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Satan and his contemporary followers

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in The Broken Jug

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Fethullah Gülen: Satan and his contemporary followers

Question: The Qur’an relates Satan’s rebellion against God as follows: “Of Your servants I will surely take a share to be assigned to me (by their following me). I will surely lead them astray and surely engross them in vain desires (superstitious fancies and false conceptions); and I will surely command them, and they will surely slit the ears of cattle (to mark them out as meant for their idols and as forbidden to themselves to eat, thus making a lawful thing unlawful); and also, I will surely command them, and they will surely alter God’s creation” (an-Nisa 4:118–120). Will you elucidate the messages given in these verses?

Answer: Different verses of the Qur’an refer to Satan’s rebellion against the Divine Essence. For example, chapter al-Hijr relates his insolent expressions: “My Lord! Because You have allowed me to rebel and go astray, I will indeed deck out to be appealing to them on the earth (the worldly, material dimension of human existence and the path of error), and I will surely cause them all to rebel and go astray, except Your servants from among them, endowed with sincerity in faith and Your worship.” Likewise, the following meaning is related in another one: “Then (I swear) by Your Glory, I will certainly cause them all to rebel and go astray, except Your servants among them, endowed with sincerity in faith and worshipping You” (Sad 38:82–83). Chapter al-A’raf similarly relates his delirious expressions full of grudge and hatred: “Now that You have allowed me to rebel and go astray, I will surely lie in wait for them on Your Straight Path (to lure them from it). Then I will come upon them from before them and from behind them, and from their right and from their left. And You will not find most of them thankful” (al-A’raf 7:16–17).

In all these expressions, Satan’s anger and fury are reflected. He is a captive of jealousy and envy and has been seized by the claws of grudge and hatred. These destructive feelings completely blind him and consequently these delirious words come out of his mouth. Thus, even though he knew the truth, his negative feelings took prominence and determined his attitude and speech.

The wild one behind wild mobs

Actually, Satan’s insolent words against God indicate that he also had a serious problem in earlier periods. This problem may have been his expectation of a certain title, position or appreciation. Some seekers of truth pointed out that there is no place on earth on which he did not prostrate. It can be understood from the oaths he took in the name of God that he knows God as well. However, since his knowledge was devoid of true deeds, it was of no benefit to him. Consequently, he was overcome by jealousy; he could not tolerate Prophet Adam, peace be upon him, and was vanquished by his envy.

When Satan saw the future accomplishments of human beings and the valuable achievements they would make on the path of God, he fumed deliriously and became one of their most relentless enemies. In a way, he is an actual influence behind all wild crowds. As human beings are created according to the best pattern of creation—with the best form, appearance, meaning and content—they are not potentially fit for demagogy, dialectics, defamation, envy and the like with respect to their original nature. Therefore, even if those who engage in such demagogic behavior think the negative words they speak to be a product of their own mind, even if they think they are the realizer of such negative behaviors, they actually come about due to the urges of Satan.

The Qur’an relates the methods Satan will resort to in order to lead humanity astray from the Straight Path, due of his grudge and fury. Actually, through Divine statements such as: “This is my straight path, so follow it, and do not follow other paths, lest they scatter you from His Path. This He has enjoined upon you, that you keep from disobedience to Him...” (al-An’am 6:153), God orders believers not to stray from the Straight Path, for such people become slaves to their fancies and whimsical desires. Such people adore this or that “-ism” and think that deceptive illuminations will bring happiness and welfare to humanity. Consequently, they waste a lifetime in pursuit of such “-ism”s. However the way that best fits human nature and human needs, which will bring peace to society, is the way shown by the Creator with absolute knowledge and infinite mercy. Satan knows this well and is a professional corrupter. By using different instruments according to the conditions of the era and the characters of the people, he seeks to seduce; he has always tried and still tries to lead people astray.

The relentless grudge

As an expression of how he will realize his aims, Satan firstly says, “Of Your servants I will surely take a share to be assigned to me (by their following me)...” (an-Nisa 4:118). The “lam” at the beginning of the original verse and the double “nun” indicate Satan’s resolution on this issue. Namely, Satan said that he would “surely” make some of God’s servants slaves to himself, take them under control and always work his influence on them. Even today it is possible to see various examples of this.

Afterwards, Satan continues with the adamant expression: “I will surely lead them astray...” This can be paraphrased as: I will not leave them alone until I upset their balance in feeling and thought. I will lead them astray by hook or by crook. Some of them I will drift to dissoluteness, make fools for fame, dizzy with ambition and burn with greed... some of them I will drift to the swamp of envy and some I will transform into despots who let no others survive, committing one act of oppression after another. Each of these is a different deviation that guides a person to perdition. In this respect, to protect us from deviation or going astray from the right path, while reciting the Fatiha during our Daily Prayers, recite forty times a day: “Guide us to the Straight Path, the path of those whom You have favored, not of those who have incurred (Your) wrath (punishment and condemnation), nor of those who are astray” (al-Fatiha 1:6–7).

Satan and an eviscerated kind of religion

Out of grudge and hatred, Satan made another threat toward human beings: “engross them in vain desires” (an-Nisa 4:119). The original word “umniya” refers to superstitious fancies and false conceptions that are impossible to realize. The people of the Age of Ignorance would deem things to be auspicious or inauspicious on account of certain associations they conceived, which is an example of such inventions. Likewise, the idols they worshipped were also products of their own invention. They even knowingly filled the interior of the Ka’ba with idols and placed different idols they made in different towns. Then they would offer sacrifices to and worship those idols. Today, the fact that certain people expect achieve something with their eviscerated understanding of religion, which justifies embezzlement, misappropriation, lies and libel, is similarly the product of another vain desire.

