Does Satan Have More Knowledge than Prophets? Quran (34:14)
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
From an Islamic perspective satan belongs to jinn (invisible being) kind. These beings live side by side with us here on earth. In order to answer if satan has more knowledge than prophets or no, one has to first understand the limitations of the jinn kind in regard to knowledge because after all satan is a jinn.
Satan or Shaytaan (in Arabic) and his group of devils called shayateen (in Arabic) do not have more knowledge than Prophets even though their lives are found to be longer and their physical strength greater than many prophets and humans in general. This is all mentioned in the Quran.
Unfortunately just because this creation is covered from our basic sense perceptions and we feel or hear their effects, the foolish among us think them to be of greater powers, not knowing that they too are a creation of Allah ﷻ and all creation of Allah ﷻ on earth has its limitations and are under the direct control of their Creator (Al Khaliq).
Having said that there is more than enough evidence in the Quran that shows they are lesser in many things including knowledge of the unseen (al-ghayb) that is bestowed upon prophets & messengers.:
(Al Quran 34:14) Then, when We decreed Suleiman’s death, nothing showed the jinn he was dead, but a creature of the earth eating at his stick: when he fell down they realized- if they had known what was hidden they would not have continued their demeaning labour.
After Suleiman (alaihi salaam) passed away, his stick kept holding his body on the throne while the jinns – including the ifreet (stronger) among them – kept laboring thinking that he was alive. Only after an insect had eaten up the stick is when Suleiman’s blessed body fell and they found out.
This incident happened to teach his people and us a lesson that despite the fact many working under Suleiman (alaihi salaam) included stronger jinn devils yet they could not figure out his death and thus proved limitations of their knowledge.
Another example in the Quran is when Suleiman (alaihi salaam) demanded that someone from among his audience bring the Yemeni throne of Bilqees – Queen of Sheba (Saba) – to which an ifreet (stronger) jinn volunteered but a saint of Allah ﷻ in the audience proved much stronger than him:
(Al Quran 27:39–40) A powerful and crafty (ifreet) jinn replied, ‘I will bring it to you before you can even rise from your place.
I am strong and trustworthy enough,’ but one of them who had some knowledge of the Scripture said, ‘I will bring it to you in the twinkling of an eye.’ When Sueliman saw it set before him, he said, ‘This is a favour from my Lord, to test whether I am grateful or not:
if anyone is grateful, it is for his own good, if anyone is ungrateful, then my Lord is self-sufficient and most generous.
Even though an ifreet volunteered to bring it yet the throne was brought by the saintly miracle of one “who had some knowledge of the Scripture” i.e. according to Islamic scholars this man named was Asif ibn Barkhiya and he was a mystic who had deep knowledge of Allah ﷻ which he had used to help Prophet Suleiman (alaihi salaam).
When the Prophet saw the throne brought before him, he became grateful to Allah ﷻ for the resources given to him to strengthen his rule which also teaches us a lesson that ultimate source of all power are not creation but the Creator (Al-Khaliq).
Thirdly, this misconception that satan and his devils carry such great powers that only they can make us learn some knowledge which would result in our independence from all, even the Creator, is one of their greatest delusions.
The souls in humans come from Allah ﷻ and since He is All Knowing (Al Aleem) we too have in our nature to gain more and more knowledge but the right sources to learn knowledge is through the way of prophets and not the jinn devils who also claimed to have powers.
After the death of Prophet Suleiman (alaihi salaam) they deluded many among humankind and continue to do so by teachings them falsehood and claiming that Suleiman (alaihi salaam) had supernatural resources under his control due to their assistance which Quran clarifies :
(Al Quran 2:101–102) Not that Suleiman himself was a disbeliever; it was the shayateen (devils) who were disbelievers. They taught people witchcraft……They learned what harmed them, not what benefited them, knowing full well that whoever gained [this knowledge] would lose any share in the Hereafter. Evil indeed is the [price] for which they sold their souls, if only they knew.
Satan and his groups have the knowledge of things which are beneficial to humans and the believers among jinn kind but they also know what is harmful and will misguide us. They make use of what is harmful to us but act with care when we are making use of what is beneficial to us, they stay away from us.
Such as the following incident of Ayatul Kursi (Al Quran 2:255) i.e. the greatest verse in the entire Quran, protects us against them and their effects and this knowledge was given to us by satan himself and yes that is correct:
Abu Huraira (r.a) reported that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) put me in charge of charity of Ramadan (Sadaqat-ul- Fitr).
Somebody came to me and began to take away some food-stuff. I caught him and said, “I must take you to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).” He said, “I am a needy man with a large family, and so I have a pressing need.” I let him go. When I saw the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) next morning, he asked me, “O Abu Hurairah! What did your captive do last night?” I said, “O Messenger of Allah!
He complained of a pressing need and a big family. I felt pity for him so I let him go.” He (ﷺ) said, “He told you a lie and he will return.” I was sure, according to the saying of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) that he would return.
I waited for him. He sneaked up again and began to steal food-stuff from the Sadaqah (charity). I caught him and said; “I must take you to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).” He said, “Let go of me, I am a needy man. I have to bear the expenses of a big family. I will not come back.”
So I took pity on him and let him go. I went at dawn to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) who asked me, “O Abu Hurairah! What did your captive do last night?” I replied, “O Messenger of Allah! He complained of a pressing want and the burden of a big family. I took pity on him and so I let him go.”
He (ﷺ) said, “He told you a lie and he will return.” (That man) came again to steal the food-stuff. I arrested him and said, “I must take you to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), and this is the last of three times. You promised that you would not come again but you did.”
He said, “Let go of me, I shall teach you some words with which Allah may benefit you.” I asked, “What are those words?” He replied, “When you go to bed, recite Ayat-ul- Kursi (2:255) for there will be a guardian appointed over you from Allah, and satan will not be able to approach you till morning.” So I let him go.
Next morning the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) asked me, “What did your prisoner do last night.” I answered, “He promised to teach me some words which he claimed will benefit me before Allah. So I let him go.” The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) asked, “What are those words that he taught you?”
I said, “He told me: ‘When you go to bed, recite Ayat- ul-Kursi from the beginning to the end i.e.,[ Allah! none has the right to be worshipped but He, the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists….. His Kursi encompasses the heavens and the earth, and preserving them does not fatigue Him. And He is the Most High, the Most Great].’ (2:255).
He added: ‘By reciting it, there will be a guardian appointed over you from Allah who will protect you during the night, and Satan will not be able to come near you until morning’.”
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Verily, he has told you the truth though he is a liar. O Abu Hurairah! Do you know with whom you were speaking for the last three nights?” I said, “No.” He (ﷺ) said, “He was Shaitan (Satan).” (Riyad as Saliheen)
Satan and his group of devils will make use of whatever knowledge they have to misguide us and this challenge he made in the presence of Allah ﷻ in the following words:
(Al Quran 7:14–17) but (Iblis) said, “Give me respite until the Day people are raised from the dead,’ I will lie in wait for them all on Your straight path: I will come at them- from their front and their back, from their right and their left- and You will find that most of them are ungrateful.” –
The ayah mentions “from the front and their back, from their right and their left” means he will use whatever resources and knowledge he and his group has to misguide us but notice that he does not say “from above” i.e. because Allah ﷻ protection comes from above and angels descend from the above to protect us and this also he knew.
Alhamdulillah, all Praise is due to Allah ﷻ who taught the believers to make use of our spiritual weapons against them and their effects.
Riyad as-Salihin 1020 – Sunnah.com