The hidden insincerity of those caught up in despair and distrust
One method that satan uses most often to draw people away from the true path is to thrust them into despair and pessimism. Satan makes people with ignorant beliefs think that perverse behavior based on despair and distrust is legitimate; and in this way he leads them to disbelief. He wants to apply the same method to people of faith and draw them away from the Qur'an by making them adopt this ignorant morality. The Qur'an tells us that despair is one of the major signs of disbelief:
... Do not despair of solace from Allah. No one despairs of solace from Allah except for people who are unbelievers.' (Surah Yusuf: 87)
Aware of this, satan uses despair as a weapon against those whose hearts are sick. But as with all his other tricks, he resorts to all sorts of stratagems to keep them from sensing the danger he's drawn them into. If he openly urges them to abandon their hope in Allah's mercy and pardon, he knows that his stratagems may be discovered and fail in their purpose. Any person with faith knows that being caught up in such thoughts may mean that he has lost his faith. In this situation, satan makes him experience despair by concealing it behind other thoughts and covering it up with excuses that appear rational and legitimate. In such a situation, a person may feel that he has lost faith and hope; and these ideas may be reflected in his whole moral behavior and direct his life. Finally, he may end up by getting what satan already wants, by any means necessary—to be drawn toward the pangs of punishment.
To achieve his aim, satan plans his tactics systematically and subtly. Stage by stage he employs various methods to lead a person to where he wants them to be. People shroud their consciences and, looking for excuses to follow the desires of their lower selves, are easily persuaded to submit to the way that satan shows them. Satan especially gives them the excuse that there are plainly many difficulties and serious drawbacks in any situation. Those who take refuge in this excuse try to comfort their consciences by saying that their problems are almost insurmountable and would take much effort to overcome. They candidly claim that they have done everything in their power and tried every means, but could find no way over their difficulties. They claim that they have totally exhausted all their efforts in the attempt to find a solution to the "vicious circle" situation. According to this insincere excuse, the situation is out of their hands; the state they are in and the events they have experienced have forced them into this irresolvable situation. Now that they are sad and without hope, satan has finished the game he played with them.
But these people know that all the excuses they offered were false and insincere. They are aware that despair, distrust and an attitude of such helplessness have nothing to do with the Qur'an. From moment to moment, their consciences remind them of their insincerity and call them to think in terms of the moral teachings of the Qur'an. But they go along this road satan has shown them, deliberately using excuses to favor of their egos' undisciplined desires.
They knowingly cover up their consciences and choose insincerity, causing them to suffer pangs of conscience. Because of this anxiety of conscience they experience both a physical and a mental breakdown. Following satan's intimations absolutely, they cannot find the strength to stand up and struggle against their situation, or rescue themselves from the insincerity they live in. As we said in the first chapter, an individual under satan's influence leaves everything to take its natural course and tries to persuade himself that there is no other way out apart from leading a life of anxiety full of distress. As if waiting for death, he turns to activities that will distract him and thus tries to forget the irreparable dangers caused by insincerity in this life and the next. Allah tells us in the Qur'an that those people who try to deceive themselves and believers in their insincerity are totally aware of the agony that awaits them in the Hereafter.
Among the people there are some who say, "We believe in Allah and the Last Day," when they are not believers. They think they deceive Allah and those who believe. They deceive no one but themselves but they are not aware of it. There is a sickness in their hearts and Allah has increased their sickness. They will have a painful punishment on account of their denial. (Surat al-Baqara: 8-10)
However, due to having no fear of Allah as they ought to, they try to forget this agony, of which they are reminded, instead of thinking about it. For this reason, they sometimes pass their time by diverting themselves with tiring work, sometimes by getting involved in intense mental activities and sometimes just by sleeping off their exhaustion.
By this stage, satan's task is largely finished. There is no further use in wasting his time with a person who has entirely sided with satan. Now, to inspire sorrow in him, it will be enough to renew these thoughts from time to time, remind him of the dire nature of his situation, the intractability of his problems and his helplessness. After this stage, an individual will have undertaken satan's work in its every detail. He will now repeat to himself and remind others of the ideas that satan had him memorize. These things are no longer an empty apprehension for him; they will find their place as definite and real judgments that he believes in.
