Answering the Seven Cascading Contentions of Satan

The following is a translation of a philosophical rebuttal by the grand luminary Shaykh Muḥammad Husayn al-Khorasānī (1336-1406 AH; may God have mercy on him) against the seven theoretical contentions of Satan. We have translated the below excerpt from his Persian work, “An Encyclopedia of Islamic Precepts: In Commentary on The Raḍawī Sermon of Tawḥīd” (dā’irat al-ma’ārif al-islāmiyyah dar sharḥ khuṭbah tawhīdīyyah razawīyyah), where the author deals with several important discussions in Islāmic philosophy. The original Persian article referenced will be linked in the footnotes;[1] we have also buttressed some of the answers with answers written by the esteemed scholar Sayyid ‘Alī Khān al-Madanī (may God have mercy on him) to these same questions in his commentary on Du’ā Seventeen of al-Ṣaḥīfah al-Sajjādiyyah.[2]  

Al-Khorasānī states: In his book entitled “The Book of Creeds and Sects” (Kitāb al-Milal wa al-Niḥal), Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Karīm al-Shahristānī proposes a hypothetical debate that could take place between Shayṭān and the angels. Although this debate is theoretical, it subsumes issues and questions that have been brought up amidst skeptics of religion throughout history. These contentions may appear robust at first glance, and this is why Fakhr al-Rāzi states after narrating these questions: “If all of antiquity and posterity were to come together to try to answer Shayṭān’s questions, they would not be able to give an answer except the answer that God already had given him.”[3]  Mullā Ṣadrā also makes a similar statement in his tafsīr of Sūrah al-Ḥamd.[4] It is these very same theoretical questions that we shall answer one-by-one through the tawfīq of Allāh.

The Hypothetical Debate:

For the sake of argument, we suppose that Shayṭān is facing the angels and tells them: “Let us say that I accept that God the Almighty is my Lord and the Lord of all creation and that He is Omnipotent and Omniscient. I relent that He is not questioned about what He does and any time that He wills for a thing to be, it comes into existence. Even still, there are still some contentions that arise about His wisdom.”

The angels inquire, “What are those questions?”

Shayṭān responds, “I have seven contentions as follows:

  1. Before my creation, God knew that I would be the source of evil; in that case, why did He create me? What wisdom existed in this?
  2. Granted God created me in accordance with his will and decree, why did He then charge me with the responsibility of recognition and obedience to Him, imposing thereby duties on me? What is the purpose of these duties while He does not benefit at all from my obedience and is not harmed by my disobedience?
  3. Granted that God created me, charged me with responsibility, and I obeyed and devoted myself to Him: how come He charged me with prostrating to Adam? What wisdom is there in this special duty after I already was worshipping Him in the most superlative manner possible?
  4. After He created me, charged me with responsibility, and then commanded me to prostrate to Adam in particular, why did He curse me and exile me from Paradise when I did not obey Him? What is the wisdom in that when I did not do anything reprehensible? All I said was I won’t prostrate to anyone but You!
  5. Granted that He created me, charged me with responsibility, commanded me to prostrate to Adam, and then exiled and cursed me when I did not do so, how come He let me go back and tempt Adam? Why did He allow me to enter Paradise a second time to trick Adam with my whispers, such that he ended up eating from the Forbidden Tree and was exiled from Paradise with me? What was the wisdom in this, given that had He forbidden me from entering Paradise Adam would have remained in Paradise forever?
  6. After He created me, charged me with responsibility, charged me to prostrate to Adam, cursed me, then let me tempt Adam, why did He give me authority over Adam’s children such that I can lay ambush against them and whisper to them? What is the wisdom in that, given that had He created them without one to tempt them, they would have lived with sincerity, firm in their obedience? Is that not more congruent with wisdom?
  7. Let us say I submit to the wisdom of all the above; why is it that when I asked God to give me respite, He did so until the Day of Judgement? What is the wisdom in that when if He had destroyed me then and there, His creation would have been saved and evil would not exist in the world? Is not the world persisting on virtue better than its being mixed with evil?”

Answering the Contentions of the Devil

The First Contention:

“Before my creation, God knew that I would be the source of evil; so then why did He create me? What wisdom existed in this?”


In response, we tell the Devil: God knew what actions would stem from you, however His knowledge about your disobedience is not its cause. God is Omniscient and knows beforehand the disbelief of every disbeliever—however this cannot be deemed the cause of their actions. If He coerced them to behave in that way, then this contention would be valid. However, this was never the case; when He gave a command to the angels they obeyed Him out of their own volition while you chose to disobey Him.[5]

You ask: “Well what was the wisdom in my creation?” I answer: the philosophical response is that He did so for you to reach the apex of your own wretchedness. More specifically, every one of God’s attributes has manifestations in this world—God created all things through His own attributes. It is thus that we read in a supplication:

و باسمک الذی رفعت به السماوات بلا عمد و سطحت به الأرض علی وجه ماء جمد و باسمک الذی فلقت به البحر لموسی و أغرقت فرعون و قومه و باسمک الذی به أحیی عیسی بن مریم الموتی و باسمک العظیم الذی دعاک به داوود و باسمک الذی سخّرت به البراق لمحمد صلی الله علیه و آله و اسألک باسمک الذی شققت به البحار، و قامت به الجبال و اسألک باسمک الذی علّمته ملک الموت لقبض الأرواح

