In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Look upon the signs and imprints of God’s Mercy, how He revives the earth after its death. He it is Who will revive the dead [in the same way]. He is powerful over all things. (30:50)
Brother! If you wish to hear a discussion of the Resurrection and the Hereafter in simple, everyday language, then listen to the following parable:
Once two men went to a land as beautiful as Paradise (i.e. this world). They saw that everyone had left his house’s door open and his shop unlocked— money and property were left unprotected. One of these two men began to seize everything he wanted, stealing and usurping it. Following his desires, he committed every kind of injustice and indecency. The people there, however, did almost nothing to stop him. His friend said to him:
– What are you doing? You will be punished, and I will be in trouble together with you. All this property is collectively owned. All of the people here are soldiers or government servants. They are working as civilians now. That is why they are not interfering with you. But the order is strict. The king has installed telephones, and his officers are everywhere. Leave right away.
But the foolish man was also obstinate and said:
– No, it’s not public property; it belongs to some charity or other and has no owner. Everyone can make use of it however he wishes. I don’t see any reason for not using these fine things. I won’t believe unless I see with my own eyes.’ He also spoke a lot of sophistry like a philosopher. Then a serious debate followed between the two men. First, the obstinate one asked, ‘Who is the king? I don’t know him.
Every village must have its chief. Every needle must have its manufacturer. And, as you know, every letter must be written by someone. How, then, can it be that so extremely well organized a land should have no ruler?
His friend replied:
– Every village must have its chief. Every needle must have its manufacturer. And, as you know, every letter must be written by someone. How, then, can it be that so extremely well organized a land should have no ruler? And how can so much wealth have no owner, when every hour a train2 arrives filled with precious and well-crafted gifts, as if coming from the realm of the Unseen? It unloads here and then goes on. How can it be without an owner? And all the announcements and proclamations, all the seals and stamps found on all those goods, all the coins and the flags waving in every corner of the kingdom—can they be without an owner? It seems you have acquired some training in foreign languages, but you are unable to read this Islamic script. In addition, you refuse to ask those who are able to read it. Let me read you the supreme decree.
The obstinate man then retorted:
– Well, let’s suppose there is a king, but what harm can he suffer from the tiny use I am making of his wealth? How will it diminish his treasury? Furthermore, there is nothing resembling a prison here. I don’t expect any punishment.
His friend replied:
– Be serious! This land is a training ground and an exhibition of the king’s wonderful royal arts. It’s a temporary hospice, not a permanent residence. Don’t you see that every day one caravan arrives as another departs? Soon the land will be changed and its people will be transported to another, eternal land. There, everyone will either be rewarded or punished according to his services.
The unbeliever retorted obstinately:
– I don’t believe it. Is it possible that this land should be moved to another place?
His faithful friend answered:
– Since you are so obstinate and rebellious, come and let me show you, with some Pictures, a few of the innumerable proofs that there is a Supreme Tribunal, a realm of reward and generosity and a realm of punishment and constriction. You will see that just as this world is partially emptied everyday, so too a day will come when it will be totally emptied and destroyed.
Pictures showing the Supreme Tribunal
- Is it possible that in any kingdom, and particularly so magnificent a kingdom as this, there should be no reward for those who serve obediently and no punishment for those who rebel? Reward and punishment are virtually non-existent here. Therefore, there must be a Supreme Tribunal somewhere else.
- Look at this organization and administration! See how everyone, including the poorest and the weakest, is provided with the most appropriate and perfect sustenance. The best care is taken of the lonely and sick. And there are also royal and delicious foods, dishes, jeweled decorations, embroidered clothes, magnificent feasts. See how everyone pays great attention to his duties except rebels like you. No one steps over his bounds even an inch. The greatest of all men is engaged in modest and obedient service, with an attitude of fear and awe. The ruler of this kingdom must possess, then, great generosity and an all-embracing compassion. And he has great dignity, the most exalted honor and high state. Now generosity requires liberality, and compassion cannot be dispensed without beneficence, and honor and high state make it imperative that the discourteous be punished. But not even a thousandth part of what that compassion and that high state require is visible in this realm. The oppressor retains his power, and the oppressed, his humiliation, as they both depart from this realm. Thus their affairs are left to a Supreme Tribunal.
