One of satan’s major goals is to divert people from the Way of Allah and lead them to Hell. He busies their minds with false apprehensions in an attempt to confuse them and prevent sound thought.
All sincere believers have an open mind and thus are aware of reality and can consider all of the details necessary to reach a sound decision. Their moral character, which is reflected in their behavior, comes from their faith, fear, and respect of Allah. But sometimes satan can take advantage of their momentary forgetfulness, carelessness, or lack of knowledge to draw them into unawareness.
Allah warns believers about this danger: “Do not let satan bar your way. He truly is an outright enemy to you.” (Surat al-Zukhruf: 62) and “Those who believe fight in the Way of Allah. Those who disbelieve fight in the way of false deities. So fight the friends of satan! Satan’s scheming is always feeble”(Surat an-Nisa’: 76). He announces that satan’s devious plans will not affect sincere believers. Satan knows this and, when he vows to lead people astray, does not include Allah’s sincere servants:
He (satan) said: “By Your might, I will mislead all of them, except for Your chosen servants among them.” (Surah Sad: 82-83)
Despite this knowledge, satan nevertheless tries to confuse their minds during times of difficulty, illness, or some other personal hardship, if only for a moment, to prevent them from earning an even greater reward and rising to an even higher place in Allah’s Sight. For example, if someone is about to do a good deed, satan may insert thoughts about postponing it until later so that, hopefully, the person will forget all about it. Or, as we read in Surat an-Nisa’ 95: “Those believers who stay behind–other than those forced to by necessity–are not the same as those who strive in the Way of Allah, sacrificing their wealth and themselves. Allah has given those who strive with their wealth and themselves a higher rank than those who stay behind. Allah has promised the best to both, but has preferred those who strive over those who stay behind by an immense reward.” Satan wants to prevent believers from striving in His Way and from earning greater dignity in His Sight.
Satan makes intimations to believers during difficult times of sickness or in the heat of battle in order to take advantage of a momentary weakness.
Of course, Allah tests individuals with periods of difficulty, pressure, and distress so that they will reveal their true natures. Such testing is very important. For example, during the time of our Prophet (saas), some individuals who were constantly by his side on the battlefield became unaware in the heat of battle:
… when they came at you from above you and below you, when your eyes rolled and your hearts rose to your throats, and you thought unworthy thoughts about Allah. (Surat al-Ahzab: 10)
Allah gives the good news that sincere believers who fall into momentary unawareness will be forgiven if they repent. Repentance is thus one of His great gifts. In fact, He tells us in the Qur’an how He forgave three sincere believers who regretted their failure to fight:
And (He turned) also toward the three who were left behind, so that when Earth became narrow for them, for all its great breadth, and their own selves became constricted for them and they realized that there was no refuge from Allah except in Him, He turned to them so that they might turn to Him. Allah is the Ever-Returning, the Most Merciful. (Surat at-Tawba: 118)
Satan can whisper to people until they become immersed in despair, thinking that everything is lost and that the situation is irremediable. But believers know that such thoughts are no more than satanic deceptions, and so ignore them. They immediately turn to Allah, repent, and take refuge from unawareness in Him:
As for those who guard against evil, when they are bothered by suggestions from satan, they remember and immediately see clearly. (Surat al-A‘raf: 201)
Taking refuge in Allah from the empty apprehensions that can lead them into unawareness, they are careful to remember Him at all times, read and ponder the Qur’an, and pray constantly. So, by His will, they are saved from even a moment of unawareness.