The Devil’s In The Details: How Satan Is Portrayed Across 6 World Religions

The word “Satan” comes from ha-satan, a Hebrew word meaning “the accuser”, “opposer” and “the adversary”.

For thousands of years, he has appeared as a dark counterpart to divine goodness, evolving over time into the different identities he has come to represent today.

Here’s how he’s portrayed and perceived in 6 world religions.

1. Zoroastrianism

The very idea of Satan is probably a Zoroastrian one, seeing as the faith is entirely based on the struggle between the forces of goodness and light and the forces of darkness and evil.

Ahriman or Angra Mainyu is a demon, and God’s adversary, who’s aided by his council of archdemons called daevas. Ahriman will be defeated by the coming of a Saoshyant or Saviour.

After this, the world will be restored, the dead will arise, and life and immortality will return.

Ahriman is thought to be the first personification of “the Devil”.

2. Judaism

The Jewish version of Satan seems to be mostly an “an illusory obstacle in one’s way,” rather than an actual being.

Though he makes only a few appearances in the Old Testament, he is described as a figure that tempts people to doubt their faith, thus separating the true believers from the lot.

In Chronicles 21, for example, he provokes King David to offend God, which in turn leads God to punish Israel.

3. Christianity

The devil is mentioned a lot more in the New Testament – most prominently in the book of Matthew when he shows up in the desert trying to tempt Jesus.

While this passage demonstrates Satan setting himself up as a rival who leads God’s people astray, the story of how he actually came to oppose God isn’t fully explained.

It was only over time that Satan came to be associated with Lucifer, a fallen angel, and evolved into the truly twisted, sadistic, malevolent creature that we’re familiar with today.

4. Islam

According to Islam, Allah created three intelligent races: the angels, jinn, and humans, and gave all except the angels free will.
When Allah commanded the angels and jinn to bow down before Adam, the jinn Iblīs refused, and so was exiled from heaven.

According to Islamic studies Professor Mona Siddiqui, on Earth Iblīs morphs is a tempter who leads people away from Allah. Humans, however, are more powerful than Iblīs and do have the potential to overcome their passions, and therefore be victorious.

5. The Baha’i Faith

For Baha’is, Satan is not an independent being at all, but humanity’s own lower nature. The scripture explains that heaven is nearness to God, while hell is being distant from Him.

The term “devil” refers to our “insistent self”,  that keeps us in a constant tug of war between our true nature and our animal nature and distracts us from knowing God.

6. Buddhism

In Buddhist belief, the equivalent of Satan is ‘the personification of Death, the Evil One, the Tempter’ or a demon called Mara.

He appears to have been based on a drought demon of Vedic mythology named Namuci and threatens the world not by withholding the rains, but by withholding the knowledge of the truth.

According to the story, Mara tried on numerous occasions to distract Buddha as he sat meditating under the Bodhi tree, but Buddha achieved enlightenment and thwarted him.

In our world, though, Mara continues to prevent humans from making spiritual progress, by tempting them with sensual pleasures and other distractions.

Images are for representational purposes only.

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Amanda Francesca Mendonça

After spending pretty much all of my teen years waiting for a Hogwarts letter that never came, I gave up and settled for being a wizard with words instead. A hopeless romantic, when I’m not penning down short stories, I’m busy imagining my own happily ever after.

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