The New International Encyclopædia/Iblis

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IB'LIS. One of the names of the Devil, in the Koran, who, however, is more often called Shaitān (Satan). Iblis is the chief of the fallen angels, who was once a good angel named Azazil, but having refused at God's command to render homage to Adam, was first condemned to death, but subsequently respited till the judgment day (Koran, vii. 13). The legend is borrowed from Jewish sources, and is embodied in the Midrashic exposition of Genesis, chapter iii. (consult Wünsche, Midrash Bereshit Rabba, p. 32 sqq., Leipzig, 1881). Both words for devil used by Mohammed appear to be of foreign origin, the form Shaitān coming close to the designation of Satan in Ethiopic—while Iblis may be a distortion of diabolus, modified in order to adapt it to a derivation from an Arabic stem balasa ‘to confuse,’ with which, however, it has really nothing to do. Of the two terms, the former is found in the Koran 87 times, the latter only 11 times. Moreover, the plural of the former is used, whereas the latter occurs only in the singular, and was regarded by Mohammed as a name for a specific devil, the arch devil spirit; Shaitān, both in the Koran and the later literature, is used as a general designation for devils or evilly disposed demons. On the basis of the utterances in the Koran, the doctrine of the Devil is further developed in Mohammedan theology, influenced by the specifically Christian and Jewish conceptions current in the Orient whereby the Devil, as a single personage, usurps the powers and attributes of the numerous body of jinns (q.v.) of popular belief. The latter, however, as a survival of primitive religion, continue to hold sway among the people in general, so that in the folklore of the Arabs it is the jinns who are constantly introduced, both for good and evil purposes, whereas the mention of Iblis and of the Satans is largely confined to the body of theological writings. In the latter the contrast between the Devil and the angels is prominently put forward, and the view is expressed that each individual has a devil and an angel appointed as his companions, the former tempting him to evil deeds, the latter prompting him to good. The life of man passes in a constant struggle to be rid of the former and to keep close to the latter. Consult Weil, Biblische Legenden der Muselmänner (Frankfort, 1845).