Satanic Tactics: Action and Decision 1

Walking the path to Allah is a type of war and its battlefield is the heart. To win, we must strengthen our army – our soul, and weaken the enemy – our lower-self and the devil. This is the tenth in a series of articles on Satanic Tricks: Seven Tricks of the Devil.

There is a fascinating book in English by C.S. Lewis called The Screwtape Letters. It is full of insights. From the things mentioned, there is that one of the greatest tricks the devil has ever pulled off is to convince people that he does not really exist. 

As for the mission of the Devil:

قَالَ فَبِعِزَّتِكَ لَأُغۡوِیَنَّهُمۡ أَجۡمَعِینَ

“He said, ‘Now by Your sovereign might, shall I mislead them foul all together” [Quran, 38:82; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

There is the straight path. The Prophets are calling to be on the straight path. Satan’s purpose is to turn you away from that path. If he can turn you away completely he has accomplished his mission. If he can turn you away slightly, he will settle with that. If he can slow you down, he will settle with that. If he can disadvantage you, he will do what he can get.

Leaving the Action

The first and most basic trick of the devil is to leave the action. If one prayed the Dhuhr prayer and before praying the Sunnas one considers for example, “Why don’t I have a coffee first?” There, one has left the action. There are many ways that this arises. It could be making you think of another thing and so on.

The ways to deal with this is firstly, if something is clearly good, do not put it off.  Secondly, work to routines and then strive to stick to them. 

Behavioural research shows that by making active conscious decisions to the extent that you can simplify your decision-making, the more likely you are to make good decisions. Then you set a sustainable routine for yourself and you stick with it. 

If one is at work, praying Dhuhr and one’s boss says, “Can you come over?” Do the two units anyway, Really, how long does it take? If you had been eating a sticky cinnamon roll, would you go to your boss with sticky hands? You would go and wash your hands. Nobody says, “What took so long?”  

In Riyad al-Salihin (The Gardens of The Righteous) between chapters 10 and 18 there are several chapters on the idea of consistency in one’s works, not taking on too much but having consistency, being the best of religious ways.


One of the benefits of consistency is that you can sustain the good. It also makes one’s life easier. Many smart people have a certain thing that they wear. They have a few choices, so they do not have to think about things they do not have to. 

Where we need to put effort is in making a high intention every time. Set routines for your actions, both spiritual and worldly actions. Just as people plan out their professional lives, plan out your religious life. Plan out your social life with good intentions in it. If you fail to do it, it falls apart. 

If you find yourself leaving the good, whether leaving the obligatory and things that you know to be good, then, there is a more fundamental problem than the leaving of the good itself. This is weakness of faith. 

Imam Ghazali summarizes it spectacularly, saying, “Ultimately religion is about the inclination to God and the hereafter to predominate over the inclination towards the self and the worldly.” 

That is the battleground of life. If you know something is the right thing to do, but you do not find the drive, then, you have to do your best to deal with the situation at that moment. Take the means of cultivating faith. If you struggle with that, sometimes you should have the humility and the genuine concern to consult. Do not disclose your sins or shortcomings but for the purpose of consultation. 

It is one of the Sunnas to have good company. One could go to a scholar or someone who only trusts, “I am struggling with this, what do you advise?” Do not be weak, but have the strength to make the right choice.

Delaying the Action

The second of the tricks of Satan is delaying the action. Satan fails in preventing you from doing it so he gets you to put it off in the hope that you’ll forget.

One may support their local Mosque, and one thinks, “I should give it.” So one is looking to do the act but the problem arises with, “But I’ll do it later” Then you may forget.

One may then think about bills one has to pay etc. Eventually resulting in the action not being done. 

One needs to keep in mind that this relates to the aims of the devil. If anything is clearly good, do not put it off. 

Break the action into two parts. Perhaps a person can make a big contribution to the Mosque, but he wants to talk to his spouse. Here, one of the ways of breaking Satan’s trick is to give a little right now, and then make a firm resolve to when you will do it later. 

Take a moment and note it down. That is less likely to get put off.

Rushing the Action

Where Satan cannot get you to delay the action, he will get you to rush the action.

One may want to pray the prayer of seeking guidance but then just rush into it and do it without the intention, without doing it correctly etc. 

By rushing the action, you do not achieve the full benefit from it, or you do it incorrectly. Other harm can come in such as insincerity, showing off, conceit or pride.

Be deliberate. Sometimes the rushing of our actions is a type of delusion. Many people say, “I’ve got to get back to work,” and they pray quickly. Consider if you prayed two units normally, and then do it as fast as you possibly can. How much time would you save on the units? 30 seconds, 60 seconds? It is a delusion.