The Fallen Angel – Odilon Redon

In the Qur’an, the Devil has 2 names. Iblis, probably derived from the Greek diabolos and used always in the singular and as a personal name, usually in the context of his fall from grace. Some scholars have argued that Shaytan, his other name which is Arabic and possibly derived from the roots ‘to be far from’ or ‘born with anger,’ may have been acquired as a result of his rebellion, while others argue that Iblis is used in context of the Devil’s relationship to God, while Shaytan is used in relation to humans. Shaytan occurs much more frequently in the Qur’an than Iblis, usually in connection with the temptation and seduction of humans.

The Qur’an mentions the account of the fall of Iblis several times. When Allah created man, he told all spirits to bow before him. Iblis refused claiming he was better than humans because he was created out of fire instead of mud. Allah then cast him down for his pride. Allah then agrees to let Iblis tempt humanity until the last day when the dead are raised, but tells Iblis he will have no power over Allah, Himself, or any of Allah’s servants. Two of the accounts are listed below:

And We created you, then fashioned you, then told the angels: Fall ye prostrate before Adam! And they fell prostrate, all save Iblis, who was not of those who make prostration. He said: What hindered thee that thou didst not fall prostrate when I bade thee ? (Iblis) said: I am better than him. Thou createdst me of fire while him Thou didst create of mud. He said: Then go down hence! It is not for thee to show pride here, so go forth! Lo! thou art of those degraded. He said: Reprieve me till the day when they are raised (from the dead). He said: Lo! thou art of those reprieved. He said: Now, because Thou hast sent me astray, verily I shall lurk in ambush for them on Thy Right Path.’ – AL A’RAAF 7:11-16

‘And (remember) when We said unto the angels: Fall prostrate before Adam, and they fell prostrate, all save Iblis. He was of the jinn, so he rebelled against his Lord’s command. Will ye choose him and his seed for your protecting friends instead of Me, when they are an enemy unto you ? Calamitous is the exchange for evil-doers.’ – AL KAHFI (18:50)

Though Allah had cast Iblis out of heaven, he gave him permission to tempt Adam and Eve before he left. Iblis was the one to persuade Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. The Qur’an is explicit in saying that the Devil only has the power to tempt, not to compel, for mankind still has its free will to choose to follow Allah or the Devil.