From the Twenty-Third Discourse—page 505-513

in Irshad: Wisdom of a Sufi Master, by Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak Al-Jerrahi, trans. Muhtar Holland. An Ashki Book of Amity House, Warwick: 1988.





Satan Disguises Himself to Tempt the Disciples of Saint ‘Abd al-Qādir


One day in Ramadān, the venerable ‘Abd al-Qādir Gaylānī, the Cardinal of Cardinal Saints and Supreme Helper [Qutb al-aqtāb / al-ghawth al-a’zam] was crossing a desert with his dervishes.  They had reached a state of exhaustion from the intense heat and the effect of fasting, but they pressed on regardless.  A moment came when the venerable Sheikh fell behind in order to attend to a need.  At this point, a light appeared before the dervishes, addressing them with the words: “I am your Lord Most High.  Today, I have made lawful to you [the food and drink] which I had forbidden you.  Now you may eat and drink.”

Some of the dervishes were reaching for their water flasks and food, intending to break their fast, when the venerable Supreme Helper cried: “Beware, do not break your fast!”  He then turned in the direction from which the voice had come.  As soon as he said: ‘I take refuge with Allāh from accursed Satan.  I take refuge with Allāh from the evil thereof,’ the thing that had appeared like a light immediately changed into darkness.

Now that his bluff had been called, the devil showed himself and asked: “O Sheikh, how did you know that I was a devil?”  The venerable Sheikh repeated: “I take refuge with Allāh from accursed Satan,” but the devil insisted on asking: “O Sheikh, you were pleased with yourself for knowing, weren’t you?  The venerable ‘Abd al-Qādir once again sought refuge with Allāh, and the devil admitted defeat and withdrew.  Amazed at this, the dervishes said to their Sheikh: “Master, we took the voice for the genuine voice of Truth and almost broke our fast.  We were on the point of disobeying our Exalted Lord.  How did you recognize that it was only a trick of the devil?”

The venerable saint replied calmly: “My sons, I new because of the guidance of Allāh, and the inspiration He gave me.  My Lord has endowed me with three kinds of knowledge.  Those who possess such knowledge and put it into practice are able to recognize the devil through the grace of the All-Merciful.  They can recognize and distinguish between the forbidden and the lawful, between the true and the false.  The first of these three kinds of knowledge is the science of jurisprudence [fiqh] from which we know that we cannot break our fast unless we are at death’s door.  We were certainly exhausted, but we had not reached a point so close to death as to justify breaking our fast.  Therefore, the order was contrary to the Sacred Law and only Satan is capable of issuing such orders.  This showed me that the apparition was really not light but darkness.

“Secondly, I knew through the science of theology [kalām].  The Exalted Lord is exempt from spatial location, of which He has no need.  This voice came to us from a particular direction.  Since it did not come from all sides and every direction, I figured it must be a devil and this conclusion proved correct.

“Thirdly, I knew through the science of Sufism, The noble Sheikhs have all agreed on one fact: Namely, that if the Exalted One were to manifest Himself, humanity would instantly be obliterated and extinguished.  But nothing of the sort accompanied the apparition of this darkness in the guise of light.  We remained sane and experienced no change in our condition; no symptom of a divine manifestation appeared in any of us.  Had it been a manifestation of God, neither knowledge nor knower would have remained.  None of us would have retained his sanity or faculties; all our strength and capacity would have vanished in an instant.  Those endowed with these three kinds of knowledge are safe from the wiles of Satan.  Otherwise, the devil plays with human beings as children play with a ball.  He takes their faith from their hands and so causes them to be cast into the fire and to remain in Hell forever.”


As the implacable foe of mankind, Satan will go to inconceivable lengths to lead us away from the path of truth.  As we mentioned earlier, he sometimes misleads simple people by assuming the guise of a Sheikh or spiritual guide.  For lovers of Truth, safety lies in knowledge and practice of the Islamic sciences of jurisprudence, theology and mysticism.  It is therefore necessary to follow a noble individual who is truly versed in these sciences and puts them into practice.  To follow an ignorant person, with no knowledge of these three, is to plunge into error with open eyes.  To be a spiritual teacher, it is absolutely essential to be versed in these three sciences.  Any other pretension can only to be a trick of the devil.  An ignoramus does not become a saint directly.  If Allāh should choose an ignorant person as His friend, He would first endow him with knowledge.  “First a scholar, then a saint”: this is confirmed by Sacred Tradition.  According to the venerable Imam al-Ghazālī, a person unfamiliar with these sciences would do better to commit fornication and sodomy than to speak about Gnostic wisdom.

