Allah as a Deceiver

Examining Satan’s Accusations Against the Integrity of Allah

Sam Shamoun

In several articles (1, 2, 3, 4) we have made mention that the Quran teaches outright that Allah is capable of lying and deceiving people. In fact, one of the titles which the Quran ascribes to Allah is khayru al-makireen, that Allah is "the best deceiver/schemer/conniver" (cf. S. 3:54; 8:30).

We want to continue our discussion regarding Allah being a deceiver by examining what the Quran says supposedly took place in paradise between Allah and Satan (called Iblis in the Quran) at the time of Adam’s creation. The Quran claims that Allah commanded all the angels to worship Adam, which Satan did not do, prompting Allah to ask him the reason why:

(Allah) said: "O Iblis (Satan)! What is your reason for not being among the prostrators?" [Iblis (Satan)] said: "I am not the one to prostrate myself to a human being, whom You created from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud." (Allah) said: "Then, get out from here, for verily, you are Rajim (an outcast or a cursed one)." [Tafsir At-Tabari] "And verily, the curse shall be upon you till the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)." [Iblis (Satan)] said: "O my Lord! Give me then respite till the Day they (the dead) will be resurrected." Allah said: "Then, verily, you are of those reprieved, Till the Day of the time appointed." [Iblis (Satan)] said: "O my Lord! Because YOU MISLED ME, I shall indeed adorn the path of error for them (mankind) on the earth, and I shall mislead them all. Except Your chosen, (guided) slaves among them." (Allah) said: "This is the Way which will lead straight to Me. Certainly, you shall have no authority over My slaves, except those who follow you of the Ghawin (Mushrikun and those who go astray, criminals, polytheists, and evil-doers, etc.). And surely, Hell is the promised place for them all. It (Hell) has seven gates, for each of those gates is a (special) class (of sinners) assigned." S. 15:32-44

What makes this exchange rather shocking is that Satan accuses Allah of deceiving or misleading him! Here is what the text in question exactly says:

[Iblis (Satan)] said: "O my Lord! Because you misled me (aghwaytanee), I shall indeed adorn the path of error for them (mankind) on the earth, and I shall mislead (walaoghwiyannahum) them all. S. 15:39

Note the various translations of this specific text by the different versions of the Quran:

Said he, 'My Lord, for Thy perverting me …' Arberry

[Satan said]: "My Lord, since you misguided me, …" Majid Fakhry - An Interpretation of the Qur'an (approved by Al-Ahzar University)

'Lord,' said Satan, 'since You have thus seduced me, …' N.J. Dawood

"My Lord, since you have misled me, …" Thomas Cleary

He said, "O my Lord! because thou hast beguiled me, …" Rodwell

He said, 'O my Lord! for that Thou hast seduced me ...' Palmer

[The devil] replied, o Lord, because thou hast seduced me, … Sale

The parallel version of this story reads slightly different:

(Iblīs) said: "Because You have sent me astray (aghwaytanee), …" S. 7:16

Here is how various versions translate this passage:

Said he, 'Now, for Thy perverting me, …' Arberry

Satan said: "Because You have misled me, …" Fakhry

'Because You led me into sin …' N.J. Dawood

He said: Now, because Thou hast sent me astray, … Pickthall

He said: "Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, …" Y. Ali

He said, "Since You have willed that I go astray, …" Thomas Cleary

He said, "Now, for that thou hast caused me to err, …" Rodwell

said he, 'For that Thou hast led me into error, …' Palmer

The devil] said, because thou hast depraved me, … Sale

Moreover, here is how some Muslim commentators explained S. 7:16:

(He) Iblis (said: Now, because Thou hast sent me astray) just as You made me err from guidance, (verily I shall lurk in ambush for them) for the children of Adam (on Thy Right Path) the religion of Islam. (Tanwīr al-Miqbās min Tafsīr Ibn ‘Abbās; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Said he, 'Now, because You have sent me astray (fa-bi-ma aghwaytani means bi-ighwa'ik, 'for Your sending me astray': the ba' is for oaths, and the response of the oath is [the following]) verily I shall sit in ambush for them, that is, for the Children of Adam, on Your straight path, that is, on the path that leads to You. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

