The Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship
How do you Deal with the Snake-Like Qualities in Others?
A short talk given by M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen from Questions of Life, Answers of Wisdom Volume 2.
Questioner: How do you deal with the snake-like qualities in others?
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen: As long as there is a God, if you believe in God, then He will somehow prevent anything bad from happening to you. He knows and He will prevent it. Do not allow God to leave your innermost heart, your qalb. If you do not let go of your hold on God, He will never let go of you. Then a snake will never bite you. Even though it may set out to sting you, it will be made to forget what it came for and go away.
Let me tell you a secret. After you began coming here, mountainous changes occurred in your life. Many potentially difficult and even dangerous situations were averted and now they no longer can occur. A mountain of difficulties has been reduced to the size of a piece of straw. How can a straw hurt you? It cannot, because all the difficulties have been dissipated. It cannot happen.
However, you need to be aware that even after you remove the fangs of a snake, it will still hiss. Its qualities will still be there. Even if you show it love, it will hiss. Even if you offer it milk, at first it will hiss, but after a while it will suck the milk. Although its fangs have been removed, its qualities have not. Those qualities are still going to be there. The most venomous teeth have been removed, but there may still be a small amount of venom in the other teeth.
Therefore, if you offer milk to a snake, do it carefully and then put it back in the cage again. Do this with patience and wisdom. You must touch and yet not be touched, for if you offer your hand, it will sting you. However, because it has been defanged, even if it does sting, the poison will be very mild.
You must carry on with patience and wisdom and not make a big thing of this or be worried. It has been reduced to a small issue now. No matter what the circumstance, you must practice patience. Patience must always be with you.
Why? However good someone may be, if he sleeps on a pillow infested with head lice or bedbugs, they will bite him and keep him from falling asleep. That might bring out his anger, making him toss and turn and complain, "Oh, what a nuisance!"
If he crushes and kills one bedbug, a thousand more will emerge from its eggs and keep biting him. This is how it is. A bedbug will never let a man sleep; it will cause him problems and make him angry. The situation may even reach a point where the man says, "I don't want this bed any more. Throw it out."
So, if a man has a bedbug on his pillow, even if he is a good man, his anger and jealousy and other bad qualities will come out. All this because of a bedbug. It will go on biting and he will go on itching and losing sleep. The fault is not in the bed itself, but in the pillow and mattress where the bug breeds.
You need patience. Everything is a lesson you must learn from. Never look upon anything as a difficulty or a disaster, for if you look at it with wisdom, you will accept it and say, "God is teaching me something."
Let me tell you a story: There was a wise man, a great Sufi gnäni who had attained an exalted state. But one day the thought came to him, "Whatever may happen to anyone, I will protect them. I will help them."
Now for many years satan had tried to trip him up but never succeeded. However, the day this thought entered the gnäni's mind, satan saw his opportunity and rejoiced, "Oh ho! Now I can finally get this man." So satan clapped his hands and called for his companions.
All the satans gathered in readiness. "Why did you call us? What do you want us to do?"
"This is our chance to catch one of our enemies, a Sufi's gnäni named Ahamad. I want you to change into a snake with fangs containing a very potent poison made from all eight kinds of evil poisons from the eight directions. With this poison in your fangs you must go to the Sufi's gnäni and say, 'O Ahamad Kabïr, I am in danger. Protect me, take care of me.'
"He will tell you, 'I will take care of you. I will protect you.'
"Then say to him, 'Oh! My enemy is coming right now with a knife to kill me. Save me!'
"And he will answer, 'I will save you.' You must make him swear that he will save you. Make him say, 'Yes, I swear I will protect you.'
"Then pretend to be desperate and cry, 'Oh! Oh! My enemy is after me now! Please save me from him.'
"He will say, 'Coil around my head and I will cover you with my turban.'
"But you must insist, 'No, he will still be able to see me there!'
"Then he might tell you, 'Creep into my robe until your enemy goes away.'
"But you must persist and say, 'He will detect me there too. He will nd me!'
"Then he will say, 'Coil around my waist and I will tie my sarong over you.'
"But keep saying, 'He will still detect me!'
"Finally, he will ask you, 'What shall I do with you?'
"Then tell him, 'Open your mouth and I will slide down your throat and stay in your stomach. If you tell me when my enemy has gone, immediately I will come out of your mouth.'
"He will ask you, 'How can I be sure you will do this?'
"Then you have to swear every oath you can. Swear seventy thousand times that nothing will happen to him and that you promise you will come out. Go on repeating this and begging him, 'You promised to save me. Please hurry, my enemy is coming!'"
Now, everything happened as satan had predicted. In the end, the Sufi's opened his mouth and let the snake glide into his stomach. When the snake got inside, it started twisting and turning.