In all the hundred and four scriptures, it is clearly stated that the adulterer is sinful and that the sodomite is damned.  In speaking of Gnostic wisdom, therefore, the ignorant person is worse than sinful and worse than damned.  Unless he actually considers such foul behaviour lawful, adultery and sodomy do not make a man an unbeliever, but it may be because of his very unbelief that an ignorant person discusses Gnostic wisdom and brings about his doom.  The followers of such people also die without faith.

When someone knows only the Sacred Law, his knowledge resembles a garden fence.  The garden contains fruit, trees and flowers, but many weeds and thorns abound there also.  The fence does serve as a barrier, keeping out harmful beasts.  If dangerous animals happen to get in, however, that same fence presents an obstacle to their getting out again.  Such is the case of those who possess exoteric knowledge.  Their knowledge does act as a kind of fence, a fairly effective barrier against evil, although they cannot protect their hearts completely from greed, avarice, misconduct and bad habits.  Harmful influences cannot penetrate from without, but they cannot escape once they are inside.  Exoteric knowledge acts as a kind of fortress, offering protection and safety from many a danger.

Practice without knowledge is like having a garden completely unenclosed, with neither fence nor wall.  Things planted in such a garden may indeed bear fruit, but there is nothing to stop all kinds of animals wandering in to uproot the plants and devour the fruit and crops.  Unless surrounded by a wall of knowledge, pious devotion and inner secrets are lost soon after being won.  They give way to hypocrisy, sanctimonious pride or arrogance…

Real safety is secured by combining both esoteric and exoteric knowledge.  Harmful influences are kept outside, while the garden within is tidied up and tended.  This is the way to protect one’s religion and faith from the wiles of Satan; this is the way to achieve one’s goeal.

All the great Founding Saints of the Sufi orders have been followers of one or other of the four schools of Islamic Law..


*              *              *




The Sacred Law and the Mystic Path are like a pair of wings, one of them external, the other internal.  It is impossibgle to take off with only one wing, and without both wings it is impossible to make a good landing.  If you wish to make a good landing, you must cleanse yourself outwardly of material impurities and also purify your inner being of spiritual dirt displeasing to Allāh, such as hypocrisy, sanctimonious pride, arrogance, lying, malice, anger, the love of wealth and attachment to rank and status.  To be outwardly dirty, though inwardly clean, is to resemble a water container in the toilet; to be outwardly clean, though inwardly dirty, is to be like a toilet bowl.  We must make sure that neither comparison fits us.  We must cleanse our outer selves with the Sacred Law and the love of Muhammad, while adorning our inner being with divine love and affection, affection for Allah’s Messenger and his household, love and respect for our Masters the Two Sheikhs, the venerable Abū Bakr the Veracious and ‘Umar the Criterion, for our Masters ‘Uthmān of the Two Lights and ‘Alī the Elect, for the Companions, Helpers and Friends of the blessed Messenger of Allāh, for the Saints of Allāh and for the People of Allāh.  We must love all that is loved by Allāh and by His Messenger, disliking all that they dislike.  We must keep our tongues unsoiled by cursing.  We cannot know another person’s heart.  If you cannot tolerate those who hurt and wrong the descendants of Muhammad, you may have recourse to the Verse in which the Exalted One says:


Surely Allāh’s curse is on the evildoers. [11:18]





We must wage constant struggle with the lower self, refuse to comply with its wishes, make it submit to the commandments of Allāh, accustom it to obedience and force it away from the things He has forbidden.  We should not answer our critics.  We must be patient and steadfast in the face of wrong.  Believing that everything is from Allāh, we must look for the fault within ourselves, saying: “I cannot have been worthy, otherwise I should not have suffered this wrong.”

We must acknowledge that all our good works and deeds, all our acts of worship and obedience are from Allāh and are possible only with His help and guidance.  At the same time, we must believe ourselves responsible for all our bad deeds.  We must hold fast to the Qur’ān and to the example of Allāh’s Messenger.  We must follow in the footsteps of the saints, the righteous, the devout and the lovers.  We must shun like the plague those impious, faithless and ignorant men who assume the guise of spiritual teachers, those deviants and devils who do not know what issues from their own mouths.  We must stay close to those who are loved by the All-Merciful, but keep our distance from Satan’s loved ones.  The following story will help us to recognize those whom Satan loves and those whom he hates.


A Tradition Concerning the Enemies of Satan

This is related by the venerable Anas ibn Mālik:

“One day, in the house of Abū Ayyūb, we were sitting together in the company of our Master, the blessed Messenger of Allāh.  Suddenly, we heard a very ugly voice calling from outside: ‘O Messenger of Allāh, have I your permission to enter?’  Our Master asked us: ‘Do you recognize that voice?’  When we replied: ‘Allāh and His Messenger know best,’ our Master said: ‘That is the voice of Satan.’

