The Satanic Whisper: The Begetter of Despair
Satan's whispering (waswasah) consists of vain doubts and conjectures that form in people's minds and prevent them from making the right decisions. It makes people procrastinate and doubt, renders them indecisive, and causes distress. In addition, it causes meaningless fears, ruins their ability to think, and saps their confidence. The afflicted are then engulfed by anxiety, indecision, fear, hopelessness, and negativity. This whispering and its accompanying psychological problems are experienced particularly by people who are ignorant of the concept of destiny, who do not know how to trust in Allah, and who are weak in faith.
Satan's goal is to whisper empty conjectures to such people in order to cause them to stray far from their religion, become ignorant of Allah's power, and not to acknowledge Allah in the way required. Satan tries to make people follow those models displayed by people who waste their lives on vain goals, who put their own desires and passions ahead of Allah's will, and who have forgotten the true purpose of their creation: serving Allah. By listening to Satan and getting caught up in his whisperings, they take what he says seriously and forget Allah. Thus, they lose in both this world and the hereafter.
At the head of their worldly losses is that of hope and stability, for following such a path causes unease and instability to rule their lives. People can fall prey to many kinds of conjecture at different stages in their lives, depending upon the person. Most of the time they live with the agony of making the right decision when faced with events. They are constantly indecisive on questions related to education, work, and other issues. As a result, they always ask themselves: "Should I have taken that other job?" or "Would it have been better if I had gone to the other school?"
At this point, a question comes to mind: "What's the harm in always trying to do the right thing?" However, what we are trying to clarify here is not finding the best and correct solution to a problem, but that such people are prone to feelings of distress and apprehension at every instant of every day, for they can never be sure of what they do. Thus, they eventually reach a state in which they cannot think of the truly important things. Their constant cross-examination of themselves keeps their thoughts and minds in a state of constant confusion. This is one of the biggest dangers that Satan's whisperings can bring to people.
Satan's dark suggestion is such a calamity that it results in indecisiveness and all manner of conjecture. This curse eats up most of a person's time and, consequently, a large part of one's life. Any indecision and doubt that results in empty supposition eventually leads to a stressful and tense spiritual state. If those who heed the Satan's evil suggestions do not believe in Allah, or believe but have not acknowledged His power, the conjecture and suppositions just keep on getting bigger and bigger. Since they are not relying upon and trusting in Allah, Who created them, they cannot break free of Satan's suggestions and thus continue to suffer from their own misgivings, which engulf and constrict them. Such a spiritual state is very widespread and is experienced by everybody in his or her immediate environment. From time to time, they recognize it within their own selves.
This satanic whispering's most serious danger is its ability to engulf one's mind and prevent proper thought. Those who are so afflicted, whose minds are constantly preoccupied with conjecture and doubt, cannot acknowledge and recognize Allah, as required, or live as He wills. They are angry with and anxious about the world, and thus cannot acquire the good morals engendered by obeying the Qur'an's call to submit to Him or the ensuing peaceful and calm spiritual state.
Those whose spirits are caught up in conjecture will confuse right and wrong, good and bad, and what they should and should not do. They are in a constant state of anxiety, doubt, and hesitation about what will happen to them, and never stop worrying about the correctness of their decisions. This situation places great pressure upon their minds and prevents them from thinking logically, making healthy decisions, and reasoning things out.
But all of this is so utterly meaningless. Humanity was created for a specific purpose: To serve Allah in the way that He wills, and to never forget that our Lord is always a friend to those who struggle sincerely. People who know their purpose never forget that Allah creates all things and that every event occurs within His knowledge. People who continue to live with conjecture and stray far from the path leading to true salvation need to understand this truth, and to realize that conjecture, doubt, and supposition cannot change the results of any events. Only those who know this can lead a life of peace, for they have submitted to the destiny that Allah, the One Who created them out of nothing, has determined for them and that is absolutely good for them.
But Satan becomes a plague upon those people who are unaware of the fact that they cannot escape their destiny, and that, in reality, they are no more than viewers of it. What lies at the heart of those who cannot free themselves from this curse is that the satanic whisperings keep growing, which deepens their depression and ruins their spirit. But they cannot escape it, for they do not know how to approach it since they do not know either its source or its cure: a strong love for and fear of Allah, and a solid submission resulting from faith.
