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IDRIS, or Enoch, was the son of Jarid, the son of Mahlalel, but was called Idris, from darasa (to study), for he was constantly occupied with the study of the holy books, both those which Allah had revealed to Adam, and those which Gabriel brought to him from heaven. He was so virtuous and pious, that Allah anointed him to be his prophet, and sent him as a preacher to the descendants of Cain, who only employed in deeds of sin the gigantic frames and surpassing strength with which Allah had endowed them. Enoch exhorted them unceasingly to purity of conduct, and was often compelled to draw his sword in defense of his life. He was the first who fought for Allah, the first who invented the balance to prevent deception in traffic, and the first also to sew garments, and to write with the Kalam. Idris longed ardently for Paradise; still he was not desirous of death, for he was anxious to do good on the earth; and but for his preaching and his sword,* the sons of Cain would have flooded the earth with iniquity. Allah sent him the Angel of Death in the form of a beautiful virgin, in order to see whether he would approve himself p. 49 worthy of the peculiar favor which no man before him had ever received.
"Come with me," said the disguised angel to Idris, "and thou shalt do an acceptable work to Allah. My younger sister has been carried off by an ungodly descendant of Cain, who has confined her in the farthest regions of the West! Gird on thy sword, and help me to deliver her!"
Enoch girded on his sword, and took up his bow and the club, with which he had laid low at a single stroke whole ranks of the enemy, and followed the virgin from morn till eve, through desolate and arid deserts, but he said not a word and looked not upon her. At nightfall she erected a tent, but Idris laid himself down at its entrance to sleep on the stony ground. On her inviting him to share her tent with her, he answered, "If thou hast any thing to eat, give it to me." She pointed to a sheep which was roving through the desert without a keeper, but he said, "I prefer hunger to theft; the sheep belongs to another."
Next day they continued their journey as before, Idris still following the virgin and uttering no complaint, though he was nearly overcome with hunger and thirst. Toward evening they found a bottle of water on the ground. The virgin took it up, and opening it, would have p. 50 forced Enoch to drink, but he refused, and said, "Some luckless traveler has lost it, and will return to seek for it."
During the night, Idris having once more baffled all the wiles of the virgin, who had again endeavored to draw him into her tent, Allah caused a spring of clear fresh water to gush forth at his feet, and a date-tree to rise up laden with the choicest fruit. Idris invited the virgin to eat and to drink, and concealed himself behind the tree, waiting her return to the tent; but when, after a long interval, she came not, he stepped to the door and said, "Who art thou, singular maiden? These two days thou hast been without nourishment, and art even now unwilling to break thy fast, though Allah himself has miraculously supplied us with meat and drink; and yet thou art fresh and blooming like the dewy rose in spring, and thy form is full and rounded like the moon in her fifteenth night."
"I am the Angel of Death," she replied, "sent by Allah to prove thee. Thou hast conquered; ask now, and he will assuredly fulfill all thy wishes."
"If thou art the Angel of Death, take my soul."
"Death is bitter: wherefore desirest thou to die?"
"I will pray to Allah to animate me once p. 51 more, that after the terrors of the grave, I may serve him with greater zeal."
"Wilt thou, then, die twice? Thy time has not yet come: but pray thou to Allah, and I shall execute his will."
"Lord, permit the Angel of Death to let me taste death, but recall me soon to life! Art thou not almighty and merciful?"
The Angels of Death was commanded to take the soul of Idris, but at the same moment to restore it to him. On his return to life, Idris requested the angel to show him Hell, that he might be in a position to describe it to sinners with all its terrors. The angel led him to Malik, its keeper, who seized him, and was in the act of flinging him into the abyss, when a voice from heaven exclaimed,
"Malik, beware! Harm not my prophet Idris, but show him the terrors of thy kingdom."
He then placed him on the wall which separates hell from the place appointed as the abode of those who have merited neither hell nor heaven. Thence he saw every variety of scorpions and other venomous reptiles, and vast flames of fire, monstrous caldrons of boiling water, trees with prickly fruits, rivers of blood and putrefaction, red-hot chains, garments of pitch, and so many other objects prepared for the torture of p. 52 sinners, that he besought Malik to spare him their farther inspection, and to consign him once more to the Angel of Death.
Idris now prayed the latter to show him Paradise also. The angel conducted him to the gate before which Ridwhan kept his watch. But the guardian would not suffer him to enter: then Allah commanded the tree Tuba, which is planted in the midst of the garden, and is known to be, after Sirdrat Almuntaha, the most beautiful and tallest tree of Paradise, to bend its branches over the wall. Idris seized hold of them, and was drawn in unobserved by Ridwhan. The Angel of Death attempted to prevent it, but Allah said, "Wilt thou slay him twice?" Thus it came to pass that Idris was taken alive into Paradise, and was permitted by the most gracious One to remain there in spite of the Angel of Death and of Ridwhan.*
* See the E. Translator's Preface.
* In the Bible it is said the Lord took Enoch; but the Midrash adds, nine human beings entered Paradise alive: Enoch, Messiah, Elias, Eliezer the servant of Abraham, the servant of the King of Kush, Chiram the King of Tyre, Jaabez, the son of the Prince and Rabbi Juda, Serach the daughter of Asher, and Bitja the daughter of Pharaoh.