What is Delusion (waswasa)? Could You Inform Us of its Reasons?
Submitted by on Wed, 31/03/2010 - 17:37
Dear Brother / Sister,
Delusion is a hidden voice. The word “waswas” which is an infinitive verb, is also a name of Satan; which means that the Satan is “the source of delusion.” However, delusion, according to its widely accepted meaning in the public, is the name for all nonsense, evil and vile memories and thoughts which are instilled in one’s heart by the lower-self or by Satan.
Both the delusions caused by one’s lower-self and delusions caused by Satan are mentioned in the Quran separately:
The verse which is translated as “It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein.” (Qaf, 50:16) indicates to the delusions by one’s lower-self and many other verses which mean “Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them” (al-A’raf, 7:20; Taha, 20:120) indicates the delusions by Satan.
The expression of “delusions caused by one’s lower-self” includes hidden feelings, decisions, apprehensions, memories that one says and thinks to himself or feels inside and other similar subconscious situations. They are so hidden and silent that even the angels fail to know some of them. Only Allah knows them. Delusions by one’s lower-self are more hidden compared to the delusions caused by Satan. It makes them stronger in a way. For this reason, one’s lower-self is a more dangerous enemy to him than Satan. Maybe, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) indicated this fact when he said: “Your biggest enemy is your lower-self.” (Kashfu’l-Khafa, 1, 143).
Lower-self and Satan try to stop human souls from progressing on the way of Truth by giving delusions to them. They try to make people give up good deeds by deceiving their minds and reasoning and to degrade them by making them addicted to mortal delights and waywardness.
The place where delusion appears first is the heart. It passes over to the other organs through the heart. For this reason, the first symptom of delusion is felt in the heart. Of course, this symptom manifests itself in form of either acceptance or refusal. If the delusions instilled are not accepted in the heart, they disguise themselves in the form of immoral images in one’s mind. One, whose imagination is occupied with those images, starts to give in his heart to them unconsciously after a while. It is just what Satan wants. As a matter of fact, Satan approaches his desired goal a few steps closer this way.
However, delusions which are not accepted in the heart cannot cause any harm. As a matter of fact, they have gone no further than imagination, and rationally, imagination is not an operation. It is quite easy to understand when delusion is not accepted in the heart. If the heart grieves and fears because of having delusions, it means that delusion is not accepted in the heart. Otherwise, it means that delusion is accepted. If delusion is not accepted in the heart, its harm is restricted to the thought that it is harmful; it cannot cause any other harm. Moreover, the rate of one’s heart’s reaction to delusion is in direct proportion to the strength of the faith in his heart. Yes, heart shows reaction to delusions in direct proportion to the strength of faith. Sometimes, because of ignorance, one thinks this reaction of the heart means to accept delusions. And sometimes one prefers to ignore the truth in order to escape from delusions. However, this situation does not mean accepting delusions at all. It is just a reaction. And this reaction actually indicates the strength and firmness of his faith. This is also why the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said “It is the very self of faith” when describing this state and situation. (Muslim, Faith 211; Musnad, 2/456; 6/106).
Sometimes there may not be any relationships between the delusions in the heart and the images/thoughts occurring in the mind. Many external or internal causes may have an effect on imagination. Imagination is the most and the fastest affected one of all senses. For this reason, the images are strongly related with the causes which affect imagination at that moment. As this situation is not known by most of the people, they conclude that their hearts have deteriorated and their souls degraded because of those abominable images and thoughts. And this conclusion leads them to the trap of Satan.
