The Broken and False Promises

(Keywords: The Fallen Monk, Barsisa the Monk,The ploy of Satan, Man and Satan, the Misleading of Satan, Deception and trickery of Satan)

      God -the Exalted- relates to us in Qur’an the true story of the fallen and misled monk. The purpose is for us to take heed and beware of Satan and his misleading ways, and his scheming and plotting.

God the Almighty says:

        قال الله سبحانه وتعالى: { كَمَثَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ إِذْ قَالَ لِلْإِنْسَانِ اكْفُرْ فَلَمَّا كَفَرَ قَالَ إِنِّي بَرِيءٌ مِنْكَ إِنِّي أَخَافُ اللَّهَ رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ فَكَانَ عَاقِبَتَهُمَا أَنَّهُمَا فِي النَّارِ خَالِدَيْنِ فِيهَا وَذَلِكَ جَزَاءُ الظَّالِمِينَ} سورة الحشر 16-17. ـ

قال ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما في تفسير الآية: ـ 


 كان راهب من بني إسرائيل [برصيصا الراهب] يعبد الله فيحسن عبادته، وكان يؤتى من كل أرض فيسأل عن الفقه وكان عالما، وإن ثلاثة إخوة كانت لهم أخت حسنة من أحسن الناس، وإنهم أرادوا أن يسافروا فكبر عليهم أن يخلفوها ضائعة، فجعلوا يأتمرون ما يفعلون بها فقال أحدهم: أدلكم على من تتركونها عنده؟ قالوا: من هو؟ قال: راهب بني إسرائيل؛ إن ماتت قام عليها، وإن عاشت حفظها حتى ترجعوا إليه.   فعمدوا إليه فقالوا: إنا نريد السفر، ولا نجد أحدا أوثق في أنفسنا ولا أحفظ لما ولي منك لما جعل عندك، فإن رأيت أن نجعل أختنا عندك فإنها ضائعة شديدة الوجع، فإن ماتت فقم عليها وإن عاشت فأصلح إليها حتى نرجع، فقال: أكفيكم إن شاء الله.    فانطلقوا فقام عليها فداواها حتى برأت، وعاد إليها حسنها، فاطلع إليها فوجدها متصنعة، فلم يزل به الشيطان يزين له أن يقع عليها حتى وقع عليها، فحملت. ثم ندمه الشيطان فزين له قتلها؛ قال: إن لم تقتلها افتضحت وعرف شبهك في الولد فلم يكن لك معذرة. فلم يزل به حتى قتلها.    فلما قدم إخوتها سألوه: ما فعلت؟ قال: ماتت فدفنتها، قالوا: قد أحسنت.  ثم جعلوا يرون في المنام ويُخبرون أن الراهب هو قتلها، وأنها تحت شجرة كذا وكذا، فعمدوا إلى الشجرة فوجدوها تحتها قد قتلت.   فعمدوا إليه فأخذوه، فقال له الشيطان: أنا زينت لك الزنا وقتلها بعد الزنا، فهل لك أن أنجيك؟ قال: نعم، قال: أفتطيعني؟ قال: نعم، قال: فاسجد لي سجدة واحدة، فسجد له ثم قُتل، فذلك قوله {كمثل الشيطان إذ قال للإنسان اكفر فلما كفر قال إني بريء منك} الآية).  رواه الطبري في تفسيره. ـ


Ibn Abbas -may God be pleased with him- said concerning the interpretation of the above verse:

“There was a monk among the Children of Israel [The Monk Barsisa] who had devoted himself to worshiping God as best as he could.  He was a scholar so people would come from every land to ask him about religious rulings or jurisprudence.

At that time, there were three brothers who had the most beautiful sister [but who was sick], and they wanted to travel.  They found it hard to leave their sick sister behind without care, so they held a counsel about what they should do.  One of the brothers said: ‘Should I tell you about someone with whom you should leave her?’  They asked: ‘Who?’  He said: ‘The monk of the Children of Israel [the Monk Barsisa], for he would arrange her burial if she died, and would take care of her if she lived until you return.’

They went to the monk and said: ‘We want to travel, and we find no one that we trust more, nor more preserving to the trust left with him than you.  So if you could take care of her, for she is sick and in a lot of pain.  If she dies arrange her burial, and if she lives then take care of her until we return.’  The monk said: ‘I will take care of it, God willing.’

