WASWASA – وسوسة
Literally: Waswasa is a hidden voice like rustle, whispering. In this regard uninterrupted and repeated hidden words in the heart is called waswasa.
The Second Station of the Twenty-First Word
[This comprises five cures for five of the heart's wounds.]
بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
رَبِّ اَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ هَمَزَاتِ الشَّيَاطِينِ ٭ وَاَعُوذُ بِكَ رَبِّ اَنْ يَحْضُرُونِ1
O one afflicted with the sickness of waswasa! Do you know what your waswasa resembles? A calamity! The more importance it is given, the more it grows. If you give it no importance, it passes away. If you see it as big, it grows. If you see it as small, it shrinks. If you fear it, it becomes serious and makes you ill. If you do not fear it, it is light and remains hidden. If you do not know its essence, it persists and becomes established. While if you do know its essence and recognize it, it disappears. And so, I shall explain only five 'Aspects' which, of the many sorts of this calamitous waswasa, are those to which most frequently occur. Perhaps it may be a remedy for you and for me, for this waswasa is such that ignorance invites it and ‘ilm repulses it. If you do not recognize it, it comes, if you do recognize it, it goes.
FIRST ASPECT - FIRST WOUND
Shaytan first casts doubt into the heart. If the heart does not accept it, it turns from doubt into shatm2 . It depicts before the imagination some unclean memories and ugly states that are opposed to adab, which resemble shatm, and causes the heart to declare: "Alas!", and fall into despair. The person suffering from waswasa supposes that he has acted opposed to adab before his Rabb and feels a terrible anxiety and excitement. In order to be saved from it, he flees from the hudhur and wants to plunge into ghaflah. The cure for this wound is this:
O unfortunate man suffering from waswasa! Do not be alarmed! For what comes to your mind is not shatm, but something imaginary. And like to imagine kufr is not kufr, to imagine shatm is not shatm either. For according to logic, imagining is not a judgement, and to shatm is a judgement. Moreover, those ugly words are not the words of your heart, because your heart is saddened and sorry at them. Rather, they come from lummah ash-shaytaniyyah situated near the heart3 . The harm of waswasa is supposing it to be harmful. That is, it is to suffer harm in the heart through supposing it to be harmful. For he supposes an imagining to be haqiqah, which is devoid of judgement. Also, it is to attribute to the heart shaytan's works; to suppose his words to be from it. Such a person thinks it is harmful, so it becomes harmful. That is anyway what shaytan wanted.
The Second Aspect is this: When meanings arise from the heart, they enter the imagination bared of form; it is there that they are clothed in a form. The imagination, always affected by some cause, weaves forms of a sort. It leaves on the way the forms of the things to which it gives importance. Whatever meaning passes through it, it either clothes it, or wears it, or taints it, or veils it. If the meanings are pure and clean, and the forms, dirty and base, there is no clothing, but there is contact. The man with waswasa confuses the contact with being clothed. He exclaims: "Alas! How corrupted my heart has become. This wretchedness, this baseness of the nafs cause me to be repelled!" Shaytan takes advantage of this vein of his. The cure for such a wound is as follows:
Listen, O you unfortunate! Just as outward cleanliness, which is the means to the correct adab of your salâh, is not affected by the uncleanness of the inside of your inner organs, and is not spoiled by it, so the sacred meanings being close to unclean forms does not harm them. For example, you do tafakkur on some Ilahî âyahs when suddenly you feel ill, or appetite, or stimulation like a need to pass water touch your feeling. Of course, your imagination will see whatever is necessary to cure the ill or answer the need and will look at it, weave lowly forms appropriate to them, and the meanings that arise will pass between them. But there is no harm in their passing, nor soiling, nor error, nor injury. The only peril is to pay attention and suppose it to be harmful.
The Third Aspect is this: There are certain hidden connections between things. There is even a thread of connection between things you never expect. They are either there in fact, or your imagination makes those threads according to the art with which it is preoccupied and ties them together. It is due to this mystery of connection that sometimes seeing a sacred thing calls to mind a dirty thing. As stated in the science of rhetoric, "Although the opposition is the cause of distance in the outer world, it is the cause of proximity in the imagination." That is, an imaginary connection is the means of bringing together the images of two opposites. The recollection which arises from this connection is called the tedâî'4 of ideas.
