The Supreme Transaction
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
Verily God bought from the believers their selves and their possessions in exchange for Paradise. (9:111)
A parable to understand the meaning of selling one’s soul to God
If you wish to understand how profitable a transaction, how honorable a rank it is, to sell one’s soul and property to God, and to be His slave and His soldier, listen to the following parable:
Once a king entrusted to two of his men an estate to each, including all the necessary workshops, machinery, horses, weapons and other equipments. But it was wartime, when nothing can stay as it is, but must either disappear or alter. The king in his mercy sent his most noble officer to the two men, and through a compassionate decree, conveyed the following to them: ‘Sell me the property you hold in trust, so that I may keep it for you. Let it not be destroyed in vain. After the war is over, I will return it to you in a better condition than it was before. It is your property in trust, and I will pay a higher price for it. The machinery and the tools in the workshop will be used in my name at my workbench. Both the price and the fee for their use shall be increased, may be a thousand-fold. I’ll give all the profit to you. You are weak and poor. You cannot provide the cost of these great tasks. So let me assume the provision of all expenses and equipment, and give you all the income and profit. You’ll have the use of it until the time of demobilization. Consider the five advantages to you of this transaction.
‘And if you do not sell me the property: as you see, no one is able to preserve what he possesses. You too will lose what you now hold. It will go in vain and you will miss out on the high price I offer you. The delicate, precious tools, the fine scales, ready to be used, all will lose all their value since there do not exist metals worthy to be worked with them. You’ll also have the trouble and concern of administering and preserving them; moreover, you’ll be punished for betraying your trust. So consider the ways you may lose!
‘To sell your property to me is to become my soldier and act in my name. Far from being a mere recruit or irregular, you’ll be an honored and free officer of an exalted monarch.’
After the two men had listened to this gracious decree, the intelligent one of the two said: ‘By all means, I’m honored and happy to sell. I give thanks a thousand times.’ The other was arrogant, selfish and dissipated; his self had become as proud as the Pharaoh. As if he were to stay eternally on that estate, he ignored the earthquakes and tumults of the world. He said: ‘No! Who is the king? I will not sell my property, nor diminish my comfort.’
After a short time the first man reached so high a rank that everyone envied his position. He had the favor of the king, and lived happily in the king’s own palace. The other, by contrast, fell into such a position that everyone pitied him, while also saying, ‘He deserved it’. As a result of his mistake, he forfeited his happiness as well as his property, and suffers punishment and torment.
Now! O soul, full of caprices! Look at the face of truth through the telescope of this parable. The king in the parable is the Monarch, Eternal before and after eternity, your Lord and Creator. The estates, machinery, tools and scales are the possessions you call yours in your lifetime—your body, spirit and heart among them, and your outward and inward senses such as the eye, the tongue, intelligence and imagination. The most noble officer in the parable is the Noble Messenger of God; and the compassionate decree is the Wise Qur’an, which describes the transaction we are discussing in this verse:
God has bought from the believers their selves and their possessions in exchange for Paradise.
The surging battlefield is the tempestuous surface of the world which changes, dissolves and reforms, and causes man to reflect.
And man asks: ‘Since everything will leave our hands, perish and be lost, is there not a way in which we can transform it into something eternal? How can we preserve it?’ While engaged in these thoughts, he suddenly hears the heavenly voice of the Qur’an, saying: Indeed there is a beautiful and easy way which offers five advantages or profits.
The way offering five profits:
To sell the trust to its real Owner. The five profits in such a sale are these:
- Transient property becomes everlasting. This waning life, when given to the Eternal and Self-Subsistent Being of Majesty and spent for His sake, will be transmuted into permanence. It gives everlasting fruits. The moments of one’s present life will, all too evidently, vanish and rot as do kernels and seeds. But then the flowers of happiness will open and bloom in the realm of Eternity, and each will also present a luminous and reassuring aspect in the Intermediate Realm.
- Paradise is given as a price.
