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The problem of evil: How does an infinitely merciful & compassionate Allah create an evil Shaitan to plague us every day of our lives?

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First of all, please note that Satan is not the only bad creature. The history can tell you a long list of many humans who killed many innocents and/or misdirected their followers. Qur'an also says we should seek refuge to the Lord, not only from the devil we cannot see, but also from the devils we see among humans:

1.Say: "I seek refuge with (Allah) the Lord of mankind, 2. The King of mankind, 3. The Illah (God) of mankind, 4. From the evil of the whisperer (devil who whispers in the hearts of men) who withdraws (from his whispering in one's heart after one remembers Allah), 5. Who whispers in the breasts of mankind, 6. Of jinn and mankind. - Surah An-Nas

But why these extremely bad creatures are created by God?

None of them were bad just after they were created. As @owari answered, Satan was worshipping the Lord for a very long time. But it was free to make good or bad choices, and once it made bad choice when Human was created (as @owari referenced)

None of the murderers were bad people just after born. They were cute and innocent children, but they were free to make good or bad choices, and they made bad choices during their lives.


Why God made Satan or murderers free to make bad choices?

The freedom to make choices is one of the great gifts of the Lord to the creatures. Without it, belief or worship of the Lord would be of zero value, because it would be just of force, not choice.

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    Your answer raises the problem of free will. Nov 11, 2014 at 15:28
  • Your answer doesn't answer the question: why does a benevolent god create or allow evil?
    – user574859
    Nov 19, 2022 at 19:05
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  • Allah is Just so He creates anything creatable as soon as there is a cause for it to exist based on the causality principles. Satan was creatable so was created, a mercy toward Satan as one creature of Him. Note that Allah is Ar-Rahman which means have mercy toward every living and non-living species that He creates, every Muslim and non-Muslim, every human and non-human, and etc.

  • Satan was not created as devil, his name is Hareth indeed, he was created as a Jinn and left free to choose between good and bad, he was good until in a hard (for him) examination of Allah he failed and chose the wrong, then he chose to remain bad and an enemy of the human being. We are also all created as humans, not good or bad, we ourselves earn attributes based on our choices in our real everyday life.

وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِآدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ كَانَ مِنَ الْجِنِّ فَفَسَقَ عَنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّهِ أَفَتَتَّخِذُونَهُ وَذُرِّيَّتَهُ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِن دُونِي وَهُمْ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ بِئْسَ لِلظَّالِمِينَ بَدَلًا

Behold! We said to the angels, "Bow down to Adam": They bowed down except Iblis. He was one of the Jinns, and he broke the Command of his Lord. Will ye then take him and his progeny as protectors rather than Me? And they are enemies to you! Evil would be the exchange for the wrong-doers! [18:50]

  • It was conflicting with God's mercy and compassion if there was set any dominance put aside for Satan over us, but according to Quran Satan and his group has no dominance over the human being until we accept their obedience and go after them:

وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم مَّا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِيَّ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

And Satan will say when the matter is decided: "It was Allah Who gave you a promise of Truth: I too promised, but I failed in my promise to you. I had no authority over you except to call you but ye listened to me: then reproach not me, but reproach your own souls. I cannot listen to your cries, nor can ye listen to mine. I reject your former act in associating me with Allah. For wrong-doers there must be a grievous penalty." [14:22]

إِنَّ عِبَادِي لَيْسَ لَكَ عَلَيْهِمْ سُلْطَانٌ إِلَّا مَنِ اتَّبَعَكَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ

"For over My servants no authority shalt thou have, except such as put themselves in the wrong and follow thee." [15:42]

وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِي آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا فَانسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ فَكَانَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ

Relate to them the story of the man to whom We sent Our signs, but he passed them by: so Satan followed him up, and he went astray. [7:175]


Update (31 march 2024):

Not being around for some years, I was active in some Persian's forum where we used to discuss issues under the supervision of some Shia scholars. What follows has no support from scholars, and some may dislike the answer, but it makes sense to me and found no reason in Quran or Hadeeth than to contradict it. Indeed it has its base in psychology but goes well with Shia beliefs.

