This story reaches us from two sources. In our Efendi’s Irshad is a hadith through Hz. Anas ibn Malik (r.a.). In the last chapter of Hz. Muhyiddin ibn ‘Arabi’s (q.s.) book Shajarat al-kawn, “The Tree of Being”, is a version derived from a hadith related by Muadh ibn Jabal from Hz. Ibn ‘Abbas (r.a.). The version of Hz. Muadh is fuller than that of Hz. Anas. It is given below, supplemented by additional information from Hz. Anas’s report.
Sayyid Sharif Jurjani (q.s.) interprets shajarah in the title of Hz. Ibn ‘Arabi’s book as “the Perfect Plan” and kawn as “the scale of Being to which all beings should be compared for their qualification.” The work describes the Perfect Man, Allah’s Beloved and ours, the Light of Creation, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.). Inshallah one day it will be translated for the benefit and growth of my ikhwan and the family of the Path and Islam. In the meantime, this story with which we are partly familiar seemed to me most instructive. May Allah forgive me if I verbalize wrongly but it seems as if it is giving the raw material to the ones who wish and hope to become perfect men. From us the humble retelling, from Allah the understanding.
One day a congregation was gathered at the home of one of the Ansar around the Prophet (s.a.w.s). [According to Hz. Anas, it was Abu Ayyub.] In the middle of a wonderful discourse, an ugly voice from the outside was heard saying, “O the ones inside, [or, “O Messenger of Allah!”] would you permit me to enter? I have business with you!”
All looked at the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), who said to the ones present, “Do you recognize the owner of this voice?” The Companions answered, “Allah and His Messenger know best.”
The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, “It is Satan the Accursed.” On hearing that, Hz. ‘Umar (r.a.) , who was present, pulling his sword, asked, “O Messenger of Allah, permit me to go and cut off his head!” [“’Let me smash his skull and free the people from his trouble!”]
The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) replied, “No, ‘Umar, don’t you know that you cannot kill him? He has permission to exist until Doomsday.” Then he added, “Open the door and admit him, as he did not come on his own but on Allah’s orders. [Or, “There is always an underlying reason for things. Otherwise he would not have come here.”] Listen to what he says, and try to understand.”
Then Rawi (r.a.) one the Companions, relates the tale. “They opened the door and he appeared in front of us as an old man, cross-eyed [or blind in one eye] and scant of beard, with only six or seven long hairs hanging from his chin. He had a very big head, his crossed eyes close to the top of his head, high on his forehead, with big thick hanging lips like those of a water buffalo. He saluted the Prophet and the Companions, to which the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) responded, ‘O Accursed, the salam and salutations belong to Allah Most High.’ Then he said, ‘I heard you are here on business. What is it?’
“Satan said, ‘I did not wish to come here, I was forced to— an angel came to me from your Lord, who honors whom He wishes, and said, “Allah Most High orders you to Muhammad, but you will go to him in humility and abasement, and be submissive and tractable. You will tell him how you seduce and mislead humankind. You are going to answer all his questions truthfully, without a single lie.” And Allah said that if I lied to you He would turn me into ashes and blow me away in the wind, and my enemies would laugh at me. I come with such orders, O Muhammad .’
“Then the Prophet asked the Devil, ‘Tell me, who in the creation do you hate most?’
“The Devil answered, ‘You, O Muhammad! [‘And all the prophets.’] There is no one in the whole creation that I hate more. There is none other like you.’
“The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) confirmed that the Devil was his own, and all the prophets’, greatest foe. He asked, ‘Whom else do you detest, besides me?’
“Satan said, ‘The young ones who have given up their pleasures and themselves for Allah’s sake; the men of knowledge who act upon their knowledge and who decline all that is doubtful; the ones who are clean, so clean that they wash thrice that which they wish to cleanse. Then the patient poor, who neither ask from others the things they need, nor complain. Then the thankful rich, who give alms lawfully and spend lawfully.’ [Hz. Anas lists fourteen enemies after the prophets: the knowledgeable who act on what they know; readers of the Qur’an who pattern themselves on it; those who call to prayer for Allah’s sake; the satisfied poor; the compassionate; the generous; those who perform the morning prayer on time; advisors and reformers; abstainers from unlawful food and sexual relations; those who are always in ablution; the modest; those who place their trust in Allah; benefiters of the poor; the devout busy in Allah’s service.]
