Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad
Surat Al-Fatiha Series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV| Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX | Part XXI | Part XXII
We praise Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) and we ask that the peace and blessings of Allah be upon the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) and those who follow his way until the end of time.
Insha’ Allah (God willing), today we’ll continue with our tafsir (exegesis) of Surah Al Fatiha and its effects on the life of a Muslim (Qur’an 1). In Surah Al-Anfal, the eighth chapter of the Qur’an, Allah (swt) tells the Prophet ﷺ and the believers to “gather all you can of strength and be prepared,” (8:60). In Surah An-Nisaa Allah (swt) says, “O you who have believed, take your precaution…” (Qur’an 4:71).
Today we want to talk about how Surah Fatiha prepares us for our greatest enemy. If you want to know how great this enemy is, go to the Qur’an. In about 3 or 4 verses in the Qur’an, Allah (swt) discusses relationships. Half of the verses discuss relationships with human beings. The other half deals with our relationship with this enemy.
When Allah (swt) talks about dealing with people in the Qur’an, it’s really interesting. For example in the seventh chapter of the Qur’an verse 199, Allah (swt) says, “Hold to forgiveness and order to what’s right and turn away from the ignorant people,” (Qur’an 7:199). Sometimes stupid people bother you. Those of you who have little brothers and sisters may know this. Sometimes people bother us because of their ignorance, so Allah (swt) tells us how to deal with these people: turn away from them. In Surah Furqan Allah tells us, “And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace,” (Qur’an 25:63). When they met the ignorant, foolish or insulting people they say salaam (peace).
Also if you go to Surah Fussilat, Allah (swt) says, “Good and evil are not the same. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend,” (Qur’an 41:34). The word idfa’ is interesting. If you go to a grocery store in an Arab country, you’ll see the word idfa’ on the door: push. Allah (swt) is telling us to give back, push back, with something better. This is our means of da’wah (calling to Islam). One of the means to repel is to give back better, because usually when someone bothers you, what’s the logical conclusion? It’s retaliation. So Islam came to change the people.
I remember when I first became Muslim in Oklahoma I was in the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA), and there was this guy named Dennis. We used to call him Dennis the Menace, because he was a menace. I went to middle school and high school with Dennis. One day Dennis was walking across the campus and he saw me. He hadn’t seen me in about eight years. He came up to me and said, “Will, is that you?”
I said, “Yeah, it’s me. How are you doing, Dennis?”
Dennis said, “Man, what are you doing with all these Arabs?”
I told him I became Muslim and he was in a state of shock. For him, Will and Islam was just not a realistic formula. He asked me some questions about Islam, “How did you become Muslim? Do you hate Jesus?” Then while we were talking he said something really stupid and ignorant. He said, “You know, I had a chance to go to a Muslim country when I was in the service. But I didn’t go to that Muslim country because they don’t have any alcohol. But there was another Muslim country where they do have alcohol, so I chose to go to that one. And while I was there I used to get bent every night.”
I thought to myself, “Man, this guy is like a savage. This guy will never become Muslim.” We were nice to him though, and we maintained our composure.
About three months later Dennis called me. He was doing his degree in communications and needed to do a radio show on Islam, so he asked to interview me. He interviewed me over the phone and I answered some questions about Islam. Then, as is the sunnah (tradition) of all college students, I got a job in telemarketing. Every college student has to work as a telemarketer at least once. I was doing 17 hours that semester and the MSA used to have a Wednesday night program in the masjid. The brothers contacted me and said, “Some guy named Dennis came through looking for you.” I thought, “Ok, that’s interesting.” The next week they called me and said the same thing. And every week after that they would call me and tell me a guy named Dennis came looking for me. Subhan Allah (glory be to God), eventually Dennis became Muslim. So, from my experience with him I learned the importance of “push back with that which is better.”
