The Serpent Under The Innocent Flower

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When you hold the door open for a person walking up to the door of a building, who is it for? When you say “yarhamukumullah” to a person who sneezes, do you truly mean  “may Allah have mercy on you” with a pure intention, or do you say it in order to give you the semblance of a righteous person?

Recently in class, we have studied Macbeth, a tale of deceit and betrayal, by William Shakespeare. This tale follows one paramount theme; “things are not what they appear.” This theme links to the characters and how their true intentions were hidden under disguised faces of innocence. The protagonist, Macbeth, is slowly driven to assassinate the king of Scotland in order for himself to become the king. He goes about this plan by inviting the king over for “dinner,” and ends up killing the king after the rest of the noblemen have gone to sleep. In the end, Macbeth faces a tragic death and gets beheaded by the prince’s noble. The thing about this story though, is that the main character constantly tries to renew his intention as a loyal servant and “valiant cousin,” but is edged on and on and incited by his wife to continue planning the murder of the king as she constantly questions his manhood and calls him a wimp (in Shakespearean language)! At a point in the story, she even tells him that during the dinner, that she would whisper through his ear the right timing for events and “the plan” to take place.

Whispering evil in one’s ear? Edging people on to do wrong? Laying out “footsteps” for wrong temptations to be facilitated? Who does that remind us of?

There was once a man who lived around the time of the Tabi’een.  While working out on the fields one day, he was informed by a friend of his that there is a new idol being worshiped nearby in the area. Infuriated by this, he instantly sprung up to find and destroy the idol. As he went his way, he was confronted by a man. “Why, where are you going?” he asked.

“I am going to destroy the idol that is plaguing the minds of my townsmen, for it is distracting people from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).” He then attempted to  continue, but was stopped again.  He was then asked  by the man to discontinue his deed. After seeing that the man wouldn’t let him continue, he had no choice but to fight his way past the man.They fought and he was easily able to defeat the man. Before the final blow though, the man offered him a deal in which  the man would give him $1000, provided he wouldn’t destroy the idol on that day, but rather in the following week. A mutual agreement had come into existence.

Two weeks past and the man had not come with his money. Irate, he picked up his axe again and set out again to destroy the idol and to confront the man again. This time though, things turned out differently. When he went to talk to the man, he asked him why he didn’t come to deliver his money. The man, on the other hand, pretended that he had no idea what he was talking about. Furious at his remark, he swung his axe at the man in hopes of defeating him and “beating the money out of him.” This time however, he was defeated with very little effort from the man. He quickly became bewildered and asked how was it possible that he was able to defeat the man easily the last time, but wasn’t able to do the same this time. The man’s response was this:

“Verily, I am the Shaytan, and the reason why you have not defeated me this time is because your intention has altered. The last time, you were going to destroy the idol for the sake of Allah, but this time, what drove you was your greed for money.”

In both of the stories, the protagonists started out with clear intentions, but were altered in different ways. In the tale of Macbeth, our protagonist starts off with a pure intention and attempts to keep it clean, but ends up failing to do so as he allows the Shaytan to get the better of him. In the second story, the man also started out with a clean intention, but he let his own greed get the better of him.

‘Actions are only by intentions, and every man has only that which he intended. Whoever’s emigration is for Allah and His Messenger then his emigration is for Allah and His Messenger. Whoever’s emigration is for some worldly gain which he can acquire or a woman he will marry then his emigration is for that for which he emigrated.’

If I told you that these two stories are mirror reflections of us in two different times of the year, would you believe me? For most of the year, we are sinning with a third person usually involved between us and the sin, since someone has to tempt us to do it. This would be the Shayateen whispering things in our ears. Yet in Ramadan, when we sin, we are acting upon our own will, and it is just that we let our own desires get the better of us. This is very similar to the two stories; one in which a person is goaded towards evil, and the other one about how a man lets his desires get the best of him.

We seek refuge with Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’ala) from the accursed Shaytaan and his evil whispers, in whatever forms they may come in. We ask Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’ala) to help us keep our intentions clean throughout Ramadan and the rest of the year. We ask Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’ala) to keep us alive through this upcoming blessed month of Ramadan and that we are able to live to see and witness Ramadan next year.

