Devil in the Details: An Analysis of the Dark Side of the Self
Published: January 24, 2019 • Updated: January 24, 2023
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Indeed, Iblis (Satan) only enters people by the measure he is able. His ability to do so is increased or decreased according to the degree of their mindfulness, their negligence, their ignorance, and their deeds. Know that the heart is like a fortress. Upon that fortress are walls and the walls have gates, and in it are chambers in which the mind resides. The angels often visit that fortress. To its side are siege towers, in which are desires and devils frequently occupying them, with none to stop them. War is declared between the inhabitants of the fortress and the inhabitants of the siege towers. The devils continuously circle around the fortress, seeking the negligence of the guards and passage into some of its chambers. Thus, the guards should know all of the gates of the fortress, upon which its protection depends.
Devil in the Details
For among the most difficult things for the self at rest is to purify its deeds from Satan and the nafs ammarah for the sake of Allah. If even a single deed of it was accepted as it should be, He would be generous to him. But the nafs ammarah and Satan refuse to let even a single deed reach Allah.
1) Love for Allah vs. Love for other than Allah
Love for Allah
‘The Loving’ is a rhetorical form derived from ‘affection.’ It means He who loves goodness for all creatures and is benevolent to them in every circumstance… The portion given from Him to the servant is that he wants for the creation what he wants for himself and he is benevolent with him according to the best of his power and ability, and he loves the righteous among His servants.
Love for others besides Allah
Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire, of women and children, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, cattle, and tilled land. That is the enjoyment of the worldly life but Allah has with Him the best return.
- Love for the sake of Allah: required by faith and wholly good;
- Natural love: permissible and neither good nor bad in itself; and
- Love for what displeases Allah: forbidden and inauthentic.
And there is no path to this end except by the knowledge inherited from His slave, messenger, and beloved. The one who was sent with it, calling toward it, establishing it, and guiding toward it.
Say (O Muhammad), ‘If you love Allah, then follow me. Allah will love you and forgive your sins, for Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
(True) happiness can only occur when a person makes his motivation connected to a purpose that will not break or cease. His strongest desire and aim should be to journey to the presence of the Living, Who never dies.
Whoever rejects false idols and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.
And rely upon the Ever-Living who does not die, and exalt [Allah] with His praise.
2) Reverence vs. Hypocrisy
The reverent heart faces Allah with exaltation, glorification, veneration, dread, and penitence such that the heart is broken, a breaking that is mended by awe, shame, love, penitence, testifying to the blessings of Allah and one’s own crimes against Him. Thus, the reverent heart will inevitably be followed by reverence on the limbs (in prayer and recitation).
As for the reverence of hypocrisy, it is that one shows his limbs in feigning and pretense, while the heart is not reverent… It is a state of being in which is feigned tranquility of the limbs by pretense and ostentation, while his self within is immersed and saturated with lusts and desires. He is reverent outwardly while the serpent of the valley and the lion of the forest are stalking between his two sides, waiting for their prey.
3) Inspiring Gratitude vs. Boasting
Whoever is not grateful for small things will not be grateful for large things. Whoever is not thankful to people is not thankful to Allah. Discussing the blessings of Allah is gratitude and ignoring them is ingratitude.
4) Friendly Competition vs. Envy
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ ordered us to give charity and at the time I possessed some wealth. I said to myself, ‘Today I will outdo Abu Bakr, if ever there were a day to outdo him.’ I went with half of my wealth to the Prophet ﷺ and he said, ‘What have you left for your family?’ I said, ‘The same amount (half).’ Then, Abu Bakr came with everything he had. The Prophet ﷺ said, ‘O Abu Bakr, what have you left for your family?’ Abu Bakr said, ‘Allah and His messenger.’ I said, ‘By Allah, I will never do better than Abu Bakr.’
As for beneficial deeds, it is to be a judge over envy. For everything that envy brings to court of sayings and deeds, he should oblige himself to do its opposite. If envy compels him to disparage the envied, then he should oblige his tongue to praise him and commend him. If envy compels him to be arrogant against him, then he should require himself to be humble before him and apologize to him… These are the cures for envy and they are very beneficial, although they are very bitter for the heart. Rather, the benefit is in bitter medicine.
5) Authentic Leadership vs. Love for Authority
Love for Authority
6) Reliance upon Allah vs. Laziness
Reliance upon Allah
7) Advising vs. Condemning
An example of that is when a human being wants to cast blame upon a man, belittle him, and expose his faults such that people desert him, either because he loves to harm him, or he has enmity for him, or he fears his rivalry in wealth and leadership, or for any other blameworthy reason… So he has combined an outward display of advice with ugly, forbidden matters.
