قَالَ رَبِّ بِمَا أَغْوَيْتَنِي لَأُزَيِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَأُغْوِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ
Qāla rabbi bimā agwaytanī la-uzayyinanna lahum filardi walaugwiyannahum ajma‘īn.
He said, “My Lord! As You have consigned me to being astray, I will surely glamorize [sin] for them on the Earth, and I will surely cause them all to deviate.”
(Sūrat al-Hijr, No. 15, Āyat39)
The lexical meaning of the Arabic word ‘Shaytān’ (Satan), is a wicked and evil entity. Specifically, the word is used for Iblīs, one of the jinn who was driven away from the Divine proximity after refusing to prostrate to Prophet Adam (a). In the above verse, Allah the Exalted quotes Iblīs at the time when he was deprived of being in the Divine presence. His heart was filled with animosity towards Adam and his children and with a lot of emphasis he promises to misguide them all. Different means of Arabic emphasis can be seen in his words, for example twice the letter nūn with shadda is used for emphasis, and the word ‘ajma‘īn’ is also a type of emphasis. Two necessary questions that ought to be clarified in this regard, are:
· How does Shaytān cause man to deviate?
· What can man do to protect himself?
If Allah ‘azza wajall wills, the first question shall be addressed in more detail in an upcoming Quranic reflection. Suffice it to say here that the powers of Shaytān are limited to influencing man’s faculty of perception and his thoughts. Planting negative thoughts in his mind, encouraging him to sin, beautifying and adorning acts of disobedience, etc. For this reason, on the Day of Judgement Shaytān will call out to those whom he deceived:
وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم
I had no authority over you, except that I called you and you responded to me. So, do not blame me, but blame yourselves. (Q 14:22)
As for the second question: how can man protect himself from the deception of Shaytān? Let us imagine that a believer has diligently studied and learnt the correct Islamic beliefs and laws. He has repented for his past sins and is now striving to live a life of servitude and obedience of Allah (swt). In such a situation, two important methods that he must make use of to free himself from Shaytān are:
1) Remembrance (dhikr) of Allah. This refers to remembrance at the level of action, speech or even in the heart. For example, putting one’s trust in Allah (tawakkul), seeking refuge in Allah – istiʿādhah (See Q 7:200-201), beseeching Allah in supplications to keep one safe (Refer to supplication number 25 of Sahīfah Sajjādiyyah for a beautiful example of the fourth Imam (peace be upon him) seeking refuge in Allah from Shaytān. From the line where he says: give me and my progeny refuge from the accursed Satan onwards.) And similarly doing tawassul to the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them). These are extremely necessary in protecting man and have a real effect. As Allah says:
وَلَوْلَا فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ لَاتَّبَعْتُمُ الشَّيْطَانَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا
And were it not for Allah’s grace upon you and His mercy, you would have surely followed Satan, [all] except a few. (Q 4:83)
2) Remembrance of the Hereafter. A powerful way to counter the insinuations of Shaytān and curtail his influence, is to remember the Hereafter. Shaytān seeks to distract man with this world and thereby render him heedless of Allah and the Hereafter. Hence in one verse it says the only group from amongst the believers that is free from being subjugated by the insinuations of Shaytān, are those that have conviction in the Hereafter and remember it.
وَلَقَدْ صَدَّقَ عَلَيْهِمْ إِبْلِيسُ ظَنَّهُ فَاتَّبَعُوهُ إِلَّا فَرِيقًا مِّنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَمَا كَانَ لَهُ عَلَيْهِم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا لِنَعْلَمَ مَن يُؤْمِنُ بِالْآخِرَةِ مِمَّنْ هُوَ مِنْهَا فِي شَكٍّ ۗ وَرَبُّكَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَفِيظٌ
Certainly, Iblīs had his conjecture come true about them. So, they followed him, all except a part of the faithful. He had no authority over them, but that We may ascertain those who believe in the Hereafter from those who are in doubt about it, and your Lord is watchful over all things. (Q 34:20)
Or as Amīrul Mu’minīn (peace be upon him): Remembrance of the world is the worst of diseases … and remembrance of the Hereafter is a remedy and cure.
As a final point, in a beautiful parable, some of the close servants of Allah have described Shaytān as being the guard dog of his master’s court. He attacks strangers and intruders who approach that sacred precinct, such that only a small number are allowed in. Therefore, it is incumbent upon those who seek proximity to Allah that they think of a plan to deliver themselves from the evil of Shaytān.
We pray to Allah the Invincible and Majestic, by the sake of the Noble Messenger and his pure family (peace be upon them all) to allow us to break free of the shackles of our enemy Shaytān.
Resources: Āyatullāh Muhammad Bāqir Tahrīrī, True Servitude & the Reality of Knowledge (A Commentary on the Narration of ʿUnwān al-Baṣrī)