They left, and the monk took care of her.  He treated her until she was cured and regained her beauty.  He saw her once adorned, and Satan continued to tempt him and entice him to sleep with her and commit adultery (zina) with her, until he did so. She got pregnant.  Then Satan made him feel remorse and tempted him to kill her.  Satan whispered to him: ‘If you don’t kill her, you will be exposed, and you will not have no excuse, for your likeness will be recognized in the child.’  Satan continued to tempt the monk until he killed her.

When her brothers came back, they asked the monk: ‘What happened to our sister?’ The monk replied: ‘She died, so I buried her.’  They said: ‘You did well.’

Afterwards, the brothers would see in their dreams like someone informing them that the monk had killed her and that she was buried under so and so tree. They went to the specific tree, dug her body from under it, and found out that she had been killed.

The brothers went to the monk and took him away.  Satan came to him and said: ‘I am the one who enticed you to commit adultery (zina), and to kill her afterwards. Do you want me to save you?’ He replied: ‘Yes.’ Satan asked: ‘Would you obey me?’ The monk replied: ‘Yes.’ Satan said to him: ‘Then prostrate to me just once.’ The monk prostrated to him, and then he was killed.

And that is the interpretation of God’s statement: {(Their allies deceived them) like Satan when he says to the man: “Disbelieve.” But when the man disbelieves, Satan says: “Indeed, I declare my innocence of you, for I fear God, the Lord of the Worlds!” So the end of both will be that they will be in the Fire, abiding eternally therein. Such is the recompense of the Unjust (the polytheist, wrong-doers, and disbelievers)} Surah 59, verses16-17. Related by Al-Tabari in his Exegeses.


            The Almighty God gives us an example of the ploys and plotting of Satan and how he misleads and tempts the son of Adam. Satan starts to tempt the son of Adam by promising him endless pleasures and limitless joys if he does one small sin. Once the son of Adam commits the first sin, Satan then draws him sweetly and entices him to a second greater sin, and keeps setting a trap after another until the son of Adam is ruined and only realizes his mistakes in prison and worse in death and Hell-fire.



There are three moral lessons that can be learned from the above true story:

First Moral Lesson:

            Satan is the sworn and most bitter enemy of the son of Adam, and tries everything in his power to mislead the human and make him a disbeliever.

      Satan’s enmity against man goes back to his being banished, expelled and disfigured when he disobeyed God by refusing to prostrate to Adam. God cursed Satan for his arrogance and pride and promised him Hell-Fire. Satan asked for a reprieve until the Day of Judgment and he was granted that reprieve. Then Satan made a promise to try to mislead the humans and take as many of them as possible with him to Hell-Fire.

Thus, the enmity of Satan is ancient and deep-rooted, and Satan spares no ploy or strategy but to mislead the son of Adam and make him disbelieve so that he would end up in Hell-fire. But God warned the humans to beware of the traps and ploys of Satan, and gave us many examples where Satan succeeded in misleading people until they died as disbelievers and thus ended in Hell-Fire.

The Muslim is instructed to take Satan an enemy and treat him as such. The Muslim is warned to be wary of Satan and avoid his tricks and traps. God the Almighty says in Qur’an:

{Verily, Satan is an enemy to you, so take him as an enemy. He only invites his followers that they may become the dwellers of the blazing Fire} Surah 35, verse 6.


Second Moral Lesson:

The Muslim is instructed to be cautious and defensive against this fifth column or enemy from within. Satan is not only a bitter foe, but he also employs the human Self to reach his goal.

    Satan often uses humans’ natural instincts and desires to set traps for them and make them fall into sin and disbelief so that they would join him in Hell-Fire. Thus, the Muslim should avoid slippery and dangerous situations that may lead him astray.

    The Muslim is instructed to avoid exposing himself to dangers and shaky grounds that give Satan greater access to him. The Muslim should avoid putting himself in situations where the Self takes control, giving free reign to his desires and lusts and thus weakening his defenses and allowing Satan an easier access.

    Some of these slippery situations include associating with the unjust and rich for little by little Satan would employ the person’s natural desire and love of wealth to make him one of the unjust; associating with the aberrant, radical and deviant for gradually Satan would use the natural inclination to power and control to make the person one of them; associating with an unlawful woman or man for step by step Satan would entice the person and promise her/him endless pleasures and enjoyment until the person commits adultery and falls into sin; and similar situations.

