Satan, The Voice of Misery
How Satan Causes People Misgivings
From the day man was created to the present, Satan has been the most implacable and dangerous enemy of mankind. He deceives and corrupts people by distancing them from the love and will of Allah and from the Qur'an, and by provoking them and setting them against one another, in short by making them as much like himself as possible. Allah warns people that Satan is a clear and present enemy in the verse, "Did I not make a contract with you, tribe of Adam, not to worship Satan, who truly is an outright enemy to you?" (Surah Ya Sin: 60)
Despite being faced with such a dangerous and at the same time cunning enemy, some people live in complete heedlessness of this reality because they are unaware of Satan's existence and of just how cunning he really is. Some people regard Satan as a kind of symbol with no real existence. These incorrect ideas about Satan cause their failure to notice what serious trouble and strife he is capable of making people suffer and leave them defenseless against him. This gives him a simple opportunity of turning people who are heedless of him against Allah and His religion. There are millions of people who do not recognize Satan even when they are face to face with him. This in turn shows what serious danger these people are in.
What makes Satan dangerous is his determination to divert people from the path of Allah, this is his goal. He has sworn an oath to this effect. For this purpose he will make whatever effort he can and try every possible method. Allah tells us about Satan's determination in this matter in the Qur'an:
He [Satan] said, "By Your misguidance of me, I will lie in ambush for them on your straight path. Then I will come at them, from in front of them and behind them, from their right and from their left. You will not find most of them thankful." (Surat al-A'raf, 16-17)
Another dangerous aspect of Satan is that he acts with guile while doing all this. He approaches people differently using a variety of methods according to their weaknesses and defects. He has a different method, different tactics for each individual person. He carries out all his activities with provocations cunningly whispered in people's ears. He plunges them into doubt, drives them into empty fancies and makes them waste time by engaging in worthless pursuits. Allah warns us in the Qur'an that Satan will try to divert and deceive people:
[Satan said,] "I will lead them astray and fill them with false hopes. I will command them and they will cut off cattle's ears. I will command them and they will change Allah's creation." Anyone who takes Satan as his protector in place of Allah has clearly lost everything. He makes promises to them and fills them with false hopes. But what Satan promises them is nothing but delusion. (Surat an-Nisa', 119-120)
Satan always tries to bring people harm and loss. The source of people's never ending woes and troubles and the physical damage they suffer from these are the misgivings and empty fantasies which Satan provokes in them because he wants them to be unhappy. In the Qur'an, Allah warns that people who follow Satan are disappearing into an eternal dark cul-de-sac:
Allah is the Protector of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into the light. But those who disbelieve have false gods [Satans] as protectors. They take them from the light into the darkness. Those are the Companions of the Fire remaining in it timelessly, for ever. (Surat al-Baqara, 257)
However, there is another important matter on which we need to spend some time. A lot of people adopt this psychology within themselves and accept it as a part of life. They believe their lives will be colorful and enjoyable if they live in this way. They go on living without considering the trouble and harm continually being in such a spiritual state will cause them. This is nothing but Satan's deception. By indicating that the situation into which he pushes people is pleasant and attractive, Satan prevents them from using their intelligence and seeing the truth. Allah tells us of this state into which people can fall in the Qur'an:
...Satan made their actions seem good to them and so debarred them from the Way, even though they were intelligent people. (Surat al-'Ankabut, 38)
As we can see, Satan assumes a major role in human unhappiness and in people's living troubled lives. The misgivings produced by Satan deceive people and get them in trouble. With the misery he brings, he distances people who follow him from Allah and His scriptures and makes them rebellious against religion.
