Depiction of a shaitan by Siyah Qalam, c. 14th/15th century. The art-style of Uighur or Central Asia origin was used by Muslim Turks to depict various legendary beings.[1]

A shaitan or shaytan (Arabic: شَيْطَان, romanizedshayṭān; pl.: شَيَاطِين shayāṭīn; Hebrew: שָׂטָן; Turkish: Şeytan or Semum, lit. 'devil', 'demon', or 'satan') is an evil spirit in Islam, inciting humans and jinn to sin by whispering (وَسْوَسَة, waswasa) in their hearts (قَلْب qalb).[2][3] Although invisible to humans, shayatin are imagined to be ugly and grotesque creatures created from Hellfire.[4][5](p21)

The Quran speaks of various ways the shayatin tempt humans into sin. They may teach sorcery, float below the heavens to steal the news of the angels, or lurk near humans without being seen. Several hadith tell of how the shayatin are responsible for various calamities that affect personal life. Both the hadith literature and Arab folklore usually speak of the shayatin in abstract terms, describing their evil influence only. According to hadith, during Ramadan they are said to be chained in Hell.

In Islamic theology, the influence of the shayatin on humans is elaborated as an internal struggle against the noble angels, often described in the invisible reality called alam al-mithal or alam al-malakut.

Etymology and terminology

The Arabic term šayṭān (Arabic: شَيْطَان) originated from the triliteral root š-ṭ-n ("distant, astray") and is cognate to Satan. It has a theological connotation designating a creature distant from the divine mercy.[6]

The term is attested in Geʽez. In the Book of Enoch, "angels of punishment prepare the instruments for the säyəṭanə".[7] Similarly to the Quranic usage, the term referred to the hosts of Satan.[8] Book of Jubilees mentions the shayṭān Mastema, who commands over evil spirits (manafəsəta).[7]

In later Surahs of the Quran, the shayāṭīn might have been substituted by jinn. Paul Arno Eichler describes the theory that devils have been taken from pagan beliefs as unconvincing, since the idea of a multitude of devils is already present in Judeo-Christian tradition.[a] Generally, the term šayṭān appears in traditions associated with Jewish and Christian narratives, while the term jinn represents entities of polytheistic background.[b]

Islamic tradition disagrees as to whether shayāṭīn are a sub-category of jinn or form a distinct group of creatures on their own.[11]

Taken from Islamic literary sources, the term shayāṭīn may be translated as "demons", "satans", or "devils".[12]

In the Quran

In the Quran, shayāṭīn are mentioned as often as angels. The shayāṭīn are mentioned less frequently than Šayṭān,[13](p278) but they are equally hostile to God's order (sharīʿa). They teach sorcery to humans (2:102),[13](p278) inspire their friends to dispute with the faithful (6:121),[13](p278) make evil suggestions (23:97)[13](p278) towards both humans and jinn (6:112),[14] and secretly listen to the council of the angels (Quran 15:16–18).[9] Quran 26:95 speaks about the junud Iblīs, the invisible hosts of Iblīs (comparable to the junud of angels fighting along Muhammad in Quran 9:40).[15]

Despite their reluctant nature, the shayāṭīn are ultimately under God's command and do not form their own party.[13](p278) According to the Islamic doctrine of tawḥīd, both good and evil are prescribed by God.[13](p279) Quran 2:168 explicitly warns people not to follow the Šayṭān, implying that humans are free to choose between the path of God or the one of Šayṭān.[13](p277) However, Šayṭān only promises delusion and there is no success in following his path (4:120).[13](p276) In the Quranic story of Iblīs, who represents the shayāṭīn in the primordial fall, shows that they are subordinative to and created by God, by means of functioning as tempters.[13](p277–278)[16](p459) Šayṭān can only act with God's permission (58:10).[13](p276) God tasks the shayāṭīn as companions to the misbelievers (7:27),[13](p278)[16](p452) and to incite them against each other (19:83).[13](p278) After convincing sinners to remain in their disbelief, the shayāṭīn betray their followers when faced with God's judgement (Quran 3:175;8:48; 43:38).[13](p277)[16](p452)

In the ḥādīth literature

Depiction of shayāṭīn in the Turco-Islamic horror film "Semum" (2008).[17]

The ḥādīth speak about shayāṭīn as malevolent forces, linked to the psychological life of humans.[18](p46)[19](pp. 254) The emphasis on the devils' evil nature, sometimes veils the Quranic depiction of the shayāṭīn as forces under God's control.[19](pp. 255) However, ḥādīth clarify that God is ultimately in control of both angels and devils and that only God decides whom the devils can take to hell.[17]