“By Your Name through which You raised the Heavens without any pillar and spread the Earth on the surface of uniform ether! And by Your Name through which you split the sea for Moses and drowned the Pharaoh and his people! And by Your Name through which Jesus son of Mary raised the dead! And by Your Greatest Name through which David supplicated to you! And by Your Name through which you subjugated al-Burāq to Muḥammad (blessings be upon him and his family)! And I ask You by Your Name through which You cleave the seas and through which mountains are raised! And I ask You by Your Name which You taught the Angel of Death to seize the souls!”[6]

These types of expressions are ample in supplications and allude to the fact that all created things are manifestations of the names of God. The Heavens reflect the name “The Elevator” (al-Rafī’) whereas the Earth manifest the name “The Protector” (al-Amīn). Solomon is a manifestation of God’s majesty and authority whereas Moses and Noah are manifestations of His strength.

پادشاهان مظهر شاهیّ حق                                                           مؤمنان مرآت آگاهیّ حق

Kings are the loci of Al-Ḥaqq’s magnificence

                                                While believers are reflections of Al-Ḥaqq’s cognizance[7]

In this vein, Shayṭān is a manifestation of God’s Name “The Deviator,” (al-Muḍill) and it is therefore necessary for him to reach the pinnacle of his own perversion.

No creation is designed without a purpose—those who do not comprehend the causes assume that it is fortuitous and accidental. The perfection of a tree is that it continues to move towards its respective goal. The purpose of the various faculties of a human being is that he should continue to be propelled towards his respective goal. Sometimes, there are two purposes found in a single action: one may go to meet a friend but if he is unable to meet him, then the secondary goal has not been actualized although the primary goal of movement of the human faculties is actualized. Meanwhile many people would deem the movements taken to be useless!

The philosophers believe that the cosmos have life and perception—Sabzawārī is known to have said:

وکلّ ما هناك حيّ ناطق                                                            إلی جمال الله دوماً عاشق

Everything in the Heavens is Rational, Living

                                                            Towards God’s Beauty, constantly loving

While these words in our opinion are not correct (i.e., we don’t believe that the cosmos have a life of their own, rather the angels and the heavenly council are living), we accept the premise that the movement of the cosmos is towards perfection and purpose. Every creature in this world has its face directed towards purpose and perfection.[8]

At the same time, only goodness and wisdom issue forth from God as it is narrated in a supplication:

خیرک الینا نازل و شرّنا الیک صاعد

“Your goodness descends upon us while our evil ascends to You!”[9]

Goodness here refers to existence descending from its Divine source whereas our own (imperfect) attributes (māhiyyāt) are the vices; the attribute of Shayṭān of course is rebellion and disobedience of God’s commands.[10]

The second answer is our personal one: the wisdom in God’s creation of Shayṭān is to test humankind. God has stated:

أحسب الناس أن یترکوا أن یقولوا آمنّا وهم لا یفتنون

“Does humankind think that they will be left alone to say that we believe while not being tested?”[11]

Now it may be asked why does this trial have to be in the form of Shayṭān and not through another form? We answer that it is because based on his own volition and poor judgement he chose the path of rebellion against God. Meanwhile, the angels chose the path of obedience to God out of their own volition. Shayṭān himself carried the black banner onto his shoulder out of his own volition, not because God coerced him to be as such.[12] As Maulavī  has stated:

دو علم افراشت اسپید و سیاه                                                   آن یکی آدم دگر شیطان راه

Two flags were raised, white and black

                                                            This one is Adam’s and that: Satan’s track[13]

The Second Contention:

“If God created me in accordance with His will and decree, how come He charged me with recognition and obedience to Him and imposed duties on me? What is the purpose of these duties if He does not benefit at all from my obedience and is not harmed by my disobedience?”


Before answering this question we would like to make a clarifying remark. This contention is not limited to just Shayṭān; rather it subsumes all those who disbelieve in God. Imam ‘Alī (a.s.) has stated:

إنّ الله خلق الخلق حین خلقهم غنیّاً عن طاعتهم آمناً من معصیتهم، لأنّه لا تضرّه معصیة من عصاه، و لا تنفعه طاعة من أطاعه

“Indeed God from the very start of originating creation was needless of their obedience and immune from their disobedience; for he is not harmed by the disobedience of the disobeyer and he is not benefited by the obedience of the obedient.”[14]

Therefore, the contention of Satan (i.e., why has God charged me with acknowledgement and obedience to Him) originates from his own ignorance.

Shayṭān asks: “Given that he does not receive benefit nor harm from the obedience or disobedience of the people, why did He create the potential for obedience and disobedience?” We would answer: He did this so that his creation could choose their own path via their own faculty of volition—as a result they would earn Heaven or Hell by their own choice.[15] As it is stated in the Qur’ān:

لیهلک من هلک عن بینة و یحیی من حیّ عن بینة

“In order that those who perish would perish and those who are spared would be spared, both in the wake of self-evident truth.”[16]

The Third Contention:

“Well, if God created me and charged me with responsibility, and then I obeyed and devoted myself to Him, how come He charged me with prostrating to Adam? What wisdom is there in this special duty after I worshipped Him in the most superlative manner possible?


