Why the Devil is called Iblis?


Prof. Abdul Ahad Dawud, B.D.

(With a supplement by Waqar Akbar Cheema)

It is one of the characteristic features of the Qur’an that almost all the proper and common nouns contained in it possess a plain meaning, and that they are introduced into all the languages spoken by Muslims, in their original Arabic form without the least change of pronunciation or orthography. The wisdom of such a course is obvious; for most of such words as were revealed by Allah uttered by His Apostle can have no equivalent terms in pagan literature. The old Prophets of Israel would have been horrified to see, for example, the name “Ilohim” rendered “Baal,” “Mardukh,” or any other heathen god. The names “Khuda” and “Tanri,” as used by the Persians and Turks respectively before their conversion to Islam, either because of disputed etymology or mythological association, do not express the comprehensive meaning of the holy name of Allah.

The New Testament, on the other hand, contains numerous names and words which were unknown to Jesus Christ and to the Jewish multitudes that listened to his sermons and parables. For this book is not written in the language spoken by Jesus and his disciples. Consequently such names as God, Devil, Paraclete, heaven, hell and so forth, are not scriptural expressions, but borrowed from pagan mythologies.

The reason why I have selected the name “Iblees” (or Iblis) for the present article is, because it is connected with the first promise made by the Supreme Being concerning the “Seed” of the woman who should bruise the “Serpent’s” head (Gen. iii). I cannot enter here into the question concerning the authenticity, the date, and the composition of the book of the Genesis, nor discuss the theory typifying man as image of his Creator and the Serpent as a type of the Evil Spirit, which may be ascribed to a late editor imbued with Zoroastrian views. But I believe in the promise, because I see its fulfillment in Muhammad (upon whom be peace). There are innumerable prophecies and predictions in the sacred writing of the Jews which are literally fulfilled in the Prophet Muhammad; otherwise they would remain senseless absurdities. The word “Iblis” is derived from an old Semite verb “beles” –that is, from the consonants, b, l, s, which when pointed read “beles,” which means “to bruise to death,” or “to crush underfoot.” Therefore the name “Iblis” signifies “the bruised one.”

Of course it would be useless for any scholar to attempt to discover the exact word used by Jesus for that he rendered in the Greek text as “Diabolus” – or Devil. The Assyrian version called “Pshitta,” which is only a translation from the Greek text, has rendered the word “diabolus” “Akhil-Qarsa,” which literally means “an eater of strife,” and therefore “an accuser” or “adversary.” The analogous name for “Iblis” in the Aramaic tongue is “Blisa,” just as “Islam, Ahmad, Iqlim, iklil,” correspond to the Aramaic “Shalma, Himda, qlima, klila” respectively.

It is very remarkable that neither the word “Devil” nor “Iblis” occurs in the Old Testament; and it is very strange too that the authorities of the British and Foreign Bible Society have borrowed from the Qur’an the name Iblis in their translations of the New Testament into Muhammadan languages, forgetting the fact that Devil was not in the time of Jesus “the bruised one,” but the very opposite: he was then the “Bruiser”!

The truth is that no prophet, not even Jesus Christ, ever ventured to use the appellation “Iblis” for the fallen Archangel before the appearance of the last Prophet, Muhammad.

Now let me briefly contemplate the fulfillment of this divine promise. There is a series of divine promises, often repeated, and prophetic allusions concerning a great prophet who, among many other things, would bruise the head of the Devil, whom Christ calls the “Liar” and the “Father” of the Jews (St. John viii). Elsewhere in the Apocalypse, the Devil is described as “the ancient Serpent.”

The Holy Apostle of Allah bruised the head of the Devil, by the utter destruction of his abominable cult, by complete uprooting of idolatry from all the lands where his ancestor Abraham had set his foot: the lands which were promised  to this very Muhammad in the person of Ishmael, long before Isaac was born! These lands included all the territories between Nile and the Great Euphrates (Gen. xv). Infact the Covenant between Allah and Abraham was made and sealed by the Circumcision of  Ishmael some thirteen years before the birth of Isaac (Gen. xvii). The only account of the Sacrifice of the “only son” of Abraham as reported in the book of Genesis (xxii), and the significant silence if the rest of the Old Testament – and moreover, the very mention of the tetrogramme MoRIaH which is the same in root and meaning as the Qur’anic MaRWaH (chap. Ii) – leave no room for doubt that the boy taken to Merwah was not Isaac, but Ishmael. The two adjacent hills in Mecca, called Safa (meaning, like “Sion,” a stone or rock), and Marwah (the same as Moriah, i.e. “the place where IaHWaH was seen”), were two ancient monuments where the Sacrifice of Ishmael was commemorated by the pagan Arabs and is still perpetuated by all Muslims.