What makes this even more interesting is that this particular word is always used in its various forms with a negative connotation:

"Certainly, you shall have no authority over My slaves, except those who follow you of the Ghawin (Mushrikun and those who go astray, criminals, polytheists, and evil-doers, etc.). S. 15:42

And recite (O Muhammad) to them the story of him to whom We gave Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.), but he threw them away, so Shaitan (Satan) followed him up, and he became of those who went astray (alghaweena). S. 7:175

Then they both ate of the tree, and so their private parts appeared to them, and they began to stick on themselves the leaves from Paradise for their covering. Thus did Adam disobey his Lord, so he went astray (faghawa). S. 20:121

And the (Hell) Fire will be placed in full view of the erring…Then they will be thrown on their faces into the (Fire), They and the Ghawun (devils, and those who were in error). S. 26:91, 94

So he became afraid, looking about in the city (waiting as to what will be the result of his crime of killing), when behold, the man who had sought his help the day before, called for his help (again). Musa (Moses) said to him: "Verily, you are a plain misleader (laghawiyyun)!" S. 28:18

Those about whom the Word will have come true (to be punished) will say: "Our Lord! These are they whom we led astray (aghwayna). We led them astray (aghwaynahum), as we were astray (ghawayna) ourselves. We declare our innocence (from them) before You. It was not us they worshipped." S. 28:63

So we led you astray (aghwaynakum) because we were ourselves astray (ghaweena). S. 37:32

Your companion (Muhammad) has neither gone astray nor has erred (ghawa). S. 53:2

And because Allah misled Satan the devil will now mislead others!

[Iblis (Satan)] said: "By Your Might, then I will surely mislead (laoghwiyannahum) them all," S. 38:82

It is, therefore, clear from the foregoing that Satan was raising a serious charge against Allah’s character by basically identifying him as one who perverts, deceives, or misleads people from the true path!

It seems that the reason why Iblis felt that he had been misled is because Allah condemned him for not obeying a command which was given to the angels:

And (remember) when We said to the angels: "Prostrate yourselves before Adam.". And they prostrated except Iblis (Satan), he refused and was proud and was one of the disbelievers (disobedient to Allah). S. 2:34

And surely, We created you (your father Adam) and then gave you shape (the noble shape of a human being), then We told the angels, "Prostrate to Adam", and they prostrated, except Iblis (Satan), he refused to be of those who prostrate. S. 7:11

And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: "I am going to create a man (Adam) from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud. So, when I have fashioned him completely and breathed into him (Adam) the soul which I created for him, then fall (you) down prostrating yourselves unto him." So, the angels prostrated themselves, ALL OF THEM together. S. 15:28-30

And (remember) when We said to the angels: "Prostrate yourselves to Adam." They prostrated (all) except Iblis (Satan), who refused. S. 20:116

And (remember) when We said to the angels: "Prostrate unto Adam." They prostrated except Iblis (Satan). He said: "Shall I prostrate to one whom You created from clay?" S. 17:61

(Remember) when your Lord said to the angels: "Truly, I am going to create man from clay. So when I have fashioned him and breathed into him (his) soul created by Me, then you fall down prostrate to him." So the angels prostrated themselves, ALL OF THEM: S. 38:71-73

Note that both Suras 15 and 38 expressly say that ALL the angels prostrated in obedience to Allah’s directive. Yet according to the Quran Iblis is a jinn, not an angel!

And (remember) when We SAID TO THE ANGELS; "Prostrate to Adam." So they prostrated except Iblis (Satan). He was one of the jinns; he disobeyed the Command of his Lord. Will you then take him (Iblis) and his offspring as protectors and helpers rather than Me while they are enemies to you? What an evil is the exchange for the Zalimun (polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc). S. 18:50

In light of the foregoing, why did Allah blame Satan for not obeying an injunction which was imposed upon the angels and not the jinn? And doesn’t this demonstrate that Satan had a valid argument against Allah for being deceptive and misleading the devil since he blamed him for not obeying a command which wasn’t directed to him at all?