This contention also emerges from a similar vein of deception because this was a general commandment to all angels, not specific just to Shayṭān. Instead, Shayṭān ought to ask, “Why is it that you (God) charged the celestial beings to prostrate to Adam?”

In response, we would like to first clarify the difference between the angels and Shayṭān. In fact, even the angels who were commanded to prostrate had questioned God in the beginning, inquiring from Him if He intended to appoint a vicegerent that would cause corruption on Earth and would shed blood all the while they were exalting Him. When God answered that “I know that which you do not know,” the angels relented saying, “We have no knowledge whatsoever except for that which you have taught us.”[17] As for the Devil, he stood up against God’s command and said “I am of fire and Adam is of clay; it is not becoming of me that I should prostrate to clay;”[18] this statement was therefore a product of his own willful deviation.

In the second place, the scholars of etiquette (‘ulamā-ye-akhlāq) say that every moral vice ought to be remedied with its opposite trait. For example, they tell a miserly person to gradually begin spending upon others so that he may eventually attain to the virtue of liberality. In a similar fashion, God knew of the self-conceit and arrogance of Shayṭān and hence wanted to guide him to the path of humility and eliminate his conceit. God states in the Qur’ān:

أبی و استکبر و کان من الکافرین

“He refused and was arrogant—for he had been among the disbelievers.”[19]

Similarly, Imām ‘Alī (as) states:

فسجدوا إلّا إبلیس، اغرّته الحمیة و غلبت علیه الشقوة، و تعزّز بخلقة النار و استوهن خلق الصلصال

“They prostrated except for Iblīs; he was deceived by his own arrogant pride and wickedness overpowered him. He deemed his being created out of fire lofty while he assumed that creation out of fermented clay was something lowly.”[20]

Hence the angels submitted while Satan exerted his arrogance; as God is the best doctor, out of his mercy and kindness he offered Satan the medicine of humility. Now if an invalid refuses to take his medicine, he ought to blame none but himself and his contention ought to fly back in his face as to why he refused to take it.

In the third place, Shayṭān states, “I had already reached the height of cognizance and obedience of God and this prostration would not increase me at all in this regard.” This statement is also wrought by his own ignorance—every responsibility with which God charges His servants only helps His servants ascend. As it states in the Qur’ān:

و الذین اهتدوا زادهم هدی و آتاهم تقواهم

“As for those who seek guidance (on their own accord), He increases them in guidance and grants them their God-consciousness.”[21]

This contention of Satan is akin to the contention of certain Ṣūfīs who say that since we have reached the state of Divine Witnessing, prayer and fasting do not boost our rank any further and we have no need for them. In response, it should be said that reaching the station of cognizance and obedience of God has no limit such that we are mistaken to assume there is no loftier station beyond what we have achieved. No matter how much a servant progresses in his obedience, he shall remain a servant and never cease from that station. In addition, acting in accordance with your Divinely delegated responsibilities is part and parcel of worship, whereas refusing to comply to them is an indication of disbelief. It is with this principle in mind that Surah Baqarah verse 34 states: “…for he (Shayṭān) had been among the disbelievers.”

The Fourth Contention:

“After He created me, charged me with responsibility, and then charged me to prostrate to Adam in particular, how come He cursed me and exiled me from Paradise when I did not obey Him? What is the wisdom in that when I did not do anything reprehensible? All I said was that I won’t prostrate to anyone but You!”


Firstly, God the Almighty has placed his own friends (awliyā-ye-khod) in a position whereby their pleasure and wrath is deemed equivalent to His pleasure and wrath. Therefore, we see that He deemed the allegiance to His Holy Apostle Muḥammad as allegiance to Himself:

إنّ الذین یبایعونک إنّما یبایعون الله

“Indeed those who give allegiance to you are but only giving allegiance to God.”[22]

It is also narrated in a ḥadīth qudsī that God has stated:

من أهان لی ولیّاً فقد بارزنی بالمحاربة و دعانی إلیها

Whoever humiliates one of my friends has challenged and summoned me to war.”[23]

As such, in commentary of the 55th verse of Sūrah al-Zukhruf[24], Imām al-Ṣadiq is narrated to have said as follows:

إن الله تبارك وتعالى لا يأسف كأسفنا ولكنه خلق أولياء لنفسه يأسفون ويرضون وهم مخلوقون مدبرون فجعل رضاهم لنفسه رضى وسخطهم لنفسه سخطا وذلك لأنه جعلهم الدعاة إليه والأدلاء عليه

“Indeed, God the Exalted and Almighty does not get displeased as we do; rather, he has created friends unto Himself who are displeased and pleased all the while being created and sustained (by Him). He has made their pleasure His own pleasure and their wrath His Own wrath, because they invoke towards Him and serve as His Proofs.”[25]

At this juncture, we inquire: which crime can be deemed more grave than disobedience of a Divine command, such that instead of respecting the friend of God one turns away from him in arrogance? Without doubt, this is equivalent to lack of respect for God Almighty Himself!

