The Concept of Evil in Islam
29 SEP 2017
The notions of good and evil are central to almost every religion, and Islam is no different. Muslims believe that evil is a result of the interference of Shaytan, the Arabic word for devil. Shaytan tempts humans to choose evil, and a moral Muslim must use his natural instinct to make the right choice.
Islam's shared origin with Judaism and Christianity results in a similar story about the origin of evil in the world, but it differs in many key ways from Jewish and Christian teachings. In Islam, the devil, who is sometimes called Iblis and sometimes Shaytan, rebels against God after the creation of humanity. When God orders all spirits to bow down to Adam, the devil refuses and God rejects him until Judgement Day. From that beginning, the devil promised to tempt humanity with evil and turn them away from God's path.
2 Free Will
One of the central tenets of Islam is the notion of free will. God does not force belief or moral practice on humanity; He grants free will to humans as a personal test for each individual. Free will is the source of man's religious accountability, because life would be meaningless if God dictated all human action. It would also mean that all evil came directly from Him. Instead, evil has its source in human decisions and the temptation of the devil.
3 Virtues and Sins
Although our natural instinct can help us choose between good and evil, the teachings of Islam help individuals further differentiate between these two. Islam preaches the virtues of justice, mercy and forgiveness in order to achieve a moral life in line with the preaching of the holy text, the Quran. On the other hand, the 70 major sins of Islam, such as worshiping other beings as the equal of God, committing murder or failing to pray, are sources of evil.
No matter how severe the sin, Islam teaches that individuals can receive forgiveness from God with sincere repentance. Evil is the result of human choices, but forgiveness is a virtue of God and therefore much greater. Furthermore, God is merciful, and if Muslims expect to receive forgiveness for their own sins, they must themselves show mercy. This means that no evil can be so great that an individual cannot receive forgiveness and mercy so that he may turn to a moral path.