Satan in Arabic means the one who is away from Allah’s blessings and hence devoid of pleasant things in life; the one who follows a wrong path while staying ignorant or not paying heed to the right path or the one who becomes rebellious. Satan in Hebrew means – one who creates obstacles.
In short, according to the Quran, when human emotions trespass and go against God’s constitution or the Quranic order, it is referred to as Satan or Iblis.
Psychologically, when human emotions blow out of proportion they over react and such overreaction creates confusion, chaos and aggression which eventually transforms into frustration.
Though aggression and frustration are synonymous, one signifies the trigger point while the other signifies the eventual psychological condition.
Arabic meaning of the word Satan and its mention in the Quran draws special attention. It has been referred to in numerous verses of the text, each in a different context. Let’s take a brief look at a few (Surah means Chapter):
- Surah 19 : Verse 44 –
Satan is the one who revolts against the orders of Allah.
- Surah 28: Verse 15 –
When Moses struck unintentionally a fatal blow to the Egyptian Copt, he said – “Oh this was a satanic action” – which means anything wrong done under emotional pressure or an emotional outburst, is Satan.
- Surah 2: Verse 14 and Surah 12 : Verse 5 –
The ringleaders of the people who opposed the system of Allah were referred to as Satan.
- Surah 21 : Verse 82 and Surah 38 :Verse 37 –
Those barbaric and rebellious tribes, whom Solomon subdued, brought under his control and put them to work were called Satan.
To sum up from these verses of the Quran, any authority or power which differs, deviates or revolts against the values, principle and laws of the Quranic system or in short, the course of Allah, is termed as Satan, a force within the very edifice of human individuality.
This force, that impacts human thoughts and actions, becomes an important component of the human freewill, which is unique to the human species.
The Quran proclaims itself to be the book of guidance for humanity which helps us choose the right path and make a progressive and constructive use of its freewill by suppressing the force of Satan within. This leads to the development and grooming of human individuality and its potentials.
Human beings have lived and evolved on this planet over millions of years. One thing that has kept humanity alive and steered it through its quest for survival was – the human emotions.
Human emotions create an unsurmountable urge to break through the walls of impossibilities. The key to human progress and development lies within its emotions, which drives human intellect towards new ideas and conceptualisation of possibilities.
The scientific evolution of 14th – 17th century is a prime example of how the intellectual fraternity broke out of the clutches of religious hegemony to set free and explore the immense potentials of human emotions.
That era bears testimony to the fact that unless human emotions break through the clutches of ignorance, irrationality and unscientific approach towards life, humanity suffers a great loss to its progress and gets to taste the circumstantial regressiveness of the dark ages.
Human emotions drive inquisitiveness and restlessness to keep expanding the barriers of possibilities. They create the thrust or momentum while the human intellect gives those emotions a direction.
It was the direct outcome of such emotions that made human intellect “uncover” the ever existing laws of nature governing the physical world around us and we continue to do so.
The truth of the laws of nature had existed ever since the very creation and formation of the entire universe. It was the veil of ignorance covering human intellect that was lifted; hence the term “Dis-covery” was used to define the unveiling of all natural phenomena.
Humanity never in its history felt so powerful until it discovered the laws of nature and the immense amounts of energies hidden in those natural forces and in particles as small as an atom. Subsequent scientific advancements have indeed made human life much easier by taking away the physical labor but it still hasn’t brought to humanity the much needed peace.
Peace, I suppose, is still a distant dream to be achieved unless humanity turns its attention away from the rat race of advancing towards harnessing the energy of atom and move towards exploring and uncovering the laws of nature governing the human psyche.
What used to be termed as the “human soul” in ancient religious references is called the “human psyche” in modern scientific terminology. The Quran has referred to the human psyche or soul as its Nafs – which is a complex amalgamation of countless human emotions. Understanding the cause and effects of those human emotions, I believe, holds the key to a better understanding of human personality.
Now returning to the discussion of Satan, Quran states metaphorically that Satan has been given respite till the dooms day to distract and misguide humanity. It goes on to state that Satan would only be able to misguide and have its influence upon those who go astray and stay ignorant about the Quranic teachings while it wouldn’t have any control over the ones that are steadfast and adhere firmly to the Quranic teachings.
Which means that the human beings who are steadfast in abiding by God’s constitution in both – thoughts and actions, would never be surmounted by the Satanic emotions embedded within their psyche.
If we closely understand the message and purpose of the Quran, it claims to be a book of guidance for the entire humanity. That guidance comes as an embodiment of values, principles and laws that groom the Nafs of individuals of the human society and helps them develop into an advanced human personality- which becomes a perfect ingredient to set up an ideal human society.
The advancements in the field of psychology are unveiling various studies and understandings of the human psyche. Human psyche and individuality strives to achieve unity in its thoughts and actions. That unity of thought is achieved through education, rational thinking, knowledge and scientific understanding of things.
When human mind is flooded with misinformation and propaganda, it is driven into a labyrinth of psychological perplexity which leads to uncertainty in its judgements. Such state of psychological uncertainty has been referred to as Satan or Iblis in the Quran.
Psychologists and psycho analysts term this complexity as – “a battle between two or more tendencies within an individual”.
The Quran mentions –
Leading such a life results in a diseased mind and Allah’s law
is that He furthers such mind. This situation compels them to
persistent lying and what a torturous life it is that
they have to live. (Quran 2: 10)
Quran relates this battle between multiple tendencies to a psychological disorder in the human psyche that triggers confusion or aggression and can compel an individual into persistent lying. A psycho analyst diagnoses his patient to figure out which tendencies are causing such psychological distress in the patients mind and then devices a solution accordingly.
This battle between the two tendencies within an individual can also be related to what the Quran has called Shirk. The widely accepted notion of Shirk, as associating others with God, is trivialising the essence of the problem I suppose.
I believe that not only associating something with God but associating and following any laws contrary to the laws mentioned in the Quran amounts to Shirk.
One cannot believe in God’s constitution and follow his own lowly desires at the same time. One cannot practically believe in and abide by two sets of self contradicting rules at the same time. When human beings are forced to live in such a system or environment, it creates a tendency of dualism or dichotomy in an individual psyche.
The Quranic message of unity of God in its totality is addressed to the human psyche. Human psyche can achieve that unity when groomed under the Quranic constitution.
The Quranic constitution helps an individual differentiate between what is RIGHT and what is WRONG. It puts forth values, principles and laws determining clearly the boundaries within which the entire humanity can formulate its rules. It puts the onus of accountability and responsibility of abiding by those rules on every individual of the society.
We will continue to create circumstance in which they
themselves and some of their own people will see the signs
and visible impact of these divine laws.
Thereafter it will become clear to them that whatever the
Quran had told them was based on the truth. (Quran 41:53)
Each scientific discovery within the physical universe or within the field of human psychology will bear testimony to the truth about laws of God’s creation. This verse of the Quran negates the widely held perception of the conflict between religion and science.
Humanity will one day uncover the truth that science is only a minute subset and in total conformity with the comprehensive message of the Quran – God’s constitution for the entire humanity.
Disclamour: This article is inspired by the teachings of Allama Iqbal and other scholars.