وعن ميمون بن مهران، قال: ( ثلاثةٌ لا تَبْلُوَنَّ نفسَك بهن: لا تَدْخُلَنَّ على سُلطَانٍ وإن قلتَ آمُرُهُ بطاعَةٍ، ولا تَدْخُلَنَّ على امْرَأَةٍ وإن قلتَ أُعَلِّمُهَا كِتَابَ اللَّه، ولا تُصْغِيَنَّ سَمْعَك لذي هَوًى فإنك لا تَدْري ما تَعَلَّقَ قلبُك منه). ـ

    It is related that the Scholar Meimoon Ibn Mahran said: “Avoid afflicting yourself with three things: Do not go to see a king, even if you had the intention of advising him to obey God. Do not go to see a woman, if you had the intention of teaching her the Book of God. And do not listen to an innovator in religion, for you do not know what of his speech will attach to your heart.

   The true story of the monk describes how Satan misled the monk through association with an unlawful woman. Although the girl was very sick at first, Satan used her to entice the monk until he committed adultery, then used the monk’s sense of guilt against him and made him kill her, and finally used the monk’s survival instinct and desire to live to make him prostrate to Satan.

The monk obeyed Satan in all three instances, and thus became a disbeliever. God then warned us that the end of both Satan and this monk is eternal damnation and Hell. The Muslim then should be wary of this enemy from within, and should supplicate God and ask His assistance and support in dealing with invisible foe.


Third Moral Lesson:

The Muslim is commanded to be modest and humble, for modesty and humbleness are the characteristics of the believers.

The Muslim is warned to avoid conceit and self-admiration, for they lead to pride and arrogance when the person starts considering himself better than others. Having contempt for others and feeling superior to them are signs of pride and arrogance. Pride and arrogance are characteristics of Satan and the people of Hell-Fire. Prophet Muhammad -prayer and peace be upon him- described the people of Paradise as the modest and humble believing people of the world, while he described the people of Hell-fire as the proud and arrogant people of the world.

عن أبي سعيدٍ الخُدريِّ رضيَ اللَّهُ عنه عن النبيِّ صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم قال: « احْتَجَّتِ الجَنَّةُ والنَّارُ، فَقَالَتِ النَّارُ: فِيَّ الجَبَّارُونَ والمُتَكَبِّرُونَ، وقَالَتِ الجنَّة: فِيَّ ضُعَفَاءُ النَّاسِ ومَسَاكِينُهُمْ. فَقَضَى اللَّه بيْنَهُمَا: إِنَّكِ الجَنَّةُ رَحْمَتي أَرْحَمُ بِكِ مَنْ أَشَاءُ، وإِنَّكِ النَّارُ عذَابي أُعَذِّبُ بِكِ مَنْ أَشَاءُ، ولِكِلَيْكُما عَلَيَّ مِلْؤُها» .  رواهُ مسلم ورواه البخاري عن أبي هريرة . ـ

     Narrated Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri -may God be pleased with him- that Prophet Muhammad -prayer and peace be upon him- said:

Paradise and Hell-fire argued. Hell-fire said: ‘I was favored with the proud and the arrogant.’ Paradise said: ‘What is the matter with me that only the weak, the lowly, and the humble of people enter me?’ So God said to Paradise: ‘Verily, you are only My Mercy, I bestow mercy with you upon whomever I wish among My slaves.’ And He said to Hell-fire: ‘Verily, you are only My punishment, I punish with you whomever I wish. And every one of you shall have its full.’ ” Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.

   Thus, the Muslim is instructed to be modest even if he had a greater share of wealth, health, intellect or knowledge, for that is a blessing of God that he must thank Him for.

The Muslim should never show any conceit or self-admiration for that may lead to pride or arrogance, which in turn makes him have a sense of superiority for a blessing that only God has granted him.

Whatever man or woman shows pride or arrogance then s/he has shown ingratitude and exposed him/herself to punishment in this world and the Hereafter. But for those who show modesty, humbleness and thanks then their blessings would not only last but also increase.


    Then in summary, we can learn three important moral lessons from the above true story.

First, Satan is man’s worst enemy and the human must treat him as such by opposing him and being wary of him.

Second, the human should not put himself in slippery and dangerous situations that may give Satan power over him through Self desires and lusts. Rather, the human should be defensive and should use caution to avoid the traps of Satan whose goal is to take as many people to Hell-Fire with him as he could mislead.

And third, the Muslim should show modesty and humbleness even when is favored with greater blessings, for these are the characteristics of the people of Paradise. The Muslim should avoid conceit and self-admiration which may lead to pride and arrogance which are the characteristics of Satan and the people of Hell-Fire. The Muslim should attribute the blessing to God, be grateful to Him and thank Him for it, for that’s how he ensures the continuation of the blessing and its increase. And God knows best.


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