Satan Inspires Hopelessness and Helplessness
As we pointed out in the previous section, Satan tries to use every opportunity as best he can to divert people from the way of Allah, to distance them from religion, to have them engage in worthless pursuits and prevent them from thinking about Allah and the Hereafter. One of the situations in which Satan finds an opportunity is the moment when a person sinks into hopelessness or pessimism. During his life a person is faced with a large number of events, some which seem positive, some negative, and he does not know where, when or under what conditions he will be faced with these events. At any time he may contract a fatal disease, lose all his property due to a natural disaster, be thrown out of work, be forced to live on a restricted income for a long period or encounter other such major or minor events which are regarded as negative. People who do not consider that the world has been created as a test and do not believe that Allah has created everything on the basis of His wisdom become depressed when faced with such occurrences and lose hope. This arises from their lack of trust in Allah.
In fact nothing a person encounters in life is accidental, empty or meaningless. As Allah tells us in the verse, "... And no fruit emerges from its husk, nor does any female get pregnant or give birth, without His knowledge..." (Surah Fussilat: 47) Everything that happens takes place with His knowledge, at His wish and under His control. Nothing, therefore, is accidental or meaningless. On the contrary, everything contains meaning and divine wisdom. If, instead of seeing this truth, a person evaluates events through such superstitious concepts as "blind chance" or "coincidence," this will create in him discontent, worry and hopelessness. Of course, this is a situation which makes Satan's task easier because through the misgivings he causes people who live their lives unaware of this secret, he lures them from Allah and religion and even makes them Their enemy. And, of course, the person's descent into pessimism and hopelessness at such a moment and the harm he does himself as a result shows at the same time that Satan has achieved another of his aims. Allah explains in the Qur'an the reason for the troubles and difficulties people face and describes their erroneous reaction to these:
We sent Messengers to nations before you, and afflicted those nations with hardship and distress so that hopefully they would humble themselves. If only they had humbled themselves when Our violent force came upon them! However, their hearts were hard and Satan made what they were doing seem attractive to them. (Surat al-An'am, 42-43)
Allah gives people trouble and difficulties so that they may realize that there is no power other than His in which to take refuge and so that they may find the true path. However, Satan prevents people from seeing this divine wisdom and damages them by leaving their hearts bereft of sensitivity. In fact, the troubles people face are blessings of Allah. In such circumstances, a person should act in a way which Allah will approve, remember Him right away, ask for His help and remain patient in the face of the trouble. Allah has told us that He will come to the aid of those who take refuge in Him. When Prophet Muhammad (saws) and his companions hid in a cave to conceal themselves from disbelievers who were pursuing them, our Prophet's (saws) behavior provided an outstanding example for everybody in this regard. In the Qur'an Allah describes the behavior of the Prophet (saws) as follows:
If you do not help him, Allah did help him when those who disbelieved drove him out and there were two of them in the Cave. He said to his companion, "Do not be despondent, Allah is with us." Then Allah sent down His serenity upon him and reinforced him with troops you could not see. He made the word of those who disbelieved undermost. It is the word of Allah which is uppermost. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat at-Tawba, 40)
Prophet Muhammad (saws) understood that what had happened to him was one of Allah's tests and showed his submission and devotion to Allah in the best possible way. Even at the most dangerous moment he never lost hope of rescue but instead reminded his companions of Allah's mercy and His aid. In return for this superior behavior, Allah put peace and security in the heart of our Prophet (saws) and saved him.
On this subject, another striking example is the submissive behavior of Prophet Musa (as) when he was pursued by Pharaoh's army:
And when the two hosts came into sight of one another Musa's companions said, "We will surely be overtaken!" He [Musa] said, "Never! My Lord is with me and He will guide me." So We revealed to Musa, "Strike the sea with your staff." And it split in two, each part like a towering cliff. And We brought the others right up to it. We rescued Musa and all those who were with him. Then We drowned the rest. There is certainly a Sign in that yet most of them are not believers. (Surat ash-Shu'ara', 61-67)
As we can see from these verses, some of the people at Prophet Musa's (as) side gave up hope right away in this situation and said, "We're trapped." However, Prophet Musa (as) demonstrated exemplary devotion and loyalty to Allah and told those around him that Allah would definitely help them. Immediately after this display of submission and sincerity, Allah sent a great miracle which rescued them from Pharaoh.
