In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, I seek refuge in the Lord of people, The King of people, The God of people, From the evil whisperings of the sneaking whisperer; Who whispers into the hearts of people, From among jinn and people.
The last chapter of the Quran, Surat An-Nas, is a protection sura that I love very much. It is seven verses long and each of them is enormously powerful if we reflect upon its meaning deeply and regularly, personally connecting it to our lives. I use this sura to ask God to safeguard me from codependency and help me avoid putting human beings on a pedestal.
Codependency, writes Melodie Beattie in “Codependent No More,” “is a dependency on people—on their moods, behaviors, sickness or well-being, and their love. It is a paradoxical dependency. Codependents appear to be depended upon, but they are dependent. They look strong but feel helpless. They appear controlling but in reality are controlled themselves…”
In this unhealthy psychological condition, a person becomes addicted to another, lacks boundaries in relationships, is unable to tell where his own person ends and the other begins, and feels that without this person he or she would fall apart and life would have no meaning. In codependency, life is lived to please others and their approval or disapproval determines the codependent’s self-worth and happiness.
Codependents give away their power to others, essentially worshipping people. They are unable to grasp the fact that the source of happiness is within us and can never be found elsewhere. In Islam, worshipping false idols, i.e., anything other than God, is the biggest sin, and there is deep wisdom in this. Islam seeks to protect our overall well-being and when we worship people or objects we suffer tremendously and live miserable, anxiety-ridden lives that are far from the peace that is possible for us.
Surat An-Nas encapsulates the central tenet of Islam: there is no God but God. What does this mean in practical terms? It means that no thing, no person, no job, no financial situation, no government, nothing in this world has power over us, only God does. This principle is tremendously empowering and the key to inner strength and peace. We submit to God only and by doing so, we are free, we are never slaves to other human beings or to false gods, such as money or fame.
When we internalize this principle, we live grounded in God and therefore in our higher selves. We live in deep peace, rather than chasing people, wealth, celebrity, entertainment, intoxicants, or disturbed by external events.
I suffered from codependency in the past and know many people who do. Surat An-Nas is my shield against it. You can use this sura as protection from anything you struggle with. For instance, if you tend to make money the central focus of your life and spend most hours of your day preoccupied by finances or working an excessive number of hours to accumulate money, you are essentially worshipping wealth. Reflecting upon this sura, saying each verse with concentration and meaning will help you overcome this condition and find peace.
Surat An-Nas taught me reliance on God, as opposed to reliance on people, by making me trust my own intuitions as coming from God. I use it for protection from self-doubt, fear and self-criticism because these are “evil whisperings” that lead to paralysis and to waste one’s potential, faculties and talents. It is also a refuge from inferior ideas that come into the heart from the external influences of the society at large.
When negativity comes, and it often does, I recognize it immediately as a “whispering.” Hence, I do not pay attention to it. I observe it the way I would observe a cloud passing by. I let it go and replace it with a short prayer followed by the opposite positive statement about myself. For instance, if the “whispering” tells me I am a failure, I tell myself that God wants me to succeed, He is helping me at all times, and I ask for God’s help by reciting this sura or simply praying for assistance. I then bring into my mind a major success I attained in the past that seemed completely out of reach at the time and I thank God for it. By doing this, I recognize these ideas are not real; they are mere evil whisperings trying to sabotage me. I remind myself they have no power over me, only God does.
An exercise that shifted my codependency issues was writing a commentary on Surat An-Nas as an exercise for one of Dr. Sultan’s Quran Discussion sessions. The assignment was this: Select a short sura from the Quran. Study its explanation in three different tafseer books. Then, ask yourself what useful lesson you found in the Quran passage, how does it help you in your life? Write a commentary in these steps, each on a different day: 1. Note the main points. 2. Write a rough draft. 3. Write a second draft. 4. Write a final commentary.
I strongly recommend you do this exercise for any passage from the Quran that attracts you because it helps understand and internalize its principles. After you have done this and you say the sura during prayer, you will know specifically what you are praying for and you will experience a shift.
I chose this sura because it helped me clarify my codependency issues and steer clear from them. Reflecting upon what each aya means to me, writing about it, and then reciting it during prayer drastically curtailed my people-pleasing tendencies. I became less concerned with others and more in touch with my inner self and therefore, with God. I also stopped explaining myself so much to people. Here is exactly how this sura helps me combat these debilitating issues:
In the name of God, the Merciful the Compassionate
God is the ultimate Compassion, the ultimate Mercy. God is truly what we seek when we look for compassion, mercy and love from others. We experience a glimpse, a reflection of God’s attributes, when we have these feelings in our hearts and when others show us mercy and compassion.
