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Sent by: Sister Umm Okasha

The heart is like a fort and Shaitaan (Satan) the advancing enemy, who is intent on infiltrating and occupying it.

Hence, only by guarding the gates, entrances and vulnerable positions, will it be impenetrable.

Yet, a person who is unacquainted with the structure of the fortress, particularly its access points, cannot adequately defend it.

By the same token, the obligation of guarding the heart from the whispers of Shaitaan cannot be fulfilled and he cannot be warded off, unless a person knows the gates to the heart that Shaitaan may take.

These gateways are, generally, personal characteristics, of which there are many but, here, we will only refer to the ones that are so wide so as to accommodate all the numerous soldiers of Shaitaan:

Anger is the ghoul of the psyche; when it weakens the guards of one’s mind, Shaitaan’s soldiers immediately seize the opportunity to attack. Furthermore, when a person becomes enraged, Shaitaan plays with him in the same way children play with a ball.

No matter how careful man is, his covetousness makes him deaf and dumb. The light of insight reveals the gates of Shaitaan; when envy and greediness mask this light, man becomes at risk. Hence, Shaitaan seizes that opportunity and adorns for an acquisitive person whatever leads to his or her desires, even if it is heinous and evil. The Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) spoke of avarice:

“If two starving wolves were left in a flock of sheep, they would not be as harmful (to them) as a person’s hunger for money and status is to his (or her) faith.” (At-Tirmizi)

This is one of Shaitaan’s gateways to the heart; although lawful, eating in excess strengthens one’s desires, which, in turn, are his weapons.

Haste and recklessness are among the widest gates of Shaitaan to one’s heart, as the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said:

“Hastiness is from Shaitaan and deliberateness is from Allah.” (At-Tirmizi)

They prevent a person from giving in charity, instead justifying hoarding, which only leads to a painful punishment.

Bigotry toward a specific school of thought or an inclination toward a desire, bearing grudges against opponents or treating them with contempt, destroys the immoral and pious alike.

Defaming people and calling attention to their faults is one of the predatory characteristics inherent in human nature.

“O you who have believed! Avoid much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sins.” (Al-Hujuraat, 49:12)

Indeed, only hypocrites seek out flaws in others, whereas believers seek excuses for them.

A person may now ask: “How can one ward Shaitaan off? Is it enough to be in constant remembrance of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) or to utter (phrases like), ‘Laa hawla walaa quwwata illaa billaah’ (There is no power or strength except in Allah)?” The answer is that you must know that the course of treatment to save one’s heart from the whispers of Shaitaan is to block the gateways (he takes) and to purify the heart from the aforementioned bad characteristics.

The remembrance of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) should indeed suffice in stopping Shaitaan from passing by or whispering in one’s heart. However, that cannot happen unless the heart itself is already of a pious nature and purified from evil characteristics. If not, words of His remembrance will be no more than mere thoughts without any impact on the heart or substance to deflect Shaitaan:

“Indeed, those who are pious – when an impulse touches them from Shaitaan, they remember (Him) and at once they have insight.” (Al-A’raaf, 7:201)

Therefore, since this is only confined to the pious, once a person manages to uproot evil traits from within, Shaitaan may pass by or whisper, but will never be able to reside in the heart.

Shaitaan is like an approaching starved dog; if a person has neither bread nor meat, it will move away just by your voice which commands it to “go away”. However, if you have meat in your hands and the dog is hungry, it will attack the flesh and your mere words will not be enough to keep the animal at bay.

Similarly, if the heart is free from anything Shaitaan can feed on, Zikr (Remembrance of Allah)  will be enough to fend it off. On the other hand, if a person’s desires dominate his or her heart, the influence of Zikr is restricted to the outer edges of the heart and instead, its core becomes a residence for Shaitaan. The Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: “The heart is touched twice: (one of it is) a touch by the angel (which constitutes) a command of goodness and an acceptance of the truth. So, if a man experiences this, he should know that it is from Allah, the Almighty, and he should consequently thank Him. On the other hand, (there is) a touch from the enemy (Shaitaan, and that constitutes an) insinuation of evil, disbelief in truth and being barred from good. So, if a person experiences this, he should seek refuge with Allah from the accursed Shaitaan.”

Then, the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) recited the Saying of Allah, i.e. Verse No. 268 of 2nd Chapter of Holy Quraan, Al-Baqarah: “Shaitaan threatens you with poverty and orders you to immorality.” (An-Nasaaee and At-Tirmizi)

Expounding on this, Imam Al-Hassan said: “They (i.e., the two touches) are actually two concerns that occur to the heart: one from Allah, the Almighty, and the other from the enemy (Shaitaan). May Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) have mercy upon a slave who examines his concerns and lets that affect him which is from Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), and strives against whatever he deems from the enemy.”

By nature, the heart equally accepts both the inspiration of an angel and the incitement of Shaitaan, such that there is a balance. However, the latter aspect dominates when a person acts ravenously and indulges in desires, whereas the former overrules it if a person turns away from wants and whims, and resists them.

When man becomes subservient to his desires and his actions become driven by rage, the influence of Shaitaan will prevail via whims, which are his haven, and the heart will become Shaitaan’s nest and pasture.  On the other hand, if a person strives against his or her desires, barring them from impacting him or her and adopts some angelic traits, his or her heart will become the dwelling and station of angels. Thus, the soldiers of angels and of Shaitaan are in an epic struggle, until the heart opens to one of them, allowing them to reside within and dominate; the other party, then, will only be able to pass with stealth.

