Of the questions that Ben Adhem considered the most, the one that ranked at the top was that of the relation between the Creator and the Creation. What was it that connected the two? And then it occurred to him. It was love; love alone. And a corollary to this truth was that if you loved the Creator you were bound to love the Creation. You couldn’t be the friend of one and the enemy of the other.
One night, in a famous dream that has taught subsequent generations a simple lesson, Ben Adhem saw an angel who claimed to have a list of people who loved God. Ben Adhem’s name was not amongst them, said the angel. “Then put me down as one who loves his fellow man,” said Ben Adhem. The next night the angel returned with a different list, this time of the names of people that God loved, and, lo, Ben Adhem’s name topped the list.
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw—within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich and like a lily in bloom—
An angel, writing in a book of gold.
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
‘What writest thou?’—The vision raised its head,
And, with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, ‘The names of those who love the Lord.’
‘And is mine one?’ said Abou. ‘Nay, not so,’
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said, ‘I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.’
The angel wrote and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest…(James Henry Leigh Hunt)
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