If there is a relationship or contact between the meanings in the heart, as we have mentioned above, and the meanings in the mind, which are affected by any cause, one should not become anxious and nervous. As a matter of fact, the blessed meanings that are close to obnoxious and disgusting meanings cannot be harmed by them; and contact (between them) does not accepting the disgusting meanings. Moreover, controversy between two things which results in distance between them outside, results in closeness between them in imagination. Mentioning one of the two opposite things, results in recalling the other. Just like night recalls day; white recalls black; and good recalls bad… This kind of recalling is called the association of ideas. And the association of ideas is mostly non-intentional and thus one cannot be held responsible for it. If one’s mind becomes addicted to such situations, what he should do is to give up pondering over it and ignore it because delusion strengthens and causes a disease in the mind as long as it is attached importance and pondered. Yes, there is nothing to worry about because, the effect is not in the heart but only in imagination.
If delusion is about issues related to faith, one must know that it is only in imagination and it has got nothing to do with judgments approved and accepted by the mind and the heart. Imagining and dreaming of unbelief or thinking of heedlessness is not unbelief and heedlessness themselves. And there are so many things which we think of yet do not approve or accept. As a matter of fact, possibility can never cause harm to the truth.
Moreover, there is a kind of delusion which stems from searching the best way of worshipping and best deeds; and people who are addicted to this kind of delusion are even unaware of the fact that they quit the good and appropriate ways while trying to do the best and the most appropriate. One must adopt the hadith “Religion is easiness; whoever makes it difficult loses in the end” (Bukhari, Faith 29; Nasai, Faith 28; Musnad, 4/422; 5/350-351) as his motto and live accordingly, which is probably the best precaution against Satan who wants to trap people through it.
Moreover, there is no enforcement in religion… In Islam, people are judged according to what it is seen in the surface. We are not responsible for searching and examining its hidden side. In such situations, we must remember that Satan is in ambush for a weak moment of ours and he is ready to attack any time
We have dwelled upon delusion, which is a weapon of Satan’s against human beings so far. Now, let us summarize the issue under a few headings:
1) Delusion is an indication of strong faith.
First of all, I should state that delusion is not something to be frightened of at all because if one has got delusion, it indicates that s/he is faithful. One of the Honorable Companions came to the Prophet and said: “O the Messenger of Allah, I am addicted to delusion.” He (pbuh) said to him: “There is nothing to worry about; it is just the very self of faith.” (Muslim, Faith 211; Musnad, 2/456; 6/106). Knowing that there is a treasure of faith, worship, prayers and religious service in you, Satan buccaneers and attacks you all the time. Buccaneering is, maybe, history now but for Satan, it has started with Adam and it will continue till the end of time.
Satan does not waste his time with hard and empty hearts and he does not cause delusions to such people who do not have any treasures. Just as buccaneers always attack ships or islands which have got treasures, so too does Satan attack the hearts which have got the treasure of faith inside.
A believer who has fallen into delusions should think to himself “Satan has lost in all fronts; for this reason, he now wants to occupy me with delusions and doubts related to faith and Islam and wants to take my treasure away. However, – inshaallah – he will not be able to take anything away from me. These are his last attempts. Just like an outlaw beggar that comes to my door and keeps asking for something for a few days gives up and goes away in the end, so will he go away, understanding that he will not be able to take anything from me. And, even if he does not leave, the doors are locked. The fortress which protects me is so strong and with the help of Allah, he cannot damage it anyway,.”
2) Delusion does not belong to the heart.
As heart is disturbed by the presence of delusion, delusion cannot belong to the heart because if it belonged to the heart, the heart would not be disturbed and worried by it. And actually Satan would not exert himself with such a heart.
The heart is disturbed and worried by delusion because the heart and its owner are not pleased with delusion and because there is not a relationship between the heart and delusion in terms of meaning and true nature. We can understand it also from the fact that the body temperature increases as a result of antibodies fighting against unfamiliar microbes entering the body and the disorders caused on the physiological structure by those microbes. Similarly, one shows reaction to delusions. His temperature increases; he frowns and has a headache, loses his appetite and so on. Our spiritual structure, our potential faith produces antibodies against delusions and thoughts, which do not belong to us and are sent to our hearts by Satan; and eventually our temperature increases and our heart aches. If our body does not show any reaction and gives into it just like a goat that sees a boa snake, it means we are undone, like nonresistance caused by AIDS. If our heart and faith does not resist delusion, then, there will not be delusion; nor will our temperature increase! It means calling out to Satan, saying “Come, do whatever you want to me!”. And it is already what Satan wants.
