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Painting of Iblis in The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp (c. 1522 CE)
Party Like It's 632
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Turning towards Mecca

Iblis is the Quranic counterpart of the Christian devil.

Originally, the story of Iblis was taken from Jewish lore as a fire-created angel, who refused to prostrate himself before mankind. However later Muslim exegetes felt upset, that angels are not merely trustful beings, so they decided to count him as a jinn, despite many earlier reports telling otherwise. Some exegetes even altered the Quran to suit the idea of impeccable angels,[1] afterwards claiming their own version always existed. Therefore, the works of many scholars, such as Tabari, who defended Iblis' angelic nature, have been censored.[2] Muslims following an allegedly original version of Islam believe, contrary to the earlier reports, that Iblis is a jinn.[3][4] Some early scholars also opined that Iblis was a jinn from the beginning, but here the jinn are substituted by devils.

Background stories[edit]

In one version, spread through authentic sources for Islam, such as YouTube, Iblis was created by the Big Man himself more than 25,000 years ago by the hot wind of the desert, along with his jinn brethren.[5] As simple as his creation may seem, Iblis' story on the other hand is a bit confusing. He helped out God like all the other jinns until 25,000 years ago, when his buddies went rogue and disobeyed the Almighty, who then unleashed the wrath of the angels on them. Iblis, however, "was recognized from amongst the jinn by God as 'a worthy pupil'" and got to hang with the angels.[5] In this version, the jinn "to whom Iblis obviously belongs" are "clearly distinct" from the angels by their creation from fire instead of light (note: fire and light have been regarded as the same thing within the Islamic literature, therefore most scholars haven't seen any trouble depicting Iblis as an angel).[6] So when Iblis defended himself later onwards, that the Big Man only addressed the angels, by stating he was created from fire, he was punished for questioning the perfection of the Big Man's judgment (yes, angels are perfect but God is perfecter). Following this strand of Iblis' backstory, he was elevated to the rank of angels, due to his worship over 2000 years. However, when he argued he was better than Adam 'cause of his hard work, he was punished nevertheless.

In another version, based on the reports of the earliest Muslims, but usually regarded as unauthentic by many Muslims (today, as this version frequently appears in pre-colonial Muslim literature), Iblis was not a jinn, but an angel, who led the angels into battle. Some story, but Iblis being an angel now, when God created humans, God decided to appoint him as a Satan and thus decided Iblis' doom. So God checkmated Iblis by giving him a contradictory order: First he should never prostrate himself before other than God, but at the same time, insisting he must prostrate himself before the first human.[7]

Both versions end up in the story of the Quran: All the angels were commanded by God to bow down before Adam, but Iblis refused, reckoning that being made from fire made him higher up the food chain than Adam, who was made from mud.[8] Refusing God is a big no-no, and Iblis subsequently got his ass kicked out of heaven for it.[8]

As punishment, God condemned the poor bastard to the fiery pits of Hell, but, in one of his typical, pointless, makes-you-wonder-what-goes-through-the-guy's-mind kind of moves, God postponed it until Judgement Day so Iblis could go about tempting people and causing all sorts of mischief.[8]

Function of Iblis[edit]

One such act of mischief that makes Iblis unusual among the devils of the world's religions is his tempting of Muhammad's nephew AliWikipedia, who he almost convinced not to "[perform] the ritual washing of the Prophet's dead body."[8] Although other devils, such as the Christian Satan, have been often blamed for bad things since their conception, there is no real widespread and established story about a devil being the cause of some terrible thing that happened after the stories of their respective holy books.[note 1]

Since God insists as Allah to be all-powerful rather than omnibenevolent (in Christianity, he counts on the "rather omnibenevolent part rather than all-powerful-part), Allah himself is responsible for evil (but only as a test of course!), Iblis isn't the sinister "lord of darkness". Instead, he makes people only "not believe in Allah", for example, by harmless things, such as poetry and music. For this reason, Iblis often appeared as a muse and was well-liked by many people in the Muslim world.[9]

In the end, though, it's really the same old, same old. Those who don't know their place, those who refuse to bow down to the religious hierarchy, are, de facto, the epitome of evil.[note 2]


  1. For example, although some people in the 1300s may have thought that Satan caused the Black Death, his causing it isn't a widespread, established belief. All the bad stuff happening is due to the Big Man. The evilest thing Iblis can do is make people doubt in Islam. Iblis, however, is unusual in his widely-believed post-Biblical times appearance with Ali. Well played, Iblis. Well played.
  2. Keep in mind, however, that Iblis is not considered the Lord of Evil or a fallen angel — he hasn't passed his training courses for either level yet. Muhammad Zafrulla Khan (translator), The Koran (New York: Praeger, 1970), 270.


  1. Omar Hamdan Studien Zur Kanonisierung des Korantextes: al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrīs Beiträge Zur Geschichte des Korans Otto Harrassowitz Verlag 2006 ISBN 978-3-447-05349-5 page 292 (German)
  2. compare this Tafsir App regarding Surah 2:34: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mzgs.taberitefsiri&hl=de&gl=USMany with an excerpt by https://archive.org/stream/TheCommentaryOnTheQuranVol.1ByAlTabari/The+commentary+on+the+Quran%2C+vol.+1%2C+by+al-tabari_djvu.txt
  3. https://islamqa.info/en/22232
  4. Richard Gauvain Salafi Ritual Purity: In the Presence of God Routledge 2013 ISBN 9780710313560 page 69
  5. 5.0 5.1 University of Victoria: Spirits & Prophets of Islam
  6. Gauvain, Richard (2013). Salafi Ritual Purity: In the Presence of God. Abingdon, England: Routledge. p. 73. ISBN 978-0710313560 p. 302
  7. Brosh, Na'ama; Milstein, Rachel; Yiśraʼel, Muzeʼon (1991). Biblical stories in Islamic painting. Jerusalem: Israel Museum. p. 27
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Encyclopedia Britannica: Iblis
  9. Garth Fowden "Qusayr ‘Amra: Art and the Umayyad Elite in Late Antique Syria" University of California Press, 20.09.2004 - 390 Seiten