Quran Contradiction

 

Allahís command to the angels to bow down to Adam, and what happened after that, is such an important issue in the Quran that the story of this event is repeated at least seven times. It is found in Suras 2, 7, 15, 17, 18, 20, and 38.

Satan (Iblis) refused to bow down to Adam, and is then punished for his disobedience. In this context an alleged conversation between Allah and Satan is reported:

And certainly We created you, then We fashioned you, then We said to the angels: Make obeisance to Adam. So they did obeisance except Iblis; he was not of those who did obeisance. He said: What hindered you so that you did not make obeisance when I commanded you? He said: I am better than he: Thou hast created me of fire, while him Thou didst create of dust. He said: Then get forth from this (state), for it does not befit you to behave proudly therein. Go forth, therefore, surely you are of the abject ones. He said: Respite me until the day when they are raised up. He said: Surely you are of the respited ones. He said: As Thou hast caused me to remain disappointed I will certainly lie in wait for them in Thy straight path (sirataka almustaqeema). Then I will certainly come to them from before them and from behind them, and from their right-hand side and from their left-hand side; and Thou shalt not find most of them thankful. He said: Get out of this (state), despised, driven away; whoever of them will follow you, I will certainly fill hell with you all. S. 7:11-18 Shakir

Satan in his anger supposedly says that he will ambush those who are on the straight path, which to the Quran means Muslim believers:

In the name of ALLAH, the Gracious, the Merciful. All praise is due to ALLAH alone, Lord of all the worlds. The Gracious, the Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment. THEE alone do we worship and THEE alone do we implore for help. Guide us in the straight path (al-ssirata almustaqeema), The path of those on whom THOU hast bestowed THY favours, those who have not incurred THY displeasure and those who have not gone astray. S. 1:1-7 Sher Ali

Then, as for those who believe in ALLAH and hold fast to HIM, HE will surely admit them to HIS mercy and grace and will guide them along a straight path (siratan mustaqeeman) leading to Himself. S. 4:175 Sher Ali

Those who deny Our revelations are deaf and dumb in darkness. Whom Allah will sendeth astray, and whom He will He placeth on a straight path (siratin mustaqeemin). S. 6:39 Pickthall

Say: Lo! As for me, my Lord hath guided me unto a straight path (siratin mustaqeemin), a right religion, the community of Abraham, the upright, who was no idolater. S. 6:161 Pickthall

There is another text where Satan says that he will get a portion of Allahís servants. It is not said in the context of this particular story, but the statement is closely related to the topic:

(The Pagans), leaving Him, call but upon female deities: They call but upon satan the persistent rebel! God did curse him, but he said: "I will take of Thy servants a portion Marked off; I will mislead them, and I will create in them false desires; I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and to deface the (fair) nature created by God." Whoever, forsaking God, takes satan for a friend, hath of a surety suffered a loss that is manifest. Satan makes them promises, and creates in them false desires; but satan's promises are nothing but deception. They (his dupes) will have their dwelling in Hell, and from it they will find no way of escape. But those who believe and do deeds of righteousness,- we shall soon admit them to gardens, with rivers flowing beneath,-to dwell therein for ever. God's promise is the truth, and whose word can be truer than God's? S. 4:117-122 Y. Ali

Interestingly, Allah apparently agrees that Satan can harm and affect his servants, e.g. that he can create false desires in them. He does not contradict Satan by saying that he canít touch them, but only says that those who will follow him will go to hell. Satanís threats against the righteous believers make sense since he delights in trying to harm and attack the true servants of God.

Consider this: people can either walk on Godís straight path, according to his will, or in disobedience. Those who are already living in idolatry and disobedience are on the way to hell. Satan doesnít need to invest anything in them. Only those who are moving towards paradise by living according to Godís will are his targets in order to tempt them away from God and his word. Therefore, assuming that Satan is not omnipresent, and has limited resources, it is simply the most economic approach to attack those who are currently walking on the straight way to make them stumble and deviate along with the others who are already deviators.

Let us come back to the story of Allahís conversation with Satan after his refusal to bow down to Adam. In Sura 7 we saw Satanís announcement that he will attack those who are on the straight way.