- The value of each limb and each sense is increased a thousand-fold. The intelligence, for example, is a faculty, an instrument. If you don’t sell it to the All-Mighty, but rather employ it for the sake of the self, it will become an ill-omened, noxious and debilitating instrument that will burden your weak person with all the sad sorrows of the past and the terrifying fears of the future; it will fall to the rank of an ill-omened, destructive instrument. It is for this reason that a sinful man will frequently resort to drunkenness or other frivolous pleasures in order to escape the vexations and injuries of his intelligence. But if you sell your intelligence to its true Owner and employ it on His behalf, it will become like a mysterious key which can unlock the infinite treasure-house of Compassion and the vaults filled with wisdom that creation contains. As a key, it also elevates you to the rank of a pious and righteous guide deserving eternal happiness.
The eye is one of the senses, a window through which the spirit looks out on this world. If you do not sell it to the All-Mighty, but rather employ it on behalf of the self, by gazing upon a handful of transient, impermanent beauties and spectacles, it will sink to the level of being a pander to lust and other carnal desires. But if you sell the eye to its All-Seeing Maker, and employ it on His behalf and within limits indicated by Him, then your eye will rise to the rank of a reader of the Great Book of the Universe, a witness to the miracles of the Lord’s creation, a blessed bee sucking on the blossoms of Mercy in the garden of this world.
Taste is another of the senses. If you do not sell it to your Wise Creator, but employ it instead on behalf of the self and for the sake of the tongue or stomach, it sinks and declines to the level of a gatekeeper at the stable of the stomach, a watchman at its factory. But, if you sell it to the Noble Provider, then the sense of taste given to the tongue will rise to the rank of a skilled overseer at the treasure-house of Divine Compassion, a grateful inspector in the kitchens of the Eternally-Besought’s Power.
O intelligence, be careful! Think what an instrument of destruction is and what the key to all being is. O eye! See the difference between an abominable pander and the learned overseer of the Divine Library! O tongue! Taste well the difference between a stable doorkeeper or a factory watchman and the trustee of the treasure-house of God’s Mercy!
When you compare all the other instruments and faculties and limbs to these, you will understand that the believer acquires a nature worthy of Paradise and the unbeliever a nature conforming to Hell. The reason why each of them attains its respective value is that the believer, by virtue of his faith, uses the trust of his Creator on His behalf and within the limits indicated by Him, whereas the unbeliever betrays the trust and employs it for the sake of the carnal self.
- Man is helpless and exposed to numerous misfortunes. He is indigent, and his needs are numerous. He is impotent, and the burden of life is very heavy. If he does not rely on the All-Powerful One of Majesty, put his trust in Him and submit to Him in full confidence, his conscience will always be troubled. He finds himself caught in vain torments, pains and regrets, all of which infatuate and choke his understanding, turning him into a beast.
- Those who are able to unveil the true nature of things, and who have experienced the truth, are all agreed that the exalted reward for all the worship and glorification of God performed by your limbs, senses and faculties will be given to you at the time of greatest need, in the form of the fruits of Paradise.
Loss upon loss
If you do not wish this transaction with its five-fold profit, you will, in addition to being deprived of the profits, suffer five-fold loss.
- The property and offspring you love too much, the self and its caprice that you adore, the youth and life for which you are filled with a foolish love, all will vanish and in their place pain and sins will be fastened upon your neck.
- You’ll suffer the penalty for betrayal of trust, because, by using the most precious tools on the most worthless objects, you will have wronged your own self.
- By debasing all the precious faculties of man to a level much inferior to the animals, you’ll have insulted and transgressed against God’s Wisdom.
- In your helplessness and poverty, you’ll place the heavy burden of life on your weak shoulders, and will continually groan under the blows of transience and separation.
- You’ll convert the fair gifts of the Com-passionate One, such as intelligence, the heart, the eye, the tongue, given to you to make preparation for the foundations of life everlasting and blessedness in the Hereafter, into an ugly form, fit to open the gates of Hell before you.
And consider selling. Why don’t many people accept it? Is it so difficult a thing to sell? By no means! It’s not in the least burdensome. The limits of the permissible are broad, and are quite adequate for man’s desire: there is no need to trespass on the forbidden. The duties imposed by God are light and few in number. To be the slave and the soldier of God is so high an honor, it can’t be described.
One’s duty is simply to act and embark on all things in God’s name, like a soldier: to receive and give on God’s behalf; to act in accordance with His permission and law. If one commits a sin, then one should seek His forgiveness, saying: ‘O Lord! Forgive our sins and accept us as your slaves; entrust us with Your trust until the time of restitution arrives. Amen!’, and petition Him.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.