Lessons From Satan

Lessons From Satan | Sadia Khan | The SpeakingTree | TOI | May 4th, 2011

Islam lays great emphasis on learning, for it is learning that leads to intellectual and spiritual development. However, by virtue of our limited lifespan it is well-nigh impossible for an individual to know everything there is to know. Therefore, taking lessons from not only what one encounters in one's life but from the experiences of others is crucial to one's growth.

The Bible says, "Happy is the man that finds wisdom, and the man that gets understanding" (Proverbs, 3:12). Learning may be acquired for its own sake, but it also causes one to lead a life that is meaningful and fulfilling, one that brings satisfaction and peace.

The individual learns from other individuals. We learn from nature, as we must. However, this is not all. We can learn lessons from Satan, too. Satan, according to Islam, is like one of us, that is, another of God's creations - and Satan was created even before human beings were created. After having created man, God asked Satan to bow to Adam.

The Quran gives an account of this first encounter with Adam, the first man as well as the first Prophet, and Satan: "When we said to the angels, 'Bow down before Adam', they all bowed except for Satan" (2:34).

In refusing to follow God's command, Satan yielded to his ego and became arrogant. Ego, which has been at the root of most problems faced by man, is considered an evil. But we should appreciate that ego, a part of nature, is not all bad.

Ego has its positive and negative points. One plus point is that from ego comes determination, the ability to make decisions. And without determination, it is true, we can accomplish but little. Conversely, a negative point of ego is that it can lead one to act with arrogance. This prevents us from thinking objectively and eventually we could become victims of our own failings. Such a fate can be avoided by effectively managing the ego.

We should not only learn the art of ego management, but must also refrain from hurting the egos of others. More often than not, one's ego is dormant. It is better to leave it in that state, for provocation of the ego can result in a breakdown.

It is this ability to manage potentially explosive situations which maintains normalcy, thus leaving our peace of mind undisturbed. It enables us to work towards higher goals, without having our attention diverted towards unproductive activities.

Moreover, from this one event in the history of creation - Satan's refusal to bow to Adam - there is more to be learnt. What does it show? It reveals that Satan had become ungrateful. That is, he paid attention only to what he did not have and not to what he had. For example, when God created Satan, He bestowed upon him many powers, yet it was not appreciated. Satan, therefore, not only failed to manage his ego, but he also became ungrateful to God. He forgot that though he did not have 1% of all that he wanted, he still had 99%.

Ingratitude is the result of an unawareness of the many blessings that God has bestowed on us. It is only when we focus on what we have not been granted that we grow negative and begin to complain incessantly. It is at such moments that we need to stop and rediscover the blessings that have been bestowed upon us. This alone will help us to cope with life's challenges.