Avoiding helping the devil

Paulo Coelho

– We are often instruments of evil when we try to do good – said Al-Fahid to his friend. – I always try to stay alert, but today I was used by the devil.

– How come? You are known to be so wise!

– This morning I went to the mosque to pray. Obeying the tradition, I took off my shoes before entering; when I was about to leave, I saw that they had been stolen: so I created a thief.

– But it’s not your fault – said the friend.

– It is my fault. It is so easy to arouse the bad side in our neighbor. It is so easy to annoy someone, spread discord, raise suspicion, separate brothers. The devil needs men to carry out his acts – and that is why I am to blame.

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  1. Shine says:

    I didn’t like this story…..
    You cannot force anyone to do anything wrong. Its always there choice

  2. Sandy says:

    Was he guilty of leaving his shoes in that place as all do, as is the custom? Wouldn’t hiding your shoes from a thief create thoughts of a thief and draw them near? Maybe he was he guilty because he thought someone stole them. In his mind he created a thief when he didn’t see his shoes. He didn’t think any further than the fact that they MUST have been stolen. The story never says they were stolen, only that it was the assumption that they were. We in turn believe in a thief because the man thought his shoes were stolen.

  3. cheri says:

    It is a good story but I am uncertain if the man was creating a thief.Maybe the thief had greater need of shoes than he? Maybe the thief was wrong- maybe it was a mistake and someone considered it their shoes.How many times has a patient from hospital or a school child returned with the wrong clothes?
    How many times an umbrella taken from a stand?I personally think it was the cleaner putting them somewhere else, being too tidy .Maybe the place of worship was a testing area for true conviction of faith and sharing.
    Perhaps it was a test that the man was asked to walk home barefoot so he might know another’s distress and shame.

    Each of us can only live in one’s own’s belief in would be friends.
    Maybe the sandles will be returned at some point with a lovely letter of sincere regret.

  4. Pablo says:

    Yes, principle of “cause and consequence”

    Al-Fahid created thief…

    But! Putting his shoes on that place was common behavior. He trusted in goodness of other people. But now, whnen shoes were stolen, he was guilty for doing this.

    Was he guilty every time he put the shoes there? He surely did so hundered times before.

    Or was he guilty only because shoes were stolen?

    Isn’t principle of cause and consequence working conversely?…

    Cause…. shoe was stolen
    Consequence….Al-Fahid feel guilty for leavinf his shoes on that place


  5. El Dormido says:

    I’m not exactly sure what Adina is saying but I think it mirrors my own opinion about perception and the world… I don’t think the ‘devil’ is all that concerned about any single person… at best he is a bureaucrat shuffling intentions, rationalizations, whatever… The snake in the garden, like Prometheus, was as necessary as light for humankind to find it’s place in the cosmos…

    I realized I create my own world by how I think about things and the feelings that follow. One morning I woke up listing all the things that were wrong around me, who was to blame and what I had to do to get them to fix things… I realized by my very act of mind I was creating a world of contention and animosity independent of any reality. Heaven and hell are not in any afterlife but right here and now. I have since worked as best I can to guard the nature of my thoughts, feelings and actions so that they are more clearly an utterance of what my God wants, or, at least, a reflection of the heart of my God will, intention, perfection, whatever…

    So Al-Fahid is the creater of ‘evil’ only in the sense he thinks he is, and the loss of the missing shoes is only a ‘fact’.

    Yes, there is ‘evil’ in the world and it is a ‘fact’ the we are capable of great wrong against one another but let us not obscure those realities by projecting our own spurious ‘opinions’ on the world around us. Rather, do justice, love mercy and walk humbly… and leave the results in God’s hands.

  6. Ester Pramudito says:

    When one is thinking to have someone else’s belonging or when one has envy in one’s heart, he or she is becoming a potential victim to be the devil’s instrument. So how does Al-Fahid know that just being himself (without leaving his sandals outside the mosque) he perhaps already causes someone to sin in his or her thought?
    I think Al-Fahid (or anyone)doesn’t need to be too hard to himself. Just do our best and leave the rest in God’s hand. :)

  7. Ester Pramudito says:

    When one is thinking to have someone else’s belonging or when one has envy in one’s heart, he or she is becoming a potential victim to be the devil’s instrument. So how does Al-Fahid know that just being himself (without leaving his sandals outside the mosque) he perhaps already causes someone to sin in his or her thought?
    I think Al-Fahid (or anyone) just don’t be to hard to himself. Just do our best and leave the rest in God’s hand. :)

  8. LIANA says:

    WENDI,I think that neither you nor Al-Fahid are to blame :) You are just living yor life,you are each time showing that nothing in this world can erase your belief and trust in people. So each time,when the doormat is stolen again,buy another one and I am sure that the day will come when you find it untouched …

  9. wendy says:

    That happens everyday,like the doormat of my house being stolen and I felt like whatever,I really have a great taste upon a lot of things and they want every piece of my choice to be their own……even by the worse deed,stolen.and I tell this story as a joke to the priest,but he goes like that holy man,saying someone might in need,its so common people think like everyone else and dont have their own opinion,boring…….I am quite daring on many things,priest says that I am the most rebel one in the whole church(2,000 people).HAHA~~~~he is not serious,is he?

