Indication of the verb 'kaana' in reference to Iblees in Quran 18:50
Fatwa No: 317773

  • Fatwa Date:27-2-2016 - Jumaadaa Al-Oula 19, 1437
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Question

Assalaamu alaykum. May Allaah reward you for answering some of my previous questions; the answers really helped. I have another question. The word 'kaana' is used in the meaning of 'it was' or 'it became' in the Quran. Although the expression “Kaana min al-kafirin” is translated as “He became from the unbelievers” in Baqarah 34, the expression “kaana min al-jinn” is translated as “He was from the jinns”. However, if it were translated as “He became from the jinns”, a different meaning - that Iblees used to be an angel previously, but when he revolted against Allah’s command, he was overthrown from being an angel and became a jinn - would be understood. What is the correct translation? Please do not send me the answer about Iblees not being angel, Shaykh, as this question has to do with the linguistics of the verse.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger. 

The Arabic verb “kaana” is not exclusively used to mean “became”; rather, it may also be used to describe the subject with a permanent quality. As-Suyooti  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

Kaana is often used as a synonym to 'lam yazal' (which means: continues to be); i.e. it is used to indicate continuity though according to most Arabic linguists, as stated by Abu Hayyaan, its original usage is to indicate that what it describes happened in the past and is no longer happening. According to other scholars, such as Ibn Maalik, who decisively stated that, it may also be used to either indicate that what it describes happened in the past and continues to happen or vice versa. An example of ‘kaana’ that indicates continuity is the case when referring to the divine attributes of Allaah, The Exalted, such as the following verse: {...and ever is Allaah Hearing and Seeing).} [Quran 4:134] This means that Allaah continues to be described with these two attributes...” [Sharh Jam’ Al-Jawaami’: 1/437]

Sharh Al-Balaaghah reads, “Kaana is used in the Quran to mean ‘continues to be’ in the verse: {...Indeed, Allaah is ever Knowing and Wise).} [Quran 4:11] Kaana in the verse means that Allaah has been, is, and will always be 'Ever Knowing and Wise.'” [End of quote]

Accordingly, the verse about Iblees (Satan) is interpreted to mean that he was from the jinn and continues to be from them. Tafseer Al-Aloosi reads, “The verse that reads: {kanaa min al-jinn} [Quran 18:50] is intended to indicate the reason that Satan refused to prostrate himself with the angels, as if it was asked 'Why did he not prostrate?' and the answer is 'It is because he was of the jinn.' This makes it clear that Satan is not an angel; though he was with them and was counted among them.” [Tafseer Al-Aloosi 8/276]

Scholars of Tafseer (exegesis) held different views regarding the interpretation of the verse: {kaana min al-kaafireen (one of the disbelievers)} [Quran 2:34] Ibn Al-Jawzi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote, “There are two scholarly views in this regard. The first is that 'Kaana' in this verse means 'became'. This view was adopted by Qataadah. The second is that it means, 'he was a disbeliever in the knowledge of Allaah,' i.e. it was established in the divine knowledge that Satan was going to become a disbeliever. This view was adopted by Muqaatil and Ibn Al-Anbaari.” [End of quote]

Tafseer Al-Baghawi reads, “Kaana in the verse means ‘became’ one of the disbelievers. Most of the scholars of Tafseer held that the verse means that Allaah knew that Satan was going to become one of the disbelievers who would be doomed because of his deeds.” [End of quote]

Allaah knows best.

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