Sometimes, specific devils are considered to be tasked with disturbing specific spheres of human activities.[20] Eminent among them are: Dasim assigned to causing troubles between married couples; Awar, who incites people to commit illicit sexual intercourse (zinā); Sut, who inspires lies and gossip; Tir causing injuries; and Zalambur, assigned to the market and presiding over dishonest and fraudulent business transactions.[21]

Although the ḥādīth describe the devils mostly as evil influences, they indicate that they are composed of a body. The shayāṭīn are said to eat with their left hand, therefore Muslims are advised to eat with their right hand (Sahih Muslim Book 23 No. 5004).[22] Shayāṭīn, although invisible, are depicted as immensely ugly (Sahih Muslim Book 26 No. 5428). The sun is said to set and rise between the horns of a shayṭān and during this moment, the doors to hell are open, thus Muslims should not pray at this time (Sahih Muslim 612d Book 5, Hadith 222).[18](pp. 45–60) Satan and his minions battle the angels of mercy over the soul of a sinner; however, they are referred to as "angels of punishment" instead of shayāṭīn (Sahih Muslim 612d: Book 21, Hadith 2622).[18](p56)

However, the ḥādīths also describe the limits of shayāṭīn. Ritual purity is said to attract angels and fend off shayāṭīn, while shayāṭīn are attracted to impurity, filthy, and desacralized places.[23] Before reciting the Quran, Muslims should take wudu/abdest and seek refuge in God from the shayāṭīn.[13](p279) Reciting specific prayers[c] is further believed to protect against the shayāṭīn.[24] If a shayṭān successfully interrupts a ritual Muslim prayer, the Muslim has to prostrate two times and continue (Sahih Bukhari 4:151).[18](pp. 51) During Ramadan the shayāṭīn are chained in hell (Sahih al-Bukhari 1899).[10]: 229  Shayāṭīn are sent by Iblis to cause misery among humans and return to him for report (Muslim 8:138).[18](pp. 54) A shayṭān is said to tempt humans through their veins (Muslim 2174).[18](pp. 74)[20]

Kalām

A visual rendition of the Islamic model of the soul showing the position of "nafs" relative to other concepts, based on a consensus of 18 surveyed academic and religious experts[25]

Islamic theology usually accepts three types of invisible creatures: angels (malāʾikah), djinn, and devils (šayāṭīn). While good jinn rarely draw the attention of scholars of the Quran (mufassirūn), the supposed negative influence of evil jinn and devils on humans are studied in depth.[26](p21) The evil jinn are distinguished from shayāṭīn by their attributes: Whereas jinn share common characteristics with humans (i.e. they are mortal and die, follow different religions, and can, at least theoretically, be converted to Islam), the shayāṭīn are exclusively evil and are immortal until Judgement Day.[27][26] Furthermore, the father of the jinn is al-Jann and the father of the shayāṭīn is Iblis.[d] Like the jinn, the shayāṭīn are supposed to be created from fire, because their leader claims to be made from fire (nār).[30][31][32] It is probably this supposed substance they share with the jinn, which allows them to ascend into the air in an attempt to listen to the angels.[16](p182)

Details about the negative influences of the devils largely derive from the Quran and the ḥadīṯ. The devils promote their own sinful characteristics among humans, including pride, envy, acquisitiveness, anger, lust, and gluttony.[20] Some scholars explained their influences from a rationalistic perspective. Al-Ghazali (c. 1058 – 1111) reconciles the literal meaning (Ẓāhir) with Avicennan cosmology based on reason. According to the philosophers (falsafa), the word 'angel' refers to "celestial intellects" or "immaterial souls". Ghazali opined that devils might be of a similar nature, that is, that they are celestial immaterial objects influencing human minds.[33]: 101  By that, Ghazali does not mean to deny the reality of devils, rather that devils can only be known by their impact.[34]

In his response to the question, how devils, who are conceptualized as creatures of a subtile body (i.e. either fallen angels or evil jinn) in early kalām, can run through the body of humans, he explains that it is not the devil himself, but the effects of the devil (athar ash-shayṭān) that run through human body and influence the soul.[33]: 102  Humans were to discover temptations within themselves,described as devilish whisperings (waswās).[33]: 103  Such devilish whisperings are of the same nature than inspirations (ilhām) of the angels. The only difference between ilhām and waswās lies in the cause: Ilhām is caused by an angel and inspires good that benefits humanity, while waswās is caused by a devil (šayṭān) and inspires sin mostly to enrich the ego.[33]: 104 [35] According to the Islamic conception of the cosmos, such inspirations are not worldly, but are considered to derive from the celestial realm (malakūt).[33]: 104  However, devils attempt to distract a human's mind towards earthly matters, drawing it back to the material world.[36][37] A similar conceptualization on angels and devils is given by Ali Hujwiri.[38]