“Then the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) asked, ‘What happens to you, O Accursed One, when my people do their prayers?’
“ ‘I shake and tremble as if stricken with malaria because I see your people raised in blessing and power each time they prostrate.’
“ ‘What happens to you, O Accursed, when my people fast?’
“ ‘I have my hands and feet tied until they break their fast.’
“ ‘What happens when they all meet on the Pilgrimage at the house of their Lord?’
“ ‘I lose my wits, I go mad.’
“ ‘What happens to you when they recite the Holy Qur’an?’
“ ‘I melt, like lead turning to hot liquid in the fire.’
“ ‘And when they pay alms?’
“ ‘ I am torn to pieces, as if the generous donor took a saw and sawed me into four pieces, because there are four beatitudes which the donor receives—the blessing of abundance, love and respect from Allah’s creatures, a shield from hellfire, and relief from distress and troubles.’
“Then the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) asked the Devil what he thought of his beloved Companions. About Hz. Abu Bakr (r.a.) he said, ‘I hate him. Even before Islam he refused to obey, nay, even to hear me. How can he now listen to me?’ About Hz. ‘Umar ibn Khattab he said, ‘I run away whenever I see him!’ About Hz. ‘Uthman ibn Affan he said, ‘ I am ashamed in front of him. Even the angels of mercy are ashamed in front of him.’ And about Hz. ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib he said, ‘Oh, if I could just be safe from him, if he would just let me be, I would let him be. But he will not leave me alone!’
“Having heard the answers of the accursed Satan the Prophet thanked Allah and said, ‘Praise be to Allah Who has blessed my people with such felicity and cursed you with such negativity until that appointed time.’
“When the devil heard that, he said, ‘Alas, alas for you, what felicity for your people? How can you feel there is safety for them as long as I exist? I enter their very veins, their very flesh, and they cannot even suspect, let alone see or feel me. I swear by Allah Who has given me time until Doomsday that I will seduce them all, the intelligent and the simple-minded, the learned as well as the ignorant, the devout as well as the sinner. None will be safe from me except the true servants of Allah.’
“The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) asked, ‘Who are the true servants of Allah, according to you?’
“The Devil said, ‘You know well, O Muhammad , that whoever loves his money and his property Allah does not count among His servants. Whenever I see someone who does not say “mine” and “me,” who does not love either money or flattery, I know he is truly a servant of Allah and I run away from him. As long as one loves money, property, flattery, he obeys me, he is my servant. I need many servants and I have many servants. I am not alone. I have 70,000 children, each of them with his assigned duties. Each of my 70,000 children has 70,000 satans serving under him, all assigned to different posts.
Many are with the young, and the older women, and with the theologians and preachers and shaykhs. There are almost no differences of opinion between your young people and my devils, and your children play happily with my children. And some of the devout and some of the pious get along very well with my people! My devils lead the imagination of the pious from one height to another. Arrogant, they leave the sincerity of their devotions. Soon they fight with each other, and they don’t even know what is happening to them. Then I whisper to them, “Disbelieve!”, but when they disbelieve, I say, “I am free of you. Surely I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.” (Surah al-Hashr, 16).’
“Then the accursed Devil told how he profited from habits of man which he liked. About lying he said, ‘Do you know, O Muhammad , that lying is from me and that I am the first liar? Whoever lies is my best friend; whoever swears to the truth of his lie is my beloved. You know, O Muhammad, that I swore by Allah and lied to Adam and Eve. I swore to them both, “Surely I am a sincere advisor to you.” (Surah al-Araf, 21) I also love rejection and gossip. They are my delightful fruits. I detest loving families. If they think of rejecting each other, separating from each other, and talk about divorce, even if just once, the marriage bond in Allah’s view is dissolved. The wife will be unlawful to the husband. When they sleep together, they will be adulterers. If they have a child he will be a bastard. I love all that.
“ ‘O Muhammad , let me tell you about my friends who abandon prayers or delay them. When it is time for prayer I make them imagine that there is still time, that they are busy. They should enjoy what they are doing, they can always pray later! I hope they will die before doing their next prayer, and some of them do. Even when they do their prayers late, their devotions are thrown in their faces. If I cannot succeed myself, I send them a human satan who will prevent them from their devotions. If I don’t succeed again, I enter into their prayers. I tell them, “Look to the right, look to the left! Think of the past, plan your future!” And when they do I caress their cheeks and kiss their foreheads and take the peace from their hearts.
