He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except the ones endowed with intellects. (Quran, 2:269)
Imagine you’re playing a sport, any sport you like, say tennis. You’re standing on your side of the court. The boundary lines are clear. Your opponent is right there on the other side of the court. His every move is plainly visible to you. You have been briefed about his strong and weak points.
And you know what he can and can’t do. He can cheat; he can lie to deceive you; he can divert your attention away from the game; but he can’t control your moves, your actions.
Your coach and well-wishers are standing just beyond the boundary lines. They’re there to give you good advice and instructions.
Strangely, as the game commences, you realize you have another advisor – your opponent. He also starts to give you instructions on your play. You’re confused.
Why is he trying to help me? He’s an enemy. Is he mad? Or is he trying to fool me?
You don’t pay any attention to him and keep playing as your coach is advising you.
But then something weird happens. You can still hear your coach’s voice and the opponent’s, but you can’t distinguish which is which. So you mistake the opponent’s voice for your coach’s, start listening to him and fall into his trap.
Weirder still, suppose that you don’t mix up the voices but still listen to the opponent, who somehow convinces you to obey his instructions rather than the coach’s.
Either way, you end up losing the game.
Satan whispers suggestions in our ears incessantly. Sometimes we mistake his voice for good advice, and at other times we feel compelled to obey him, despite recognizing our enemy’s voice.
In fact, Satan has nothing else to do. After Allah punished him for his disobedience, he asked Allah to let him live until the Day of Judgment. And Allah granted his request.
[Shaytan] said, “Reprieve me until the Day they are resurrected.”
[Allah] said, “Indeed, you are of those reprieved.”
[Shaytan] said, “Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [to You].” (Quran, 7:14-17)
We know quite a lot about Satan from the Quran. Since he is our prime enemy, Allah has briefed us thoroughly about him. Satan is intelligent. He works slowly but surely. He has great patience.
Moreover, he appoints a special jinn to target each human being. There’s a devil whose sole aim in life, sole target, is you alone. He’s stuck with you since your birth like a piece of chewing gum. You are his life’s study, his school, college and university. It’s his job to deviate you from Allah’s path, from wisdom and peace in life.
But Satan is also weak. He and his fellows can do nothing but whisper suggestions. It’s up to the human being whether he wants to obey those suggestions or not. That’s where comes the test.
Allah has given human beings a special gift – the intellect. The human mind, its ability to reason, to absorb, connect and utilize information, to store and recollect memories is incredible. It’s like an immense ocean, and branches of study solely dedicated to the human mind – neurosciences, psychology, psychiatry – have barely touched its surface.
Satan’s strategies target that special faculty of human beings – the mind. He wants us to stop using our minds and become his puppets. That is what he did to Adam and Hawa to make them eat from the forbidden tree. First, he found out about their deepest desire and wish.
Satan promises them and arouses desire in them. But Satan does not promise them except delusion. (4:120)
Our parents had everything they could wish for in Paradise. So Satan invented a pseudo-wish. “You can’t stay here forever,” he lied to them.
Then he told them about the (fake) “Tree of Eternity”, a name he invented for the very tree that was forbidden. He took advantage of the natural human desire for never-ending bliss in Paradise, and fogged our parents’ wisdom.
O children of Adam, let not Satan tempt you as he removed your parents from Paradise, stripping them of their clothing to show them their private parts. Indeed, he sees you, he and his tribe, from where you do not see them… (7:27)
And never let Satan avert you. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy. (Quran, 43:62)
Why do we listen to him, when we know he is a clear enemy? How does he convince us to stop using our wisdom?
We will discuss some of these crucial issues in the next article in sha’ Allah.