Argument in the Qur’an (2/8)
Satan was the first entity to argue. This is related in the Qur’an as follows:
When your Lord said to the angels: “I am putting an overlord on Earth,” they said: “Why put on it one who will cause corruption on it and shed blood when we glorify You with praise and proclaim Your purity?” He said: “I know what you do not know.” He taught Adam the names of all things. Then He arrayed them before the angels and said: “Tell me the names of these, if you are telling the truth.” They said: “Glory be to You! We have no knowledge except what You have taught us. You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.” He said: “Adam, tell them their names.” When he had told them their names, He said, “Did I not tell you that I know the Unseen of the heavens and Earth, and I know what you make known and what you hide?” (Surat al-Baqara: 30-33)
In these verses, we see that the angels were not happy with Allah’s decision to create Adam (as). This was a great error because, sharing very little of Allah’s eternal knowledge, they could not understand why He would do this. Instead they were only required to obey Allah’s command. But they wanted to know why Adam (as) had been created, and so Allah explained it to them. After that, all of the angels sought Allah’s mercy, repented, and obeyed Allah’s command - all except for satan, who resisted and started an argument with Allah (Allah is surely beyond that). At the conclusion of the above verses, Allah says:
We said to the angels: “Prostrate to Adam!” and they prostrated, with the exception of Diabolis. He refused. He was arrogant and was one of the unbelievers. (Surat al-Baqara: 34)
Although Allah explained to him why He created Adam (as), satan refused to prostrate before Adam. Elsewhere in the Qur’an, satan’s “way of thinking” after his disobedience is described:
We created you, formed you, and then said to the angels: “Prostrate before Adam.” And they prostrated, except for Diabolis. He was not among those who prostrated. He (Allah) said: “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you to?” He (Diabolis) replied: “I am better than him. You created me from fire, and You created him from clay.” (Surat al-A‘raf: 11-12)
We can see that satan’s presumption to argue with Allah made him arrogant. He thought he was superior to Adam (as) and that it would be humiliating for him to prostrate before him. His pride could not let him do it, and he argued with Allah. So, his arrogance was the point from which the first-ever argument began.
This shows the difference between satan and the other angels; the angels first made the mistake by being unhappy with Allah’s action. But they had to know that whatever He wills has an eternal purpose and that they must obey Him without resentment. In spite of their error, Allah did not punish them and even told them why He was doing this. After that, they repented, took refuge in Allah, and obeyed His command.
But satan, unlike the other angels, was arrogant. Considering himself superior to Adam (as), he resented the fact that Adam (as) should be held in higher esteem than he. Thus, he did not obey Allah even after Allah explained why He willed Adam’s (as) creation. In other words, to see the truth, to understand it in one’s heart and yet refuse to admit it is the result of pride. Satan did not want to find the truth and act in accordance with it; rather, he wanted to satisfy his own selfish desires.
In order to supply a “logical” foundation for his attitude, he proclaimed that he was created from fire. However, this was of no use because Allah created everything and can exalt anyone He wills at any time. And satan knew this. But because he was seeking his own satisfaction, he pretended not to know the truth and invented his own distorted clay-fire explanation. Then, persisting in this mistake, he started to argue. And so Allah cursed him:
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 (satan) said: “Grant me a reprieve until the day they are raised up.” He (Allah) said: “You are one of the reprieved.” He (satan) said: “By Your misguidance of me, I will lie in ambush for them on your straight path. 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: 13-18)
When We said to the angels: “Prostrate yourselves to Adam!” they prostrated, except for Diabolis. He said: “What! Am I to prostrate to one You have created out of clay? Do You see this creature You have honored over me? If You reprieve me until the Day of Resurrection, 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! Stir up any of them you can with your voice, rally against them your cavalry and your infantry, share with them in their children and their wealth, and make them promises!” The promise of satan is nothing but delusion. But as for “My servants, you will not have any authority over them.” Your Lord suffices as a guardian. (Surat al-Isra’: 61-65)
The first argument ended with Allah’s cursing of satan and driving him away. Allah allotted him a certain period of time in which he could tempt humanity to follow his own perverse path. So, how does satan lead people astray? He does it in many ways, is related in verse 17 of Surat al-A‘raf, “he will come at them, from in front and behind, from their right and their left.”
One the major ways in which satan leads people astray is to transfuse his own characteristics into them: arrogance, rebelliousness, ungratefulness, and similar traits.
And they are just as argumentative as satan is. Satan, who knows the truth but does not accept it, argues to show that something that appeals to his selfish desire is actually the truth. In the same way, his followers argue to satisfy their own arrogance. Arguing becomes a part of their lives. Instead of exchanging ideas to find the truth, their dialogue with each other is a stubborn (if not erroneous) insistence on their own personal viewpoint, which they will defend come what may.
Religion cannot be reconciled with selfish desires and worldly ambition. For this reason, those who argue use it when someone tries to tell them about religious morality. They accept religion in their conscience, but their worldly desires lead them to deny it. They choose satan’s way of arguing to find a supposed “logical” basis for their ideas.
Satan does all he can to fan the sparks of argument in order to divert people from Allah’s true path and lead them astray. He makes every effort to fill people’s minds with useless, meaningless matters so they will not think about Allah or the Hereafter. In essence, he convinces them that arguing is fun.
For this reason, Allah warns believers about satan’s habit of fanning the sparks of argument: “Say to My servants that they should only say the best. Satan wants to stir up trouble between them. Satan is an outright enemy to humanity” (Surat al-Isra’: 53). Believers accept this warning and do not argue with each other, thus protecting themselves from this satanic habit.
Believers consider arguing to be a tedious activity; unbelievers are seduced by satan’s making their actions seem good: “Satan has made their actions seem good to them and debarred them from the Way, so they are not guided (Surat an-Naml: 24).
He makes them want to argue constantly, for this gives them great pleasure. In fact, they regard it as normal and right.
We can see this every day among people. The basic similarity between all of these arguments, regardless of when or where they occur, is that they end with no concrete result. Someone who has only a little knowledge and has not read a single book about Allah presumes to argue about Him. Others deliberately engage in argument to keep others from following the true path. Now we will look at such arguments in the Qur’an and examine the characters of those who engage in it.