  10. Sandy says:

    Well now… I needed to look into that mirror. How I have struggled lately with some of the things I have knowingly done in the past. How I have struggled with what was right and what was wrong in exactly that type situation. And, somehow, I am always directed to the answer I am seeking. And , this blog post was it.

    I am also reminded of a time when I was away on business and lost a ring that had been my grandmothers. I was devastated and wondered if the room maid maybe found it and took it. So…I sent prayers to whoever had it. I envisioned someone needing it more than me. I saw in my mind a beautiful marriage made complete with a ring someone wouldn’t have had without it. And, with that I found peace.

    We have a choice don’t we…to make the situation evil, or to make it good. oh how I could go on and on regarding this subject, but for now just thank Paulo for the most beautiful blog, and, for whatever power has guided me to this place where I found him.

  11. Daniela says:

    A good act brings into light a bad act that is to be changed, that needs our attention.Al-Fahid should pray for the person who did wrong(not for needing the shoes but for not come open about it). Our good acts may be changed/continued in a bad way maybe because we do them not knowing what other person next to us needs/believes .

  12. BadradDine says:

    Le diable aspire í  ce que l’homme puisse íªtre de son cí´té jusqu’au jugement dernier. L’homme marche sur les pas du diable, chaque jour. Nous finirons bien par nous retrouver ensemble, pour le combattre.Un sentiment simple, l’amour de son prochain.

  13. Valentin says:

    Should Al-Fahid feel guilty for all of his acts? I think this kind of thinking prevent people happiness. It’s the way that leads to people loosing precious energy with negative thoughts. He just left his shoes where all of his mates leave their shoes and the thief accidentally chose his shoes. That’s all.

    I’d like to tell Al-Fahid your Anti-Law of Jante …

  14. Mirela Baron says:

    Funny Storry!I thought a lot before I used this word `evil´ in the blog to the day opinion `corect political ideas`.Because it can stimulate such controverses!More funnyer was the moment wenn I tryed to answer to this storry.An unimportant objekt on the table was feld on first + tastatur,and second on- tastatur ,so that he wrote ++++ and after that ———-on all this feld!I was somehow surprised and I was inspired at the same time.So this is my answer:
    In all situations and decisiones that we make ,they are positive and negative aspects,and I agree that we have to act with responsability in every move that we make and most important is to let our Hearts to decide in the right moment to do what it speeks to us.

    Mirela(the woman in lift)

  15. Nancy says:

    This topic of a devil seemed unusual for this blog that I have read the story a few times now. I still do not have a solid understanding of what the story is trying to teach us, but only my view of the message. We should handle an unwanted event the best that we can, and then release it. I think this is tough to do. Having something stolen, being scammed, signing bad contracts, or being lied to hurts and people do not want it to happen again and again.

  16. Adina says:

    We creat Evil and we enforce it to exist. Our mind is a very strong and rich tool and it needs to be educated, disciplined, supervised, controlled, assessed from time to time, cleaned, checked and not allways believed. Neurons can do wrongly their job, the sinapses may fail in transmitting the impulses, perceptions can be easily missled. Before believeing (in) something, one should be patient and let his other senses and feelings to “evaluate” the “subject” also, then, after all “receptors” filtrate the same subject, take the the most objective conclusion it could exist. I personally do not believe (in) something if not all my 5-6-7-8-9 or so senses do their job first, as I can have surprises to discover certain “receptors” transmit a different message and give me a nice cute error. Then my mind would say:”it’s true”.

    “Know yourself”, then believe or not what you see or hear.

    I do not believe that devil is an independent entity. Evil is an error, is our creation.

  17. Liisa says:

    And now he feels guilty… another trick of the devil!

    Surely the pain of guilt caused by thinking that you’re an instrument of evil is heavier than the ‘pain’ of having new shoes that were left lying around unattented.

    Maybe, instead, he could simply be happy that he could help someone out with a new pair of shoes, and dismiss the whole ‘who is being evil?’ -trial. Everybody wins.

