Thoughts which cross the heart of man are called khawaatir (singular khaatir). Such thoughts are at times virtuous and at times evil. These thoughts which occur to man emanate from different sources. Virtue is inspired into the heart sometimes by Allah Ta’ala, sometimes by an Angel whose name is Mulhim and sometimes virtue is whispered into the heart by even shaitaan. Evil assaulting the heart sometimes emanates from shaitaan, sometimes from the nafs and at times from Allah Ta’ala.
Pious inspirations from Allah Ta’ala serve the purpose of honouring one or for establishing some proof. The evil khaatir which comes from Allah Ta’ala appears as a test and to impose some labour and effort on one. From the Angel Mulhim emanates always only goodness since this is his function. His function is to guide towards virtue.
Khair (virtue or the good thought) emerging from shaitaan is deception. He casts his trickery in the form of a good khaatir, but in reality it is evil designed to divert one from a greater virtue by involving one in a lesser virtue. The purpose of evil emanating from shaitaan is to deceive and disgrace man. Evil emanating from the nafs i to mislead man and to prevent him from the truth. The good which issues from the nafs is extremely negligible. It is in fact comparable to shaitaan.
THE DISTINGUISHING SIGNS OF THE EVIL FROM ALLAH, THE NAFS AND SHAITAAN
If the evil khaatir is from Allah Ta’ala it will be recognized from its firmness and one’s total inability to combat it. One will discover that one is unable to ward it off. If the sharr which afflicts the heart is firm and retains constancy being of a solid unchanging condition which renders the nafs extremely restless in the desire to commit the evil while at the same time all effort and means of combating the evil are rendered useless in the face of the onslaught of the sharr, then such an evil khaatir is from Allah Ta’ala. The remedy for such a khaatir is nothing but to petition Allah Ta’ala, seeking His aid and protection, humbling oneself and shedding tears of concern and regret. This is a trial from Allah Ta’ala. Only His aid will be of any good.
If the khaatir of sharr is not as pressing and severe as is described above, but remains static then it is from the nafs.
If a khaatir of sharr assaults the heart after having sinned and it occurs vigorously then such sharr is from Allah Ta’ala and its purpose is to disgrace the sinner and act as a punishment for having sinned. If after having sinned, the thought of sharr occurs to one, but not vigorously, it enters feebly then such sharr is from shaitaan providing that it disappears or is weakened by engagement in Thikr. In this regard Rasulullah (saws) said:
“Verily, shaitaan clings onto the heart of man. When man remembers Allah, shaitaan retreats (from the heart). When man becomes neglectful of Allah’s Thikr, shaitaan asserts himself with his whisperings (into the heart of man).”
If the khaatir of sharr which assaulted the heart after having sinned does not disappear nor is weakened by thikr, then such khaatir is directed by the nafs. Shaitaan was the victim of such direction by the nafs. When he proclaimed his greatness on the occasion of his refusal to make the sajdah commanded for Aadam (alayhis salaam). Neither could his Thikr ward off the evil khaatir of his nafs nor did the exhortation of Allah Ta’ala benefit him.
The cause of this rebellion of shaitaan’s nafs was the absence of abdiyat. (Abdiyat is the state of total submission–being a slave to another.) Shaitaan further lacked humility, hence nothing was of a benefit for him. He possessed no true insight, hence his obedience and his ibaadat were mere bodily exercises shorn of the true insight which is in the heart of Imaan. This condition of shaitaan became manifest with his rebellion. If he had possessed the insight of Imaan he would not have engaged in disputation but would have submitted and would have derived pleasure from such submission and true obedience. Argumentation, disputation and doubt always occur prior to mushaahadah (true, sure and established knowledge).
If a khatir of virtue settles on the heart with resoluteness and one is unable to attain peace of mind without enacting the virtue, then such good thought is from Allah Ta’ala: It will also be from Allah if the khaatir of khair (virtue) occurs after mujaahadah and ibaadat or even if such khaatir of virtue happens to be related to the principles and acts of the baatin (the esoteric dimension of man that pertaining to his rooh). The Qur’aan-e-Kareem says:
“And, those who strive in our way, We will most certainly show them our Ways.”
In other words, Allah Ta’ala will direct them towards His Proximity, Thawaab and Jannat. This aayat is proof for what has been elaborated in regard to the khair (virtue) which emanates from Allah Ta’ala.
If the khaatir of khair entering the heart is not as resolute as explained above or it occurs initially without one having resorted to mujaahadalr or the khair relates to the details of the external acts of Ibaadat and righteousness, then such inspiration is from the Angel Mulhim.