By Noori Tirmizi Passela
Very so often it is easy to fall back into old habits, particularly when it comes to remembering Allah and avoiding the lure of worldly temptations. Gradually, despite even our best efforts, prayer and zhikr end up getting relegated to the sidelines of our lives in favor of work, family, leisure, and those rare moments when you just want to while away your time to the soothing purr of Youtube cat videos.
To each his (and her) own poison, is what I myself admit.
Hence, the adage ‘know your enemy’ has never been more relevant than a time like now. God works in mysterious ways, but the Devil lacks that brand of subtlety. So, now that we’ve identified our villain, it would also do ourselves well to conduct a brief background check.
Who or what is Shaytan?
You might recall Shaytan’s most memorable appearance in history in the span of a simple, yet telling, verse from the Holy Quran:
‘And (remember) when We said to the angels: “Prostrate yourselves unto Adam.” So they prostrated themselves, except Iblis. He was one of the jinn; he disobeyed the command of his Lord.’ (18:50)
While borne of a ‘smokeless fire’ (Sahih Muslim), jinn are still creations of Allah and like the angels and mankind, were brought to life for the sole purpose of worshipping Him. Which makes Iblis’ act of defiance all the more damning when taking our Creator’s wrath into account.
‘(Allah) said: “Then get out from here; for verily, you are outcast.”
‘”And verily My Curse is on you until the Day of Recompense.”’ (38:77-78)
Hence, if we can pin a defining trait unto Shaytan, it is that of willful disobedience, wrought by a strong sense of misplaced pride. Coupled with a knack for mischief and treachery, Shaytan certainly makes for a force to be reckoned with. Aadam (A.S.) and Hawwa (Eve) certainly found that out the hard way, and so has every single person you’ve ever known, at some point in their lives.
What is meant by the ‘Whisperings of Shaytan’?
How many of you can honestly state, without a shred of doubt, that you have never delayed or just completely disregarded an act of worship in favor of pursuing activities which vary on the scale of relevance to your spiritual health?
Here is where I hang my head in shame. Blame it on the free Wi-Fi.
Or this could be the part where we conduct a crash course in the exact machinations of Shaytan’s modus operandi. Granted, your mileage may vary when it comes to the limitations of ‘exact’.
However, I’m sure you’ve all at least had a few moments like mine, where, despite your best intentions, you find yourself straying from the path of truth and virtue. If you’re confident that you haven’t, then I commend you on your state of denial.
Distraction is quite possibly Shaytan’s most finely-honed weapon in Hell’s vast arsenal. Made a resolution to start your preparations for Salah as soon as the first word of the Azaan rang out? Too bad your Facebook alert went off at the exact same moment. What about that time when you vowed to start reading the Quran? Oh wait, you dozed off watching sitcoms after stuffing your face with Mum’s cooking.
Feelings of envy and distrust are also common methods by which Shaytan creates discord. When the grass on the other side of the fence always appears greener, it’s sadly quite natural to find yourself blaming your neighbor for hogging all the luck whilst neglecting to examine the shadows in your own garden. Jealousy is a steep curve and it always leads downhill.
Let us also not forget how each and every sin of ours lends credence to Shaytan’s helping hand, from the seemingly harmless white lie blurted to get out of trouble to the more troubling thoughts that plague those who would go to the extent of harming their fellow human beings to satisfy whatever worldly desire stirred by these whisperings.
A ‘whisper’ may be but a breath, but more often than not, a single breath is all it takes to put out the light.
Well, that was a cheerful discussion. Now how do we avoid falling prey to these whispers?
“I seek refuge in Allah, from Satan, the Rejected.”
Many a time would have passed without us pausing to consider the significance of these words. Words, indeed, that we let slide too often in the commencement of our prayers, Quran recitation, and, sometimes, daily activities.
But It’s as simple as that.
Surah al Nas embodies this concept perfectly:
‘Say: “I seek refuge with (Allah) the Lord of mankind, the King of mankind, the Ilah (God) of mankind, from the evil of the whisperers (devil who whispers evil in the hearts of men) who withdraws (from his whispering in one’s heart after one remembers Allah). Who whispers in the breasts of mankind. Of jinn and men.’ (114: 1-6)
The challenge lies in the strength of one’s Imaan (faith) and if they truly have the intention to preserve it from the stain of evil thoughts.
So seek strength through constant remembrance of Allah in prayer and zhikr. Learn the meaning of the words which too often leave our lips without a thought. With knowledge comes power and the weight behind these verses will eventually leave their mark.
Of course, noble deeds cannot come into fruition without the niyyah (intention) to propel them. Take time to reflect on what you’ve learned from past mistakes and whether these missteps were really a sign that you just might be on the way to something better.
Back when I was in school, we learned that the word ‘Islam’ is derived from the root ‘slm’ which means ‘to submit, surrender’. It is a simple lesson that has since stuck with me, making it apt that we, as Muslims, submit completely to Allah.
Therefore, let us do just that and reject the path of defiance, inshallah.