Summary of 4.1 "Angels"
One of the fundamental articles of faith in Islam that the Quran mentions is the belief in angels. Angels are creators that are not seen by us and they were created from light (we don’t know for sure what the nature of the light is). The fact that God created them from light signifies not only the fact that they are non-material even though they may appear in physical form but also signifies that they are totally pure and absolutely sinless creatures. We also mentioned that the position of the status of human beings could be higher than that of angels. In fact we quoted the Quran where angels were commanded by God to bow down to the first human Adam. We indicated from that, since angels are pure by their nature and don’t have free will, they are good despite themselves where as a righteous human being could be better than angels because they have temptation and the evil inclination within himself and has got to struggle against the evil forces.
We also indicated in terms of the functions of angels that their basic and most historical role was to bring revelation to different prophets throughout history a function which ended with the mission of the last prophet, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the revelation of the last Holy Book the Quran. Despite this we indicate that angels still relate to our daily life. We said that God has assigned angels to keep track our deeds, by recording them whether good or bad, which is part of our account on the Day of Judgment. They are also particularly interested in keeping company of the pious when they supplicate, pray or recite the Quran they listen to them and enjoy it. We also indicated that angels provide support and help believers at times of adversity and difficulty. In fact they are constantly praying for the welfare of the believers and above all they constantly encourage us to do good things that would please God.
Finally, we ended by saying that the practical implication of belief in angels is that when we feel the company of those pure sinless creators it is encouragement to us to do good and it reminds us of our duty and awakens our moral consciousness.
Host: What about the question of other unseen creators? Do Muslims believe that there are other unseen creators beside angels?
Oh yes, first of all when we talk about God’s creators perhaps we can classify them into two main groups, the seen and the un-seen. Now the creators that are seen can be classified into two major groups, humans and others. By others we mean animals, animate and inanimate objects. The humans are of course the most important creator of God according to the Quran can be divided into two basic groups, believers and unbelievers.
For the unseen creators there are again two basic groups that the Quran mentions. One is the angels and this we covered in the first program of this new series and the second which are today’s topic are the Jinn. Some people may wonder what the word Jinn means and if it has an equivalent in English. To my understanding there is no single word in English that would give the proper and complete meaning of Jinn as understood by Muslims except to say that they are unseen creators. However to understand it better in English we can subdivide Jinn into two main groups, believers and unbelievers.
Believing Jinn would be just as good as angels or as good as human believers. In that sense we can make an analogy between believing Jinn and believing human beings. The unbelieving Jinn however, are the ones that we usually refer to as Satan and also a term that appears in the Quran about the first of those unbelieving Jinn, Ibleese. The word Satan is also used in the Quran and the Arabic equivalent is shaitan. When we use Satan or Ibleese we are talking particularly about the first Satan, the one who tempted Adam and Eve in Paradise. Now, the league of Satan his decedents and helpers until today are called Satans or devils. Here there is a dotted line under unbelieving humans. The reason being is that the word Satan (devil) in Arabic means anyone who is rebellious against God. And as we know there are human beings who are rebellious against God. As such shaitan or devils are rebellious creators whether they are of the unseen world like Jinn or from among human beings. This perhaps I hope would clarify some of the confusion that sometimes arises with respect to the term used about what Jinn really means. Jinn means believing and unbelieving spirits.
Host: Perhaps it would be helpful if you talk more about the nature of Jinn and what they are created from?
Jinn are created from smokeless fire according to the Quran and it appears in (15:26-27). When we talk about smokeless fire, no body knows what the exact nature of this fire is, as we don’t know the exact nature of light from which angels are created. But of course it signifies the fact that they are non-material and that they have capacities and abilities which far exceed those given to humans in terms of the speed of their movements etc. just like angels have. In fact the Quran indicates that like human beings the Jinn, both believing and unbelieving, have free choice. They can choose to obey God or to rebel and in that sense they are similar to human beings except for the fact that they are non-material.
Host: Can we conclude from this that because they have freedom of choice that the Jinn are not all evil sprits as some people might think?
That is absolutely correct. In fact like you said if they have free will then some might turn out to be good and some might be evil. Jinn are not evil by definition it is what they make of themselves. In fact we find that in the Quran (6:130) it talks about the Jinn receiving messengers coming to guide them just like human beings also received prophets. Yes, you are right in this that they are not all absolutely evil.