3) A heart that is exposed to delusions resembles a fountain polluted by evil people.
We can also evaluate the issue from another point of view: Imagine a water spring so pure, so clean and so bright that it resembles the water of Zamzam with its taste and the healing power it offers; a spring from Kawthar, which is known by everyone and the holiness of which has been agreed by whole world… Then an evil person comes and pours paint, dust, and litters on the spring. When you see that, you cry out “Oh no! My spring is polluted and destroyed!” However, it is not like that. Running water will sweep away all the dirtiness and will keep its purity. If your heart, your faith is shiny and pure like water, dust, litter and all kinds of dirtiness poured onto it will fail to pollute it. All that dirtiness will go away in the course of time and your spring, which never accepts dirtiness, will always stay clean. That is to say, this dirtiness and pollution does not stem from the spring itself… Yes, that is how we should think about a heart which is exposed to delusion.
4) One is not responsible for delusions which he thinks unwillingly and does not put into practice.
As it is already known; free-will and consciousness are essential for holding one responsible for his deeds. Animals and human beings that are mentally retarded are not held responsible for what they do. In this sense, we are not responsible for delusions because they are out of our control and we do not invite them by opening the doors of our heart and mind in person to them.
Generally, one’s self-control comes up against delusions and it cannot resist them as they are intruders. Moreover, one can be exposed to some memories, images and thoughts caused by what he sees, hears and reads, out of his control. As this situation of human beings is a part of his disposition, it is usually impossible to escape it.
5) Delusion resembles a net which does not prevent one from progressing.
Delusion is harmless when it is recognized with its exclusive inconsistency. As a matter of fact, the Quran points out to the weakness of Satan’s tricks by saying “feeble in deed is the cunning of Satan” (an-Nisa, 4:76). Yes, Satan has got tricks; yet they are inconsistent and thus ineffective. For instance, you want to pass between two walls. However, you see that a spider has netted and blocked your way. Now, would you give up and turn back or would you go on? Can the net prevent you from going on your way or not? Of course, you would not consider it an obstacle and continue going on your way as if the net did not exist at all.
The Prophet (pbuh) states that Satan cannot force anyone into sinning by getting hold of their hands and pulling them towards heedlessness, unbelief and sins. What Satan does is just adorning evil deeds and making them look attractive to people. It is only Allah who creates both good and evil, and who leads people either to heedlessness or to righteousness. Satan’s delusions resemble a palace adorned with colorful foams, which impresses and attracts people at first sight. There are deep holes, the depth of which is up to hundreds of kilometers, under that attractive palace for those who are taken in by its attractiveness…
To sum up, delusions are harmless when one is aware of the fact that they are temporary. Actually, delusion is as weak as a feather which flies away and blown off. And delusion resembles clouds which gather together at times and then disappear away; however neither rain nor winds follow them… In other words, it resembles air hole always felt in by the passengers in a plane; which is not worth crying and wailing.
6) Delusions cannot harm at all if they are not dwelled on and regarded as problems.
Delusion is not harmful when you recognize that it will not mix with your thoughts and taint your feelings. Indeed, delusion is nothing but a weak trace which will appear a while and then will fade away in the mirror of imagination, and a blemish and a reflection which cannot taint and pollute. If things which cross our mind and imagination are positive, they enlighten the mind and thoughts to some extent; however, if they are negative delusions, they can never harm, affect or taint mind, thoughts and hearts. According to the approach of Badiuzzaman; Satan cannot be harmful inside or outside; an image of a snake reflected on a mirror cannot bite your hand or any dirtiness reflected on a mirror cannot dirty your hand; a fire burning in the reflection of a mirror cannot burn your hand.
