Parallelism: Satan and His Refusal to Prostrate

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Parallelism Between the Qur'an
and Judeo-Christian Scriptures
By: Julian Charteris
Talking Baby Jesus
Sanhedrin 37a
The Raven & the Burial of Abel
The Quranic Version of Trinity‎
Jesus Christ & the Clay Birds
Mary & Zachariah
Mary, Jesus & the Palm Tree
Satan & His Refusal to Prostrate
The Queen of Sheba
Abraham & the Idols
The Wealth of Korah

Qur'anic Account

The Qur'anic story that Satan was expelled from Heaven for defying Allah’s command to prostrate to Adam seems to have antecedents in pre-Islamic Zoarastrian scriptures which influenced Jewish tales. The Bible does not contain this tale; but are found in both the Zoroastrian Avesta's and Yezidis sacred texts.

And We indeed created you, then We fashioned you, then We said to the angels: Make submission to Adam. So they submitted, except Iblis; he was not of those who submitted.

‏He said: What hindered thee that thou didst not submit when I commanded thee? 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 is not for thee to behave proudly therein. Go forth; therefore, surely thou art of the abject ones.

‏He said: Get out of it, despised, driven away. Whoever of them will follow thee; I will certainly fill hell with you all.

This story recurs several times in the Qur'an, for instance:

Remember when your Lord said to the angels, "I am going to create a man (Adam) from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud. So when I have fashioned him completely and breathed into him (Adam) the soul which I created for him then fall you down prostrating yourselves unto him." SO the angels prostrated themselves all of them together, except Iblis, he refused to be among the prostrators. Allah said: "O Iblis! What is your reason for not being among the prostrators?" Iblis said: "I am not the one to prostrate myself to a human being, whom You created from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud." Allah said: "Then get out from here for verily you are Rajim (an outcast or cursed one). Verily the curse shall be upon you till Day of Recompense (Day of Resurrection).
"Shall I prostrate to one whom You created from clay?" Iblis said: "See? those whom You have honored above me, if You give me respite (keep me alive) to the Day of Resurrection, I will surely seize and mislead his offspring (by sending them astray) all but a few!"
Remember when your Lord said to the angels: "Truly I am going to create man from clay. So when I have fashioned him and breathed into him (his) soul created by me, then you fall down prostrate to him." So the angels prostrated themselves all of them; except Iblis, he was proud and was one of the disbelievers. Allah said: "The truth is, and the truth I say, that I will fill Hell with you and those of them (mankind) that follow you together."

Apocryphal Account

Apparently, the story of Satan refusing to prostate/worship (sajada) Adam is found in the apocryphal ‘Life of Adam and Eve’, a first to fourth century Jewish Hellenistic work. Some authorities date it to the first century CE based on the absence of the Christian concept of original sin and the influence of the story on the Ebionites.[1]

Another version of this in Syriac, The Cave of Treasure, appeared in the sixth century. There were also other earlier versions in Arabic, Ethiopic, and Armenian, which indicate the early spread of the story regarding the worship of Adam by the angels.[2]

“And with a heavy sigh, the devil spake: ‘O Adam! all my hostility, envy, and sorrow is for thee, since it is for thee that I have been expelled from my glory, which I possessed in the heavens in the midst of the angels and for thee was I cast out in the earth.’ Adam answered, ‘What dost thou tell me? What have I done to thee or what is my fault against thee? Seeing that thou hast received no harm or injury from us, why dost thou pursue us?’

“The devil replied, ‘Adam, what dost thou tell me? It is for thy sake that I have been hurled from that place. When thou wast formed, I was hurled out of the presence of God and banished from the company of angels. When God blew into thee the breath of life and thy face and likeness was made in the image of God, Michael also brought thee and made (us) worship thee in the sight of God; and God the Lord spake: “Here is Adam. I have made him in our image and likeness.”

“‘And Michael went out and called all the angels saying: “Worship the image of God as the Lord hath commanded.”