So, when dealing with people Allah (swt) tells us to give back that which is better, or to be patient, or to turn away from them all together. Usually, the verses right after these verses that talk about human relationships talk about how to deal with this enemy. This enemy is so great that Allah (swt) doesn’t let you show him any kindness. Allah (swt) doesn’t let you turn away from him. Allah (swt) doesn’t let you do anything with him to bring about any type of warmth in the relationship. In every verse in the Qur’an where Allah (swt) talks about this enemy in this way He gives you only one option: seek refuge with Allah against this enemy. Allah (swt) didn’t tell you to attack him, or try to fight him. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “So when you recite the Qur’an, [first] seek refuge in Allah from Shaytan (Satan), the expelled [from His mercy],” (Qur’an 16:98).
Shaytan is the enemy that we’re talking about. Nowhere in the Qur’an will you find Allah (swt) telling us to take anyone as an enemy except Shaytan. Even in regards to those people who fought the Prophet ﷺ, like Abu Sufyan and his wife Hind, Allah (swt) said, “But if they repent, establish prayer, and give zakah (charity), then they are your brothers in religion…” (Qur’an 9:11). No such leeway is given to the devil, Shaytan.
Tonight we are going to talk about how Surat Al Fatiha will help us repel the attacks of Shaytan.
Maybe someone thinks, “I don’t have any problems with Shaytan.” If you think that, then you’ve got a problem. The one who thinks he doesn’t have a problem with Shaytan is the one Shaytan has the biggest control over.
This example is important for the brothers and sisters to see how married couples should act. As related by Imam Bukhari, one time the Prophet ﷺ was walking with his wife Aisha radi allahu `anha (may God have mercy on her) at night. She became jealous about something, and the Prophet ﷺ told her, “Your shaytan overtook you, Aisha.” She asked him, “Ya Rasool Allah (O Messenger of Allah), does everyone have a shaytan?” He said, “Yes.” She asked, “Even you?”
Subhan Allah, this is the Prophet ﷺ she’s asking. Sometimes when brothers are married to sisters and the sisters ask questions, brothers get upset. This happens a lot. When I was Imam, people used to call me up and say, “I want to divorce my wife.” When I asked why they would say, “She asked me a question.” What is she supposed to do? Sometimes a sister will ask a brother a question and he’ll say, “You don’t respect me! You don’t give me my haq (rights), you’re supposed to make sujood (prostration) to me…” and so on. As Imam Siraj says, whipping the woman with the shari`ah (law). Yet Aisha (ra) felt comfortable asking the Prophet ﷺ a question.
She asked him, “Even you have a devil?” This is the Prophet ﷺ. He could have easily gotten offended, but of course he didn’t because he was the Prophet ﷺ. He said, “Yes, even me. Except, Allah (swt) helped me to make my Shaytan Muslim.” This hadith (record of the words of the Prophet ﷺ) is sahih in Al-Bukhari.
One lesson we take from this is that everyone has a devil. Everyone.
In another hadith related by Al-Bukhari, the Prophet ﷺ was in ‘itikaf (seclusion in the masjid). Even though he was in ‘itikaf the Prophet ﷺ was so good to his wife Safiyyah (ra) that he walked her out to the front door. As they were walking some people saw them from far away. The Prophet ﷺ said to them, “Hey, this is my wife, Saffiyah.”
Nowadays on campus we see so many guys and girls walking together. Are we not shyer than the Prophet ﷺ? Do we feel that we are better than the Prophet ﷺ? The Prophet ﷺ was shyer than us, and still Allah (swt) told him that He will forgive all his sins. Shouldn’t we be even shyer than the Prophet ﷺ?
So the Prophet ﷺ told the people that he was walking with his wife Safiyyah and they said, “Subhan Allah, Messenger of Allah! How could we ever think you were walking with a girl?”
The Prophet ﷺ answered, “I was worried because shaytan travels through the sons of Adam like blood in their veins.”
Some ahadith say that every time one of the children of Adam has a child, Shaytan also has a child.
It’s mentioned in the book “My Dear Beloved Son” by Imam Al-Ghazaali that Hatim al-Asamm was the student of Sheikh Shaqeeq al-Balkhi for about 33 years. Shaqeeq said to Hatim, “You’ve studied with me for over thirty years. What have you learned from me?”
