The Deceit of Satan

Mathnawi II: 2706-2743

The lamenting of (the Caliph) Mu'awiya1 to God Most High
about Satan,2 and (his) asking for help.

2706 (He said), "O God, his talk is like smoke. Hold (my) hand,
otherwise my clothing will be blackened.3

"I can't overcome Satan in argument, since he is the temptation
and calamity of every noble and every lowly person.

"(Even) an Adam, who is the prince of [the verse] "He taught
(Adam) the Names,"4 is without (the power to) run because of the
lightning-like onrush of this [vicious] dog.

"He threw him out of Paradise onto the face of the Earth; (Adam)
went from the starry heavens5 into (Satan's) net, like a fish.

2710 "He would make groans of, 'Truly, we have done wrong (to
ourselves)!'6 There's no limit to (Satan's) fraud and deceit.

"(For) there is malicious wrong in each of his sayings, (since)
there are a hundred thousand magic spells hidden within him.

"In an instant, he shackles the manliness7 of men. He excites
craving in men and women.

2713 "O people-burning and calamity-seeking Satan! For what
did you awaken me?8 Tell the truth!"

Once again, Satan repeated his cunning deceit.

(Satan) said, "Every man who is suspicious does not listen to the
truth, (even if there are) a hundred signs [and proofs] with it.

2715 "If you bring proofs (to) any mind which is imagining
its (fearful) imagination increases--

"(And) words become diseased when going into it, (just as) a
war hero's sword becomes a tool for the thief.9

"Therefore, the (proper) answer for him is silence10 and
tranquility, (since) speaking words to a fool is craziness.

"O simple-minded man, why do you complain to God about me?
Complain (instead) about the malicious wrong-doing of (your own)
base and lowly ego.

"You eat [too much] halva11 (and) boils appear [on your skin],
fever takes over, (and) your (physical) nature becomes disturbed.

2720 "(And then) you curse Satan (who is) innocent, since you
see that the cunning deceit (is) from you.12

"O misguided (fool)! It's not because of Satan-- it's because of
you, since you are going13 toward the (fat sheep's) tail like a fox.

"(For) when you see (a sheep's) tail in the meadow, it is a trap.14
Why aren't you aware of this?

"You aren't aware because the craving for the tail has kept you far
from knowledge (and) has made your eyes and intellect blind.

"Your love for (worldly) things makes you blind and deaf.15 Your
dark ego is the criminal, (so) don't argue (with others).

2725 "Don't put the fault on me, (and) don't look distortedly. I'm
fed up with wrong-doing, greed, and hatred.

"I did something wrong (and) I'm still repentant. I'm waiting,16 so
that my winter may change to summer.17

"Among people, I've become [constantly] accused; every man and
woman places (the blame for) their own actions on me.

"Even though the helpless wolf18 is hungry, it's suspected that
he's (living) in [ill-gained] luxury.

"(And) when he's unable to go on the path, because of weakness,
people say it's indigestion due to huge mouthfuls."

Mu'awiya's asking Satan again for the truth of (his) motive.19

2730 (Mu'awiya) said, "Nothing except the truth will let you
escape. Justice is calling you to (admit) the truth.

"Speak the truth, so that you may escape from my clutches,
(since) plotting and strategy will not settle the dust of my war
(against you)."20

(Satan) said, "O thinker of fantasies full of suspicions, how do
you know (the difference between) lies and the truth?"

(Mu'awiya) replied, "The Prophet has given an indication, (for)
he has established the touchstone21 for (distinguishing) counterfeit
coin and good (coin).

"He has said, 'Deceit22 is (the cause of) a disturbing doubt in
(people's) hearts.' (And) he (also) said, 'Truth is (the cause of) a
tranquil (feeling of) joy.'

2735 "The heart is not calmed by lying words. Water (together)
with oil23 never ignites a luminous flame.

"(But) there is tranquillity for the heart in truthful speech. Truths
are the seeds of the trap for the heart.24

"Furthermore, the heart is sick (and) foul-mouthed25 which
doesn't know (the difference between) the taste of this and that.

"(But) when the heart becomes healthy (and free) from pain and
illness, it will be knowledgeable about the (difference between) the
flavor of lies and truth.

"When the greed of Adam increased toward the wheat,26 it stole a
certain (kind of) health from his heart.

