Depiction of a Shaitan made by Siyah Qalam between the 14th and the 15th century

Shayāṭīn (شياطين), singular: Shayṭān (Arabic: شيطان‎) are evil spirits, comparable to demons or devils, in Islamic theology and mythology. Usually, shayatin are regarded as the offspring of Iblis, but other beings, such as evil jinn, fallen angels or Tawaghit are also identified as shayatin.[1][2][3] From an ontological perspective, shayatin are all beings that have become a manifestation of evil and ugliness.[4] Surah 6:112 mentions shayatin among Ins and jinn, according to some exegetes, referring to shayatin who tempt among the jinn, and whose, who tempt among humans.[5]

Etymology [ edit ]

The word Šayṭān (Arabic: شَيْطَان‎) originates from the Hebrew שָׂטָן (Śāṭān) "accuser, adversary" (which is the source of the English Satan). However Arabic etymology relates the word to the root š-ṭ-n ("distant, astray") taking a theological connotation designating a creature distant from divine mercy.[6] In pre-Islamic Arabia this term was used to designate an evil spirit. With the emergence of Islam the meaning of shayatin moved closer to the Christian concept of devils.[7] The term shayatin appears in a similar way in the Book of Enoch; denoting the hosts of the devil.[8] Taken from Islamic sources, "shaitan" may either be translated as "demon" or as "devil".[9]

Exegesis [ edit ]

Like jinn, the shayatin share the characteristics of invisibility. Some scholars put them merely under one category of the supernatural. However the prevailing opinion among the mufassirs distinguish between the jinn and shayatin as following:[10][11]

  • While among the jinn, there are different types of believers (Muslims, Christians, Jewish, polytheists, etc.), the shayatin are exclusively evil.
  • The jinn are mortals and die, while the shayatin only die, when their leader ceases to exist.

Since the shayatin are limited to "evil", they lack free will and are inaccessible to the "good." A hadith emphasizes the impossibility for the shayatin to access salvation: "One kind of beings will dwell in Paradise, and they are the malaikah (angels); one kind will dwell in the Hellfire, and they are the shayatin, and other kinds will dwell [such that] some are in Paradise and some in the Hellfire, and those are the jinn and the naas (mankind)."[12] In his commentary of Abu Hanifas al-Fiqh al-absat Abu Muti writes that all angels, except with Harut and Marut, are obedient, but all demons, except Ham ibn Him Ibn Laqis Ibn Iblis, are created evil. While setting the angels against the demons, he contrasts them with jinn and humans created with their Fitra.[13]

While the Quran remains unclear about the origin of the shayatin, most commentators identify them with Iblis' progeny by referring to hadiths.[14] Some exegetes, such as Zakariya al-Qazwini, even elaborated a more extensive account on the shayatin, based on hadith traditions. Accordingly, the shayatin are generally hermaphrodite, unable to marry, and reproduce by laying eggs.[15] For their creation it was suggested that the shayatin were created from the smoke of fire, while the jinn from its blaze and angels from its light.[16] According to Al-Suyuti's Al-Hay’a as-samya fi l-hay’a as-sunmya the shayatin are created from the fires of the sun (Samūm).[17]

Religious significance [ edit ]

The existence of shayatin is generally affirmed in Islam. Commonly the shayatin are just tempters inciting the mind of humans with "whisperings" (waswās).[18] However the characteristics of the shayatin in folk Islam is far more extensive than in standard Islamic theology and although it is impossible to find unified depictions among local traditions, some characteristics given to the shayatin appear frequently, such as the cause of misfortune, saying basmala could ward off shayatin attacks[19] and that shayatin visit filthy or desacralized places.[20] Witchcraft is also traced back to the shayatin (compare with the Christian understanding), since the Quran states in 2:102 that it was not Solomon who practiced witchcraft but rather the shayatin, who also taught it to the people. According to Islam, it is recommended to recite a certain du'a (supplication), like "A'uzu Billahi Minesh shaitanir Rajiim" and the Suras "An-Naas" or "Al-Falaq"[21] to protect oneself from the shayatin. Supported by hadiths from Sahih al-Bukhari and Jami` at-Tirmidhi, the shayatin can not harm the believers during the month of Ramadan, since they are chained in Jahannam (Gehenna (hellfire)).[22]

In Hell [ edit ]

The shayatin are further described as spirits living in the fires of hell,[23] featuring in Islamic imagery of the infernal regions. The Quran 37:62–68 describes the tree of hell with fruits with heads of shayatin. In the ʿKitāb al-ʿAẓama, which focuses extensively on cosmology, describes hell as inhabited by zabaniyya and shayatin. The latter dwell in the fourth layer of hell and rise from coffins to torture the sinners.[24] In Al-Tha'alibis Qisas Al-Anbiya, the shayatin surround Iblis in the bottom of hell, from where they receive their commands.[25]

Five Sons of Iblis [ edit ]

According Sahih Muslim, among the shayatin are five sons of Iblis: Tir, “who brings about calamities, loses, and injuries; Al-A’war, who encourages debauchery; Sut, who suggests lies; Dasim, who causes hatred between man and wife; Zalambur, who presides over places of traffic."[26]

Fortune-telling [ edit ]

The Quran speaks about demons, trying to listen to the angels in heaven. Unlike the jinn, they might succeed listening, snap some informations, but are chasted away by shooting stars and mixing a part of the truth their heared with lies.[27] Thus attributing the pre-Islamic traditions of Fortune-telling to demons, denouncing such practises as satanic.[28] This interpretation might have originated in Jewish mythology, as attested by the testament of Solomon, identifying shooting stars with fallen angels or daimons.[29]

