Ramadan: Recognizing the Traps (2)

Narrated by Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.”

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ إِذَا دَخَلَ شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ فُتِّحَتْ أَبْوَابُ السَّمَاءِ، وَغُلِّقَتْ أَبْوَابُ جَهَنَّمَ، وَسُلْسِلَتِ الشَّيَاطِينُ ‏”‏‏

And that gives us a great opportunity to look around and see what traps we might have fallen into, and make some moves to extricate ourselves.

A common question arises: If the devils are chained, why do we continue to sin in Ramadan?

Well, for the other 324 or 325 days of the year (in Islam, we follow a lunar calendar), the devils are roaming free. They sit on our shoulders and tickle our ears. They shout at us from billboards and supermarket shelves and tv screens. They set up camp in our chests and whisper to our hears.

Astaghfirullah, we sometimes let them in. And once they’re in, unless we’re very vigilant and very conscious, we let one-time mistakes become habits. And because of free will and the Mercy of Allah, our hearts are unchained in Ramadan, and so we continue our habits. Audhu Billah.

Some of our sins and errors are known and committed consciously, and may Allah guide us to correct ourselves. But some more pernicious sins are unknown, and so it’s worth looking at the different ways the little satans try to distract us and guide us away from God. Allahu Alim, and most of us probably have one or more habits or customs or that arose partly from the Devil’s tricks.

As a reminder here are the 7 ways the devil attacks us: doubt and disbelief, innovation, major sins, minor sins, pursuing the disliked, wasting time on the permissible, and choosing the lesser of two goods.

Doubt and Disbelief

EDIT: After reading more about this, I misunderstood the terms… Doubt, in the context of traps just is doubt in Allah, His messenger, His books, His decree, and etc., and as such, it’s equivalent with disbelief in Allah azza wa jall, His messengers, His books, His decree, and etc. Thanks be to God for guiding me to a more correct understanding.

Disbelief in Allah, doubt about Him is definitely where the devils want us to end up, Audhu Billah.

In the hopes that the rest of this has some value, I’m leaving the original below.

Doubt of this type is a disease of the heart. I pray that Allah protect us from this disease, and may He guide us to the straight path, Ameen.

In my experience, once I started seriously looking into Islam, it’s as if a switch flipped inside me, and, while many of the practices of some of my neighbors and fellow Muslims elude and confuse me, I’m relying on some basic principles to hep me practice this beautiful religion. At times, I’ve had questions and concerns, I’ve prayed to Allah for guidance, and then either gone and asked someone to help straighten me out, or read around the topic until it became clear. And Alhamdulillah, I’ve not been tested with this form of doubt.

If you’re reading this, I pray that you’re not in doubt, and if you are, please put your face on the ground and sincerely beg Allah for guidance.

إِنَّكَ لَا تَهْدِي مَنْ أَحْبَبْتَ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ*

Indeed, [O Muhammad], you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided.

Al Qasas, 56

Doubts in people and what they tell you are, for me, normal, and easily rectified with a bit of research and some counsel. If you’re doubting the faith itself or any of its practices or principles, please seek guidance.

Tomorrow, InshaAllah, I’ll dig into some of the other traps. This has gotten overlong.

I’ve forgotten to include this in recent posts, and may Allah forgive me. It’s relevant here, for sure: if anything I’ve said is of benefit or good to you, it comes from Allah alone, and if anything I’ve said is wrong, it comes from me, Satan the accursed, and his traps that I allowed to become habits.

Here’s the original post… Take it with as many grains of salt as you wish, and maybe there’s still some benefit to be found.

Doubts are normal. As a convert, I’ve been told things, read things, and heard things that gave me pause. I’ve heard highly regarded scholars accuse other highly regarded scholars of disbelief and innovation.* I’ve had well meaning uncles tell me all sorts of things that, after some brief research, ended up being incorrect. I’ve read translations of Quran that seemed wrong, and I verified my suspicions with a scholar.

I’ve also read things that sounded wrong, but were later found to be correct. Sometimes, I just misread or misheard, but other times, I had to adjust my behavior.

In Islam, doubt is fine, but we’re required to go ask someone that knows, to go read something, to study and learn and remove our doubts.

Now, another error of mine: in first drafts of this, I separated doubt from disbelief, and I had no idea how to tackle disbelief. After all, disbelief in Allah is not a trick of the Devil, it’s his goal. But in this context, doubt and disbelief largely equivalent. Disbelief in this case is not, Audhu Billah, disbelief in Allah or his Messengers, peace be upon them all, but disbelief in the speaker, in the text, in the activity.

When my Costa Rican colleagues hit me up on lync, they often say “James, I have a doubt.” In American, we say ‘I have a question’ but the Ticos don’t have a word for question… for them it’s all doubts. In English as I understand it, if I say “I doubt that” it’s a pretty close equivalent to say “that’s unbelievable.” We’d use them in different contexts, and maybe it’s differences of degree, but questions are doubts and doubts are disbelief, but a question/doubt/disbelief around some religious ruling or practice are resolutely not Disbelief in God, as long as we go and rectify our understanding and don’t allow our doubts to lead us away from God.

So if you hear something unbelievable, don’t just act, but go and read up on it, study, ask someone to help you, and pray to God for His guidance.

Ihdinas siraatal mustaqeem.

At the present moment, Alhamdulillah I don’t have any doubts about my religion. I have some doubts about my own action and I know I’m not doing everything I can, and may Allah guide me to better. But if you’re reading this, and you have doubts, go and ask someone! Ask me, if you want. I’m no scholar, and I may defer you to someone who knows more than I do, but if I know, I’ll tell you, as will any scholar (and beware of any scholar that has an answer to every question you have: only Allah knows all; we have to work together to find answers).


*In old recorded lectures, and they’ve since reversed their position, saught forgiveness publicly, and now stick to the shariah or the tafsir or the sunnah or the seerah or whatever their specialty. Alhamdulillah.

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