Will you give evidence from the verses of the Quran and hadiths that waswasa (delusion) comes from satan?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Waswasa

Waswasa (delusion) is the name given to distortionary suggestions, misgivings and doubts that are considered to be placed into man by Satan.

Waswasa / wiswas lexically means “whispering, making bad suggestions, becoming suspicious”; waswas, which is derived from the same root, means “harmful stimulus, bad feeling, suggestion, doubt, whispering and apprehension”.

In religious terminology, waswasa / wiswas is used in the sense of “Satan’s or the soul’s making bad and harmful suggestions to man, and the suggestions that come from Satan and the soul and that lead man to the deeds contrary to the religion”; waswas is used in the sense of “Satan, distortionary stimulus, useless word, doubt and hesitation Satan places into man”.

A person who is affected by waswasa is called muwaswis. (see Firuzabadi, “wsw” item.; al-Mufradat, “waswasa” item.; Lisanul-ʿArab, “wsw” item.; Tajul-ʿArus, “wsw” item.; Ibnul-Athir, an-Nihaya, W, 187; Dozy, II, 814-815; Fayyumi, p. 143)

In addition, nazghahamshamzahajis and khatra are similar to waswasa in terms of meaning. (For instance, see al-Mufradat, “hams” item.; Muhasibi, p. 95, 200, 250; Qushayri, I, 299; Ghazzali, Iyaʾ, III, 47, 315, 317; Şawkani, III, 560)

Obsession, which is used in a sense similar to waswasa in modern psychiatry, is defined as “thoughts that come involuntarily, that disturb a person and that cannot be dismissed by conscious efforts”. (Saygılı, Strese Son, İstanbul 2001, p. 40)

Waswasa in the Quran

The concept waswasa is mentioned in five verses in the Quran; in three of them, Satan’s (al-A‘raf 7/20; Taha 20/120; Nas 114/5) and in one of them the soul’s (Qaf 50/16) distortionary effect on man is explained.

In the chapter of an-Nas (114/4), Satan is mentioned as waswas since it insistently incites man to commit sins.

In verse 20 of the chapter of al-Araf, it is stated that Satan gave waswasa to Adam and his wife and caused them to eat from the fruit of the forbidden tree. As it is understood from the expression in the remaining part of the verse and from verse 22, waswasa is used in the sense of “deceiving, misleading and deviating”. (Tabari, V, 449)

In verse 36 of the chapter of al-Baqara, where the same incident is narrated, the verb “azalla”, which means “made them slip, caused them to sin”, is used instead of waswasa (Tabari, I, 272-273; Shawkani, I, 72-73).

Waswasa in Hadiths

The concept waswasa in hadiths generally indicates dangerous questions and thoughts that Satan sends inside man, aiming to harm his belief.

The phrase “O Allah! ... I take refuge in You from waswasa” is included in the prayer the Prophet (pbuh) said on the night of Arafat. (Tirmidhi, Dua, 78)

The following is stated in hadiths:
- There is a devil (Satan) in every human being
(Musnad, I, 385).
- Satan circulates in the human body as blood does (Musnad, III, 156, 285; Bukhari, Akam, 21).

Ghazzali interprets the hadiths stating that “Satan circulates in the human body” as “Satanic effects spreading to our inner world”; he also states that waswasas sometimes occur in his heart at times when he does not expect at all. (Qanunut-Taʾwil, p. 12-13)

Some Muslims went to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and complained to him that they sometimes had waswasas that they could not dare to pronounce. The Messenger of Allah told them that it indicated the definite and pure belief in them and that his ummah would not be held responsible for such waswasas unless they did what was suggested to them. (Musnad, II, 255; WI, 106; Muslim, Iman, 201-205, 211)

According to Harith al-Muhasibi, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) regarded that sensibility in the Companions as sufficient for them related to fulfilling their responsibilities regarding waswasa. For, expecting man to remove and dismiss the waswasas in them would mean to want them to change their nature, which is beyond the power of will. In order to get rid of the responsibility related to waswasa, it is enough to prevent the effect of waswasa by acting in compliance with the mind and knowledge. (ar-Riʿaya, p. 188-189, 249-250)

The Prophet (pbuh) said the following to a person who complained about such waswasas: “Praise be to Allah that Satan cannot harm you in any way except through waswasa.” He said the following to another person: “Praise be to Allah that He transformed Satan’s trap into waswasa.” (Musnad, I, 340; see also I, 235; Abu Dawud, Adab”, 109)

In the hadiths, a person’s having doubts whether he has done something incomplete during wudu and prayer and having delusions is described with the word waswasa; such people are advised to avoid such delusions or not to think about them. (Abu Dawud, Salah, 158; Tirmidhi, Ṭaharah, 43)

It is stated in a hadith that Satan fears from adhan and iqamah and escapes to a place where he will not hear it and that he returns when they end and start to give waswasa to people. (Muslim, Salah, 16)

Waswasa in Fiqh

In fiqh, the concept waswasa is used to describe a state of disorder in which a person doubts whether he has fulfilled a part of a deed of worship or not, he has fulfilled it properly or not or he has fulfilled other responsibilities or not, leading him to repeat the same deed again and again.

In fiqh books, waswasa related to wudu, ghusl, cleanliness, prayer, qiraah, talaq (divorce), oath and vow is dealt with and it is stated that it is necessary to avoid waswasa and if waswasa occurs involuntarily, it is necessary not to take it seriously by maintaining moderateness, and not to deviate from the criteria practiced by the Prophet (pbuh). 

Dealing with the state of the people who suffer from in his booklet called "Ẕammul-Muwaswisin" in detail, the Hanbali fiqh scholar Muwaffaquddin Ibn Qudama explains with verses and hadiths the importance of treading in the Prophet’s footsteps in religious issues and states that some people who suffer from waswasa get stuck in waswasas instead of following the Messenger of Allah, follow Satan and indulge in extreme views by disregarding the practices of the Prophet due to their waswasas related to wudu and prayer.

As for those who have waswasa at the level of madness,

- it is stated that their divorcing is invalid (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Iʿlamul-Muwaqqiʿin, IV, 47, 49; cf. Bukhari, alaq, 11),
- and that they will not be related as apostates if they utter words that mean exiting the religion of Islam. (Ibn Abidin, XIII, 12-14)

The Way to Get Rid of Waswasa

The best way to get rid of waswasa is to know that the waswasas given by Satan do not harm the belief and worship of a Muslim. For, those waswasas belong to Satan, not to the Muslim. Satan wants that person to think that those words belong to tthat person himself.

If waswasa does not stop, we advise the person who suffers from waswasa to be treated by a specialized and religious psychologist.

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