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The relentless enemy of the devoted souls: Satan

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Endeavor for Renewal

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The relentless enemy of the devoted souls: Satan

Question: It is mentioned that Satan harries everybody in accordance with their level. Could you explain this fact?

Answer: Satan is a creature that does not have the slightest inclination to goodness, one totally fixed on malice and full of evil feelings. From the moment he rebelled against God Almighty, he has been humanity’s greatest enemy. In order to understand this, you can imagine a furious man who is like a bomb ready to explode—though man cannot completely become like Satan. You sometimes see such people around you. If the wishes of such a person are not satisfied, you might witness wild behaviors, like yanking the cloth off a table and bringing everything crashing down, utensils and all, or like kicking a nearby chair, or knocking picture frames off the wall. If you try to mention the virtues of mildness at such a moment, you might get punched, since that person is not of sound mind. Such rage is a fit of delirium, which entails disastrous consequences.

As for Satan, he is full of rage toward humanity, carrying all evil feelings like jealousy, disdain, grudge, and hatred. He is so vengeful toward humanity that he will not feel satisfied even if he leads all the children of Adam astray. As a matter of fact, with the creation of Adam, Satan revealed all of his disdain and jealousy toward him, and rebelled against God with the insolent words: “Then (I swear) by Your Glory, I will certainly cause them all to rebel and go astray” (Sad 38:82). As it is stated in another verse, he declares his hatred and animosity by saying, “Then I will come upon them from before them and from behind them, and from their right and from their left” (al-A’raf 7:17). From these expressions, it is understood that he wishes to misguide people in different ways such as arrogance, hopelessness, bohemianism, and unbelief. It is for this reason that the noble Messenger of God sought refuge in God against all of these dangers in his morning and evening prayers: “O God, Protect me (against dangers) from in front, from behind, from my right, from my left, and from above, and I seek refuge in Your greatness from being swallowed by the earth beneath me.”[1]

Satan takes most benevolent people as his target in order to inflict the greatest harm against humanity, which he loathes so much. It seems understandable that an evil being like Satan, who was created from smokeless (fusing flame of) fire,[2] holds animosity toward Adam, the pure one of God,[3] and one of the best servants.[4] The animosity Satan feels toward humanity’s great guides is much greater than toward ordinary people. His animosity toward Moses and Aaron is very different from that toward the misguided Samaritan and Korah. In short, the closer one is to God through their actions, the more Satan opposes them.

Bridles Satan uses and idle people

The great scholar Abu’l-Lays as-Samarqandi has a work titled Tambih al-Ghafilin (Advice for Heedless Ones), which is a book of spiritual refinement (raqaiq). When I was about 15 years old, and in my broken Arabic, I gave courses to the people of the village of Korucuk.[5] The first chapter of this work is on sincerity. The next chapter is about Paradise and Hell. After a few other chapters that evoke spiritual refinement, As-Samarqandi relates Satan’s meeting with the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, in the final chapter. Although the parable is not related in the primary sources of hadith, the fact that an important figure like As-Samarqandi relates such a parable makes it noteworthy with respect to the message it conveys. So the parable contains an important point related to our subject: When the Messenger of God asks Satan, “Who is your greatest enemy?” Satan replies, “You!” without hesitation.[6] It makes perfect sense that the accursed one, who claims to be the deity of darkness, is an enemy to the Innocent One, who brought down oppressors with a single move and brought light to the pitch-dark world. For this reason, those who uphold the Divine teaching and represent it as they should are the prime targets of Satan. Bediüzzaman says, “Satans strive very much against those who try to do these works.”[7] In other words, Satans attack those who devoted themselves to faith and beneficial services.

Let me elucidate this further with a parable: A man who did not observe Prayers passes from the garden of a mosque. He sees someone waiting with a lot of bridles in his hands. The man goes near that person and asks who he is. The latter replies, “I am Satan.” Then the man asks what the bridles are for. Satan replies, “There are worshippers in that mosque who gave their hearts to God. I intend to use these bridles in order to take them away from that atmosphere in my footsteps.” The man wonders whether there is a bridle for him and asks, “Which is my bridle then?” Satan says, “There is no need for a bridle for you. You already come running after me with a simple beckoning!”

