What is "Fitnah"

Definition of fitnah:

  1. – The word fitnah from a linguistic point of view:

  2. Al-Azhari said: “The Arabic word fitnah includes meanings of testing and trial. The root is taken from the phrase fatantu al-fiddah wa’l-dhahab (I assayed (tested the quality of) the silver and gold), meaning I melted the metals to separate the bad from the good. Similarly, Allaah says in the Qur’aan (interpretation of the meaning): ‘(It will be) a Day when they will be tried [yuftanoona] (punished, i.e. burnt) over the Fire!’ [al-Dhaariyaat 51:13], meaning, burning them with fire.” (Tahdheeb al-Lughah, 14/196).

    Ibn Faaris said: “Fa-ta-na is a sound root which indicates testing or trial.” (Maqaayees al-Lughah, 4/472). This is the basic meaning of the word fitnah in Arabic.

    Ibn al-A’raabi summed up the meanings of fitnah when he said: “Fitnah means testing, fitnah means trial, fitnah means wealth, fitnah means children, fitnah means kufr, fitnah means differences of opinion among people, fitnah means burning with fire.” (Lisaan al-‘Arab by Ibn Manzoor).

  3. – Meanings of the word fitnah in the Qur’aan and Sunnah:

  1. - Testing and trial, as in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning): <./li>

    “Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: ‘We believe, and will not be tested [la yuftanoon]” [al-‘Ankaboot 29:2]

    i.e., that they will not be subjected to trial, as Ibn Jareer said.

  2. Blocking the way and turning people away, as in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

    “but beware of them lest they turn you [yaftinooka] (O Muhammad) far away from some of that which Allaah has sent down to you” [al-Maa’idah 5:49]

    Al-Qurtubi said: this means blocking your way and turning you away.

  3. Persecution, as in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

  4. “Then, verily, your Lord for those who emigrated after they had been put to trials [futinoo] and thereafter strove hard and fought (for the Cause of Allaah) and were patient, verily, your Lord afterward is, Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful” [al-Nahl 16:110]

    Put to trial means persecuted.
  5. Shirk and kufr, as in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

  6. “And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allaah)”

    [al-Baqarah 2:193]

    Ibn Katheer said: this means shirk (worshipping others besides Allaah).

  7. Falling into sin and hypocrisy, as in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

  8. “(The hypocrites) will call the believers: “Were we not with you?” The believers will reply: “Yes! But you led yourselves into temptations [fatantum anfusakum], you looked forward for our destruction; you doubted (in Faith) and you were deceived by false desires” [al-Hadeed 57:14]

    Al-Baghawi said: i.e., you made yourselves fall into hypocrisy and you destroyed yourselves by means of sin and whims and desires.

  9. Confusing truth with falsehood, as in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

  10. “And those who disbelieve are allies of one another, (and) if you (Muslims of the whole world collectively) do not do so [i.e. become allies, as one united block under one Khaleefah (a chief Muslim ruler for the whole Muslim world) to make victorious Allaah’s religion of Islamic Monotheism], there will be Fitnah (wars, battles, polytheism) and oppression on the earth, and a great mischief and corruption (appearance of polytheism)”[al-Anfaal 6:73]

    What this means is that “unless believers are taken as close friends instead of disbelievers, even if they are relatives, there will be fitnah on earth, i.e., truth will be confused with falsehood.” This is how it is explained in Jaami’ al-Bayaan by Ibn Jareer.

  11. Misguidance, as in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

  12. “And whomsoever Allaah wants to put in Al‑Fitnah (error, because of his rejecting of Faith), you can do nothing for him against Allaah” [al-Maa'idah 5:41]

    The meaning of fitnah here is misguidance. Al-Bahr al-Muheet by Abu Hayaan, 4/262.

  13. Killing and taking prisoners, as in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

  14. “if you fear that the disbelievers may put you in trial [yaftinakum] (attack you)”

    [al-Nisa’ 4:101]

    This refers to the kaafirs attacking the Muslims whilst they are praying and prostrating, in order to kill them or take them prisoner, as stated by Ibn Jareer.