Yet in other versions of the same story Satan promises to do the exact opposite:

He said: O Iblis! what excuse have you that you are not with those who make obeisance? He said: I am not such that I should make obeisance to a mortal whom Thou hast created of the essence of black mud fashioned in shape. He said: Then get out of it, for surely you are driven away: And surely on you is curse until the day of judgment. He said: My Lord! then respite me till the time when they are raised. He said: So surely you are of the respited ones Till the period of the time made known. He said: My Lord! because Thou hast made life evil to me, I will certainly make (evil) fair-seeming to them on earth, and I will certainly cause them all to deviate EXCEPT THY SERVANTS FROM AMONG THEM, THE DEVOTED ONES. He said: This is a right way with Me: Surely, as regards My servants, you have no authority over them except those who follow you of the deviators. And surely Hell is the promised place of them all: It has seven gates; for every gate there shall be a separate party of them. S. 15:32-44 Shakir

Satan here says that he will cause everyone to deviate except Allahís servants. Similarly:

He said: O Iblis! what prevented you that you should do obeisance to him whom I created with My two hands? Are you proud or are you of the exalted ones? He said: I am better than he; Thou hast created me of fire, and him Thou didst create of dust. He said: Then get out of it, for surely you are driven away: And surely My curse is on you to the day of judgment. He said: My Lord! then respite me to the day that they are raised. He said: Surely you are of the respited ones, Till the period of the time made known. He said: Then by Thy Might I will surely make them live an evil life, all, EXCEPT THY SERVANTS FROM AMONG THEM, THE PURIFIED ONES. He said: The truth then is and the truth do I speak: That I will most certainly fill hell with you and with those among them who follow you, all. S. 38:75-85

In this account Satan says he will not cause Allahís servants to live an evil life, which means that he will not seek to tempt them from living contrary to Allahís will.

Not only does it make no sense for Satan to not want to cause the righteous to suffer and stumble (see the above given general consideration), but this leaves us with a contradiction.

In the first version, Satan says he will come up against those on the straight way, meaning the servants of Allah. Yet in the other versions Satan says he will not cause Allahís servants to deviate or to live immorally!

But the problems are not over quite yet:

Behold! We said to the angels: "Bow down unto Adam": They bowed down except Iblis: He said, "Shall I bow down to one whom Thou didst create from clay?" He said: "Seest Thou? this is the one whom Thou hast honoured above me! If Thou wilt but respite me to the Day of Judgment, I will surely bring his descendants under my sway - all but a few!" (God) said: "Go thy way; if any of them follow thee, verily Hell will be the recompense of you (all)- an ample recompense. Lead to destruction those whom thou canst among them, with thy (seductive) voice; make assaults on them with thy cavalry and thy infantry; mutually share with them wealth and children; and make promises to them." But Satan promises them nothing but deceit. "As for My servants, no authority shalt thou have over them:" Enough is thy Lord for a Disposer of affairs. S. 17:61-65 Y. Ali

Here Satan explicitly says to Allah that if he grants him respite then he will seek to possess all of Adamís progeny with the exception of a few. Instead of refusing him this grace period, Allah acquiesces to his demands which means that Allah wanted the enemy to gain control over the vast majority of Adamís seed. In fact, it is Allah who tells Satan how to go about destroying mankind, offering him a variety of options which he can use to accomplish his aim!

More importantly, this account contradicts the previous three since in the latter reports Satan informs Allah of his plans only after he has been rebuked and granted respite. Yet in the above Sura he has already revealed his dastardly plan even before Allah has a chance of punishing him for refusing to worship Adam! Talk about confusion!

Let us summarize the major problems with the retelling of this Satan story:

In Q. 7 Satan swears to come against those who are on the straight path, meaning the believers.

In both Q. 15 and 38 Satan says that he will not cause Allahís servants to deviate or live evil lives.

In all three of these reports Satan informs Allah of his plan to attack mankind after the latter has already been rebuked and received respite.

