Learning, knowing and recognising Satan’s goals and methods helps us to beware of their danger and safeguard ourselves against them.
- To worship other than God. This is Satan’s greatest goal as those who fall into this will be with Satan in Hellfire for eternity.
- To commit major sins. These are the sins which have specific punishments that have been mentioned in the Quran or by the Messenger Muhammad, such as murder, adultery, theft etc.
- To commit minor sins. These are the sins which don’t fall in the above category but are dangerous because they can lead to major sins. This can include impolite manners or not the correct etiquette’s such as for eating and drinking.
- To prevent people from doing good deeds. Satan doesn’t just care about us sinning, he also wants to prevent us from doing good deeds and would rather we spent our time doing nothing.
- To damage acts of worship. When we worship God, Satan attempts to distract us and diminish our reward.
- Lies and deception. Satan whispers and puts doubts into our hearts. He lies and deceives by making us think that our sins are not a big deal or that we’ve done enough good deeds and so on.
- False promises. God says, “He makes them promises and raises false hopes, but Satan’s promises are nothing but delusion.” [4:120]
- Going to extremes. For people who are serious, Satan attempts to drive them to fanaticism or excess, and for those who are lazy, Satan leads them to heedlessness and negligence. Remember, Islam is about balance and moderation.
- Gradual steps. Satan rarely starts with his main goal of worshiping others besides God. He will begin with damaging acts of worship, and then committing one sin, and then repeating that sin twice and three times, and then committing a second sin, and then a major sin and so on.
- Our own desires. Satan uses our weaknesses against us. If we have a weakness for money, power, fame, lust etc, he will use this and tempt us to sin in these issues.
The Jinn are one of God’s creations like humans and angels. They have been given free will and commanded to worship God alone. God says, “I created jinn and mankind only to worship Me.” [51:56] As such, there are good and pious jinn and evil and corrupt jinn, jinn who are believers and others that are disbelievers much in the same way as humans can fall into these categories. The jinn are a creation that are invisible to us but because they live on earth, we are told to recite certain invocations which are part of our daily etiquette’s so as to ensure we do not harm them and vice versa.
Like humans, jinn eat and drink, they live and die. They are more likely to dwell in places of impurity or in ruins. They have certain abilities such as the ability to travel fast, reach the skies and take different shapes, even resembling some animals. The evil jinn or devils may wish to harm humans, but God protects the believers. Devils can only harm by God’s permission. If we keep strong in our faith, perform our obligations and remember God frequently devils cannot harm us.
The Messenger Muhammad said, “If a person enters their house and mentions the name of God upon entering it and upon eating therein, Satan says, ‘There is no lodging for you here and no meal here.’ But if a person enters their house and neglects to mention the name of God upon entering it, Satan says, ‘I have found lodging for you.’ And if they does not mention God’s name upon eating his meal, Satan says, ‘I have found lodging and a meal.’”
The Messenger Muhammad informed us that there were ten generations between the Prophets Adam and Noah. It seems likely that people during those times had extraordinarily long life spans, as the Prophet Noah spent 950 years as a Prophet. During these ten generations from the time of Prophet Adam, people used to worship God alone. However, with the passage of time, people began to become distanced from God.
Shortly before the time of Prophet Noah, there lived five righteous men who were known for their piety and goodness. They would remind others of God. Once they passed away and died, Satan inspired them to make idols in the images of the five righteous men. Initially this was done so that people would be reminded of piety when the saw these idols. This is often how Satan comes; in the guise of innocence of even apparent goodness.
However, after more time passed, people forgot the original reason for which the idols were first built. Satan then inspired people to worship them as gods besides the one true God. God mentions this in the Quran and relays to us the names of the five men who were turned into gods, “And they said, ‘Never leave you gods and never leave Wadd or Suwa or Yaguth or Ya’uq or Nasr.’” [71:23]
This is why in Islam we have no images of God, the angels, prophets or saints. They can all too easily be used as a means of worshiping other than God.
One of the aspects mentioned in the Quran about the story of Noah is about his son. Noah’s son did not believe in God despite Noah’s best efforts. Ultimately we cannot control people’s hearts and it is only our duty to teach and preach towards God’s way. Once upon the Ark, God relays to us the conversation between Noah and his son, “…and Noah called out to his son who stayed behind, ‘Come aboard with us, my son, do not stay with the disbelievers.’ But he replied ‘I will seek refuge on a mountain to save me from the water.’ Noah said, ‘Today there is no refuge from God’s command except for those on whom He has mercy.’ The waves cut them off from each other and he was among the drowned.’” [11:42-43]
Noah called out to God for His help and to save his son, “Noah called out to his Lord, saying, ‘My Lord, my son was one of my family, though Your promise is true, and You are the most just of all judges.’” [11:45] God replied, “Noah, he was not one of your family. What he did was not right. Do not ask Me for things you know nothing about. I am warning you not to be foolish.” [11:46]
Noah immediately realised his error and that God is All-Wise in His decisions. Noah said, “My Lord, I take refuge with You from asking things I know nothing about. If You do not forgive me, and have mercy on me, I shall be of one of the losers.” [11:47] Even the Prophets of God must submit to Him. God places more importance on the bonds and ties of faith than blood, wealth or social status.