2740 "Then, he listened to your lies and alluring flattery (so that)
he was deceived and drank the poison of Death.27

"In that moment he didn't know a scorpion from wheat,28
(because) discernment (of the truth) flies away from the
intoxication of (greedy) desires.

"People are intoxicated with desire and greed, (and) for that
reason they are made to accept your trickery.

2743 "Whoever has separated himself in (his) nature from
(worldly) desires has made his eyes familiar with the secret [of

--From "The Mathnawî-yé Ma`nawî" [Rhymed Couplets of
Deep Spiritual Meaning] of Jalaluddin Rumi.
Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard (with
gratitude for R. A. Nicholson's 1926 British translation)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (, 5/4/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (Heading) Mu'awiya: the sixth Caliph and successor to the
Prophet Muhammad, and the founder of the Umayyad Dynasty. He
forced his predecessor, Hassan (the Prophet's grandson and the son
of the fourth Caliph, 'Ali) to abdicate.

2. (Heading) Satan [iblîs]: In the Qur'an, the Devil is called
"Shaytan" and "Iblees."

3. (2706) has become blackened: "i.e. 'I am defiled with sin and
deprived of grace.'" (Nicholson, Commentary)

4. (2708) the Prince of [the verse] "He taught (Adam) the Names,":
Adam is the "Prince" of the Qur'anic verse, "And He taught Adam
the Names of all things." (2:31) The sufis have interpreted this to
mean that Adam knew the Names of God (which the angels did not
know). The word for "Prince" [bag] is Turkish (pronounced "bey"
in Turkish), but here rhymes with "tag."

5. (2709) the starry heavens: literally, "simâk," the name of two
stars. A pun on the word "fish" [samak].

6. (2710) Truly, we have done wrong (to ourselves): refers to the fall
of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Paradise: "And their Lord
called to them, 'Did I not forbid that tree to you and tell you,
"Truly, Satan is an open enemy to you"?' They said, 'O our Lord!
Truly, we have done wrong to ourselves. And unless You forgive
us and have mercy on us, we will surely be among the lost!' (God)
said, 'Get down [from Paradise], with enmity between yourselves.
And there will be for you an abode and a livelihood on earth for a
time.'" (Qur'an 7: 22-24)

7. (2712) manliness [mardî]: Rumi defines true manliness as having
the strength to maintain the virtue of patient and self-control of
one's cravings and desires.

8. (2713) awaken me: Earlier in Rumi's story, Satan awakened the
Caliph Mu'awiya from a sleep which was about to cause him to
miss one of the five daily ritual prayers. Mu'awiya was suspicious
of Satan's motive for reminding him to do something pious and
was convinced there was a devilish trick involved. At the end of
the story, Satan confessed that he was trying to prevent Mu'awiya
from having such heart-felt remorse (from missing a required
prayer) that, "...this world would have become dark to you and
without a gleam of light; (And then) from disappointment and grief
tears would have flowed from your two eyes in the fashion of
(water from) water-skins, (Because) every one has delight in some
act of devotion and consequently cannot bear to miss it (even) for a
short while. That disappointment and grief would have been (as) a
hundred prayers: what is (ritual) prayer in comparison with the
(spiritual) glow of humble supplication?" (II: 2770, trans. by

This illustrates what Rumi said prior to telling this story: "If the
base and lowly ego seeks for you to earn something noble, there is
a trick and deceit behind it." (I: 2603) (2706) when going into it:
Nicholson translated, "When (sound and true) words enter it, they
become a disease (they are corrupted and falsified)..."

9. (2716) a tool for the thief: means that the sword of a warrior (who
if fighting for justice) becomes a tool in the hands of a thief for
stealing and burglary.

10. (2717) the (proper) answer for him is silence: Nicholson refers
here to "the proverb jawáb-i ablahán khámúshíst". [= The answer
to fools is silence] (Commentary)

11. (2719) halva [Halwâ]: a sweet confection, sometimes combining
honey with a paste made from almonds, pistachios, and sesame
seeds. Eating too much halva is here viewed as a cause of
developing a sickness which causes sores to emerge on the skin.

12. (2720) the deceit (is) from you: means, "You tricked yourself by
your own greedy desires-- I didn't trick you."