Q. 17, however, contradicts this by claiming that Satan informed Allah of his evil intentions even before getting rebuked for not worshiping Adam, and before being given a grace period!

So far, we have two clear logical contradictions: Does Satan try to mislead those on the straight path or does he not? Does he inform Allah of his plans before or after he is given respite?

Those are not the only problems, however. In these stories there is yet another serious moral issue concerning the character of Allah. In our discussion of Q. 17:61-65 we already pointed out that Allah gives Satan respite despite the fact that he just announced his intention to mislead the vast majority of mankind. Allah not only gives him the explicit permission to do so, but even provides him with a number of ideas and methods how he could go about it. Allah seems to be all too willing to support Satan in his goal to take as many people to hell as possible.

In Q. 15 we find something similar. Let us read again Satanís request and Allahís answer:

He said: My Lord! then respite me till the time when they are raised. He said: So surely you are of the respited ones till the period of the time made known. He said: My Lord! because Thou hast made life evil to me, I will certainly make (evil) fair-seeming to them on earth, and I will certainly cause them all to deviate EXCEPT THY SERVANTS FROM AMONG THEM, THE DEVOTED ONES. He said: This is a right way with Me: Surely, as regards My servants, you have no authority over them except those who follow you of the deviators. And surely Hell is the promised place of them all: It has seven gates; for every gate there shall be a separate party of them. S. 15:36-44 Shakir

One problem in verse 42 is that Allah says that Satan will have no authority of his servants except those whom he is going to mislead. What kind of promise is that? Is Allah going to protect his servants or is he not?

The second issue is this: Satan announces that he will attack and cause to deviate all people except the servants of Allah. His statement sounds like he will not even try to attack Allahís servants, but in his response Allah implicitly encourages Satan to at least try, because there will be some of his servants whom he can trick into following him! So, just as in Q. 17:61-65, Allah seems to do all he can to get more people on the wrong path by encouraging Satan to tempt and mislead even more people whom he originally had not intend to attack!

Finally, the formulation, "surely, as regards My servants, ... those who follow you (Satan)", leaves us with the inescapable conclusion that some of those who are explicitly called servants of Allah are actually followers of Satan.

As if this couldn't get any worse, note carefully what Q. 15:42 says:

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.). Hilali-Khan

Allah says that Satan will have authority over the idolators and those who stray from his path, a claim which Satan ends up denying!

And they all shall appear before Allah (on the Day of Resurrection) then the weak will say to those who were arrogant (chiefs): "Verily, we were following you; can you avail us anything from Allah's Torment?" They will say: "Had Allah guided us, we would have guided you. It makes no difference to us (now) whether we rage, or bear (these torments) with patience, there is no place of refuge for us." And Shaitan (Satan) will say when the matter has been decided: "Verily, Allah promised you a promise of truth. And I too promised you, but I betrayed you. I HAD NO AUTHORITY OVER YOU except that I called you, so you responded to me. So blame me not, but blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I deny your former act in associating me (Satan) as a partner with Allah (by obeying me in the life of the world). Verily, there is a painful torment for the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers, etc.)." S. 14:21-22 Hilali-Khan

Satan will tell the unbelievers that he did not have authority over them and that he simply called them, presumably to follow him, and denies any responsibility in their obeying him!

Satan seems to have forgotten what he told in Allah in Q. 4:117-120:

In stead of Him, they pray not except to female beings; they pray not except to a rebel Satan accursed by God. He said, 'Assuredly I will take unto myself a portion appointed of Thy servants, and I will lead them astray, and fill them with fancies and I will command them and they will cut off the cattle's ears; I will command them and they will alter God's creation.' Whoso takes Satan to him for a friend, instead of God, has surely suffered a manifest loss. He promises them and fills them with fancies, but there is nothing Satan promises them except delusion. Arberry

Here Satan boasts that he will create false desires in the hearts of men so as to mislead them.

So now which Sura and verse should a Muslim believe? The ones saying that Allah gave Satan authority over the associators, the strayers etc., and that he misleads and creates false desires in them? Or the one where he denies that he had authority to influence them or that he was responsible for their sins?