Did I not make a contract with you, tribe of Adam, not to worship Satan, who truly is an outright enemy to you, but to worship Me? That is a straight path. He has led numerous people among you into error. Why did you not use your intellect? (Surah Ya Sin: 60-62)
You have an enemy whose only aim is to keep you far from Allah, His religion and the Qur’an. He does not relent from his plot even for a moment; lying in ambush, he awaits the opportunity to fulfil his task. He is able to see you from where you cannot see him and tries thousands of methods to entrap you. One of his characteristics is that he is stealthy. His methods, tactics and tricks may vary from one person to next. The tactics he employs may also depend on the time, place and conditions. This enemy of ours is Satan, the being who was driven from the sight of Allah.
Contrary to what the majority of people think, Satan is not an imaginary being. As a part of the test in this world, one needs to be always watchful against Satan. Because, revolting against Allah, Satan swore to lead His servants astray. Allah relates the rebellious behaviours of the devil in the Qur’an as follows:
We created you and then formed you and then We said to the angels, “Prostrate before Adam,” and they prostrated—except for Iblis. He was not among those who prostrated. He (Allah) said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you to?” He (Satan) replied, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and You created him from clay.” He (Allah) said, “Descend from Heaven. It is not for you to be arrogant in it. So get out! You are one of the abased.” He (Satan) said, “Grant me a reprieve until the day they are raised up.” He (Allah) said, “You are one of the reprieved.” He (Satan) said, “By Your misguidance of me, I will lie in ambush for them on Your straight path. Then I will come at them, from in front of them and behind them, from their right and from their left. You will not find most of them thankful.” He (Allah) said, “Get out of it, reviled and driven out. As for those of them who follow you, I will fill up Hell with every one of you.” (Surat al-A’raf: 11-18)
As is made clear in the above verses, Satan is the most avowed enemy of mankind. This being will also try to mislead you by arousing in you sinful desires. However, an important point should be noted here; as is stated in the verses above, the major goal of Satan is to make you, along with the rest of mankind, follow him. The accursed Satan will not relent until you enter Hell.
There is yet an even more important fact to remember: Satan does not possess any power independent of Allah. Allah created him, and he is completely under His control. He is a servant of Allah, and can only act with His permission. He is charged with the task of helping to distinguish those who truly believe from those who do not. He can only act under Allah’s Will. When the time granted to him expires, he will be thrown into Hell together with those he had led astray:
(Allah said): I will fill up Hell with you and every one of them who follows you. (Surah Sâd: 85)
Therefore, Satan does not actually have any power over believers. As Allah stresses in the following verse, he has power only over those who do not truly and sincerely believe:
He (Satan) said, “My Lord, because You misled me, I will make things on the earth seem good to them and I will mislead them all, every one of them, except Your servants among them who are sincere.” (Surat al-Hijr: 39-40)
Satan cannot lead a man, whom Allah created as a believer, to go astray from the right path. Of course, believers are always prone to make mistakes. However, they never despair of Allah’s mercy, but immediately take refuge in Him and repent with sincerity. Allah informs us in the Qur’an of those over whom Satan can exert his power:
He has no authority over those who believe and put their trust in their Lord. He only has authority over those who take him as a friend and associate others with Allah. (Surat an-Nahl: 99-100)
Satan wishes to lead you to become insolent, arrogant and disobedient to Allah, just as he himself is. He commands you to do evil, to perform acts that are not pleasing to Allah and to say of Allah that about which you have no knowledge. He tries to hinder you from assessing Allah’s true grandeur and might. Allah draws attention to this danger in the Qur’an as follows:
Mankind! Eat what is good and lawful on the earth. And do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. He truly is an outright enemy to you. He only commands you to do evil and indecent acts and to say about Allah what you do not know. (Surat al-Baqara: 168-169)
His main endeavour is to fill mankind with constant fear of poverty, a goal which he is able to accomplish once he has made them forget about the hereafter. Unaware that everything is under Allah’s control, and that no one can prevent any good if Allah wills it, these people live completely irresponsibly, leading them to commit all sorts of offences against Allah:
Satan threatens you with poverty and enjoins you to be niggardly, and Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself and abundance; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing. (Surat al-Baqara: 268)
Satan’s primary tactic is deviousness. Indeed, Allah describes this stealth
“… the insidious whisperer who whispers (evil) in people’s breasts.” (Surat an-Nas: 4-5)
As the verse makes clear, Satan, who approaches people deceptively, busies people with idle and trivial matters and makes their wrongdoings seem fair to them:
If only they had humbled themselves when Our violent force came upon them! However, their hearts were hard and Satan made what they were doing seem attractive to them. (Surat al-An’am: 43)
More importantly, these people, whose hearts are hardened and who assume themselves to be on the right path, though in fact they are misled, lead themselves still further from Allah’s revelations. Forsaking Allah, they hold Satan dear, follow his path, and thus, grow even more insolent.
Satan will employ different methods for different people, and will target people’s weaknesses in order to lead them astray. Throughout history, Satan has approached each person with a different tactic. He ensures that a person who is already distant from religion distances himself still further by making the life of this world seem alluring to him. He makes him forget about the Day of Judgment, and thus, manages to keep him far from the true religion all through his life.
