During the earliest life episodes, firstly in the Garden then on the earth, the purpose and role of Iblis (Satan) came also to the fore. Essentially, his existence and life mission stand in contrast to those of Adam and his descendants.
It all started when Iblis refused to submit to the Will of God and prostrate before Adam, following which the perennial antagonism between Iblis and his legion, on the one side, and Adam and his offspring, on the other, was set in motion forever.
The Quran sums up those decisive events as follows:
And (mention) when We said to the angels: ‘Prostrate before Adam’; so they prostrated, except for Iblis. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers. (2: 34)
(Allah) said: ‘What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?’ (Iblis) said: ‘I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.’ (7:12)
But Satan caused them to slip out of it (the Garden, Jannah) and removed them from that (condition) in which they had been. And We said: ‘Go down, (all of you), as enemies to one another, and you will have upon the earth a place of settlement and provision for a time. (2:36)
(Satan) said: ‘Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful (to You).’ (Allah) said: ‘Get out of Paradise, reproached and expelled. Whoever follows you among them — I will surely fill Hell with you, all together’. (7:16-18)
(Iblis) said: ‘My Lord, because You have put me in error, I will surely make (disobedience) attractive to them on earth, and I will mislead them all, except, among them, Your devoted servants.’ (Allah) said: ‘This is a path (of return) to Me (that is) straight. Indeed, My servants — no authority will you have over them, except those who follow you of the deviators. And indeed, Hell is the promised place for them all’. (15: 39-43)
Did I not enjoin upon you, O children of Adam, that you not worship Satan – (for) indeed, he is to you a clear enemy — and that you worship (only) Me? This is a straight path. And he had already led astray from among you much of creation, so did you not use reason? (36:60-62)
Satan displayed that he is ready to stop at nothing and spare no deceitful means in order to achieve his goals. In addition, accepting to be unrepentant mischievous rebel, he asked God for postponement of his affair. In other words, he asked for respite, reckoning greedily that such would imply having control of the notion of time. He said to God: “Give me respite till the day they are raised up” (7:14), i.e., till the Day of Judgment.
However, since granting Satan the wish would imply exempting him from death, something that was incompatible with some of the most fundamental procedures and laws of existence, God rejected the appeal. Rather, He postponed Satan’s affair only “till the day of the time appointed (known only to the omniscient God).” (15:38)
Self-deceived, Satan then attempted to exert control of the notion of space as well by outlining his strategies as approaching man from all his sides: from before and behind him, and on his right and left.
His exhibition of his insatiability, self-confidence and enthusiasm notwithstanding, Satan with his optimism and predictions, when it comes to God’s true servants, was wide of the mark. That was so because whoever decides to stoically fight and defeat Satan can easily do so by the promised grace and help of God.
Only those who allow Satan to manipulate them with his cheap tricks and swindles and impair their senses and intelligence, debasing thus their souls with folly, are they who follow him and think they are in the right.
Indeed, the existence and function of Al-Masjid al-Haram reveal much about the mentioned life paradigm. In order to counter Satan’s horizontal advances, believers from all sides of the earth constantly face the Holy Mosque (qiblah), both physically with their actual faces and spiritually with the “faces” of their hearts. That allows them either to sidestep or impede Satan’s operations from the front and most important human side.
Satan for that reason referred to the front side as the first and foremost side from where he promised to come and try to delude humankind.
As regards the challenges posed by Satan’s assaults from the remaining three and somewhat inferior horizontal human sides, believers, by remaining steadfast on the right and straight path, always facing the right direction (qiblah) in all affairs of theirs, that is, the spiritual direction of righteousness and truth and the physical direction of Al-Masjid al-Haram — they possess what it takes to easily cope with them too. They possess unified life vision, purpose and objectives, direction and point of reference.
So concerned are they with challenges ahead, directly facing and overcoming them on their path towards the spiritual fulfillment, that believers have no, or very little, time to worry about “side” or relatively secondary issues. Their connection with their qiblah and point of reference is direct and undeviating, rather than indirect or roundabout.
Genuine believers are thus said to be a most confident, optimistic, honest and principled group. Straightness, perseverance, quality planning and management, and clear objectives-oriented dynamism are the chief traits of everything they do; so are courage and valor, on account of true believers being able to see and face head-on all their adversities.
Needless to say that people fear most those things and occurrences which they can neither witness, foresee, nor come fully to terms with.
Uncertainties, volatilities and doubts are some of man’s greatest foes. They denote most serious impediments to moving ahead and success. At any rate, Satan or Iblis was bent on doing that which one of the words whence his name has been derived, implies. That word is ablasa and means among other things to confound.
It is due to all this that Muslims are commanded to face, or seriously consider, the qiblah direction in their prayers, when they supplicate, when they sleep, when they bury their dead, when they perform various religious rituals, when they plan and design their built environment, etc.
On that score does the Quran use the expressions of “submitting one’s face to God while being a doer of good” (2:112), and “directing one’s face towards the religion, inclining to truth” (30:30) as metaphors for an exemplary state of one’s religiosity.
For obvious reasons, furthermore, Muslims are advised not to face the qiblah direction, nor turn their backs to it, whenever they defecate or urinate.
Planning and designing toilets in Muslim buildings thus need to take the matter into consideration, even though a majority of Muslim scholars are of the view that not facing the qiblah side, nor turning the back towards it, while answering the call of nature, is a preferable thing, not an obligation, and violating it incurs no sin.
In the same vein, when entering the toilet, Muslims are advised to recite: “(In the name of Allah). O Allah! I take refuge with you from all evil and evil-doers,” the greatest one of which is Satan.
Muslims are furthermore forbidden to spit in their prayers towards the qiblah. The Prophet said on this:
If anyone of you stands for the prayer, he is speaking in private to his Lord, (or) his Lord is between him and the qiblah, therefore, he should not spit towards the qiblah, but he could spit either on his left or under his foot.
Then the Prophet took the corner of his sheet and spat in it, folded it and said:
“Or do like this.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith No. 409)
Read Part 1.