Then satan appeared in the form of an Arab with a sword in his hand. Satan intended to ruin the Sufi's by turning him away from the good path. So, knowing that the Sufi's could never tell a lie or he would lose his wisdom, the Arab asked, "Was there a snake crawling this way?"
The Sufi's said, "It went this way and that way," pointing his hand toward himself.
"Which way?" the Arab cleverly insisted.
"It went through here. It came from there and went in this way," the Sufi's said, pointing in the direction of his mouth.
"He went this way?" the Arab asked, pretending to think the Sufi's was pointing behind him, not at his mouth. "He is my enemy; I must finish him off," he said and then ran in pursuit.
By now the snake was wriggling in the Sufi's stomach. The pain was unbearable, so he said, "Your enemy has gone now. You can come out now. My stomach is hurting. Please come out right away."
Then satan said, "You are a fool. I am in a safe place where no enemy can get to me. Now I am going to spit these eight powerful poisons from my mouth into your heart. They will prick you like needle points and fill your heart with holes. You were talking as if you were God, but now I am going to burn you up with this most potent poison."
The Sufi's said, "But you swore seventy thousand oaths on God that you would come out of me."
"What a fool you are. We have been waiting for you for ages. You have taken people away from us and sent them toward God. For eighty years we have been waiting to get you. Only now do we finally have the chance. If we can just finish you off, our kingdom of hell will flourish."
"What about all those oaths you swore?"
Again the snake said, "You really are a fool. Wasn't it a snake like me that caused Adam to commit the sin that banished him from the garden of Eden? Now I have come once again to lead you from heaven to hell. Didn't God say at that time, 'The snake will be an eternal enemy to the children of Adam?' You fool. There is no oath that can bind us. There is no good in us and no truth in us. We can swear hundreds of millions of oaths, as many as we want. You are a fool if you believe our oaths. Our work is to achieve our goal, and for this we will do anything or swear anything. God has told you, 'Don't believe them.' Did you ever reflect on what God said? No. That shows what a fool you are. Now we are going to finish you off and take you to hell, just as we did to Adam."
Then the Sufi's said, "You are satan, and what you say is true. Just grant me one favor. Please allow me five minutes before spitting your poison into me. Spare me five minutes until I get to my own place, my own abode, and lie down. Once I get there, you can do whatever you want."
The snake said, "All right, I will grant you that one request. You have five minutes leeway."
The Sufi's returned home, writhing in pain. Just as the snake was
about to spit its venom into him, he prayed to God with tears in his eyes and uplifted hands. "O God, I took on the responsibility of protecting people, a duty which belongs only to You. You alone are the Protector. Because of the words I uttered, I gave this satan, who had waited eighty years for me, the opportunity to catch me. O God, please forgive me and protect me."
Then the sound of Allah came. He forgave the Sufi's and said to His angel, "O Gabriel, there is a certain herb in heaven. Pick it and crush it, then go quickly and put it into the mouth of the Sufi's"
Gabriel (A.S) went to the gnäni and said, "O wise one, open your mouth." He gave him the herb and the gnäni swallowed it. The herb killed the snake and it was excreted piece by piece.
Gabriel (A.S) then said, "Go bathe and come back." When he returned, Gabriel (A.S) explained, "You are a Sufi's Why did you let this quality come into you? Instead of saying, 'Allah will protect you,' you began to say, 'I will protect you.' That is why you had to undergo this tremendous difficulty You should have said, 'Rahmän, the Merciful One, will protect you. Allah will protect you.' You know that God is the only Helper and Protector. Allah is the One who protects everyone. But you said, 'I will protect you.' Because of these words you fell into this plight. O Sufi's, go and offer prayers of praise (tasbïh) to Allah for another twelve years."
The gnäni went back and prayed for twelve more years.
Just uttering one little word, "I will help you, I am the one who will protect you," brought about the entire calamity.
However learned a person may be, if he makes a slip in even one word or one thought, the path opens, giving satan an opportunity to enter. So, for whatever is yet to happen, we must hand over the responsibility for it to Allah, saying, "God will protect me, God will take care of me." Whatever the circumstances, we must have patience, inner patience (sabür), and contentment (shakür), and then give all responsibility to God (tawakkul). If we can hand that trust over to God, He will take care of us.
In every word we utter, we should not give even one atom of space for satan to creep in. We must block off every opening through which he might enter. If we have falsehood, envy, jealousy, or anger, satan can enter us. He will set us up to make one or another of these qualities rise in us, and then he will try to enter by way of that quality.
Never give him that opportunity by harboring such thoughts. That is what we have to learn here.
The true state of prayer is to always remember the name of God, without giving room for satan to enter. Nothing else can be called 'praying to God'. If you can remain in that state at every moment, if you can concentrate on God with every breath, then there will be no room for satan to come in. That is what prayer is.