Saturday, December 14, 2013

Adam, the Angel and the Beast

From Maulānā RūmīMasnavī-i Ma‘navī (IV, ll. 1497-1514)
   [Persian, 13th century]

A Tradition* recounts that the Lord of Glory 
   created in the world three classes of beings: 
one given intelligence, science, munificence – 
   those are angels engaged in ceaseless worship 
in whose nature abide neither greed nor lust, 
   only pure light, whose life is the love of God. 
then a second class, devoid of all knowledge, 
   cattle that ruminate all day on fattening grass, 
without a care but for their stall and pasture, 
   heedless of all portents of misery and honour
A third is the progeny of Adam and mankind, 
   whose nature is half angelic and half asinine – 
the asinine side ever pulling him earthward, 
   even as his angelic side draws him heavenward. 
It remains unclear which of them will prevail, 
   and overcome its rival in this wrestling match. 
[If intelligence prevails, man will rise higher 
   than the angel through this trial of endurance. 
If his desire prevails, man will descend lower 
   than the beast which cannot rise above itself.] 
Between these there is neither war nor strife, 
   yet in man, to his affliction, they are enemies. 

*This Tradition (hadīth) has been ascribed to ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib in the Biḥār al-Anwār (60/299/5): “[Imām ‘Alī] (AS) said, ‘God, the Mighty and Majestic, gave the angels intelligence (aql) without desire (shahwa), He gave the beasts desire without intelligence, and He gave both to the sons of Adam. So a man whose intelligence prevails over his desire is better than the angels, whilst a man whose desire prevails over his intelligence is worse than the beasts.’

[my translation]
Persian text: http://ganjoor.net/moulavi/masnavi/daftar4/sh56/

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