  15. Difference among people and lack of agreement, as in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

  16. “and they would have hurried about in your midst (spreading corruption) and sowing sedition among you [yabghoonakum al-fitnah]” [al-Tawbah 9:47]

    i.e., they would have stirred up differences amongst you, as it says in al-Kashshaaf, 2/277.

  17. Insanity, as in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

    “Which of you is afflicted with madness (maftoon)” [al-Qalam 68:6] Here it means madness.

  18. Burning with fire, as in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

  19. “Verily, those who put into trial [fatanoo] the believing men and believing women (by torturing them and burning them)”[al-Burooj 85:10]

    Ibn Hajar said: the meaning may be understood from the context. (al-Fath 11/176)


    Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: With regard to the “fitnah” which Allaah attributes to Himself or which His Messenger attributes to Him, as in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning), ‘Thus We have tried [fatannaa] some of them with others’ [al-An’aam 6:53] and the words of Moosa, ‘It is only Your trial [fitnatuka] by which You lead astray whom You will’ [al-A’raaf 7:155 – interpretation of the meaning], that carries a different meaning, which is a test or trial from Allaah to His slaves by means of good things and bad, blessings and calamities. This is one thing; the fitnah of the mushrikeen is another thing; the fitnah or trial of the believer by means of his wealth, children and neighbour is another thing; the fitnah (tribulation, differences) that happen amongst the Muslims, like the fitnah that happened between the supporters of ‘Ali and Mu’awiyah, and between him and the people of the camel, and between Muslims when they fight one another or boycott one another, is another thing. (,Zaad al-Ma’aad, vol. 3, p. 170).

Protection against Fitnah

The soundness of a person’s religious commitment in this world means happiness and triumph in the hereafter. The capital of the Muslim is his religious commitment, so whoever neglects it and exposes it to trials and temptations is doomed to failure, whereas the one who preserves it and takes care to strengthen it will prosper and succeed. Therefore one of the supplications of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) was: “O Allah, set right for me my religious commitment, which is the safeguard of my affairs. Set right for me my worldly affairs in which is my living. Set right for me my Hereafter in which will be my final abode. Make this life a means of increase in all that is good, and make death a relief for me from all evil.”

Narrated by Muslim (2720).

Al-Mannaawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

“O Allah, set right for me my religious commitment, which is the safeguard of my affairs” means: it is what protects all my affairs, for if a person’s religious commitment is spoiled, all his affairs will be spoiled and he will be doomed to failure in this world and the hereafter.

Fayd al-Qadeer (2/173)


The Muslim – with the help of Allah – can protect his religious commitment from trials and temptations, by following the path of the believers with regard to what they were enjoined to adhere to. That includes the following:

  1. Keeping away from any environment that will corrupt one’s religious commitment and morals.

  2. So he should avoid living in the lands of kufr, and avoid mixing with the evildoers. Whoever keeps away from anything that may lead to corruption will protect his religious commitment from being lost, by Allah’s leave. It is almost certain that living in environments of kufr and mixing with disbelievers will have an impact on the Muslim who dwells among them. We have seen and heard shocking stories of those who drifted away and sold their religious commitment for some fleeting worldly gain. That was because of being so dazzled and impressed by the environment of kufr and the disbelievers, and because of hearts becoming spiritually dead as a result of living among them or mixing with them.

    The same may be said with regard to keeping away from any involvement in the battles between Muslims over controversial issues, especially when arguing about those differences leads to boycotting one another, turning their backs on one another and fighting.

    Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: Whoever examines the stories of turmoil and arguments that take place among Muslims will realise that no Muslim ever got involved in that and was happy with the consequences of his involvement, because of what may happen to him of harm affecting his religious commitment and his worldly interests. Therefore it is something to be forbidden, and refraining from it is something to be enjoined, concerning which Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

    And let those who oppose the Messenger's (Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him)) commandment (i.e. his Sunnah— legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements) (among the sects) beware, lest some Fitnah (disbelief, trials, afflictions, earthquakes, killing, overpowered by a tyrant) should befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them”

    [an-Noor 24:63].

