Impediments to Strengthening the Nafsiyyah Part 4 “Shaytan”

Impediments to Strengthening the Islamic Disposition

– Part 4: Shaytan

  • One of the impediments to a person building h/her nafsiyya and strengthening it is the accursed shaytan.
  • Allah mentions in the Qur’an as a warning for us: {Did I not enjoin on you of children of Adam not to worship shayatn; he is a determined enemy of yours; you should worship Me alone and this is the Straight Path. But he led astray a multitude of you. Did you not then understand?}.[1]

What are the dangers of shaytan? They include:

  1. Making a person follow their own desires, whims and caprices.
  2. Tricks, deceives and dupes human beings.
  3. Generates false hopes, aims and ambitions.
  4. Misleads, misguides and leads astray from the Straight Path.[2]

What are some of the ways in which to battle shaytan? They include:

  1. Keeping company with people who remind one of Allah and his beloved Messenger.
  2. Attending places of congregational worship, e.g. the Mosque.
  3. Attending gatherings of knowledge (talks, circles, classes, etc.).
  4. Be engaged in the remembrance of Allah (dhikr Allah).
  5. Seeking refuge in Allah from shaytan through du`a’ and recitation of the Qur’an.
  6. To study, learn and understand the machinations of shaytan, i.e. his plans, his work, his attributes and his aims.[3]
  7. Maintaining a path of struggle and combat with overwhelming external forces and internal forces.


  • One of the dangers that we can see today is that there is a lack of focus on understanding the shaytan and his modus operandi. This is very detrimental. Knowing the enemy is a step to defeating the enemy. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim writes about this:

هذا الباب من أهم أبواب الكتاب وأعظمها نفعاً، والمتأخرون من أرباب السلوك لم يعتنوا به اعتناءهم بذكر النفس وعيوبها وآفاتها، فإنهم توسعوا في ذلك، وقصروا فى هذا الباب. ومن تأمل القرآن والسنة وجد اعتناءهما بذكر الشيطان وكيده ومحاربته أكثر من ذكر النفس، فإن النفس المذمومة ذكرت فى قوله: {إِن النَّفْسَ لأمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ} [يوسف: 53]. واللوامة فى قوله: {وَلا أُقْسِمُ بِالنَّفْسِ اللوَّامَةِ} [القيامة: 2] وذكرت النفس المذمومة فى قوله: {وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَى} [النازعات: 40]. وأما الشيطان فذكر فى عدة مواضع، وأفردت له سورة تامة. فتحذير الرب تعالى لعباده منه جاء أكثر من تحذيره من النفس، وهذا هو الذى لا ينبغي غيره، فإن شر النفس وفسادها ينشأ من وسوسته، فهى مركبه وموضع شره، ومحل طاعته، وقد أمر الله سبحانه بالاستعاذة منه عند قراءة القرآن وغير ذلك، وهذا لشدة الحاجة إلى التعوذ منه، ولم يأمر بالاستعاذة من النفس فى موضع واحد، وإنما جاءت الاستعاذة من شرها فى خطبة الحاجة فى قوله صلى الله عليه وسلم: “وَنَعُوذُ بِاللهِ مِنْ شُرُورِ أَنْفُسِنَا وَمِنْ سَيِّئَاتِ أَعْمَالِنَا”

  •  “This section of the book is the most important and beneficial. The later masters of the Path were not as concerned with him [s: i.e. shaytan] as much as they were with the nafs and its faults and shortcomings. They discussed the latter aspect in much detail but not the former [s: i.e. this section]. Whoever ponders and studies the Qur’an and Sunna will find both texts are concerned with mentioning shaytan, his plots and combating him more than mentioning the nafs. The ‘blameworthy nafs’ was mentioned in His saying: {the self inclined to evil}[4] and the ‘reproaching nafs’ in {I swear by the reproaching self}[5] and the ‘blameworthy nafs’ in {and he restrains his self from its desires}.[6] As for the shaytan, Allah mentioned him in numerous places and an entire sura was mentioned about him. The Lord’s warning to his servants concerning [him] is far greater than His warning about the nafs. And this is how it must be because the evil and harm of the nafs stems from his whisperings. This is his medium and the place of his evil and the place of his disobedience. Allah has ordered [us] to seek refuge from him when reciting the Qur’an and at other times and this is because of the great need to seek refuge from him. There is not one place where Allah has commanded [us] to seek refuge from our own nafs. Seeking refuge from our own nafs has come in the ‘sermon of need’ (khutbat al-haja) from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) where it states: ‘we seek refuge in Allah from the evil of our own selves and our actions’…”[7]

Effects of this include:

  1. Being influenced by what the enemies of Allah present to us such as their thoughts, philosophies, systems and values which promote ideas and policies against what Allah and His Messenger have revealed.
  2. To be oblivious to the plots to thwart Islam and its political progression and inadvertently aid that cause.
  3. To fall into unwarranted religious innovations (bid`a) and to accept it and not change it.

With Allah is all success.



[1] Q. 36:60-62.

[2] Allah mentions in surat al-Fatir:6: {Indeed, shaytan is your enemy to treat him as your enemy. He only invites his adherent so that they can become people of the blazing fire…}. Imam al-Hafiz Abu `Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami mentions in Haqa’iq al-Tafsir, vol.1, p.156: “Sahl (Allah’s mercy be on him) said: ‘[shaytan’s] adherents (hizbahu) are the people of religious innovation, the misguided ones, those who follow their own corrupt whims and desires and those who listen to these people’…”

قوله عز وعلا: { إِنَّمَا يَدْعُواْ حِزْبَهُ لِيَكُونُواْ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ ٱلسَّعِيرِ } قال سهل رحمة الله عليه: حزبه أهل البدع والضلالات والأهواء الفاسدة والسامعين ذلك عن قائلها

[3] As advised by Hujjat al-Islam Imam al-Ghazali in Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din, vol.3, p.30.

[4] Q. 12:53.

[5] Q. 75:2.

[6] Q. 79:40.

[7] See Ibn al-Qayyim, Ighathat al-Lahfan, vol.1, p.13 and cf. idem, Madarij al-Salikin, vol.1, pp.244-249.


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