You know, O Muhammad , that the prayers of those whose attention is outside of them or who are imagining things which do not belong in the presence of Allah are also rejected and thrown in their faces. And if I am not successful in that, I order them to do their prayers fast, and they look like hens picking at grain. If I still don’t succeed, I follow them to the congregational prayers and put bridles on their heads.
I pull, and lift their heads from the prostration before the imam, and I push their heads down before the imam touches his head to the ground, and I am overjoyed to remember that Allah will turn those unruly heads into donkeys’ heads on the Day of Last Judgment. If I am still not successful, I try at least to make them crack their finders while they are making prayers. Then they will be among those who make my tasbih instead of Allah’s tasbih. Or at least I will blow into their noses and make them yawn, and if they open their mouths a little devil will enter into them through their mouths and increase their love and ambition for this world. The one who loves and is ambitious for this world becomes my soldier; he obeys me and does as he is ordered.
“ ‘O Muhammad , how can you hope and be serene about your people’s salvation and felicity? I have a trap at every corner for them. I go to the poor and tell them, “What has Allah done for you? Why do you pray to Him? Prayer is for those to whom He has given in abundance.” Then I go to ones who are sick and tell them to stop praying, and remind them that even Allah said, “There is no blame on the sick” (Surah Nur, 61). I hope that they will die having abandoned their prayers, so that Allah will meet them with anger in the hereafter.
“ ‘O Muhammad , if I have told a single lie, may scorpions bite me, and ask from Allah that He turn me into ashes. O Muhammad , do not be sure of your people. I have already converted a sixth of them, who have left their religion.’
“Then the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) asked, ‘O Accursed One, with whom do you most like to spend your time?’
“ ‘The usurer.’
“ ‘And your best friend?’
“ ‘The adulterer.’
“ ‘With whom do you share your bed?’
“ ‘The drunkard.’
“ ‘Who are your guests?’
“ ‘The thieves.”
“ ‘Who are your representatives?’
“ ‘The magicians and soothsayers.’
“ ‘What pleases you most?’
“ ‘Whom do you love most?’
“ ‘Those who abandon their Friday prayers.’
[Hz. Anas gives ten friends of Satan: tyrants and oppressors; the arrogant; servile scholars who hide the truth for the benefit of tyrants; dishonest tradesmen; drinkers of alcohol; dealers in fraud; slanderers; those who stir up trouble among friends.]
“Then the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) asked, ‘What breaks your heart, O Accursed One?’
“ ‘The determination and the firm footsteps of those who march against the enemies of Allah for Allah’s sake.’
“ ‘What gives you pain?’
“ ‘The repentance of the penitent.’
“ ‘What makes you grimace?’
“ ‘The alms given in secret.
“ ‘What makes your eyes blind?’
“ ‘The tahajjud prayer in the middle of the night.’
“ ‘What makes you bow your head?’
“ ‘Prayer done in congregation.’
“The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) continued asking: “O Satan, according to you, who are the happiest among people?’
“ ‘The ones who purposefully abandon their prayers.
“ ‘And the best among people?’
“ ‘The miser.’
“ ‘What prevents you from doing your job?’
“ ‘The gathering of men of knowledge and their discourses.’
“ ‘How do you eat your food?’
“ ‘With my left hand and the tips of my fingers.’
“ ‘When the sun is hot, where do you seek shade?’
“ ‘Under people’s dirty fingernails.’
“Then the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) asked, ‘What did you ask from My Lord on the day you were rejected from His presence?’
“ ‘I had ten requests which were accorded.’
“ ‘What were they, O Accursed One?’
“ ‘I asked Allah to make me a partner in the properties and children of the children of Adam. He gave that to me, and He said, “And incite whom thou canst with thy voice, and collect against them thy horse and thy foot, and share with them in wealth and children, and promise them. And the Devil promises them only to deceive.” (Surah Bani Isra’il, 64). I eat from the meat of animals killed without the basmalah and from the food bought by money gained through interest, injustice, and tyranny. I am the shareholder of the property whose owner does not take refuge in Allah from me. I am part father of the child, which comes from intercourse performed without the basmalah. I am the traveling companion of the one who rides a vehicle which is going to an unlawful destination.
