More than a few years ago, my brother mentioned to me a book recommended to him called The Screwtape Letters. He said though it was a work of fiction written by C.S Lewis, it was an interesting look into the way Shaytan works at trying distract us from our Deen. I purchased the book and after I read it, recommended it to others. This year, when MIST-NY had a festival, one of the prizes we awarded to the students was a copy of this book. Though it had been my intention to read this book again for a while, I only just recently committed to it again and feel like there are gems hidden beneath the writing that help us to learn from it. Hence, insha’Allah this will be a multiple part series about the tricks of Shaytan and how to avoid being fooled. In case you don’t know anything about the book, it is a collection of “letters” from the older devil- Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood. What follows will just be some tips and advice to follow to avoid falling into sin.
1. Do not allow yourself to be distracted– Often when a good thought comes to mind or when we start to reflect upon ourselves, our states, we allow something to get in the way. The book mentions someone who starts to reflect on an issue that would encourage him to think about faith and is inspired, but the Shaytan quickly comes in to dissuade him by telling him to come back to his thoughts after lunch, knowing fully well that this moment is fleeting and unless it is catered to at the moment, it will be gone. Part of the man knows that the issue at hand it too important to be delayed, but the Shaytan agrees and says, “In fact, much too important to tackle at the end of a morning…Much better to come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind.” In this way, the man is effectively dissuaded.
We fall into these types of cycle often. Habib al-Jifri mentioned that when a person is reminded of their faith and called to good works, it is something we should hold onto lest the metaphorical rope be drawn away. It is through Allah’s mercy that we are being called to guidance and turn our backs on that is hugely detrimental to us. We have to nurture these moments and act upon them. If someone is reminded of a charity that they want to give to an organization, they should give it at that moment. The few seconds of hesitation allow Shaytan to open that door and dissuade us from action. If a thought about putting a good work off comes into our mind, we should just make our intentions firm and not sway from them. Intending a good act is rewarded, but there is more reward in actually completing that act.
2. When in an area of worship, focus on that worship and do not let your mind wander– Though this book is written by a Christian writer who talks about what happens when people visit the Church, I think the same thing is applicable to Muslims and masjids. The book mentions someone walking into a church and his mind wandering to what the other church goers are wearing or doing. The book says, “your patient…is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbors (the churchgoers), sing out of tune, have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous. At his present stage, you see, he has an idea… in his mind which he supposes to be spiritual but which, in fact, is largely pictorial.”
Essentially, the point is that Shaytan deludes us into placing an importance on things that are in fact NOT that important. It is simply a tactic to divert our attention and allow us to trap ourselves. The first thing is distracting us from ibadah, the next is getting us to judge others and perhaps even think ourselves better than the next person. Small steps away from our goal can completely derail us. It is important to recognize that those thoughts that come to our mind during worship are the very things that are distancing ourselves from Allah. Once we focus and hone in on removing those distractions, then we can reap the benefits of khushoo and the reward of ibadah.
To be continued insha’Allah…
If there is anything that I have said that is wrong, I ask that you and Allah forgive me for it is due to my own errors and nafs. If there is anything that has been said that is truthful and correct, then it is from Allah.
W’Allahu ta’ala a’lam.