بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله وعلى آله وصحبه
Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah said in his beautiful ‘Asrar al-salah wal-farq wal-muwazanah bayna dhawq al-salah wal-sama’ in the section of commencement of salah:
“As he is about to recite the Qur’an, he precedes it by seeking refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan who never spares an effort in his tireless endeavor to bring about the downfall of the slave (of Allah) – especially when the slave is in a station of utmost honour (i.e. salah) while seeking to perform the single most beneficial deed for this life and the Hereafter. Hence, he (Satan) is fervently determined to prevent the slave (of Allah) from praying by any means; failing to do so he wants to see to it that at the very least, his heart does not benefit from the salah, by casting into his heart all sorts of whispers and thoughts to distract it from fulfilling the duties of his slavery to Allah.
Therefore Allah has ordered His slave to take refuge in Him from Satan (before starting his recitation in salah) to assure the safety of his salah, so that his heart may be revived and illuminated by the understanding he acquires from contemplating the words of Allah, as He is the Master in whose Hand is the success, grace and life of his heart. This also explains why Satan is keen to distract his heart from understanding the words of Qur’an when recited.
It is from Allah’s Knowledge about the enmity and resentment of Satan against His believing slaves and their incapability to face him that He ordained upon them to take refuge in Him from Satan so that He may suffice them against his evil and harm. It is as if He is saying to His slaves, you cannot win against this enemy; thus take refuge in Me and I shall protect you against him and safeguard you from his evil and harm. And shaykhil Islam, Ibn Taymmiyah, may Allah honour his soul and illuminate his grave, once said to me (explaining with a metaphoric example, a purpose for seeking refuge in Allah from Satan):
إذا هاش عليك كلب الغنم فلا تشتغل بمحاربته ، و مدافعته ، و عليك بالراعي فاستغث به فهو يصرف عنك الكلب ، و يكفيكه
“If the shepherd’s dog ever barks at you attempting to attack you, then do not engage it in a fight. Instead, turn to the shepherd and seek his help for he will leash it and save you the trouble”.
When a person takes refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan, He protects him and keeps away Satan’s harm and evil from reaching him. This shall free his heart to explore the meanings of the Qur’an and witness its fascinating, awe-inspiring wonders, and let him collect from its treasures and gems that no eyes have ever seen, no ears have ever heard, and no mind has ever conceived. It is only his self-desires and Satan that stand as a barrier between him and all these wonders, because his self-desires always incline towards the whispers and temptations of Satan. However, as soon as he distances himself from Satan and manages to expel him from his heart, the King takes over charge of his heart, holding it fast to the truth and reminding it of that which will assure its safety and everlasting happiness.”