Among the most dominant attributes of the created world engendered by the cosmic play of complementary opposites are affinity and balance. If this harmony is disrupted on a small scale, it leads to anarchy. If it is disrupted on the level of the created world, it is called the Day of Judgment or the Last Day.
The created world can be divided into animate and inanimate realms. All created entities have not only qualities in common with other forms, but in addition, there are differences between the forms. The ultimate reason for this is rooted in the will of Allah.
In the case of inanimate forms, opposites attract each other. One example of this would be the positive and negative electrical poles. On the other hand, in the case of animate forms the opposite is the rule. The souls of living beings tend to be attracted to similar forms; they are not generally drawn to their opposites.
Although there is a clear difference between the modes of attraction in the animate and inanimate realms, each illustrates a deep-rooted tendency towards unity. This inclination toward union stems from the unity that exists atthe source of existence itself and is a manifestation of the flow of divine power towards oneness, whereas the tendency we observe for the souls of living forms to be drawn to forms sharing common attributes is ultimately caused by the predisposition of the ego.
Indeed, one of the most powerful proclivities in all creatures with soul is egoism and this condition reaches its pinnacle in human beings. For this reason, the last base desire one cleanses from one’s heart, after the purification of all other base desires, is the desire for leadership, control, or political power.
When egoism reaches its zenith in human beings and one examines in that state of consciousness the subsequent manifestations of love and hatred, it is observed that love grows to the degree of similarity and hatred rises to the degree of difference. This suffices to demonstrate that in truth one only loves oneself and this truth is then borne out in our deep tendency to be enchanted by people like us.
For instance, Yaqub (a.s) witnessed in Yusuf (a.s) features of himself and as a consequence, his soul was naturally drawn towards him. Similarity is thus one of the most fundamental reasons for metaphorical as opposed to divine love.
This phenomenon is such an innate feature among beings with souls that it can even be observed in the animal world. A common story exemplifying this revolves around a dialogue between people and a nightingale. The people said to the nightingale:
But it did not chant. They repeated:
– Chant! It did not chant.
Eventually, they threatened it:
– We will put you in a golden cage and we will put a crow in with you!!!
The nightingale then began to chant out of fear of being put in the same cage with a crow.
Common people witness in this story a comprehensive and systematic illustration of what we have explained before.
Rumi, quddisa sirruh, in the Mathnawi has provided us with an even better illustration. It follows:
“A hunter put a gazelle he had captured in a barn with cows and donkeys. The gazelle was running around the barn in a state of fear and shock. That evening the hunter came to feed the animals with hay. The donkeys and the cows relished the hay and began devouring it, but the gazelle’s circumstance was radically different.
It was still in a fearful state, and was rubbing its eyes since they were being irritated by dust coming from the hay. This elegant creature, which carries perfume in its body, continued to suffer this way in the barn. On observing this, one of the donkeys said to the other donkeys for the purpose of mocking the gazelle:
– Keep quiet! This is an animal bearing the qualities of kings and nobles!
Another animal said:
– If so, then this animal should politely climb up to the throne of the king and sit there!Another donkey, which had been closely following the situation, invited the gazelle to the hay once again.
The gazelle refused:
– No, I have no appetite!
The donkey replied:
– I know that you are feigning reluctance.
The gazelle in response to these words, said:
– I used to wander in verdant pastures among limpid rivers in gardens of magnificent beauty and I used to feast my eyes on the way our Creator had ornamented the natural world. If it has been my destiny to fall into this painful circumstance, how can you expect my nature to change so quickly? I even used to eat catnip, tulip and basil with reluctance and only after carefully smelling them. I used to observe with great awe the harmony in the flow of divine power in nature and it was in this bedazzled state of awe when hunters were able to catch us with tears pouring forth from our eyes and broken hearts.
A donkey responded:
– You may speak as you wish… It is easy to lie when you are away from your home.
The gazelle answered:
– The smell of musk that exudes from my belly bears testimony to my words. As to your situation, it is transparent. These words would of course seem like a lie to you. I am really lonely and helpless among you…”
Rumi, quddisa sirruh, illuminates abstract facts difficult for the human mind to grasp through simple and concrete stories. For instance, in this story, he has used the example of animals with opposite attributes to illustrate the difficulty of harmonizing opposing natures.
The gazelle are among the world’s most elegant animals in their habits of eating, drinking, breathing, sense of beauty and kindness. For instance, when hunters have a person play a flute in the lush greenery around a river, the gazelles will be drawn to the melodies of the moving music.
When their eyes and hearts have been overtaken by the tenderness of the music, the merciless hunters catch them in traps and put them to death for their musk, their fine leather skin, and their tender, luscious meat.
In contrast, donkeys and cows may be noted for their ugliness in voice and disposition and correspondingly their lives are rooted in egoism.
Rumi, after exemplifying how painful it is to be in a shared environment with beings of opposite qualities, continues to illustrate this pain of contradistinction in the following poem:
“If one is placed together with his opposite, this is a torture to death for him.
For this reason, the one who is close to Allah is in a state of suffering in his body.
For, the bird of his soul is tied up with the ego that is not of its kind.
The soul resembles the nightingale among birds. The ego, which represents nature, is as the crow.
The nightingale is wounded by closeness to crows and owls.
The nightingale of the soul moans bitterly among the selfish egos of crows and evil intentioned owls.”