    Minhaaj as-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah (4/410)

    Another thing that may help the Muslim to protect his religious commitment is strengthening his faith, by doing obligatory acts of obedience and refraining from that which is forbidden and prohibited.

    One of the greatest obligatory acts of obedience is prayer, so the Muslim should pray regularly and on time, fulfilling all the necessary conditions and doing all the obligatory parts of prayer, with proper humility and focus. Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):

    and perform As-Salât (Iqamât-as-Salât). Verily, As-Salât (the prayer) prevents from Al-Fahshâ' (i.e. great sins of every kind, unlawful sexual intercourse) and Al-Munkar (i.e. disbelief, polytheism, and every kind of evil wicked deed)

    [al-‘Ankaboot 29:45].

    The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) enjoined doing all kinds of acts of obedience and worship in order to be saved from trials and temptations with regard to one’s religious commitment, and he warned against worldly temptations such as wealth, women and status, lest they be the cause of selling one’s religious commitment for their sake. He stated that a man may be a Muslim during the night then end up apostatising during the day, or he may be a Muslim during the day then end up apostatising during the night!

    It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Hasten to do good deeds before there emerges fitnah like a piece of black night, when a man will be a believer in the morning and a disbeliever in the evening, or he will be a believer in the evening and a disbeliever in the morning, and he will sell his religion for worldly gain.”

    Narrated by Muslim (118).

    Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

    The point is that the Messenger (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) warned us against these trials that would be like a piece of black night, in which a person would be a believer in the morning and a disbeliever in the evening – Allah forbid; in a single day he would apostatise from Islam and exit the faith, he would be a believer in the morning and a disbeliever in the evening – we ask Allah to keep us safe and sound – and why would that be so? Because he would sell his religious commitment for worldly gain. Do not think that what is meant by worldly gain is merely wealth, for every worldly pleasure is worldly gain, whether it is wealth, status, leadership, women, or anything else. Every worldly pleasure comes under the heading of worldly gain.

    These people who will be believers in the morning and disbelievers in the evening, or will be believers in the evening and become disbelievers in the morning – all of them will sell their religious commitment for some worldly gain.

    We ask Allah to protect us and you from trials and temptations. You should constantly seek refuge with Allah from trials and temptations.

  3. Supplication (du‘aa’).

  4. Our Lord, may He be exalted, has guided us, and our Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) has taught us concise supplications that are of benefit to the one who wants to protect his religious commitment from trials and temptations. These supplications include:

    he phrase “ihdina as-siraat al-mustaqeem (Guide us to the Straight Path)” in every rak‘ah; and the supplication: “Allaahumma ihdini feeman hadayta wa ‘aafini feeman ‘aafayta wa tawallani feeman tawallayta wa baarik li feema a’tayta, wa qini sharra ma qadayta … (O Allah, guide me among those whom You have guided, pardon me among those whom You have pardoned, turn to me in friendship among those on whom You have turned in friendship, and bless me in what You have bestowed, and save me from the evil of what You have decreed…).” Narrated and classed as hasan by at-Tirmidhi (464); also narrated by Abu Dawood (1425). This is what the Muslim says in Qunoot al-Witr and in many other situations, because it includes seeking the help of Allah, may He be exalted, to guide the worshipper to the path of Islam and the straight path, and to make him steadfast in adhering to that, and to show him the best and shortest way of attaining His pleasure.

  5. Keeping away from bad company

  6. It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “A man will follow the way of his close friend, so let one of you look at who he takes as a close friend.”

    Narrated by Abu Dawood (4833) and at-Tirmidhi (2378), who classed it as hasan.

    Do not take anyone as a close friend except one who is pleasing in terms of his religious commitment and honesty, for if you take him as a close friend, he will lead you to his religion and his way. So do not take risks with regard to your religious commitment or gamble with your soul by taking as a close friend someone who is not pleasing in terms of his religious commitment and his way.

