الشَّيْطَانُ سَوَّلَ لَهُمْ وَأَمْلَىٰ لَهُمْ
Al-shaytānu sawwala lahum wa-amlā lahum
Shaytān had seduced them and had given them [far-flung] hopes
(Sūrat Muhammad, No.47, Āyat 25)
Shaytān uses different strategies to beguile the human being. His aim is that the human being ignore his inner voice and turn away from God. He wants him to be attached to the world and to put off matters that would purify the soul.
In this verse Allah subhānahu wa-ta‘ālā mentions two of the strategies Satan uses:
1) ‘Sawwala lahum’ – making things seem so attractive that its defects are hidden. Satan – the cursed, excites desire in the human being. Those things which the human being is greedy for, such as wealth, power etc. are made attractive and inviting. Its outward is glorified through satanic whisperings. The flames of desire are fanned. A person caught in its grip has little chance of reaching spiritual heights.
Prophet Ya‘qūb ‘alayhis salām uses the same word ‘sawwala’ to describe how his sons could commit the unworthy act of getting rid of their own brother and lie to their father. When the brothers of Yūsuf ‘alayhis salām come to their father with the tale of how Yūsuf was ‘killed’, he does not tell them outright that they were pretending. He says: ‘No, your souls have made a matter seem decorous to you (Q12:18). The word ‘sawwala’ here is used for the nafs which has made the deed an agreeable matter to them.
Evil and wrong is often glorified as fair seeming. This is prevalent in the world around us. Many indecencies are presented today in the guise of human rights and free thinking. Although the values promoted can erode the foundations of human society and produce a lot of ills in its wake, the veneer of external glitter deceives people. This is a tactic that has always been used by shaytān. Human beings fall prey to it, in history and in modern times.
2) The second strategy shaytān uses is ‘amla’. It means to make a person have long and far-fetched hopes. To make them think of a long life ahead, of how they can plan and achieve for themselves. These hopes keep the human being occupied and away from true guidance.
When Prophet Hūd ‘alayhis salām saw the people of ‘Ād occupied in worldly hopes and desires that took them away from the remembrance of God, he tells them: Do you build a landmark on every high place to amuse yourselves? You set up structures as if you will live forever (Q 26:128-129).
Although hope is necessary to live in this world, what is condemned is an extension of those hopes without any regard for Allah ‘azza wa-jall as the Creator and Controller of all things. Hopes of worldly success for the sake of the world alone. Such hopes take over the mind of the human being and prevent him from seeing anything else. Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali ‘alayhis salam says: O people! What I fear most for you are two things – acting according to desires and extending of hopes. As regards acting according to desires, this prevents from truth; and as regards extending of hopes, it makes one forget the next world (Nahjul Balāgha, Sermon 42).
Let this verse remind you of the weapons of your enemy. The armor of God’s remembrance is a powerful way to ward off the weapons. Wear it all the time for the shaytān is always lying in ambush.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; http://www.alketab.org/