The verse continues: “and I will surely command them, and they will surely slit the ears of cattle (to mark them out as meant for their idols and as forbidden to themselves to eat, thus making a lawful thing unlawful)...” Indeed, some people of the Age of Ignorance stamped the ears of some animals and deemed them forbidden to eat.

The grossest alteration: Deviation from the purpose of creation

Satan continued his insolence by saying, “and also, I will surely command them and they will surely alter God’s creation.” There is a certain primordial nature for all beings God created. Altering these is another trick of Satan. The human is endowed with the best design of creation. When people act within the framework of the principles decreed by God Almighty, they act in conformity with their primordial nature; when they seek other ways and methods on the other hand, they indulge in a disorderly life and thus go astray from the path of their primordial nature.

Besides this, when viewing the verse from a modern perspective, it can be inferred that there is also an allusion to cosmetic surgery operations. Individuals’ not liking the form of certain body parts and daring to alter them according to their vanity is another form of this deviation that takes place with urges from Satan. However, if there is a birth defect caused by malpractice, or some deformation that occurred as a result of an accident or misfortune, then treating this is not regarded as a sinful alteration of primordial nature. On the contrary, this is accepted as a return to the primordial nature God created.

As a matter of fact, the issue of altering God’s creation is a general expression with a very wide field of meaning. God Almighty stated what He created humanity for: “I have not created the jinn and humankind but to (know and) worship Me (exclusively)” (adh-Dhariyat 51:56). Then the true requisite of human nature is servitude to God. God only created humankind to serve Him, not for anything else, which means those who do not serve God are actually altering God’s creation. In the same way for instance, reason, logic and judgment have certain purposes such as being used to reflect on one’s inner world and outer world or for scrutinizing phenomena. When people meticulously study natural phenomena, derive certain meanings from them and reconcile these meanings with religious phenomena, then after correctly perceiving the mysteries of Divine Lordship in them, if they move from there toward the oneness of the Divinity and exclusive worship of Him, it means they are using their reason and logic in conformity with their purpose of creation. Up until the fifth century of Islam, during the days of the Islamic renaissance, Muslim scientists made very important discoveries, which benefited humanity. Many researchers from the West also did the same thing by successfully utilizing their God-given logic and judgment.

The same approach is also true for other things we are gifted with. For example, the higher purpose for the creation of the eye is to look at what it should look at and try to see correctly what it looks at; try to understand what lies behind it and extract meaning from this. As Recaizade Ekrem stated, the universe is virtually a complete and magnificent book. Whatever letter you study, you see that its meaning points to God. Bediüzzaman draws attention to the words of wisdom that were voiced centuries before him:

“Deliberate over the lines of the universe deeply, for they are messages revealed to you from the highest abode.”[1] Hence, what really matters is being able to witness the Divine power, will, knowledge and decree in everything, including the leaf of a tree or a slender sapling. In particular, the human form is such a magnificent creation that merits voluminous studies from head to toe with all of its faculties. Thus, endeavoring to read this “book” correctly means using one’s eyes, logic and reasoning in accordance with what they were created for.

Similarly, listening to bad mouthing, slanders, lies and frivolity indicates people not using their ears for their true purpose. Since this is regarded as a form of wastefulness, the Bestower of endowments will surely bring people to account for this on the Day of Judgment. Likewise, God endowed humanity with a wonderful tongue, a much higher blessing than those granted to other living beings. Thanks to it, people are able to express themselves in very fine detail. Such a great blessing surely has a creative purpose: not making a fool of itself in frivolity, not indulging in amusements, not lying, but on the contrary voicing what is correct, telling the truths to be told and being an interpreter of Divine beauties is its purpose of creation.

However, we can understand from the insolent remarks given above, Satan tries to prevent people from using their endowments for the sake of goodness and wisdom. For example, he compels a man to use his reason for deceiving others and, with a Machiavellian approach, shows him as fair every means toward his target. Moreover, he will even entice people who attend the mosque by presenting as good an indulgent approach that sees everything as permissible. He will urge them to enjoy worldly blessings without caring about whether or not they are lawful, and thus attract away from God’s path even those on their way to the mosque. When people do not use their human endowments according to their created purpose, they will actually alter their primordial human nature by following Satan’s urges and unwittingly come under his authority. For this reason, the Qur’an sternly warns in a way that makes hearts miss a beat: “Whoever takes Satan for a confidant and guardian instead of God has indeed suffered a manifest loss” (an-Nisa 4:119).

In this respect, one should be aware that Satan’s tricks could be behind all acts other than those that are Divinely commanded, and should constantly seek refuge in God against him. In addition to seeking refuge in and help from God Almighty sincerely, one must at the same time constantly engage in an attitude and behaviors to create distance from Satan. For example, the noble Prophet stated that when a believer prostrates to God, Satan will scream and run.[2] Therefore, a journeyer to the truth who wishes to be safe from all Satan’s guiles and tricks must spend his life on the path of servanthood to God, endeavor with the aim of glorifying the name of God on His path and constantly negate oneself and always remain mindful of Him. These behaviors erect protective walls against Satan’s relentless assaults. As for those with dead hearts who take into account their carnal self, personal fancies and individual benefits while walking on the path of God, they both break down the walls around their heart and—God forbid—let Satan gain possession of their hearts.

[1] Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Madariju’s-Salikin, 3/356.
[2] Sahih Muslim, Iman, 133.

This article has originally been published in Turkish on 22/02/2016.