The angel is free because of his knowledge, the beast because of his ignorance. Between the two remains the son of man to struggle. – Rumi
In this chaotic world, we are constantly reminded of these words of wisdom by Persian poet Jalaluddin Rumi. As mankind was created by The Creator with free-will, a unique inherent combination of animalistic instincts as well as consciousness and intelligence, we are constantly tested with our weaknesses and strengths. We become weak when our animalistic side is dominant and strong when we utilize our intelligence to pacify the Ego Animal inside.
In the excerpt from “The Rumi Collection” – An Anthology of Translations of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi by Kabir Helminski, Rumi explains:
There are three kinds of beings. The first are the angels, who are pure intelligence. It is their nature and means of sustenance to be obedient, worshipful, and constantly mindful. That is what they feed on and live by, like a fish in water, whose life is of the water and whose bed and pillow are the water. Angels are not obliged to do what they do. Since they are abstract and free from lust, what favor do they incur for not being lustful or not having carnal desires? Being pure, they do not have to struggle against conceiving passions. If they perform acts of obedience, they are not counted as such because such is their nature and they cannot be otherwise.
The second kind are the animals, who are pure instinct and have no conscious will. They are also under no moral obligation like poor man, who is a mixture of intelligence and lust. Half of him is angelic and half animal. Half serpent and half fish, his fish pulls him toward the water and his serpent towards the dust. They are in a constant tug-of-war.
It’s the perfect explanation of the state mankind is at in this existing period of time. With the constantly recurrent instances of shootings, wars, rapes, murders, political scandals, human rights abuses, and so on, it seems our lust is overcoming our intelligence.
Take the topic of sexual harassment currently dominating world news, an example of how lust, the Ego Animal, has overcome intelligence. Powerful, rich, educated men, with everything they could desire from this world, yet they chose to succumb to their lust and forsake their God-given intelligence. Women are not immune of their Ego Animal as well, the desire to be desired.
Vanity was the world’s first sin, since Satan refused to bow down to Adam on God’s orders, and all sins derive from that egotistical state of being. “And behold, We said to the angels: “Bow down to Adam” and they bowed down. Not so Iblis (Satan): he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject Faith.” – Quran 2:34
To be vain, is to deny The Creator’s command and to forget that you will be held accountable in front of His supreme power. That’s how Satan plays on the weaknesses of mankind, with sins that are derived from vanity such as greed and lust, with temporary illusions that ultimately perish. “But Satan whispered evil to him: he said, “O Adam! shall I lead thee to the Tree of Eternity and to a kingdom that never decays?” – Quran 20:120
But Satan’s kingdom does decay, while the kingdom of God, the Absolute, never ends. Even the angels wondered on choice of mankind, who’s in a constant state of struggle between yin and yang, as God’s vicegerent on earth. “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” He said: “I know what ye know not.” – Quran 2:30
God knows what we know not. God knows our weaknesses and strengths and our tendency of going back and forth between sin and salvation. The only antidote to the vanity of the Ego Animal is by constantly striving for humbleness and faith through our intelligence. And God’s mercy is everlasting as long as we continue to strive for it through faith in Him.
“We have explained in detail in this Qur’an, for the benefit of mankind, every kind of similitude: but man is, in most things, contentious.” – Quran 18:54
“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.” – Quran 2:256
In this day and age, filled with misinformation, temptations and distractions, are we striving enough to attain our worthy state of being, closer to the angels, or are we too easily succumbing to our ignorance, our ego?
“He whose intellect overcomes his lust is higher than the angels; he whose lust overcomes his intelligence is less than an animal.” – Rumi