Can the devil bring physical harm or hardship upon the believers?

This question has been debated by many over time and although the Quranic verdict is clear about this issue, many are not aware of it. Many believers believe that Satan and the devils can actually bring physical harm upon the believers. However the Quran confirms that this is not possible.

Perhaps many have been inclined to this belief as a result of reading how Prophet Job complained to God saying that the devil has caused him lots of harm.

Remember our servant Job when he called upon his Lord, "The devil has afflicted me with hardship and suffering." 38:41

It appears from Job's complaint that the devil has actually caused him pain and hardship. Many will say that Job was a Prophet of God so he would not be saying what is untrue. However, messengers of God are ordinary men who are just as fallible as anyone else. They too can misinterpret events that come their way. The case of Abraham when he totally misinterpreted the dream is a good example (see: Abraham's Sacrifice). Thus, the question is whether Job was correct in his understanding that his pain and hardship were from the devil?

1- When we read 15:42 and 17:65 we find God telling Satan that he does not have any authority or control over the believers. For the devil to be able to inflict physical harm, pain or hardship on the believers the devil must have power over the believers.

2- We read in 14:22 that the devil will say (on Judgement Day) that he had no authority over the believers and that all he was allowed to do was to entice the people. All what the devil is able to do is to whisper to the human being and entice him to commit sins. An example is given in 20:120.

The devil is not able to force the people to do anything, nor can he inflict any harm on them.

3- In 38:41, we read how Job called on God saying that the devil has brought suffering upon him. The question is: was it really the devil who brought the hardship upon Job?

The answer to such a question is found in 2:214:

Or do you expect to enter Paradise without being given the same as those before you? They were touched by adversity and hardship and were shaken up until the messenger and those who believed with him said, "When is God's victory?" Indeed, God's victory is imminent. 2:214

A number of important matters are derived from the above verse:

a- Hardship and adversity is decreed by God in order to test the believers (the same meaning is found in 2:155 and 29:1-2). Hardship does not come from the devil. The Patience of the believers against hardship confirms their faith in God and thus earns them God's reward:

I have rewarded them today for their patience, they are indeed the winners. 23:111

Patience against hardship can only exist in the presence of hardship. If we are happy and without any hardship there would be no meaning for patience. As we read in 29:2-3, it is God's design to test all people in order to distinguish the sincere from the hypocrites.

b- The fact that hardship and suffering, designed to test people, comes from God and not from the devil, is also confirmed in 2:214 where we read that other messengers were also touched by hardship from God to test them, and not just Job:

Or do you expect to enter Paradise without being given the same as those before you? They were touched by adversity and hardship and were shaken up until the messenger and those who believed with him said, "When is God's victory?" Indeed, God's victory is imminent. 2:214

This is not any different from Job's call when he was in hardship and called on God to end his suffering.

4- The Quran tells us that all bad things that happen to people happen for one of the following reasons:

a- As a consequence of something wrong they themselves did:

How could this possibly happen?" Say, "It is from yourselves. 3:165

b- As a punishment that God brings upon people for some sins which they have committed:

If they turn away, then know that God wants to afflict them for some of their sins. Indeed, many people are wicked. 5:49

c- Hardship and adversity could also be a test from God to test people's faith and patience. This is in accordance to 29:1-2, 2:155 and 2:214

Satan was never given authority by God to punish the human nor to test him. Both, tests and punishments are exclusive acts that belong to God alone. Since hardship and adversity are but consequences of one of the above, we can conclude that the devil is not able to, nor has the authority to harm the human.

5- Further confirmation of this truth is given in 4:78:

When something good happens to them, they say, "This is from God", and when something bad afflicts them they say, "This is from you". Say, "All is from God." 4:78

If everything (good or bad) comes from God, then it is incorrect to think that some bad can come from Satan.

6- Finally, there are no words anywhere in the Quran that indicate or imply that hardship comes from the devil, except the words spoken by Job. Since all the Quranic evidence points to the contrary, we must conclude that Job was mistaken to believe that it was the devil who afflicted hardship and adversity on him.

The following Quranic words conclude this issue:

He (devil) cannot harm them in any way without God's permission. The believers should put their trust in God. 58:10