All the while, he does not neglect to approach the believers. In order to hinder believers from worshipping Allah sincerely, he strives to stop them from engaging in deeds done to earn Allah’s consent. He endeavours to weaken their values. Disguising the true nature of their evil, he tempts believers into succumbing to arrogance, selfishness, forgetfulness, carelessness, conceit, and irascibility.
In order to distract them, Satan encourages people to make long-term plans with which to keep their minds busy. He strives to prevent them from keeping their minds occupied with the remembrance of Allah. For this purpose, he makes people immerse themselves in everyday problems, or inspires them with excuses to justify their negligence in remembering Allah.
Believers who are submissive to Allah, who remember Him night and day, who are aware that everything takes place under His control, and who sincerely turn towards the Lord, are less susceptible to the influence of Satan. As the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also said,
“When a group of people assemble for the remembrance of Allah, (Allah’s) mercy envelops them, and tranquillity descends upon them.”
Satan especially strives to make people neglect remembrance of Allah. Indeed, he has a particular influence over those who do not fear Allah:
Satan has gained mastery over them and made them forget the remembrance of Allah. Such people are the party of Satan. No indeed! It is the party of Satan who are the losers. (Surat al-Mujadala: 19)
Disbelievers are the people who have taken Satan as their friend and adopted his system. With such a mindset, adherence to Satan and the hatred and hostility they feel for one another become unavoidable. However, Satan also strives to stir up hatred among believers. In doing so, he aims to weaken the believers’ will and deter them from obeying Allah. Allah has warned His servants against this danger and showed them the ways to avoid it:
Say to My servants that they should only say the best. Satan wants to stir up trouble between them. Satan is an outright enemy to man. (Surat al-Isra’: 53)
Contrary to the common perception, Satan is not a being that appears now and then. He follows you wherever you go, or in whatever you do. He is resolved to this struggle so long as you live.
A person who forgets the existence of Satan is apt to misidentify his temptations. Therefore, he may be easily deceived into believing that these temptations are his own thoughts. He may simply fail to grasp that this cunning inner voice is the voice of Satan. However, true believers are granted with the wisdom and insight to distinguish the voice of Satan from that of their conscience. Allah has informed them how to protect themselves from the whispers and provocations of Satan:
If an evil impulse from Satan provokes you, seek refuge in Allah. He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. As for those who perform their duty, when they are bothered by visitors from Satan, they remember and immediately see clearly. (Surat al-A’raf: 200-201)
One of the most effective methods which Satan frequently resorts to in order to lead people astray is to make them “forget.” Satan’s main strategy, therefore, is to make people forget about their responsibilities to Allah. He strives to hinder good deeds by making us forget that Allah encompasses us from all around, that we are subject to fate, and that we will die and have to give an account of our actions in Allah’s presence.
Satan does not want people to be thankful to Allah. That is why he tries to make them forget that everything around us is a favour from Allah. By making the life of this world seem alluring, and making them forget the existence of the hereafter, he strives to deceive people. He endeavours to make people forget that there is an absolute good in everything that happens, and especially in unexpected events. The reality of fate and the need of putting one’s trust in Allah are other key factors he tries to make people forget.
In the Qur’an, Allah draws our attention several times to the fact that with his inculcations, Satan can affect a human’s mind and thus make him to forget:
When you see people engrossed in mockery of Our Signs, turn from them until they start to talk of other things. And if Satan should ever cause you to forget, once you remember, do not stay sitting with the wrongdoers. (Surat al-An’am: 68)
“… No one made me forget to remember it except Satan. It found its way into the sea in an amazing way.” (Surat al-Kahf: 63)
… but Satan made him forget to remind his lord, and so he stayed in prison for several years. (Surah Yusuf: 42)
Despite all these acts of Satan, he is a being entirely under Allah’s control and he has no power over true servants of Allah. After all, Allah created Satan and, willingly or not, he is subject to Him. He can perform his acts only with His permission. Unless Allah wills, he is incapable of doing any of them. No matter what Satan does, he can mislead only deniers. On the other hand, his actions against those with faith only help to reinforce their commitment:
… so that He can make what Satan insinuates a trial for those with sickness in their hearts and for those whose hearts are hard—the wrongdoers are entrenched in hostility—and so that those who have been given knowledge will know it is the truth from their Lord and have faith in it and their hearts will be humbled to Him. Allah guides those who have faith to a straight path. (Surat al-Hajj: 53-54)
Allah has revealed to us that Satan actually has no power. It is only the disbelievers that he can capture under this influence. This is made clear in the Qur’an:
Iblis was correct in his assessment of them and they followed him, except for a group of the believers. He had no authority over them except to enable Us to know those who believe in the hereafter from those who are in doubt about it. Your Lord is the Preserver of all things. (Surah Saba’: 20-21)
On the other hand, believers do not lend an ear to the temptations of Satan but immediately take refuge in Allah, as they are commanded in the Qur’an:
If an evil urge from Satan eggs you on, seek refuge in Allah… (Surah Fussilat: 36)