If a person intends in his everyday life, to place something in a container, or a farmer intends to sow something in his land, he will first ensure that the container is empty, or he will empty it out first. Now if one wanted to sow something in the mind, the same would apply. Imam Ali (as) says, if one wants to teach a person something, teach it to them in their youth. “A young and fresh mind is like a virgin soil which allows things sown in it, to grow and bear luxuriously” (Letter 31 of Nahjul Balagha).
To teach tawhid, we are first told, say ‘La illa’, there is no god. Thus, first we empty this mind from other deities, and only then are we told ‘except Allah’. An excellent principle to educate someone, is that before any moral values or habits become fixed, guide him to right, otherwise it becomes hard to drop any formed habits.
Just as an empty container is needed above, in the same way, those who lead astray and corrupt people, leaders, organizations, Shaitan also look for the same empty mind, or seek to create one. For example, if Shaitan wanted to lead someone towards idolatry, he first would seek to wipe away their belief in Tawhid. Only then can he plant corrupt values in their mind. To empty the soil, the roots of the plant must first be removed, and Shaitan does just this.
To achieve his aim of an empty rootless soil, Shaitan makes use of many techniques. To protect our greatest wealth which is our faith, we must be aware of these cunning ways. What makes this more difficult is that he does not take from us as an enemy, but in the apparel of a friend and sympathiser. Just as Shaitan whispered to Adam and Hawa, he swears “Verily I am to you a sincere advisor”. (Quran, 7:21) We must recognise the price of the treasure we have, or else they will be snatched from us, by one who belittles them to make them appear worthless.
One of Shaitan’s first techniques is via jesting. Mocking your faith, your hijab, your beard, your values. “Verily the guilty used to laugh at those who believe and winked at one another when they pass them.”(83:20-30)
Believers were mocked by the ignorant throughout time; prophets were mocked, just as Prophet Nuh was mocked for building an ark in the desert. “Whenever the chiefs of people passed by him, they mocked at him.” (11:38) And yet, it was this very ark that could have saved them from drowning. Every prophet, every reformer was faced with this very difficulty. The Quran says about the ignorant, “And when they see a sign, they mock at it” (51:39).Whenever you feel that your faith is undergoing mockery, understand that this is a guile of Shaitan.
A second trick used by Shaitan and his followers is to slander. As soon as Prophet Musa began spreading the truth, false accusations were thrown at him, “He is a sorcerer or a madman.” (51:39) “Likewise, there came not a messenger unto those before them but they said ‘A sorcerer or a madman.’ ” (51:52)
Bibi Maryam was slandered, “Indeed you have brought a strange thing, your father was not a bad man, nor was your mother unchaste.” (19:27-28) And so, none other than Allah came to her defence, giving the infant Isa the power to speak and clear his mother’s name.
Thirdly, a fear of death, exile, loneliness is instilled into the mind of a believer, alone against so much ignorance. “Firawn proudly said: ‘I will slay Musa, let him call upon his Lord.’ ” (40:26) Prophet Shuayb was told by the arrogant disbelievers, “Certainly, we should turn you out, O Shuayb, and those who believe with you from our town, unless you return to our faith.” (7:88) And during the time of Ibrahim, Namrud’s “people had no answer except ‘Kill him or burn him’ but then Allah delivered him from the fire”. (29:24)
During the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw), "Allah did indeed help him when those who disbelieve expelled him(from his hometown Makkah)" (9:40)
Much wealth and effort has been spent on these guiles: “Verily those who disbelieve spend their wealth to prevent people from the path of Allah” (8:36)
All of these guiles are brought together in before us in Sura-e-Araf, Iblis said, “Since You have sent me astray, surely I will lie in wait for them on Your straight path. Then surely I will come upon them from the front and the back, right and left, and You will not find most of them thankful.” (7:16-17)
Shaitan surrounds the believers from all sides to lead them astray. Ayatullah Makaraim says in Tafsir-e-Namoona that Shaitan makes use of every weapon and every facility to achieve his goal.
In Tafseer-e-Noor, a saying of Imam Muhammed Baqir (a.s) is quoted, “The coming of Shaitan from the front signifies his quest to make the believer feel the future of the hereafter is insignificant. He arrives from the back yielding the promises of the world. He attacks from the right to put doubts in ones faith, and from the left via wrong desires.”
A Sunni scholar, Ibn-e-Kasir says in his commentary, “Shaitan awaits on every path preventing anyone from coming towards the truth by putting guilt in his mind at leaving the tradition of his forefathers. When it comes to migrating to save faith, he places doubt in the mind at the reason for leaving your hometown. At the mention of Jihad he instils the fear of being killed, a family without support and the loss of wealth to others. Shaitan appears from the front mocking the existence of heaven and hell and comes from the back saying that this world is like paradise. He comes from the right saying that the true path is a difficult one and he arrives from the left tempting towards sin.”
These are the guiles of Shaitan by which he leads us astray. His sole target by all these techniques is to prevent mankind from being thankful to Allah. Whenever a person becomes ungrateful, he becomes blind to all of Allah’s blessings. He becomes pessimistic, obsessed with what he does not have; his thirst never quenched. Man moves further from Allah, becoming estranged from his Lord, his mind devoid of Tawheed. He abandons trust in Allah and closes his eyes to His mercy. His ears become deaf to the calls, “If you count the bounties of Allah you will not be able to number them. Verily Allah is forgiving and merciful.” Mankind forgives the mercies of his sustainer, forgetting “I bought you into being when you were nothing” (19:9).
Shaitan beguiles man away from the true path, enters doubt into the heart of man causing him to disbelieve. If he fails to do that, he takes out the spirit of worship, the pleasure in faith until worship and good is made to seem like a burden.
Let us protect ourselves from the slyness of Shaitan, and remember the bounties of the Lord who bestowed upon us the Quran, who gave us guardians like Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) and his Ahlul-Bayt. It is He who gave us the ability to reflect and contemplate. Allah says, “If you be grateful to Me, I will increase My favours upon you.” (14:7)
Fakhr-e-Din Razi says about ayat 16 of Surah A’araf, “When the angels heard this Ayat about the claim of Shaitan, they said to Allah how will it be possible for mankind to be protected from Shaitan. Allah says Shaitan may attack from all four sides, but My servant has two paths open to Me. He can raise his hands to pray to Me, or bow down in prostration to Me and I will forgive his sins of seventy years.”
Today we are surrounded by Shaitan and his representatives, who are all adamant on making us lose our faith and values, in a worrying time. Let us call upon the Lord who has said, “Is He not the best who answers the distressed when he calls to Him and removes his distress, making them successors on the Earth.” (27:62)
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