Caution and Remembrance
Imam ibn al Jauzi rahimahullah explains this beautifully with an example which I’ll quote briefly here:
The heart is like a fort. The angels frequent the fort. Next to the fort are places of desires, where the devils come and go as they wish. The walls of the fort prevent the shayateen from entering it, but they keep circling outside the walls to find a weak point.
‘The fort is lit by the remembrance of Allah and faith in Him. In it is a polished looking glass through which the guardians can see anything that passes by. The first thing that Satan does is to blow smoke into the fort to make its walls black.’ [The World of the Jinn and Devils, al Ashqar]
Remembering Allah cleans the glass, but if you let it remain blackened with smoke, the guards of the heart will not realize when shaytan enters it. That is why it is necessary to be aware of shaytan’s plots at all times, and keep the fort of the heart illuminated with the remembrance of Allah and asking for His forgiveness.
Allah said (translation),
Indeed, those who fear Allah – when an impulse touches them from Satan, they remember [Him] and at once they have insight. [7:201]
Whenever we feel the presence of shaytan in our hearts, immediately we should remember Allah and ask His forgiveness and mercy. This will clean the glass in our heart and give us insight.
Sticking to the Shariah
The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
Indeed Allah has made a parable of the straight path: At the sides of the path there are walls with open doors, each door having a curtain. There is a caller at the head of the path calling, and a caller above it calling. And Allah invites to the abode of peace and guides whomever He wills to the straight path. The doors which are on the sides of the path are the Hudud (legal limitations) of Allah; no one breaches the Hudud of Allah except that curtain is lifted, and the one calling from above it is his Lord. [Tirmidhi]
Seeking refuge in the Lord and Creator of Shaytan
If there is a dog near your house which tries to bite you every time you come out, you can tackle it in one of two ways. Either you go and fight with the dog – most probably you’ll end up in a hospital being punctured with injections – or you can simply go to the owner of the dog and tell him to control it.
Because Allah Azza wa Jall has given shaytan certain powers that He hasn’t given human beings, we tend to feel afraid of shaytan. We believe that shaytan can cause us harm in ways that we can’t prevent him. What we forget is the fact that the One who gave those powers to shaytan has invited us to ask anything we wish from Him.
Sticking to the Jama’ah
It is crucial that we keep contacts with Muslims who are serious about their religion. The Prophet said,
…for the wolf eats up a solitary sheep that stays far from the flock. [Abu Dawud]
He also said,
‘Satan is with the one and is farther away from the two. Whoever of you desires felicity of paradise, should stick to the community.’ [Tirmidhi]
Going the opposite way to Shaytan
This can be found in the Prophet’s sunnahs. For example, he said,
When any of you eats, he should eat with his right hand, and when he drinks, he should drink with his right hand, for the devil eats with his left hand and drinks with his left hand. [Abu Dawud]
Also, referring to taking a nap at midday:
‘Take a short nap because Satan does not take a short nap.’ [Abu Nuaim]
Staying away from the doubtful
The Mother of the Believers Safiyyah went to visit the Prophet while he was in I’tikaf in the masjid. When she was returning the Prophet came with her part of the way. Two Ansari men were coming, and when they saw the Prophet they quickened their pace. The Prophet told them, ‘Do not hurry. She is Safiyyah, daughter of Huyai, my wife.’
They said: ‘Subhan Allah! O Messenger of Allah! ‘
He said, ‘Satan circulates in a person like blood. I apprehended lest Satan should drop some evil thoughts in your minds.’ [Bukhari and Muslim]
This example from the life of the Prophet shows how important it is to not just be pious, but also making sure other people do not get bad impressions of you regarding the deen. This is not about showing-off to others, it is to ward off shaytan from the people around you. People may see you carrying a wine bottle full of liquid, and might think you’re drinking alcohol. This will make shaytan enter their thoughts, and change their behavior towards you. It might also make them think that drinking alcohol is ‘not that bad’ since someone [you] who prays five times a day and has a long beard drinks it. You may say, ‘Let them think whatever they want, I know that that bottle contained chilled water and nothing else.’ In truth we’re responsible for not just for our actions but also the impressions we create around us.
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