Sufi psychology [ edit ]

Some Sufi writers link the works of shayatin to human psyche. Ghazali linked them to man's inner spiritual development. Accordingly, the shayatin do not reproduce but lay their eggs into the heart of human. In this regard, Ghazali links the children of Iblis, mentioned by earlier scholars, such as Tabari, to humans misdeeds, caused by the corresponding shaitan.[30]

See also [ edit ]

References [ edit ]

  1. ^ Robert Lebling Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar I.B.Tauris 2010 ISBN 978-0-857-73063-3 page 22
  2. ^ Gordon Melton, Martin Baumann Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices, 2nd Edition [6 volumes] ABC-CLIO 2010 ISBN 978-1-598-84204-3 page 117
  3. ^ Frederick M. Smith The Self Possessed: Deity and Spirit Possession in South Asian Literature and Civilization Columbia University Press 2012 ISBN 978-0-231-51065-3 page 570
  4. ^ Seyyed Hossein Nasr Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines, An SUNY Press 1993 ISBN 978-1-438-41419-5 p. 70
  5. ^ Teuma, E. (1984). More on Qur'anic jinn. Melita Theologica, 39(1-2), 37-45.
  6. ^ Mustafa ÖZTÜRK The Tragic Story of Iblis (Satan) in the Qur’an Çukurova University,Faculty of Divinity JOURNAL OF ISLAMIC RESEARCH İslam Araştırmaları Vol 2 No 2 December 2009 page 134
  7. ^ Jeffrey Burton Russell Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages Cornell University Press 1986 ISBN 978-0-801-49429-1 page 55
  8. ^ James Windrow Sweetman Islam and Christian Theology: Preparatory historical survey of the early period. v.2. The theological position at the close of the period of Christian ascendancy in the Near East Lutterworth Press 1945 University of Michigan digitalized: 26. Juni 2009 p. 24
  9. ^ Mehmet Yavuz Seker Beware! Satan: Strategy of Defense Tughra Books 2008 ISBN 978-1-597-84131-3 page 3
  11. ^ Amira El-Zein Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 21
  12. ^ Amira El-Zein Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 20
  13. ^ Abu l-Lait as-Samarqandi's Comentary on Abu Hanifa al-Fiqh al-absat Introduction, Text and Commentary by Hans Daiber Islamic concept of Belief in the 4th/10th Century Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa p. 243
  15. ^ A.G. Muhaimin The Islamic Traditions of Cirebon: Ibadat and Adat Among Javanese Muslims ANU E Press 2016 ISBN 978-1-920-94231-1 page 43-46
  16. ^ Seyyed Hossein Nasr Islamic Life and Thought Routledge 2013 ISBN 978-1-134-53818-8 page 135
  17. ^ ANTON M. HEINEN ISLAMIC COSMOLOGY A STUDY OF AS-SUYUTI’S al-Hay’a as-samya fi l-hay’a as-sunmya with critical edition, translation, and commentary ANTON M. HEINEN BEIRUT 1982 p. 143
  18. ^ Gerda Sengers Women and Demons: Cultic Healing in Islamic Egypt BRILL 2003 ISBN 978-9-004-12771-5 p. 254
  19. ^ Gerda Sengers. Women and Demons: Cultic Healing in Islamic Egypt. BRILL. 2003. ISBN 978-9-004-12771-5. p. 41.
  20. ^ Marion Holmes Katz Body of Text: The Emergence of the Sunni Law of Ritual Purity SUNY Press, 01.02.2012 ISBN 9780791488577 p. 13
  21. ^ Rudolf Macuch "Und das Leben ist siegreich!": mandäische und samaritanische Literatur ; im Gedenken an Rudolf Macuch (1919–1993) Otto Harrassowitz Verlag 2008 ISBN 978-3-447-05178-1 page 82
  22. ^ Tobias Nünlist (2015). Dämonenglaube im Islam. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. ISBN 978-3-110-33168-4. page 229 (in German).
  23. ^ Fahd, T. and Rippin, A., “S̲h̲ayṭān”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Consulted online on 04 October 2019 <> First published online: 2012 First print edition: ISBN 9789004161214, 1960-2007
  24. ^ Christian Lange Locating Hell in Islamic Traditions BRILL 978-90-04-30121-4 p. 149
  25. ^ Robert Lebling Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar I.B. Tauris 2010 ISBN 978-0-857-73063-3
  26. ^ Hughes, Thomas Patrick (1885). "Genii". Dictionary of Islam: Being a Cyclopædia of the Doctrines, Rites, Ceremonies . London, UK: W.H.Allen. pp. 134–6. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  27. ^ Eichler, Paul Arno, 1889 Die Dschinn, Teufel und Engel in Koran [microform] p. 31 (German)
  28. ^ Eichler, Paul Arno, 1889 Die Dschinn, Teufel und Engel in Koran [microform] p. 31 (German)
  29. ^ Samuel Vollenweider Horizonte neutestamentlicher Christologie: Studien zu Paulus und zur frühchristlichen Theologie Mohr Siebeck, 2002 ISBN 978-3-161-47791-1 p. 77
  30. ^ Peter J. Awn Satan's Tragedy and Redemption: Iblis in Sufi Psychology BRILL 1983 ISBN 9789004069060 p. 58
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