    Al-‘Izlah, (p. 141)

  7. Learn Islamic knowledge and consult trustworthy scholars

  8. One of the greatest means by which a Muslim may ward off trials and confusion with regard to his religious commitment is Islamic knowledge. Therefore the ignorant person is more prone to drifting away from the right path of Islam. Look at those who circumambulate graves, or believe that the dead have the power to bring benefit or cause harm. If you reflect on the situation, you will see that they are ignorant people, and whoever among them has any knowledge is one of those who has sold his religious commitment in order to attain some fleeting worldly gain.


    If anyone has fallen into any kind of temptation with regard to his religious commitment:

  1. Let him hasten to get out of it and free himself from it completely, by repenting sincerely to Allah, may He be exalted, regretting his neglect of his duty towards Him, and resolving never to go back to it again.

  2. Let him change his environment for one that is pure and wholesome.

  3. Let him call upon his Lord, may He be exalted – with the utmost sincerity – and ask Him to save him from that.

  4. Let him follow it with righteous deeds, and do a lot of them, as much as he can.

    Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):

    “And perform As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât), at the two ends of the day and in some hours of the night [i.e. the five compulsory Salât (prayers)]. Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds (i.e. small sins). That is a reminder (an advice) for the mindful (those who accept advice).

    And be patient; verily, Allâh wastes not the reward of the good-doers”

    [Hood 11:114-115].

  5. The individual should have an honest estimation of how he is faring, and he should be aware of his shortcomings and the causes thereof, and how the Shaytaan was able to gain control over him. If the cause of his drifting away was sexual desire, then let him strive to protect himself by getting married, and if he is not able to do that, then let him fast a great deal, for it will be a shield for him, as the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) told us.

  6. An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: What is meant here is that fasting will reduce sexual desire.

    If the temptation has to do with other desires, or specious arguments, let him hasten to deal with it and counteract it with the opposite.

    What we have mentioned above are among the means of protection against trials and temptations, as the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) taught us.

    Dealing with the Fitnah

    from women

    Allaah has created man in a world of trials and tests, and He has made Paradise the abode of His friends and beloved ones, who preferred His pleasure over their own and preferred obedience to Him over their physical comfort. And He has made Hell the abode of those among His slaves who disobey Him and preferred their own whims and desires to the pleasure of their Lord. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

    “Such is the Paradise which We shall give as an inheritance to those of Our slaves who have been Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)”

    [Maryam 19:63]

    “But as for him who feared standing before his Lord, and restrained himself from impure evil desires and lusts.

    Verily, Paradise will be his abode”

    [al-Naaz’i’aat 79:40-41]

    And He says concerning the people of Hell (interpretation of the meaning):

    “Then, there has succeeded them a posterity who have given up As-Salaat (the prayers) [i.e. made their Salaat (prayers) to be lost, either by not offering them or by not offering them perfectly or by not offering them in their proper fixed times] and have followed lusts. So they will be thrown in Hell”

    [Maryam 19:59]

    And He says (interpretation of the meaning):

    “That shall be their recompense, Hell; because they disbelieved and took My Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) and My Messengers by way of jest and mockery”

    [al-Kahf 18:106]

    “Then for him who transgressed all bounds, (in disbelief, oppression and evil deeds of disobedience to Allaah).

    And preferred the life of this world (by following his evil desires and lusts),

    Verily, his abode will be Hell-fire”

    [al-Naazi’aat 79:37-39]

    So the Muslim must strive to worship Allaah and keep away from that which angers Allaah, for Allaah will not cause the reward the one who does good to be lost:

    “As for those who strive hard in Us (Our Cause), We will surely guide them to Our paths (i.e. Allaah’s religion — Islamic Monotheism). And verily, Allaah is with the Muhsinoon (good-doers)”

    [al-‘Ankaboot 29:69 – interpretation of the meaning]

    One of the fitnahs (temptations) with which we are tested is the fitnah of women, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “I have not left behind me any fitnah (temptation) more harmful to men than women.” There follow some of the methods by which we can avoid this temptation. We ask Allaah to set the affairs of the Muslims straight.