8) Esteem vs. Pride
As for pride, it is among the effects of vanity and transgression from a heart that is filled with ignorance and oppression. Servitude to Allah has departed from it and disgrace has descended upon it. It looks at people disdainfully, it walks among people arrogantly, and it deals with them by seeking preference over them, not by altruism or fairness… It does not acknowledge the rights of anyone over it, yet acknowledges its rights over people. It does not acknowledge their favors to him, yet it acknowledges its own favors. Allah does not increase it except in alienation from people, except in scorn and hatred.
Some of the knowledgeable said in actualization of this meaning that self-respect is not pride. It is not lawful for a believer to humiliate himself. For self-respect is the human being’s recognition of the reality of the self and its nobility above transient categories of the world, in the same way pride is the human being’s ignorance of the self and its claiming to be above its proper place. Self-respect resembles pride in form, but is different in reality. Just as humility and humiliation resemble each other, but humility is praiseworthy and humiliation is blameworthy. Pride is blameworthy and self-respect is praiseworthy.
Al-Furqan (the ability to distinguish) honors the one with this knowledge. It is a light that Allah casts into the heart, by which the Truth is distinguished from falsehood and the reality of matters is assessed, their good and their evil, their benefit and their harm. Whoever lacks the ability to distinguish will fall into the idolatry of the devils. Allah is the One in Whom to seek refuge, and upon Him we rely.
1 For more on mindfulness from an Islamic perspective, see Justin Parrott’s “How to be a Mindful Muslim: An Exercise in Islamic Meditation.” Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. November 21, 2017. yaqeeninstitute.org/en/justin-parrott/how-to-be-a-mindful-muslim-an-exercise-in-islamic-meditation/
2 Ibn al-Jawzī. Talbīs Iblīs (Bayrūt: Dār al-Fikr lil-Ṭibā’ah wal-Nashr, 2001), 36.
3 Al-Bukhārī, Kitāb al-Adab al-Mufrad (al-Rīyāḍ: Maktabat al-Ma’ārif lil-Nashr wal-Tawzī’, 1998), 1:377 #716; declared authentic (ṣaḥīḥ) by Al-Albānī in the comments.
4 Sūrat Yūsuf 12:53.
5 Ibn Qudāmah al-Maqdisī. Mukhtaṣar Minhāj al-Qāṣidīn (Dimashq: Maktabat Dār al-Bayān, 1978), 178.
6 Sūrat al-’Ankabūt 29:38.
7 Al-Tirmidhī. Sunan al-Tirmidhī (Bayrūt: Dār al-Ġarb al-Islāmī, 1998) 3:217 #1621; declared authentic (ṣaḥiḥ) according to Al-Tirmidhī in the comments.
8 Ibn Mufliḥ al-Maqdisī. Al-Ādāb al-Sharʻīyah wa Minaḥ Al-Mar’īyah (al-Riyāḍ: Dār ’Ālam al-Kutub, n.d), 3:131.
10 Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzīyah. Al-Rūḥ fī al-Kalām ‘alá Arwāḥ al-Amwāt wal-Aḥyā’ (Bayrūt: Dār al-Kutub al-’Ilmīyah, 1975), 228.
11 Ibid., 228.
12 Al-Baydạ̄wī. Tuḥfat al-Abrār Sharḥ Maṣābīḥ al-Sunnah (al-Kuwayt: Wizārat al-Awqāf wa-al-Shuʼūn al-Islāmīyah, 2012) 2:48.
13 Ibn Ḥanbal. Musnad al-Imām Aḥmad Ibn Ḥanbal (Bayrūt: Mu’assasat al-Risālah, 2001), 36:445 #22130; declared authentic due to external evidence (ṣaḥīḥ li ghayrihi) by Al-Arnāʼūṭ in the comments.
14 Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:165.
15 Sūrat Ālī ‘Imrān, 3:14.
16 Sūrat al-Munāfiqūn 63:9.
17 Al-Bukhārī, Kitāb al-Adab al-Mufrad, 1:744 #1322; declared authentic (ṣaḥīḥ) by Al-Albānī in the comments.
18 Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzīyah. Miftāḥ Dār al-Sa'ādah (Jeddah: Dār ‘Ālim Fawā’id), 1:126.
19 Sūrat Ālī ‘Imrān 3:31.
20 Sūrat al-Anfāl, 8:28.
21 Cassidy, J., & Berlin, L. J. (1994). The insecure/ambivalent pattern of attachment: Theory and research. Child Development, 65(4), 971-91.