Satan's suggestions drive people to despair
Throughout this book, we have explained that those who have true faith are in a continual state of hope. Given this, a most insidious technique used by Satan to divert people from the path of Allah is to get them to conjecture about hoping for good and beneficial things. This only results in despair, for its ultimate goal is to lead people away from that path. Those who fall prey to these whisperings and the ensuing despair have a fundamental weakness in their faith, and thus display their lack of a true and requisite faith in destiny.
However, many verses clearly explain that Allah controls everything. One such verse is the following:
The keys of the Unseen are in His possession. No one knows them but Him. He knows everything in the land and sea. No leaf falls without His knowing it… (Surat al-An'am, 59)
As understood from this verse, nothing, not even the falling of a leaf, happens without Allah's knowledge and will. In other words, every event that occurs on earth happens within His knowledge and under His control. And so people must realize and never forget that Allah has created this world as a place of trial, and that He has placed many means for testing in it.
Given this world's trial-like nature, Allah may test people in many ways. The Qur'an expounds the following fact:
We will test you with a certain amount of fear and hunger and loss of wealth and life and fruits. But give good news to the steadfast (Surat al-Baqara, 155)
Many other verses proclaim that people will be tested in different ways. The best response to all such events is to be grateful, patient, and hope for the best and good from Allah. Believers who realize that a difficult situation will soon pass and that they are being tested, and that their display of good behavior will give them a hope of Paradise, will never be shaken by such circumstances. They do not feel sadness, depression, or despair, and do not become engulfed in anxiety.
However, people must have a fixed resolve so that they can stop themselves from falling victim to Satan's whisperings, which can assume forms that would never occur to them. For example, Satan whispers to a person who makes frequent mistakes that he will always make such mistakes. He lies by suggesting to one who may have made a mistake against Allah that she will never be forgiven, regardless of how much she repents, and that even her intention to do the right thing will never be accepted. This is one of Satan's most insidious games to keep people in a state of despair and away from repentance. People who listen to these lies begin to become hopeless and anxious, for they think that they cannot fix that mistake. However, if they regret what they have done and repent immediately with the intention of never repeating it, this mistake will turn out well for that person. One verse states:
You who believe! Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. Anyone who follows in Satan's footsteps should know that he commands indecency and wrongdoing. Were it not for Allah's favor to you and His mercy, not one of you would ever have been purified. But Allah purifies whoever He wills. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat an-Nur, 21)
Another one of Satan's secret techniques is to cause doubt and make it seem that there is no way out of a particular situation. If a situation is considered easy, its solution will also be easy. But Satan makes events appear difficult and complicated. He makes people think that whatever happens to them is such a major event that they will never be able to find their way out of its associated difficulties. He does this so that people will lose their hope and become engulfed in a pessimistic and unhappy spiritual state. And this is exactly what he wants, because it is harder to get a happy and hopeful person to listen to his whisperings than it is to do so with a person who is already pessimistic, sad, and hopeless.
Those who want to be free of Satan's whisperings must not like that spiritual state or want to live in it. Some people say that they are sick of living like this, but because they cannot seem to free themselves of it, they continue on in their hopeless and distressed state. And on top of all this, the sad and hopeless song lyrics that they listen to, as well as the films that they watch, make them feel even more depressed. Even if somebody tells them the truth, they say such things as: "Well, what can I do? It's not in my hands. I'm sad," which are hard to explain logically. Thus they fixate on the idea that they must continue living their lives in this way.
Even if they do not openly admit it, we know that some people enjoy such a life. However much pain they endure, subconsciously these "melancholic" people get a strange pleasure from feeling sad and, in effect, become addicted to it. Since it has become a habit, they do not want to leave this Satan-inspired state of mind even if conditions change. Satan tries to make people prefer this ignorant state of mind, which is characteristic of the people of the Fire. He tries to make them experience the spiritual Hell-like punishment while still in this world, and to lead them far from Allah's straight path, mercy, and Paradise. This is one of his important strategies.
The solution to being free of this type of spiritual state is true faith, recognition of Allah's power, and acknowledgement of His compassion and mercy. In addition, one must realize the purpose of his or her creation and steer clear of Satan's trap. For this reason, those who submit to Allah and know that they only follow their destiny can never be tricked by Satan's temptations and fall into despair.
People who listen to Satan's whisperings live in fear and anxiety
Allah states that only one type of fear will lead a person to the right path: the fear of Allah. The Qur'an proclaims that Allah, the Possessor of Infinite Knowledge, will give people the ability to distinguish between right and wrong if they fear Him. This is one of the most important characteristics for a person to have. Discerning people who have faith know the difference between right and wrong, and thus are not fooled by Satan's games.
