' (; ''devils'' or ''demons''), singular: (شَيْطٰان)) are evil spirits in Islamic belief, inciting humans to sin by ''waswasaħ'' (وَسْوَسَة, “whispering”) to the heart (قَلْب ''qalb''). By such, they always try to lead humans astray. Although demons are usually spoken of in abstract terms, and more often described by their evil influences only, they are depicted as ugly and grotesque creatures of hell-fire.

Etymology and terminology

The word ''Šayṭān'' ( ar|شَيْطَان) originates from the Semitic root š-ṭ-n ("distant, astray") taking a theological connotation designating a creature distant from divine mercy. In pre-Islamic Arabia, this term was used to designate an evil spirit, but only used by poets who were in contact with Jews and Christians. With the emergence of Islam, the meaning of ''shayatin'' moved closer to the Christian concept of devils. The term ''shayatin'' appears in a similar way in the Book of Enoch, denoting the hosts of the devil. Taken from Islamic sources, "shaitan" may be translated as "demon" or "devil". Among Muslim authors, the term can also apply to evil supernatural entities in general, such as evil jinn, fallen angels or ''Tawaghit''. In a broader sense, the term is used to designate everything from an ontological perspective that is a manifestation of ''evil''.



Mentioned 88 times, the shayatin, together with the angels, are the most frequently mentioned supernatural entities in the Quran. In the story of Adam and Eve, a ''shaitan'' tempts Adam to eat from the forbidden tree, arguing, God only prohibited its fruit, so they shall not become immortal, as narrated in . According to , shayatin rise against heaven in attempt to steal its secrets, but are chased by meteorites; however, unlike the jinn, they may partly succeed and snapping some information. mentions the shayatin as the teachers of sorcery. describes the fruits of Zaqqum, the tree of hell, as heads of shayatin. Surah mentions shayatin among ''Ins'' (humans) and jinn. According to some exegetes, the term is used as an epithet to describe rebellious men and jinn, but others use it to refer to shayatin who tempt among the jinn or those who tempt among humans.


The hadith-literature depicts the shayatin as malevolent forces closely bound to humans and points to the presence of a Muslim's everyday life. A ''shaitan'' is assigned to every human (with Jesus as exception), and shayatin are said to move through the blood of human. Sahih Muslim mentions among the shayatin five sons of Iblis, who bring everyday calamities: Tir, “who brings about calamities, loses, and injuries; Al-A’war, who encourages debauchery; Sut, who suggests lies; Dasim, who causes hatred between man and wife; Zalambur, who presides over places of traffic." ''Shayatin'' try to disrupt the prayer or the ablution. Further they might appear in dreams, and terrorize people. When someone yawns, the mouth should be covered, since the ''shayatin'' might enter the body. The sun is said to set and rise between the horns of a ''shaitan'', when prayers should cease, since this is the moment the doors of hell open. Sahih al-Bukhari and Jami` at-Tirmidhi state that the shayatin can not harm the believers during the month of Ramadan, since they are chained in ''Jahannam'' (Gehenna (hellfire)).


The shayatin make up one of three classes of supernatural creatures in Islamic theology. But since they are invisible, like the jinn, some scholars put them merely under one category of the supernatural. However, the prevailing opinion among the ''mufassirs'' distinguish between the jinn and shayatin as following: * Among the jinn, there are different types of believers (Muslims, Christians, Jewish, polytheists, etc.), however the shayatin are exclusively evil. * The jinn are mortal and die, while the shayatin only die when their leader ceases to exist. The father of the jinn is ''Al-Jann'' and the father of the shayatin is Iblis. The shayatin are beings of hell-fire, and although their origin is not mentioned in the Quran (similar to the angels), Islamic scholars repeatedly asserted the idea that the shayatin have been created from either smoke or the hell-fire itself. Comparable to demons or devils in Christian theology, shayatin are incapable of good and limited to "evil". Abu Mufti writes in his commentary of Abu Hanifa's "''al-Fiqh al-absat"'' that all angels, except with Harut and Marut, are obedient but all shayatin, except Ham ibn Him Ibn Laqis Ibn Iblis, are created evil. Only humans and jinn are created with Fitra, meaning both angels and shayatin lack free-will and are settled in opposition. Some Sufi-writers connect the descriptions of shayatin mentioned in hadith to human's psychological conditions. Based on the notion that the shayatin reproduce by laying eggs into the heart of humans, Ghazali linked them to inner spiritual development. Accordingly, from the eggs laid on the heart, the offspring of Iblis grew and unite with the person, causing the sin the ''shaitan'' is responsible for. He further explains the difference between divine inspiration and the devilish temptations of the shayatin, asserting one should test the inspiration by two criteria: firstly the piety and secondly whether the suggestion is in accordance with sharia. He further elaborates an esoteric cosmology, visualizing a human's heart as the capital of the body, in constant struggle between reason ('''aql'') and carnal desires invoked by the shayatin. Ali Hujwiri similarly describes the shayatin and angels mirroring the human psychological condition, the shayatin and carnal desires (''nafs'') on one side, and the spirit (''ruh'') and the angels on the other.


Shayatin are assumed to visit filthy or desacralized places. They tempt humans by their whisperings into sin and to everything disapproved by society. It is commonly believed among folk Islam that saying ''bismillah'', or reciting a certain supplication (''du'a''), like "A'uzu Billahi Minesh shaitanir Rajiim" or the Suras "An-Naas" or "Al-Falaq", could ward off attacks of shayatin.Gerda Sengers. ''Women and Demons: Cultic Healing in Islamic Egypt''. Brill, 2003. . p. 41. In , it states Solomon did not practise witchcraft but rather the shayatin. Witchcraft is also traced back to the shayatin (compare with the Christian understanding).

See also

* Asrestar * Daeva * Dajjal * Div * Ghoul * Marid * Nafs * Qareen *Superstitions in Muslim societies



{{Characters and Names in Quran Category:Demons in Islam Category:Devils Category:Jahannam Category:Occultism (Islam) Category:Satan