra), ayah 65
Shaytan as a “whisperer”
In Islamic theology, Shaytan and his minions are “whisperers”, who whisper into the chests of humans, urging them to sin.
The Quran provides a supplication for mankind, aimed at fighting the tempting of Satan and his minions:
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 Jinn and among men.
—Quran, sura 114 (Al-Nas), ayat 1–6