Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
And they followed what the devils recite during Solomon’s reign —and Solomon did not turn faithless, but it was the devils who were faithless— teaching the people magic, and what was sent down to the two angels at Babylon, Haroot and Maroot, and they would not teach anyone without saying: ‘We are only a test, so do not be faithless.’ But they would learn from those two that with which they would cause a split between man and his wife —though they could not harm anyone with it except with Allah’s permission. And they would learn that which would harm them and bring them no benefit; though they certainly knew that anyone who buys it has no share in the Hereafter. Surely, evil is that for which they sold their souls; had they known! (Chapter 2: Verse 102)
In the previous verse we discussed how some of the Israelites discarded God's book and teachings behind their backs. The logical question to ask: If they were not following God's guidance, then who did they follow? In this verse, Allah informs us that they followed what the devils recited during the time of prophet Solomon (peace be upon him). That was the path they chose for themselves. Take note that God used the verb (recite) in the present tense, although the context of the verse clearly requires the use of the past tense. This is because God wants to draw our attention that this path and misguidance still exist to this day. There are those who carried on the path that their forefathers followed. In other words, the devils recitation is over, however, it is kept alive by those who practice and follow what the devils recited.
Let's take a moment to define what a devil is. The name 'Devil' is given to the disobedient ones from amongst the Jinn. When it comes to faith, the Jinn, like people, belong to several categories such as the defiant, the obedient and the believers as the following verse from chapter 'The Jinn' illustrates:
Some of us are righteous and others less so: we follow different paths. (72:11)
And another verse:
‘And among us are some who have wholly submitted to God, just as there are among us some who have deviated into disobedience to God. Whoever has submitted to God wholly, then such have sought and attained to right guidance (72:14)
It could be understood from these verses that there are believers and disbelievers amongst the Jinn. And when it comes to believers, there are those who are obedient and disobedient.
Keep in mind that this name -a devil- also extends to anyone -even a human- who is defiant and rebels against God’s teachings as mentioned in the following verse:
In this way We have appointed as enemies to every Prophet devils from both mankind and from the jinn, who inspire each other with delusions by means of hollow words – if your Lord had willed, they would not have done it, so abandon them and all they fabricate – (06:112)
And in another chapter:
Say, ‘I seek refuge with the Lord of mankind, the King of mankind, the God of mankind, against the harm of the slinking whisperer, who whispers into the hearts of people, whether they be jinn or people. (114:1-6)
Before the advent of prophet Muhammad, God had given the devils the ability to reach up to the heavens and eavesdrop while orders were being carried down to earth by the angels. The devils often passed on this information - embellished with lies and exaggerations- to the leaders of the disbelievers. God says in the 121st verse of the 6th chapter:
And the devils do whisper and incite their confidants to argue with you.
However, when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent, God shielded the sky so the devils were no longer able to eavesdrop as the following verse explains: .
We tried, as usual, to travel to heaven in search of news but found it filled with fierce guards and meteors. we used to sit in places there, listening, but anyone trying to listen now will find a fiery meteor lying in wait for him. We have no idea whether evil is intended for those on the earth, or whether their Lord intends them to be rightly guided. (72:08-10)
So all these places that offered the devils a chance to steal a listen from the heavens are now guarded. Anyone who attempts to eavesdrop is targeted by fiery meteor that burns. All this started when the Quran began to be revealed to the prophet, so God's message to humanity remained pure and sacred. The devils were left in the dark unable to find out whether the news from heaven is good or bad.
Allah started the verse by disassociating and exonerating his prophet Solomon from any act of magic, conjuration, lies and disbelief. Logically, the charges of magic, sorcery, and causing social harm should have been listed first, and then comes the exoneration of prophet Solomon. But God the merciful first and foremost negated the accusation of disbelief from Solomon, and associated disbelief to whoever followed the devils even before mentioning what the sin was. He says: 'and Solomon did not turn faithless, but it was the devils who were faithless teaching the people magic, and what was sent down to the two angels at Babylon, Haroot and Maroot, and they would not teach anyone without saying: ‘We are only a test, so do not be faithless.’ But they would learn from those two that with which they would cause a split between man and his wife’
So the devils were the ones who spread disbelief, and the Israelites who discarded God's covenant and followed them. The Israelites, however, wanted to convince people that they were on the right path following prophet Solomon. They claimed that whatever took place during the reign of Solomon was the work of magic and the result of satanic practices. They wanted people to believe that the message of Solomon was rooted in magic and was the work of the devils. God, however, wanted to free Solomon His prophet from these fabrications and lies.
The verse under study refers to the time of prophet Solomon, so let's take some time to explore the story of Solomon (peace be upon him) and the devils. When Solomon was granted prophethood, he asked God to give him authority and a kingdom that would not granted to anyone after him. God says:
He turned to Us and prayed: ‘Lord forgive me! Grant me a kingdom as no one after me will have- Surely, You are the Most Generous Provider.’ So We gave him power over the wind, which at his request ran gently wherever he willed, and the devils -every kind of builder and diver- and others chained in fetters. ‘This is Our gift, so give or withhold as you wish without account.’ (38:35-38)
God granted Solomon a vast kingdom and rule over man and Jinn. The wind, the birds and other creations were made subservient to him. For decades before the time of prophet Solomon, the devils had been spreading magic, witchcraft and sorcery, and they had all this knowledge inscribed in books. When Solomon, peace be upon him, was granted authority over them, he ordered that all these books of magic and superstition be confiscated and buried under his throne. When Solomon died, however, the devils found the books and began to teach people magic. Some rabbis told people that Solomon had all this power over creation and made them subservient to his will, not through God's bounty, rather through these books of magic. They also spread lies and claimed that the books of magic were his scripture. But God disassociated his prophet from these false allegations.