Recognizing Your Enemies: Nafs & Shaytan

[These are rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Omar Mukhtar on Ramadan 22, in Post Asr Majlis, South Africa i’tikaf, 2015]


[From 25 attributes of a true Mu’min]

15 and 16: To recognize your enemies

One enemy is shaytan and the other is nafs. Allah swt says that shaytan is an open enemy. A lot of us underestimate shaytan. We think if we go to masjid shaytan will be defeated. Actually the more good you become the more shaytan will attack. An alim is attacked with his ilm. He is an open enemy as told by Allah swt. He has a lot of powers. He is invisible, awake 24 hours, and a lot of experience of making people go astray, it doesn’t get hungry.

The objective of shaytan is very clear. He wants to get rid of your good deeds and wants you to get in sin so deep so you will be his companion in Jahannum. He wants to pull you all the way to kufr. A person does not see the final destination, shaytan keeps giving step by step all the way to kufr.

However, on the other hand is nafs. That is something within us. It just wants you to fulfil desires, can be both halal or haram. Sometimes you can have a craving for something really badly, that is nafs. People overeat because of nafs. However, nafs only wants to enjoy. This is another important difference. Shaytan can only give you ideas, he cannot force you to commit a sin. But nafs has a desire, and it is a lot more difficult to kill a desire than to ignore the whisperings of shaytan.

Once a man missed tahajjud, he missed it once because he slept through it. He felt really bad and cried a lot. After some days, he was again very tired and was asleep during tahajjud time, but this time someone woke him up. It was shaytan! He woke the man up because due to his crying out of sorrow he had gotten reward for many, many tahajjuds.

Shaytan puts thoughts of sins, he gives options like do this, if not then do that. Nafs just wants a particular sin. It will keep telling the same thing again and again. For example, it will keep pushing you to bribery till you do it. It has a lot of istaqamat.

What’s the cure? For shaytan it is dhikr and wuquf e qalbi. If you are doing dhikr all the time, you can keep saying no to shaytan. Your heart will act like a guard. To cure nafs is more difficult. One cure of nafs is to fear Allah swt a lot. Allah swt says those people who fear to stand in front of Allah swt they are the ones who can say no to their nafs. [79:40]

If you cannot lower your gaze, you should imagine the punishment of that on the day of Judgement. Sometimes you have to overcome your heart by fear of punishment. Imagine extreme amount of fear that Allah swt has mentioned about yaum al-qiyamah, punishment of the grave. On the Day of Judgement, a person will be presented in front of Allah swt, Allah swt will say you did this sin you did this sin, he will say yes, but it was shaytan who put the thoughts in my mind. Shaytan will say I only gave him the idea, he did it himself! So cunning shaytan is.

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