So, that is how life is. If you desire the pleasure and enjoyment of life, animate your life with belief, and adorn it with religious obligations. Maintain it by abstaining from sins. As for the fearsome reality of death, which is demonstrated by instances of death every day, in every place and time, I shall explain it to you with a parable in the same way as I explained it to some other youths.
Let us suppose a gallows has been set up here in front of our eyes. Beside it is a lottery office, one which gives tickets for truly high prizes. We are here ten people, and willingly or unwillingly, shall certainly be invited there. They may call us (since the appointed time is unknown) at any moment, and say either, “Come and mount the gallows for execution!” or “A prize ticket worth millions of dollars has come up for you; come and collect it!” While we are waiting for either call, two people suddenly turn up. One of them is a scantily dressed woman, beautiful and alluring. She holds in her hand and offers some apparently very delicious, but in fact poisonous, sweets, which she wants us to eat. The other is an honest, solemn man. He enters behind the woman, and says:
“I have brought you a talisman, a lesson. If you study it, and if you do not eat the sweets, you will be saved from the gallows. With this talisman, you will receive your ticket for the matchless prize. You see with your own eyes that those who eat the sweets inevitably mount the gallows, and furthermore, until they mount them, they suffer dreadful stomach pains from the poison of the sweets. As for those who receive the ticket for the large prize, it seems that they too mount the gallows. But millions of witnesses testify that they are not hanged on the gallows, they use them as a step to enter the prize arena easily. So, look from the windows! The highest officials, the high-ranking persons concerned with this business announce with loud voices, ‘Just as you see clearly with your own eyes those mounting the gallows to be hanged, so also know with utmost certainty that those with the talisman receive the ticket for the prize.’”
As in the parable, the dissolute, religiously forbidden pleasures of youth, which are like poisonous sweets, are the cause of losing belief—and belief is the ticket to an eternal treasury and a document for everlasting happiness. Those who indulge in them are subject to death, which is like the gallows, and to the tribulations of the grave, which is the door to eternal darkness. The appointed hour of death is unknown, therefore, its executioner, not differentiating between young and old, may come at any time to cut off your head. Give up the religiously forbidden pleasures (which are like the poisonous sweets) and acquire the Qur’anic talisman (belief and performing religious obligations). One hundred and twenty-four thousand Prophets, upon them be peace, together with innumerable saints, have proclaimed that you will get to the treasury of eternal happiness if you do so. They have also shown the signs and evidences of it.
Youth spent in indulgences
In short: Youth will pass. If it is wasted in indulgences, it results in thousands of misfortunes and pains both in this world and the next. Perhaps you want to understand how such youths end up in hospitals with mental and physical diseases, mainly because of their abuse, and in prisons or hostels for the destitute as a result of their excesses, and in bars because of the distress provoked by their spiritual unease. Then, go and inquire at the hospitals, prisons and cemeteries.
For sure you will hear from most of the hospitals the moans and groans of those ill from dissipation and debauchery resulting from the appetites of youth. Also you will hear from the prisons the regretful sighs of unhappy wretches, suffering for illicit actions mostly resulting from the excesses of their youth. Again, you will come to know this truth as testified by the saints who can discern the life of the grave, and affirmed by exacting scholars of truth. Most of the torments of the grave—that Intermediate Realm the doors of which continuously open and shut for those who enter it—are the result of misspent youth.
Also, ask the old and the sick, who form the majority of mankind. Most certainly the great majority of them will answer you with grief and regret, “Alas! We wasted our youth in frivolities, indeed harmfully. Be careful, never do as we did!” A man subjects himself, for the sake of the illicit pleasures of a short period of youth, to years of grief and sorrow in this world, torment and harm in the Intermediate Realm, and the severe punishment of Hell in the Hereafter. Despite being in a most pitiable situation, he does not deserve pity. For one who freely consents to indulge in harmful actions is not worthy of pity.
May Almighty God save us and you from the alluring temptations of this age and preserve us against them. Amen.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.