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In verse (34:41) the Angels answer Allah's question whether those who strive against Allah's verses (mentioned in 34:38) were following/believing them by saying:

They will say, "Exalted are You! You, [O Allah ], are our benefactor not them. Rather, they used to worship the jinn; most of them were believers in them."

are the words put in bold letters of this answer to be taken literally?

Or does it mean they were misguided by the jinn.

I'd like also to know whether those who strive against Allah mentioned in (34:38) have been named somewhere (I mean are they known) or is it just a general statement which doesn't address certain people ...

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It's literal.

The answer the Angels give in 34:41 is a direct answer to the literal question asked in 34:40:

ويوم يحشرهم جميعا ثم يقول للملائكة أهؤلاء إياكم كانوا يعبدون ("And [mention] the Day when He will gather them all and then say to the angels, 'Did these [people] used to worship you?').

The 'people' being referred to are those who claimed to worship the Angels and that's why Allah (ﷻ) will bring these people & the Angels all together and He will ask the Angels the literal question - did they worship you truly? The question is meant to expose these people, from the mouths of the very beings (i.e. Angels) who they took as objects of worship.

To understand the answer of the Angels, you first have to understand what "worship" is. Worship includes obedience. You are worshiping the one whose orders you are following. Even if these people made Angels the 'object/image' of their worship, whose orders were they following? Did the Angels ask them to worship them (Angels)? No! So these people were following the orders of someone else.

So the Angels will answer that these people did not actually worship them (i.e., Angels) because the Angels never call to worship of anything other than Allah (ﷻ). Rather, they point out it was the devils (Shayateen) who they worshipped because it was the devils telling them to worship other than Allah (ﷻ). So it is a literal answer.

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

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  • As for those who strive against Allah's verses or signs: there's no mentioning of specific people or a tribe or so the verse seem to address all those who stand against the true path and hinder people to find or follow it:

    (And those who strive against Our Ayat, to frustrate them,) means, those who try to block people from the path of Allah and from following His Messengers and believing in His signs, (Source: qtafsir)

  • As for those about whom the Angels where asked by Allah ibn Kathir identified them as the idolators:

    Allah tells us that on the Day of Resurrection, He will rebuke the idolators before all of creation. He will ask the angels whom the idolators used to worship, claiming that their idols were in the form of these angels and that they could bring them nearer to Allah. He will ask the angels:

    (Was it you that these people used to worship)
    meaning, "did you command them to worship you" Allah says in Surat Al-Furqan:

    (Was it you who misled these My servants or did they (themselves) stray from the (right) path) (25:17). And He will say to 'Isa, peace be upon him:

    (Did you say unto men: "Worship me and my mother as two gods besides Allah,' He will say: "Glory be to You! It was not for me to say what I had no right (to say).") (5:116). Similarly, the angels will say:

    (Glorified be You!)
    meaning, exalted and sanctified be You above the notion that there could be any god besides You.

    (You are our Protector instead of them.)
    means, we are Your servants and we disown these people before You.

    (Nay, but they used to worship the Jinn;)
    meaning, the Shayatin, because they are the ones who made idol worship attractive to them and who misguided them.

    (most of them were believers in them).
    This is like the Ayah: (They invoke nothing but females besides Him, and they invoke nothing but Shaytan, a persistent rebel! Allah cursed him) (4:117-118).
    (Source: qtafsir)

So ibn Kathir seems to consider the Satans and Jinn only as a source of misguidance one would follow rather than something one would worship!

Let's now check other sources about the meaning of this verse:

  • Imam at-Tabari in his tafsir only addresses the last part of the verse:
    (NOTE wherever I displayed Arabic text the translation is mine take it carefully):

    ( أكثرهم بهم مؤمنون ) يقول : أكثرهم بالجن مصدقون ، يزعمون أنهم بنات الله ، تعالى الله عما يقولون علوا كبيرا .
    (most of them were believers in them) means: most of them believe in Jinn and pretend they are the daughters of Allah. Exalted is HE from and high above what they say by great sublimity.

This might be a sign that people used to believe in Jinn, but not as an evidence for worshiping them in a literal meaning.

  • Imam al-Baghawi in his tafsir addresses the whole verse let's stick on the part related to your inquiry:

    ( بل كانوا يعبدون الجن ) يعني : الشياطين ، فإن قيل لهم كانوا يعبدون الملائكة فكيف وجه قوله : ( يعبدون الجن ) قيل : أراد الشياطين ، زينوا لهم عبادة الملائكة ، فهم كانوا يطيعون الشياطين في عبادة الملائكة ، فقوله ) ( يعبدون ) أي : يطيعون الجن ( أكثرهم بهم مؤمنون ) يعني : مصدقون للشياطين
    (Rather, they used to worship the jinn) means: The Satan's, so if it was said they used to worship the Angels what is the meaning of (worship the jinn) it was said: this refers to the Satans, as they made worshiping the Angels pleasing to them, so they were following and obeying the Satans in their worship of the Angels in this case (worship) means obey the Jinn (most of them were believers in them) means believing the (whispering of the) Jinn .

This might be a sign that people used to believe and obey in Jinn, but not as an evidence for worshiping them in a literal meaning. It also shows that the Jinn might have made worshiping the angels pleasing to some people.

  • Imam al-Qurtobi in his tafsir addresses some parts of this verse and made the following input:

    بل كانوا يعبدون الجن أي يطيعون إبليس وأعوانه . وفي التفاسير : أن حيا يقال لهم بنو مليح من خزاعة كانوا يعبدون الجن ، ويزعمون أن الجن تتراءى لهم ، وأنهم ملائكة ، وأنهم بنات الله ; وهو قوله : وجعلوا بينه وبين الجنة نسبا .
    (Rather, they used to worship the jinn) means they obeyed Iblis and his agents (aides). And in the books of tafsir: There were a tail of tribe Khuza'a called Banu Mulayh who were worshiping the Jinn and they pretended that the Jinn made themselves visible to them and that they were angels, and that they were the daughters of Allah and this is mentioned in "And they have claimed between Him and the jinn a lineage," (37:158)

This is the first indication of an existing Jinn worship, where the Jinn declared themselves as Angels.

  • Ibn 'Attiyah in his tafsir and als ibn Hayyan in his al-Bahr al-Moheet widely discussed the matter of worshiping the angels and that the angels in their answer didn't actually denied being worshiped but they rejected it with this statement, ibn 'Attiyah then concluded:

    وعبادة البشر للجن هي فيما نعرفه نحن: بطاعتهم إياهم، وسماعهم من وسوستهم وإغوائهم، فهذا نوع من العبادة، وقد يجوز إن كان في الأمم الكافرة من عبد الجن، وفي القرآن آيات يظهر منها ذلك في الأنعام وغيرها.
    And the worship of Jinn by humans is as we (got to) know by obeying them and listening to their whispering and misleading them and this actually is a kind of worship. And it is possible that there are (have been) among the disbelieving nations some who worshiped the Jinn and in the Qur'an there are verses that shows this in surat al-An'aam and elsewhere.

I'd like to add some verses on the matter for your info: (6:128) and (72:6).

Conclusion: Basically both of your statements apply it can be taken literally and taken as an explanation of the misleading by the Jinn and Satan, both can be considered the same.

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