Question # 79: Allah swt enchains shayateen before start of Ramadan, then how come people do evil deeds in Ramadan.

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: The scholars differed over the meaning of ‘the devils are chained’ in Ramadan; some of these views are as follows:

  • The devils are chained, and their strength and power are diminished therefore, they cannot achieve in Ramadan what they are capable of achieving at other times of the year. However, a person whose fasts are observed in the best, most complete possible manner can repel the power of Shaytaan far more than a person whose fasts are deficient.
  • The devils chained are only some of them, the maradah (strong ones), and not all, as indicated in some narrations.
  • Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has made our souls, which have an inclination towards evil; so it could be that whatever a person might be committing of sins from before Ramadan, it haunts him in Ramadan. So it is not from the whisper (waswasa) of Shaytaan but from our own nafs and residue from the months before Ramadan.
  • The hadith of ‘chained devils’ speaks of matters of the unseen, so we have to accept it and not discuss it further.

Long Answer: Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) reported Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) as saying: “When it is the month of Ramadan, the gates of mercy are opened, and the gates of Hell are locked, and the devils are chained.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The scholars differed as to the meaning of the devils being chained up in Ramadan:

  • Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar said, quoting al-Haleemi: It may be interpreted as meaning that the devils are not able to tempt the Muslims as they are at other times because they are busy with the fast which controls their desires, and with reading the Qur’an and dhikr (remembrance of Allah). Another scholar – someone other than al-Haleemi – said that what is meant by the devils is some of them, namely the maarids (strong devils), who are chained up. (Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid)
  • ‘Iyaad mentioned that the opening of the gates of paradise and closing of the gates of hell could literally refer to a signal given to the angels regarding the beginning of the month, and it could be the glorification of its sanctity by preventing devils from hurting the believers. Metaphorically it could refer to a great amount of reward and forgiveness and that the enticements and temptations of the devils are reduced, so it is as if they are chained. The opening of the gates of Paradise could also refer to the opportunities for righteous deeds, which are among the causes for entering Paradise, and the closing of the gates of Hell to the redirection of concerns for the sins that take people to Hell. The chaining of the devils could refer to their inability to seduce and beautify evil.

From the literal perspective, the reference to the chaining of devils, when evil prevails, is to the reduction of their influence on those who fast according to its rules and etiquette. Or that the devils chained are only some of them, the maradah, and not all, as indicated in some narrations. Or it refers to the diminishing of evil during the month, which is noticeable as the chaining of all does not mean that no evil or sin will occur since it may be caused by other forces besides the devils, like corrupt human souls, filthy habits, and human devils. (Fath al-Baari) (‘Prophetic Reflections on Ramadaan,’ Module 4, IOU by Bilal Philips)

  • Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him)… [said]: In some versions of the hadith, it says, “and the strong devils (maarids) are chained up” – this is narrated by al-Nasa’i. This hadith is speaking of matters of the unseen, so we have to accept it and not discuss it any further. This is safer for a person’s religious commitment. Hence, when ‘Abd-Allah, the son of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, said to his father, “Some people suffer epileptic fits during the day in Ramadan,” the Imam said: “This is what the hadith says, and we do not discuss this.”…Moreover, it seems that what is meant by their being chained up is that they are prevented from tempting people, based on the fact that there is a great deal of goodness, and many people turn to Allah during Ramadan. (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa) He also said in Fatawa al-Siyaam: …The fact that sin happens in Ramadan does not contradict the report that the devils are chained up in Ramadan because the fact that they are chained up does not prevent them from moving. Hence it says in the hadith: “And the strong devils are chained up, and they cannot achieve what they usually achieve (at other times).” Narrated by Ahmad, this hadith was mentioned by al-Albaani in Da’eef al-Targheeb; he said: it is da’eef jiddan (very weak). (Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid)
  • Al-Qurtubi said: …evil actions are reduced on the part of those who fast meeting all the conditions of fasting and taking care to observe the proper etiquette; or that only some of the devils are chained up, namely the maarids (strong ones), and not all of them, as it says in some reports; or that evils are reduced in this month, which is something noticeable – fewer evils happen in this month than in others. If all of them were to be chained up, that does not mean that evil and sin would not happen because there are other causes of evil apart from the devils, such as evil souls, bad habits, and human devils. (Fath al-Baari) (Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid) 
  • According to Dr. Zakir Naik, “When the devils are chained, that does not mean they are slayed. They are present, but their power is diminished. For e.g., a free wild beast is more dangerous than a chained one, but that safety is maintained or guaranteed till the time one does not come too close to the chained beast. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in many places in the Qur’an to be aware of the footsteps of the devil and not the devil itself because if an average Muslim with average emaan sees the devil in front of him, he will be careful. For example, suppose a young girl invites a Muslim boy with average emaan to spend the night together; he will immediately object, claiming it to be zina; however, if the same girl starts speaking to the same boy over the phone on few occasions, he might not object; later she might invite him for lunch together, which may seem fine to the young boy, later she might invite him for dinner couple of times and then eventually to spend the night… this is what is referred to as ‘footsteps of the devil’. Hence, when the devils are chained, their footsteps are restricted, so many of the sins are prevented, but if one goes close to the devil, the probability of being overtaken by the latter is greater.

 Secondly, even though the devils are chained in Ramadan, for the balance of eleven months, they are free, and the impact of devils from these eleven months is carried forward on human beings in the month of Ramadan. For example, the drug peddler initially offers drugs to youngsters in school/college for free; gradually, they start charging a nominal price for the drug, and when the victim gets used to the habit of drugs, they charge an exorbitant amount. The addicts might go out of their way to find the drug peddler to satiate their urge if even the latter is imprisoned. Similarly, we human beings are accustomed to sinning, so even when the devil is chained, the effect is still there.

 Thirdly, even though the devils are chained, they can still whisper (waswasa) as Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an in Soorah An-Naas (Chapter 114), more specifically in the last two verses, “Who whispers in the breasts of mankind of Jinns and men,” so maybe Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has chained the devils from the Jinns, but the devils from the men are still free to whisper.

 Nonetheless, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has ordained upon Muslims to fast in the month of Ramadan, so one who fasts with proper niyyah, will be protected against devils. Consequently, the crime rate of the Muslim countries drops in Ramadan, whereas those of non-Muslim countries remain the same” (paraphrased – Ramadan, A date with Dr. Zakir Naik, Video Lecture)

  •  Another scholar, Abu Mussab Wajdi Akkari, says, “Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has made our souls, which have an inclination towards evil; so it could be that whatever a person might be committing of sins from before Ramadan, it haunts him in Ramadan. So it is not Shaytaan, it is our nafs. So it is not from the whisper of Shaytaan, but residue from the months before Ramadan”

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.