Those who persist in living without faith under satan's influence are like living corpses. They take no pleasure from life, their blessings, from other people or anything else. Their spirit is blinded, their mind clouded and from carrying this weight, they are physically and mentally drained. Satan has covered their minds, bodies and consciences with a shell and exercises total control over them. They have now become his agents, communicating his message in the cheerless satanic spiritual state that pervades their minds and their appearance. With their mental state, behavior, conversations, facial expressions, tone of voice and their helpless and resigned way of speaking, they seem to invite others to share the same fear and despair.
At this stage, any person of true faith and a clear conscience would provide a great blessing to such a person by calling him and guiding him. For one whose mind and judgment have collapsed, the pure mind of a believer who can see reality and knows the difference between good and bad is a manifestation of Allah's mercy. Believers invite these people who can no longer distinguish what will benefit them and what will harm them according to the morality of the Qur'an, a good life in this world and salvation in the world to come. This may be the last opportunity these people have before they die—their last warning to keep them from suffering punishment in the world to come. At this point they should submit unconditionally to Allah, the Qur'an and the urgings of sincere believers, and live their lives according to the teachings of the Qur'an. By Allah's mercy, they may be rescued from satan's influence and develop a mind and conscience that will sustain a true faith. But in order for this to happen, they must first free themselves from their despairing and untrusting thoughts and ideas.
In the following pages, we will give some examples of how satan makes people resign themselves to despair, how he speaks to their minds, how he assumes different forms to continue these conversations for twenty-four hours a day, without ceasing. But first we will touch on how such behavior contradicts the morality of the Qur'an, and how a faithful, sincere person should counteract satan's incitements. We will show that satan's wiles have no effect on persons of faith, if they live according to the Qur'an's moral teachings.
In the morality of the Qur'an, there is no room for
despair or distrust
In the Qur'an, Allah reveals the best solutions to every situation. For this reason, there is no such thing as an unsolvable problem in the life of a believer. If he follows the road revealed in the Qur'an, a believer will easily be able to surmount every problem he meets. Allah revealed this to Ibrahim (as) in the Qur'an:
They said, "We bring you good news of the truth, so do not be among those who despair." (Surat al-Hijr: 55)
Allah also reveals in the Qur'an that He has made Islam an easy religion for human beings:
We have made the Qur'an easy to remember. But is there any rememberer there? (Surat al-Qamar: 17)
No matter what difficulties a person encounters in his life, or how serious a mistake he has made, Allah has provided a way out and He reveals this in the Qur'an to His servants. In order to grasp the simplicity of religious morality, a person must be able to appreciate the sublime names of Allah and be aware of His infinite power and limitless knowledge. A person with such awareness will have no room in his life for despair, resignation or helplessness. Allah is the protector, friend, helper and guide of pure-hearted believers. His power is sufficient to save them from every anxiety and difficulty.
It is Allah Who creates both difficulty and ease. He has created these according to His sure wisdom to test human beings and to show who is determined in his relationship with the Lord. For those who do not become overwhelmed by despair even in their most difficult moments, and who are patient and determined in their trust in Allah, He has created ease together with difficulty. In the Qur'an, Allah gives the good tidings of this assistance:
We will ease you to the Easy Way. (Surat al-A'la: 8)
For truly with hardship comes ease; truly with hardship comes ease. So when you have finished, work on. And make your Lord your goal! (Surat al-Inshirah: 5-8)
As it says in these verses, a person "only has to make the Lord his goal" in order to experience this ease. But because some allow themselves to be directed by satan and their lower selves, they remain deprived of this ease announced in the Qur'an. On the one hand, they are aware that they are on the wrong road, and on the other, instead of submitting to Allah, they try to solve their problems with satan's help. For this reason, they always come up against a dead end. As long as they do not turn to the morality of the Qur'an, their situation will continue to repeat itself. Meanwhile, satan makes them think this continuous repetition is due to the fact that they are in the grip of an insolvable situation. He is able to persuade them to gradually turn this idea into an obsession. However, their inability to come to a solution is entirely due to their not following the road revealed in the Qur'an.