“the venerable ‘Umar got up and said: ‘O Messenger of Allāh, by your leave let me go and smash the deceiver’s skull.  Let me deliver the people from his mischief.’  But our Master told him: ‘It is not within your power to do so, ‘Umar, for he has been given respite till the Resurrection.  Nobody can touch him.’

“We all fell silent, waiting to see what might happen.  Our Master said: ‘There is always an underlying reason for things.  Otherwise he would not have come here.’  He then gave permission for the devil to enter his presence.  In he came, his face very ugly, blind in one eye and with a few hairs on his chin.  He explained that he had come at God’s command, saying; ‘Had I not come, the Exalted Lord would have tormented me as long as I was on earth.  You are to question me, and I am to answer your queries.’

“Our Master, on him be blessings and peace, then asked Satan: ‘Who are your enemies?’  To this he replied: ‘My enemies are fifteen groups of people.  First of all, my chief foes are you and all the Prophets.’

“ ‘What you say is true,’ said the blessed Messenger: ‘Neither I nor any of the Prophets have any love for you.  You are both my greatest enemy and that of all the Prophets.’  Satan then proceeded to enumerate his other foes:

“ ‘My second enemies are scholars who put their learning into practice.  They not only study and teach, but also act on what they learn.

“ ‘My third foes are the righteous who recite the Qur’ān and model their character on what they read.

“ ‘My fourth enemies are those who give the Call to Prayer for Allāh’s sake.

“ ‘My fifth enemies are the poor who are satisfied with their lot.

“ ‘My sixth foes are the compassionate.

“ ‘My seventh enemies are the generous.

“ ‘My eighth foes are those who perform the early morning prayer on time.

“ ‘My ninth enemies are those who advise the people and call them to Allāh, those who reform the people.

“ ‘My tenth foes are those who abstain from unlawful food and avoid fornication and adultery.

“ ‘My eleventh foes are those who are always in a state of ritual purity, ready for worship.

“ ‘My twelfth enemies are the modest.

“ ‘My thirteenth enemies are those who place all their trust in Allāh.

“ ‘My fourteenth foes are those who give pleasure to the poor and needy.

“ ‘My fifteenth foes are those called pious and devout, who are always busy in the service of their Exalted Lord.’ [*2]

“Our Master next asked Satan: ‘Have you any friends among my Community?  What are the characteristics of your friends?’  To this Satan replied: ‘O Messenger, ten classes of people are my friends: First, tyrannical rulers and princes who oppress the people.  Second, the arrogant.  Third, scholars who are the lackeys of tyrants, who cannot tell them the truth, but hide it and confirm their falsehoods.  Fourth, dishonest tradesmaen who cannot be trusted in business.  Fifth, those who take strong drink.  Sixth, confidence tricksters and black marketers.  Seventh, backbiters and slanderous gossips.  Eighth, usurers, those who take interest.  Ninth, liars and blasphemers.  Tenth, informers, intriguers who stir up enmity and cause friends to quarrel and fall out with one another.’ “


Here we have listed all the friends and foes of Satan.  Those who worship are his foes, while those who do not worship are his friends.  Is it possible to conceive of a spiritual teacher, a saint, who not only fails to worship Allāh personally, but even prevents others from doing so?  Anyone who keeps people from their five daily prayers, who makes them break their fast, is indeed an intimate friend—not of God, but of Satan.  He is an enemy of the Exalted Lord.  We shall see the true condition of such people on the coming Day of Resurrection.  They will have a hard time explaining themselves to their deluded and misguided disciples, who will say to them, as they are cast into the Fire:

‘We were only following you; so can you give us some relief from Allāh’s punishment?’ [14:21]


[They will reply:] ‘Had Allāh guided us, we would have guided you.’ [14:21]


‘It makes no difference now, whether we panic or patiently endure.’ [14:21]


‘For us there is no refuge.’ [14:21]


The false teachers will try to blame it all on Satan.  But when they start to shower their curses on him, Satan will emerge from the fire upon a throne, addressing them with these words:


[Satan will say:] ‘Allāh made you a promise true; I also made you promises, but I have left you in the lurch.  I had no power over you: I only called you and you answered me.  Therefore do not blame me, but blame yourselves.  I cannot help you, nor can you help me.  I did not believe in the divine partnership you once ascribed to me.’  For the evildoers there is indeed a painful punishment. [14:22]


