Contemplations and reasoning of a progressive Muslim woman
|Is Satan God’s Enemy, or is he ours?
Let’s get a bit philosophical here. Philosophy, as defined by Merriam-Webster is “A discipline comprising as its core: logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, the pursuit of wisdom, a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means, an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs.”
I believe that if we want to know more about Satan, we should start at the very beginning and go back to the pilot episode of this whole drama; when the first human being was created.
The Bible, both Old, and New Testaments relate the story of the beginning of Man’s journey mostly from the time Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and were cast down from heaven (Paradise) to Earth, to toil and travail until Judgement Day. In the Qur’an, the story goes back to the very beginning of man’s creation. It goes to when God first shaped Adam out of clay.
In the Qur’an God says that He shaped and fashioned Adam out of clay and asked all the angels to bow to Him. He says that all the angels did without hesitation, but not Satan.
When God asked Satan, what prevented him from bowing to Adam, Satan replied: “I will not bow to the one you created from dirt when I am of a much higher status, created from fire.” God then told Satan “To fire you shall return because of your arrogance and disobedience.” At that, Satan asked for a reprieve, and a chance to prove that Man is not deserving of God’s favor. God granted Satan his request and told him that on Judgement Day, those among mankind who listen to him and follow his lead will be, alongside him, the eternal dwellers of hell. And that he (Satan) shall have no power over those who call on God for protection. In my opinion, this points to the fact that Satan is primarily our enemy in this story of ours. If Adam wasn’t created, Satan would have continued his merry existence in Paradise unchallenged. But it was the advent of man that shook his existence to the core and caused him to be cast to the underworld. It seems to me that Satan has justifiable ground for enmity against mankind.
Every author deserving of that title knows that to every well-crafted story, certain elements must be present, especially the plot.
Author Aaron Sheppard states “Plot is most often about a conflict or struggle that the main character goes through. The conflict can be with another character, or with the way things are, or with something inside the character, like needs or feelings. The main character should win or lose at least partly on their own, and not just be rescued by someone or something else. Most often, the character learns or grows as they try to solve their problem. What the character learns is the theme. The conflict should get more and more tense or exciting. The tension should reach a high point or “climax” near the end of the story, then ease off. The basic steps of a plot are: conflict begins, things go right, things go WRONG, final victory (or defeat), and wrap-up. The right-wrong steps can repeat…”
Mankind story seems to fit the above description of a well-crafted story.
The way things are, being: to every action, there is a reaction. For example, if you eat something poisonous you will feel the pain as what you ate makes its way through your body, if it does not kill you instantaneously. In our case, we ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Therefore, the reaction would be that we will know what is Good and what it is Evil. This knowledge cannot be acquired except through the senses. We must know, experience, taste, and feel what Good is, and what Evil is. Similarly, one must eat an apple to truly know what an apple really is. Description of it alone, regardless of how elaborate, will not suffice. That’s just the way things are.
The Conflict and Struggle, in this story, is, “with something inside the character, like needs or feelings.” The analogy I would like to use here is that of a child striving to earn her parents’ approval by doing what is pleasing to the parents, and the desire for individuation, by doing what feels good and is immediately gratifying.
Everyone would agree that if God had made us behave exactly as He wished us to behave? In other words, like robots? There would have been no struggle. But, God did not create us as robots. He created us humans endowed with the ability to think, reason, and make decisions for ourselves. He gave us ‘Free Will’. He gave us the ability to make choices. And that, my friends, is what’s inside us, the cause of our struggles.
I believe that by sending us down here, God was not punishing us, He was simply allowing us to experience the natural consequence of that initial choice that we made, and to learn the difference between Good and Evil, while --like any loving parent-- continuously providing us guidance through His Books and His messengers.
Just as any parent would expect their child to make the right decision while providing them the nurturing, instruction, and the guidance necessary for the child to become a healthy, sane, productive, decent, conscientious and loving member of the family, so does God expect of mankind.
