[retrieved from Wikipedia on January 30, 2017]
Shaitan (شيطان) is the equivalent of Satan in Islam. While the term Shaytan (Arabic: شَيْطَان) has the same origin as Hebrew שָׂטָן (Sātān), Iblis (Arabic pronunciation: [ˈibliːs]) is the personal name of the Devil who is mentioned in the Qur’anic account of Genesis. According to the Qur’an, Iblis (the Arabic name used) disobeyed an order from Allah to bow to Adam, and as a result Iblis was forced out of heaven. However, he was given respite from further punishment until the day of judgment.
According to the Qur’an, God created Satan, along with all of the other jinn, out of “smokeless fire”. The primary characteristic of the Devil, besides hubris, is that he has no power other than the power to cast evil suggestions into the hearts of men and women. The Quran says that Iblis was among the angels whom God ordered to bow down to Adam after his creation, it says in 18:50:
And [mention] when We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam,” and they prostrated, except for Iblis. 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.
Whether Satan was actually an angel or a Jinn whom God elevated to the angelic assembly is a matter of debate among Muslim scholars. Some scholars, such as Ibn Abbas, believe that Satan was actually an angel whom God created out of fire. He was the most worshipful and knowledgeable of angels. Thus, when the Quran identifies Satan as a Jinn, it means that he belonged to a class of fiery creatures called Jinn, which encompasses both heavenly Jinn (fiery angels) and earthly (ordinary) Jinn. Long before Adam was created, traditions narrate, earthly jinn roamed the earth and spread corruption upon it. Satan’s ego conflated; he thought he was better than any other creature, and thus God’s favorite. God’s creation of Man and his order to the angels to venerate him was a blow to Satan’s pride. While all the angels obeyed God and bowed down to Adam, Satan disobeyed haughtily saying 38:76:
I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.
Consequently God expelled Iblis from Heaven with the latter promising to lure mankind into disbelief and evil. As for the angels, they prostrated before Adam to show their homage and obedience to God. However, Satan, adamant in his view that man is inferior, and unlike angels was given the ability to choose, made a choice of not obeying God. This caused him to be expelled by God, a fact that Satan blamed on humanity.
It was after Satan’s disobedience of God that the title of “Shaitan” was given to him, which can be roughly translated as “Enemy”. Shaitan then claims that, if the punishment for his act of disobedience is to be delayed until the Day of Judgment, then he will divert many of Adam’s own descendants from the straight path during his period of respite. God accepts the claims of Iblis and guarantees recompense to Iblis and his followers in the form of Hellfire. In order to test mankind and Jinn alike, Allah allowed Iblis to roam the earth to attempt to convert others away from his path.
Sufi view of Satan
Sufism [unorthodox pantheistic Islam] teaches that people should love God without expecting anything in return. Consequently, unrequited love is regarded by Sufis as that perfect type of love because the pining lover expects nothing in return. Thus, some Sufis see Satan as the paradigm of love and the perfect lover. Despite the traditional interpretation of Satan’s fall from Grace as an act of excessive pride and rebellion against God, some Sufis see it as an act of self-sacrifice for God’s love. Satan refused to bow down to Adam out of his uncompromising monotheism and devotion; he refused to venerate anything or anyone but God. Al-Ghazali, a well-known medieval Sufi Muslim theologian, narrates:
Encountering Iblis on the slopes of Sinai, Moses hailed him and asked, “O Iblis, why did you not prostrate before Adam?” Iblis replied, “Heaven forbid that anyone worship anything but the One. […] This command was a test.”
Satan believed that God ordered him to bow down to Adam [as an idol] to test his love for him. Iblis is an example for a true monotheist who loves God so much and is so selfless that he does not prostrate before something else, than his creator, even if he orders. So, even if the cost of Satan’s refusal to prostrate before Adam is falling from Grace, he should proceed with it out of his unconditional love for God. Abdul Karim Jili, a Muslim Sufi saint, believes that after the Day of Judgement, Hell will cease to exist, and Satan will be back to the service of God as one of his cherished angels.