  18. Monika says:

    …then you have to be blamed also, because you are born – through your mere existence you cause a lot of chain reactions, which can have bad effects on others (and what you mostly never know).
    …but it is contrariwise the same with good effects. Mayebe he saved someones life, because his shoes were stolen. God needs men to carry out His acts!

  19. Pablo says:

    If I replace shoes by for example car (locked car), which is parked on the parking lot behind the mosque. Would Al-Fahid blame himself about this theft…?


  20. Liara Covert says:

    A person does not control the behaviour of others. A person can only control his reactions to what he perceives.

  21. Wayne Wirs says:

    I think this is a great parable. That the Devil (and God) “needs men” to act. That both the Devil and God are within all of us. As a non-dualist, Taoist, who believes in reincarnation (I know – http://waynewirs.com ), I have often seen these opposites as signals to find harmony within. To me, it’s not about good vs evil, but finding a balance that brings the two opposites into a unified whole.

  22. Alexandra says:

    Devil needs men,but is not the man that took of the shoes to blame.Maybe the thief weakness,greed,lack of morality,or misery…

  23. Pandora says:

    … maybe the person who took the shoes (because a Thief is afterall a person) did not understand that the shoes were wanted anymore.

    I remember being a child and seeing piles of shoes outside a house thinking this very same thing, and I thought “How beautiful these people must be to give away their possessions like this when they enter a holy place”.

  24. THELMA says:

    Dear Shara, I understand your point that we must have faith in our fellow human beings.
    But, in Jesus prayer to our Father, we ask Him not to put us into temptation and keep us away from Evil…, because we, being humans, are weak.
    Dear Sefer JAN, I liked your quote ‘Satan approhes to you from your right side’. He is the …snake!

  25. Sefer JAN says:

    Muslims have a saying “Satan approches to you from your right side.” This is when we think we do good (right side), by not knowing that we serve to evil.

    In our actions and thoughts we have to be aware of that “the devil needs men to carry out his acts.”

    Love and be loved ;-)

  26. Shara says:

    I do not agree that Al-Fahid was helping the Devil. It was not his “fault” that the person stole his shoes. The theif had his agency and chose to take the shoes. Al-Fahid was showing a measure of faith in his fellow beings. Are we to lock all up so we do not tempt another? Are we to not go into public because someone might chose to murder?

    There is a balance that we have the opportunity to attempt to reach with our agency.

  27. sido66 says:

    It depends on our will to try to do our best to be on the “maid” way …… to know to avoid of knowing to make better…

    With the fact that we are a man or a woman, so small sometimes and big for of the other one with a head, 2 arms and 2 legs: we can make little; BUT NUMEROUS THE FEW GO ASTRAY BIG

    il dépend de notre volonté d’essayer de faire de notre mieux pour íªtre sur la “bonne” voie ……de connaí®tre pour éviter de …de savoir pour faire mieux …

    avec ce que nous sommes …homme ou femme , si petit parfois et grand pour d’autre …avec une tíªte , 2 bras et 2 jambes : on peut faire peu ; MAIS NOMBREUX LE PEU DEVIENT GRAND

  28. viviana says:

    Buenos dí­as! Lamento disentir con vos! Aun que SOS uno de los pocos escritores que le permite opinar diferente al lector, gracias! Volviendo al tema a mi me sucede algo extraño con dios y el diablo mas bien creo que somos nosotros quienes los utilizamos es una manera de no hacernos cargo de nuestros actos a mi me parece que es mucho mas simple y claro , todos en lo profundo de nosotros mismos tenemos cosas buenas y malas actitudes positivas y negativas hasta el mismí­simo Jesús tubo una actitud negativa permitiendo que judas quede por siglos como el mas traicionero cuando en realidad no fue así­ y a el no le importo utilizarlo…y no se trata de juzgar por que tampoco se si es tan así­ la cosa es que todos tenemos cosas buenas y malas ,y es fácil molestar a alguien , si ese alguien lo permite, la discordia la pueden propagar pero si uno la ignora tiene su fin, las sospechas las pueden levantar pero no encontraran nada que no lo haya echo ya el ser humano, los hermanos separados somos los mismos hermanos que decidimos las malditas guerras, no la deciden los marcianos,y no creo que el diablo nos necesite somos mas bien nosotros que lo traemos a nuestras vidas cuando no somos capaces de hacernos cargo de nuestros actos.

  29. THELMA says:

    We are obliged to take care of our possessions, so that we will not put others in …temptation.

    In the story, I think, that this was not the main point. Because Al-Fahid just followed a tradition and left his shoes…

    Devil needs men to carry out his acts. So we may become Devil’s or God’s instruments! It depends on us and our … free Will to be ..angels or devils.