Using psychology, Shaytan induces fear and anxiety, providing false evidence to make us doubtful and worried. Perhaps about our future or the shadows of our past which he inflates to keep us stagnant and fearful. He is the Master of illusion and deception
Surely Satan is an enemy to you, so take him as an enemy. He only invites his followers to become inmates of the Blaze. (35:6)
What do we think of when we hear the word ‘Shaytan’? The story of Adam perhaps or depictions of Shaytan in movies or the media. The entity that is Shaytan is so relevant and applicable to our everyday lives and yet so shrouded in mystery, confusion and misconceptions.
His oft used image as a scary and mischievous physical being of red holding a pitchfork and with audible instructions to do wrong can perplex and intrigue not only little minds but adult minds too. When we don’t know how he operates, it can become all too easy to dispel him and his effects as a figment of our imaginations and thereby under-appreciate his influence over us.
Where better, then, to look for clues and insights into Shaytan’s nature and tactics than the words of Allah, the Quran. The above verse from Surah Fatir explicitly warns us that Allah (swt) has declared Shaytan our enemy, a very real truth and one we mustn’t be heedless of. In fact, the word ‘Shaytan’ is mentioned more than 80 times in the Quran which means we need to take this enemy very seriously.
If it hasn’t occurred to us to discuss Shatyan as a topic with our children, their curiosity and inquisitiveness may lead them to ask us about him at some point, so it is helpful to better understand this topic ourselves in order to clarify the concept for our children. We may well find many of the ideas we picked up along the way are misguided or not entirely accurate and we can therefore correct those on the way as an added bonus. After all, the journey of parenthood is one of constant growth and reflection.
It is for this reason I was excited to see Arabiq Online, a platform which seeks to enhance our connection with the profound depths and meanings of the Quran, launch a course titled: The Psychology of Shaytan in the Quran. This course explores the Quranic narrative of humanity’s arch enemy, dissects language used by him towards Allah (swt) and Adam (as) as well as language used to describe him by Allah (swt). For when we know our enemy, and understand his tricks, we can better prepare and protect ourselves and our loved ones.
With permission I am sharing some of the wonderful insights I gained from this course but would also recommend it to others in order to gain a deeper understanding: All Courses – Arabiq Online – Arabic of the Qur’an
And in the same way that knowing our enemy will allow us to better prepare, speaking to our children about Shaytan will help them to be more vigilant and have a heightened awareness of his influence in their everyday thoughts, attitudes and interactions with others. This can be very empowering through helping them to separate their innate goodness from his destructive messages and thereby safeguard themselves and their good deeds.
The conversation around Shaytan needn’t be scary but of course each child’s understanding will vary depending on their age and level of maturity. Nazmina, founder and course leader of Arabiq Online uses the analogy of ‘baddies’ in cartoons when she speaks to her own children about Shaytan to help clarify the concept and dynamic with humans.
When her children were younger, the popular and wholesome Dora the Explorer cartoon was prominent, with a fox named Swiper as the baddie. Dora would be on a constant mission to do good and help others, but Swiper is forever interfering with her efforts and undoing her good work. Dora would say ‘Swiper, no swiping!’ which Nazmina likens to advising children to think or say ‘Shaytan, go away’ giving them a sense of power and freedom from his negative influence.
Our children, especially as they get older, are faced with negative thoughts, social challenges and peer pressure. Harnessing their inner Fitrah (instinct) and arming them with the knowledge and tools to make the right choices will elevate their confidence and strength.
Here are a few ideas about Shaytan that children can grasp and utilise:
Shaytan can only invite us to do wrong, we don’t have to follow
The verse from Surah Fatir makes it clear that Shaytan suggests and invites. Elsewhere in the Quran, it describes how Shaytan uses very determined language to stress that he will constantly be influencing us and calling us to stray. He will be waiting for us on the straight path to misguide us. But fascinatingly, in the Quran in Surah Ibrahim, Allah reports that on the day of judgement Shaytan will declare that he had no authority over us, that he promised and didn’t deliver. He let us down. He will say, ‘I only invited you, you followed. Therefore you can only blame yourselves’. The way Shaytan influences us is also important. He is described as ‘Wiswas alkhannas’. We have long understood ‘waswasah’ as whisperings, but interestingly Nazminah clarifies that whisperings are audible and outside of us heard by our own ears, whereas waswasah is more like intrusive thoughts which appear in our minds, causing us to have doubts impacting our self belief and view of others, causing low confidence and manifesting jealousy and other ill feelings towards those around us. But Khannas also means elusive and hard to grasp; he quickly disappears when we become aware or seek refuge in Allah. He is hard to witness.
Admit when you are wrong and seek forgiveness
Humans are fallible. We make mistakes and we learn from them. But in making mistakes we do harm ourselves and often others in the process. When Shaytan disobeyed Allah (swt) and was confronted, he showed no remorse, but rather was full of excuses and justifications for his actions. In contrast, Adam (as) also made a mistake. He and Hawa when confronted were quick to profess their wrongdoing and admit that they had wronged themselves. They immediately sought the forgiveness of Allah (swt) and He, being the most merciful, forgave them. Through this they retained their vital connection with Allah, regained His pleasure and nearness to Him. Shaytan however, through his arrogance and ego, was banished and expelled from Allah’s mercy, even after many years of worship and devotion. One of the meanings of the word Shaytan is to be distanced from divine mercy (root word ‘shatana’). Another meaning, root word ‘shayata’ – means to burn with anger, be furious. Both of these apply to Shaytan. Through the disobedience of Shaytan and lack of remorse, he becomes after many years of being a close servant of Allah, banished and expelled. ‘Rajeem’ also means outcast and expelled. Shaytan uses gradual baiting, he does not cause huge changes in how we think and behave overnight but rather his influence is insidious with tiny steps away from the straight path. This makes our everyday small decisions of paramount importance.
