STORY VII. How Adam was created out of a handful of earth brought by an
When the Almighty determined to create mankind to be proved by good and evil,
He deputed the angel Gabriel to bring a handful of earth for the purpose of
forming Adam's body. Gabriel accordingly girded his loins and proceeded to the
Earth to execute the divine commands. But the Earth, being apprehensive that
the man so created would rebel against God and draw down God's curse upon her,
remonstrated with Gabriel, and besought him to forbear. She represented that
Gabriel would at the last day be pre-eminent over all the eight angels who
would then support the throne, 1 and that it therefore was only right
that he should prefer mercy to judgment. At last Gabriel granted her prayer,
and returned to heaven without taking the handful of earth. Then God deputed
Michael on the same errand, and the Earth made similar excuses to him, and he
also listened to her crying, and returned to heaven without taking a handful.
He excused himself to the Almighty by citing the example of the people to whom
the prophet Jonah was sent, who were delivered from the threatened penalty in
consequence of their lamentation for their sins; 2 and the text,
"If He please, He will deliver you from that which ye shall cry to Him to
avert." 3 Then God sent the angel Israfil on the same errand, and
he also was diverted from the execution of it by a divine intimation. At last
God sent 'Izrail, the angel of death, who, being of sterner disposition than
the others, resolutely shut his ears to the Earth's entreaties, and brought
back the required handful of earth. The Earth pressed him with the argument
that God's command to bear away a handful of her substance against her will did
not override the other divine command to take pity on suppliants; but 'Izrail
would not listen to her, remarking that, according to the canons of theological
interpretation, it was not allowable to have recourse to analogical reasoning
to evade a plain and categorical injunction. He added, that in executing this
injunction, painful though it might be, he was to be regarded only as a spear
in the hand of the Almighty. The moral is, that when any of God's creatures do
us a harm, we ought to regard them only as instruments of God, who is the Only
God the Only Real Agent.
Do not, like fools, crave mercy from the spear,
But from the King in whose hand the spear is held.
Wherefore do you cry to spear and sword,
Seeing they are captives in the hand of that Noble One?
He is as Azar, maker of idols; I am only the idol;
Whatever instrument He makes me, that I am.
If He makes of me a cup, a cup am I;
If He makes of me a dagger, a dagger am I.
If He makes me a fountain, I pour forth water;
If He makes me fire, I give forth heat.
If He makes me rain, I produce rich crops;
If He makes me a dart, I pierce bodies.
If He makes me a snake, I dart forth poison;
If He makes me a friend, I serve my friends.
I am as the pen in the fingers of the writer,
I am not in a position to obey or not at will.
On the return of 'Izrail to heaven with the handful of earth, God said he would
make him the angel of death. 'Izrail represented that this would make him very
hateful to men; but God said 'Izrail would operate by disease and sickness, and
men would not look for any cause beyond these diseases, according to the text,
"He is nearer to you than ye are; yet ye see Him not." 4
Moreover, death is in reality a boon to the spiritual, and it is only fools who
cry, "Would that this world might endure for ever, and that there were no
such thing as death!"
Death is gain, for "God will change their evil things into good
One said, "The world would be a pleasant place
If death never set foot within it."
Another answered, "If there were no death,
The complicated world would be worth not a jot.
It would be a crop raised in a desert,
Left neglected and never threshed out.
Thou fanciest that to be death, which is life,
Thou sowest thy seed in salt ground.
Carnal reason deceives us; do thou contradict it,
For that fool takes what is really death to be life.
O God, show us all things in this house of deception,
Show them all as they really are!" 6
It is said in the Hadis that on the last day
The command, "Arise," will come to every single body.
The blast of the last trump will be God's command
To every atom to lift its head from the earth.
The souls, also, of each will return to their bodies,
Even as sense returns to bodies awaking from sleep.
On that morn each soul will recognize its own body,
And return to its own ruin like hidden treasure.
It will recognize its own body and enter it.
The soul of the goldsmith will not enter the tailor;
The soul of the wise will enter the body of the wise,
The soul of the unjust the body of the unjust.
In like manner as the souls will fly into their clay,
So will the books fly into their right hands and left. 7
God will place in their hands their books of greed and liberality,
Of sin and piety, and whatever they have practiced.
When they shall awake from sleep on that morning,
All the evil and good they have done will recur to them.
Every thought which has dwelt in them during life
Will appear as a form visible to all, 8
Like the thought of an architect realized in a house,
Or the perfect plant issuing from the seed in the ground.
From onion and saffron and poppy
The hand of spring will unfold the secret of winter.
This one will be verdant and flourish, saying, "We are the pious;"
That other will hang his head like the violet,
With tears starting from his eyes through deadly fear;
Yea, tens of founts of tears through terrible dread;
With eyes wide opened in deadly apprehension
Lest his book may be placed in his left hand.
Then will the evildoer be sent to the fiery prison,
For thorn can in no wise escape the flame.
When his guardian angels behind and before,
Who before were unseen, shall appear like patrols,
They will hurry him off, pricking him with their spears,
And saying, "O dog, begone to thy kennel!"
Then the prisoner will cry, "O Lord, I am a hundred,
Yea, a hundred times as wicked as Thou sayest.
But in mercy Thou veilest my sins,
Otherwise my vileness were known to Thy all-seeing eye.
But, independently of my own works and warfare,
Independently of my faith or unfaith, good or evil,
Independently of my poor devotion to Thee,
And of my thoughts and the thoughts of hundreds like me,
I fix my hopes on Thy mercy alone.
Whether Thou adjudge me upright or rebellious,
I sue for free pardon from Thy unbought justice.
O Lord, who art gracious without thought of consequence,
I set my face towards that free grace of Thine;
I have no regard to my own acts.
I set my face towards this hope,
Seeing that Thou gayest me my being first of all;
Thou gayest me the garment of being unasked,
Wherefore I firmly trust in Thy free grace.
When he thus enumerates his sins and faults,
God at last will grant him pardon as a free gift,
Saying, "O angels, bring him back to me,
Since the eyes of his heart were set on hope,
Without care for consequences I set him free,
And draw the pen through the record of his sins!"