The story of Adam and Eve is also mentioned in Christian and Jewish traditions. However, there are some differences and certain misconceptions which Islam does not support:
1. Satan was a serpent – Satan came to Adam and Eve in Paradise and tempted them to eat from the tree. However, we don’t believe he came in the form of a snake or serpent.
2. Eve tempted Adam – Islam does not indicate that Eve was weaker than Adam or that she tempted him to disobey God. They were both responsible, were both rebuked by God and both repented to Him.
3. Childbirth pains are due to Eve’s sin – Islam does not hold that pains experienced by women during childbirth as a result of Eve tempting Adam to disobey God.
4. Original sin – Islam does not believe that due to this original sin committed by Adam and Eve, all their descendants are being punished. In Islam, no one bears the sins of another. God is fair and just, and He does not hold to account people who came millennia later for the actions and decisions of their ancestors.
5. God forgave Adam and Eve – The Quran is very explicit in that God forgave both Adam and Eve. Therefore, there would be no reason to hold them or their descendants responsible for eating from the forbidden tree.
The Rites of Pilgrimage from the Life of Prophet Abraham and His Family
Each and every year, millions of Muslims from all over the world travel to Mecca to perform the annual major pilgrimage. Much of what they do is taken from the story of Prophet Abraham and his family. Let us explore some of these major points.
- Circumambulation of the Kabah
Pilgrims circumambulate the Kabah seven times in an anti-clockwise direction. It was the Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael who built the Kabah.
- Offering Ritual Devotions behind the Station of Abraham
The station of Abraham refers to the stone upon which Abraham stood in order to build the Kabah. God commands us to take it as a place of prayer. For this reason, after the circumambulation of the Kabah, pilgrims offer two units of ritual devotion as close as they can to this station.
- Running between the Hills of Safa and Marwah
When Ishmael and his mother were left in Mecca there was no water in that land. As Ishmael began to cry from thirst, his mother, Hajar began to search for water. In order to see the area better, she ran between the two hills of Safa and Marwah to look for water. Today pilgrims do the same.
- The Water of Zamzam
As Ishmael’s mother was searching for water, a well began to sprout by the feet of baby Ishmael. This water became a well with plentiful and blessed water. This water is known as Zamzam.
- Stoning the Pillars
As part of the rites of pilgrimage, pilgrims throw pebbles at a pillar in a place close to Mecca called Mina. This signifies the times Satan came to Abraham to try to dissuade him from sacrificing his son Ishmael. Abraham threw stones at Satan to ward him off.
- The Sacrifice
Pilgrims offer a sacrifice of a sheep during the pilgrimage just as God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. It is also recommended for Muslims not performing pilgrimage to offer a sacrifice at the time of the second annual festival of Eid.
Lessons from the Life of Prophet Abraham
The story of Abraham is one which is repeated many times in the Quran. There are many lessons we can learn from this story. In this post, we will highlight some of the main lessons.
1. Dedication to God
The story of Abraham is a story of dedication and submission to God. Each time God issued a commandment to Abraham, he immediately and willingly submitted himself. God says about Abraham, “His Lord said to him, ‘Devote yourself to Me.’ Abraham replied, ‘I devote myself to the Lord of the Universe.’” 2:131 No matter how difficult the command seemed from abandoning his family in the desert to sacrificing his son with his own hand, Abraham trusted in God and his love for God over all else was enough faith. In return, God honoured Abraham for his devoutness.
As Muslims, we must learn to devote ourselves to God. This means to love God above all else including ourselves, and by extension to carry out God’s commands even if they clash with our own preferences and desires.
2. Challenging the Status Quo
Abraham’s love, faith and dedication to God meant that he did not just accept things without thinking. He wasn’t willing to follow his forefathers in idol worship simply because they were his relatives or ancestors. He challenged his people to think about God and the attributes of God. When the answers his people gave him were unsatisfactory, Abraham was willing to search for the truth, even if that risked displeasing them.
Abraham teaches us the importance of learning and knowledge. We found Islam by searching for the truth and God helped us. Now we must continue to learn more so that we can please God in our worship of Him.