The important fact is, these people could actually save themselves from this spiritual state if they wanted to. Their consciences tell them what they should do. Allah inspires in their consciences the idea that He will rescue them from their pain if they take refuge in Him, that He will answer all their prayers and will certainly help them. But because they are under satan's influence and want to obtain certain things by using their rebellious morality against believers, they cooperate with satan and refuse to relinquish their old behavior.
The secret insincerity of those caught up in despair
Those who say they are despairing and refuse to make any positive effort put forth many claims to justify the logic of their situation. They want to prove, using satan's insidious methods, that there are reasons for their distrustful, pessimistic behavior, and they are aware that the excuses they offer are not sincere. Besides, they know that Allah will remove every anxiety and need from those who follow the solutions revealed in the Qur'an. Even though they do themselves great harm, they live their lives apart from the morality of the Qur'an. Why are they so determined in this? Allah explains in the Qur'an:
... However, their hearts were hard and satan made what they were doing seem attractive to them. (Surat al-An'am: 43)
Strangely, satan makes these people take pleasure in what they are doing. Indeed, in order to be able to follow the path that satan shows them, they oppress themselves, live in a pessimistic spiritual state and agree to living their whole lives in misery. In a sense, they are committing spiritual suicide. Because of their unseemly moral characters, instead of being good-natured and living a good life, they find it more attractive to destroy the love, respect and trust that their acquaintances have for them and to live alone in the world, with no close friends other than satan.
Clearly, they have fashioned this situation with their own hands, and it is the repayment that Allah has given them in this world for making friends with satan. Even if these people wanted to attain the Garden, it would not be possible; they prefer to live an unhappy life claiming that they have abandoned all hope of Allah's mercy and help. Allah has warned these people about the pain and anguish they will suffer:
It will not be eased for them. They will be crushed there by despair (Surat az-Zukhruf: 75)
Those who reject Allah's Signs and the meeting with Him, such people can despair of My mercy, such people will have a painful punishment. (Surat al-'Ankabut: 23)
But these people who exceed the measure of what is good for them were to listen to their consciences while there is still time and abandon the way that satan has shown them, Allah is unstinting in His pardon and forgives all the sins of His servants.
Here are some of the insidious and insincere ideas, which are incompatible with the Qur'an, that these people put forward to legitimize their despair, helplessness and lack of attention:
They claim that their errors are too great to be compensated
for and that they do not have the willpower to do it
Those who believe in Allah from their heart make every effort to achieve a moral character pleasing to Him in the span of life He has granted them in this world. Fear of Allah in their hearts prevents them from acting in any way that would not please Him and from deliberately persisting in such behavior. The love and attachment they feel toward Allah is so strong that it enables them to overcome any difficulties, no matter how great. With their fear of Allah and the strength of their love for Him, it is very easy for them to abandon their errors.
But those who have no proper fear of Allah and do not consider the Afterlife as they should cannot find this strength within themselves, because they have no strong fear of losing the favor of Allah and their attachment to Him. They don't think of the probability that they will suffer pain and sorrow in the eternal life to come, and so the fear of Hell does not motivate them sufficiently. If they were aware of those aspects of their lives that were displeasing to Allah, they would think it reasonable to pass over them with excuses and misrepresentations instead of being eagerly determined to make up for them. One of their excuses for not correcting their errors is that they're too great for them to make up for. They have behaved so badly and made such bad mistakes that anyone who has done such things could never undo the damage. But clearly, all this is a satanic deception and a great lie. The verses that Allah has revealed in the Qur'an show clearly that this idea is inconsistent with the Qur'anic morality. First of all, Allah says that He will not give people any burden that they don't have the strength to bear:
We do not impose on any self any more than it can stand. With Us there is a Book which speaks the truth. They will not be wronged. (Surat al-Muminun: 62)
Allah is infinitely generous and forgiving; He accepts the repentance of His servants who turn to Him in sincerity. The Lord has announced that He will forgive every wrong action, except the one of associating others with Him. But while there is still time, if a person gives up associating Allah with His creatures, he may find forgiveness. The Qur'an tells us that the Lord is infinite in His mercy and ever ready to pardon:
Say [from Me]: "My servants, you who have transgressed against yourselves, do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Truly Allah forgives all wrong actions. He is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Merciful." (Surat az-Zumar: 53)
Another verse says that Allah will cover the shortcomings of His servants who show sincere effort and exalt them:
If you avoid the serious wrong actions you have been forbidden, We will erase your bad actions from you and admit you by a Gate of Honor. (Surat an-Nisa': 31)
For a person who leads a moral life in order to win Allah's favor, it is very easy to compensate for his errors. Since the truth is so evident and Allah has revealed that He will forgive, pardon and even turn evil into good, it is not consistent with the Qur'an for a person to say that he cannot atone up for his sins. Anyone who offers this excuse hides behind insincerity; he has shunned the truth and knows that he has acted insincerely because he has avoided living a good moral life. Allah makes him feel every aspect of this truth in his conscience. He thinks it's difficult to make up for his moral shortcomings and errors and because he lacks a strong faith, he cannot find the willpower within himself.