For example, while you are performing the salâh, in the munâjât, before the Ka'ba, before Ilahî hudhur, doing tafakkur on âyahs, this tedâî’5 of ideas takes hold of you and drives you to the furthest low trivia. If your head is afflicted with such tedâî' of ideas in this way, do not be alarmed. Rather, the moment that you awaken to consciousness, turn back. Do not be occupied with scrutiny by saying: "What wrong have I done?" lest through your attention, that tenuous connection strengthens. For the more you are affected, the more importance you give, that weak recollection of yours becomes ingrained. It becomes a sickness of imagination. Do not be frightened, it is not a sickness of the heart. This sort of recollection is mostly involuntary. Especially in sensitive, nervous people, it is more common. Shaytan operates a lot the mine of that sort of waswasa. The cure for this wound is as follows:
The tedâî’ of ideas is mostly involuntary. There is no responsibility for those. In tedâî’ there is vicinity; there is no touching or intermingling. Therefore, the condition of the ideas do not spread to one another and do not harm one another. Just as, there is the vicinity of shaytan and the malâikah of Ilham around the heart, and sinners and the pious being close to one another in the same house cause no harm, so too, if at the prompting of the tedâî’ of ideas, dirty imaginings come and enter among clean thoughts, they cause no harm. Unless it is intentional or one is over-occupied with them by the supposition of their being harmful. Also, sometimes the heart becomes tired. The mind occupies itself with anything randomly in order to entertain itself. Then shaytan finds an opportunity, and scatters dirty things before it, and lay eggs on it.
This is a waswasa arising from probing for the best form of an action (‘amal) that the condition intensifies for the person through becoming severe by the supposition of taqwâ. It even reaches to a degree that while searching for better forms of action (‘amal), he falls into haram. Sometimes searching for a Sunnah causes him to abandon a wâjib. He says: "I wonder if my act (‘amal) was sound?", and repeats it. This state continues. He falls into great despair. Shaytan takes advantage of this state of his and wounds him. There are two cures for such a wound.
The First Cure: Waswasa like this is worthy of the Mu'tazilites because they say: "Actions and things which are the causes of accountability, have goodness in their essences or in regard to the âkhirah, then in consequence of that goodness they were commanded, or they have badness then in consequence of that, they were prohibited. That means, from the point of view of haqiqah and the âkhirah, the goodness and badness are in the essence of the things and Ilahî command and prohibition follow this." According to this madhab, the following waswasa arises in man in every action (‘amal) he performs: "I wonder if my action was performed in a good form which in essence, it is?" While Ahl al-Sunnah wa'l-Jamâ'ah which is the haqq madhab says: "Janâb-i Haqq commands a thing, then it becomes good. He prohibits a thing, then it becomes bad." This means goodness becomes existent through command and badness through prohibition. The goodness and badness look to mukallaf’s6 being informed of and they exist accordingly. And this goodness and badness are not in the apparent face which looks to the world, rather in the face that looks to the âkhirah.
For example, you performed the salâh or took the wudû. Whereas, in essence, there was a cause that would spoil them. But you had no knowledge of it. Your salâh and wudû are both sound and good. The Mu'tazilites say: "In haqiqah, it was bad and unsound. But it is accepted from you because you were ignorant, and did not know thus have an excuse." Therefore, according to the madhab of Ahl al-Sunnah do not have waswasa about an action (‘amal) that is conformable with the externals of the Sharî'ah through saying: "I wonder if it was sound?"; about it. Rather ask: "Was it accepted?"; do not become proud and conceited!
The Second Cure: لاَ حَرَجَ فِى الدِّينِ There is no difficulty in religion. Since the four madhabs are haqq; and since realizing a fault which leads to istighfâr is preferable -for such a person afflicted with waswasa - to seeing actions as good, which leads to pride. That is, it is better if such a person sees his action (‘amal) as faulty and does istighfâr, rather than falling into pride through considering it to be beautiful. Since it is thus, throw away the waswasa. Say to shaytan: "This state is a difficulty. It is difficult to be informed of the reality of the state. It is contrary to the ease in religion. It is contrary to the principle اَلدِّينُ يُسْرٌ٭ لاَ حَرَجَ فِى الدِّينِ 7 . Certainly, such action of mine is conformable with a haqq madhab. That is enough for me.
And at least it is a means of a humble supplication for my faulty actions to be accepted and for my faults to be forgiven by taking refuge with Ilahî compassion through istighfâr, beseeching and admitting my impotence to perform ‘ibâdah in a way worthy of it
The waswasa which occurs in the form of doubts concerning the matters of îmân. The unfortunate man suffering waswasa sometimes confuses the imagining with the thinking in the mind. That is, he supposes that a doubt which has appeared in the imagination is a doubt that has entered the mind and supposes that his belief has been damaged. Sometimes, he supposes that a doubt which he has as a wahm is a doubt which harms his îmân. Sometimes, he also supposes that a doubt which he has formed has been confirmed by his mind. Sometimes, he also supposes that doing tafakkur over a matter related to kufr is kufr. That is, he supposes revolving, investigating and unbiased reasoning of the power of tafakkur in the form of understanding the causes of dhalâlah are contrary to îmân. Then, by being frightened at these suppositions which are the results of the promptings of shaytan, he says: "Alas! My heart is corrupted and my belief is harmed." Since those states are mostly involuntary, and he cannot put them to rights through his juz' al-ikhtiyârî, he falls into despair. The cure for this wound is as follows:
Just as imagining kufr is not kufr, neither having wahm on kufr is kufr. And just as having tasawwur on dhalâlah is not dhalâlah, so too having tafakkur on dhalâlah is not dhalâlah. For both imagining, and having wahm, and tasawwur and tafakkur are different from affirmation with the mind and idh'ân of the heart, they are different. They are free to an extent. They do not listen to the juz’ al-ikhtiyârî. They do not undertake the obligations of religion. But affirmation and idh'ân are not like that. They are subjected to a balance. And just as imagining, having wahm, tasawwur and tafakkur are not affirmation or idh'ân, so they are not considered doubt or hesitation. But if they are established by being repeating unnecessarily, then a sort of real doubt may be born from them. Also, one reaches such a state to which he unwillingly displays iltizâm the opposing side due to displaying iltizâm to the opposing side continually by calling it unbiased reasoning or being fair. The iltizâm of the haqq, which is wâjib on him, is destroyed. He too falls into danger. A state of being an unjust representative of shaytan or the enemy is established in his mind.
