The Sworn Enemy Of Mankind
Whoever you may be, there is an enemy who is a devoted threat to you, who wishes for you eternal torment, having dedicated his whole existence to that end. That enemy is Satan. That is, Satan whom Allah cursed and expelled from His presence.
He has been in existence throughout human history. Millions who lived and died have succumbed to his wiles and been thrown into the flames, and continue to do so. He makes no distinctions among his victims: young or old, male or female, a head of state or beggar... He is against all human beings.
He is watching from afar and hatching his plots, even as you are reading this text. He has but one desire: to lure you, and as many people as possible, to Hell.
For him to succeed in his aim, it is not necessary that he succeed in tempting people to worship him, or to engage in outrageous acts of perversions. Neither does he necessarily wish to lead people to deny Allah. He himself has not done so. His only wish is to keep human beings away from the truth of the religion of Allah, as espoused in the Qur'an; to prevent them from worshipping Allah sincerely; and, as a result, to ensure they will ultimately have been doomed to eternal torment. Even, at times, by employing the guise of piety, he will make reference to the name of Allah, that he may lead people astray from the truth of the religion. That ruse alone is sufficient for him to drag people with him into the pit of Hell. And, no matter what means he employs, that is the inevitable end for those who choose to follow him:
It is written of him that if anyone takes him as a confidant, he will mislead him and guide him to the punishment of the Searing Blaze. (Surat al-Hajj, 4)
Iblis' Rebellion Against Allah
In the Qur'an, "Satan" is the term applied to those beings who will strive until the Last Day to divert mankind from the path of Allah. The ancestor of all these satans is Iblis, the one who originally rebelled against Allah, at the time of the creation of the Prophet Adam (as).
According to the Qur'an, when Allah had created the Prophet Adam (as), he commanded the angels to prostrate themselves before him. Iblis, though, who was one of the jinn, refused to bow before Adam (as). Rather, he insisted that he was superior to this human being, a disobedience and great insolence for which he was finally expelled from the presence of Allah.*
However, before departing from Allah's presence, he requested a respite, a period of time in which he could lead human beings astray, into error as he was himself. Thus, Allah allotted him the time until the Day of Judgment to pursue his plot. It was then that his war against mankind began. Allah related these developments in the Qur'an as follows:
We created you and then formed you and then We said to the angels, "Prostrate before Adam," and they prostrated—except for Iblis. He was not among those who prostrated.
[Allah] said, "What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you to?" He [Iblis] replied, "I am better than him. You created me from fire and You created him from clay."
He [Allah] said, "Descend from Heaven. It is not for you to be arrogant in it. So get out! You are one of the abased."
He [Iblis] said, "Grant me a reprieve until the day they are raised up."
He [Allah] said, "You are one of the reprieved."
He [Iblis] said, "By Your misguidance of me, I will lie in ambush for them on your straight path."
[Iblis said,] "Then I will come at them, from in front of them and behind them, from their right and from their left. You will not find most of them thankful."
He [Allah] said, "Get out of it, reviled and driven out. As for those of them who follow you, I will fill up Hell with every one of you." (Surat al-A`raf, 11-18)
Therefore, after having been expelled from Allah's presence, Iblis entered upon his struggle. He insinuated himself among humanity that he might deceive them and cause them to go astray. His first ruse was to mislead the Prophet Adam (as) and his wife, then abiding in Paradise, succeeding in tempting them to rebel against Allah. This occurrence, at the dawn of human history, is here described in the Qur'an:
[Allah said,] "Adam, live in the Garden, you and your wife, and eat of it wherever you like. But do not go near this tree lest you become wrongdoers."
Then Satan whispered to them, disclosing to them their private parts that had been concealed from them. He said, "Your Lord has only forbidden you this tree that you not become like the angels or achieve immortality."
He [Satan] swore to them, "I am a sincere counselor to you."
So he enticed them to commit the act by means of deception. Then, when they tasted of the tree, their private parts were disclosed to them, and they began to stitch together leaves of the Garden that they may cover themselves. Their Lord called out to them, "Did I not forbid you this tree and say to you, 'Satan is an avowed enemy to you?' "
They said, "Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves. If you do not forgive us and have mercy on us, we will be among the deceived."
