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I was a bit surprised by this answer, which says:

Eblees [the devil] is not a conscious intelligent being. It is an abstract conceptual definition for explaining how and why human soul became different from the souls of all other animals during its creation.

Maybe I'm confused by the term Eblees, but from context, that appears simply to be the name for the devil, aka Satan. If this is correct, how widely held is this view that Satan/Eblees/the Devil is not a being, but rather a metaphorical concept?

NOTE: When I talk about a personal Satan, I don't mean that each of us has a personal Satan, but rather that Satan is a person. I mean it in the same way that many people speak of a "personal God"--as opposed to an impersonal force, etc.

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    Being a Muslim for 27 years, this is the first time I've heard of that abstract concept. This view is not in any hadith or quran and indeed is result of human creativity. – Muhammad Hasan Khan Jul 6 '12 at 18:41
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    @HasanKhan - It's not exactly a new concept. Some Muslims think that many stories in the Quran are symbolic and not literal. You can compare it to the Biblical concept of historical criticism: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical-critical_method – System Down Jul 6 '12 at 20:01
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There are some groups or sects of Islam that take the Qur'an as a purely symbolic book, including some branches of Sufism. They do away with most of the laws, stories, etc. by calling it metaphorical and ascribing understanding only to their very high-level practitioners, much like the Bible cannot be interpreted by any but high-level officials.

I can only speak on behalf of Sunni Islam, and somewhat of Shi'a Islam, when I say that "Iblees is a real, living, breathing being." This is a non-issue, and substantiated by many ayaat, including:

enter image description here

And [mention] when We said to the angels, "Prostrate to Adam," and they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was of the jinn and departed from the command of his Lord. Then will you take him and his descendants as allies other than Me while they are enemies to you? Wretched it is for the wrongdoers as an exchange. (Surah Kahf, verse 50)

It clearly says "kaana min al-jinn," he was from the jinns. "min" has several meanings in Arabic; one is to single out a subset of a group that belongs to that group.

Another ayah states:

enter image description here

And [mention] when We said to the angels, "Prostrate before Adam"; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers. (Surah Baqarah, verse 34)

There is also a very well-known hadith of rasulullah:

لاَ تَأْكُلُوا بِالشِّمَالِ فَإِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ يَأْكُلُ بِالشِّمَالِ ‏"‏ ‏.‏

The translation is: "Do not eat with your left hand, for the Satan eats with his left hand." (Collected in Saheeh Muslim)

I can say more, but I think these proofs answer your question sufficiently.

As for "personal" devil, there is an Islamic concept that each person has a devil assigned to him to tempt him and try to misguide him. Try this ayah:

enter image description here

And whoever is blinded from remembrance of the Most Merciful - We appoint for him a devil, and he is to him a companion. (Surah Az-Zukhruf, verse 36)

The word "qareen" used in this ayah indicates a companion. So there is Satan (Shaytaan, Eblees), and also other devils (shayateen) with different roles.

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    Thanks for the answer. Side note on ...much like the Bible cannot be interpreted by any but high-level officials... This is by no means a view held by all Christians, either. – Flimzy Jul 6 '12 at 20:12
  • @Flimzy I hope you'll excuse my sweeping generalities :) that's another point that's out of discussion here; as Muslims, we have a hadith: "You will follow the Christians and Jews footstep by footstep ..." so I understand this in light of that. – ashes999 Jul 6 '12 at 20:19
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I think your confusion will be clarified if you try to understand what the Arabic word "Shaytan" means and why devil is called Shaytan (Insha Allah).

In the Arabic language, Shaytan is derived from Shatana, which means the far thing. Hence, the Shaytan has a different nature than mankind, and his sinful ways are far away from every type of righteousness. It was also said that Shaytan is derived from Shata, (literally 'burned'), because it was created from fire. Some scholars said that both meanings are correct, although they state that the first meaning is more plausible. Hence, Shaytan is derived from the word that means, far away. This is why they call those who are rebellious (or mischievous) from among the Jinns and mankind a `Shaytan'. So, shaytan is a title for the rebellious and mischievous one.

There are two types of creation (that is known to us) - One is Jinn and the other, Mankind. As Allah says in Qur'an:

And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. [Surat Adh-Dhāriyāt 51:56]

We all know mankind. The word Jinn in Arabic refers to something that is concealed and hidden.

It says in Lisaan al`Arab: Janana means to cover or conceal. Everything that is concealed from you is Junna 'Anka (concealed from you). Jannahu al-layl means the night covered him. The Jinn is so called because they are concealed and hidden from view. Hence the fetus is called al-Janeen because it is concealed in his mother’s womb.

These Jinns like human beings live and die, they procreate and there are righteous ones among them and the rebellious ones among them. Just like us. You might want to check this answer for the verses from Qur'an. We believe that Iblees is one of the Jinns (the verses quoted in other answers). There is also a opinion that he is an angel but most strongest opinion says he was a Jinn. Since he disputed and rebelled against Allah, he is also called Shaytan. We believe he is the father of all devils.

Hence, there exists among Jinn and mankind, the rebellious ones who are the Shaytan/devil.

Source: Why the Devil is called Shaytan

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And [mention] when We said to the angels, "Prostrate to Adam," and they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was of the jinn and departed from the command of his Lord. Then will you take him and his descendants as allies other than Me while they are enemies to you? Wretched it is for the wrongdoers as an exchange. Qur'an 18:50

From the above Ayath of the Holy Qur'an, Allah makes it clear that Iblees is a Jinn. There is no such Hadith or a verse of Holy Qur'an that stresses Iblees is a metaphorical concept.


ۚ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ (And Allah is the All-Knower, the Wise)

Jazaakallah...

  • It is clear but did you know there are opinions quoted among the muffassiron that he was an angel, see for instance Tabari. – Kilise Feb 15 '17 at 12:21

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