Dede Korkut and the Angel of Death
A prideful warrior learns the lesson of sacrifice.
BY: Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani
Dede Korkut was the bravest warrior of his time. His exploits reached a point where he considered himself invincible in the land, and challenged all creation to defeat him and his brave young men in combat. God heard his words and was displeased with his pride. So he sent him the Angel of Death to take his soul. Azra'il came to him as he was feasting in his palace and stood before him without saying a word. Dede Korkut said: "I did not see you come in; who are you?" The angel replied: "I am not one to ask permission from the likes of you, and I came to teach you a lesson." The young man immediately rose to his feet and ordered that the visitor be caught, but he changed himself into a bird and flew out through the chimney.
Dede Korkut ordered his horse saddled and everyone rushed in hot pursuit of the strange bird. Soon he found himself lost in the middle of the forest, and the angel suddenly appeared again in front of him. "I got you now!" exclaimed Dede Korkut. "No," said the angel, "I got you," and he brought him down from his horse and stood on his chest, pinning him to the ground. Dede Korkut began to cry and said: "I feel weaker than I ever felt before. What did you do to me?" Azra'il said: "I am the Angel of Death, so prepare yourself to leave this life." He replied: "I beseech you to give me more time and I apologize to you if my boasting offended you." Azra'il said: "Do not apologize to me and do not beseech me. I am a creature like you, and I only follow orders from the Almighty." Dede Korkut said: "Then get out of my way, and stop wasting my time!" And he began to pray to God: "Forgive my boasting, O my God! and give me another chance, as I apologize for offending you. You are the Almighty over your creation."
God liked Dede's words and instructed Azra'il to give him a respite. Azra'il said: "God has decided to let you live on the condition that you find someone else to die in your place." Dede Korkut thought: "I will ask my father, he is old and will not refuse me." He went to him and told him his story, but he replied: "O my son! I slaved my lifelong in order to relish my old age. I am sorry, but I am not ready to die in your place." Dede Korkut thought: "Surely my mother will not refuse me." He went to her but she said: "O my son! I gave my life to you many times already, when I bore you, fed you, raised you and took care of you. Now the rest of my life belongs at your father's side, as company for his old age."
The young man was crestfallen and he went home, resigned to die. When his young wife saw his sadness, she asked what troubled him and he said: "O my beloved wife! the Angel of Death is about to come and take my life unless I find someone else willing to die in my place, and my own father and mother have refused me, so who can I find now?" His wife answered, "O my beloved husband! why didn't you ask me? I am happy to give you what even your father and mother cannot give you. Take my life so that yours can be spared." When Dede Korkut, the Fierce Warrior heard these words, his heart melted and tears came to his eyes. He turned to God and said: "O my Lord! forgive me, take my life and spare my wife, for she is worthier and braver than me." God was again pleased to hear those words, and he decided to spare both Dede Korkut and his wife. Instead, he sent Azra'il to take the life of his parents as they had been blessed with a long and happy life.
God wrote on the palms of the Angel of Death in letters of light: "In the Name of God, Most Merciful, Most Beneficent." He ordered the angel, whenever he had to take the soul of a Knower of God, to show him those letters of light which cause the soul of the Knower to come out of is body like an element attracted to a magnet, or like light returning to its source.