‘O ye who believe! follow not the footsteps of Satan, and whoso follows the footsteps of Satan should know that he surely enjoins immorality and manifest evil. And but for the grace of Allah and His mercy upon you, not one of you would ever be pure, but Allah purifies whom He pleases. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.’ (24:22)
Satan has been an enemy of man from the beginning and will remain so. Upon the creation of human beings God gave Satan the capacity to be free for God knew His sincere servants would remain safe from his attacks. Satan does not attack overtly, rather he drives people away from piety through deceit, greed and through underscoring egotistic tendencies which take them towards evil.
God also put in place advent of His Prophets, who guided people to good and taught ways of reformation. They explained that Satan is man’s open enemy and attacks under the guise of sympathy leading man to evil and harmful ways. At the time of accountability he will simply say that although he had called humankind to wickedness why could they not use their senses and avoided it!
The Holy Qur’an addresses the issue of Satan’s trickery in many places, alerting man about it. The aforementioned verse also explains that Satan is ever chasing man. He had told God that he would attack man from every angle and would also attack man from the right path. Thus when man considers that he has found the right path and is thus saved, he is mistaken. Earlier people whom the Qur’an cites as those who incurred God’s displeasure and those who went astray, that is, people who accepted Hazrat Musa and then Hazrat Isa (peace be on them both) lost their way and they also rejected the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). God has told us that Satan does not leave you alone even after you accept faith and have belief. This is why even Muslims apostatise. It is special grace of God when man is saved from satanic attacks. At the end of the aforementioned verse God assures that He is All-Hearing. If man resolutely calls on God and turns to Him and supplicates, God sees that man is sincere and He generates strength of belief in that person which safeguards him from satanic attacks.
Satan had said that apart from God’s sincere people everyone would follow him, therefore believers should employ their wisdom to think how to become such sincere servants of God! Avoiding immorality and manifest evil spiritually cleanses one with the grace of God and one who is cleansed by God is purified.
Satanic attacks are gradual, sowing a small evil with the thought that it is only a minor evil and this minor evil becomes the catalyst of a bigger sin. Man loses his sense of right and wrong and does not realise what he is doing!
God says that for purification man must protect himself from evil with resolve and consistency and once in God’s refuge, again resolve and consistency are needed to stay firm on piety.
Answering the question which is sometimes asked as to why God created Satan and let him be daring, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) explained that everyone acknowledges that there are two pulls/appeals; the pull of good and the pull of evil. When attracted by evil thoughts man turns to evil and when attracted by good thoughts man turns to good. Sometimes man does evil and then turns to do good! These dual strengths are found in everyone. God has named the inspiration to good as angels or the Holy Spirit and the inspiration to evil as Satan. Each person has both these capacities and the reason God put both these capacities in man is for man to do good works and be deserving of reward. If man was created with only the capacity to do good, piety would not have been anything unique for him. Now that man chooses between two pulls or two attractions of good and evil, he is recompensed for choosing good and evil accordingly. All religions accept the dual existences of Satan and angels. And any person who does not desist from evil himself becomes satan.
In answer to the question as to why God does not punish Satan the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said the Holy Qur’an tell us that God has appointed a time to punish Satan. Many satanic natured people have been punished by God while many others will be punished in the future.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said Satan incites towards falsehood, cruelty, injustice, passion, killing, hypocrisy and arrogance. Whereas God invites towards patience, devotion to God, sincerity, faith and spiritual prosperity. In spite of numerous incitements of Satan, the blessings of having pious nature takes man towards God.
The correlation between arrogance and Satan is that Adam and Satan both sinned. Adam was not arrogant and confessed his sin and this is why hope springs eternal for man to be forgiven by God. Satan, on the other hand was arrogant and was thus accursed. Human capacity is limited and does not behove arrogance. Prophets of God have many qualities one of which is negation and crushing of the self. Arrogance affects man imperceptibly therefore one should self-reflect minutely.
If man tries and removes sin from his practice, Satan wants to affect his senses and tries to gain control that way. If nothing else works he tries to put sin in man’s heart. Satan’s authority cannot work on a heart which has fear of God. This leads to ultimate despair of Satan and having failed he has to leave.
At times Satan makes people follow him via implanting pious thoughts. Some people cannot differentiate between what is from God and perhaps what is a figment of one’s self or is a satanic implant, like revelations. Angels motivate good and Satan incites to evil. What is from God is pleasurable and grand and hits the heart hard like iron. As it is stated: ‘Verily, We are charging thee with a weighty Word.’ (73:6)Figment of one’s imagination and satanic motivation are one and the same thing. Man is accompanied by two powers, angels and Satan. Angels motivate good and Satan incites to evil. These two powers cannot be denied. Light and darkness exist side by side. If we do not have knowledge of something it does not mean it does not exist as there are thousands of wonders apart from the universe we know.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that ‘Say, ‘I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind,’ (114:2) indicates to satanic incitements that he is spreading among humankind. The biggest incitement of all is to create misunderstanding about God’s quality to nature and sustain (Rububiyyat). Addressing the matter of satanic incitements the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) says we should pray to come in the refuge of the True Lord of mankind. There are indeed those who consider influential and wealthy people everything, that is why it is taught: ‘The King of mankind; (114:3). As a result of satantic incitements people make equals to God, therefore it is taught: ‘The God of mankind’ (114:4). These three incitements are from Satan and their antidote is in the three prayers.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that there are two kinds of people. Those who accept Islam but become embroiled in worldly matters and trade. Satan gets hold of these people. Indeed, Companions of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) also used to do trade but after accepting Islam they obtained true knowledge which led to certainty and they never stumbled at satanic attacks. While those who become this world’s and are only inclined to worldly matters are influenced and controlled by Satan. While the other kind are ever concerned for the triumph of faith and overcome the host of Satan. As wealth grows with trade God has also termed seeking of faith as trade which will avail in the Hereafter. It is indeed the most excellent trade of all which delivers one from Divine chastisement.
Explaining the concept of hidden/covert sin, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said man experiences difficulties due to his own faults and not because of God. Some people appear very pious and people are amazed to see them in difficulties. In actual fact their difficulties are borne of their covert or hidden sins. It is God’s compassion that others do not know man’s hidden sins. Just as some illnesses are very evident while others are so hidden that even the patient is unaware of them. Similarly, man’s inner sins cause his ruin.
Cleansing and purification of self is like bringing a death upon oneself. Unless all low morals are abandoned, purification of self cannot take place. Everyone has some element or the other of evil in them and unless it is eradicated, Satan continues to attack.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that true Muslim is one who aspires to be a manifestation of Prophets of God. The Companions of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) understood this mystery and followed it thus that they followed the blessed model of the Holy Prophet to such perfection that nothing of their own selves remained. They were completely devoted to God and to adopt the blessed model. Unless this kind of devotion and obedience is inculcated it is pointless to claim to be a follower. It should be remembered that until such time that God descends on one’s heart and His Signs are apparent in one, Satan’s interference will continue.
May our sight always be on God and may He be our Lord and may we be protected from walking in the footsteps of Satan!