In the Qur'an, Allah tells us that hypocrites with sickness in their hearts have just such an attitude. Hypocrites who want to avoid struggling together with our Prophet (saas) make the excuse that they "are not strong enough":
If it had been a case of easy gains and a short journey, they would have followed you, but the distance was too great for them. They will swear by Allah: "Had we been able to, we would have gone out with you." They are destroying their own selves. Allah knows that they are lying. (Surat at-Tawba: 42)
The claim that they must think a long time before
correcting their errors
As we said earlier, satan does not want a person to live a good moral life or use his conscience to conform his life to the Qur'an. To this end, as we said, he wants to make it seem difficult to live morally and purify the lower self and for an individual to make up for his errors. He suggests that the errors he has committed are very great. A person who has this idea loses hope that he can correct his mistakes and that Allah will ever forgive him, and he may become pessimistic about himself and events that will occur.
His lower self deceives him by making him think that he cannot undo his mistakes without deep consideration; its purpose is to dissuade him from any attempt. He analyzes for hours, days and weeks, down to the finest details, why he made such an error, why things turned out as they did, what people think of him and why they said to him the things they did. But examining these things in this way will be of no use. If he only gives sincere consideration to how he can make up for these errors, the situation may turn out in his favor, by Allah's will.
We can give the following example: When a stiff and somber person is urged to be lively and joyful, this is very easy for a person to do. All he needs to do is to be kind and content in the knowledge that Allah has created events for a good purpose. He does not have to think systematically about this for hours. Satan wants people to think that they must think long and hard about things that could immediately be corrected. He suggests that, in order for anyone to be joyful, he must first correct his other mistakes and must set time aside in order to plan how to do this. Satan aims to gain time; he wants to postpone this process and divert the person from his true goal. However, the solution is very easy: If he behaves in the way described, the matter can be resolved in a moment.
Such a change in behavior is easy to imagine when a thirsty person goes into the kitchen to get a glass of water. He does not have to plan for hours about how he will be able to get a drink. All he has to do is to turn on the tap. In the same way, a person who thinks he must correct his errors can do this only by implementing it.
They try to give to believers an impression of helplessness
Those who claim to be in despair because they cannot rescue themselves from the wickedness of their lower selves actually choose this spiritual state themselves. The reason for their choice is that they don't what to give up their bad natures and erroneous behavior. It's more pleasing to their lower selves to hide behind excuses. Besides, their lower selves enjoy behavior that is wrong according to the Qur'an. For example, any arrogant, proud individual must train his lower self in order to achieve a trusting, gentle moral character. But to be trusting goes against his lower self; he wants to be able to enjoy pride whenever he so chooses. Therefore, in this matter, he prefers not to suppress his lower self. The excuse he generally hides behind is that he's "helpless and unable to find a solution."
However, as with all the excuses such people offer, this one is also false. The morality of the Qur'an is, in every case, clearest and easiest solution. Allah reveals this truth in the Qur'an:
Certainly there is a transmission in this for people who worship. (Surat al-Anbiya': 106)
In another verse, He says that He will show a way out of difficulty to those who fear and respect Him:
... Whoever fear Allah–He will give him a way out. And (He will) provide for him from where he does not expect. Whoever puts his trust in Allah – He will be enough for him... (Surat at-Talaq: 2-3)
These verses show that no one who lives according to the Qur'an's moral teachings will ever be left without a solution to his problems. For this reason, if this situation does arise, it comes from the fact that the individuals concerned don't follow the Qur'an, but have embraced the methods of satan.
