“Stop, O blessed traveler who goes through the woods, and lend me a moment if you will!” It had been more than a year since Iblees, cast out of heaven, had been inhabiting the wilderness, without a friend or foe, and he yearned for speech. The traveler was an old man, and upon hearing Iblees speak, was much startled. His fingers, oblivious of their frailty, clutched harder around the cane that he carried to aid his walk. Closer he came, and warily, eyed the figure seated at the foot of the hillock that his path winded around. ‘’Who are you, what is your business, and why do you stop me?”, spoke the old man.
“You begin with the most difficult of questions, O traveler! Shall I answer to it now, or shall I not, but address the numerous other concerns that I sense sprouting in your mind as I speak? Because I am afraid — you shall take me for a lunatic and depart in haste.”
The old man puckered his eyes. “Well, depart in haste I shall, unless you stop with your riddles, and tell me what you seek!”
Iblees sighed. “Well, if you must know what I seek, hear me! I seek an end to my banishment to Earth and return to the heavens — where my place truly lied. But for that, I must die, but alas, I am immortal — my existence is eternal, and such is my banishment. The fire that I am made of, let my form glow through the divine mist that swathes the heavens, but in this cold, cursed darkness of the Earth it lets me burn, yet never reduces me to ashes. Do not be alarmed, my only friend, and listen to me, who was once an angel, most beloved of God. But now I’ve been an outcast, and for a long time. Now, I am the Prince of Darkness. I am the epitome of cardinal vices. I am Iblees!”
He continued, “I seek eternal peace, but where shall I find it, my friend? I often come to this hillock on nights of the new moon, and I gaze into the sky, into the myriad of stars that glitter from the chandeliers of the divine soffits. I had a regal palace, but now it must be all dilapidated — flakes of stardust dance through the skies as they fall, and they prick into my eyes, so I cannot stare for long. Speak, my only friend, and join me, as I rejoice through my sufferings!”
Words of Iblees certainly did not bring the old man at ease, for he had never heard stranger words. “This must be a madman”, he muttered to himself, “but I must humor him, for the hour is dark and I am lonely — and who knows, if I do not, this eerie fellow might inflict me harm!” So he gently placed his cane on the grass, sat next to Iblees, and spoke.
“Forgive me, but I am a mere old man. The sieve of my mind is too coarse to sift meaning out of the mysterious words that you speak in. Rejoice through sufferings, you say. How can infliction be rejoiced through?”
Iblees let out a mirthless laughter. “When the heart is weary and there are no soothing ears for your sorrow to fall upon, doesn’t your woe culminate into a beautiful poem — it doesn’t lessen the burden by any means, nay — but the stinging in your breast, in the poem, finds a companion, and none of them want to part with each other. The strings of my heart are taut with agony, and they would neither snap apart nor relax, so I pluck them and create a most exquisite music! Suffering is a mistress in an adulterous affair — you allow the bond to last beyond a certain duration — and with all your heart you begin to embrace the remorse every time you press her into yourself. O friend of mine, why shall I run in circles when I am certain that the agony is to catch up with me! While I sit with my curses, hand in hand; while I let my wounds bleed and soak my cloak; while I convert my laments into melodious songs, I feel no pain — but as soon as the urge strikes to escape out of her clutches; as soon as I wish these gaping wounds could heal into scars; as soon as my spirit cries for leaving — I am thrust into the hottest hearths of hell-fire! The darkness of ignominy is soothing in itself, it lulls the soul to a numb slumber; it is the smallest ray of light that painfully dazzles. ”
By now, the old man was exceedingly alarmed. “He speaks terrible stuff! I must make an excuse and leave soon, or I do not know what courses this conversation might take!”, he thought to himself. He picked up his cane, and spoke to Iblees.
“The hour is past midnight, and if I do not leave soon, my family may begin to worry for me. Shall you join me in a prayer before I leave?” Iblees smiled, and extended his hands which the old man held feebly. Alas, this creature was an earthling, after all, too ordinary to make sense of the words that escaped his mouth. To be understood by none but oneself, alas, another suffering of its own kind! But Iblees would rejoice through it. He would rejoice through the prayer that he was going to sing with the old man. It was not a gift presented out of love and empathy, but alms given out of pity — something that every being with a stout heart resented; and Iblees, most of all, was made of fire! He gazed up at the stars and smiled at his own misfortune.
‘A light along my way, Send me, Oh Lord, I say, Your thoughts turn into, as I pray, A light along my way!
Through dark I slept, in dark I walked, Devoid of light of day, Grant me just a splendid ray, A light along my way!
Afar I roamed, beneath I sank, By weights of yesterday, Beseech you Lord, I’m all astray, A light along my way!
Reclaim you Lord, I cannot now, For I’m a cast-away, But merciful be thee today, A light along my way!’