Holy Land: Moslem Cosmogony (cont.)

The legends of the "Behemoth" and also the great whale, "Leviathan," form part of the Jewish and Christian traditions as well. You can read more about Behemoth at Wikipedia. Here is a mystical depiction of Behemoth by William Blake:

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Holy Land Folklore unit. Story source: Folk-lore of the Holy Land: Moslem, Christian and Jewish by J. E. Hanauer (1907).

Moslem Cosmogony (cont.)

Then Allah told the wind to smite the sea, thereby causing great foaming waves to rise with vapour and showers of spray. By Allah's command the foam became solid earth, which was caused to float upon the surface of the water, whilst the vapour and spray became the clouds. It took Allah two days' time to do all this.

The waves were then in their turn congealed, so as to form mountains, which serve to keep the earth steady and prevent it from floating about. The mountain-bases are all connected with the roots of the great Kâf range, which surrounds the world like the high rim of a circular baking-tray and keeps its contents from falling off into space.

Allah next arranged that the water remaining on the surface of the earth should be formed into seven concentric seas, separated from each other by as many continents, but nevertheless connected by diverse gulfs and straits, and containing an infinite number and diversity of living creatures, as well as of the nourishment that sustains them. The seven continents likewise vary in their climates and conditions, as in the plants and animals that abound therein. It took Allah two further days to set these things in order.

Now the earth used to rock and roll like a ship at sea, so that all living creatures were very sick. Therefore Allah commanded a strong angel to go beneath the earth and support it. The angel did so and, stretching one arm towards the east and the other towards the west, he upheld the world.

Then, in order that the angel might have something to stand on, Allah created a great rock of green emerald which He commanded to roll in beneath his feet and support them. Then, as there was nothing for the rock to rest upon, a great bull was created and ordered to go under the rock and bear it up; some say on his horns, and others on his back. Those who make the former statement explain earthquakes as caused by the movement of the bull's head when he shifts the rock from one horn to the other. He has eyes so fiery red that no one can look in them without blindness. He is named Behemoth and stands on the back of a great whale, which swims about in an ocean which Allah created for the purpose. Beneath the ocean, and surrounding it and the world, is air, which rests upon darkness, through which in their appointed seasons move the sun, moon, and stars, created for no other service than to give light to the earth.

It sometimes happens that the sun or the moon is eclipsed, and the explanation of the phenomenon is in each case simple. When the moon is at the full, and her light falls upon that part of the great sea in which the whale is swimming, the monster will sometimes open his mouth and seize her. He would doubtless swallow her up whole if Allah permitted it, but he is compelled to relinquish his prey — most speedily if the worshippers of the Unity make great and loud lamentations, and offer prayers.

The cause of eclipses of the sun is different. They are signs vouchsafed from Allah and solemn warnings against sin. The first that ever happened was to bid men heed the preaching of Ibrahìm the friend of Allah, on whom be peace; the second, to enforce the doctrine of ’Isa the son of Maryam, on whom be peace; and in our own days the wonder is of frequent occurrence to the end that all mankind may take to heart the teaching of the Apostle of Allah, on whom be prayer and peace.

Thus, as I have explained, the world rests upon the shoulders of an angel, and the angel upon a great emerald rock, and the rock upon the horns or shoulders of a bull, and the bull upon the back of a great whale, and the whale or dragon swims in a great sea which is upborne by air, which is surrounded by darkness. The heavenly bodies shine at certain seasons through the darkness, but what there is beyond the darkness Allah knows!

Do you ask me how all these wonders came to be known and understood of man? Know then, that, having thus created the world, Allah next called Intellect or Mind into being.

And Allah said to the Mind "Imbibe Knowledge," and it imbibed knowledge.

Then Allah said to it "Receive the ability to manage matters," and it did so.

Then said Allah, "Of all things which I have created by My glory and majesty, I love none but thee. By thee will I deprive and by thee bestow; by thee will I confirm and by thee punish."

Therefore also Allah has declared by the mouth of His Prophet, on whom be prayer and praise: "The wise man is he who is truthful and patient in his temper, and it is Mind that delivers mankind from Evil."

For this cause Allah allows mind an entrance into Paradise to discover all mysteries, and He will not punish the wise in the day of Resurrection in the same manner in which He will punish the ignorant, who flatter with their lips, and lie with their tongues, and meddle in matters that concern them not by asking questions about things which they are unable to comprehend, even though they may possibly know how to read and write.

(900 words)

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