22 Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzīyah, Miftāḥ Dār al-Sa'ādah, 125.
23 Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:256.
24 Sūrat al-Furqān 25:58.
25 Sūrat al-Anbiyā’ 21:90.
26 Ibn Mājah. Sunan Ibn Mājah. (Bayrūt: Dār Iḥyā’ al-Turāth al-’Arabī, 1975), 2:1406 #4204; declared fair (ḥasan) according to Al-Albānī in the comments.
27 Sūrat al-Mā’ūn 107:4-6.
28 Al-Bayhaqī. Shu’ab al-Īmān (al-Riyāḍ: Maktabat al-Rushd lil-Nashr wal-Tawzī’, 2003), 9:220 #6567.
29 Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzīyah, Al-Rūḥ, 232.
30 Ibid., 232-233.
31 Sūrat al-Ḍuḥá 93:11.
32 Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, Musnad al-Imām Aḥmad Ibn Ḥanbal (Bayrūt: Mu’assasat al-Risālah, 1993), 30:392 #18450; declared authentic (ṣaḥīḥ) by Al-Albānī in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Targhīb wal-Tarhīb (Riyāḍ: Maktabat al-Maʻārif, 2000), 1:573 #976.
33 Muslim. Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim ([Bayrūt]: Dār Iḥyāʼ al-Kutub al-ʻArabīyah, 1955), 4:2198 #2865.
34 Al-Bukhārī. Kitāb al-Adab al-Mufrad, 1:737 #1308; declared authentic (ṣaḥīḥ) by Al-Albānī in the comments.
35 Sūrat Yūnus 10:58.
36 Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:204.
37 Sūrat al-Muṭaffifīn 83:26.
38 Al-Tirmidhī, Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 6:56 #3675; declared authentic (ṣaḥiḥ) according to Al-Tirmidhī in the comments.
39 Al-Bukhārī. Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (Bayrūt: Dār Ṭawq al-Najjāh, 2002), 1:103 #481.
40 Ibn Taymīyah. Amrāḍ al-Qulūb wa Shifāʼuhā (al-Qāhirah: al-Maṭba’ah al-Salafīyah wa Maktabatuhā, 1966), 14.
41 Al-Dīnawarī. Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir al-’Ilm (Bayrūt: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 1998), 3:51 #659.
42 Al-Bayhaqī, Shu’ab al-Īmān, 9:27 #6210.
43 Al-Ghazzālī. Iḥyā’ ‘Ulūm al-Dīn (Bayrūt: Dār al-Maʻrifah, 1980), 3:199.
44 Sūrat Ālī ‘Imrān 3:110.
45 Sūrat al-Furqān 25:74.
46 Sūrat al-Sajdah 32:34.
47 Al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 9:63 #7148.
48 Abū Dāwūd. Sunan Abī Dāwūd (Ṣaydā, Lubnān: al-Maktabah al-Aṣrīyah, 1980), 3:298 #3571; declared authentic (ṣaḥīḥ) by Al-Albānī in the comments.
49 Ibn Abī Ḥātim. Ādāb al-Shāfi’ī wa Manāqibuh (Bayrūt: Dār al-Kutub al-ʻIlmīyah, 2002), 1:247.
50 Al-Tirmidhī, Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 4:151 #2344; declared authentic (ṣaḥīḥ) by al-Tirmidhī in his commentary.
51 Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 4:2088 #2722.
52 Al-Ghazzālī, Iḥyā’ ‘Ulūm al-Dīn, 2:62.
53 Ibn Ḥanbal, Musnad al-Imām Aḥmad Ibn Ḥanbal, 17:213 #11133; declared very good (jayyid) by Al-Arnāʼūṭ in the comments.
54 Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 1:74 #55.
55 Ibn Daqīq. Sharḥ al-Arbaʻīn al-Nawawīyah (Bayrūt: Muʼassasat al-Rayyān, 2003), 1:52.
56 Ibn Rajab. Farq bayna al-Naṣīḥah wal-Ta’yīr (‘Ammān: Dār ’Ammār, 1988), 22.
57 Ibid., 23-24.
58 Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 2:694 #1000.
59 Sūrat al-Furqān 25:74.
60 Al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 8:41 #6179.
61 Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 1:93 #91.
62 Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzīyah, Al-Rūḥ, 236.
63 Al-Rāzī. Al-Tafsīr al-Kabīr (Bayrūt: Dār Iḥyāʼ al-Turāth al-ʻArabī, 1999), 30:549, verse 63:8.
64 Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzīyah, Al-Rūḥ, 260.
65 Ibid., 266.