Hatim said, “Alhamdullilah (praise be to God), I’ve learned eight things.”
His teacher said, “La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah (there’s no power or strength except from Allah), you’ve only learned eight things in 30 years?”
Hatim said yes and began to list the eight things. One of the things he said was:
I learned that Allah (swt) tells us in the Qur’an to do something and I see everyone doing the opposite. Allah says that Shaytan is an enemy, so take him as an enemy (Qur’an 35:6). I see all the people fighting each other, and realize that these people are doing the opposite of what Allah ordered them to do. They are taking everything else but Shaytan as their enemy.
I’m sure there are some brothers and sisters tonight in this room who have problems with each other. Ask yourselves, when was the last time you woke up in the morning and said, “Today I will take Shaytan as an enemy.” Probably the answer is never. This means you’re sleeping. As Denzel said, “You’ve been bamboozled.” You’ve been tricked.
Your enemy has a strategy, that’s why Allah (swt) didn’t allow you to make any type of concessions to him. When Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal was dying his sons were telling him to say the shahada (declaration of faith), but he was saying, “No, no, no!”
Afterwards he regained his consciousness and they asked him, “Why were you saying no?”
He said, “When you were telling me to say the shahada, Shaytan came to me and said, ‘You made it. You beat me, you won. You’re successful, you’re an Imam of the Sunnah, you wrote the musnad, you’re the big Shiekh. Don’t worry.’ I was saying, ‘No! Not until I die.’”
Shaytan is your enemy and everyone has a Shaytan. Before computer science was even invented, this shaytan was programmed to destroy you. He knows your weaknesses, he knows where you’re soft, he knows how to make us fall in traps and he knows the right time and the right place to do it. He has hikmah (wisdom) and evil.
When Ibn Qayyim Al Jawziyyah talks about Shaytan you feel as if Shaytan is a person. He says Shaytan is saabir (patient) and persistent. He will wait for you to do something good and then later on he’ll do something to make you lose it. His objective and goals are clear. He knows how to attack.
Tonight, insha’ Allah, we’ll talk about three things:
- What is Shaytan? Who is Shaytan?
- The three doors that Shaytan uses to get to you. Everything has an entrance. Shaytan has three means of getting to the servants of Allah (swt).
- The Seven Habits of Highly Destroyed People. Shaytan has a seven-system plan of destroying you. Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyyah mentions that once Shaytan gets through one of those three doors, he starts to operate according to a very strategic system in order to destroy you. We’ll talk specifically about what Shaytan wants.
What is Shaytan? Who is Shaytan?
Shatana means to be far away from something. This is the root word for Shaytan. Shaytan is far away from khayr (goodness) and far away from the mercy of Allah (swt).
People have a lot of theories about who Shaytan is. Probably the most common theory is that he’s a fallen angel. This is due to Christian thought and the fact that many Muslims are weak in the Arabic language. This is not the correct assessment of who Shaytan is.
Allah (swt) mentions in Surah Baqarah, “And remember when We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate before Adam’; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers,” (Qur’an 2:34).
When many people read this verse, they believe that Ibless (Shaytan) was an angel, because Allah (swt) said He ordered all the angels to prostrate to Adam and all of them did so except Iblees. People think that since Iblees was with the angels and also ordered to prostrate, he must have been an angel. The word illa (except) is called harf al istithnaa (preposition denoting exception). For example, we say la illaha illa Allah (There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah). Now let me show you this in English. If I said, “All of the sisters came into the room and sat down, except Suhaib stood up.” Am I a sister? No, I’m a brother. We can say, “All of the students came into the room and began to study, except the teacher who was writing on the board.” Is the teacher a student? No.
So when Allah (swt) says all the angels prostrated except Iblees it doesn’t mean Iblees was an angel. It means he was there. Ibn Qayyim Al Jawziyyah said that Iblees had the physical form of an angel, but he was a jinn. Allah knows best. This isn’t an opinion that’s based on a proof in the Qur’an.
