Due to this, He said: “Thus know that they only follow their whims”, and then said: “And who is more misguided than one who follows his whims without guidance from Allah?” (al-Qasas 28:50) ‘Following whims‘ has various levels. Among them are the polytheists and those who worship beside Allah what they deem as good without knowledge or proof, as He said: “Have you seen the one who takes his whims as a god?” (al-Jathiyyah 45:23) In other words, he takes as his god who he worships, and it is who he fancies among gods. It is not said that his whims themselves are his god for not everyone who fancies something, worships it. For indeed whims have divisions. Rather what is intended is that he made what he fancies a thing to be worshipped. Thus his worship was to follow the whims of his self in acts of worship. Indeed he does not worship what he fancies to worship and does not perform the worship which he was commanded to do.
This is the condition of the people of innovation, for indeed they worship something other than Allah and innovate acts of worship alleging that they are worshipping Allah through it. Thus they are only following their whims for indeed one of them follows the fancy of his self, its tastes, passions and whims without knowledge, guidance or an illuminating book. For if they followed knowledge and the Illuminating Book, they would not worship but Allah through what He wills and not through fabrications and innovations.
What is intended is that there are a large number of gods and the ways of worshipping them vary. In general all of what a person wishes for and fancies is inevitable for him to imagine it in his self. So that cognitive image is a motivation for him towards what he fancies and the dictates of that fancy. Thus whoever worships it, worships something other than Allah and demons appear to him in the form of who he worships. This continues a great deal and has not ended. Due to this, everyone who worships something other than Allah is only worshipping Shaytan. Due to this, Shaytan unites with the sun when it is rising and setting and becomes level with it so that the prostrations of whoever worships it are for him as well. Demons appears is the form of whoever is worshipped just like they speak to them from the idols which they worship. Similarly, in our time a great number of people from those who attribute themselves to Islam, the Christians and polytheists, they commit Shirk with some of those who are aggrandise from the living and the dead mashayikh and others – they call upon [the beloved figure], seek his help in his lifetime and after his death and see him. He comes and speaks to them and fulfils their needs while it is only a Shyatan appearing in his form in order to lead astray the polytheist.
Shaytan does not cease appearing to those afflicted with passion for something in the form of what they are passionate about or he mimics it form. Thus [the polytheist] does not cease seeing [the beloved’s] form despite his absence from him after his death. Shaytan only reveals himself to his heart and due to this when the slave mentions the remembrance of Allah which the retreating whisperer withdraws from, this Satanic image and the image of the beloved withdraws.
At times it overpowers the lover to the point that he does not see anything else, he does not hear any other words, and this his self remains exploited by it. A form of that happens to some of those taking the path of loving Allah as a deficient path. It is called ‘istilam‘ and ‘fana‘. He disappears with his beloved from his love, with his grace from his awareness and with his remembered from his remembrance until he does not sense anything of the Names, Attributes, Speech, commands and prohibitions of Allah.
Among these are those who have moved on from this to divine ‘Union’. They say: ‘I am Him and He is me and I am Allah.’ The majority of those who follow this path believe this person is the highest degree of those who follow this path and that this is true ‘faith in the Oneness of Allah’ which is the final stage of every follower. They are in error in this, rather this is among the types of views of the Christians although they strayed because they did not follow the legal path inwardly regarding the reports of Allah and His commands. This discussion of this has been expanded upon at another point.
What is intended is that what those who follow their desires create for of images, food, drink and clothing overwhelms their heart to the point that it subdues it, reign over it, and leaves it a slave. Whatever he fancies diverts him in whatever way that the sought after thing behaves, and due to this some of the predecessors said: ‘What I fear more for the ascetic youth than a predatory animal leaping on him, is a young boy sitting with him.’
It is that unadulterated self (nafs al-safiyya) which has the delicateness of training and is not attracted to the love of Allah and His worship has complete attraction. And what diverts [the self] from its fancy does not accomplish it out of complete fear of Allah when it becomes subject to an image among the images; this image overwhelmed [the self] just as the predatory animal overcomes what he preys upon. Thus the predatory animal takes his prey by force and the prey is not able to stop it. Similarly what a person portrays in his heart of beloved images swallows and subdues his heart. So his heart is not able to refrain from it and it remains engrossed in this image in a greater way than they prey is immersed in his fear of the lion. This is because the beloved and sought after thing is the objective of the self (ghaya al-nafs) and it has a powerful authority over it.
Gardens of Purification by Ibn Taymiyyah Pages 72-75