The Chaining of the Devils

Salamu `Alaykum

It is narrated on the authority Sayyidina Abu Hurayra (Allah be well-pleased with him) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

‏حدثنا ‏ ‏يحيى بن أيوب ‏ ‏وقتيبة ‏ ‏وابن حجر ‏ ‏قالوا حدثنا ‏ ‏إسمعيل وهو ابن جعفر ‏ ‏عن ‏ ‏أبي سهيل ‏ ‏عن ‏ ‏أبيه ‏ ‏عن ‏ ‏أبي هريرة ‏ ‏رضي الله عنه ‏
‏أن رسول الله ‏ ‏صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ ‏قال ‏ ‏إذا جاء رمضان فتحت أبواب الجنة وغلقت أبواب النار ‏ ‏وصفدت ‏ ‏الشياطين

“When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened, and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained up.

(Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and Nasa`i – who narrates numerous versions of the narration with their variants some mentioning “the most evil jinns“)

Among the interpretative possibilities given for this narration are:

[1] That it is taken literally and on its apparent meaning. This was the position of Qadhi `Iyaad, Imam Qurtubi, and Ibn Munir. In the Fath al Bari, it states in a lengthy discussion:

قال عياض : يحتمل أنه على ظاهره وحقيقته وأن ذلك كله علامة للملائكة لدخول الشر وتعظيم حرمته ولمنع الشياطين من أذى المؤمنين , ويحتمل أن يكون إشارة إلى كثرة الثواب والعفو , وأن الشياطين يقل إغواؤهم فيصيرون كالمصفدين . قال : ويؤيد هذا الاحتمال الثاني قوله في رواية يونس عن ابن شهاب عند مسلم ” فتحت أبواب الرحمة ” قال : ويحتمل أن يكون فتح أبواب الجنة عبارة عما يفتحه الله لعباده من الطاعات وذلك أسباب لدخول الجنة , وغلق أبواب النار عبارة عن صرف الهمم عن المعاصي الآيلة بأصحابها إلى النار , وتصفيد الشياطين عبارة عن تعجيزهم عن الإغواء وتزيين الشهوات . قال الزين بن المنير : والأول أوجه , ولا ضرورة تدعو إلى صرف اللفظ عن ظاهره

“[Qadhi] `Iyaadh said: ‘It is alluded to that it is on its apparent and literal meaning… and the devils are prevented from harming the believers. And it also (s: speaking of the second opinion) alludes to the abundance of reward and forgiveness, and that the seduction of the devils decreases. The second position is indicated from the narration of Yunus from Ibn Shihab in Muslim that, “The gates of Mercy are opened”. This phrase signifies the opening of the gates of paradise and expresses Allahs opening of the gates of obedience for his servants, which is the door to paradise. The closing of the doors of hell is an expression of changing resolve from the verge of disobedience…’ Ibn Munir said: ‘The first opinion is preferrable and there is no reason to change the words from their apparent meaning.'”

[2] That this is a figurative expression that alludes to the doer of good being rewarded more for his noble actions, the forgiveness of his sins, overlooking of his mistakes, and the lessening of the devils influence. Imam Turbushati held this opinion, as did others, and took as his proof the narration “When Ramadhan comes the doors of mercy are opened” (Muslim). (See: above)

From among these two positions, Imam Qurtubi gave preference to the first. However, a questions arises: If the devils are chained up during the month of Ramadhan then why do we still commit sins?

Imam Qurtubi, replying to this, states that sin and disobedience are not only a result of the devils and their whispers but also due to the weakness of our nufus, our ill habits, bad company, and disposition to sin. In the Sharh of Nasa`i it the author states:

وجود المعاصي شرازة النفس وخباثتها ولا يلزم أن تكون كل معصية بواسطة شيطان

“The presence of disobedience is the nafs and its malice, and it is not necessary that all disobedience be by the way of the devils.”

Further, the narration mentioning the chaining of the devils does not necessitate that all of them are chained. Rather, as some variants mention only the “most evil jinn” are locked up. Even if we presume that all of them are chained the effects of their whispers are still with us, even if somewhat lessened, due to their accompanying us for the remaining, prior months. It is like a hot iron rod that is placed in a furnace for a number of days. When removed, its temperature may decrease, but some of its hot effects remain. Imam Suyuti states in his Sharh `ala Sunan al Nasa`i:

وقال غيره : المراد بالشياطين بعضهم وهم المردة منهم ويؤيده قوله في الحديث بعد هذا ‏

“And others said: What is indicated by “devils” is some of them, and they are the most evil ones from among them…”

This is why seeking the spiritual path is of utmost importance as it allows one to rectify the self and overcome the ill habits that plague the human being. It is only through purification of the heart that complete felicity and hifaza from sin can be attained.

And Allah Knows Best

وقال القرطبي بعد أن رجح حمله على ظاهره : فإن قيل كيف نرى الشرور والمعاصي واقعة في رمضان كثيرا فلو صفدت الشياطين لم يقع ذلك ؟ فالجواب أنها إنما تقل عن الصائمين الصوم الذي حوفظ على شروطه وروعيت آدابه , أو المصفد بعض الشياطين وهم المردة لا كلهم كما تقدم في بعض الروايات , أو المقصود تقليل الشرور فيه وهذا أمر محسوس فإن وقوع ذلك فيه أقل من غيره , إذ لا يلزم من تصفيد جميعهم أن لا يقع شر ولا معصية لأن لذلك أسبابا غير الشياطين كالنفوس الخبيثة والعادات القبيحة والشياطين الإنسية . وقال غيره : في تصفيد الشياطين في رمضان إشارة إلى رفع عذر المكلف كأنه يقال له قد كفت الشياطين عنك فلا تعتل بهم في ترك الطاعة ولا فعل المعص


Filed under Hadith, Tasawwuf

5 responses to “The Chaining of the Devils

  1. You know I’ve always thought that the chaining of the shayateen is literally so obvious (in whatever form [1] or [2]) that no one can miss it. The masjid which had 2 individuals usually show up for fajr now have their rows filled at 6 in the morning.

    Your last point is crucial. While the shayateen are on vacation, the best way to control the nafs is by seeking the spiritual path. No doubt about that.

  2. As Shaykh Kamal Ahmed said in his NYU Khutbah, the night Ramadan starts, people line up for Tarawih. People who you never rarely see at the masjid all year come to it.

    He also said Ramadan is broken up into thirds, and it’s like polishing the heart. After 10 days of polishing, you see an obvious change in a person’s ibadah, and after 20 and 30 days, masha Allah.

  3. Jazakallah Khairan for your illumination on the subject

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