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What is Iblis?

Since the word Iblis and satan refers to beings that manifest in similar ways, there is at times crossover in the use of terminology. Iblis is a satan and satan is the source of Iblis. Hadrat Musleh Mau‘ud ra wrote:

The word satan has been used in the Holy Quran for the evil spirits that place doubts in one’s heart, and it has been used for humans. However, the word Iblis has only been used for that being who refused to submit to Adam. Iblis refers to that evil spirit which is opposed to angels and places doubts in the heart. The word satan also refers to this, and also to the manifestations of Iblis who do the works of Iblis among humans.

(Tafsir- e-Kabir, vol. 1, p. 331)

Explaining the distinction between Iblis and satan, Hadrat Khalifatul- Masih IV rta said:

According to a tradition of the Hadrat Muhammad Mustafa sas, satan runs in everybody’s blood (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim). He is in the bloodstream of every human being. So Nafs-e-’Ammarah [the self that incites to evil]. is essentially satan. Your inclination to do evil, which is in every human being, that is satan. If  somebody becomes the manifestation  of satan, his whole being is overpowered by his will to do evil, and if this happens at the time of a prophet, then he becomes the symbol of hostility to that prophet, a symbol of rebellion and defiance. That symbol is called Iblis, and he appears in different forms and different times. Adam’s Iblis was different and Hadrat Muhammad Mustafa sas’s Iblis was different and Moses’ Iblis was different. In names of course, in characters and things (they are different), but they have the fundamental most unfortunate quality of rebellion and defiance.

(Question Answer Session, April 13, 1985)

The 5 Volume English Commentary of the Holy Quran further elaborates:

Wherever the Quran speaks of the being who, unlike the angels, refused to serve Adam, it invariably mentions the name Iblis, and wherever it speaks of the being who beguiled Adam and became the means of his being turned out of جنة (garden), it invariably mentions the name “satan.”

(Holy Quran English w/ 5 Vol. Commentary, p. 84, 2:35)

The defining characteristic of Iblis is described in the Holy Quran:

God said, ‘What prevented you from submitting when I commanded you?’ He said, ‘I am better than he. You have created me of fire while him have You created of clay.’

(Surah al-A‘raf, 7:13)

This is figurative language, Hadrat Musleh Mau‘ud ra said this means that Adam as was of a temperament of clay and could submit, however, Iblis was of a temperament of fire and rebelled against submission, and that Iblis was proud of his nature and looked down on those who submit (Sair-e-Ruhani, p. 32).

Identifying Iblis in principle is simple, but in application, it is not as easy as it seems. To identify the characteristics of Iblis among us, we must know what makes him distinctive. This story teaches us how important arrogance and humility are in deciding our fate in the sight of Allah Almighty. However, these characteristics remain largely hidden until they are tested. A person may seem righteous, but in reality he may be an Iblis. For example, Hadrat Musleh Mau‘ud ra said:

We have had research done about Maulavi Muhammad Hussein of Batala, the greatest enemy of the Promised Messiah as. He strictly followed the apparent commands of the shari‘ah; he observed tahajjud regularly and, except for compelling reasons, he would not miss tahajjud (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, vol. 2, p. 66).

Maulavi Muhammad Hussein of Batala was a “great friend”  of the Promised Messiah as before his as prophethood (Life of Ahmad, p. 243).

Similarly, we also find that during the time of the Holy Prophet sas,  the evil of the greatest disbelievers was not fully apparent before he sas claimed prophethood. For example, it is narrated that Abū Jahl said:

We and the sons of ‘Abdu Manaf have vied for honour, the one with the other. They have fed food, and we have fed food. They have borne others’ burdens, and we have borne others’ burdens. They have given, and we have given, until, when we were running equal, knee unto knee, like two mares in a race, they say: “One of our men is a Prophet; Revelations come to him from Heaven!” And when shall we attain to the like of this? By God, we will never believe in him, never admit him to be a speaker of truth.

(Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, Martin Lings, p. 64–65)

Even Abū Jahl excelled in what appeared to others as good deeds. He was looked upon with respect by society, who “referred to him as ‘Abul- Hakam, or “The Father of Wisdom,” but the Muslims named him Abū Jahl.” (Seal of the Prophets, vol. 1, p. 189)

Also, before his sas prophethood, it seems that the Holy Prophet sas was very close to Abū Lahab, who was later condemned in the Holy Quran itself. Two of his sas daughters “were married to the two sons of the paternal uncle of Muhammad sas named Abū Lahab. However, in the age of Islām when Abū Lahab began to fiercely oppose the Prophet sas their marriages were nullified prior to the finalization of their marriage.” (Seal of the Prophets, vol. 1, p. 149)

A person may seem good on the surface, but only when his humility is tested do we realize his reality. Hadrat Musleh Mau‘ud ra said:

It is said that Iblis was very righteous (Tarikhul-Khamis). Granted, it is not unbelievable, rather, it is possible.

(Khutbat-e- Mahmud, vol. 2, p. 66)

The story of Iblis teaches us a fundamental lesson. In the sight of Allah, ultimately our fate can be decided by our arrogance. No matter how many good works a person does, if he is arrogant, he is rejected by Allah Almighty, except if He chooses to forgive. When we look at all of the Iblis’s throughout history, we find that many of them were apparently righteous, but their arrogance blinded them and deprived them of all blessings.

This principle also applies to our Jama‘at as well. There were some companions of the Promised Messiah as who did great services for Ahmadiyyat, but when it came time to submit to Khilafat, they failed in the test of humility. Hadrat Musleh Mau‘ud ra said:

It was these Paighami’s with fiery temperaments who were always opposing Hadrat Khalifatul-Masih I ra… Those who opposed were of the disposition of fire, but you people were of the disposition of clay. You said that, according to the command of Allah, we have been obeying people from the time of Adam. Now, why would we turn away from obedience to the Khalifah of the time?

(Sair-e-Ruhani, p. 37)

Now, we have to look within ourselves to analyze how we are progressing. When we receive guidance from our Khalifah, do we respond more like clay and mold ourselves according to the impression he seeks to create in us, or do we respond more like fire and react and resist? Describing those who are truly obedient, Hadrat Musleh Mau‘ud ra said that:

Whenever a command is given by Allah, His Prophets, or His Khulafa’, he find no apprehension in his heart in following it, and he be completely ready to act on it.

(Khutbat-e-Mahmud, vol. 2, p. 65)

Describing those who still have the temperament of fire in them, Hadrat Musleh Mau‘ud ra said that he in whom:

That essence has not yet developed by which he finds himself ready for every command with an open heart, or his inner self is offended by certain commands and considers obedience to them an infringement of his rights, in reality he is not a Muslim (one who submits), and his inner self has deceived him, and that nature still remains in him by which Iblis was rejected from the presence of God.

(Khutbat-e-Mahmud, vol. 2, p. 66)

Being “created from clay” means being readily obedient to Allah. However, this obedience can sometimes require one to be rebellious.

The early Muslims were like clay to Allah and His Messenger sas, but when obedience to their chiefs conflicted with obedience to Allah, they refused to obey their chiefs in religious matters. From this perspective, it seemed that they behaved like fire by being rebellious to their chiefs, but Allah appreciated that fire because it was in obedience to Allah.

On the other hand, being “created from fire” means being rebellious against Allah. This rebelliousness is often because of obedience and conformity to society. The early disbelievers were like fire to Allah and His Messenger sas, but they were obedient to their chiefs and conformed to society. From this perspective, they seemed like they behaved like clay by being obedient to their chiefs, but Allah did not appreciate that clay because it was in disobedience to Allah.

Being “created from clay” means ready obedience for the sake of Allah Almighty, and being “created from fire” means rebelliousness to Allah Almighty and His Messengers and Khulafa’.

This first story of the Holy Quran, and of religious history, has repeated itself throughout history and continues to do so. It is a constant reminder that no matter how many good deeds we may apparently do, humility and willing obedience are a fundamental condition for acceptance in the sight of Allah.

Updated on February 2, 2019

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