“ ‘I asked Allah to give me a house, and He gave me the public baths. I asked Allah to give me a temple, and He gave me the marketplaces as my temple. I asked Allah to give me a book. He gave me the books of poetry as my book. I asked for a call to prayer, and He gave me the dancing music. I asked for someone to share my bed, and He gave me the drunkard. I asked Allah for helpers. Allah gave me those who believe in free will. I asked Allah to give me brothers and sisters, and Allah gave me the squanderers who spend their money on evil things.
Allah said, “Surely the squanderers are the Devil’s brethren” (Surah Bani Isra’il, 27). Then I asked Allah to be able to see the children of Adam while they are unable to see me, and He accorded that to me. I wished that the very veins of the children of Adam, be my routes, and it was given to me. So I flow in their veins as I wish and enter their flesh. All these were given to me, and I am proud of what I have received. And let me add, O Muhammad , that there are more with me than there are with you, end until Doomsday there will be more with me than there are with you.’
“ ‘Then the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, ‘If you had not proven what you said with the verses of Allah’s book, it would have been hard for me to confirm what you say.’
“The Devil continued, ‘Do you know, O Muhammad, that I have a son whose name is ‘Atam [in Arabic, the first third of the night]? He pisses in the ear of the people who go to sleep without performing their night prayers. His urine puts them to sleep, otherwise no one could have gone to bed without finishing their prayers. Then I have a son whose name is Mutaqadi [in Arabic, one who presses for payment]. His duty is to publicize the prayers, the devotions, the good deeds which are done in secret for Allah’s sake, because Allah promises to reward the good deed done secretly a hundredfold. When deeds are publicized and receive credit and praise from the creatures of Allah, Allah takes away 99 of the promised 100 rewards. Then I have a son whose name is Kuhayl [kohl]. His duty
is to put kohl on the eyes of those in the presence of wise men or preachers. The ones whose eyes he has touched start falling asleep. They are thus prevented from hearing the words of Allah or receiving any benefit from them.’
“The Devil talked about women. He said, ‘Whenever a woman leaves her seat a devil sits in her place. On the lap of every woman sits a satan who makes her desirable to whoever looks at her. Then he orders the woman to open and show her arms, her legs, and her breasts, and with his claws tears her veil of shame and decency.’
“Then the devil started to complain. He said, ‘O Muhammad, in spite of all this I have no strength to take away the faith of the faithful. I only take away their faith when they throw it away. If I were able, there would be no one on the f ace of this world who could say la ilaha illallah, Muhammad rasulullah, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His Messenger.” I would not leave a single one to pray or fast. All I can do is to give the children of Adam imaginations, illusions and delusions, make the ugly appear beautiful, the wrong, right, and the bad, good. Neither do you have the power to give faith.
You are only a proof of the truth, because I know that if you were given the power to give true faith you would not leave a single nonbeliever on the face of this world. The fortunate one who is a believer is fortunate in his mother’s womb, and the rebellious sinner is a rebel in his mother’s womb. As you are the guide of the fortunate, I am only the cause of sin of the ones who are destined to sin. Allah is He Who renders one fortunate and another rebellious.
Then he recited from Surah Hud, “‘And if thy Lord had pleased He would have made people a single nation, and they cease not to differ, except those upon whom thy Lord has mercy, and for this did He create them. And the word of thy Lord is fulfilled: I shall fill Hell with jinn and men altogether” (Surah Hud, 118-119).’ He recited from Surah Ahzab, ayat 38: ‘ “And the command of Allah is a decree that is made absolute.” ’
“Then the Mercy upon the Universe told the Devil, “O Father of All Bitterness, I wonder if it is at all possible for you to repent and return to your Lord. I promise I would intercede for you.’
“The Accursed One answered, ‘O Messenger of Allah, it is Allah’s justice. The ink on the pen which wrote the judgment is dry. What will happen will happen until Doomsday. The One Who made you the master of all the prophets, the speaker for the inhabitants of Paradise, the One Who chose you to be the beloved amongst all His creation, chose me to be the master of sinners and the speaker for the inhabitants of Hell. He is Allah, devoid of all lack. O Muhammad , this which I have told you is my last word to you, and I have told nothing but the truth.’ ”