The main question is this: why Allah created someone who he already knew from the very first beginning that will go astray at some time during his life in Dunya, and will thus deserve remaining in the hell for ever ever ever, with no end. At this point some scholars may reject the question by adding that "ever" in Quran and Ahadeeth doesn't necessarily mean really "ever" in the sense that there will be no end, but it will have a very very very late end. Also there are some other explanations that say even if the hell will have no end, torture in the hell might have. Any such explanations have some hints in Quran and Ahadeeth but none are so explicit and clear, so I will try to answer the question as is, since there exist Ahadeeth that can be more easily understood this way, and Allah knows best. No need to mention that if no one resides in the Hell for ever (people be purified there and finally enter the Heaven), or Hell will not mean torture for ever ever ever with no end, or if the answer giving here is correct, no one will fall out of Mercy of Allah, and so creating the Devil will lose its point altogether.

My answer to the question reads as follows. Have you ever seen someone who is so sad, or extremely angry? Such people may stop sitting and start walking as a light reaction, or punch their heads into a wall as a more sever reaction. But why? why such reactions? (also think Why people dance? why to move body when a music is listened? why people cannot avoid such behavior quite easily?) Sometimes inner pains, are so great that people hurt their bodies so to forget the soul pain for a moment. I have seen people who wished to be killed when ther were demonstrated how guilty they were when they have committed a crime like killing the innocents. Many even commit suicide in that regard. Now the question is to think about if people may accept physical punishment (like burning in fire) for themselves in the hope that feeling guilty will let them free for a second or two. People will never object their creator when they feel all the opportunities and mercy Allah has given them through out their lives, and feel how guilty they are when remember what they have done back in respond. They may ask Allah to torture them as they know they deserve it, and that they implicitly hope receiving this punishment may calm them a little bit. Beside all these psychological states, remember there is a psychological disorder called Masochism which says people may even enjoy an activity that appears to be painful or tedious. This is the way they like to live in the hell, so why Allah give them Mercy the way people in Heaven expect and like? Allah gives his mercy the way people ask for, as he did when Israelites asked Allah a food while Allah has had given them foods way better: "وَ إِذْ قُلْتُمْ يَا مُوسَيٰ لَنْ نَصْبِرَ عَلَيٰ طَعَامٍ وَاحِدٍ فَادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُخْرِجْ لَنَا مِمَّا تُنْبِتُ الْأَرْضُ مِنْ بَقْلِهَا وَ قِثَّائِهَا وَ فُومِهَا وَ عَدَسِهَا وَ بَصَلِهَا قَالَ أَتَسْتَبْدِلُونَ الَّذِي هُوَ أَدْنَيٰ بِالَّذِي هُوَ خَيْرٌ" translated as "O Moses! we cannot endure one kind of food (always); so beseech thy Lord for us to produce for us of what the earth groweth, -its pot-herbs, and cucumbers, Its garlic, lentils, and onions. He said: Will ye exchange the better for the worse?"

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    Why do you call him Hareth? Dec 5, 2012 at 18:32
  • That's according to a long Hadeeth that states his life story.
    – owari
    Dec 5, 2012 at 18:40
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    But his name in the quoran is Shaitan? Is that a bukhari hadith? Dec 5, 2012 at 18:42
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    No Shaitan is an attribute like devil, even microbes can be called Shaitan! The Hadeeth I've seen is in Shia books if i'm not wrong, might also be there in Bukhari's book but I don't know. Godspeed.
    – owari
    Dec 5, 2012 at 18:46
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    @islam101, Iblis is yet another attribute of him! He is Iblis because he got hopeless of the mercy of Allah, so he also didn't repent and instead promised to mislead us --the off-spring of Adam he had avoided to prostrate in front of him.
    – owari
    Dec 6, 2012 at 11:05
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I just want to quote from tafseer Al-mizan by grand allamah tabataba'i, a contemporary Islamic philosopher:

Guidance, righteous dead, obedience is realized when misguidance, sinful deeds and arrogance exists. The invitation to guidance is complete when an invitation to misguidance also exists...

Therefore, until there are human beings on earth, there should be iblis and its allies to invite people to misguidance.

This answers the question of why he has been given the time to misguide the people. About his creation though @owari has elaborated. You can refer to the tafseer of Surah a'raf 1:25 to read more about this (unfortunately only in Persian and Arabic for now).

Hope this helps,

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  • +1 your quote has some strong wisdom in it.
    – user2350
    Jun 6, 2013 at 14:36
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    @mezhang, Al-mizan tafseer is just fantastic on the wisdom behind things. The arguments are also supported with authentic ahadeeth from Ma'sum.
    – rowman
    Jun 7, 2013 at 7:44
  • Your answer doesn't answer the question: why does a benevolent god create or allow evil?
    – user574859
    Nov 19, 2022 at 19:07

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