Satan may have also felt misled because of the fact that Allah condemns the worship of creatures:

Surely, those who are with your Lord (angels) are never too proud to perform acts of worship to Him, but they glorify His Praise and prostrate before Him. S. 7:206

And from among His Signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Prostrate not to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate to Allah Who created them, if you (really) worship Him. S. 41:37

So fall you down in prostration to Allah, and worship Him (Alone). S. 53:62

And yet here he was watching Allah command angels to worship a creature!

A Muslim may claim that Satan falsely accused Allah of leading him astray, that Satan’s words shouldn’t be taken at face value since he is a liar and a slanderer. The first problem with this response is that Satan doesn’t always lie but, as even the Islamic sources themselves admit, can speak the truth:

And (remember) when Shaitan (Satan) made their (evil) deeds seem fair to them and said, "No one of mankind can overcome you this Day (of the battle of Badr) and verily, I am your neighbour (for each and every help)." But when the two forces came in sight of each other, he ran away and said "Verily, I have nothing to do with you. Verily! I see what you see not. Verily! I fear Allah for Allah is Severe in punishment." S. 8:48

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
The Prophet said, "If while you are praying, somebody intends to pass in front of you, prevent him; and should he insist, prevent him again; and if he insists again, fight with him (i.e. prevent him violently e.g. pushing him violently), because such a person is (like) a devil."

Narrated Muhammad bin Sirin: Abu Huraira said, "Allah's Apostle put me in charge of the Zakat of Ramadan (i.e. Zakat-ul-Fitr). Someone came to me and started scooping some of the foodstuff of (Zakat) with both hands. I caught him and told him that I would take him to Allah's Apostle." Then Abu Huraira told the whole narration and added "He (i.e. the thief) said, ‘Whenever you go to your bed, recite the Verse of "Al-Kursi" (2.255) for then a guardian from Allah will be guarding you, and Satan will not approach you till dawn.’" On that the Prophet said, "He told you the truth, though he is a liar, and he (the thief) himself was the Satan." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 495)

More importantly, the Quran actually agrees with Satan since it unashamedly admits that Allah does deceive and mislead people!

"And my advice will not profit you, even if I wish to give you good counsel, if Allah's Will is to keep you astray (yughwiyakum). He is your Lord! and to Him you shall return." S. 11:34

And my sincere counsel will not profit you, if I desire to counsel you sincerely, if God desires to pervert you; He is your Lord, and unto Him you shall be returned.' Arberry

There are other passages which, though not using the same word, teach the same point:

Then what is the matter with you that you are divided into two parties about the hypocrites? Allah has cast them back (to disbelief) because of what they have earned. Do you want to guide him whom Allah has made to go astray? And he whom Allah has made to go astray, you will never find for him any way (of guidance). S. 4:88

And We sent not a Messenger except with the language of his people, in order that he might make (the Message) clear for them. Then Allah misleads whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise. S. 14:4

A Muslim may further say that Iblis’ response shows that his reason for not bowing to Adam had nothing to do with Allah’s order being directed to the angels, but out of pride and arrogance due to his being created from a superior element (fire) than man (dust). This really doesn’t solve the problem since one must account for the reason Satan thought he had been misled.

Here is a better explanation of the data, one which takes into account all the information provided by the Quran: Iblis’ refusal to bow may have been due to pride at first but he may have later realized that Allah hadn’t directed this command to him, but to the angels. He may have further reflected that Allah was commanding the angels to do the very thing which was forbidden, namely worshiping a creature. After reflecting on all this Satan concluded that he had been duped, even deceived, by Allah since the intention was to cast Iblis out of paradise.

Whatever the case, whatever the explanation, this point stands out clearly: Satan accused Allah of being a perverter, a misleader, with the Quran agreeing that this is what Allah truly is, going so far as to boast that Allah is actually the best schemer/deceiver of them all!

Unless noted otherwise, all of the citations were taken from the Hilali-Khan version of the Quran.

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