Consequently, when the child turns out to be arrogant, disrespectful, rude, cruel, and not willing to do what is right, then the parents will have to protect the rest of the family from the harm caused by that child however they can. Many parents have kicked their child out or even disowned him/her if the child chooses to not abide by the parents’ rules and the moral code to live in peace and harmony with the members of his/her family, or if he/she is constantly creating chaos, disturbances, and hardships for the family. Similarly, it is with God.
It seems inconceivable to me that God would allow us to dwell in Paradise and continue to behave as we currently do, (cheat each other, abuse each other, enslave each other, steal from each other, plot against each other, murder each other, etc.) I believe Heaven to be the dwelling of those who have overcome their selfishness and have learned to love others for God ‘sake.
“Love one another.” Said, Jesus. To be able to live in harmony and peace with one another we would have to truly love one another. Jesus also said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul.” Only when we truly love God with all our heart, might, mind, and soul can we be aware of the things that are pleasing to Him, and the things that are displeasing to him and act accordingly by honoring and respecting His likes and dislikes. Would you not do that for the person in your life that you love the most?
By not honoring God’s commandments we are proclaiming, unconsciously, that we do not love Him. Thus, we are per default making that ultimate choice and decision of where we want to spend Eternity. God is not going to make us love Him through coercion or by force.
The question then is, just how does Satan proceed to show God that we are not deserving of His love and favor?
Reflecting on my own experiences, I can name a few.
• Ingratitude: the minute a misfortune befalls us we forget all the good, happy, and nice things and moments we may have had in our life. We blame God and ask why did He let bad things happen to us. We become bitter. And depending on the magnitude of the misfortune, we might even reject God altogether. We get thoughts that pop into our heads such as “God does not care about you, you don’t matter, He prefers others to you, why should you even care or give a damn about doing the right thing at this point? Etc.”
Automatic thoughts such as those mentioned above are not from God. I don’t believe they are ours either. Why would we choose to think thoughts that make us sad, angry, and disgruntled? I believe these thoughts to be from Satan. He is the who would benefit if we follow through with that line of thinking.
• Selfishness is evident in our drive for competition and comparison. We want to be better than others, to have more than others. We want our country, our town, our team, our neighborhood, our children to win, thus, want others to lose. We constantly compare ourselves to others, measure the differences and attempts to tip the balance in our favor, sometimes by every means possible, even unethical, unfair, or unjust ones.
• Arrogance: When we achieve the desired outcome, passing an exam, landing a job, achieving status, fame, or fortune, we let it go to our head, and act so haughtily and with arrogance. We attribute it all to ourselves, to our intelligence, our capability, our perseverance, etc. We forget to humble ourselves and give thanks to God and praise Him. He gave us that intelligence, that capability, and the trait of perseverance, etc.
I believe that all of us, at one point or another, get similar automatic thoughts that we must challenge and verify the authenticity of.
How can I believe that God who made it incumbent upon us and asked us at every turn in history to forgive and love one another, punish and kick us out of heaven at the very first mistake we made? In mankind’s situation, Earth is the necessary stage and arena to learn what we wanted to learn, the knowledge of Good and Evil.
Some would say: “Well, Adam and Eve also disobeyed God’s command. They ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan was cast out of heaven and so were they. They are all being punished for their disobedience.”
Yes! That is true. Adam and Eve did disobey, but in the Qur’an, in chapter 7, verse 23, Adam and Eve repented and asked God to forgive them “Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If you forgive us not and bestow not upon us your mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers.”
God forgave them, as per chapter 2 verse 37 “Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.”
However, they still had to assume the consequences of their choice, and experience the natural outcome of their action, as per chapter 2 verse 38 “We said: Go down from it, all of you. And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance - there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.” The act was: eating the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, and the consequence is: knowing through physical, psychological, and emotional means what good is and what evil is.
To me, this is proof that our existence on earth is not as a punishment, but the natural consequence of the very first choice we made.