Secondly, given that prostration to Adam was a command that issued from God, it is equivalent to prostration to God. The angels did not prostrate to Adam under the pretense that he was equivalent to God; rather he was assigned as their prayer direction (qibleh-ye-ānhā) by God Himself—in the same manner that humans take the Ka’bah as their prayer direction and take it as the means of approach to prostrating to God. In reality, the Ka’bah is solely a prayer-direction of course and isn’t itself the worshipped entity.

Similarly, when Prophet Jacob prostrated in front of Prophet Joseph (peace be upon them both), he was in essence prostrating to God. As it pertains to verse 100 of Sūrah Yūsuf,[26] it is narrated in Tafsīr al-Qummī that the prostration in front of Joseph was one of gratitude, not worship; on the authority of Imām al-Hādī as narrated by Muḥammad bin ‘Isā:

اما سجود يعقوب وولده ليوسف فإنه لم يكن ليوسف وإنما كان ذلك من يعقوب وولده طاعة لله وتحية ليوسف كما كان السجود من الملائكة لآدم ولم يكن لآدم إنما كان ذلك منهم طاعة لله وتحية لآدم فسجد يعقوب وولده وسجد يوسف معهم شكرا لله لاجتماع شملهم

“As for the prostration of Jacob and his sons to Joseph, then indeed it was not truly to Joseph but rather Jacob and his sons did so out of obedience to God and as a form of salutation to Joseph; it was similar to the prostration of the angels to Adam in the sense that they were not worshipping Adam. Rather their prostration was solely out of obedience to God and as a form of salutation to Adam. Hence, Jacob, his sons, and Joseph himself prostrated out of gratitude to God for rejoining them after their separation.”[27]

In essence, prostration carries the import of complete submission; therefore, when God commanded the angels to “prostrate to Adam,” this was meant to express absolute deference towards God’s representative and vicegerent. Therefore, that Shayṭān rose against this Divine proclamation and said, “I will only prostrate towards God,” is the absolute embodiment of disobedience and obstinacy in the face of God’s command.

Thirdly, Satan asks: “How come is it that when I did not prostrate, he exiled me from Paradise?” The answer is that Paradise is not the abode of the disobedient; hence it was also said to Adam that he should exit Paradise when he disobeyed God. At that point, Adam beseeched God to pardon him and sought repentance and attributed the wrongdoing to his own soul, as is mentioned in the Qur’ān.[28] Meanwhile, Shayṭān claimed that he was forced to commit his transgression and attributed his own sin to God; this accusation was indeed even worse than the sin of his disobedience itself![29] Therefore, since he accused God the Most Wise of committing oppression, he was cursed and removed from the threshold of Divine Mercy.[30]

The Fifth Contention:

“After He created me, charged me with responsibility, commanded me prostrate to Adam, and then exiled and cursed me when I did not do so, how come He let me go back and tempt Adam? Why did He allow me to enter Paradise a second time to betray Adam with my whispers, such that he eventually ate from the Forbidden Tree and was exiled from Paradise with me? What was the wisdom in this considering that if He had forbidden me from entering Paradise, Adam would have abided in Paradise forever?”


Firstly, from both rational and traditional sources, it is established that there was no coercion in this issue; God did not force Shayṭān that he should go to Paradise and whisper to Adam. At the same time, God did not close this path to him and left it up to him to choose guidance or deviation out of his own volition.[31]

In his infinite knowledge, God had foreknowledge that Shayṭān would—out of his own malevolent choice yet again—go and tempt Adam with his whispers. Therefore, just as in the first instance He did not compel Shayṭān to prostrate, he did not strip him of his own volition to continue in his misguidance. Therefore, this contention of Shayṭān about why God gave him passage through Paradise is invalid. Indeed, God does not close the path of exercising moral volition to anyone, so that it may be known to all who had chosen the path of guidance or misguidance based on their own free will.[32]

Therefore, when the angels sought to close off the path to Adam so that he could not approach the Forbidden Tree, it was said to them, “Leave him alone, for I have given him an intellect and there is no coercion in this affair.”[33]

Secondly, the exile of Adam from Paradise was necessary so that his posterity of Prophets, their inheritors, and saints could appear on Earth.[34] This was one of the blessings and benefits to the Earthly descent of Adam, among others that are truly beyond all appraisal!

Thirdly, the questioner phrases his question in a manner that makes the descent of Adam and the Devil seem equivalent. This is completely unfounded as the in the case of Adam, God states that he was chosen in his being sent down to the Earth:

ثم اجتباه ربه فتاب علیه و هدی قلنا اهبطا منها جمیعا

“Then his Lord elected him, accepted his repentance, and guided him; we stated: “Descend both of you, altogether.”[35]

In contrast God said to Shayṭān:

قال فاخرج منها فإنّک رجیم و إنّ علیک لعنتی إلی یوم الدین

“He (God) said, “Get out of here for indeed you are exiled; and surely my curses will be upon you until the Day of Reckoning.”[36]

The actions of Adam and Shayṭān after their descent into the world are also not comparable. When Adam descended he turned back to God, wept, and sought forgiveness to such an extent that he was known among the “Five Weepers” in history, as narrated in our ḥadīth on the authority of al-Imām al-Ṣādiq:

البكاءون خمسة: آدم، ويعقوب، ويوسف، وفاطمة بنت محمد (صلى الله عليه وآله)، وعلي ابن الحسين (عليهما السلام)