No Muslim ever denies that special blessings were also granted to Isaac, and that the land of Canaan was assigned to the people of Israel; but either that land or the royal “Scepter” and the gift of Prophecy (Gen. xlix. 10) would cease from Judah after the coming of Shiloh – a name which, if nor corrupted in its orthography, means exactly the popular epithet of Muhammad before his Apostleship, namely “Emin.” But most probably the last letter is not “hi” but “het” and then the correct form would be Shilohah, or Shiloah, meaning Rassul Allah! It is quite evident from the prophecy of Jacob (Gen. xlix. 10) that Shiloh would put a stop to the Power and the Law of the Jewish people, and that he would belong to another nation. However, the truth is safeguarded by the history of the People of Israel, which shows their greatest kings, David and Solomon were never able to subdue and possess all the territories extending from the Nile to the Euphrates; that the Jews during their two monarchies were rather idolaters than monotheists; and that they never purged the “Promised Land.” Including Egypt, Arabia, Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia (Gen. xv. 18-21) of idolatry.

All the lands above mentioned were entirely cleansed and purged of idols, so they remain as an inheritance for the Muslim Unitarians, called by the Prophet Daniel (ch. Vii) “the Holy People of the Most High”!

It is wonderful that this vision of Daniel (vii) is literally fulfilled in Muhammad, who destroyed the fourth Beast, which was the Roman Empire; that the eleventh “Horn” could be none but Constantine the Great; and that the “three centuries and a half” therein predicted correspond to the epoch between the Emperor and the later destruction of idolatry and the establishment of Islam in the Promised Land by Muhammad and his disciples. Any other interpretation is scarcely tenable.

I am cognizant, of course, of the old Christian archaeology, depicting the skull of Adam and the figure of a serpent under the foot of the cross of Jesus! If the fable of the Crucifixion and all the mythological doctrines attached to it are to be persistently believed as truths, then the Churches and their innumerable sects must indefinitely wait for a second advent of the Christ of their imagination in order to bruise the head of the Serpent! The impartial reader should answer this question for himself: Both Christ and Muhammad found the world in general, and his own country in particular, dominated by the Devil and the practice of idolatry; which of the two, then rendered more service to the cause of the religion of the true and One Eternal Being, and the extermination of idols from the Promised Land? Did Jesus bruise the head of the Serpent? If you answer in the affirmative, then: Whose servant was Titus, who destroyed Jerusalem? Whose servants were the ten Roman Emperors called “ten horns” (Dan. Vii) who persecuted the early Christians? There were all pagans, and consequently the servants of the Devil! It must logically be admitted, therefore, that Muhammad extirpated idolatry or the cult of the Devil once for all, and thus saved not only the Jews, but also the Christian inhabitants of the Promised Land from the persecutions of the pagans, as well as from the Trinitarians.

Is not the Qur’an, then, absolutely justified in naming the Devil “Iblis,” or the “Bruised”?

– The article first appeared in ‘The Islamic Review’ vol. XIV No. 10 October, 1926 pp. 391-395

Supplement: The Devil’s despair and the Promised Land

The respected and learned author found the origins of word “Iblis” in idolatry or the cult of Devil being rooted out from the Promised Lands. I find it on the lines of what the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him, told in a certain Hadith.

Holy Prophet, may Allah bless him, said;

إن الشيطان قد أيس أن يعبده المصلون في جزيرة العرب

“The Devil has despaired of being worshipped in the Arabian Peninsula.”[1]

In the translation of the Hadith above the word “Peninsula” is used for easy comprehension otherwise the Arabic word used is “Jazeera” which literally means “island.” As the classical understanding goes the “Jazeera” of Arab is surrounded by the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and towards the north by the Euphrates River.[2]

This definition includes all the lands included in the divine covenant.

[1] Muslim bin Hajjaj, as-Sahih, Translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab (Riyadh: Maktabat Dar-us-Salam, 2007) Hadith 7103 (65-2812)

[2] Al-Hamvi, Yaqut, Mu’jam al-Baldan, (Beirut: Dar al-Sader, 1995) Vol.2, 137

About the author

Waqar Akbar Cheema


  • The entire p;d testament is about the Elohim, how they created humanity, warred amongst themselves, argued with each other.
    The Elohim are not God the creator of all. Second, Allah comes from Elohim, so nowhere, is that a reference to the creator God.

    Eloah – singular
    El – singular
    Alaha – Syriac language
    Ilah – arabic
    So Allah another name for Elohim.
    Powerful beings that descended from the sky.

    The submit part is interesting because some of the Elohim were violent, xenophobic, warlike, jealous, and demanded tribute.
    Women during the time of the Elohim had to cover themselves because the Elohim found them irresistibly beautiful and would capture them.

    So, it seems the three religions of the middle east come from Elohim worship, not worship of the creator God of the universe.

    See the conundrum?

    -Bill Freeman

  • Please, also add a modern ‘edit’ button, so we can correct
    any mistakes.
    I meant to say OLD testament in my previous statement, but no ability to edit is provided.

    Also, let me be clear, I’ve no ill will towards anyone or their beliefs.
    I’m just pointing out the not so obvious conundrum of the Elohim.
    Many are realizing the Elohim were probably extraterrestrials,
    not the creator God of the universe.


    -Bill Freeman