13. (2721) you are going: Nicholson later corrected his translation of
this line, based on the earliest manuscript, to "you are going like a
fox" (from, "you are running like a fox").

14. (2722) a trap: "Commonly used as a means of entrapping wild
animals." (Nicholson, Commentary). Nicholson also referred to III:
272, which he translated, "Without ambush and snare and hunter,
O cunning one, how should there be a sheep's tail (laid in a trap)
amidst the cornfield?" And also III: 561, which he translated, "The
lure to catch the wolf is (the sheep's tail; it is) not the place (shop)
where the sheep's tail came from..."

15. (2724) blind and deaf: "The Hadíth [= saying of the Prophet
Muhammad] is hubbuka 'l-shay'a (li-'l-shay'i) yu`mí wa-yusimm."
[= Your love for (worldly) things is blinding and deafening]
(Nicholson, Commentary)

16. (2726) I'm waiting: "i.e. 'I am waiting for God's mercy to dispel
the darkness with which His wrath has encompassed me.' Intizár-
am = dar intizár-am." [= my expectancy" means here "I am in
expectancy] (Nicholson, Commentary)

17. (2726) so that my winter may change to summer: this is a
correction in the earliest manuscript, regarding which Nicholson
did not include as a correction, so that his text remains, "that my
night may turn to day."

18. (2728) the helpless wolf: "Iblís [= Satan] likens himself to a wolf
which, however emaciated it may be, is held responsible for all the
sheep that are devoured." (Nicholson, Commentary)

19. (Heading) his motive: Nicholson did not correct his translation of
the heading here, based on the earliest manuscript. His translation
remains: "How Mu`áwiya once more pressed Iblís hard."

20. (2731) will not settle the dust of my war (against you): means, will
not end the fury of battle. Nicholson translated: "cunning will not
lay the dust of my war (will not induce me to leave you in peace)."

21. (2733) touchstone: a type of stone, which demonstrates the
presence of real gold when rubbed against it.

22. (2734) Deceit: Nicholson quotes a saying of the Prophet, "da' má
yuríbuka ilá má lá yuríbuka, fa-inna 'l-sidqa tuma'nín-un wa-inna
'l-kidhba rayb-un" [= Leave what causes you disturbing doubt for
what does not cause you doubt, for surely truth is (the cause) of
tranquillity and falsehood is (the cause of) doubt] (Commentary)

23. (2735) Water (together) with oil: a metaphor for two incompatible

things. The meaning here is that oil mixed with water will never
kindle the light of truth

24. (2736) the trap for the heart: means that the heart is attracted to
truths in the same way that birds cannot resist the seeds in a

25. (2737) sick (and) foul-mouthed: refers to a type of illness, a
symptom of which is that everything has an unpleasant taste.

26. (2739) the greed of Adam increased toward the wheat: refers to
the Islamic tradition that the forbidden fruit was wheat, the eating
of which led to the fall of Adam and Eve from Paradise. The
Qur'an mentions only a forbidden tree (2: 35).

27. (2740) the poison of Death: according to the Qur'an, Satan
deceived Adam and Eve by telling him, "Your Lord God has only
forbidden you this tree lest you both become (like) angels, or lest
you live forever" (7:20). However, it was not the "tree of eternal
life" (20:120) as he claimed, but of death and evil from which they

28. (2741) a scorpion from wheat: a word play between "scorpion"
(kazhdom) and "wheat" (gandom).

29. (2743) familiar with the secret [of reality]: "i.e. his eye becomes
'seeing with the Light of God' and enables him to discern the
reality which was hidden from him." (Nicholson, Commentary)