Ammar was born in Mönchengladbach, Germany before coming to the United States in 2001, after which he has moved around with his family more than 13 times before settling near College Park, Maryland. He is a student of Psychology and Business at the University of Maryland and intends on becoming an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist in the future. He is passionate about martial arts, physical and mental health and wellness, and will never say no to coffee. His burning sense of adventure and exploration can lead him to wandering or biking through new cities for hours, whether alone or with his best mates by his side. More than anything, he loves to involve himself with mentoring, counseling, and coaching youth of all ages in different disciplines. He vehemently champions using one’s passions and experiences to benefit and enrich the lives of others, which is why he decided to write for Muslim Youth Musings. You may find him teaching gymnastics at his local sports complex, or working with students at the advising office of Prince George’s Community College, coaching the Eleanor Roosevelt High School’s MIST team, all while looking for a new adventures to take on!


  1. SubhanAllah, that’s an amazing way of looking at it. While reading your synopsis of Macbeth and how the wife was inciting him, this verse readily came to mind: “O you who believe! Truly, among your wives and your children are (some that are) enemies to yourselves: so beware of them! But if you forgive and overlook, and cover up (their faults), verily Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (64:14).

  2. Mrs. El-Haggan Reply


    I am very impressed by this essay. Your writing is fluent and your paragraphs connect naturally. I love that you took what we learned in class and examined it through an Islamic prism. This is exactly what I’ve been trying to teach you the last 2 years. Do you mind if I share this with the admin??

    I will truly miss not teaching you guys this year.

  3. How can we ensure that our intentions won’t change? One scholar has said that that is the most difficult thing to keep constant. Any suggestions?

  4. Number 1 – The place of the intention is in the heart. And actually, the Prophet Muhammad told us that the hearts (القلوب) are always moving/changing, and that is why the heart is called قلب in arabic (قلب is related to a verb in arabic which means “to turn”, “to move” and so on).

    And he mentioned this in many ahaadeeth. One time, he gave the similitude of a leaf being moved around in the wind.

    So the heart by nature is always in this constant state of change. You hear a lecture, your Eemaan goes up! You go out of the Masjid and the 1st ” that you see… your heart flips! So what is the solution? Our Prophet would constantly.. actually one of the most frequent du’aa’s that he would say was: اللهم يا مقلب القلوب ثبت قلبي على دينك “O Allah, Changer of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your religion.” And other wordings add, “upon Your obedience”.

    So # 1 is sincere supplication to Allah, for surely, between His two fingers are the hearts of all the children of Adam & He rotates them as He wishes, as the Prophet informed us. * So, seeking Allah.

    Number 2 – Realize that this is a Struggle. Its not gonna be easy. This is, after all, our whole purpose in this life. Struggling, striving, working against our nafs (inner self and ego), and working hard to be sincere for Allah and to earn Allah’s Pleasure and Jannah. So… yes, a person’s intentions may change, but he/she needs to keep reminding his/her self that – “Look! I’m gonna die. I am going to leave this world & go to the Hereafter. So, whatever goal or purpose or aim that I may be doing this deed for, besides Allah, is going to perish. In the end, it will be Hell and Heaven. And on the Day of Judgment, Allah will only accept from me what I did solely seeking His rewards (etc). Whatever I did for other than Him, will be rejected. So I better make Allah my main goal, and make His Rewards my sole intent.”

    So you gotta struggle. If a person lives his/her life in a constant state of fighting his/her nafs, and telling one’s nafs “no, no, no” – then by Allah’s mercy, they have done well. And their struggle will be rewarded. جعلنا الله وإياك منهم May Allah make us & you from these people. Aameen!

  5. Masha’allah-very nice article! It reminded me of some very important things. It happens that we mean to do something for Allah’s sake and our intention ends up changing (and we don’t even realize it)! Thank you for this great reminder.

  6. Masha'allah-very nice article! It reminded me of some very important things. It happens that we mean to do something for Allah's sake and our intention ends up changing (and we don't even realize it)! Thank you for this great reminder.

  7. Ammar,

    I am very impressed by this essay. Your writing is fluent and your paragraphs connect naturally. I love that you took what we learned in class and examined it through an Islamic prism. This is exactly what I’ve been trying to teach you the last 2 years. Do you mind if I share this with the admin??

    I will truly miss not teaching you guys this year.

  8. for sure there weren’t dollars yet during the time of the tabi’een? :-)
    anyway,i get the story, and a good article nonetheless,jazaakallahu khairan.

  9. excellent article, good use of shakespeare AND islam Mashallah

    why is there like a link to another article popping up bottom right? how ist hat done?

  10. Short_sister Reply

    Mash’Allah, lovely article, great way of illustrating your point! :)

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