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Ibn `Ataa's Words of Wisdom

Ibn `Atta’ on Breaking Chains of Lust

In his well-known book, Al-Hikam (Words of Wisdom), sheikh Ahmad Ibn `Ataa’illah As-Sakandari says:

Who finds it strange that the Lord saves him from lusts, and extracts him from inattention, has doubted the Majestic Power and Might: {… For God alone holds invincible power over all things.} (Al-Kahf 18:45)

Ibn `Ataa’illah expresses here Satan’s deception of those who deviated from the Straight Path of Allah and those who gave themselves over to their lusts and personal whims.

It happens that someone may wake up from the state of heedlessness, perversity and going astray from the Creator and His ordinances and may find in himself a desire to forsake all these and return to his Lord.

At this very moment, Satan appears and starts to whisper to him that he is too weak to resist these lusts and desires. He tries to convince him that he will always be subject to such immoral acts and responsive to their demands.

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In so doing, Satan may also remind him of some of his past bad deeds and the taste of failure he found so many times following unsuccessful attempts to fight against these lusts and personal whims.

Satan affirms him that all his present or even future efforts will be of no avail no matter how serious he is. Consequently, one gives in, obeys Satan and, finally, gives himself up to lustful desires and fails to subject himself to reason.

Apparently, Satan’s sole aim behind this is nothing but to evoke into one’s self despair and certainty that one is incapable of resisting his own lusts and thus yield himself thereto until the inevitable end, namely death.

The question that begs answering here is: Is there anything that may protect one from getting misled by this deception?

The only thing capable of protecting one from this deception is to remember Allah’s Power and Kindness and to recall that it is Him Who put down in the human self its lusts and desires as He put down therein its innate faith and lofty aspiration. Allah says in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an,

{And by the soul and Him who fashioned it – and informed it with consciousness of its wickedness and its righteousness!}. (Ash-Shams 91: 7-8)

If Satan is the one who tempts man to be super responsive to his lustful desires, it is Allah Alone Who helps man to curb them and stop them at their legal boundaries. It all depends on man who should seek help from Allah to bridle his own lusts just as he/she surrendered – in the beginning – to Satan and unleashed his/her lusts.

Man, here as a disobedient slave, should approach his Creator through humility and poverty, begging Him to ease what is hard, and to elevate him to the levels of the virtuous. Indeed if Allah approaches the sinners and wrongdoers, He will change their sins into good deeds. Allah says in the Qur’an,

{And should there be any insinuation by Satan to instigate you to do otherwise, then seek refuge in God. Indeed, He is all-Hearing, all-Knowing}. (Al-A`raf 7: 200), and

{For, indeed, those who are God-fearing remember God’s covenant when touched with a passing impulse from Satan- and at once they see things as truly they are}.(Al-A`raf 7: 201), and

{God is the Patron of those who believe. He brings them out from the veils of darkness into the light. And those who disbelieve, their patrons are false deities. They bring them out from the light into the veils of darkness. These are the Companions of the Fire of Hell. They shall abide therein forever}. (Al-Baqarah 2: 257)

It is by the Grace and Kindness of Allah that He always reminds His slave of his own weakness and inability in a way to lead him to direct his face towards Him to ask for sustenance, help and relief from all difficulties. An aspect of this weakness is the fact that man recurrently gets defeated by lustful desires in a way that may paralyze one’s mental powers and impede his/her free will.

Therefore, it is the duty of the believers upon seeing such danger; namely, their human weakness as well as their inability to resist it; it is their duty to instantly flee to Allah, take refuge in Him, and ask Him for help.

Then, it would be Allah’s Pleasure and Grace to rescue them, answer their prayers and protect them from the evil of their own lusts and desires.

All people are equal in terms of this weakness; there is no doubt about this. Yet, they differ according to their differences and variation in fleeing to Allah and seeking protection in Him. This is Prophet Yusuf (Peace be upon him) as complaining to Allah about his weakness before the seduction of the wife of the then High Minister of Egypt as saying,

{He said: My Lord! Prison would be dearer to me than that to which they call me. For if You do not turn their cunning away from me, I might incline toward them and so become one of the wayward and ignorant}. (Yusuf 12: 33)

Swiftly, the answer to his invocation as well as salvation come to him in Allah’s saying,

{So his Lord answered him. Thus He turned their cunning away from him. Indeed, it is He who is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing}. (Yusuf 12: 34)

To conclude, whoever depends on himself to get released from his lusts and sensual desires will surely suffer from despair when his attempts are gone with the wind. And, whoever finds it strange or impossible that Allah will save him from his lusts and take him out of his heedlessness has declared divine power impotent and this is even worse than despair.

However, whoever depends on Allah with the certain belief that he is incapable of resisting by himself and that there is no power or might save with Allah, despair will never find a way to his heart. This is because the former depends on himself, while the latter depends on Allah the Almighty Who Alone holds invincible power over all things.

  • Hammad, Ahmad Zaki. The Gracious Qur’an: A Modern-Phrased Interpretation in English. Arabic-English Parallel Edition. 2009. Lucent Interpretations, LLC. USA.
  • Al-Bouti, M. Said Ramadan. Al-Hikam Al-`Ataa’iyyah: Sharh wa Tahlil [The Words of Wisdom by Ibn `Ataa’illah: Explanation and Analysis]. Dar Al-Fikr Al-Mu`asir, Beirut, Lebanon; Dar Al-Fikr, Damascus, Syria. 2003.
  • The Book of Wisdom [The Hikam of Ibn Ata’Illah As-Sakandary] with translation of the explanation and commentary by `Abdel Magueed Al-Sharnouby Al-Azhary, an abridged version of the initial explanation and commentary by Ibn `Abbad Al-Nafary Al-Rundi. Electronic Version.