Maybe if I quote one part of the Quran that might clarify the issue in (46:29-32) “Behold, We turned towards thee a company of Jinns (quietly) listening to the Qur'an: when they stood in the presence thereof, they said, “Listen in silence!” When the (reading) was finished, they returned to their people, to warn (them of their sins). They said, “O our people! We have heard a Book revealed after Moses, confirming what came before it: it guides (men) to the Truth and to a Straight Path. O our people, hearken to the one who invites (you) to Allah, and believe in him: He will forgive you your faults, and deliver you from a Penalty Grievous. If any does not hearken to the one who invites (us) to Allah, he cannot frustrate ((Allah)'s Plan) on earth, and no protectors can he have besides Allah. such men (wander) in manifest error.”” So in that sense one can say they are just like humans in a sense of being warned and urged to use their free will in the right direction.
Host: How does Satan relate to our daily life?
He does relate to our lives the opposite way that angels relate to our lives. We said last time that angels are the forces of good. They are the pure sinless spirits that are encouraging us to do what is good and to avoid what is evil. Satan relates to our life in a sense that he is doing the opposite job. He is trying to destroy what the angels are urging us to do. He is constantly urging us to do commit evil and to sins to violate the teachings of God. In that sense we can say that the unbelieving Jinn are relevant to our lives not only as individuals but to the history of the entire human beings. If one look in the history of human beings one finds that the basic struggle by individuals, groups, nations and civilizations has constantly been this countervailing forces; the forces of good and forces of evil. Which one predominates at a given time, all the ups and downs, all the achievements as well as cruelty, all the good and the evil acts are all related again to which of these forces have the upper hand at one time or the other.
The Quran makes it clear for example in (7:20-21) that from the very beginning even after the creation of Adam and Eve Satan played a major role in trying to dissuade them from obeying God. But even when mankind came on earth we don’t live on earth as a punishment, because there is no concept of original sin in Islam, but it was simply a lesson to Adam and Eve before coming to earth where they were destine to live. Satan does not stop. Satan as well as his legions from among humans and unseen creators keep pushing and imploring humans to destroy themselves and to commit all kinds of acts.
We find examples of that in the Quran in (2:268), (8:18) and (16:63). I’ll pick one to give an indication about the role that Satan plays. The first one in (2:268) “The Evil one threatens you with poverty and bids you to conduct unseemly. Allah promiseth you His forgiveness and bounties. And Allah careth for all and He knoweth all things.” So there is a clear warning to us here that the role played by Satan is very dangerous and we really have to beware and take all kinds of precautions against his evil prompting.
Host: Given the evil nature of shaitan or Satan and the fact that we are warned in the Quran to be carful, are there any directions in the Quran that we can turn to that might be able to show us how to be successful or what precautions we should take to protect ourselves?
I think the first thing we have to keep in mind is that he, his associates and allegiants are our enemy. One should know his friends from his enemies from the beginning. That is why we find that the Quran puts it very clearly in (35:6) “Verily Satan is an enemy to you: so treat him as an enemy.” This enmity has been expressed quoting shaitan for example as it appears in the Quran in (7:16) and (4:117) that after shaitan was cast out of paradise he was quoted as saying “Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy straight way.” So he has already undertaken it to sway humans from following the path of God. That is why the Quran warns us that we should not obey him. For example in (7:27) “O ye Children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you, in the same manner as He got your parents out of the Garden, stripping them of their raiment, to expose their shame: for he and his tribe watch you from a position where ye cannot see them: We made the evil ones friends (only) to those without faith.”
It is not only that we have to take these precautions but we have to be aware of all the tricks played by Satan. Seldom does Satan come to one and say alright this is an evil thing ‘do it!’ He always tries to present it in a way that looks attractive and somehow seductive. This is why we find in some in some verses in the Quran in (6:142) and (24:21) we find that there is a constant reminder not to follow the footsteps of Satan. This means he tries to draw us in bit by bit.
The other thing that the Quran implores us to understand is to know that obedience to Satan at the expense of obedience to God is tantamount to actually worshipping Satan. I am not talking about worship in a ritual sense. Of course I heard recently about the Church of Satan in Toronto and there are other places where they actually have rights to worship Satan. But in the broad Islamic meaning of worship it does not just mean ritual but obedience and submission to Satan. One of the very interesting quotations I find in the Quran about Satan worship in its variety of forms (36:60-64) “Did I not enjoin on you, O ye Children of Adam, that ye should not worship Satan; for that he was to you an enemy avowed?- And that ye should worship Me, (for that) this was the Straight Way? But he did lead astray a great multitude of you. Did ye not, then, understand? This is the Hell of which ye were (repeatedly) warned! Embrace ye the (fire) this Day, for that ye (persistently) rejected (Truth).” So obedience to Satan is tantamount to rejection of the truth. These are some of the precautions that the Quran provides for us as humans as to how we can resist those evil promptings.
