Heads of Satans, Ribat, Forgiving

Issue 616 » January 14, 2011 - Safar 9, 1432

Living The Quran

Heads of Satans
Al-Saffat (The Ranks) - Chapter 37: Verse 65

"Its (Zaqqum's) fruits are like the heads of satans."

We usually liken beautiful beings to angels as the women who saw the Prophet Yusuf, upon him be peace, likened him to honourable angel (12:31); conversely, we liken ugly beings to devils. However, there may be many other points of resemblance between the fruit of the tree of Zaqqum and the heads of devils. For example, this tree will grow from the seeds sown by the evil deeds committed by the people in Hell, deeds that were prompted by Satan.

The Quran mentions deeds - such as taking intoxicants, playing games of chance, offering sacrifices for anything having the meaning of an idol or at the places consecrated for offerings to other than God, and polytheistic divination by shooting arrows and other similar ways - as loathsome evil of Satan's doing (5: 90). So, it is quite natural that such deeds will grow into satan-like trees and yield fruit that resembles the heads of devils.

Compiled From:
"The Quran: Annotated Interpretation in Modern English" - Ali Unal, pp. 923

Understanding The Prophet's Life


The Messenger, peace be upon him, once asked: "Listen. Shall I guide you to the things through which God blots out sins and elevates you to higher ranks?" When his Companions asked him to do so, he told them: "Perform wudu (ritual ablution) as correctly as possible, even in the most adverse conditions; walk to the mosque for each prayer, and wait for the next prayer after praying. This is the ribat, this is the ribat (preparation, dedication)." [Muslim]

The hadith begins with 'Listen' to stress the importance of what follows. In this case, it is the five daily prayers.

The prescribed prayer is the pillar of Islam. Without it, Islam cannot be maintained. When believers pray correctly, they are protected from evil thoughts and deeds. It is also a sacred ladder for ascending to the Presence of God. But before we climb it, we must perform wudu as perfectly as possible. From the first step toward wudu, believers begin to gain reward. While performing it, they are relieved of the stress of daily life and cleansed of sins. When performed in difficult circumstances, believers receive an even greater exhilaration.

God's Messenger describes the prescribed prayer as ribat, which can be translated as "dedication to something or guarding the frontier." By describing the prescribed prayers as ribat, God's Messenger also emphasizes that Muslims should dedicate their lives to Divine worship and organize their daily activities around the five daily prayers. They should ensure that they can pray when necessary and with full attention. After each prayer, they should wait expectantly for the next one. Those who pray in such a manner will be cleansed of sins and, moreover, protected against committing more sins.

Compiled From:
"The Messenger of God: Muhammad" - Fethullah Gulen, pp. 111-112



Some people forgive themselves everything and condemn everyone else. Some condemn everything about themselves and find extenuating circumstances for others. Some do not forgive themselves for anything and forgive nothing. And others forgive everything and (almost) everyone. To love and forgive is to be both demanding and indulgent. This is a matter of balance. An Islamic prophetic tradition says: 'Find seventy excuses for your brother (sister), and if you cannot find any, imagine that there is one excuse you do not know.' This suggestion echoes the Christian maxim 'Love thy neighbour as thyself,' and 'Thou shalt not judge.' It is about loving and suspending one's judgement. This does not mean accepting everything that others do (in which case there would be no love), but it does mean taking the view that their mistakes or sins do not tell us the whole truth about them. In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare suggests that we 'Condemn the fault and no the actor of it' if we wish to ensure that we do not punish the wrong person. All the monotheisms recommend that we make that distinction: human beings can judge acts, but only God is in a position to judge human beings. When human beings turn into judges, they invent not the hereafter on earth but hell.

This awareness must not become another trap. All spiritualities and religions teach us to be both demanding and indulgent towards ourselves. The reason why sages and prophets were human beings is that they had to convey to us the message of their humanity, which was sometimes strong and sometimes fragile, sometimes determined and sometimes vulnerable, sometimes alert and sometimes weary. Their mistakes and failings are signs, reminders and calls against being smug, arrogant or pretentious as we go our own way. At the same time, they are expressions of the need to be watched, forgiven and loved. Our faults make us human, and we need to accept them, not as fatalities but as initiations that raise us up.

Compiled From:
"The Quest for Meaning" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 201-203