He said, "Go out from here as enemies to each other! You will live on Earth and have enjoyment for a time."
He said, "On it you will live, and on it die, and from it you will be brought forth." (Surat al-A`raf, 19-25)
The Prophet Adam (as) had repented to Allah and was forgiven by Him. Nevertheless, Iblis continued with his war on humanity. As is revealed in the Qur'an, in Surat al-Ma´ida, Satan also deceived one of the Prophet Adam's (as) two sons, causing him to kill his brother. (Surat al-Ma´ida, 27)
From that time onward, Iblis has deceived a great many people, luring them into his ranks. He has also many supporters from among jinn. The jinn who followed him have also set out, as he, to insinuate themselves among humans, in order to lead them astray and to cause doubt in their hearts (Surat an-Nas, 4). These jinns, as well as the human beings who also follow Iblis, have given him the title "Satan."
(The root of the Arabic word "Shaytan" means, "to be far removed," and is a title for every impetuous and rebellious creature who has been expelled from the presence of Allah.)
For that reason, "Satan," mankind's worst enemy, is rather a legion of jinns and human beings, under the leadership of Iblis. These jinns and human beings seek to cause humanity to stray onto that path they themselves have strayed onto, the path of Iblis. Because the jinns among the satans are invisible, they can approach humans without their being aware of it, and place thoughts in their minds that may cause them to turn from the path of truth. Human satans, on the other hand, move about openly among the people, fomenting suggestions with the intent of leading them into error. Moreover, as such a person may be one regarded as a close personal friend, he may also be a "man of ideas," widely respected in society. Believers are taught the following prayer in the Qur'an, to protect them from this danger:
Say: "I seek refuge with the Lord of mankind,
The King of mankind, the God of mankind,
From the evil of the insidious whisperer
who whispers in people's breasts, from among the jinn and mankind." (Surat an-Nas, 1-6)
Because Satan is a foe with the ability to approach man so deceptively, all need to take especial care in order to avoid him. The first precondition in this regard is to acknowledge Satan's existence. Once this point is recognized, we can then consider Satan's purpose to be founded on the most peculiar and incongruent form of logic. At the root of his logic, subsequently employed by all those who follow in his footsteps, is pride and arrogance.
Satan's Peculiar Logic
The reason for Iblis' rebellion against Allah is set out in the Qur'an with the following account:
He said, "What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you to?" He [Iblis] replied, "I am better than him. You created me from fire, and You created him from clay." (Surat al-A`raf, 12)
Iblis refused to bow before a human being because he regarded himself as superior. However, the premise on which he bases that rejection is unfounded, and refers to superficial criteria. He maintains that he was created from fire, while man is from clay, implying that the former is superior in substance to the latter. In other words, the entire basis of his arrogance is founded on the supposed physical difference in composition between the two substances. The fact is, however, that Allah created both man and Iblis, whatever the material. It is completely irrational, and astounding impudence, that a created being would rebel against the command of its Creator, by claiming the substance from which it was created to be superior to another, though also created by the same Creator. However, the extreme envy Iblis felt towards man, as well as the false sense of his own superiority, prevented him from perceiving that fact, causing him to rebel against Allah's command, for having insisted on a mere physical difference. Iblis' errant notions can be further discerned from other portions of the Qur'an, where he is referred to as regarding himself special and superior:
He said, "I will not bow before a human being whom You have created out of dried clay formed from putrid black mud." (Surat al-Hijr, 33)
Iblis does not deny that Allah created him. That is not the cause of his rebellion. On the contrary, he himself admits that it was Allah Who had created him. However, by insisting instead, "I am imbued with greater potential than a human being; you created me from fire and him from mud," he is afflicted, clearly, with pride. There is absolutely nothing logical in his rebellious stance before Allah.