In the Qur'an, Allah says that, even if confronted with death, hunger, illness or any other difficulty requiring patience, people with faith never assume a helpless attitude. In such situations, they always speak of their trust and reliance on Allah. The Qur'an says that only hypocrites with sickness in their hearts feel overcome with fear in the face of difficulties and lose faith in Allah's mercy.
However, someone who takes refuge in Allah never encounters such an impasse, because Allah is very generous and loving to His servants and His mercy is great. In the Qur'an, the Lord reminds us of this generosity and mercy in the verses that He sent down to our Prophet (saas):
Your Lord has not abandoned you nor does He hate you. The Last will be better for you than the First. Your Lord will soon give to you and you will be satisfied. Did He not find you orphaned and shelter you? Did He not find you wandering and guide you? Did He not find you impoverished and enrich you? (Surat ad-Duha: 3-8)
Allah has made believers responsible for calling people to goodness and to avoid wickedness. And besides, people with faith do not regard despair, helplessness and impossibility as sensible concepts. And because they evaluate everything that happens in the light of the Qur'an, they easily see that this stratagem is a product of a hypocritical morality and respond to these people with the Qur'an's morality.
These people claim to be at an impasse; they want to send the message to those around them that they are "stubbornly determined not to change their behavior." They want to convince others that there is no other way out and to get them to accept them. In this way, they secretly insist that they cannot live the morality of the Qur'an in its entirety.
But this insistence has no effect on people with faith. Believers use the Qur'an as their measure and act according to the morality that Allah has revealed to them. They will never befriend such an individual whose behavior demonstrates satan's morality.
Allah knows what is in such people's hearts so turn away from them and warn them and speak to them with words that take effect. (Surat an-Nisa': 63)
They will exhort him with advice from the measures that Allah has set in the Qur'an. And if the individual takes this advice and shows a good moral character, believers will accept him.
Remind, then, if the reminder benefits. (Surat al-A'la: 9)
Here too, however, as is all their calculations, they have fallen into great error. In the Qur'an, Allah has revealed to believers the indications that a person is insincere. And He supports them from His presence with superior intelligence and ability to discriminate. Insincere people act so as to hide their insincerity and keep it secret. Later, they claim to be well-intentioned, but are wrong to think that they can make themselves appear innocent. Their conversations, behavior, facial expressions and the excuses they put forward are enough to allow a person with faith to understand their real moral character.
They claim that the solutions offered to them
are wrong, or cannot apply to them
Satan wants people to turn their backs on the true path and persist in their errors. When he sees someone setting out on the true path or taking advice that may benefit them, he immediately takes measures. In this situation, a person's conscience would come into play and urge him to conform to the high morality that it enjoins.
In such a situation, those who want to protect their lower selves instead of following their conscience immediately go down the path that satan has shown them. When anyone urges them to follow the morality of the Qur'an, they resort to insidious methods to obey the contrary inspiration of their lower selves and find excuses to persuade themselves. One of the major excuses they use is that "The error might have been wrong, but so was the solution offered." It is clear that these people do not behave according to the Qur'an. They realize that admitting and rejecting their errors will clearly reveal their insincerity. For this reason, they embrace a more insidious method, and offer an excuse. Even though they receive good advice from the Qur'an clearly leading them to the right path, they do not accept it because of their insincerity.
They claim that the solution offered to them was not apt, that their errors were due to other causes and required different solutions. Later, they offer alternative "solutions" that suit their lower selves. Instead of conforming to the morality of the Qur'an, they resort to satan's methods and fall into chaos. Even the most easily-solvable problems paralyze their wills.
