A. (by #DrZakirNaik): It is a very common question which occurs in the mind of most of the Muslims and even non-Muslims. This question is based on the hadith of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), “O ye people the blessed month of Ramadan is approaching and Allah has ordained for you to fast in this month and in this month gates of heaven will be opened and the gates of the hell will be closed and the devils will be chained, in this month is a night which is better than thousand months and a person who is deprived of the blessings of this month is truly a deprived person”. When we get this hadith it clearly mentions that in the month of Ramadan the devils will be chained and it is logical question if devils are chained then how human beings still commit sins. To make the people understand they must realize that when the devils are chained it does not mean devils are slain or they have been killed! They are yet present but are chained, they are not killed. The power is yet there but it is diminished, for further better understanding I would like to give you an example that when there is a lion or a tiger who is free there are high chances that he may kill you, your life is in danger but the moment that tiger or that lion is chained you are safe as long as you maintain a safe distance. After the tiger has been chained if you come too close to him there are chances yet you can be killed. So as long as you maintain the distance from the tiger that is chained you are safe. Similarly in the month of Ramadan if you maintain a safe distance from the Satan you will be saved and if you read the Quran Allah says in Surah Baqarah Ch. 2 V. 168 that “Be careful of the footsteps of the Satan for he is to you an avowed enemy”. Many places Allah subhanwatala says in the Quran that be careful of the footsteps of the devil. Allah does not say be careful of the devil! Because normal Muslim, an average Muslim who has normal eeman when he sees the devil in front of him he will be careful. For example suppose there is an average Muslim who has average eeman, a young girl tells him let’s spend the night together. That Muslim will say, “Spending the night together! with the girl? It’s haraam! Its Zinnah!” He will immediately object. But if the same girl speaks to the boy on the telephone, the boy will think “speaking to the girl on the phone, there is NO PROBLEM”, so he speaks to the girl for a few times on the phone, later the girl says lets have some snacks in McDonalds, the guy will think, ”having snacks for a few minutes, for half an hour with a girl in McDonalds, NO PROBLEM”. So he goes and haves snacks with the girl in McDonalds. Later on the girl says why not have dinner in a restaurant? “Having dinner with a girl in a restaurant for couple of hour, NO PROBLEM. Then the girl says why not spend the night together? And then the boy says, “spending the night with the girl, NO PROBLEM!”. So this is the ‘KHUTWATU SHAITAN’ – the footsteps of the devil. This is not mentioned in the Quran it’s my own example. So what Allah warns us is that be careful of the footsteps of the devil. If the devil comes directly in front of an average Muslim who has eeman he will abstain and will run away from it. But the footsteps of the devil are the things which are dangerous. So what we have to realize when the devil is chained, footsteps are restricted so many of the sins are prevented. But if we go close to him than the chances that we will be overtaken by the devil and commit a sin are very high. So what we have to be careful in Ramadan if we keep the distance then the chance of committing the sin is less but if we go close to the Satan even though he is chained like how a tiger can walk even he is chained, so same the devil, so this is my understanding.
The second reason i feel is that in the month of Ramadan though the devils are chained but in the rest of 11 months they are free and the impact the devil has on the human being in these eleven months it leaves those impacts, those impressions in the month of Ramadan. To give a better understanding, i will take an example that – there are drug peddlers which try to get customers, the youngsters from universities. What they do initially is give the drug free and they entice the youngsters in having drugs. Later on after some time they charge a nominal amount for the drug. Later on they charge an exuberant amount. But by the time the youngster is already hooked onto the drug. So even if the drug dealer is not there, they will try and find other drug dealer, they will go out of their way to find them and get the drug and many of them even if the drug dealer is imprisoned will go out of their way to find someone else, they may go into chemist shop and buy mandrax whatever it is. They are so much hooked on to it. So these people who have become addicts to these drugs, rather say addicted to the Satan, even though the Satan is imprisoned, the effect is yet there. Only those people who have gone addicts fall into this category so the normal Muslims, the average Muslims who have not become addicted, it is easy for them to stay away from sin.
And the third reason that i give is that though there are some scholars that say that the strong devils are imprisoned the smaller one are free but according to my understanding, the third reason is that though the devils are chained by Allah subhanwatala they can yet whisper and one of ways that devils try and get the human beings close to them is by whispering. And Allah says in the Quran in Surah Al-Naas Ch. 114 V. 1-6, “They whisper in the hearts of the human beings and they withdraw. Among them there are Jinn and Men”. It is talking about the Satan and devils who whisper into the hearts of human being and then withdraw and among these devils are the Jinn and the Human beings. So maybe Allah subhanwatala has imprisoned the devils who are the jinn. But the human beings are yet free. So Satan are among men also who are yet free and yet we have to be careful l of the whisper of the devil – “WasWasa”, this ‘waswasa’ mainly is the thing that attracts towards the sin so sins are yet committed but the chances are less. And furthermore it is written in full hadith that Allah has ordained for you in this month of Ramadan that you should fast. Only if you fast according to me the devils will be imprisoned. If you fast by proper intention seeking the reward of Allah subhanwatala, surely the devil will not be able to entice you and best logical way to prove it is to check the crime rate of Muslim countries, it goes down during Ramadan. But if you check the crime rate of non-Muslim countries in Ramadan, it is the same! The reason is non-Muslims are not fasting.