One method that satan uses most often to draw people away from the true path is to thrust them into despair and pessimism. Satan makes people with ignorant beliefs think that perverse behavior based on despair and distrust is legitimate; and in this way he leads them to disbelief. He wants to apply the same method to people of faith and draw them away from the Qur'an by making them adopt this ignorant morality. The Qur'an tells us that despair is one of the major signs of disbelief:
... Do not despair of solace from Allah. No one despairs of solace from Allah except for people who are unbelievers.' (Surah Yusuf: 87)
Aware of this, satan uses despair as a weapon against those whose hearts are sick. But as with all his other tricks, he resorts to all sorts of stratagems to keep them from sensing the danger he's drawn them into. If he openly urges them to abandon their hope in Allah's mercy and pardon, he knows that his stratagems may be discovered and fail in their purpose. Any person with faith knows that being caught up in such thoughts may mean that he has lost his faith. In this situation, satan makes him experience despair by concealing it behind other thoughts and covering it up with excuses that appear rational and legitimate. In such a situation, a person may feel that he has lost faith and hope; and these ideas may be reflected in his whole moral behavior and direct his life. Finally, he may end up by getting what satan already wants, by any means necessary-to be drawn toward the pangs of punishment.
To achieve his aim, satan plans his tactics systematically and subtly. Stage by stage he employs various methods to lead a person to where he wants them to be. People shroud their consciences and, looking for excuses to follow the desires of their lower selves, are easily persuaded to submit to the way that satan shows them. Satan especially gives them the excuse that there are plainly many difficulties and serious drawbacks in any situation. Those who take refuge in this excuse try to comfort their consciences by saying that their problems are almost insurmountable and would take much effort to overcome. They candidly claim that they have done everything in their power and tried every means, but could find no way over their difficulties. They claim that they have totally exhausted all their efforts in the attempt to find a solution to the "vicious circle" situation. According to this insincere excuse, the situation is out of their hands; the state they are in and the events they have experienced have forced them into this irresolvable situation. Now that they are sad and without hope, satan has finished the game he played with them.
But these people know that all the excuses they offered were false and insincere. They are aware that despair, distrust and an attitude of such helplessness have nothing to do with the Qur'an. From moment to moment, their consciences remind them of their insincerity and call them to think in terms of the moral teachings of the Qur'an. But they go along this road satan has shown them, deliberately using excuses to favor of their egos' undisciplined desires.
They knowingly cover up their consciences and choose insincerity, causing them to suffer pangs of conscience. Because of this anxiety of conscience they experience both a physical and a mental breakdown.
Following satan's intimations absolutely, they cannot find the strength to stand up and struggle against their situation, or rescue themselves from the insincerity they live in. As we said in the first chapter, an individual under satan's influence leaves everything to take its natural course and tries to persuade himself that there is no other way out apart from leading a life of anxiety full of distress. As if waiting for death, he turns to activities that will distract him and thus tries to forget the irreparable dangers caused by insincerity in this life and the next. Allah tells us in the Qur'an that those people who try to deceive themselves and believers in their insincerity are totally aware of the agony that awaits them in the Hereafter.
Among the people there are some who say, "We believe in Allah and the Last Day," when they are not believers. They think they deceive Allah and those who believe. They deceive no one but themselves but they are not aware of it. There is a sickness in their hearts and Allah has increased their sickness. They will have a painful punishment on account of their denial. (Surat al-Baqara: 8-10)
However, due to having no fear of Allah as they ought to, they try to forget this agony, of which they are reminded, instead of thinking about it. For this reason, they sometimes pass their time by diverting themselves with tiring work, sometimes by getting involved in intense mental activities and sometimes just by sleeping off their exhaustion.
By this stage, satan's task is largely finished. There is no further use in wasting his time with a person who has entirely sided with satan. Now, to inspire sorrow in him, it will be enough to renew these thoughts from time to time, remind him of the dire nature of his situation, the intractability of his problems and his helplessness. After this stage, an individual will have undertaken satan's work in its every detail. He will now repeat to himself and remind others of the ideas that satan had him memorize. These things are no longer an empty apprehension for him; they will find their place as definite and real judgments that he believes in.
Those who persist in living without faith under satan's influence are like living corpses. They take no pleasure from life, their blessings, from other people or anything else. Their spirit is blinded, their mind clouded and from carrying this weight, they are physically and mentally drained. Satan has covered their minds, bodies and consciences with a shell and exercises total control over them. They have now become his agents, communicating his message in the cheerless satanic spiritual state that pervades their minds and their appearance. With their mental state, behavior, conversations, facial expressions, tone of voice and their helpless and resigned way of speaking, they seem to invite others to share the same fear and despair.
At this stage, any person of true faith and a clear conscience would provide a great blessing to such a person by calling him and guiding him. For one whose mind and judgment have collapsed, the pure mind of a believer who can see reality and knows the difference between good and bad is a manifestation of Allah's mercy. Believers invite these people who can no longer distinguish what will benefit them and what will harm them according to the morality of the Qur'an, a good life in this world and salvation in the world to come. This may be the last opportunity these people have before they die-their last warning to keep them from suffering punishment in the world to come. At this point they should submit unconditionally to Allah, the Qur'an and the urgings of sincere believers, and live their lives according to the teachings of the Qur'an. By Allah's mercy, they may be rescued from satan's influence and develop a mind and conscience that will sustain a true faith. But in order for this to happen, they must first free themselves from their despairing and untrusting thoughts and ideas.