    1. Faith in Allaah.

    2. Faith in Allaah and fear of Allaah provide a safety valve and protect a person against committing haraam actions and following his own whims and desires.

      If the believer becomes aware that Allaah is always watching and if he ponders the meanings of His names and attributes, such as the All-Knowing, the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing, the Watchful, the Reckoner, the Preserver, the All-Encompassing, that will generate fear of Him in secret and in public, and will put a stop to disobedience towards Allaah, and will reduce the strength of desire that leads many people to commit haraam actions.

    3. Lowering the gaze and avoiding looking at haraam things

      The gaze can generate bad thoughts in the heart, which then lead to ideas and then to desires, then to will and resolve, and then inevitably to doing haraam things. Think about the meaning of this verse which makes a connection between the first steps towards haraam and the end result. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

      “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). That is purer for them. Verily, Allaah is All-Aware of what they do”

      [al-Noor 24:30]

      Ibn Katheer said: “This is a command from Allaah to His believing slaves, to lower their gaze and avoid looking at that which is forbidden to them so that they only look at that which they are permitted to look at. If it so happens that a person’s gaze accidentally falls upon something haraam, he should turn his gaze away from it quickly.

    4. Warding off evil thoughts

    5. Bad thoughts pose a danger to the heart… If a person dwells on them and does not push them away, they will develop into an idea, then into will and resolve, then this will inevitably lead to haraam actions. Beware of dwelling on passing thoughts; rather what you must do is to ward them off and crowd them out with good thoughts.

      The treatment, then, is to ward off these passing thoughts and keep yourself busy with beneficial thoughts.

    6. Marriage

    7. It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “O young men, whoever among you can afford it, let him get married, and whoever cannot, let him fast, for it will be a shield for him.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5065.

    8. Fasting for those who cannot afford to get married

    9. Because of the hadeeth quoted above, in which it says, “…and whoever cannot, let him fast, for it will be a shield for him.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5065.

      Al-Qurtubi said:

      The less a person eats, the weaker his desire becomes, and the weaker his desire is, the less sins he commits.

    10. Keeping away from bad companions.

    11. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A man will follow the way of his close friends, so let each one of you look at who he takes as a close friend.” Narrated by Abu Dawood, 8433; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 4046.

    12. Keeping away from places of temptation.

    13. It is obvious that we are living in a society that is filled with temptation – media of all types, magazines, flirting in the marketplaces, satellite TV, the internet, etc… So you have to flee from all of these in order to keep your religious commitment sound.

    14. Do not make your houses graves

    15. Make your house a reminder of obedience, not of sin. If a room is connected to sin for example, that will make a person commit sin repeatedly, because every time he enters that room he will remember the sin and may be provoked to commit the sin again. So he should make his room and his house a reminder of obedience to Allaah, so when he enters he sees the Mus-haf which he reads, and he remembers praying qiyaam al-layl for Allaah, and the regular Sunnah prayers that he offers in this room. Doing a lot of acts of worship in your house will make a connection in your mind between the house and doing good deeds, so you will do more and will think less of sin, and the calls of desire will grow less.

    16. Trying to make the most of your time in worshipping and obeying Allaah.

    17. Time is one of the great blessings that Allaah has bestowed upon His slaves, but there are many who are not making the most of it. It was narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Two blessings which many people do not make the most of: good health and spare time.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6412.

    18. Remembering the blessings of the Hereafter.

      Particularly appropriate in this context is remembering al-hoor al-‘iyn and their attributes, whom Allaah has prepared for those who are patient and steadfast in avoiding sin. This can help the Muslim to look at these transient haraam pleasures which only lead to regret and loss.

      We ask Allaah to help us to avoid temptation, both obvious and hidden. Praise be to Allaah the Lord of the Worlds.