Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verse 208..........Part 4
You who believe, enter wholeheartedly into submission to God and do not follow in Satan’s footsteps, for he is your sworn enemy. (Chapter 2: Verse 208)
In the phrase ‘do not follow in Satan’s footsteps, for he is your sworn enemy,’ Allah is warning you against following the devil because his goal is to keep you away from God’s path. In fact, satan’s animosity for humankind is ancient; it started from the time of Adam. Allah, the All-Merciful- conveys this animosity to us by narrating what satan said as he stood before Adam:
He said, “I swear by Your Glory! I will tempt them all, Except Your servants among them, endowed with sincerity in faith and worshipping You." (38:82-83)
By clearly narrating the story of Adam, Eve and satan at the beginning of the Quran, Allah gave us immunity and protection from satan’s actions. This is similar to when you want to protect your body from vile diseases such as the measles and polio. You would familiarize your body with that disease through vaccination early in life. Satan will not take you by surprise, for God has alerted you early on of his actions and intentions.
In the Quran, the words: ‘satan’ and ‘the devils’ refer to the disobedient jinn in general. The Jinn have believers just like humans have believers, and the Jinn have disbelievers known as the devils who spread corruption just as there are disbelieving people. However, we should not blame all corruption and sin on the devil; there are many sinful actions we do out of our own selfish desires.
So, the key question to ask is: How can you distinguish between the sins that Satan adorns to you from the sins that are adorned to you by your own self desires? In other words, some sins stem from your own self, and some sins come from the devils’ whispers, how can you tell the difference between the two? We answer that there is an easy way to distinguish between the two. If you find yourself insisting on committing a specific kind of sin, then know it is from your own self. This is because each self has a certain desire and weakness that it wants to satisfy, so it insists on a particular type of sin. A person may love money, so his or her self would obsess over accumulating wealth by any means. He or she would rationalize sinful acts for the purpose of making money. A man who is otherwise upright may have a weakness for women, so his self would always sway him in the direction of sex and pornography. Another person may love to be recognized and praised, so his or her self would always obsess with being recognized even if it has to cheat and lie. Each self has a goal of satisfying a specific urge, so it always pushes in that direction. Thus, if you always find yourself struggling with a specific weakness, coming back to it again and again, then know that it is from yourself.
Satan, on the other hand, does not insist on a particular type of sin. If he sees you standing strong and refraining from a certain sin, he will shift tactics and push you towards another one. This is because satan wants you to be a sinner regardless of what the sin is. For instance, if you are careful in your prayers, the devil would attempt to sway you regarding wealth, urging you not to pay the zakat almsgiving. If you are upright when it comes to money, the devil may turn you to the allure of bad company and slander and so on. Satan is unrelenting in his attempts to deceive humans because he does not want to be the only sinner. He disobeyed and was expelled from God's mercy.........why can't others be sinners like him? It does not matter what we do as long as we sin. Allah warns you: ‘do not follow in Satan’s footsteps, for he is your sworn enemy.’
When you know the source of your sin, you can develop specific tools to protect yourself from falling into it. Let's look into the best way to guard yourself against the whispers of the devils. God says:
O children of Adam, let not Satan tempt you as he removed your parents from Paradise, stripping them of their clothing to show them their private parts. Indeed, he sees you, he and his tribe, from where you do not see them. Indeed, We have made the devils allies to those who do not believe (7:27)
How can you fight something that you cannot see, you may ask? We answer that satan is a creation of God, and so are you. It is logical then that in a struggle between two of God’s creations, the most powerful and persistent of the two will win. But if one of the two happens to be in God’s company, then no one can ever overcome him or her. This is why God wants you to seek refuge in Him so you can be in his company against Satan. As soon as you entertain the thought of a sin, God teaches you to say and repeat: ‘I seek refuge in God from Satan the accursed.’ Now you are in God’s company, and no one can overcome you. But if you deviate from God’s path then the devil can defeat you, because the struggle in this case, would be between two parties detached from God.
If you would like more information about this topic, listen to our series titled: “I seek refuge in God from Satan the accursed.”