Yes, delusion cannot be harmful at all on condition that we do not dwell on it, do not occupy our minds with it with curiosity, do not accept it and do not let it grow bigger and ignore it and do not make it turn into a problem for us. Then, we must underestimate it and say: “With the permission of Allah, I will get over it.”
7) Delusion harms a person when he thinks it is harmful.
Delusion can be harmful, even if to a little extent, when one behaves contrarily to what we have explained so far. Yes, when one does not know that delusion is harmful and thinks it is harmful, it can be harmful. That is to say, it can be overestimated when one dwells on it and questions curiously. The more one dwells on it, the larger the delusion grows and it becomes large enough to swallow us in the end. There are millions of bees in a beehive, yet you pass by it without noticing it and they do not attack you. What we should do with delusion is no different from it.
Satan places a scene of images which looks weak and temporary into our hearts. If we find it attractive and are involved with it, that short scene becomes a long movie which lasts for hours in the cinema theater of our imagination before we even realize it. Especially, lustful scenes which get bodies under influence, especially for young people when they are alone… Yes, one takes it and turns it into an adventurous movie. However, what belongs to Satan is that short scene in the beginning. Then, we should not be caught by that first trait, we should not be trapped by him and not be involved with it so that Satan will not deceive us and make the delusions come true and so that we will not be the victim of such a short scene.
8) Sensitive and aggressive souls should not be depressed by attaching importance to delusions caused by Satan.
Delusion can turn into a more dangerous disease and even a natural faculty in sensitive and aggressive souls. Such a person becomes nervous and anxious because of the fear that it will be harmful. He ponders it and makes it deepen in his heart and thoughts and attributes the cause of delusion to himself; and eventually it becomes a natural faculty of his. And it is an expression of total defeat and submission to Satan. Such a person accepts defeat by saying “I am undone” and makes the control panel ready for Satan’s use and even leaves it to Satan. Imagine a commander; he sees a metal shining on the front right and thinks the enemy will attack from that side. He clears the right wing of his army by sending the soldiers to the front right front. And then, he sees leaves of trees fluttering in the mountains at the front left and thinks the enemy will attack from that side too. Then he clears the left wing of his army by sending the soldiers to that side. Eventually, the center of the army becomes defenseless, ready and appropriate for the enemy attack. Indeed, this behavior shows that the commander does not know war tactics and does not recognize his enemy very well. All of this clearly shows us that although Satan’s delusion is not important at all, people make it grow larger and get themselves into trouble with it. Yes, we should be careful and should not let it grow in our imagination and mind by giving it too much importance.
9) One should get out of the magnetic field of delusion and escape its psychological influence with the help of worshipping.
It is essential to do things which will save you from the magnetic field of delusion. As it is stated in the hadith, when one has got a delusion, for instance, when one is angry with something, he should sit down if he is standing, he should stand up if he is sitting. Or, he should clear the mist, the fog inside him by performing two rakats of prayer and by making some changes in his inner world. Yes, one should definitely do something and call out his self-control, which will save him out of that air pocket into which he has fallen unwillingly or of that strong vacuum which has caught him like a strong electrical current. On the way back from a military expedition, the Prophet could not wake up because of tiredness and missed the Morning Prayer for only once. Then he warned by saying: “Leave this place at once; apparently Satan has established his sovereignty here.” (Muslim, Masajid 309; Abu Dawud, Salat 11; Tirmidhi, Tafsir as-surah 20; Ibni Maja, Salat 10; Muwatta, Salat 25). Yes, one should always be alert against the magnetic field of Satan and if one has entered it unconsciously, he should leave it at once. As heedlessness and carelessness are a means of welcoming Satan and Satanic deeds, invocation, mentioning Allah and connecting with Him are a defense and even a counter-attack against them.
