Can Angels Dis­obey ? The Nature of Iblis And The Rea­son For His Fall

Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi

It is claimed by the Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ar­ies that there is a con­tra­dic­tion” with regard to the Qur’an­ic state­ment that angels nev­er dis­obey God. The gist of their claim is as follows :

The com­mand of Allah is giv­en to the angels. Since Iblis is accused of not being obe­di­ent, he has to be one of the angels.

The Qur’an clear­ly states that Iblis (Satan) was not an angel, but was of the jinn. The Qur’an says thus :

… but Iblis did it not — he was a jinn — thus he dis­obeyed his Lord.” [18:50]

In view of this state­ment of the Qur’an it is obvi­ous that Iblis was a jinn and not an angel, hence the rest of the mis­sion­ary dia­tribe on the mat­ter is ren­dered insignif­i­cant and invalid.

This brings us to the point from cer­tain quar­ters, name­ly that since Iblis did not bow down to Adam because he was aware of the prob­lem of shirk, asso­ci­a­tion of the wor­ship of being(s) with God, Iblis is there­fore not the guilty par­ty here. There are also claims that if Iblis was a jinn and not an angel, how can it there­fore be said that he dis­obeyed God’s com­mand by not bow­ing down in front of Adam espe­cial­ly when, accord­ing to the Qur’an God had direct­ed only the angels to pros­trate before Adam.

In our opin­ion, the answer to these ques­tions is to first under­stand the basic direc­tive of the Com­mand of God itself. Accord­ing to the Qur’an it is to be not­ed that although it was pri­mar­i­ly the angels who were direct­ed to pros­trate before Adam it was, nev­er­the­less, expect­ed of the jinn who were in the court at that time to fol­low suit. In oth­er words, by direct­ing the angels to bow down before Adam God had direct­ed a high­er cadre of His cre­ation to sub­mit to a com­mand, the low­er cadre cre­ations like the jinn and any oth­ers that may have been present at the time, were expect­ed to do the same.

This style of speech is used in almost all human lan­guages. For instance, when some­one says :

    When the Chief Jus­tice enters the hall all the par­lia­men­tar­i­ans shall pay their respects by stand­ing up for him

he gen­er­al­ly implies that all those present in the hall (per­son­nel of the press, the for­eign diplo­mats, the media per­son­nel and guests of the mem­bers) should stand to pay their respects to the Chief Justice.

The word par­lia­men­tar­i­ans” in such a sen­tence is not to sig­ni­fy that the direc­tive is giv­en only to those who are mem­bers of the par­lia­ment, but is a gen­er­al­iza­tion in which a high­er cadre of per­son­nel is giv­en a direc­tive with the impli­ca­tion that oth­ers are also expect­ed to fol­low suit.

How­ev­er, even if we assume that the direc­tive was mis­con­strued by Iblis to be lim­it­ed in its impli­ca­tion to the angels only, or that Iblis believed that it was tan­ta­u­mont to shirk, it would have fol­lowed that when God asked Iblis Why did you not bow down?”, he should log­i­cal­ly have answered that I did not bow down because I was not com­mand­ed to do so” or that I did not bow down because this is an act of asso­ci­at­ing wor­ship with You.” But that is not, as the detrac­tors assume, the case of Iblis disobedience.

The Qur’an says :

All the angels fell down pros­trate, but Iblis did it not. He refused to be among those who pros­trat­ed. Allah said : O Iblis what is wrong with you, why are you not among those who bowed down. He said : I shall not bow down to some­thing that You have cre­at­ed from sound­ing clay.” (15:30 – 33)

At anoth­er instance, the Qur’an explains :

Then we said to the angels : Bow down to Adam. They bowed down, except Iblis He was not among those who bowed down. Allah said : What stopped you from bow­ing down, when I direct­ed you to do so. He said : I am bet­ter than him, You cre­at­ed me from fire and You cre­at­ed him from dust.” (7:11 – 12)

Then again, the Qur’an says :

So the angels bowed down, all of them. But Iblis did it not. He showed haugh­ti­ness and became a rejecter. Allah said : O Iblis what stopped you from bow­ing down to the one whom I cre­at­ed with My hands. Was it your pride [that stopped you] or are you among the ele­vat­ed ones ? He said : I am bet­ter than him. You cre­at­ed me from fire while him You cre­at­ed from dust.” (39:73 – 76)

The above vers­es clear­ly show that although the words of the referred direc­tive could have been con­strued to be addressed to the angels only, yet there was no doubt in Iblis’ mind that he too was com­mand­ed to pros­trate before Adam nor did he believed that it was an act of shirk. His absti­nence from pros­trat­ing before Adam was there­fore not because of any mis­un­der­stand­ing of the direc­tive, but because of his obvi­ous haugh­ti­ness and arrogance.

We have used the tra­di­tion­al method of Qur’an­ic exe­ge­sis, i.e., al-Qur’an yufas­siru ba’­duhu ba’­dan (dif­fer­ent parts of the Qur’an explain each oth­er). What is giv­en in a gen­er­al way in one place is dis­cussed in detail in some oth­er place in the Qur’an What is dealt with briefly at one place is expand­ed in some oth­er place.

And only God knows best.Endmark

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