The most important of this sort of waswasa is this: the person suffering from it confuses something that is possible in essence with something which is reasonably possible. That is, if he sees something which is possible in essence, he supposes it to be reasonably possible and reasonably doubtful. Whereas, one of the principles of ‘Ilm al-Kalâm is that something which is possible in essence is not opposed to certain knowledge and does not contradict the necessities of reason. For example, the Black Sea sinking into the earth at this moment is possible in essence, but we judge with certainty that the sea is in its place, and we know this without doubting it. And that potentiality of this possibility and that possibility in essence causes no doubt and does not damage our certainty. And, for example, in essence, it is possible that the sun will not set today or that it will not rise tomorrow. But this possibility in no way damages our certainty and causes no doubt. Similarly, wahm which arises from this aspect of possibility in essence, for example, the setting of life of this world and the rising of life of the âkhirah, which are among the haqiqahs of îmân, do not harm the certainty of îmân. Furthermore, the well-known rule, لاَ عِبْرَةَ ِلْلاِحْتِمَالِ الْغَيْرِ النَّاشِئِ عَنْ دَلِيلٍ that is, “A possibility that does not arise from any proof or evidence is of no importance” is one of the established principles of both Usûl ad-dîn and Usûl al-fiqh.
If you say: "What is the hikmah of waswasa pestering us, to which are harmful and troublesome for mu’mins?"
The Answer: On the condition, it does not reach to ifrât or become predominant, the essence of waswasa is the cause of vigilance and to do one's best, and a means to seriousness. It banishes indifference and repulses carelessness. Therefore, in this realm of examination and arena of competition, the Absolutely Hakîm put it in the hand of Shaytan as a whip of encouragement for us. He strikes it at mankind’s heads. If it hurts excessively, one must complain to Al-Hakîm Who is Rahîm, and say: اَعُوذُ بِاللّٰهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ ”
1 (And say: "O my Rabb! I seek refuge with You from the suggestions of the shaytans * And I seek refuge with You, O my Rabb, lest they should come near me.)
2 Literally: A reviling. Scurrility. Invective. To revile, vituperate.
Note from compilers: Every word has a meaning. The essence and reality of a word which is spread from the mouth and exits in the form of a sound is its meaning. The word is used to carry the meaning from a thought. That is, our speech is the consequence of our thoughts and derives from them. When a word is used, the meaning of it exists in the thoughts of a person who spoke them.
To further define the meaning in the First Aspect – First Wound with regards to shatm is that the thoughts which are contrary to adab, morality and respect that cause a person who thinks of them to feel ashamed even though they are not said nor embodied by the sound of words, are existent by their meanings in the mind and imagination. These thoughts may come willingly or unwillingly. There is no responsibility if they come unwillingly. However, if they come in the mind willingly even though they are not said, there is a responsibility for the misusage in the faculty of imagination. They have an existence in the imagination in a different form and became an action which is negatively performed by the faculty of imagination. By willingly thinking of them which is the use of the faculty of imagination is for the sake of the nafs and becomes an obstacle to ma’nawî attainments and perfection.
3 “everyone has observed in his nafs by sense or hads, the inner faculty named lummah ash-shaytaniyyah, situated in a corner of the heart which is the means to waswasa and a shaytanic tongue which speaks through the promptings of the quwwa al-wâhimah and the corrupted quwwa al-wâhimah, which becomes like a small shaytan and acts contrary to its owner's will and opposed to his desires-these are certain evidence to the existence of great shaytans in ‘âlam.” The Flashes ( 118 )
4 (Summoning or inviting one idea to another idea through making a connection and association of them in imagination)
5 (Summoning or inviting one idea to another idea through making a connection and association of them in imagination)
6 (One who is responsible to Allah in the obligations of religion like îmân and ‘ibâdah. One who has the accountability by way of the obligations placed on him by Allah)
7 (There is no difficulty in religion, Religion is facility)
8 ( I seek refuge with Allah from shaytan the accursed.)