“The weepers are five in number: Adam, Jacob, Joseph, Fāṭimah bint Muḥammad (peace be upon her), and ‘Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn (peace be upon him).”[37]

Moreover, Imām al-Sajjād (as) has mentioned about Adam in his supplications:

اللهم وآدم بديع فطرتك، وأول معترف من الطين بربوبيتك وبكر حجتك على عبادك وبريتك، والدليل على الاستجارة بعفوك من عقابك، والناهج سبل توبتك

“Oh my Lord, Adam is the marvel of Your creation, the first of clay to confess to Your Lordship, the beginning of Your proof on Your servants and creation, the guide to seeking sanctum by Your pardon against Your retribution, and the pioneer on the paths of Your penitence.”[38]

How can he be compared with Shayṭān—who stood in the face of God’s command with the highest obstinacy—swearing that he will misguide all of humankind? In this circumstance, how could it possibly be said that the exile of Shayṭān from Paradise is equivalent to how Adam descended from Paradise?[39]

The Sixth Contention:

“After He created me, charged me with responsibility, charged me to prostrate to Adam, cursed me, and let me tempt Adam, why did He give me authority over his children such that I can lay ambush against them and whisper to them while not being allowed to coerce them? What is the wisdom in that, given that had He created them without one to tempt them, they would have lived with innocence while being steadfast in their obedience? Is that not more congruent with wisdom?”


Firstly, on what basis is Shayṭān claiming that he has authority over the children of Adam? Has God stripped humankind of their volition or forced them that they must obey God or obey Shayṭān? This is an incorrect presumption as the role of Shayṭān is only summoning people towards vice while only they themselves carry the onus of heeding his call or opposing it. As such, Shayṭān himself will state on the Day of Judgement:

انّ الله وعدکم وعد الحق، و وعدتکم فأخفلتکم و ما کان لی علیکم من سلطان إلا أن دعوتکم فاستجبتم لی، فلا تلومونی و لوموا انفسکم

“Indeed God promised you the Promise of Truth while I promised you and reneged upon you; I had no authority on you except to invite you (towards sin) and you (yourselves) responded to me. Therefore, do not blame me but rather blame yourselves.”[40]

In reality, as per the Qur’ān, Shayṭān only has authority on those individuals who accept his authority, relent to him, and choose to act according to their own whims.[41]

Secondly, just as Shayṭān has many troops God also has troops of His own among the angels upon whom He ordains to provide succor to those who choose to remember Him. As such, we find in the Qur’ān:

إنّ الذین اتقوا إذا مسّهم طائف من الشیطان تذکّروا فإذا هم مبصرون

“If the God-fearing are instigated by any suggestion of Satan, they instantly become alert, whereafter they clearly perceive the right way.”[42]

Thirdly, it is true that Shayṭān sees humankind while they are unable to see him, however God has already pre-informed humankind of this reality in the Qur’ān.[43] Furthermore, He has instructed humankind that Shayṭān is our mortal enemy and that we ought to be cautious so as to avoid falling prey to his deception:

الم اعهد الیکم یا بنی آدم ان لا تعبدوا الشیطان انه لکم عدو مبین

“Had I not taken a covenant with you—oh children of Adam—that you should not worship the Devil? Indeed, he is your manifest enemy!” (Sūrah Yāsīn verse 60)

Additionally, God issued a command to humankind to seek protection (al-istiā’dhah) in God’s sanctum for all affairs—especially those pertaining to worship—from the evil of Shayṭān.[44] The existence of such a mortal enemy of humankind drives one to express their servitude at the threshold of God and allows him to embody the true spirit of servanthood. This reason is sufficient for a human to find pleasure in his worship and this is further expounded in the seventh du’ā of al-Ṣaḥīfah al-Sajjādiyyah.[45]

Fourthly, in addition to all the above reasons, God left a door open to the children of Adam which He called “repentance,” whereby they can turn at any point back to God’s Presence. They can taste the beauty of turning back to God and reach that lofty station of great worship which is contingent upon seeking God’s forgiveness and love. As such, God states in the Qur’ān:

ان الله یحب التوابین و یحب المتطهرین

“Indeed God loves those who are penitent and purify themselves.”[46]

The Seventh Contention:

“Let us say I submit to the wisdom of all the above; why is it that when I asked God to give me respite, He did so until the Day of Judgement? What is the wisdom in that when if He had destroyed me then and there, His creation would have been saved and evil would not exist in the world? Is not the world persisting on virtue not more becoming than its being mixed with evil?”


