Mauwiaw’s duel with Satan

Muawiya was a secretary to Mohammed, and also an able man in other fields. He was devout, and in particular had never missed the ritual prayer, performed five times a day. Upright as he was, when he spoke it was the truth.

As a rule his door was open to anyone for help or advice. But one evening, physically exhausted by completing a long commission, he said the ritual prayer and then bolted the door and shuttered the windows, to get a well-earned sleep. He slept very deeply. Early in the morning he was roused by a man saying:

`Rise, O good man! The hour of prayer is near’.
He sprang up. `Who are you?’
‘Why, a passer-by who did not want to see a good man sleeping through the time of prayer’.

Muawiya’s eyes went to the still bolted door and shutters.
The truth came to him: `You are no passer-by.
How could you have got in? I know you.
You are Satan, the angel who disobeyed God’s command to bow down to Adam when he was created’.

`That was only because He had told us in the beginning never to bow to any but Him.

The other angels obeyed his second command and bowed to Adam.
But they were breaking his eternal command never to bow to any but God.
I obeyed his first command, and refused to bow to a creature made of clay.
I have been the truly loyal one; why should I be called disobedient?’

Muawiya felt confused, and prayed:
`O Lord, show me the truth about this’.
The truth came to the truthful man , and he said:
`You are lying. You refused to bow because of your pride, not from reverence for God.
You hate Adam and all his descendents.
You are always tempting us and trying to destroy us’.

Satan said:
`You are wrong. I merely test you.
A good horse and rider are tested by being set to jump over a fence.
If they jump carelessly, they fall and perhaps are injured.
But why blame the fence?’

‘You are no mere fence.
You do it with hatred and jealousy’.

`How can you say that? Why,
I have just woken you to prevent your missing the time of prayer’.

Again Muawiya felt confused.
`Yes, why did you do that?’ he asked hesitantly.

A look of indescribable sadness and longing came over Satan’s face.

`I was an angel once’, he whispered.
`Yes, I have fallen. Yet there are still
traces of my original angel nature in me.
I am as you are.
You have become a good man,
yet from time to time traces of your lower nature can overcome you for a moment, can’t they?
Then you do something that you are ashamed of later.
Well, I too from time to time do a deed in accordance with the nature which I once had.
I saw a good man about to sleep through the time of prayer, and the impulse came:
let me at least save him from that lapse’.

Muawiya prayed again, and the truth in him blazed up in spiritual majesty.

The look of sadness dropped like a discarded mask from the Devil’s face.

He cowered and cried:
`I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you! You’re a very good man,
but there is a small defect.
It is .this:’ you know that you are good.
It is symbolized for you by the knowledge that you have never missed the ritual prayer.

`If you had slept through the time, your self-righteous virtue would have been shattered.
This little defect would have been swept away in the flood of repentance;
the last traces of complacency and convention would have gone from your devotion.

`I wanted to prevent that. So I woke you. Now let me go’.

(abridged and adapted from the Masnavi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi)

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