For this reason, whoever gives his or heart to God and resolves to revive the Divine teaching and is dedicated to serving on His path, Satan will devote more of his energy to dealing with that person. Satan does not waste his energy with poor ones indulging in intoxicants or prostrating themselves before idols, since he is a professional corrupter, tempter, and deceiver.

Satan and the family

Satan harries everyone in accordance with their capacity. He primarily deals with people who are held in esteem by a certain number of people. He tries to conquer the top first. He rejoices at success since it pleases him to spread evil on earth. In a relevant hadith, the Messenger of God stated: “The Devil sets his throne on water: Then he sends his forces here and there to do evil.” Some of them succeed at making people become involved in usury, some provoke the eye to look at forbidden sights, trigger bohemian feelings and make people act upon their lust. Some of them control the mouth and make it lie, backbite, or slander others. It can be said that each one of his aides does what they will according to their special ability to tempt. “The nearest to him in rank are those that cause the greatest dissension. All of them go to the Devil to tell him what they did. One of them comes and says: ‘I did this and this.’ But the Devil tells him, “‘You have done nothing.’”

Actually, the Devil is pleased with every sin committed, for in every sin there is a path to unbelief. Every sin brings about a dark spot on the heart. At the same time, a person committing a sin is taking a step to distance him or herself further from God. However, the Devil expects more from his aides. “Then one of them comes and says (something about a common problem in our time): ‘I did not spare such and such man until he broke up with his wife.’ The Devil calls him to come nearer and compliments him: ‘You have done well!’”[8]

What is it that makes Satan rejoice like this, and why did he make such a hearty compliment to his aide? Because the home is the molecule of a society; disintegration begins there. It is beyond our power to correct anything in society that is corrupted at such a level. When all of these are taken into consideration, we see that Satan ranks the evils he will do according to their degree of importance. In his strategy, he first tries to topple “heavy-weight” people who have influence on others. When he succeeds at toppling these people, those in the lower category become easier prey for him. Some of them will already come running with a simple beckoning. For this reason, Satan harries the respected Prophets first, and then the scholars of purity (asfiya), the reputable saints (awliya al-fiham), and the great scholars of sound judgment (mujtahidin al-izam). Those devoted to glorifying the Name of God are also among his primary targets.

He will not leave them alone and keeps striving to make them dizzy, avert their gaze, and busy themselves with unnecessary things.

Historic figures subjected to attacks

Just like devils, their human accomplices inclined for corruption also target friends of God most of all. For instance, you see in a television series that a great figure, like Suleiman the Magnificent, who spent most of his life on horseback, is reflected as a person who spent an immoral life in the palace. Without basing the character on any reliable source, they introduce him as drinker, as someone who led a bohemian life. We seek refuge in God against such considerations. The late Malek Bennabi, who was a great Algerian writer and philosopher said, “If it weren’t for the Turkish society in the North of the Islamic world, there would not be an Islamic world at all today. If it weren’t for the Turks, there would be no Islam on earth today.” Those who make offhanded remarks about that great sultan do not know that he was the person who helped people across such a wide region to live in peace during his nearly half century of rule. Today’s ills, like incitement, terror, and unrest, were prevalent in those days, too. However, such leaders sacrificed their comfort, stood up against danger, and overcame all of these problems. Imagining the limited troubles that accost me from within, I try to imagine the troubles those great sultans faced, and I try to figure out their condition. I guess what I suffered for a lifetime only amounts to what they suffered overnight; most of us do not go through such pains for an entire life. Some things are easier said than done. We ordinary people would probably be crushed under those troubles had they befallen us. Due to its leaders’ fortitude and character, certain saints mentioned the Ottoman state—before it came to existence—and stated that it ranks after the period of the Righteous caliphs with respect to its level of importance.[9] However, some TV programs produced by those unaware of the time’s worth present a completely distorted image of those great figures. May God enable us to see truths and save everybody from wrongdoing and unfairness.

[1] Sunan Abu Dawud, Adab, 110; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 2/25
[2] See Ar-Rahman 55:15.
[3] Abu’sh-Shaykh, Al-Azama, 5/1596; As-Sa’labi, Al-Kashf wa’l-Bayan, 6/51
[4] See Al Imran 3:33.
[5] This remark rather reflects the humble attitude of Gü