Question: “Love should be learned from Satan and obedience from Adam.” What does this statement, which is originally attributed to Hallaj al-Mansur, mean?
Hallaj al-Mansur was inspired by the philosophy of Unity of Being (wahdat al-wujud), which he followed. When looking at his words we can understand love in two ways. First, love is an irrevocable desire for truth and the quest to discover it. Second, love is being preoccupied with someone, expecting favor from them, and not accepting any other rivals for their affection. Selfishness and egoism can easily be sensed in this second type of love.
As a matter of fact, Satan can be said to be superior to humankind in terms of its extensiveness in time and space – at least as far as its nature is allowed to reach. Being so blessed, one could think highly of oneself. Satan thought, “I will not prefer Adam to myself.” If we call this “love,” this is the kind of love Satan possesses.
Instead of such an impaired love, a love that expects reciprocity, we should follow a love of obedience, which takes a person to perfection. This obedience refers to doing everything for the sake of God’s good pleasure and expecting nothing in return. It means remaining remote from worldly grudges, never making one’s relation to God a matter of negotiation with God, and always behaving with submission and surrender.
Hallaj was referring to these considerations, which are by all means restricted by various boundaries, when he said, “Love should be learned from Satan and obedience from Adam.”
Love is associated with one’s weakness and neediness; as such, there are some gateways in its nature that are open to abuse. Perhaps, this was the case with Satan.
For this reason, it is very important to follow the Prophetic path in regards to love, enthusiasm, and gratitude. Sometimes a person may not find the things he has been seeking. This person may consider causes as absolute values, and may say, “These causes should have given certain results.” This person doesn’t understand that there is a distinct mercy and justice in God dragging us through compulsory situations. Of course, He is not required to create a result according to our causes. The Prophetic path teaches us this truth. As Ali al-Qari said, nothing is incumbent on God, Who is All-Transcendent. In some of the covenants He condescends to make with His servant, His saying, “This is your right and this is Mine,” is characteristic of the language as it occurs in a mutual communication. Otherwise, what right do we have to try and determine the result of something with our will, all the materials of which belong to Him? Getting a result is not in our hands, nor is passing judgment on the result.
Yes, there actually is a relationship between causes and results, and within the principles of Divine practice when those causes are observed, a certain result occurs. However, people representing those causes have no right to think of the result and say “It has to be like this...”
For even if there is a connection between cause and effect, in reality, effects are not built on causes. For example, if to put forth His will, God said to people, “When you blow on the solar system, I will disperse it,” and we blew on the solar system and God dispersed it, then we thought we were the cause of this, we would be mistaken. Our blowing would not have caused the solar system to disperse.
It is better to follow the path of Adam’s servanthood instead of Satan’s love. For love can sometimes cause a person’s foot to slip from the true path. But obedience on the Prophetic path will never slip!
Let’s also look at Hallaj al-Mansur’s point from the perspective of a comparison between love and obedience. Actually, what made Hallaj say this was that he thought Satan had fixed his heart on God; he gave his heart to no one else. However, when he saw man between himself and God, Satan’s love prevented him from prostrating to anyone but God.
It is not possible to fully agree with these ideas. Even if it were true, there is something that Hallaj and Satan overlooked; that is the fine point of the command to obey. Adam understood this fine point, and after his lapse, he pleaded and prayed, “Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and do not have mercy on us, we will surely be among those who have lost” (A’raf 7:23).But Satan did not learn; he did not understand God’s command to bow down to Adam.
In comparing love and obedience, it was stated that if love is based on obedience, then it means something. If there is no obedience in love, then just as intoxication can be born from it, so, too, can hopelessness, vexation, and even rebellion. In fact, intoxication grows in proportion to the size of the love, which may lead to estrangement from God, even while one may assume he or she is on the Divine path. Worthy things can suddenly lose their value.
These results do not prove that love is unimportant. As stated in “The Emerald Hills of the Heart” series, love is very important. In fact, some have even given great importance to metaphorical love, even considering those who died for physical love as martyrs. Folk stories like Laila and Majnun, Shirin and Ferhat, and Aslı and Kerem all turned this kind of obsession into legend. However, love is meaningful only when it is endowed with the merits explained above. If these requirements are not fulfilled, then when one’s expectations from love are not fulfilled, and reunion does not take place, love can turn into resentment.
The case with Satan is – perhaps – that when he did not find reciprocation from God, he was disappointed and ruined; as such, he did not rise up again. With respect to obedience, this kind of mistake can never be made. Obedience is a heartfelt and active deed made in line with the approval of the One who must be obeyed because His wishes and desires must be obeyed. On the other hand, love affects the balance of a person. It opens the door to unbalanced behavior. In other words, it can make a person insane. In this regard, Satan is an unbalanced creature. It is mandatory to conform scrupulously to rules imposed by obedience. This is balance. Adam preferring obedience shows he was a balanced creature.
A final point: I initially mentioned, with just one sentence, that Hallaj believed in the philosophy of the Unity of Being. He and people like Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi often evaluated matters from the angle of the vastness of God’s mercy. They do this and even seek a road to salvation for Satan and the pharaohs. In this respect, their kind of interpretation is a necessity of their basic philosophy. For according to them, “Everything is He,” and Satan is a different manifestation of Him. Whereas according to me, “Everything is from Him.” Consequently, Hallaj’s saying, “Love should be learned from Satan and obedience from Adam,” should be accepted as normal in respect to his philosophy of Unity of Being.
Fethullah Gulen's lead article has been published on Fountain Magazine, #117, May-Jun 2017