THE EXAMPLE OF The heart is like that of a fortress, and Satan is an enemy who seeks to storm this fortress, to take control of it, and to rule over it. Moreover, any fortress cannot be said to be secure from the enemy except when its entrances are guarded, and the gaps in its walls are vigilantly watched over. Therefore, he who is not wholly familiar with his fortress walls cannot guard them.
Guarding the heart against the evil promptings of Satan is a prescribed duty and an individual obligation upon every Muslim who is mukallaf (a legally competent person from the standpoint of Sharîʿah).
There is no doubt that the best defense against Satan’s raids on one’s heart may be achieved by recognizing the heart’s entrances that Satan takes to deliver his venom. Knowing these ways and entrances is the first line of defense against Satan.
Therefore, this knowledge becomes an obligation – as it is stated in the well-known fiqh principle that: That which is indispensably connected with fulfilling an obligation is itself obligatory.
The entrances of Satan are in effect the qualities or traits of man, and they are many. But we shall in the following refer to the principal ones:
Anger and Lust
Anger, as it is rightly said, is the ogre of the intellect. When the levies of the intellect weaken, Satan’s forces assail, and whenever man becomes angry, Satan plays with him just as a lad does with a ball.
It is related that a saint once asked Satan: “Show me how you overcome a person.” He replied: “I take him while in anger or desire.” In another story, it was said that Satan appeared to an ascetic who asked him: “What qualities of the sons of Adam are most helpful to you?” Satan answered: “Quickness of temper; for if a man is quick-tempered, I can turn him upside down just as lads toss a ball.
Envy and Greed
Also among the great breaches through which Satan’s mischief sneaks into peoples’ heart is envy (ḥasad) and greed (ḥirṣ). For whenever a man is greedy for anything, his greed renders him blind and deaf, as the Prophet ﷺ said: “Your love for something blinds and deafens.” (Abû Dâwûd, through a weak chain, but the ḥadîth meaning is correct). The light of insight detects Satan’s entrances, but if envy and greed becloud it, man’s ability to distinguish greed from evil is compromised and, as a result, Satan’s hand is strengthened. He adorns, in the eye of the greedy one, everything that leads to the realization of this desire, even if it be condemned and immoral.
It is related that when Prophet Nûḥ (Noah) entered the ark he took into it a pair of every sort as instructed by Allah to do so. One day, Nûḥ saw in the ark an old man whom he did not recognize. Nûḥ said to the man: “Who are you and what are you doing here?” The old man said: “I am Satan and I came to dominate the hearts of your followers, so that their hearts would be with me and their bodies with you.” So Nûḥ said to him: “Get out from here, O enemy of Allah.” Satan answered: “You know Prophet Nûḥ, I destroy mankind by means of five things, and I shall disclose to you three of them, but I shall withhold from you the other two.” Allah then revealed to Nûḥ: “You do not need the three; but ask him about the two.” So Nûḥ said to Satan: “Never mind the three and tell me about the two?” He replied: “They are the two which never fail me, and I use them to destroy man; they are: greed and envy. For through envy I incurred divine curse; and for greed, the whole Paradise was permitted to Adam save one tree, but I made the best out of him through greed.”
Satiety of Food
Another great way Satan takes to men’s hearts is satiety of food, even when it is lawful and pure. Satiety strengthens the lusts, and lusts are weapons that come in handy for Satan. It is related that Satan appeared to Prophet Yaḥya ibn Zakariyah who saw hooks of every sort attached to him (i.e. Satan). Therefore, Yaḥya asked: “What are these hooks on you?” Satan replied: “These are the lusts by which I hunt the son of Adam.” Yahya asked: “Do I have any of them?” Satan answered: “Perhaps you become surfeited with food and so I make Salah and thikr (remembrance of Allah) a burden to you.” Yahya asked: “What else?” Satan answered: “Nothing other than what I told you.” So Yahya said: “By Allah! I shall never eat my fill again.” Satan replied: “And, by Allah, I shall never again give a sincere advice to a Muslim.”
It is said that there are six blameworthy qualities in overeating: First, it banishes fear of Allah from one’s heart. Second, it rids one’s heart of compassion towards humankind, for he supposes that they are all satiated. Third, it makes ʿibâda (worship) a burden. Fourth, if he hears wise speech, he finds nothing graceful in it. Fifth, if he speaks in admonition, it makes no impression on his listeners. Sixth, it stirs up disease within him.
Love of Adornment
Also of Satan’s great entrances to believers’ hearts is the love of adornment in furnishings, attire, and residence. When Satan sees this quality dominant in one’s heart, he sets up his camp in that heart and indwells it, and keeping on bidding him to make the house more adorable, to adorn its ceiling and walls, and to extend its walls. He invites him also to adorn his apparel and his mounts, and seeks to enslave him therein his whole life long. In addition, when man succumbs to Satan in this, the latter will have no need to busy himself with him again; for, like a vicious circle, one phase of this leads on to another until he meets his death embroiled in the wicked snares of Satan.
Also of Satan’s great doors is haste and lack of resoluteness in affairs. Allah says: Man is created of haste. [Sûrat Al-Anbiyâ, 21:38] and again: And man was ever hasty. [Sûrat Al-Isrâ’, 17:12] And He says to his Messenger: Hasten not the Quran until the inspiration is completed for you. [Sûrat Ṭâ Ḥâ, 20:113] Also the Prophet ﷺ said: Haste is from Satan and calculated action is from Allah. (Tirmithi) This is because actions should follow insightful understanding (tabṣira) and experiential knowledge. Insightful understanding requires reflection (ta’ammul), and unhurried action (tamahhul), but haste precludes this. For when man seeks to make haste, Satan readily dispenses to him his own evil from whence the man knows not.