When We said to the angels, "Bow before Adam!" they all bowed, except Iblis. He said "What! Am I to prostrate to one You have created out of clay?" (Surat al-Isra´, 61)
The last verse clearly shows Iblis' impudence and delusion. The elevation of the Prophet Adam (as)'s status, by which Iblis considered himself slighted, because of not wanting to humble himself before any other, led him to this terrible jealousy. Thus he became disobedient towards Allah:
He said, "Iblis, what prevented you prostrating to what I created with My own Hands? Were you overcome by arrogance or are you one of the exalted?"
He [Satan] said, "I am better than he. You created me from fire, but You created him from clay." (Surah Sad, 75-76)
The evil considerations behind Iblis' refusal to bow before the Prophet Adam (as) is also observable among all those who refuse to accept the word of Allah, in other words, among the human satans. These are people who have rejected the prophets, humans just like themselves, though messengers of Allah. They insisted instead that there ought to be some superiority evident in anyone they should receive as a messenger of Allah, claiming such superiority needed to be based on political or material power. An example of such demands can be found among the unbelievers from the time of the Prophet Muhammad (saas). According to the Qur'an:
They say, "Why was this Qur'an not sent down to one of the more powerful men from the two cities?" (Surat az-Zukhruf, 31)
Alternatively, unbelievers also demanded to witness proof of supernatural power through some miracle in order to believe in the messenger. Several examples of such demands are related in the Qur'an:
They say, "We will not believe you until you make a spring gush out from the earth for us; or have a garden of dates and grapes which you make rivers come pouring through. Or make the sky, as you claim, fall down on us in lumps; or bring Allah and the angels here as a guarantee; or possess a house built out of gleaming gold; or ascend up into heaven—and even then we will not believe in your ascent unless you bring us down a book to read!"
Say: "Glory be to my Lord! Am I anything but a human messenger?" (Surat al-Isra´, 90-93)
This is a point those who opposed the messengers and waged war against them were unable to accept. Unbelievers are unable to accept a normal human being like themselves as having been imparted the role of messenger. This envy and haughty rebellion is founded on the same perverted belief as Iblis' when he refused to prostrate himself before the Prophet Adam (as). The following verse refers to the way in which most people have been unable to find the path to salvation, for just that reason:
Nothing prevents people from believing when guidance comes to them but the fact that they say, "Has Allah sent a human being as Messenger?" (Surat al-Isra´, 94)
A curious enigma governs Iblis' rebellion. Iblis is an entity possessed of knowledge, having himself witnessed to the existence of Allah. He has knowledge of the angels, and is cognizant of man's creation. He is also aware of Allah's greatness and might, as well as of the torment of Hell. The mystery of the illogic of Iblis, and of all those who follow him, is in their propensity to oppose the commandments of Allah, thereby becoming unbelievers, despite first-hand knowledge of the existence and oneness of Allah. This is a most puzzling phenomenon. With such knowledge available, Iblis should have been of the most profound faith. His degree of awareness should lead him to be eternally obedient and reverent to Allah. Yet, Iblis embarked on a course of action that not even the person least aware of such facts would have been courageous enough to do.
The mystery of Iblis' irrationality does not end there. Despite committing a sin so great as to incite others to deny Allah, he nevertheless admits to fearing Him. This indicates a particularly diseased pattern of thought:
They are like Satan when he says to a human being, "Disbelieve," and then when he disbelieves, says, "I wash my hands of you. Truly I fear Allah, the Lord of all the worlds." (Surat al-Hashr, 16)
Another verse reveals that, after Satan had incited the unbelievers against the believers, he then abandoned them, then confessing to his fear of Allah:
When Satan made their actions appear good to them, saying, "No one will overcome you today for I am at your side." But when the two parties came in sight of one another, he turned right round on his heels saying, "I wash my hands of you. I see what you do not see. I fear Allah. Allah is severe in retribution." (Surat al-Anfal, 48)
On the one hand, Iblis admits to the existence of Allah, and to His infinite might and wisdom, yet, on the other, knowingly rebels against Him, being an extreme contradiction.