3. Following the Truth All Alone
Abraham was opposed by his whole people, including his father. He was alone, but his lack of support did not faze him as he had the help of God. When his people threatened to burn him alive, Abraham remained steadfast. Once again, he trusted in God. His people carried out their threat but God made the fire cool for him.
Sometimes we feel alone, our family and friends may not agree with our devotion to God. Yet in reality we are not alone, we have God with us. Abraham would continuously turn to God for help.
4. Serving God as Much as Possible
Some Prophets had vast nations and others were kings. Abraham was neither. Much of his life is about his personal struggles and his personal dedication to God. Abraham served God as best he could. Sometimes that meant migrating from his home in search of a place where he could worship God better. At other times, it meant leaving his family behind or building a place of worship for God. In all of this and more, Abraham never wavered.
We must also strive to worship God as best we can. This is what God wants from us. God tells us in the Quran that he does not hold us accountable for what is beyond our capabilities.
5. A Family of Faith
Abraham started off alone. However, by the end of his life. God rewarded his sincerity by making his two sons prophets, and then his grandson and great grandson. All subsequent prophets were from Abraham’s descendants. Abraham dedicated his family to serving God and dedicating their lives to Him.
Sometimes we may doubt our own sincerity or the validity of our good deeds. This is often due to misunderstanding sincerity. In this blog post we will look at a few principles regarding this issue.
- Sincerity comes from the heart
No one can tell us that we are being sincere or insincere. Sincerity is a private action emanating from the heart. Only we can begin to gauge our own sincerity. For most ritual acts of worship, we do not have to utter our sincerity or verbalise it. It is sufficient to have sincerity in the heart. Whenever we intend to worship God, we must look into our hearts and ensure we are only doing the action to please God.
- We ask God for acceptance
Once we have performed the act of worship as sincerely as possible, we should not fret over it. Instead, we ask God for acceptance. God informs us in the Quran that when the Prophets Abraham and Ishmael were building the Kabah, they asked God to accept their efforts. Once we’ve done our best, our worship is out of our hands. We trust in God’s mercy and compassion. Even if there were unintentional deficiencies in our worship, God will overlook them.
- Sincerity does not mean perfection
Some people think that sincerity means they have to be perfect. For example, a person is making their ritual ablution, but they keep thinking that they did not do it properly or did not have the required sincerity, and therefore repeat it multiple times. We must avoid thinking like this. Islam commands us to have sincerity and carry out our worship to the best of our human ability.
- Ask for God’s help
We should supplicate to God for His assistance. We should ask Him to grant us sincerity and seek God’s protection from Satan and his devices. Sometimes Satan attempts to turn us away from worship by placing obstacles before us or giving us negative thoughts. We have to try our best to dismiss such thoughts and seek God’s help in doing so.
- Seek professional help
If you constantly racked with negative thoughts and require someone to speak to, do not be afraid to seek professional help or speak to a therapist. If you have access to an imam who has therapy training, they may also be able to help you. Therapists and imams who have expertise in this area may be able to provide you with certain techniques to help with these issues.
No, you don’t have to get up early to eat before fasting.
But you should.
Messenger Muhammad told us that there is blessing in it, and if someone wants to fast, they should eat that pre-dawn meal.
Here are some main benefits to eating the pre-dawn meal.
Eating that early meal will give you some more energy. Not eating it will make it much harder for you to find the energy you need all day.
Even if all you can take is water, that will help you and give you energy to read Quran, do your daily tasks, and offer devotions.
Eating the pre-dawn meal will help you have a better attitude towards others. We all know the word ‘hangry’. Relying on your previous night’s dinner will make you hangry, quicker.
Eating the pre-dawn meal will help with your mood, and make it easier for you to control your temper.
The fasting people who do wake up and eat the pre-dawn meal find fasting easier. You will see it, too.
Eating in the early morning and drinking water right before fasting helps fasting become easier. If it’s easier, then it’s more motivational to fast each day.
The most important reason to eat the pre-dawn meal is that Messenger Muhammad used to do so. And he recommended it himself.
Our practice of Islam depends on imitating the Messenger. We will get rewards for eating that pre-dawn meal, especially if we do it out of imitation of Messenger Muhammad.
The golden time to supplicate to God is that last third of the night before the dawn devotion time.
If you sleep in until devotion time, you will miss that beautiful time in the morning that Messenger Muhammad told us that God answers supplications.
If you’re already up to eat the pre-dawn meal, then you’re wide awake for the dawn devotion time.
You don’t have to worry about not waking up on time, and eating the pre-dawn meal can give your sleepy mind more of an argument on why to wake up in the first place.
May God bless us all with the time-management and motivation to include eating the blessed pre-dawn meal to our mornings in Ramadan.