People who do not have faith in Allah from the heart are in the habit of giving way to despair. Because they do not live according to the guidance of the Qur'an, they also display a forgetful and ungrateful character. Allah points to the ingratitude of such people in the verse, "If We let man taste mercy from Us, and then take it away from him, he is despairing, ungrateful." (Surah Hud: 9)
Allah declares, "... Do not despair of solace from Allah. No one despairs of solace from Allah except for people who are disbelievers." (Surah Yusuf: 87) With this verse Allah warns people that they should definitely not lose their hopes of Him. Allah created everything in the world for people and offered them everything as a blessing. Humanity is indebted to Allah for everything. He tells us that He is the One Who gives and withholds sustenance in the verse, "Do they not see that Allah expands provision for whoever He wills and also restricts it? There are certainly Signs in that for people who believe." (Surat ar-Rum: 37)
What people are required to do is to trust Allah under any circumstances whatsoever and pray sincerely to Him in awareness of the verse, "He Who responds to the oppressed when they call on Him and removes their distress…" (Surat an-Naml: 62) Allah has promised that He will rescue believers who show this attitude when confronted with troubles. Allah also advises people not to lose hope of His mercy in this verse, "... but you hope for something from Allah which they cannot hope for." (Surat an-Nisa': 104) The constancy of hopefulness depends on its source. Ignorant people lack a sound foundation which can constantly give them hope. They may fall into despair at any moment because of this. The believers, however, nourish a powerful hope in their hearts even at the most difficult moments because of their trust in our Lord. A person who can always remain hopeful is also protected from the stress and troubles caused by hopelessness and pessimism and the health problems and physical damage which these can bring. Such people manage to avoid a weary and defeated state of mind and have a fresh and lively appearance. This fresh and lively spiritual state also reflects itself in their actions and gains them a cheerful, easy, normal and balanced personality.
A person whose source of hope is the Almighty Allah never, by Allah's will, loses hope or the peace and good cheer he feels because of it.
Satan Inspires Emotionalism
Another influence which makes people unhappy comes from a source from which nobody expects it, the person's own emotions. How can these feelings which are regarded as harmless become harmful instead?
In communities which are far from religion, it is very difficult for people to know what is true and what is false because all concepts are in conflict with one another. A person does whatever he regards as logical and correct and in this behaves with great will and determination. A large number of wrong ideas receive approval and are admired while in contrast correct ones are regarded as wrong, criticized and violently opposed.
Emotionalism is at the head of the list of these confused concepts. Emotionalism may be defined generally as the evaluation of everything on the basis of one's emotions and the shaping of one's life accordingly. Someone who lives like this needs always to be directed by his emotions towards virtue and the truth in order to lead an intelligent, comfortable and tranquil life. However, this is nearly impossible because an emotional person usually has difficulty in evaluating events correctly. This is because he acts on the basis of his emotions rather than intelligence and logic. Because he acts with his emotions when making decisions he has difficulty in seeing the true face of events and people. Or, completely to the contrary, in a situation where it is necessary to avoid anger he may be unable to control himself and may easily harm both himself and others. Just as he can suddenly change a minor difference of opinion into a major row, a song he is listening to can make him burst into tears while he appears to be cheerfully and happily enjoying himself with friends. In some people emotionalism also manifests itself in such different forms as introversion and irritability.
Obviously far more examples like this can be given. But if you notice, they all have one point in common—loss of a person's ability to use his intelligence and the suppression of that intelligence. This is just what Satan, who is determined to pervert people, wants and is waiting for. By using this secret weapon well, Satan prevents people from using their intelligence and from seeing the truth without their realizing it. He drives people away from Allah's scriptures and their superior morality. It is as though he draws a veil across a person's intelligence.
