THE MATHNAWI BOOK II STORY XI. Mo'avia and Iblis.
Mo'avia, the first of the Ommiad Khalifas, was one day lying asleep in his palace, when he was awakened by a strange man. Mo'avia asked him who he was, and he replied that he was Iblis. Mo'avia then asked him why he had awakened him, and lblis replied that the hour of prayer was come, and he feared Mo'avia would be late. Mo'avia answered, “Nay! it could never have been your intention to direct me in the right way. How can I trust a thief like you to guard my interests?” Iblis answered, “Remember that I was bred up as an angel of light, and that I cannot quite abandon my original occupation. You may travel to Rome or Cathay, but still you retain the love of your fatherland. I still retain my love of God, who fed me when I was young; nay, even though I revolted from Him, that was only from jealousy (of Adam), and jealousy proceeds from love, not from denial of God. I played a game of chess with God at His own desire, and though I was utterly checkmated and ruined, in my ruin I still experience God’s blessings.”
Mo'avia answered, “What you say is not credible. Your words are like the decoy calls of a fowler, which resemble the voices of the birds, and so lure them to destruction. You have caused the destruction of hundreds of mortals, such as the people of Noah, the tribe of ‘Ad, 1 the family of Lot, Nimrod, Pharaoh, Abu Jahl, and so on.”
Iblis retorted, “You are mistaken if you suppose me to be the cause of all the evil you mention. I am not God, that I should be able to make good evil, or fair foul. Mercy and vengeance are twin divine attributes, and they generate the good and evil seen in all earthly things. I am, therefore, not to blame for the existence of evil, as I am only a mirror, which reflects the good and evil existing in the objects presented to it.”
Mo'avia then prayed to God to guard him against the sophistries of lblis, and again adjured lblis to cease his arguments and tell plainly the reason why he had awakened him. Iblis, instead of answering, continued to justify himself, saying how hard it was that men and women should blame him when they did anything wrong, instead of blaming their own evil lusts. Mo'avia, in reply, reproached him with concealing the truth, and ultimately brought him to confess that the true reason why he had awakened him was this, that if he had overslept himself, and so missed the hour of prayer, he would have felt deep sorrow and have heaved many sighs, and each of these sighs would, in the sight of God, have counted for as many as two hundred ordinary prayers.
The value of sighs.
A certain man was going into the mosque,
Just as another was coming out.
He inquired of him what had occurred to the meeting,
That the people were coming out of the mosque so soon.
The other told him that the Prophet
Had concluded the public prayers and mysteries.
“Whither go you,” said he, “O foolish one,
Seeing the Prophet has already given the blessing?”
The first heaved a sigh, and its smoke ascended;
That sigh yielded a perfume of his heart’s blood.
The other, who came from the mosque, said to him,
“Give me that sigh, and take my prayers instead.”
The first said, “I give it, and take your prayers.”
The other took that sigh with a hundred thanks.
He went his way with deep humility and contrition,
As a hawk who had ascended in the track of the falcon.
That night, as ho lay asleep, he heard a voice from heaven,
“Thou hast bought the water of life and healing;
The worth of what thou hast chosen and possessed
Equals that of all the people’s accepted prayers.”
To illustrate the treachery of wolves in sheep’s clothing, - of Satans rebuking sin and preaching religion - an anecdote is told of a master of a house who caught a thief, but was induced to let him escape by the stratagem of the thief’s confederate, who cried that he had got the real thief elsewhere. Apropos of the same theme, the poet next relates the story of “those who built a mosque for mischief,” as recorded in the Koran. 2 The tribe of Bani Ganim built a mosque, and invited the Prophet to dedicate it. The Prophet, however, discovered that their real motive was jealousy of the tribe of Bani Amru lbn Auf, and of the mosque at Kuba, near Medina, and a treacherous understanding with the Syrian monk Abu Amir, and therefore he refused their request, and ordered the mosque to be razed to the ground.
Wisdom the believer’s lost camel.
My people adopt my law without obeying it,
They take that coin without assaying it.
The Koran’s wisdom is like the “believer’s lost camel,’ 3
Every one is certain his camel is lost.
You have lost your camel and seek it diligently;
Yet how will you find it if you know not your own?
What was lost? Was it a female camel that you lost?
It escaped from your hand, and you are in a maze.
The caravan is come to be loaded,
Your camel is vanished from the midst of it.
You run here and there, your mouth parched with heat;
The caravan moves on, and night approaches.
Your goods lie on the ground in a dangerous road,
You hurry after your camel in all directions.
You cry "O Moslems, who has seen a camel,
Which escaped from its stable this morning?
To him who shall give me news of my camel
I will give a reward of so many dirhems.”
You go on seeking news of your camel from every one,
And every lewd fellow flatters you with a fresh rumor,
Saying, “I saw a camel; it went this way;
'Twas red, and it went towards this pasture.”
Another says, “Its ear was cropped.”
Another says, “Its cloth was embroidered.”
Another that it had only one eye,
Another that it had lost its hair from mange.
To gain the reward every base fellow
Mentions a hundred marks without any foundation.
All false doctrines contain an element of truth.
Just so every one in matters of doctrine
Gives a different description of the hidden subject.
A philosopher expounds it in one way,
And a critic at once refutes his propositions.
A third censures both of them;
A fourth spends his life in traducing the others.
Every one mentions indications of this road,
In order to create an impression that he has gone it.
This truth and that truth cannot be all true,
And yet all of them are not entirely astray in error.
Because error occurs not without some truth,
Fools buy base coins from their likeness to real coins.
If there were no genuine coins current in the world,
How could coiners succeed in passing false coins?
If there were no truth, how could falsehood exist?
Falsehood derives its plausibility from truth.
'Tis the desire of right that makes men buy wrong;
Let poison be mixed with sugar, and they eat it at once.
If wheat were not valued as sweet and good for food,
The cheat who shows wheat and sells barley would make no profit!
Say not, then, that all these creeds are false,
The false ones ensnare hearts by the scent of truth.
Say not that they are all erroneous fancies,
There is no fancy in the universe without some truth.
Truth is the “night of power ” 4 hidden amongst other nights,
In order to try the spirit of every night.
Not every night is that of power, O youth,
Nor yet is every night quite void of power.
In the crowd of rag-wearers there is but one Faqir; 5
Search well and find out that true one.
Tell the wary and discerning believer
To distinguish the king from the beggar.
If there were no bad goods in the world,
Every fool might be a skilful merchant;
For then the hard art of judging goods would be easy.
If there were no faults, one man could judge as well as another.
Again, if all were faulty, skill would be profitless.
If all wood were common, there would be no aloes.
He who accepts everything as true is a fool,
But he who says all is false is a knave.
1. See Koran xi. 63.
2. Koran ix. 108.
3. This is a proverb ascribed to Ali. It means, people are always losing wisdom and seeking it like a lost camel (Freytag, Arabum Proverbia, i. p. 385).
4. The night on which the Koran was revealed.
5. So in the Phaedo, “Many are the wandbearers, but few the Mystics.”