Such a person who follows satan's intimations is far from the counsel given by intelligence and sincerity. Believers admonish him to behave in a good way, but he turns his back on what is right, preferring to follow his own mind which has been shrouded by satan's influence. The Qur'an explains the behavior of such people:
When he is told to fear Allah, he is seized by pride which drives him to wrongdoing. Hell will be enough for him! What an evil resting-place! (Surat al-Baqara: 206)
They claim that they do not know where their
errors come from or what they should do
When called to practice the morality of the Qur'an, one of the excuses made by those whom satan has drawn into despair is that they do not know where their error lies nor how to atone for it. However, these people know what faith means, what the morality of the Qur'an requires, and the kind of behaviors Allah tells them to avoid. In the Qur'an, Allah tells us that, no matter what excuses he makes, every person will be "a clear proof against himself." (Surat al-Qiyama: 14-15)
In another verse, Allah reminds us that there is a clear difference between right and wrong:
... Right guidance has become clearly distinct from error. Anyone who rejects false deities and believes in Allah has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Baqara: 256)
Allah has created human beings to be aware. A person knows his positive and negative behavior, because he has his voice of conscience inside to direct him. Good behavior eases the conscience and makes it content; bad behavior makes the conscience uneasy. Even if a person does not confess to himself, his conscience will warn him of his errors. Therefore, anyone who makes the excuse that he does not know where his errors come from, even when it is explained to him, is simply against the ploy of his lower self.
First of all, this individual does not want to acknowledge his mistakes. If he did, he would have to stop making them. For this reason, he says he does not understand what is explained to him, thus preparing the way for him to continue. If he acknowledges that he understands and still makes the same mistakes again, it shows that he is acting deliberately. So with his excuses, he wants to make himself appear innocent and naïve. Satan presents this distorted way of thinking as reasonable; according to this logic, others have to prove that his behavior is wrong and meanwhile, he does not understand or think about what he is doing. He even wants others to feel compassion for him.
Allah tells us in the Qur'an that this insincerity is wrong. He warns people with faith against those who say they do not understand, even though they are very much aware of what they are doing: "... a group of them heard Allah's word and then, after grasping it, knowingly distorted it." (Surat al-Baqara: 75) In another verse, Allah tells us that such people deliberately avoid understanding what is said to them: "... What is the matter with these people that they scarcely understand a single word?" (Surat an-Nisa': 78)
They claim that others are prejudiced against
them and therefore do not notice the positive
changes these others have made
These people try to find excuses for the pessimism that comes from not living in faith as they ought. Another excuse they make is that people are prejudiced against them. This idea arises basically from their perverse beliefs. For those who live their lives to win Allah's favor, the fact that Allah knows and sees everything they do is sufficient for them. Those who do not practice this morality as they ought to, expect appreciation and praise from others. They practice the moral qualities required to win Allah's favor only to gain the approval of other people. When they think that they are not being appreciated as much as they should be, there is no energy or intention in the positive moral qualities they display. They say that they do everything they can to live a good moral life, but they suggest that others do not see and appreciate their efforts at all. Especially if someone criticizes their behavior as wrong, or when they have made no effort to alter it, they immediately offer the excuse of prejudice to justify the situation.
They say that they have made major changes in their behavior and that they have really turned over a new leaf, but that others still regard them in terms of their former mistakes and their old personality. They claim that, even if an understanding were reached in this matter, they would always be regarded in the same way whenever they made mistakes in future. They claim that, no matter how well they may correct themselves and no matter how good they are, their former errors will never be forgotten or forgiven; and they'll always be regarded in the same way. And, they say that as long as they are regarded with prejudice, their confidence will be broken by this psychological pressure and they won't be able to change. They hide behind these insincere excuses, saying that they doubt they can possibly change, given their present circumstances.
We can see that the logic of their scenario is based in the insincere premise that the fault lies not with those who make excuses, but with others. However, all these explanations are ridden with faulty accusations. Believers are individuals who above all fear Allah; they know that being suspicious and treating people unjustly are actions contrary to the Qur'an. For this reason, a person who exerts a serious effort will never be regarded with suspicion. Additionally, if an individual has really made positive changes in himself, believers of conscience will have the sensitivity to realize it immediately and will be very pleased. Above all, they know that it is Allah Who will pardon a person's errors and that everyone is responsible to Him. They are aware that to judge a person in terms of his former errors although he acts in accord with the morality of the Qur'an is not consonant with the Qur'an. Its morality requires that people be well-intentioned toward believers, extolling the fine aspects of their character, praising and encouraging them.
Therefore, as with all their other excuses, this one cannot be accepted by believers and insincere individuals. People should see these ideas as coming totally from satan, immediately submit to Allah and try to make up for their errors in terms of the moral teachings of the Qur'an.