nâlîdan-é mu`âwiya ba-HaZrat-é Haqq-é ta`âlà az iblîs wa
naSrat khwâstan

2706 în HadîS-ash ham-chô dûd-ast ay allâh
dast gîr, ar na gelîm-am shod seyâh

man ba-Hujjat bar na-y-ây-am bâ bilîs
k-ô-st fitna-yé har sharîf-o har khasîs

âdamê k-ô `allama 'l-asmâ bag-ast
dar tak-é chûn barq-é în sag bê-tag-ast

az behesht andâkht-ash bar rôy-é khâk
chûn samak dar shast-é ô shod az simâk

2710 nawHa-yé innâ Zalam-nâ mê-zad-y
nêst dastân-o fusûn-ash-râ Hadê

andarûn-é har HadîS-é ô shar-ast
Sad hazâr-ân siHr dar way muZmar-ast

mardî-yé mard-ân bo-band-ad dar nafas
dar zan-o dar mard afrôz-ad hawas

ay bilîs-é khalq-sôz-é fitna-jô
bar che-y-am bêdâr kard-î? râst gô

bâz taqrîr iblîs talbîs-é khwad-râ

goft har mardê ke bâsh-ad bad-gomân
na-shenûd ô râst-râ bâ Sad neshân

2715 har darûnê ke khayâl-andêsh shod
chûn dalîl âr-î, khayâl-ash bêsh shod

chûn sokhon dar way raw-ad, `illat shaw-ad
têgh-é ghâzî dozd-râ âlat shaw-ad

pas jawâb-é ô sukût-ast-o sukûn
hast bâ ablah sokhon-goftan junûn

tô ze-man bâ Haq che nâl-î ay salîm?
tô be-nâl az sharr-é ân nafs-ê la'îm

tô khwar-î Halwâ, to-râ dunbal shaw-ad
tab be-gîr-ad, Tab`-é tô mukhtal shaw-ad

2720 bê-gonah la`nat kon-î iblîs-râ
chûn na-bîn-î az khwad ân talbîs-râ?

nêst az iblîs, az to-st ay ghawî
ke chô rôbah sôy-é donba mê-raw-î

chûn-ke dar sabza be-bîn-î donba-râ
dâm bâsh-ad în na-dân-î tô che-râ?

z-ân na-dân-î ke-t ze-dânesh dûr kard
mayl-é donba chashm-o `aql-at kûr kard

Hubbu-ka 'l-ashyâ'a yu`mî-ka yuSimm
nafsu-ka 's-sawdâ janat lâ takhtaSim

2725 tô gonah bar man na-neh, kazhmazh ma-bîn
man ze-bad bêzâr-am-o az HirS-o kîn

man badê kard-am, pashêmân-am hanûz
intiZâr-am tâ day-am gard-ad tamûz

muttaham gasht-am meyân-é khalq man
fa`l-é khwad bar man neh-ad har mard-o zan

gorg-é bê-châra agar-che gorosn-ast
muttahim bâsh-ad ke ô dar Tantana-st

az Za`îfî chûn na-tân-ad râh raft
khalq gôy-ad tukhma-ast az lôt-é zaft

bâz jostan-é mu`âwiya Haqîqat-é gharaZ-râ az iblîs

2730 goft ghayr-é râstî na-r'hân-ad-at
dâd sôy-é râstî mê-khwân-ad-at

râst gô tâ wâ râh-î az chang-é man
makr na-n'shân-ad ghubâr-é jang-é man

goft chûn dân-î dorôgh-o râst-râ
ay kheyâl-andêsh-é por andêsha-hâ?

goft payghâmbar neshânê dâda-ast
qalb-o nêkô-râ miHak be-n'hâda-ast

gofta-ast al-kiZbu rayb-un fi 'l-qulûb
goft aS-Sidqu Tumâ'nîn-un Tarûb

2735 del na-y-ârâm-ad ze-goftâr-é dorôgh
âb-o rawghan hêch na-f'rôz-ad forôgh

dar HadîS-é râst ârâm-é del-ast
râstî-hâ dâna-yé dâm-é del-ast

del magar ranjûr bâsh-ad bad-dehân
ke na-dân-ad châshanîy-é în-o ân

chûn shaw-ad az ranj-o `illat del salîm
Ta`m-é kaZb-o râst-râ bâsh-ad `alîm

HirS-é âdam chûn sôy-é gandom
fozûd az del-é âdam salîmê-râ robûd

2740 pas dorôgh-o `ishwa-at-râ gôsh kard
ghirra gasht-o zahr-é qâtil nôsh kard

kazhdom az gandom na-dân-ast ân nafas
mê-par-ad tamyîz az mast-é hawas

khalq mast-ê ârzow-and-o hawâ
z-ân paZirân-ad dastân-é to-râ

2743 har-ke khwad-râ az hawâ khô bâz kard
chashm-é khwad-râ âshnây-é râz kard

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)