[Compiled from The Vengeful Djinn by Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Philip J. Imbrogno and The
Encyclopedia of Demons & Demonology and The Encyclopedia of Angels by Rosemary Ellen Guiley. Copyright 2010.]
In Islam, Iblis serves the same function as the Devil, tempting humans to make the wrong spiritual choices. The name Iblis means “despair” or “he who is despaired.” Iblis is also the chief and father of the Djinn. He can assume any form.
Iblis is mentioned nine times in the Qu’ran; seven of the references concern his fall from God’s grace. His other name, Shaytan (Shaitan), or “the deceiver,” , is used in context of his rebellion against God. Sura al-Kahf 18.50 in the Qu’ran states that Iblis “was one of the djinn, and he broke the command his Lord.” As a djinni, Iblis was created by God of smokeless fire. Suras 7.12 and 38.76 refer to his creation from fire.
Why Iblis fell from grace
When Allah created Adam, he ordered all the angels to prostrate themselves before him, which they did. Iblis (who is identified as a Djinni in the Qur’an) refused, claiming that a being made of dust was beneath him, a being of fire. Allah cursed Iblis for his pride and threw him out of heaven. Iblis persuaded Allah to delay further punishment until the Day of Judgement. God gave him the right to roam the earth tempting people, and to destroy those who yield to temptation. He cannot compel people to sin, but only lure them to make the choice. He is aided by the devils (Djinn) who serve under him.
In another legend, in a time before the creation of humankind, Allah sent his angels down to earth to destroy the Djinn, who were rebelling against divine laws. The angels killed most of them, and captured Iblis, whom they took up to heaven and educated him. The remaining Djinn formed a new nation. Iblis, who wanted power, left heaven to become their king.
In the mystical tradition of the Sufis, Iblis refused to bow to Adam because he could only bow to God. Thus, Iblis represented the perfect lover, a model of loyalty and devotion who would rather be separated from God and God’s will than united with God against God’s will. In a 14th-century Syrian legend, Iblis actually assisted in the creation of Adam by gathering sweet and salty matter from the earth.
Another story tells how Iblis tempted Eve. He succeeded in smuggling himself into paradise by promising any animal who carried him in that he would bestow upon it three magical words that would guarantee immortality. The serpent agreed, and carried Iblis into Paradise hidden in its mouth. Iblis spoke to Eve from within the mouth.
The fall of Iblis is similar to the fall of Lucifer in the book of Isaiah in the Bible. Lucifer is cast from heaven because of his pride, and one-third of the angels follow him to earth. These fallen angels became synonymous with demons, whose job it is to torment people and tempt them into sin.
Iblis as the angel Azazel
In some early accounts of the Djinn, Iblis was once a powerful angel by the name of Azazel. The name Azazel means “God strengthens.” He originally may have been a Semitic god of the flocks who became demonized. Azazel is associated with the ritual of scapegoating as an expiation of sin, as described in Leviticus 16. In verse nine, God instructs Moses that his brother Aaron shall take two goats and sacrifice one to the Lord for sin. The second goat is for Azazel, and is to be presented live to the Lord for atonement, and then sent into the wilderness to the demon. This reference to the wilderness has led to beliefs that Azazel was a demon of the desert. The desert is also considered to be the home of Iblis when he is allowed to enter our world.
In The Apocalypse of Abraham, Azazel is the angel of disgrace, lies, evil, wrath and trials. He is the lord of hell, who is confined to earth by God because he became enamored with it. In Judaic lore, Azazel figures prominently in folktales, along with another fallen angel, Semyaza (Semyaz, Shemhazai). Azazel refuses to bow to Adam when he is presented to God and the heavenly hierarchies. Islamic lore also tells of Azazel refusing to bow down to Adam, and so God casts
him out of heaven and changes him into the Djinn Iblis. Although the angelic origin of Iblis contradicts Islamic beliefs, it is still considered by some scholars as an origin for this rebellious spirit.
According to Islamic belief, the evil that exists in the multiverse is due to corrupt humans and Djinn who have turned their back on Allah. Demons, fairies, ghosts, demonic possession and even sightings of aliens are believed to be the work of Djinn, or in some cases, spiritually corrupt humans who have joined Iblis. If we take into account the reality of the existence of the Djinn, then we can understand the great diversity of the paranormal. Rarely do Djinn present their true identity to us. Instead, they enjoy taking on many disguises. Many Djinn merely play a harmless
game with us for their amusement, but some have a more deadly agenda.
Stories about the Djinn reveal a long history of perceived injustices and indignities from their perspective, creating valid reasons for many of them to plot against humanity. Believing themselves to be wronged by God in favor of human beings, some Djinn have carried a deep grudge for millennia, and look for ways to strike back.