By: Jinan Bastaki
Do you know that shaytan (satan) becomes extremely envious when a person is standing in prayer before his Lord? And thus he does everything he can to get the worshiper out of that elevated state- by distracting him or her to think about other things. And all too often, unfortunately, we accept the invitation. The likeness ofshaytan is to that of a fly – every time one pushes him away, he comes back.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Kitab al-Eeman: “The believer may suffer from the whispers of the Shaytan insinuating thoughts of kufr (disbelief), which may make him feel distressed. The Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them) said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, some of us think thoughts which we would rather fall from heaven to earth than speak of them.’ He said, ‘That is a clear sign of faith.’ According to one report, ‘… thoughts which are too terrible to speak of.’ He said, ‘Praise be to Allah, Who has reduced all his [the Shaytan’s] plots to mere whispers,’ meaning that the fact that these whispers come, but they are so greatly disliked, and they are pushed away from the heart, is a clear sign of faith. This is like the mujahid (warrior) to whom the enemy comes, but he resists him until he overwhelms him, and this is a mighty jihad (battle)… Hence the seekers of knowledge and devoted worshippers experience waswas and doubts which others do not face, because they (the others) are not following the way prescribed by Allah, rather they are following their own whims and desires and neglecting to remember their Lord. This is what the Shaytan wants, in contrast to those who are striving to draw closer to their Lord by seeking knowledge and worshipping Him. He is their enemy and seeks to prevent them from drawing closer to Allah.” (p.147 of the Indian edition)
1. Seek refuge with Allah and give up these thoughts completely, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) commanded.
2. Remember Allah and control yourself and do not continue to think of these whispers.
3. Occupy yourself with worship and doing good deeds, in obedience to the command of Allah and seeking to please Him. When you devote yourself completely and seriously to worship, you will forget about these whispers, insha Allah.
4. Frequently seek refuge with Allah and make du’a (supplicate) to free you from these whispers.
By: Umar Sulayman al-Ashqar
Concerning this point, Satan has many ways and means. It is recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
“During your sleep, Satan ties three knots at the back of your Necks. He breathes the following into them, ‘The night is long so keep on sleeping.’ If the person wakes and praises Allah, then one of the knots is unfastened. And if he performs ablution, the second knot is unfastened. When he prays, all of the knots are unfastened. After that he will be energetic and happy in the morning. Otherwise he would get up listless and grouchy.”
Shaytaan will not immediately convince us to commit a major sin, instead he will encourage us to take small steps towards that major sin. It is our job to fight his whispers and our temptations.
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The first thing such a person should realize is that thoughts come from
a) Inspiration from Allah (e.g., a thought about Allah’s unity)
b) Whispers from the Shaytan and his army of jinn (e.g., a thought that causes doubt in one’s
belief or centers around an act of disobedience)
c) Messages from hidden angels (e.g., a thought that centers around an act of obedience)
d) Everyday thoughts from the person’s own conscious (e.g., a thought about one’s relationship
with another human being); type (d) thoughts are usually affected by what the person sees, hears,
smells, tastes, touches, or feels inside.
It is also important to note that thoughts can be divided into five categories in relation to the state of the heart
that they lead to:
a) Thoughts that lead to wajib states of the heart (please refer to footnote 2674), such as loving
Allah and the Prophet (May Allah bless him and give him peace)
b) Thoughts that lead to mandub states of the heart, such as preferring others over oneself in
c) Thoughts that lead to mubah states of the heart, such as happiness or depression
d) Thoughts that lead to makruh states of the heart, such as miserliness of heart
e) Thoughts that lead to haram states of the heart (please refer to footnote 2646), such as
Bad thoughts above are only type (e) thoughts.
2619 There are two basic approaches to thought control:
a) Suppression (i.e. stopping the thought all together); this is the method taught by the teachers
of the Path and is the harder one to learn.
b) Redirection (i.e. to start thinking about something else (as the mind can concentrate on only
one major subject at a time)); this method is easy to learn and employ even by those who are not
travelling the Path.
