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August 1, 2004

Conversation between Jibrîl and Shaytân



Listen Archangel! Put away thy burning brand

And heed what I must now say

For this return of mine to where I once was

Has gladdened my heart, if only for a fleeting moment.

But to see you, reduced to thy station

Astounds me, that thou hast accepted;

Humiliating thy self, and descending

Below he who would paint and reject

He would transgress, mock, and scold

The One before you and I?

Content? Art thou content?

The paintings and rejections are blameworthy


By the disappearing lights,

And the lights that lit the ways of the ancients–

Surely thou knowest thou canst not enter.

Cursed is thy being, damned is thy existence.

Did not the time spent with Him

Make you appreciate His Will?

What thou wouldst call a descent to the children of clay

Is in reality ascension to His Pleasure

Painters? O rebel, they are that and more!

Peddling and forsaking even before I return to these gates

My contentment is another matter:

Upon me is the Carrying, upon Him is the Reckoning


Thy argument is thy namesake, old friend

That is perhaps why thou couldst not comprehend my act.

Didst thou not drink of the divine wine?

But of course not, thou hast no free will to taste.

Old friend, what drunkenness I once enjoyed:

At the hand of He who I loved beyond love

My love for Him! I wanted to emulate Him in every way

For surely the lover always becomes the beloved.

How then, could I have descended

When my Beloved only ascends?

I wanted to adopt His character in every way

Has He ever bowed or prostrated?

Surely you know that is not becoming of Him

How then could I have laid myself so low?


By the ethereal light of Sohail!

Ingrate, you speak of love but do not know what love is

You have only sipped from the sea, you have not truly drank

For had you drank, you would have gladly drowned

The love you claim is a stone in the midst of emeralds

Only a fool would believe they are equal

You have deluded them for a thousand lifetimes and more

Can you then not sense your own delusion?

Your vaunted love is only one of convenience;

When your Beloved’s will was not yours, your love was lost

Had you truly loved, had you truly drank

You would be content to humiliate yourself for your Beloved

Because you chose to remain as a vaunted Lover

Your Beloved cares not for your love


The expanse of thy wings matches thy intellect

But what does thy intellect know of my love

I have traversed barriers that you cannot pass

And went beyond those that you cannot even imagine

How can the a lover love his beloved if he is not a Lover

In the dignifying of the lover does the Beloved become truly loved

My choosing to preserve my dignity

Was for the integrity of my state as a Lover

After an eternity of prostrating to Him

How could I humiliate myself to that child of clay?

A true Lover will only bow before the Beloved

Had I done so, I would have become a mere lover


A mere lover you are now, indeed

For you have failed to grasp the greatest secret of love

If the Beloved has a Beloved and becomes a Lover

Should you not have followed your Beloved

When He commanded you to prostrate:

Did you not see that He was showing you His Beloved?

You thought that prostration was humiliation

You did not see His desire to elevate and honor you

Your Beloved sought to show you His Beloved

And you refused, humiliated instead to a mere lover

By the One who knows my age! I know not my age

But I have seen a star that descends from the Throne

Its descent lasts seventy thousand years

And it returns again after another seventy thousand have passed

I have seen this star seventy thousand times

Seeing it is the pride of my existence

I once thought that I was older than His Beloved

Only to see that star in his brow when he removed his turban

Had you seen the Beloved who would descend from Adam’s loins

Had you known that Adam’s grandson is Muhammad!

You would have loved the Beloved of your Beloved

And you would have gladly prostrated and become a true Lover!


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  1. I can see this poem required deep reflection and thought. The narrative is imaginative and flows in an organized progression. It did take me a while to determine whether the first stanza was from Jibril or Shaytan. The word “return” in the first stanza is a clue that it is Shaytan speaking. It becomes clearer in the second stanza when Jibril calls Shaytan “rebel.” I would suggest using different fonts for Jibril and Shaytan, but maybe part of the fun of reading the work is figuring out who is who.
    By the end you seem to make an argument about the difference between Jibril and Shaytan. I think you are saying that Shaytan’s error was being too nearsighted to see the coming of Muhammad, p.b.u.h, the heir to Adam’s prophetic legacy. That argument implies that Jibril had the vision to anticipate Prophet Muhammad. The other possibility is that Jibril believed that Allah had a reason to create man, even if Jibril himself could not see it. Shaytan, on the other hand, could not believe that any descendant of Adam would justify the creation of the human species.

  2. Thanks for the insight. You’ve pretty much hit what I was going for. Several people have asked me certain things about the poem, so let me comment.
    1. This is an original work. Note that unless I cite references, everything on this site is an original work, for better or worse.
    2. The archaic English flows into a more familiar English so as to suggest that the two characters are surprised to see each other and thus start off with formal speech but then gradually continue in familiar speech as the conversation progresses.
    3. Yes, Iqbal did write a poem with a similar title, but I’m taking a different angle with it. my angle is that Jibril’s argument to Shaytan is that God was not trying to debase him, but rather trying to elevate him by showing him His own Beloved who would descend from Adam. Jibril’s argument continues to suggest that if only Shaytan knew that the Prophet would descend from Adam, he too would gladly have prostrated. Whether or not Jibril knew the Prophet would come from Adam I leave open-ended; Jibril’s content that his prostration was actually an elevation since he now could love whom God loves.
    4. yes, there is a difference between ‘lover’ and ‘Lover’… what that is, i’ll leave to your imagination
    5. Part of the fun in reading the poem is to try and figure out who’s talking when.
    6. the seventy thousand years bit: it comes to us from a story wherein Jibril is with the Prophet and the Prophet senses that Jibril is thinking himself to be older in age than the Prophet. so the Prophet smiles and asks Jibril how old he is, and Jibril says he knows not of his age, but that he has seen a brilliant star that descends from the Throne. it descends every seventy thousand years, and its descent lasts another seventy thousand years and he has seen it seventy thousand times. so the Prophet smiles again and asks him if he would recognize that star if he were to see it again. Jibril replies of course, I have seen it so many times and seeing it the pride of my existence. So the Prophet moves back his turban and Jibril sees the light of that star in his brow.

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