ibn al-qayyim said:
"shaytan tries to destroy the son of adam in one of seven phases. some of them are more intense than others. shaytan would not try to destroy him in the next phase until he fails to destroy him in a previous one. these phases are: -
the phase of disbelief in allah
his deen, his perfect attributes, and in what rasulullah (peace and blessings be upon him) informed us about, and the fact that we will be resurrected. if shaytan is successful in misleading the slave in this phase, his enmity towards him would diminish and he would take rest. if the slave succeeds, and survives in this phase, shaytan would try to destroy him in the next phase.
the phase of bid'ah (religious innovation)
whether it pertains to believing in other than the truth which rasulullah (peace and blessings be upon him) was sent with or by worshipping other than allah; such as worshipping idols, and the like. shaytan enjoys that one succumbs in this phase, for bid'ah conflicts with the nature of the deen and compels one to reject it. furthermore, the one who observes innovated religious practices would not repent from his actions; rather, he would invite people to his bid'ah! observing innovated religious practices would compel one to forge lies against allah and speak without knowledge; thus it openly clashes with the sunnah. observing minor bid'ah practices would lead one to observing major bid'ah practices. in this manner, a person would eventually exit the folds of islam. scholars and people of knowledge alone know the real dangers of bid'ah practices. if a person succeeds and survives in this phase by adhering to the sunnah, and understanding its texts as the pious predecessors understood them, shaytan would seek to destroy him in the next phase.
the phase of major sins
if he is able to destroy the slave in this phase, he would beautify the deed that he is doing and probably compel him to say the following: "no sin would harm the tawhid (creedal belief) as no good deed would benefit a man who has committed shirk (i.e. to associate partners with allah)." if the person is successful and survives this phase, shaytan would seek to destroy him in the next phase.
the phase of minor sins
shaytan would compel a person to belittle these sins, by whispering to him: "there is no fear upon you as long as you keep away from major sins- do you not know that the minor sins are expiated by abstaining from major sins?'" in this manner, shaytan would convince the individual that there is no harm in doing minor sins, until he regularly practices it. the person who has done a major sin, and has repented and is fearful of what he has done, would be better off than him; for regularly doing a minor sin would change it to a major sin! constant repentance eliminates major sins; and on the same token, no minor sin remains a minor sin if one does it constantly. prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"beware of minor sins; its likeness is like a people who stopped over in a valley, they spread out in search of fire wood, and each brought a stick; they were able to make a fire and cooked their bread. whenever a person practices a minor sin regularly it would destroy him." [ahmed]
if the slave succeeds and survives in this phase, by being careful and repenting continuously to allah, and observing righteous deeds, shaytan seeks to destroy him in the next phase.
shaytan entices the individual to excessively indulge in lawful things in order to keep him away from worshipping allah
in this manner, shaytan aims to make one abandon sunnah practices, and later lead him to abandoning the obligatory practices. if the slave succeeds and survives in this phase by understanding the greatness of the acts of worship, he would seek to destroy him in the next phase.
the phase of busying the slave with deeds which are less rewarding
shaytan encourages the slave to observe certain acts of worship and beautifies them to him, and shows him the great reward of doing those acts of worship in order to keep him away from deeds which are more beneficial and rewarding.
when shaytan fails to mislead the slave, he tries to deprive him from receiving the full reward; therefore, he busies him with lesser rewarding deeds.
if shaytan fails in the above six phases, he would resort to harming the person in any way possible
by summoning his men and followers and riling them against this individual. the prophets and messengers were not left unharmed by this. one should bear patiently, for victory and success are tied with patience."