2620 Learn the art of thought control. In order to learn thought control, the person must understand that a
complete thought consists of four parts:
a) A visualization of a subject
b) A visualization of a predicate
c) An affirmation of a link between the subject and predicate
d) A conviction/confirmation that the above link is true.
For example: So-and-so is a worthless-person. I believe it. Here, so-and-so is the subject. Worthless-person is
the predicate. Is is the word that affirms the link between the subject and predicate (this word may also be
implied and not mentioned (e.g., in a verbal sentence)). I believe it is the conviction or confirmation that the
link is true. These four parts make up the complete thought. These four parts do not happen simultaneously but
happen sequentially in time one after the other. In order to suppress thoughts, the person must learn how to
break this natural four-part process when it first starts (i.e. when the subject is first visualized in the mind). This
can be learned by constant day-long practice for about half-a-year or more (this is done by invoking a blank state
in the mind which crowds out the bad thought’s subject and predicate every single time the bad thought starts
occurring from the time the person wakes up until the time he goes back to sleep). Or it can be learned by
placing oneself in extremely difficult situations (e.g., supervised continuous solitary remembrance of Allah) for
a few days (as such will lead to a state of shock in which thoughts stop; then, the person can attempt to
constantly stay in this state of shock by repeating his previous difficult activity at fixed time intervals but in
[As a side note, thoughts that distinguish one thing from another are called distinguishing thoughts. Thoughts
that center around physical things are called imaginative thoughts. Thoughts that center around non-physical
ideas are called abstract thought. Thoughts about past experiences are called memory-related thoughts.
Sequentially arranged thoughts are called contemplation. All of these types of thoughts can be suppressed and
completely stopped. Likewise, the mind can also be redirected away from all of these types of thoughts.]
(Source: Guiding Helper Maliki Fiqh Manual)
Evil whispers during prayer and at other times come from the Shaytaan, who is keen to misguide the Muslim and deprive him of good and keep it far away from him. One of the Sahaabah complained to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about waswaas during prayer, and he said: “The Shaytaan comes between me and my prayers and my recitation, confusing me therein.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “That is a devil called Khanzab. If he affects you seek refuge in Allah from him and spit drily to your left three times.” He [the Sahaabi] said, I did that and Allaah took him away from me.
(Narrated by Muslim, 2203)
Proper focus (khushoo’) is the essence of prayer. Prayer without proper focus is like a body without a soul. The following are two of the things that help one to develop the proper focus:
1 – Striving to think about what you are saying and doing, pondering the meanings of the Qur’aan, dhikr (words of remembrance) and du’aa’s (supplications) that you are reciting; bearing in mind that you are conversing with Allaah as if you can see Him. For when the worshipper stands to pray, he is speaking to his Lord, and ihsaan means worshipping Allaah as if you are seeing Him, and knowing that even though you cannot see Him, He sees you. Every time a person experiences the sweetness of prayer, he will be more inclined to do it. This depends of the strength of one’s faith – and there are many means of strengthening one’s faith. Hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “Of the things of your world, women and perfume have been made dear to me, and my joy is in prayer.” According to another hadeeth he said, “Let us relax, O Bilal, with prayer,” and he did not say, Give us a break from it.
2 – Striving to ward off the things that may distract you during prayer, namely thinking about things that are irrelevant or distracting. Waswaas affects each person differently, because waswaas has to do with a person’s level of doubts and desires and the degree to which a person is attached to other things or is fearing other things.
(From Majmoo’ Fataawa Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah, 22/605)
With regard to what you say about the waswaas reaching such a great level that you have begun to experience waswaas that makes you think about Allaah in ways that are not appropriate, these are evil whispers from the Shaytaan. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And if an evil whisper from Shaytaan (Satan) tries to turn you away (O Muhammad) (from doing good), then seek refuge in Allaah. Verily, He is the All‑Hearer, the All‑Knower”