Firstly, the wisdom behind giving Shayṭān respite should be identified in God’s own words and not based upon our own assumptions. This question can be reformulated more generally as follows: “Why has God given the disbelievers and sinners respite?” God Himself has answered this question:

و لا یحسبنّ الذین کفروا أنّ ما نملی لهم خیر لأنفسهم أنّما نملی لهم لیزدادوا إثما و لهم عذاب مهین

“And let not the disbelievers think that our giving them respite is beneficial for them. We only give them respite so that they may increase in their sins! And theirs is a humiliating torment.”[47]

This is of course the same verse that Lady Zaynab (peace be upon her) used in the court of Yazīd in order to awaken him lest he should fancy that his power and authority is a blessing of God that indicates God’s pleasure.[48] It is in a similar vein that Imām ‘Ali (as) states:

فأعطاه الله النظرة، استحقاقاً للسخطة و استتماماً للبلیة و إنجازا للعدة

“Therefore, God gave him (Shayṭān) respite in order that he would become more worthy of Divine Wrath, actualize the true import of tribulation, and as a fulfillment of His promise.”[49]

Secondly, the purpose of life and death is to test humankind and identify which of them is the best in deeds.[50] Imām al-Sajjād (peace be upon him) alludes to this in his sixth du’ā of Ṣahifah where he states:

بکل ذلک یصلح شأنهم و یبلو أخبارهم، و ینظر کیف هم فی أوقات طاعته و منازل فروضه و مواقع أحکامه، لیجزی الذین أساؤوا بما عملوا و یجزی الذین أحسنوا بالحسنی

“Through all of this He rectifies their situation and tries their records; He watches their state at the times of obeying Him, the stations of His obligations, and the places of His ordinances—in order that He may repay those who do evil based on their deeds and repay those who do good with goodness.”

Thirdly, the fact that the world is mixed with evil is a sign of humankind’s volition; the natural consequence of having free will is that one can choose incorrectly, and this naturally leads to the emergence of evil in the world.[51]


The Ṣūfīs engage in a great deal of praise for Shayṭān and have penned several works to exalt his stature; of course, dissecting their arguments requires a separate discussion. Among them in particular is a poet who has poetically crafted a conversation—whether real or imaginary—that takes place between Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) and Shayṭān as the former is on his way to Mount Sinai to speak to God.[52] Moses asks the Devil, “Why didn’t you prostrate to Adam?”

He said: “A lover who has reached his height


Would only bow at the Darling’s sight”


Moses said: “Heed the Master’s command


For each soul must yield to His demand”


He said: “The purpose of God’s conversation


Was to test this lover; it wasn’t prostration!”

گفت: عاشق که بود کامل سیر


پیش جانان نبرد سجده به غیر


گفت موسی که به فرمودۀ دوست


سر نهد هر که به جان بندۀ اوست


گفت: مقصود از آن گفت و شنود


امتحان بود محب را نه سجود

In other words, this poet assumes that Shayṭān is a great scholar of God and was merely traversing the path of true love for God! Even more astounding is that in continuing this conversation, Moses asks the Devil: “If it is really the case that you are God’s lover, why were you subjected to the curse of God? You were stripped of the angelic garb and adorned with the demonic garb!” In reply, Shayṭān gives a theoretical answer heard on the tongues of mystics:

He said: “Both garbs are allegorical


For my soul, they’re just metaphorical

Indeed the garb of my own soul


Is just love for Him, pure and sole


His mercy and wrath for me are the same


Debased or lofty, to me it’s the same!”

  گفت: این هر دو صفت عاریت‌اند


هر دو از ذات به یک ناحیت‌اند

ذات من بر صفت خویشتن است


عشق او لازمۀ ذات من است


لطف و قهرم همه همرنگ شده


کوه و کاهم همه همسنگ شده

In summary, these poetic expressions and abominable excuses are those same ones that are used to equivocate God’s mercy with His wrath. It follows from such logic that God’s commands and prohibitions have no weight; rather He is just wasting time and playing around with us mortals (may God protect us!).

Nonetheless, when someone examines the religious literature and bolsters it with rationality, it becomes apparent that God’s purpose for creation is not frivolous amusement but rather is very directed and systematic. In this system, God’s commands and prohibitions have real significance while His pleasure and wrath are complete opposites: just as light vs darkness, obedience vs disobedience, and good vs evil.

Furthermore, on the basis of reliable narrations, it was Shayṭān himself who established the basis for disobedience and taught his followers to stand in the face of God’s clear and manifest words. He was the founder of fallacious reasoning and built his premises on it, declaring to God “I am better than Adam as You created me from fire while You created him from clay.” Satan laid the groundwork for anyone who chooses to disobey God to also rely on such flimsy reasoning. How truly astonishing and ironic it is that this type of flimsy devilish thought found its way into the writings of these poets who claim to be ascetics seeking God’s countenance![53]


[1] The Persian article with a foreword by Dr. ‘Abdul Ḥusayn Ṭāli’ī can be found here:

[2] This Arabic commentary is very famous and written in seven volumes, entitled Riyāḍ al-Sālikīn (“The Meadows of the Seekers”).

[3] This quote is summarized by the author here but can be found in al-Rāzī’s tafsīr Mafātīḥ al-Ghayb  (The Keys to the Unseen) as below. It is clear that al-Rāzī was trying to support the position of his Ash’arite compatriots that God is a free agent and virtue and repugnance have no intrinsic value but rather are defined by Him:

واعلم أنه لو اجتمع الأولون والآخرون من الخلائق وحكموا بتحسين العقل وتقبيحه لم يجدوا عن هذه الشبهات مخلصاً وكان الكل لازماً ، أما إذا أجبنا بذلك الجواب الذي ذكره الله تعالى زالت الشبهات واندفعت الاعتراضات

“And know that if all antiquity and posterity of creation were to gather to answer these contentions based on a belief of rational virtue and repugnance [as opposed to the Ash’arite belief of a lack thereof], they would not find any way to escape them—rather they would all be binding (questions). However, if we answer with that response that God the Exalted has mentioned, all these contentions are dismantled and repudiated.”

