The Meaning of Shaytan

It is said that the word Shaytan is derived from shatana which means to be distanced, and indeed Shaytan is far removed from any good whatsoever. It is also said that the name is derived from shata, which means to burn because he is made from fire. Others said that both meanings are correct. However, the first meaning is most correct and is proven by the usage of the Arabs. (Ibn al-Jawzi p26)

Shaytan is one of the Jinn as proven by His saying, “When We said to the Angels, ‘Prostrate yourselves to Adam,’ they prostrated with the exception of Iblis. He was of the Jinn and wantonly deviated from his Lord’s command.” (al-Kahf 18:50) as such he is made of fire, “…and He created Jinn from a fusion of fire” (ar-Rahman 55:15) and it was because of this that he refused to prostrate to Adam saying, “I am better than him, You created me from fire but You created him from clay” (Sad 38:76) “I will not prostrate to a human being whom You have created from dried clay formed from fetid black mud” (al-Hijr 15:33)

Ash-Shanqiti comments on this argument used by Shaytan by saying:

“This analogy employed by Iblis of his racial origin, which is fire, to that of Adam, which is clay, and his deriving from this that he is better than Adam and it was not desired for him to prostrate to one who was lesser than he, despite the existence of a clear and unequivocal text, which is His saying, “Prostrate to Adam”, is called fasid al-itibar according to the terminology of the scholars of usul. Therefore, anyone who rejects a clear and unequivocal text of revelation due to analogy, his precedent for this lies with Iblis. The analogy of Iblis, may Allah curse him, is false due to three reasons:

  1. It is fasid al-itibar due to its opposing the clear text as has just preceded.
  2. We do not accept that fire is better than clay, rather clay is better than fire. This is because the substance of fire is inconsistency, thoughtlessness, corruption and disintegration; whereas the substance of clay is composure and correction. If you want to understand the ability and excellence of clay, look to the resplendent garden and what it contains of delicious fruits, elegant flowers and fine scents, you will then come to know that clay is indeed better than fire.
  3. Even if we were to accept, for the sake of argument, that fire is better than clay, this does not necessitate that Iblis is better than Adam. The excellence of the foundation does not necessitate the excellence of the off-shoot, rather it is possible that the foundation be exalted and the off-shoot be disgraced. The poet said, ‘If you were to boast about fathers who possess excellence, We would say: you have spoken truthfully, but how evil are their offspring!’ (at-Tabari, vol 1, p76)

The Spiritual Cure: An Explanation of Surah Al-Fatihah prepared and translated by Abu Rumaysah Pages 51-53