Similarly, all who reject the commandments of Allah, as revealed in the Qur'an, interpreting His commands according to his personal desires, or seeks to demonstrate that the divine law is invalid, is guilty of the same error as Iblis. Like Iblis, they are aware of the existence of Allah, but fall into exactly the same failure of logic as he.
Due to his disobedience, Iblis was disgraced and ultimately expelled from his place in the presence of Allah. Iblis, who rebelled out of pride and arrogance, was humiliated in a way so distasteful to his character. Therefore, before leaving Allah's presence, he requests Allah to be allotted a specific a period of time. He does not demand such a period that he may seek Allah's forgiveness, to turn back towards Him and express his repentance. Rather, his aim is to ignorantly seek retribution by dragging as many as he can into the same humiliation.
Thus it was that Satan's animosity and war against mankind was incepted. However, it must not be forgotten that Allah created Satan, with all these propensities, and that he is a factor under our Lord's command. Satan is only able to carry out all that he does by the permission of Allah. Due this same fact, though, Satan is at times able to influence a great majority of human beings. Yet, he can do nothing without Allah's leave. The period of time requested by Satan, that is, the respite granted by Allah, is related as follows in the Qur'an:
"He [Satan] said, "My Lord, grant me a reprieve until the Day they are raised again." He [Allah] said, "You are among the reprieved." (Surat al-Hijr, 36-37)
In another verse, the respite accorded to Satan is described as follows:
He [Satan] said, "Do you see this creature you have honored over me? If You reprieve me till the Day of Rising, I will be the master of his descendants except for a very few."
He [Allah] said, "Go! And as for any who follow you, your repayment is Hell, repayment in full!" (Surat al-Isra´, 62-63)
As can be discerned from these verses, Satan acts under within the confines of the will of Allah. He is aware that Allah is the Lord of the Worlds. Indeed, while declaring that he will insinuate suggestions into human beings, Satan swears on the greatness of Allah:
He [Satan] said, "By Your might, I will mislead all of them." (Surah Sad, 82)
Before expelling Satan from His presence, Allah announced the following:
"Stir up any of them you can with your voice and rally against them your cavalry and your infantry and share with them in their children and their wealth and make them promises! The promise of Satan is nothing but delusion." (Surat al-Isra´, 64)
In the pages that follow, we shall examine the tactics which, by Allah's permission, Satan employs. However, there is one key point which ought not to be forgotten:
Satan has no power beyond that granted to him by Allah. Satan's function is to be a means whereby human beings destined for Hell end up in the place appointed for them. Those who follow Satan are unworthy of Allah's Paradise, being morally lower even than animals. Allah reveals this truth in the verses of His Book:
We created many of the jinn and mankind for Hell. They have hearts they do not understand with. They have eyes they do not see with. They have ears they do not hear with. Such people are like cattle. No, they are even further astray! They are the unaware. (Surat al-A`raf, 179)
In addition, Satan has no influence over those devout servants of Allah. Because Allah prevents it, Satan's influence is incapable of diverting believers from the true path. Allah protects those of His servants who devote themselves to Him, and who do not deify others besides Him, from the perverting effects of Satan.
He [Satan] has no authority over those who believe and put their trust in their Lord. (Surat an-Nahl, 99)
In conclusion, like all other beings, Satan has been charged with a role by Allah. That role is to be a means by which the believers, whom Allah has created for His Paradise, and others, created for Hell, may be distinguished from each another. Therefore, this means serves as a purging. Those with diseased or corrupt hearts are kept from or separated from the believers, by means of Satan. A verse of the Qur'an has revealed that Satan's influence will effect only the following sort of people:
[It is] so that He can make what Satan insinuates a trial for those with sickness in their hearts and for those whose hearts are hard—the wrongdoers are entrenched in hostility. (Surat al-Hajj, 53)
Furthermore, the difficulties which Satan seeks to inflict upon believers also offer an opportunity by which they may draw closer to Allah in this world, and increase their faith:
And [it is] so that those who have been given knowledge will know it is the truth from their Lord and believe in it and their hearts will be humbled to Him. Allah guides those who believe to a straight path. (Surat al-Hajj, 54)