[4] I could not find this statement in the tafsīr of Mullā Ṣadrā, although he does reportedly have a separate unpublished treatise entitled “A Rebuttal of Satan’s Contentions” (radd shubuhāt al-shayṭān).

[5] Al-Khorasānī breaks his answer into two parts here. This first paragraph is meant to address the question, “Has God done something reprehensible in creating a being that he knows in His Infinite Knowledge will disobey him by its own volition and not by coercion?” The answer is no, because God has not imposed any barrier to obedience; the created being has the full spectrum of volition to obey or disobey and God’s pre-eternal knowledge does not hamper this potential. The rest of the answer thereby addresses the wisdom of creating the Devil.

[6] This excerpt is derived from the Du’ā for the Night of ‘Arafah as narrated by Sayyid ibn Ṭāwūs in Iqbāl al-A’amāl volume 2, page 50.

[7] This is a famous couplet from the Masnavī of Maulānā Rūmī (Persian ed., volume 6, part 96)

[8] In other words, all things created by God are traversing towards perfecting the Divine Names of God which they reflect. Given that the Devil has himself chosen that he should reflect the Divine Attribute of “The Deviator,” he continues to move towards perfecting this trait.

[9] This line is extracted from the famous supplication Du’ā Abī Ḥamza al-Thumālī.

[10] Al-Madanī retorts against Iblīs with a similar answer here: “In the sense that the Devil is among the actualizable created entities, his source and destination is nothing except God’s Essence, which requires the actualization of all things that could possibly exist and demands that existence be channeled into every potentiality. As for his being a despicable and wicked creature, that is not because of God; rather, it is the consequence of his own psychological particularization wrought by his own free-will, and therefore has nothing to do with the celestial decree.”

[11] Sūrah al-‘Ankabūt verse 2

[12] The author implies that God allowed Shayṭān to exercise his free will in becoming the agent of evil and tribulation for the human being. Deviation from the path of God is based on exercising one’s own volition and not due to force.

[13] Masnavī of Rūmī (Persian ed., volume 6, part 75)

[14] Nahj al-Balāghah, sermon 193

[15] Al-Madanī further clarifies, “The wisdom behind charging creation with obedience to Him is so that they can rid themselves [by their own volition] of the filth of desire and darkness—ascending from the base level of beasts to the lofty human and angelic soul. The goal is that they should purify and discipline themselves with the light of knowledge and power of action, ridding themselves of disbelief, disobedience, and ignorance. The generality of charging creation with obedience is not negated by those wicked souls for which this Divine responsibility falls on deaf ears. As an analogy, rain falls generally on everything although its purpose is for seeds, fruits, and produce to receive nourishment and flourish towards their perfection. While rain may well descend on barren land, this does not negate its general descent.”

[16] Sūrah al-Anfāl verse 42

[17] Sūrah al-Baqarah verses 30-32

[18] Sūrah al-A’rāf verse 12

[19] Sūrah al-Baqarah verse 34

[20] Tafsīr al-Ṣāfī volume 3 page 112

[21] Sūrah Muḥammad verse 17

[22] Sūrah al-Fatḥ verse 10

[23] Al-Kāfī, volume 2 page 352

[24] فَلَمَّآ ءَاسَفُونَا ٱنتَقَمْنَا مِنْهُمْ فَأَغْرَقْنَٰهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ

“When they displeased us, we took vengeance from them and drowned them (Pharaoh and his people) altogether.”

[25] Ma’ānī al-Akhbār, page 19

[26] و رفع أبویه علی العرش و خرّوا له سجّداً

“And he raised his parents above the throne and they fell towards him in prostration.”

[27] Tafsīr al-Qummī, volume 1 page 352

[28] ربّنا ظلمنا انفسنا و إن لم تغفر لنا و ترحمنا لنکوننّ من الخاسرین

“Oh our Lord, we have wronged ourselves and if you do not forgive us and have mercy upon us we will surely be among the losers.” (al-A’rāf verse 23)

[29] ربّ بما أغویتنی

“Oh my Lord, because you have caused me to go astray…” (Sūrah al-Ḥijr verse 39)

[30] Regarding this point, al-Madanī writes in his rebuttal: “The fourth question of Satan could also be framed as if he is asking about why the disbelievers and hypocrites are punished in general and why they are subjected to retribution and distancing from the Divine Mercy. In response, we state that the punishments of the Hereafter are not the product of God’s wrath or vengeance, exalted be God from such a thing! Rather, they are the manifested repercussions of what is psychologically and spiritually wrought by the soul. A similar analogy would be the physical sicknesses that afflict an individual due to excessive indulgence; illness is born as a product of past actions rather than because of an external punisher. This is discussed exhaustively in investigations concerning the physical resurrection and the corporealization of one’s deeds. However, even in the case that one should suppose an external punisher, divine punishment is nonetheless in the interests of the human being since warnings and threats are beneficial to the vast majority. Even if this punishment may be evil in reference to the one being tormented, it is beneficial in reference to the rest of the species—it therefore falls under the purview of a major good that engenders a minor negative consequence—just as the cutting of a limb is sometimes necessary to salvage the rest of the body.”