By the way, let us remind the narration of the Prophet about how Satan escapes from the sound of the Call (adhan). It means Satan cannot tolerate the Call and its meaning. In this sense, when Satan attacks us with his delusions, we must strengthen our contact with Allah and His Messenger and indulge ourselves in divine memories so that there will not be any opportunity for Satan. It is stated that recalling the Ascension of the Prophet will send delusions away, especially the ones remembered during prayers, and stop yawning. Although it is not recorded in sunnah, it is worth trying. Maybe spitting three times towards your left side will tear away the foggy veil of delusions. Sometimes challenging Satanic delusions, which encourage one to do evil deeds, by clenching fists and sometimes underestimating them by smiling can be resistance to the magnetic field of Satan.
I remember saying this to a young man: “When you encounter Satan and he wants you to look at haram, think this way: What will I gain if I look? You will look in vain. Even if you go further, it is in vain… Besides, you should not forget the regret and pain you will feel because of your faith. So, a glance which will end in nowhere, pain and darkness is nonsense!” Indeed, while one is trying to persuade himself not to look at it like this, that haram scene will have gone away.
Every delusion, every beautiful scene coming to mind can also be eliminated by thinking that better ones will be gained in the future. At least, they can be restricted. It is stated in many places of the Quran that worldly life is nothing but a game and pass-time and that real life is the unworldly life and real home is the land of afterlife. (Aal-i Imran, 3/185; al-Ankabut, 29/64). And in such situations, we should say, in spite of all beauties of the world, “Give it to those who want them, what I need is You” and get away from those unreasonable dreams. Is Satan trying to prevent you from your service and showing around the right way just as he does to other people by making the boiling hotness of summer months and to get you to seaside or to the cool shades of recreation spots? Then, remind him that the fire of Hell is much hotter than summer. Then, I guess the delusion which he wants to put into your heart will stop.
Again, I think it would help eliminating Satan’s delusions of heedlessness and lethargy which he instills in us to think to ourselves, “While the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), his Companions and saintly people following them are waiting for us, why should I act so heedlessly here and there?”
10) Delusions such as “Have I missed something?” in prayers and ablution should not be attached importance, either.
One should not pay attention to delusions which make us think, “Have I missed something or have I done something wrong in my prayer and ablution?”. If this kind of delusion happens to someone for the first time, that prayer or ablution can be performed again. However, if it happens repeatedly, for instance, if one always doubts whether he has washed his hand or not in every ablution, he should go on with it accepting he has washed it. And if he is addicted to delusions about how many rakats of prayer he has performed, he should continue with his prayer thinking his prayer is exact.
11) One should face what delusions suggest him.
It is necessary to go on the reverse way of delusion ignoring it. I think it is more appropriate to ignore it, even though what we do might be wrong, by saying, “It should be appropriate for one of the madhabs anyway” in terms of benefit. In such situations, what is essential is to send delusions away and defeat Satan.
Delusion has got benefits, too. As we have explained before, delusion resembles a hairspring of a clock or watch which can lead lots of people, especially those who have got sensitive dispositions, to advance in righteousness until the end of time. As long as one’s heart is set on alarm for delusions, his heart will always work and make him advance, just like a hairspring because he continues to pass tests and to strive until death with the help of it. Yes, it is delusion which makes a true believer with firm faith, good deeds and controlled lower-self to experience such “Major Jihad” and earns him thawabs (rewards) as if he were a veteran.
On the other hand, delusions keep one alert and attentive all the time. A believer may fall into one of Satan’s traps because of the lethargy and comfort caused by the feeling of accomplishment and having a command of the issue. He should always be alert like a soldier in order not to fall into the traps. Just as one prays Allah to recover from illness, so too should he pray Him to recover from delusions. By doing so, he saves himself from it and becomes resistant. He enters into a fortress which does not let sins in and thus he is saved. However, he should not overestimate delusion and make it harmful…
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