False guides of this type are found in every religion and creed…




As for those who share a false friendship in the life of this world, leading one another astray from the path of Truth and keeping people from the worship of God, they will all be enemies at the place of Resurrection:


Friends on that day will be foes to one another, except the righteous. [43:67]


But all to no avail…


*              *              *


The Devil Justifies Himself


The disciples of Abū Yazīd al-Bistāmī, sanctified be his noble soul, once complained to him about the devil, saying: “Satan takes away our faith.”  The venerable Sheikh then summoned Satan and rebuked him, but the devil defended himself with these words: “O Sheikh, I cannot compel anyone to do anyting.  I fear Allāh too much to risk being responsible for that.  As it is, human beings throw their faith away for very trivial reasons and I just pick up the faith they throw away.”

Addressing the people of Hell, Satan will say: “It was my duty to deceive you.  One of my principal tasks was to make you plunge into the pursuit of pleasure, luring you from truth to heedlessness.  I set a yoke on each of your necks.  I deprived some of you of your faith, some of you of your honor.  I had only to say the word and you would act accordingly.  You believed I me, instead of believing in Allāh and in His Messengers.  You should be ashamed to blame me now, for you are quite without justification.  Don’t blame me, blame your own lower selves.  Don’t curse me, curse your own lower selves.”

Those doomed to Hell will find no answer for these serious accusations of Satan.  They will all hang their heads n silence.  Then the gates of Hell will be closed for all eternity upon the unbelievers and tyrants who must remain there forever.



Believers, you must recognize your foe.  Do not become the servants of satan and his minions…  Only those who possess the following attributes will lead you to God, ensuring your bliss and salvation in both worlds:

Acknowledge as your friend and savior in this world and the Hereafter anyone who calls you to Allāh and to His Beloved, who advises and instructs you in worship and obedience, who imbues your heart with the love of Allāh and Muhammad, who teaches and encourages you to respect the noble Companions and to feel affection for the People of the Prophet’s Household, who causes you to take delight in your worship, who prevents you from all kinds of sin, mischief and evildoing.  When you meet such a noble individual, your heart will surely rejoice.  When you behold his blessed countenance, you will remember Allāh and His Messenger.  In your heart you will feel the awakening of the fear of Allāh, the love of Allāh and of the Messenger.  Embrace him, bind yourself to him and have no fear, for the life-buoy you are offered is attached to the life-line of Allāh and His Messenger.  Whoever clings to it is sure of salvation.  If you can find a noble being combining all these qualities in himself, embrace him tightly and never let him go.  Your will then enjoy success in both worlds.  You will achieve bliss and salvation in this world and in the Hereafter.  On leaving this transitory world, you will enter Paradise and behold the Divine Beauty.

O my God, for the sake of Your Most Mighty Name, for the sake of Your Most Holy Divine [Entity], for the sake of the mystery of Your Noble Name “The Guide”, let us recognize Your friends and never leave them.  Keep us far away from Your foes and protect and deliver us from their mischief.  Shield us from the assaults and transgressions of Your enemies disguised as friends.  Let us truly see the Truth, recognize the false and give it a wide berth.  Make us close to the People of Allāh, who walk in the radiant and blessed steps of Your Beloved, following his example and modeling themselves on his attributes and character.  May we never be separated from them.  Grant that we may die in faith and join us with the righteous.  Do not drive us from Your door like Satan.  Let us rejoice in Your service, never proud in our worship.  May we never tire of serving You.  Let us not be employed in evil works in dirty places.  Increase our love and multiply our service.  Raise us up and do not abase us.  Graciously accept our unworthy service, despite its inadequacy and shortcomings.  Transfer our names from the register of sinners to the list of the blessed and fix them there.  Deliver us from the Fire, in honor of the blood of Husayn.  Let us feel Your pardon rather than Your justice.  On the dread day of our death, our last day in this world and our first in the Hereafter, give us no cause to fear, let our hearts be unerring.  Send Your angels with glad tidings at that moment, that we may rejoice in Your Paradise, Your Beauty and Your Mercy.  Spare us the darkness and torment of the tomb.  Save us from the gloom of the Place of Resurrection and the terror of Hell.  Admit us to Your Paradise and the vision of Your Countenance.

In honor of the Chief of the Messengers; and grateful praise to Allāh, Lord of all the Worlds.





1* subhānaka mā ‘abadnāka haqqa ‘ibādatika yā ma’būd

2* A lover cannot attain his goal unless he embraces the renunciation of Ad’ham, the abstinence of Junayd, the wisdom of Abū Yazīd and the love of Mevlānā.