[31] There are many verses in the Qur’ān about this, such as the following from Sūrah al-Insān verse 2:

انا هدیناه السبیل إمّا شاکرا و إما کفورا

“Indeed we have showed man to the path: whether he is grateful or ungrateful.”

[32] This explanation also answers a similar contention raised by some skeptics as to why God put Adam in Paradise and tried him with Shayṭān if his ultimate fate was to be God’s vicegerent on Earth anyway. Why not put him directly down onto Earth? Perhap the Divine Wisdom in this was to teach Adam (and by extension his progeny) that he experientially directs his own fate based on his volition, while reinforcing that Satan is his mortal enemy against whom he must remain steadfast. A direct descend of Adam into the world without any of these preliminaries would contradict the Divine Principle of humankind forging his own destiny based on his experiences and deeds.

[33] The author’s statement here appears to be derived from a ḥadīth from Biḥār al-Anwār (volume 11 page 191):

فأرادت الملائكة أن يدفعوها عنها بحرابها فأوحى الله إليها إنما تدفعون بحرابكم من لا عقل له يزجره فأما من جعلته متمكنا مميزا مختارا فكلوه إلى عقله الذي جعلته حجة عليه فان أطاع استحق ثوابي وإن عصى وخالف أمري استحق عقابي وجزائي

“The angels wanted to push her (Eve) from it (the tree) using their javelins, but God revealed to them, “You may only use your javelins to repel beings without intellect; as for one I have empowered while giving him discernment and volition, relegate him to his intellect which I have made a proof over him. If he obeys, he deserves My reward and if he disobeys and repudiates my commands, he becomes worthy of My retribution and punishment.””

[34] As it is stated in sermon 1 of Nahj al-Balāghah:

وأهبطه إلى دار البلية وتناسل الذرية واصطفى سبحانه من ولده أنبياء أخذ على الوحي ميثاقهم

“And God caused him to descend to the realm of trial and proliferation of progeny; and He chose from his progeny Prophets upon whom He charged the covenant of Divine revelation.”

[35] Surah Ṭāhā, verses 122-123

[36] Surah Ṣād, verses 77-78

[37] Al-Amālī of Shaykh al-Ṣadūq page 204

[38] Al-Ṣaḥīfah al-Sajjādiyyah, “His Supplication in Calling Down Blessings on Adam”

[39] Al-Madanī clarifies further in his response: “The wisdom in empowering Shayṭān to enter Paradise and deceive him with his whispers lies in the fact of its enormous benefit; for if Adam had stayed in Paradise forever he would abided therein alone in the same state that he was created without the chance to perfect or attain to a higher disposition. Notwithstanding the benefit of producing a progeny that multiplied exponentially—worshipping God and obeying Him until the Day of Judgement. Nonetheless, if there was no wisdom in the descent of Adam to the Earth except for him to attain a higher state of perfection and reach the state of deputeeship through the tribulation of this world, that would indeed be more than sufficient wisdom.

[40] Sūrah Ibrāhīm verse 22

[41] انما سلطانه علی الذین یتولونه

“Truly his authority is only upon those who seek his guardianship.” (Sūrah al-Naḥl, verse 100)

[42] Sūrah al-A’rāf verse 201

[43] As it states in Sūrah al-A’rāf verse 27:

انه یراکم هو و قبیله من حیث لا ترونهم

“Indeed he (Shayṭān) and his tribe see you from a direction you cannot perceive.”

[44] cf. Surah Naḥl verse 98

[45] Al-Madanī answers this question as follows: “The souls of individual human beings diverge in their elemental nature: some are noble luminaries inclined to the divine and others are abject and debased inclined to desires and sensuality. If it were not for the possibility for one to be deviated and obey one’s whims, this would refute Divine wisdom as it would compel all to be at the same level of innocence and soundness. The habitation of this world could not occur without these hardened souls that seek immediate gratification; as such it is narrated in a ḥadīth qudsī: “I have made the disobedience of Adam a means of populating the world.” In a similar vein it is narrated: “If it had been that you didn’t commit sins, God would replace you with another folk that did sin.”

[46] Sūrah al-Baqarah verse 222

[47] Sūrah Āl ‘Imrān verse 178

[48] Biḥār al-Anwār volume 45 page 158

[49] Nahj al-Balāghah, sermon 1

[50] cf. Sūrah al-Mulk verse 2

[51] Al-Madanī writes, “Regarding Shayṭān’s asking isn’t the world better off being purely virtuous rather than being mixed with evil, we respond that this goes against the nature of this transient Earthly existence; for if this world was pure goodness then its persistence would be more worthy than its destruction. However, it is merely a bridge to the afterlife which abides forever. A world which has no evil and vice is a world to which only the righteous and pure will return.”

[52] For those who would like to refer to the entire poem in Persian, please see ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Jāmī’s Subḥat al-Abrār (Rosary of the Pious).

[53] In contemporary times, Āyatullāh Nāṣir Makārim Shirāzī has been among the foremost in criticizing and warning against what he terms “false mysticism” (irfān-e-kāzib), that often relies on very few traditional sources and instead favors fanciful so-called creative thinking.