To protect himself from such a situation a person needs to know Satan well. To be able to make a judgment on any subject from a correct point of view, he needs to possess correct and sound information. Only in this way can he know what is right and what is wrong, what is beneficial and what is harmful. A person can find the type of information and intelligence that he will need throughout his life in the Qur'an, which is sent down by Allah to guide people and thereby can acquire real intelligence. The clear intelligence which Allah describes in the Qur'an as a characteristic of believers is a powerful weapon which protects them against Satan's guile. By contrast, if a person acts according to his desires and emotions, he will be unhappy.
In the verse, "... Say: 'I do not follow your whims and desires. If I did I would go astray and not be among the guided.'" (Surat al-An'am: 56) Allah tells us that living according to the emotions of the lower self diverts people from His path. The inescapable result of this is that people suffer disappointment, long term depression, trouble and stress. In this world, this brings nothing but misery.
Satan's Deception Is Weak
In previous sections we examined the effects of Satan on people who are distanced from religion and consequently distanced throughout their lives from the knowledge brought by faith in Allah and how people are driven to sorrow by this means. However, in the face of these deceptions, traps and provocations of Satan, there is an important point which people should not forget. This is the degree to which Satan can have a formative effect on people. In the first place, Satan is not a power independent of Allah. Satan is also created by Allah and he is the enemy of humanity only because Allah wills it so. He can have no independent power over people unless Allah wills it. Allah created Satan as a test for people. Those who follow him will stray from the true path while those who listen to their consciences and act according to Allah's wishes will achieve salvation.
In addition to this, the effect of Satan on people is closely connected with their closeness to Allah and their devotion to Him, in short, with the sincerity of their faith. Satan can have no effect on Allah's sincere servants. His effect is only on people who resist Allah and ascribe partners to Him. In order to understand this better, we need to know why Allah created Satan. As we are told in the verse, "... to enable Us to know those who believe in the Hereafter from those who are in doubt about it..." (Surah Saba: 21) Allah created Satan to separate the believers from the unbelievers. On this point, it emerges clearly which people Satan will have a more powerful influence on and which he will be able to divert from the path of Allah.
Allah tells us that Satan is the open enemy of humanity and that people should make Satan their enemy in the verse, "Satan is your enemy so treat him as an enemy. He summons his party so they will be among the people of the Searing Blaze." (Surah Fatir: 6) A person's ability to succeed against an enemy and defeat him is connected to his knowledge of the enemy and of the methods and tactics he employs. In short, a person should know his enemy very well. Because of the Qur'an which Allah Himself sent down, believers know Satan very well and they know very well how to fight him. This is an indication of how weak and ineffective Satan's influence on believers is. Satan will try to corrupt sincere believers as he tries to corrupt all of humanity, but he will never be successful. Because believers base their lives on the facts communicated by Allah in the Qur'an which He sent down, they can see the traps of Satan and the best ways to avoid them. Allah describes this committed and sincere behavior of believers in the Qur'an:
If an evil impulse from Satan provokes you, seek refuge in Allah. He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. As for those who guard against evil, when they are bothered by visitors from Satan, they remember and immediately see clearly. (Surat al-'Araf, 200-201)
As Allah points out in the verse, "... Satan's scheming is always feeble" (Surat an-Nisa': 76), the scheming of Satan over believers is very weak, but the same is not true of those who set their faces against the Qur'an and live in heedlessness of Allah. Allah tells us in Surat ash-Shu'ara': 233 that, "They give them [Satans] a hearing." Because they do not listen to the voice of their consciences, they do exactly what Satan tells them. These people have forgotten the power of Allah and fallen completely under the control of Satan. To put it another way, they have made Satan a deity. For this reason it is very easy for Satan to draw these people to his path and make them live completely disconnected from Allah and the Qur'an. Allah tells us that Satan perversely influences people who adopt him as their friend and guardian but that he has no compulsive power over the faithful:
He [Satan] has no authority over those who believe and put their trust in their Lord. He only has authority over those who take him as a friend and associate others with Allah. (Surat an-Nahl, 99-100)