An Important Excerpt from Ibnul Qayyim’s Book on Remembrance
Indeed the servant is able to strengthen his concentration in prayer and focus on his Lord (during it) if he is successful in overcoming his desires and cravings. However if his heart has been conquered, his desires have taken him captive, and the Shaytan is able to find a place within it, then how can this individual escape the whispers and thoughts (that disturb him during prayer)!
Verily the hearts are of three types:
1. The heart which is void of Eeman and all types of good, this is the dark heart. The Shaytan no longer needs to confront this heart with whispers because he now dwells in it. He decrees what he wishes in it and has taken complete control of it
2. The heart which has been illuminated with the light of Eeman. Faith has kindled its lanterns within it, but at the same time there is still present some darkness of desires and winds of disobedience. The Shaytan approaches and retreats from this category of hearts, and at times he takes advantage of opportunities. The war (in this heart) is sometimes severe and at other times calm.
The affair of the individuals who fall into this category of hearts varies between many and few. Some possessors of this category are usually victorious over their enemy, while others regularly allow their enemy to get the upper hand. A third group are those who have equal moments of defeat and victory.
3. The heart which is filled with faith. This heart is illuminated with the light of Eeman and the veil of desires and darkness has been lifted from it. The light of Eeman is glowing within the chest and that glow contains flames. If desires attempt to approach the heart they are burned by the flames (of Eeman). This heart is protected similar to the protection of the sky by the stars. If the Shaytan attempts to advance toward the sky to steal (information) he is flogged with a star and he burns. The sky is not more precious than the believer and Allah’s protection of the believer is greater than His protection of the sky. The sky is a place of worship for the Angels, it is also the place of revelation (The Quran was brought to the last sky and then revealed to The Prophet (sas) piece by piece), and in it (the sky) are the rays of obedience. But the heart of the believer is the place of Tawheed, love (of Allah, the Prophet –May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him-, Islam, etc…), understanding and faith. In it are the rays of the previously mentioned elements, and therefore it is befitting that it is protected from the plots of the enemy. As a result of this, he (the enemy) can not obtain anything from it (the heart of the believer) except by deceitfully seizing it.
A good example of this has been made with the example of 3 homes:
1. The home of the king: In it are his treasures and precious jewels and belongings.
2. The home of the slave: In it is his wealth and precious jewels and belongings, but indeed his belongings are much less (in value and quantity) than that of the king’s.
3. The empty home: There is nothing present in it.
A thief approaches with the intention of stealing from one of the homes, which one would he burglarize?
If you say that he would rob the empty home, this is something impossible because the empty home possess nothing for him to steal. Based on this (reality), it was mentioned to Ibn Abbass (May Allah be pleased with him): Verily the Jews claim that they do not experience whispers (distractions) in prayer. Ibn Abbass thereupon commented: “What would the Shaytan do to a heart that is already destroyed”
If you said that he would steal from the home of the king, this would also be impossible due to the strong presence of guards, consequently the thief can not approach this home. How could he, while the king himself is protecting his own home! How could he come close while this home is surrounded and guarded by an army!
Consequently there is nothing left for the thief except the third home. This is the home the thief attempts to approach.
It is incumbent for the intelligent individual to reflect upon this example with true reflection and contemplation, and apply this example to the hearts for indeed it is applicable.