There was a woman who was one of the lovers of Allah, may Allah make many like her! Whisperings had got the better of her for many years and oppressed her greatly. It was so extreme that at certain times she would almost stop speaking because of the intensity of her anxieties and sorrows. I used to remind her and warn her against listening to the chatter of the self throughout that entire period.
Then her son wrote a letter to me about her. I answered him and said, “By Allah, there is only good in your mother. There is no evil in her except that she listens to all the illusions which come to her. Illusion is baseless. We have pointed that out to her, and we have reminded her and cautioned her about it as much as we can. Part of what I told her is that whispering used to overwhelm me and make me conceive the impossible. It would tell me, “Look at the sky. There are arrows of fire falling from it which will burn you up from head to foot.” I looked at the sky and, just as the voice had told me, it was falling on me. That happened I don’t know how many times, until my breast was terribly constricted and I was distressed and grieved.
Then I went to an isolated spot with the intention of killing myself. Allah is the authority for what we say. Then I said, ‘The only thing I can do is to surrender my will about myself to Allah. He can do whatever He likes with me, be it happiness or wretchedness.’ Then I completely avoided retreat and fled from it entirely. I used to converse with people and not separate myself from them. I talked with them and did not remain silent for a certain period of time. Then I completely forgot those whisperings through the overflowing favour of Allah. Every harm left me, i.e. those impossible forms which illusion had been making me imagine withdrew from me and completely vanished.
Not a trace of that remained. I add not add anything to the obligatory and confirmed ‘ibada which Allah has made obligatory. Then great favour and a clear secret appeared to me. The reason for that was that I had surrendered my will about myself to my Lord to do with as He wished. He could make me happy or wretched, show mercy to me or punish me, bring me near or put me far away, make me enter the Garden or make me enter the Fire. I had relief from what had afflicted me and, by Allah, I was completely delighted. Praise and thanks be to Allah!”
There is no doubt that whisperings are multiplied when someone is in retreat or silent. If Amina is as we were, then it will leave her. There is also no doubt that whisperings only impose themselves on the best of people. Listen to what happened to Shaykh ash-Shadhili, may Allah be pleased with him. He reports: “One night I was reciting ‘Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of mankind, the King of mankind, the God of mankind, from the evil of the insidious whisperer who whispers in peopleÕs breast, and comes from the jinn and mankind.’
Then it was said to me, ‘The evil of the whisperer is the whisperer who comes between you and your Beloved. He makes you forget His kindness and reminds you of your evil actions. He makes little of that which is on the right and makes much of that which is on the left to make you turn from good opinion of Allah and His Messenger. Watch out for this door! Many people – worshippers, the ascetic, the people of earnestness and striving – have been taken by it.'”
Shaykh Ibn ‘Abbad also reports the words of Ibn ‘Ata’llah, “Whoever expresses himself from the carpet of his own goodness is silenced by his bad behaviour towards his Lord. Whoever expresses himself from the carpet of Allah’s goodness is not silenced by his own bad behaviour.” Shaykh Ahmad ibn Abi’l-Hawari said, “I complained to Shaykh Abu Sulayman ad-Darani about the whisperer. He said, “If you want him to leave you alone, then whenever you sense him at any moment, rejoice. If you rejoice, he will leave you alone since Shaytan hates nothing so much as the joy of the believer. If you are distressed by that, it will increase.” Part of what will confirm this is what one of the Imams said, “The one whose faith is perfect is afflicted by the whisperer. The thief does not bother entering a ruined house. (al-Jawahir al-Hisan)