How did Iblis (Satan) act when the order to bow down to Adam(PBUH) was given by Allah? What is the relationship between the devil and the angels in terms of creation?
Allah created man out of dry mud, jinns out of fire and angels out of light. In the order of the creation angels come first, then jinns and then human beings. The first human being to be created was Adam(PBUH), who was also the first prophet.
When Allah created Adam(PBUH), He ordered the angels to bow down to him. Although all of the angels bowed down, Iblis avoided bowing down. After that the devil requested permission from Allah to continue to act as devil until the day of judgement. When his request was accepted, Iblis continued to lead human beings astray. Although the bowing down of the angels to Adam(PBUH) is a matter of the unseen world, there are some explanations about the course and form of that happening in our interpretation books. According to the explanations of Ebus Suud, Iblis used to live together with the angels and worship like them. When the order to bow down was given Iblis differed from the angels. According to a second point of view there is a type of angels that are born and die; they are called jinns. Iblis was one of them. According to another point of view, the order to bow down was for all of the jinns. However, by mentioning angels, God also addressed jinns. Thus not only angels but also all of the spiritual beings were ordered to bow down.(1)
There are two points of views regarding jinns:
1. All of the spiritual beings are called jinns. Thus angels and devils are included in the notion of jinn. So there is both a general and a special relationship between angels and jinns. All angels are jinns, but all jinns are not angels.
2. Some of the spiritual beings are called jinns. Spiritual beings are divided into three parts:
a. Good ones: Angels.
b. Bad ones: Satans
c. That can be both good and bad: Jinns.
According to the information given in Safvetüt-Tefasir:
1. Iblis is not an angel.
2. Angels are innocent beings; they never disobeyed God, whereas Iblis disobeyed God by not bowing down.
3. Angels were created out of light, Iblis out of fire.
4. Angels are not born or reproduce, whereas Iblis reproduces and multiplies. As it is stated in the Koran, Chapter Al-Kahf: Iblis is of jinns.(2)
According to a report from Ibn Abbas, some interpreters have the view that riotous and seditious human beings and jinns are called devil. There are devils among jinns, and there are also devils among human beings.
As for the form of the angels bowing down to Adam (PBUH); it is obvious that the ordered bowing down was not carried out with the intention of worshipping. To worship other beings than Allah is polytheism. The bowing down of angels to Adam(PBUH) means to accept his caliphate, that is to obey him. Although it means respect to Adam(PBUH), in fact it is a kind of worship to Allah.
As a matter of fact greeting in previous nations was in the form of bowing down on the ground without the intension of worshipping. For instance his brothers bowing down to Joseph(PBUH) actually shows honor and respect.
However, it is also possible to regard their bowing down to Adam(PBUH) in the form of worshipping. In this case, the being to be bowed down to is Allah. Adam(PBUH) functioned as qiblah. Consequently the bowing down was directly to Allah. (3)
On the other hand, by making the angels bow down to Adam(PBUH), Allah showed that the universe bows down to human beings; and by mentioning that Iblis claimed superiority over him, Allah drew attention to the fact that the devil would be such a big obstacle for the material and spiritual development of human beings.
1. Tefsir-i Ebu`s-Suûd, 1:87.
2. Safvetü`t-Tefasir, 1:52.
3. Hülasatü`l-Beyan, 1:97.
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