Always have hope in Allah and faith in yourself
Another name for Shaytan is Iblees, meaning full of despair. He gave up hope rather than admitting his guilt and asking to be forgiven and regaining an elevated status. We can sometimes feel quite ashamed when we have done something wrong. This can make us scared of facing those whom we have wronged and also give us a reduced sense of power and confidence. We can feel quite stuck and alone, doubting our goodness and ability to correct our ways. Using psychology, Shaytan induces fear and anxiety, providing false evidence to make us doubtful and worried, this maybe about our future or the shadows of our past which he inflates to keep us stagnant and fearful. He is the Master of illusion and deception. Shaytan wins when we feel this way as it cripples us and causes inaction and despair. Through the example of Shaytan we learn that when we are with Allah, we are powerful and we should never despair, we can always make amends. As parents, it is vital we model this for our children. When we make mistakes, it is important we refrain from self blame and catastrophising and show them how to move on after a blip. We must also respond rationally to their mistakes and guide them to move forward stronger and wiser.
We are not better than others
Shaytan believed he was better than Adam (as) and refused to prostrate to him when commanded to do so by Allah (swt). He believed since he was made from fire and Adam (as) from clay, that fire was more powerful and superior. He neglected to acknowledge that Allah (swt) had added a secret ingredient to the clay making up Adam and all of us, He breathed into us something very special. Sometimes we may think we are better than others because of what we possess or who we are or how we behave. But this is equally misguided and we do not know the other person fully in order to judge. Allah (swt) says in the holy Quran that it is only Taqwa- piety- which differentiates one person from another, their nearness to Allah (swt) and their God consciousness, which we have no knowledge of. Feeling we are better is also a tool of Shaytan which creates arrogance and disunity between people. It is probably a factor in many arguments, wars and bloodshed. It has no place in Islam and we need to protect ourselves from this.
Hold on to the rope of Allah
Shaytan makes us feel that good deeds and obligations like Salah and Quran recitation are meaningless and worthless. This is a tool to cause us to discard these essential forms of communication with Allah, again in a step wise fashion, bringing distance between us and Allah (swt) so he is then more able to influence us.
Once we know the tricks, we need to know how to deflect these, how to take heed and protect ourselves. Nazmina uses a catchy and apt abbreviation for this – Shaytan protection factors or SPF. Much like sun protection factor sun cream which helps protect us from the harmful effects of the sun, Shaytan protection factors can form the armour we use to protect ourselves from the harmful influences of Shaytan. And both types of SPF need to be applied and utilised consistently and repeatedly in order to provide ongoing protection.
The Quran is very explicit and forthcoming with the weapons and tools we can use to protect ourselves.
Shaytan protection Factors:
1- Focus on Allah
Allah says those who follow my guidance shall not grieve. Allah (swt) advises Adam and Hawa (as) that they have the guidance, they must follow it and be resolute. Shaytan tries to sabotage our security systems. He attempts to undermine our focus on Allah and the path of righteousness, he distracts us from remembrance of Allah and from Salah which keeps us connected to Him.
2- Combat tunnel vision
We must always use our reason and ‘Aql (intellect) in the right way, to help us make decisions and show us the way forward. This is the main tool we have. Arrogance makes us rash, whereas Aql, which means to restrain or tie, allows us to consider our actions and question our thoughts and attitudes carefully.
3-Practice gratitude and content
Shaytan says to Allah about human kind that ‘you will not find most of them to be grateful’. He uses the powerful act of Shukr. This is a clue to our secret weapon, gratitude, for it’s our discontent and greed that allows him to gain power and an inlet to influence us. Be in a constant state of gratitude for the blessings and guidance of Allah (swt). Use your skills to help others and your resources in the path of Allah. Shukr is an action word.
4- Take responsibility and ownership
Shaytan blames Allah – ‘I will embellish their deeds and misguide them. Except those who are kept pure by Allah,’ This is an empowering message that- in seeking purity and sincerity – we can strive to purify ourselves and in doing so, Allah (swt) will then add purity to our hearts, causing us to be more protected. Blaming others or our circumstances distracts from this. Remembrance of Allah is the key to shielding from Shaytan. Prayer restrains us from indecency and wrongdoing. Constant remembrance allows us to seek help from Allah more readily when we need help.
5. Recite Quran and seek the protection of Allah
Quran is full of guidance and light. Shaytan wants to block us from benefitting and accessing this guidance. This can manifest as not reciting, being distracted during recitation, or not benefitting through misinterpretation. Let’s seek protection in Allah (swt) from anything that blocks our benefit from His divine book and from ‘hamazat alshaytan’ (intrusive thoughts)
6. Seek forgiveness to get close to Him
Adam (as) disobeyed his lord and fell. If we wrong ourselves, it’s a tool to regain closeness – don’t wait and create distance between yourself and Allah. Have faith that you will be forgiven. Shaytan deludes us that there is plenty of time, no hurry to repent. or in contrast that we have done so much wrong we have no chance of being forgiven. This makes us feel too ashamed to turn to Allah and to despair, making us easy prey for Shaytan.
Through this understanding and knowledge of how Shaytan operates, we can empower ourselves and our children to be more vigilant against his tricks and to use the tools we have to combat his efforts and come back constantly to Allah (swt), the most merciful.