Moving through the stages of life, the changes which happen to a person is sometimes more subtle than clear. Both on a physical level as well as his psychological makeup. As days tumble in to weeks and weeks into months, not only do we go through the physical changes of growing old. But, we also become more susceptible to the environmental implications sweeping through a given time period. Morals which were held in high regard by earlier generations is brushed aside by later generations as being out of date and archaic. Take for example, the divine ethos given to us by the pious people of the past and the present. We see these morals as being the very barrier to advancement. Trying to uproot these principles wherever it had firmly established itself over a long period.
Syydiuna Ali (radhi Allahu anhu) said, people grow wise with age. (paraphased)
But, some grow wise with religion, where the understanding of God’s plan behind everything becomes more clearer to them as days go by. Whereas, others grow wise with the understanding of the world; how it works, its derivatives, its intricacies, the way is weaves its tentacles into every sphere of their lives. Making the world seem more attractive and appealing, with promises of letting them progress into the inner circle of the know-hows, the movers-and-shakers of an idea. In homer’s legendary story, ‘The Odyssey’, Odysseus succumbs to the sirens, beautiful women, who with the enticing sweetness of their singing manage to disrupt Odysseus’s journey back home from the 10 year Trojan war.
Many of the religious people around the world, who assume they are safe from the traps of the world, have some resemblance to the depictions of Odysseus’s journey. In Odyssey Book XII Circe warns Odysseus about the dangers he will face at sea. Odysseus orders his men to stuff their ears with wax and tie him to a mast so he can’t escape to the company of the beautiful sirens, but can still hear them singing. Having had successfully maneuvered his men from many of the earlier catastrophes to befall them. Odysseus thinks he will be immune to the traps and temptations of the sirens. Hence ordering all his men to plug their ears, except himself. However, When the event involving the sirens occurs, he is completely swayed and entangled, becoming drunk to the sweet singing of the sirens. Only his restraints manage to keep him from leaping from the ship and into the sea.
Many of us who like to assume we have a strong religious background are like Odysseus, we tend float a fleeting assumption in our mind, ‘i will be able to out live the storm; the storm of the attractions and temptations of the dunya’. Like the sirens, when the full attractiveness of the world is unleashed on us, we are completely taken over. Our promises of being able to out-live the storm, or thinking we could, is severely flooded by the new-found addiction.
I do not claim to be from the religious group, far from it. But in my experience of dealing with people, I have come across several brothers, who were once classed as being the ‘leaders of the religious elite’, the pioneers who were at the forefront of innovating new ideas of taking the message of Islam across the seven seas. Their zeal and proactive enthusiasm were a source of immense inspiration for countless number of people. However, as with the changing tide life and the different faces it often presents. These brothers are no longer working to improve their standing in deen but have rather taken a step back, slowly moving into dunya, side stepping many of the known principles of Islam. Similar to Odysseus who assumed he will be able to out-smart the sirens, practicing people sometime think in similar fashion. That, they too, will be able to out-smarten and out-live the tricks of the devil. Thinking they know the game of the devil and can play it safe, assuming they will be able to move away from any tidal wave of shaitanic attacks about to flood towards them.
I have heard many brothers say when they were young or in their early adulthood. Religion was their only priority in life. That, everything else was secondary, but slowly but surely, they lost this strong inclination of Islam. Out of the countless jewels of guidance my beloved shaykh gave me. One of the most prominent ones, which i hold close to my heart is;
The more pious a person tries to become, the more subtle the shaitainic and egoistic tricks become. The devil will no longer uses the usual tricks of distraction to mislead you. He now knows his usual tricks used to mislead most of humanity: women, money, fame and name will fall on deaf ears. These will no longer be appealing to you. So, he will step up his game. He will go covert, and use subtle tricks to slowly revert you to his (devilish) ways. He will use tricks which will not even seem to you as being shaitainc or egoistic. Piety brings with it new challenges and degrees of tests.
You see, the stages of servitude a person goes through, the devil has already gone through the same route; the same stations, the same states. So, he knows the game better than you. He knows which detours he can put in your path to mislead you. Never underestimate and think you have the devil, the world and the ego, in the bag!
Many a times when we travel on roads we do not even realize we have taken a wrong turn. But, realize later, maybe after several miles of traveling. Similarly, for the religious folks, the devil will use such tricks one will not even realize the wrong turn being made. The most important thing to understand is, whilst this is happening, a person thinks ‘there is nothing wrong with bending a few Islāmic rules of haram and halal, i am only testing things out. I wont fall for the things other people fall for. i know how to keep the dunya at bay’. Whilst in the process being slowly pulled in. This is one of the most common subtle ways in which the devil deceives a person!
The attitude of ‘i know, i know’, is VERY damaging! As soon as a person begins to think along this line, it is not long before the jurisdiction of Islam begin to look like the mundane, the ‘o no, not that again’ attitude will begin to take over his life. Over the next months and years to come, the person will begin to shut himself off from hearing, listening to, or attending any religious circles. Simply because, the ideals of Islam will seem dogmatic to the person, like listening to a broken record, repeating the same things over and over. Religion, more importantly Islam, becomes this broken record. Regurgitating the same anecdotes, the same laws and the same rituals. Where as on the other side, the world will appear as a fresh fruit to taste and experience, having experienced decaying fruit of Islam for a several years.
I hope and pray to Allah Azza wa jal, he protects me always from out-smarting my self into thinking ‘i know the game being played here’. Thinking ‘i know how to keep the dunya in check; from it invading my life, and taking it over from my control. I pray to Allah that he continually helps me to see the subtle tricks of the devil, the ones which are easily missed. SO that i may be able to stay ever vigilant against these more dangerous tricks. May Allah allow me to forever stay at the feet of my shaykh Ameen.