Satan and Humanity
By Fethullah Gulen
The jinn we know as Satan was created from fire. Before his obedience and sincerity were tested through Adam, he had been in the company of angels, acting and worshiping as they did. Unlike angels, however, who cannot rebel against God (At-Tahrim 66:6), Satan was free to choose his own path of conduct. When God tested him and the angels by commanding them to prostrate before Adam, the seeds of his self-conceit and disobedience blossomed and swallowed him. He replied in his vanity,(I am better than him. You created me from fire, whilst him you did create of clay) (Saad 38:76).
Why was Satan created? Satan was created for important purposes. If Satan, who continually tries to seduce us, did not exist, our creation would be meaningless and futile. God has innumerable servants who cannot rebel and thus do whatever they are told. In fact, the existence of an absolute Divine Being Who has many beautiful names and attributes requires, not because of some external necessity but because of the essential nature of His names, that His names be manifest.
God gave us free will so that we could know good from evil. In addition, He gave us great potentials. Our development of these potentials and our struggle to choose between good and evil make us experience a constant battle in our inner and outer worlds. Just as God sends hawks upon sparrows so that the latter will develop their potential to escape, He created Satan and allowed him to tempt us so that our resistance to temptation will raise us spiritually and strengthen our willpower. Just as hunger stimulates human beings and animals to further exertion and discovery of new ways to be satisfied, and fear inspires new defenses, Satan’s temptations cause us to develop our potentials and guard against sin.
There is an infinitely long line of spiritual evolution between the ranks of the greatest prophets and saints down to those of people like Pharaoh and Nimrod; therefore it cannot be claimed that the creation of Satan is evil. Although Satan is evil and serves various important purposes, God’s creation involves the whole universe and should be understood in relation to the results, not only with respect to the acts themselves. Whatever God does or creates is good and beautiful in itself or in its effects. For example, rain and fire are very useful but can cause great harm when abused; therefore, one cannot claim that the creation of water and fire is not totally good. It is the same with the creation of Satan. His main purpose is to cause us to develop our potential, strengthen our willpower by resisting his temptations, and then rise to higher spiritual ranks.
To the argument made by some that Satan leads many people to unbelief and subsequent punishment in Hell, I would reply with the following:
First, although Satan was created for many good, universal purposes, many people may be deceived by him. But Satan only whispers and suggests; he cannot force you to indulge in evil and sin. If you are so weak that his false promises deceive you and you allow yourself to be dragged down, you earn the punishment of Hell by misusing an important God-given faculty that enables you to develop your potential and raise to the highest rank. You must use your free will, which makes you human and gives you the highest position in creation, properly, and to further your intellectual and spiritual evolution. Otherwise, you must complain about being honored with free will and therefore about being human.
Second, as quality is much more important than quantity, we should consider qualitative, as opposed to quantitative, values when making our judgment. For example, 100 date seeds are worth only 100 cents if they are not planted. If only 20 out of 100 seeds grow into trees due to the other 80 being destroyed by too much water, can we argue that it is evil to plant and water the seeds? I think all of us can agree that it is wholly good to have 20 trees in exchange for 100 seeds, since 20 trees will produce 20,000 seeds.
Again, 100 peacock eggs may be worth a couple of dollars. But if only 20 eggs hatch and the rest do not, who will say that it is wrong to risk 80 eggs being spoiled in return for 20 peacocks? On the contrary, it is wholly good to have 20 peacocks at the expense of 80 eggs, for those 20 peacocks will lay even more eggs.
It is the same with humanity. By fighting Satan and their evil-commanding selves, many “worthless” people have been lost in exchange for thousands of prophets, millions of saints, and billions of men and women of wisdom and knowledge, sincerity and good morals. All of these people are the sun, moon, and stars of the human world.
* Excerpted with some modifications from: http://en.fgulen.com
** Fethullah Gulen is an influential Turkish Muslim intellectual who inspired a series of social activities, including a transnational education and business network, inter-faith dialogue forums, and multi-cultural encounters. His official Web site is http://en.fgulen.com/