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Negligence and Excessiveness: Combatting the Two Plots of Shayṭān

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim

A brief explanation on the two types of satanic incitement to evil that exist.

Allāh has not commanded an act except that Shayṭān has two types of incitements to evil with regards to it, they are: That one should be either deficient or lackadaisical, or extreme and obsessive in its performance. He does not care which of these mistakes he uses to gain victory over the servant of Allāh. He comes to the heart of the servant and watches it carefully.

  1. If he finds within it deficiency, laziness, indecisiveness, and permittance, he pulls on those strings, blocking him from acts of worship, arresting him from their performance. He strikes him with laziness, negligence, and listlessness. He opens the door of false interpretations, foolish hopes, and its likeness. To the extent the servant may eventually abandon what he has been commanded with altogether.
  2. If, instead, he finds him to be cautious and serious, steadfast and competent, such that he loses hope that he will prevent this person from performing the act itself, he resorts to prodding him with excessiveness in its performance. He persuades him that what he has done is insufficient, under the guise that ‘your aspirations are greater than this’, ‘it is most befitting that you increase your efforts above that of the average person so do not rest when they do, do not break your fast when they they break theirs, and never show weariness if they show it. If one of them washes their hands thrice, you must wash yours seven times. If they perform wuḍūʾ for ṣalāh, you should perform ghusl before praying it,’ and the likeness of such exaggerations and excessiveness. This then leads to extravagance, exceeding the bounds and forgoing the straight path. Just as he has persuaded the first to be deficient with regards to it, such that he is unable to come near to it.

His intention in both instances is simply to extricate them from the straight path. He prevents the former from reaching it, or nearing it, and he causes the latter to exceed and pass it. This represents a source of tribulation for most of the creation. Only firm knowledge, īmān, the strength to combat it, and being consistent upon the middle path, will save one from this plight.

Source: Al-Wābil al-Ṣayyib: 29-30
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: February 24, 2024
Edited: February 24, 2024

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