Unfortunately, most hearts are conquered by the soldiers of Shaitaan, sustained by obedience to desires and whims, and, therefore, the organs are riddled with base notions that give preference to this temporary life, with clear disregard of the Aakhirah (Hereafter). The heart cannot be recaptured except when it is purified from the nutrition of Shaitaan and is supported with the remembrance of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the Almighty, which is the haven of angels.

Hadhrat Huzaifah ibn al-Yamaan narrated that the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: “Temptations are presented to hearts in the same way as a reed mat is woven, stick by stick. Any heart which is saturated by them will receive a black mark, whereas any heart that rejects them will have a white mark put on it. The result is that there will be two types of hearts: a black and dusty heart, which is like an uneven vessel that neither recognizes good nor rejects evil, except what is impregnated into it of desires; and a white heart that will never be harmed by any temptation, as long as there are heavens and the earth.” (Muslim)

When the lure of desire and doubts are presented to the heart, it transforms into either of two types:

1. A heart that absorbs temptation in the same way a sponge soaks up water. This one will get a black stain every time it gives in to a temptation, until it becomes wholly dark and uneven. When this happens, the heart will be susceptible to two dangerous diseases:

Firstly, it will be unable to differentiate between good and evil, to the extent that it will not recognize either of them. Thereafter, the illness will pervade the organ until a person believes that good is evil and evil is good, the Sunnah (the Prophetic lifestyle) is a Bid’ah (Religious innovation) and vice versa, and that truth is falsehood and the opposite holds true as well.

Secondly, the heart will begin to be subservient to its whims, making them a criterion for judging the teachings of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam).

2. The second is the white heart that is illuminated by the light of faith. When temptations are presented to it, it will immediately deny and reject them, thereby increasing in brightness and radiance.

As for the temptations themselves, they are categorized into two: desires and doubts. While the first leads to the corruption of both intentions and one’s will, the second taints a person’s knowledge and belief.

Accordingly, diseases of the heart are also of base desires and doubts; the former can be interpreted by the Quraanic Verse in which Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the Almighty, says (what means):

“Do not be soft in speech (to men), lest he in whose heart is disease should covet.” (Al-Ahzaab, 33:32)

Unlike a healthy person, a patient is more sensitive to the slightest changes in heat, cold or movement; likewise, when the heart suffers from an illness, even a small amount of whims or doubts harms it and it is unable to ward them off. On the other hand, a sound heart powerfully fends off these temptations, even in the face of more attacks.

As for the other kind, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) referred to the disease of doubt, when He said: “In their hearts is disease, so Allah has increased their disease.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:10)

Commenting on this Verse, Qatadah and Mujahid stated that “disease” here refers to misgivings.

Although illnesses of the heart come in these two forms, referring and consulting the Book of Allah (Kitaabullah) and the Men of Allah (Rijaalullah) is the remedy for both. Both provide decisive proofs and satisfaction that distinguish between truth and falsehood. With them, the disease of doubt, which corrupts a person’s knowledge and intellect, is removed, and a person can perceive things in their real form. Thus, the true cure for malicious allegations and doubts is done. Yet, the effectiveness of this approach is contingent on the strong bonds with both, Kitaabullah and Rijaalullah. And, if Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) grants that to a person, his or her heart will as clearly distinguish between truth and falsehood, as it does between night and day.

Additionally, they heal the other of the two diseases: desire; for, it includes wisdom, admonition and encouragement. Reading Quraan and listening to pious Ulamaa and Mashaaikh (Rijaalullah), a sound heart will surely incline towards what benefits it in both worlds and turn away from what will be of harm. The heart will then love guidance and detest vice.

Thus, the companionship of both, Kitaabullah and Rijaalullah, Quran removes diseases that might result in corrupt yearnings; it reforms the heart, and so, reforms its wants, thus restoring it to the natural, pure state that it was created in. Referring to this, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says:

“And We reveal of the Quraan that which is a healing and a mercy for believers though it increase the evil-doers in naught save ruin.” (Al-Israa, 17:82)

“O mankind! There has to come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers.” (Yunus, 10:57)

“O you who believe! Fear Allah and be with those who are Saadiqeen (the Truthfuls).” (At-Taubah, 9:119)

The heart feeds on the Verses of Quraan directly or explained by pious Ulamaa and Mashaaikh with related teachings in Sunnah and practices of Sahaabah (Companions) of Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), taking from it what purifies and strengthens it. Both the heart and body require growth and development until they become perfect and sound. Hence, just as the body needs nutrients that build it and a healthy diet that protects it from harm, so does the heart. But, it can only obtain its nourishment from the Book of Allah (Kitaabullah) and the Men of Allah (Rijaalullah). Similarly, plants do not grow or become ripe without nutrients and proper environment; only when those are available, can we say they do.

Therefore, a person should study the signs of an ill and a sound heart, so he or she is able to discern which type he or she possesses. If the heart is sick, a slave of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) must do his or her best to treat it before he or she meets Him with a sick heart, which will deprive him or her from entering Jannah (Paradise). If the heart is sound, then he or she must nonetheless continue to safeguard its soundness until he or she dies in this state. If, however, the heart is dead, he or she can take solace in the fact that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) gives life to the dead, as He Says (what means):

“Know that Allah gives life to the earth after its lifelessness. We have made clear to you the signs; perhaps you will understand.” (Al-Hadeed, 57:17)

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