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The Angels and the Devils

According to the explanation of contemporary non-Muslim writers, angel is the name given to forces in nature which represent goodness, and happiness and devils are forces in nature representing evil and unhappiness. What we under- stand from the Qur'an, however, is that they are beings existing beyond our sense-range, who possess feelings and an independent free-will. To the verses above, (indicating that angels possess independence and free will), may be added many other verses which confirm these same qualities. The refusal of Satan to prostrate himself before Adam and the dialogue between Satan and God occurs several times in the Qur'an.

Satan, after having been expelled from intimacy with God, says in chapter XXXVIII:82-83, "I surely will lead every one of them astray except your sincere slaves among them." And God replies "I shall fill hell with you and with those who follow you, together" [XXXVIII:85].

It is clear that punishment can only take place if the punished understand the reason for the punishment. God in chapter XXXIV:20, says in confirmation of Satan's warning to man, "And Satan indeed found his calculation true concerning them, for they follow them, all except a group of true believers. " Likewise, we read in chapter XIV;22, "And Satan said when the matter had been decided: Indeed! Allah promised you a promise of truth; and I promised you and failed you. And I had no power over you except that I called to you and you obeyed me. So do not blame me but blame yourselves."

Blame is a matter which can only be associated with those who possess the power of reason and free-will. We quote these verses to show that Satan, like the rest of the angels, is a thinking independent being rather than a force in nature. Just as verses occur in the Qur'an concerning the angels and the devils, there also are verses which clearly and vividly describe the jinn (elemental spirits or invisible beings, either harmful or helpful) . In chapter XLVI: 18 reference is made to those who, invited to believe in Islam, spurn it as just another ancient fable or superstition: Such are those in whom the word concerning nations of the jinn and mankind which have passed away before them has effect. Indeed they are the losers.

We may understand from this verse that the jinn, the invisible entities, like mankind, live in different nations, pass a period of time in their different societies and finally die.

In the same chapter, verses 29-32 we read, And when we inclined toward you (Muhammad) certain of the jinn who wished to hear the Qur'an and when they were in its presence said, Listen! and, when it was finished turned back to their people warning. They said: O our people! Truly we have heard a book which has been revealed after Moses, confirming that which was before it, guiding to the truth and a right road. O my people! respond to God's Summoner and believe in Him. He will forgive you some of your wrong actions and guard you from a painful doom. And whoever does not respond to God's Summoner he can in no way escape in the earth, and you (can find) no protecting friends instead of Him. Such are in clear error. These verses clearly confirm that the jinn, like men, live in groups, are thinking individuals possessing free will and charged with duties, Moreover, there are other verses dealing with the day of rising which affirms these same qualities in the jinn.

Adapted from: "The Quran in Islam" by: "Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i"

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