Host: What about the power of Satan and all the other Satans that work along with him? Is it fair to say they have no authority over us and they cant force us to do things against our will?
Absolutely! In the Quran in verse (91:7-8) “By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right.” This means that God has created the human being in the most perfect and complete form and he inspired into him the knowledge of guidance and the knowledge of the wrong path without even being guided by prophets or scriptures. Each human being has the potential for belief or not believing. In that sense then we could say that Satan has power and authority over those who obey him and those who give him the opportunity to dominate them. If we are capable as humans to disregard the commands of God and to obey Satan we can for sure as capable of disobeying Satan and following the path of God and submitting to Him which is the meaning of the word Islam.
Now the Quran says that we should not have any notion of saying ‘Oh I couldn’t do good cause the devil made me do it.” No Satan didn’t make you do it, you let him cause you to do it. Let me quote from the Quran for example in (16:98-100) “When thou dost read the Qur'an, seek Allah.s protection from Satan the rejected one. No authority has he over those who believe and put their trust in their Lord. His authority is over those only, who take him as patron and who join partners with Allah.” In that sense then it is up to us whether we give him (Satan) this authority or not. In fact there is a verse in the Quran (72:6) which indicates that in the past some of the humans who used to think that Satans have tremendous powers and they tried to go to the devils for help or support, those devils only increased their folly. As the Quran says they started dominating them more and making them more dependent on them. This might relate to another issue that perhaps we can come to in the next series which would be the whole issue of magic and sorcery, evil spirits and spells.
Finally, I would like to add one more thing. In case we sin or disobey God or follow the footsteps of Satan as the Quran puts it we still should not throw our hands up in the air and say there is no hope. The Quran says that we should always keep remembering God and try to correct ourselves. Even the first mistake done by Adam and Eve according to the Quran it has already been forgiven and that is why there is no original sin. The Quran for example in (3:37) and (20:120-121) indicate that both Adam and Eve repented to God and both of their repentance was accepted. Whenever we fall we have to remember that we should not be more dominated and give up any hope of ridding ourselves from the control of these evil forces.
Host: I’d like to have you comment on some of the conditions that we may create or may exist that provide more opportunity for Satan to exercise some kind of influence or control of our life.
The first thing of course is disbelief in God. The lack of belief in God, the rejection of his existence, rejection of his divine attributes, unthankful and disgraceful attitudes towards his bounty and blessing he has endowed upon humans in all forms are ways of really getting the domination of Satan. We find reference to this in the Quran in Chapter Mary (19:83) there is a similar statement also in (59:16) that disbelief in God is one way of making friends Satan.
The second thing to keep in mind is that by having close friendship with those on whom there is God’s wrath is one way for Satan to have more influence on us. This appears for example in (58:19 and on). This of course is a reference to the bad influence that we get when we get to close to people who are un-Godly in their attitudes.
The third thing that the Quran reminds us of is to forget God, in fact nowadays it seems that people have time for every conceivable type of activity but to remember God and follow his path. For example in (43:36-37) “If anyone withdraws himself from remembrance of ((Allah)) Most Gracious, We appoint for him an evil one, to be an intimate companion to him. Such (evil ones) really hinder them from the Path, but they think that they are being guided aright!” This is one of the things that we have to keep in mind.
Finally the Quran itself provides a blueprint as to how to respond to this kind of prompting that we should always remember God in (7:201) and in (23:98). They implore us that whenever we feel there is any evil prompting we should seek refuge in God and remember Him and that it would be enough to rid ourselves from the pressure if we have the determination to do it.
Host: Why were Jinn created in the first place?
They were created for the same reason as the creation of angels. As human beings we are both material and spirit, we have the capability to be good or bad. The angels are doing their jobs, they are prompting us towards good without the Jinn, Satan or evil creatures in particular because no all Jinn are bad we would not be tested, we would not have any challenge. If we are always prompted to do good there is no challenge there is no fun in life. Ultimately it is our decisions as human beings to use our God given choice and God given spirituality to overcome the evil promptings and follow the right path.