Another proof that Iblees wasn’t an angel is in the eighteenth chapter of the Qur’an. Allah (swt) says, “And remember when We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate to Adam,’ and they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was of the jinn…” (Qur’an 18:50). There is a weak narration from Ibn Abbas that says that Iblees was an angel who became a jinn, but it’s not widely adopted.
Now we want to talk about the history of Iblees, his means of attack, and some of remedies in Surah al Fatiha. After that we’ll talk about the three doors and the seven habits.
History of Iblees
In order to understand the history of Iblees we have to go to the story of Adam `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him) which we mentioned earlier. In Sahih Bukhari as well as Ibn Kathir’s Al Bidayah Wa Al Nihayah (The Beginning and the End) we read the story of how Adam (as) was created.
Allah (swt) took different colors of clay from all over the world and made Adam (as). Adam was shaped as a clay figure with nothing inside him. Iblees used to see Adam and say, “You’ve been created for something great.” Iblees even used to go inside Adam through his mouth and look at him from the inside. This tells you that Iblees knows and understands you. As Iblees was doing that he was becoming jealous. He was wondering, “Why? What is this thing for? I don’t understand why this thing has been created, but it must be for something noble.” Why did he say this? Because Allah (swt) made Adam (as) with His own Hands in a very beautiful way. This is why Muslims don’t put holes in their faces, eyes and stomachs or get tattoos. We feel that Allah (swt) created us in an honorable way.
After Allah (swt) created Adam, He commanded the angels to make sujood (prostration) to him. Someone might ask if this sujood was ‘ibadah (worship). It was not. This was the sujood of ‘ihtiraam (respect). Hasan Al Basry said that when they prostrated to Adam (as) the obedience was to Allah (swt), and the respect was to Adam (as). We know that Allah (swt) ordered Iblees to prostrate along with the angels, but he refused and he was arrogant and he became from the kuffar (disbelievers).
Last time we didn’t have time to finish discussing all the aspects of purification of the soul, but one of the things we were going to talk about was al-hasad (envy). Hasad means more than envy. For example, if I see a brother who has a nice walkman, and I say to myself, “I wish Allah didn’t give him that walkman and He gave it to me.” That’s hasad. Envy means I wish I had it and he had it. But hasad means I wish I had it and he didn’t have it. The ‘ulema (scholars) said that the first sin that ever took place in the history of the world was the hasad that Iblees had for Adam.
If you go to the seventh chapter of the Qur’an, Allah (swt) starts to have a discussion with Iblees:
[ Allah ] said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?”
[Satan] said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.”
[ Allah ] said, “Descend from Paradise, for it is not for you to be arrogant therein. So get out; indeed, you are of the debased.”
Allah (swt) tells Iblees to get out because he was arrogant. We take another point about arrogance from here: when someone is arrogant it takes them away from Allah (swt). As soon as it was manifest from Iblees’s actions that he was arrogant, Allah (swt) told him to get out of Paradise. It’s the same with us. If we have arrogance in our hearts we are not going to be close to Allah (swt).
What happened next? What did Iblees do? No one thinks of this word in the context of Iblees. He made du`a’ (supplication to Allah). Iblees made du`a’! He supplicated to his Creator. Can you imagine? Iblees, the one who causes you to miss fajr (dawn prayer); Iblees, the one who causes you to look at nasty things on the internet; Iblees, the one who causes us to lose control with our wives sometimes; Iblees, this enemy, the antithesis of truth, is making du`a’.
He [Iblees] said, “My Lord, then reprieve me until the Day they are resurrected.” (Qur’an 15:36)
What is the main job of Iblees? It’s to invite people to do shirk (to worship something other than Allah). But what does he say here? Does he say, “My enemy, then reprieve me…”? No. He said, rab-by (my Lord). Subhan Allah, here is Iblees in the Qur’an admitting that Allah (swt) is the Lord of everything. That’s why in the du`a’ he said rab-by, like in Surah Fatiha we address Allah as rab-bil ‘aalameen (the Lord of the worlds). The number one job of Iblees is to take people away from the worship of Allah (swt), but right in the Qur’an he’s admitting that Allah (swt) is the true Lord.
