The Forms Devils Can Take
Ibn Taymia recorded concerning al-Hallaaj: “He was a magician, and sometimes devils would serve him. He was with some of his companions on Abu Qabis Mountain. They asked him for some sweets. He went off to a place close by and brought a plate of sweets. Later it was determined that those sweets has been stolen from a store in Yemen and a devil had carried it to that place.”
And Ibn Taymia also wrote:
Things like that happen to many, besides al-Hallaaj, who live evil lives. We know of many such people during our time and other times. Like the man who is now [during ibn Taymia’s time] in Damascus. Satan used to carry him from Salihiya Mountains to villages around Damascus. He would be carried through the air to the windows of houses and enter the houses with the people seeing him. He would come at night to the Small Gate [one of the six gates around Damascus at that time] and he and his companions would be seen there. And he is one of the most wicked people. One of them was in a fortified prison in a city called Al-Shahida. He would go through the air to the top of a mountain and people would see him. A devil used to carry him. He was a highway robber.
Most such people are leaders of evil. One of them was called al-Barsha Abu al-Majib. His tent was pitched for him once on a dark night. Bread was made in the manner of an offering. They did not mention Allah. And there was none among them who would mention Allah nor had they any book containing Allah’s name. Then al-Barsha rose in the air. They watched him and heard him speak to Satan and heard Satan speak to him. Whoever laughed or stole some of the bread would be hit without knowing who hit him. Then Satan informed them of some things they had asked about. Then he ordered them to sacrifice a cow, horse or similar animal. [He told them] to strangle the animal and not to mention the name of Allah upon it. When they would do that, he would then fulfil their needs.
Ibn Taimiya also mentioned a Sufi sheikh
Who said about himself that he used to commit adultery and sodomize boys. He said, “A black dog with two white spots between his eyes would say to me, ‘So and so will come to you about an oath he made by you and I have fulfilled his need on your behalf.’ Then the person would come with an oath and that disbelieving sheikh would already tell him about it.
And ibn Taimiya mentioned from the same man, “If anyone desired me to change anything, like glue, then I would speak until I lost my senses and then I would find the glue in my hand or my mouth and not know who put it there.” And he said, “ When I walked at night, I would have a black staff with a light in front of me.” Ibn Taymia said, “When that shaikh repented and started to pray, fast and avoid the forbidden acts. The black dog left him. And the alterations stopped and he could not produce glue or anything else.”
Ibn Taimiya also mentioned another shaikh who would send his devils to posses certain people. The family of those people would come to the shaikh asking him to rescue their relatives. Then that shaikh would tell his devils to leave that person. The family would then pay that shaikh lots of money for his services. Sometimes the jinn would bring the shaikh money and food that they had stolen from people. Some people had some figs. The shaikh asked his devils for some figs and they brought those figs to him. When the owners went to their containers, they found the figs gone.
Ibn Taimiya mentions another person who was busy in acquiring knowledge. The devils came to him to deceive him. They said to him, “We have made the prayer no longer obligatory on you. And we will bring you whatever you need.” Then they would bring him sweets or fruits. This continued until he met some true scholars of the sunnah who asked him to repent. Then he paid the owners of the sweets for the sweets he had eaten while being tempted by the devils. (All of the above quotes are from ibn Taimiya, Jaami al-Rasaail-, pp. 190-194).
In Majmu al-Fatawa, ibn Taimiya explained some of ways of the devils in tempting people. He wrote,
I know some people whom plants would talk to and tell them of their beneficial ingredients. Actually, Satan who had entered the plant was the one talking. And I know people to whom the bushes and rocks would say, “Welcome, o devoted servant of Allah.” If they read “The Verse of the Throne” (al- Baqarah 255) all of that would stop. I know of some people who go bird hunting and the sparrows and others say to them, “Take me so the poor can eat me.” A Satan had entered the bird and spoken in the same way he enters humans and speaks from them. And some people are in their houses with the doors locked and see themselves outside while they did not open the door and vice-versa. Similar is the case with the city gates. Jinn take them in and out of them quickly. Lights would appear while actually it was Satan appearing like his friend. If they recite “The Verse of the Throne” over and over, all of that stops. [Majmoo al-Fatawa, vol. 11, p. 300].
And ibn Taimiya wrote,
I know of people who are spoken to by something that says, “I am from the commands of Allah”. And he tells the person that he is the Mahdi that the Prophet gave glad tidings of. And he performs supernatural acts for him. For example, if he even thinks of flying with birds or locusts through the air or if he desires them to go to the right or left, they do whatever he wishes. Or if he thinks to get some cattle up or have them sleep or leave, it happens for him without any apparent movement on his part. And they take him to Makkah and back. Someone will be brought to him in a beautiful form and he will be told that it is one of the noble angels who has come to visit him. The man will say to himself, “How [can the angels] look like a beardless youth.” Then he will look up again and find that he has a beard. It will be said to him, “The sign that you are the Mahdi is that you have specific birthmark”. He will look and he will see it. All of that is from the plots of Satan.
Ibn Taimiya also wrote,
The people of misguidance and heresies, those who are ascetic worshippers but not according to the manner prescribed by the Shariah, sometimes have strong influence that draws many to the places of Satan in which is prohibited to pray. This is because the devils descend upon them and the devils talk to them about some matters in the same way they talk to the fortune-tellers. In the same manner, they enter the statues and idols and talk to the worshipper of the idols. And they help them in some of their needs in the same manner they help magicians. In a similar fashion, they help the worshipers of idols , the sun, the moon and the planets when they worship them in a manner they think that are deserving of, of sanctifying them, to dressing and lighting incense for them and so on. Devils, that they call the “spirits of the planets”, descend upon them and meet some of their needs. [Majmoo, vol. 19, p.41.]