One day a number of bright young people came to me, seeking an effective deterrent to guard themselves against the danger arising from modern worldly life, youth, and animalistic desires. As I had previously told other young people who sought help, I also said to them:
Your youth will definitely disappear. If you do not restrict yourselves within the limits of the lawful, it will be lost, and rather than its pleasures, it will bring you suffering and calamities in this world, in the grave, and in the Hereafter. If, under Islamic discipline, you use the blessings of youth in gratitude, chastely and uprightly, and in worship, it will in effect remain perpetually and be the cause of gaining eternal youth.
As for life, if it is without belief, or if belief, because of rebelliousness, is ineffective, it will produce pain, sorrow, and grief far exceeding the superficial, fleeting enjoyment and pleasure it brings. As an intelligent, thinking being, a human being is (in contrast to animals) intrinsically connected to the past and the future, as well as to the present time. He/she derives both pain and pleasure from them. Since animals do not think, neither sorrow arising from the past nor fear and anxiety concerning the future spoil their present pleasure. But if a human being has fallen into misguidance and heedlessness, sorrow arising from the past and anxiety about the future mar his/her particular pleasure, diluting it with pain. Especially if it is an illicit pleasure, then it is like an altogether poisonous honey. This means that, with respect to the enjoyments of life, a human being is a hundred times lower than animals. In fact, for the misguided, heedless people, their whole life and existence, their whole world, consists of the day in which they find themselves. According to their misguided belief, all of time past and all past worlds have gone to non-existence. Their intellects, which connect them to the past and the future, produce darkness for them. Accordingly with their lack of belief, the future is also non-existent for them. The separation that become eternal because of this non-existence continually darkens their lives.
In contrast, if they build their lives upon belief, then through the light of belief, both the past and the future will be illuminated and acquire existence. Like the present time, they provide, through belief, exalted spiritual pleasures and lights of existence for their spirit and heart.
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 sin. 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.
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 holds in his/her hand and offers some apparently very delicious, but in fact poisonous, sweets, which he/she wants us to eat. The other is honest and solemn. He/she enters behind the other, 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, since 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. If you have given up the religiously forbidden pleasures (which are like the poisonous sweets) and acquired the Qur’anic talisman (belief and performing religious obligations), 124,000 Prophets, upon them be peace, together with innumerable saints, have proclaimed that you will get to the treasury of eternal happiness. They also have shown the signs and evidences of it.
Youth will pass…
In short: Youth will pass. If it is wasted in indulgence, it results in thousands of misfortunes and pains both in this world and the next. If 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, just as 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, so 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 that, 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 humanity. Most certainly the great majority of them will answer you with grief and regret: “Alas! We wasted our youth in frivolity, indeed harmfully. Be careful! Never do as we did!” A human being who wastes his/her life for the sake of the illicit pleasures of a short period of youth, subjects himself/herself to years of grief and sorrow in this world, torment and harm in the Intermediate Realm, and a severe punishment in the Hereafter.
So, you unfortunates who are addicted to the pleasures of worldly life and, troubled about your future, struggle to secure it and your lives! If you want pleasure, delight, happiness, and ease in this world, be content with what is religiously lawful. That suffices for your enjoyment. You must have understood from your experiences that in each pleasure forbidden by religion lie a thousand pains. If the events of the future—for example, of fifty years hence—were also shown in the cinema in the same way that they now show events of the past, those who are now leading a dissipated life would weep with horror and disgust at the things with which they entertain themselves.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.