I seek refuge in the Lord of people
I ask God for help because only by His will are my spiritual development and growth possible. Only with His help can I triumph over “evil whisperings” such as self-doubt, lower motivations, negative influences, etc. and accomplish higher objectives. I acknowledge I am not sovereign and through will alone I cannot do much. I ask God, who is Most Merciful and Most Compassionate, to guide me and protect me from internal and external evil, which comes in many forms, such as shirk, self-sabotage, laziness, distraction, or what we traditionally view as sin.
The King of people
Only before God shall I bow. Only to God I shall submit. Only God I shall obey. There are no human kings. All of us are simply people, equal under God’s eyes (except for knowledge and piety). I shall not take a human being as my king, nor seek to please others at the expense of my truth. Remaining quiet about what I think is true for fear of people’s disapproval or anger is a form of shirk.
The God of people
I adore and worship God only, never another human being. The results of making another human being one’s higher power are disastrous and produce inner hell.
This is a remembrance of our Muslim declaration of faith: there is no god but God. Many evils come from looking to another person as one’s Lord, King, or God: when we make a human being the main support of our lives, or slavishly surrender to his false authority, we lose ourselves.
This happens today in many forms: in romantic relationships, in idolizing and adoring teachers, scholars, sheikhs, or writers, or maybe for some people, in worshipping celebrities or athletes. This is destructive to our well being because it takes us away from God and from our higher selves, confuses us and makes us dependent on that person for things that no human can ever give us. It also makes us lazy and unable to think for ourselves.
Worshipping people makes us false, causing us to follow and imitate ideas and behaviors that may be right for that person, but wrong for us. It prevents us from following the Quran’s repeated instructions to think, read, reflect, and decide for ourselves:
“If you follow the greater majority on earth they would lead you astray. They follow nothing but the conjectures of others and mislead those who follow them. Your Lord knows best who stray from the path of Truth; He knows best who are the rightly guided.” (6:117-18).
Adoring people is also lack of faith because we are effectively saying we don’t believe God can satisfy our needs and instead look to this person we worship to do so. While God employs people to help us, we have to always remember that the source of people’s qualities is God. Without God’s will, power and mercy, nobody can be kind, brilliant, noble, or even alive. God blesses people with sublime qualities, and it is appropriate to thank them when they use them in our favor, but we must mainly thank God for those qualities we are benefitting from.
Worshipping another human serves as an escape and avoidance of self-responsibility for our lives. Coming to know our own soul is likely the most difficult task in life and so, we often avoid it.
From the evil whisperings of the sneaking whisperer;
If we are unconscious, if we are heedless, if we do not mindfully and purposely direct our thoughts by praying for God’s help and engaging in continuous personal and spiritual development, the sneaking whisperer takes over and feeds us all kinds of negative thoughts and self-destructive ideas, making us feel inferior, unworthy and incapable. We need God’s protection to avoid this. We need to remember who God is to us: God is Most Powerful, Most Merciful; God is always with us and guides us; we are highly valuable in God’s eyes; God wants us to succeed. Through prayer, we communicate with Him and He gives us what we ask for.
God gave us talents we are responsible for using for the highest good. We must not squander them. And the evil whisperings of self-doubt and fear lead us to waste our talents and faculties.
Who whispers into the hearts of people,
From among jinn and people
The evil whisperings can come from within ourselves, in the form of negative, self-sabotaging, self-defeating thoughts that later become crystallized as beliefs and direct our actions, and also from without, that is, from other people, from our external world.
The ‘jinn’ represent our spiritual challenges, our own self-destructive beliefs, doubts and lack of faith. ‘People’ refers to the society at large. The evil whisperings (lowly, pessimistic, evil ideas) can enter our hearts through the company we keep, media, books and music we consume. If these have inferior motivations and lower energy, they will influence us and the negativity will seep into our hearts, and with the passage of time, our lives will reflect this. We will find ourselves in a low station in life because of this. If we do not engage in spiritual growth, the external ‘evil’ influences will overpower us. We will come to believe these ideas and false principles and act accordingly. Then we will wonder why we are not at peace.