Some scholars differentiate between the waswās al-shayṭān and waswās al-nafs ("vices" also called dīv in Persian literature).[39][40] Al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi argues that the latter are internal to humans and result from passion (hawā).[20] Others equate nafs and the whisperings of the shayāṭīn. Najm al-Din Kubra states "the lower soul, Satan, and the angels are not external things to you; rather they are you".[20]

Athari scholar (al-atharīyah) Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (1292–1350) elaborates on three possible states of a human soul (heart), depending on its relationship with devils: the first one is devoid of ʾīmān (faith), the devil does not whisper since he is already in complete control of that soul; the second heart is illuminated by ʾīmān, the devil whispers to, sometimes winning and sometimes losing; the third heart is brimming with ʾīmān and light (nūr) like heaven, from which the veils of passion have been lifted, so whenever a devil were to approach this heart, the devils are burned by a meteor when they approach.[41]

Popular culture

In 2008 Hasan Karacadağ published the movie Semum about one of the shayatin.[e] The šayṭān was released from hell. Jealous of humans, the šayṭān seeks out to harm and torment humans, and takes possession over the body of a woman.[43] The movie deals with questions regarding good and evil in Islamic thought. The šayṭān of the movie describes himself as a loyal servant of ʿAzāzīl (another name of Satan in Islamic tradition), whom he venerates as a deity after feeling forgotten by God. However, in accordance with the teachings of the Quran, Azazil turns out to be unreliable, while God ultimately intervenes on behalf of those who stayed loyal. By that, the movie validates belief in the Islamic core doctrine of tawḥīd when confronted with unknown challanges and evil.[17]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ TRANSLATION: (in English)
    "The idea that Satan drew a whole hosts into his fall is known as the Jewish concept and is still read from the Bible by Christian sects today. It is not correct to say that the idea of a multiple satans can be traced back to the adoption of jinn into the Islamic idea of Satan, as Goldziher proposed. Muhammad took the idea of multiple satans from the biblical religions. It merely found support by certain ideas of djinn, but only the [non-Quranic] demonic jinn come into consideration for this. There is not a single passage in the Quran that gives rise to the assumption that the unbelieving jinn would become "Shaitans"; this can only be shown by the demonic jinn.
    ORIGINAL: (in German)
    "Der Gedanke, dass der Satan eine ganze Schar in seinen Sturz hineingezogen habe, ist als jüdische Auffassung bekannt und wird von christlichen Sekten auch heute noch aus der Bibel herausgelesen. Dass die Vorstellung von einer Mehrheit von Satanen auf die Eingliederung der Dschinn in die Satansvorstellung zurückzuführen sei, wie Goldziher meint, ist nicht richtig. Die Vorstellung von einer Mehrheit von Satanen hat Muhammad von den biblischen Religionen übernommen. Sie hat dann in der Eingliederung von gewissen Dschinn eine Stütze gefunden. Hierfür kommen aber einzig die dämonischen Dschinn in Betracht. Es gibt keine einzige Stelle im Koran Anlass zu der Annahme, dass die ungläubigen Dschinn etwa zu "Schaitanen" würden, dass lässt sich nur von den dämonischen Dschinn zeigen."[9]: 59 
  2. ^ From T. Nünlist (2015) Dämonenglaube im Islam[10]: 286 
    TRANSLATION: (in English)
    "Simplified, it can be stated that devils and Iblis appear in reports with Jewish background. Depictions, whose actors are referred to as jinn are generally located apart from Judeo-Christian traditions."[10]: 48, 286 
    ORIGINAL: (in German)
    "Vereinfacht lässt sich festhalten, dass Satane und Iblis in Berichten mit jüdischem Hintergrund auftreten. Darstellungen, deren Akteure als jinn bezeichnet werden, sind in der Regel außerhalb der jüdischen-christlichen Überlieferung zu verorten."[10]: 48, 286 
  3. ^ like "A'uzu Billahi Minesh shaitanir Rajiim" or specific Surahs of the Quran, like "An-Naas" or "Al-Falaq"
  4. ^ A minority of scholars, such as Hasan Basri and Muqatil ibn Sulayman, disagreed with this view, holding that Iblis is both the father of the jinn and shayāṭīn and accordingly equated with Al-Jann.[28] The Mu'tazila, inspired by the disciples of Hasan Basri, are said to hold that not shayāṭīn, but jinn, whisper to humans. Simultaneously, demonic possession, commonly associated with the jinn, is rejected.[29]
  5. ^ TRANSLATION: (in English)
    "Based on a hadith, Karacadağ argued that Semum was not a Jinn and came from the same lineage as Satan." ORIGINAL: (in Turkish)
    Karacadağ, bir hadisten yola çıkarak Semum'un bir Cin olmadığını ve Şeytan ile aynı soydan geldiğini savundu.[42]

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