Satan is very aware of peoples' weak spots, and so approaches them from these angles. He varies his tactics, for no two people are alike. For example, he tries to frighten people with various types of fear, such as of the future, death, poverty, or hunger. For example, a person who receives a benefit from somebody else fears that he might somehow be prevented from obtaining that benefit and that person might cause him to lose his money, his goods, or even his reputation. By attributing an independent identity to that person, he displays his belief that this other person is the one who decides and that his "might" causes negative events to occur. In other words, he has forgotten that Allah also created that person, provides him with food and drink, and cures him when he gets sick.
Even if that person is not aware of it, he was created in submission to Allah and lives his life accordingly, and each of his words is spoken and measured out according to his destiny. In the Qur'an, Allah makes it clear that those supposed "benefactors" are, in fact, His servants and have no power of their own. Every person will be called to account in the hereafter and will be asked about what they did. So in reality, people should fear Allah alone.
People who do not comprehend Allah's infinite power and His absolute control over all things attribute identities to different beings, see them as independently powerful beings, and believe themselves to be in danger from all sides. They do not know from where and from whom evil will come, and so they are in constant fear and distress. People who live far from religion have an intense fear of the future, for what might happen to them keeps them in a state of continual anxiety: "Is something going to happen to me? What if I get sick? What if I die at a young age? Will I have a comfortable life?" We encounter these completely baseless worries frequently, as well as hundreds of others. The resulting conjectures about what might happen bring nothing but great distress and despair.
A natural consequence of Satan's whisperings and conjecture is an intensely anxious spiritual state. A simple problem that is easily solved when evaluated by a calm and trusting mind can become a unsolvable problem for one who listens to Satan's whisperings. This incorrect attitude drives a person to fear and anxiety, and eventually turns into a calamity.
The believers' source of strength and untainted morale lies in their full knowledge of these truths and their sincere belief in the destiny that Allah has created for them.
Becoming free of Satan's whisperings
Some people realize that Satan's whisperings are just empty conjectures, but for some reason they do not have enough willpower to free themselves. Thus, in reality they allow Satan to invite them to disbelief and to keep on playing his games with them. By remaining indifferent to this satanic whispering out of the mistaken belief that "it can't harm me," people fall into his trap. Those who see through this trickery should struggle to break free of it, because another of Satan's trick is to make us believe that we cannot do so. And most important of all, Satan hides the fact that he is the one who is doing the whispering and thereby fools people into believing that these thoughts and conjectures are produced in their own minds.
By instilling endless insinuations in a person's mind, Satan makes them believe that they are trapped forever. Considering freedom from these artificial problems to be something impossible for them, they fall into hopelessness and despair. If only they looked at events through the eye of the Qur'an, they would see that only Allah can create and that He has the power to create anything He wills. This realization would enable them to turn to Allah in every situation and ask for His help. They would know and hope that Allah would save His sincere servants from all distress and give them inner peace and happiness. People who live in ignorance of our Lord think that they have to find the solution to everything and, when their strength is exhausted, they are left desolate.
Our life in this world passes quickly, and so every instant is very precious and should not be wasted on empty fears and useless conjectures. People should always be positive and struggle in accordance with the purpose of their existence. Those who do so will, by Allah's will, find happiness in both this world and the hereafter. If they have truly perceived the peace of faith in Allah and submission to their destiny, they cannot fall into Satan's trap. In other words, the way of freeing oneself from Satan's whisperings lies in seeking refuge in Allah and living and acting as our Lord wills as it is said in the Qur'an:
As for those who fear Allah, when they are bothered by visitors from Satan, they remember and immediately see clearly. (Surat al-A'raf, 201)
Another verse shows the way to freedom from Satan's vain whisperings:
If an evil impulse from Satan provokes you, seek refuge in Allah. He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (Surat al-A'raf, 200)
Believers are not troubled by Satan's whisperings, for their faith and constant remembrance of Allah prevent them from getting carried away with Satan and his suggestions. But unbelievers, who do not have a leg on which to stand, have no strength to struggle against Satan's games and insinuations. Those people who obey his commands can never be free. The fact that Satan can influence only unbelievers is made clear in the following verses:
(Satan) said: "My Lord, because You misled me, I will make things on earth seem good to them, and I will mislead them all, every one of them, except Your servants among them who are sincere. (Allah) said: "This is a Straight Path to Me. You have no authority over any of My servants except for the misled, who follow you." (Surat al-Hijr, 39-42)