Then Allah (swt) responds:
“[ Allah ] said, “Indeed, you are of those reprieved.” (Qur’an 7:15)
What’s the lesson here? How many of us are sinners? All of us are sinners.
Ibn Qayyim Al Jawziyyah mentions one of the goals of Shaytan. He says that before you commit a sin you have this intellectual struggle: to sin or not to sin, that is the question. Shaytan comes to you and says, “Don’t you believe Allah is ar-Rahman (the Most Merciful)? Allah is so merciful. It’s ok to sin. Don’t worry, be happy.”
So the person struggles, and he says, “Istaghfir Allah (God forgive me), I can’t believe I’m about to commit this sin, I’m a Muslim. How can I be sinning like this?”
And Iblees continues to say, “Don’t worry about it, aren’t you from ahl al-sunna wal-jamaa’a (the people of the Sunnah)?”
And the person says, “Yes, yes I am.”
And then Shaytan says, “Well, in Aqidah Tahawiyyah in the seventeenth rule it say that Allah’s Mercy is wide. Do you have a problem with your aqidah (Islamic belief) now?”
“Oh, no, I believe Allah is merciful!”
And then the person will go and commit the sin. Then after they are done they realize they made a mistake. Ibn Qayyim says that in this moment Iblees will come again, and he will say, “You are not good enough to come to Allah (swt). Allah is shadeed al-‘iqaab (the One who is strong to punish). He’s not going to forgive you, look what you did! How can you raise your hands? How can you go to the masjid? You’re a sinner.” Look how Iblees switched it.
So we can take a lesson here, that Allah (swt) even answered the du`a’ of Iblees. Is anyone here worse than Iblees? Shaytan said, “My Lord give me reprieve…” and Allah responded, “Indeed, you are of those reprieved.” Allah answered the du`a’ of Iblees. What about you and me? This is a really amazing point in the Qur’an. Sometimes we feel that we’ve sinned too much, or that Allah (swt) doesn’t hear our du`a’, or that our du`a’ is going nowhere. Here’s Iblees making du`a’ and Allah (swt) answers it immediately.
The Prophet ﷺ said that when you make du`a’ four things happen:
- The first is that your du`a’ is answered.
- The second is that, because Allah is al-‘Aleem and al-Hakeem (the All Knowing and the All Wise), He knows that what you’re asking for isn’t good enough for you. My daughter is an example. We don’t like her to watch too much TV because of the effect on the mind, but for her language development alhamdullilah, we let her watch a little TV. If we leave my daughter she will watch TV all day, and she begs us to let her do this. But it’s not good for her. It’s the same with us. Allah (swt) says, “…But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not,” (Qur’an 2:216). So Allah (swt) answers your du`a’ with something different because He knows it’s better for you. Like the single brothers and sister who keep asking Allah (swt), “Please, please, please let me marry so and so.” But maybe what you think will please you will do the opposite. Allah (swt) gives you what He knows is best for you.
- The third is that by your du`a’ Allah (swt) removes some ibtilaa (trial/test) from you in this life. Maybe some problem or sickness was going to hit you in this life, and instead of answering your du`a’ Allah (swt) removed this from you.
- The last one is summarized in the verse: “And the Hereafter is better for you than the first [life],” (Qur’an 93:4). Allah (swt) delays what you ask for in order to give it to you in the Hereafter.
So Iblees, the one who Allah (swt) has cursed, made du`a’ and Allah (swt) answered him. You and I are not as far away from Allah (swt) as Iblees, so all we have to do is raise our hands and make du`a’ to Him.
After Allah (swt) told Iblees that he’s been given respite, Iblees told Allah (swt) everything about himself. He told Allah (swt) his plan. Of course, he doesn’t have to tell Allah (swt) anything because Allah (swt) already knows. But Allah (swt) allowed this to happen so that we can know the plot of Shaytan.