“‘And Michael himself worshipped first; then he called me and said: “Worship the image of God the Lord.” And I answered, “I have no (need) to worship Adam.” And since Michael kept urging me to worship, I said to him, “Why dost thou urge me? I will not worship an inferior and younger being (than I). I am his senior in the Creation, before he was made was I already made. It is his duty to worship me.”

“‘When the angels, who were under me, heard this, they refused to worship him. And Michael saith, “Worship the image of God, but if thou wilt not worship him, the Lord God will be wroth with thee.” And I said, “If He be wroth with me, I will set my seat above the stars of heaven and will be like the Highest.”

“‘And God the Lord was wroth with me and banished me and my angels from our glory; and on thy account were we expelled from our abodes into this world and hurled n the earth. And straightway we were overcome with grief, since we had been spoiled of so great glory. And we were grieved when we saw thee in such joy and luxury. And with guile I cheated thy wife and caused thee to be expelled through her (doing) from thy joy and luxury, as I have been driven out of my glory.’

“When Adam heard the devil say this, he cried out and wept and spake: ‘O Lord my God, my life is in thy hands. Banish this Adversary far from me, who seeketh to destroy my soul, and give me his glory which he himself hath lost.’ And at that moment, the devil vanished before him. But Adam endured in his penance, standing for forty days (on end) in the water of Jordan.”

The story is also found in the Talmud, namely the Genesis Rabba (or Bereshith Rabba – compiled in the fourth or fifth century CE, some say sixth century CE) and the Pirke Rabbi De Eliezer. Also, in Die Schatzhöle, an anonymous work, which dates from the sixth century, we have the Christian legend of what took place after the creation of Adam:

“When the angels saw his splendid appearance, they were moved by the fairness of his aspect. And God gave him there the dominion over all creatures, and all the wild beasts and the cattle and the birds, and they came before Adam and he gave them names, and they bowed their heads before him and worshipped him, and all their natures worshipped and served him. And the angels and powers heard the voice of God, who said to him, ‘O Adam, behold I have made thee king, priest, prophet, lord, head and leader of all creatures and they serve thee and are thine. And I have given thee dominion over all I have created.’ And when the angels heard this word, they all bent their knees and worshipped him. “And when the head of the lower order saw that greatness had been given to Adam, he envied him thenceforth, refused to worship him and said to his powers: ‘Worship him not and praise him not with the angels. It befits him to worship me, not me to worship dust, formed out of a grain of dust.’ Such things the rebel had uttered and was disobedient and by his own free will became separated from God. And he was felled and he fell, he and his whole band. On the sixth day in the second hour, he fell from heaven, and they were stripped of the robes of their glory, and his name was called Satana, because he had turned away from God, and Sheda, because he had been cast down, and Daiva, because he had lost the robe of his glory. And look, from that same day and until today, he and all his armies are stripped and naked and ugly to look on. And after Satan had been cast from Heaven, Adam was exalted so that he ascended to Paradise.”


The Qur'anic story of Satan refusing to worship or prostate before Adam seems to have distinct antecedents in pre-Islamic Zoarastrian, Yezidi, lJewish and Christian sources. It is possible that this is merely coincidence. For more than fifteen centuries after God revealed Genesis to Moses he was content to leave this story untold. Then around the first century CE Jewish story tellers, independent of divine revelation, invented this story. After another six hundred years or so, Allah decided it was high time this story was properly told to humanity, thus he chose to reveal it to Muhammad in a form almost identical to that told by the non-divine Jewish writers.

One begs the question why an omniscient deity would leave himself open to a charge of ‘parallelism’ when the simplest solution would merely be to include the story within the first chapter of the Torah. Instead, he chose to allow Jewish rabbis to receive the distinction of co-inventing this story, long before his revelation to any prophet.


  1. Encyclopædia Britannica - biblical literature
  2. Samuel M. Zwemer - Studies in Popular Islam: The Worship of Adam by Angels

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