- See how wisely and orderly affairs are managed, and with what true justice and balance transactions are made. Now a wise polity requires that those who seek refuge under the protecting wing of the state receive favor. Justice demands that the rights of subjects be preserved, so that the dignity of government, the authority and splendor of the state, should be maintained. But here in this land, not a thousandth part is fulfilled. Disobedient people like you usually leave this realm unpunished. Their affairs are, then, left to a Supreme Tribunal.
- Look at the innumerable and unequaled jewels displayed here and the great dishes laid out as in a banquet! They demonstrate that the ruler of these lands has an inexhaustible treasury and is infinitely generous. Now, such generosity and such a treasury deserve and require a bountiful display that should be eternal and include all possible objects of desire. They further require that all who enjoy the fruits of this feast be there eternally, so they do not suffer pain because of death and separation until eternity. For, just as at the end of pain there is pleasure, so too is the end of pleasure painful. Look at these displays and pay attention to the announcements! Listen to these heralds proclaiming the fine and delicate arts of a miracle-working monarch. They are showing his perfections! They are declaring his matchless and invisible beauty. They are telling of the subtle manifestations of his hidden beauty. He must have, then, an altogether amazing beauty and perfection, here unseen. This hidden perfection requires one who will appreciate and admire it, who will gaze on it exclaiming, masha’ Allah! (what wonders God has willed), thus displaying it and making it known. As for concealed and matchless beauty, it too wishes to see and be seen, that is, to behold itself in two ways. One is to contemplate itself in different mirrors. The other is to contemplate itself by means of the gazes of ecstatic spectators and amazed admirers. It wishes to see and be seen, to contemplate itself eternally and be contemplated without cease. It also desires permanent existence for those who gaze upon it in awe and joy. For eternal beauty can never be content with a passing admirer. Moreover, an admirer destined to perish without hope of return will find his love turning to enmity whenever he imagines his death; his admiration and respect will tend to contempt—because man is an enemy to what he does not know and cannot reach. However, everyone leaves this guesthouse very quickly and vanishes. He leaves having seen, for only a moment, a faint light or shadow of that perfection and beauty, without in any way being satisfied. Thus, we may understand that we are heading towards an eternal realm of seeing.
- It is evident from all these matters that that peerless being is one of infinite mercy. He causes aid to be swiftly extended to every afflicted or unfortunate one. He answers every request and petition. He mercifully fulfils even the lowliest need of his lowliest subject. If, for example, the foot of a sheep should hurt, he either provides some medicine or sends a veterinarian.
Come now and let’s go; there’s a great meeting on that island. All the nobles of the land have assembled there. See, a highly decorated and noble commander is making a speech. He’s petitioning that compassionate king. All the people are saying in unison, ‘Yes, yes, we ask for the same.’ They agree with and affirm his words. Now listen to what that noble commander, who is best loved by the king, is saying:
Our Lord! —You who nurture us with your bounty—show us the origin and true form of these examples and shadows you have shown us! Draw us close to your seat of rule. Do not let us perish in these deserts! Admit us to your presence. Have mercy on us! Feed us there on the true form of the exquisite bounty that you have caused us to taste here! Do not afflict us with despair and banishment! Do not leave your yearning, thankful and obedient subjects to their own devices; do not cause them to be annihilated!
Having heard what he says, do you think it at all possible that so merciful and powerful a king should totally fulfill the lowliest desire of his lowliest soldier, and not fulfill the finest and highest aim of his most beloved and noble commander? Moreover, the purpose of that commander is also the purpose of all men. And its fulfillment is required by the pleasure, the compassion and the justice of the king. And it is easy for him, not difficult. It doesn’t cause him any more difficulty than does the creation of these transient places of enjoyment. He has expended so much on this land, which is only a transient place of recreation that lasts five or six days, in order to demonstrate instances of his power and benevolence. Then he will, without doubt, display at his seat of rule true treasures, perfections and skills in such a manner, and open before us such spectacles, that our intellects will be astonished.
Those sent to this field of trial will not, therefore, be left to their own devices; rather, palaces of bliss or dungeons of torment await them.
- Come now, look! All these imposing trains, planes, machines, warehouses, exhibitions show that, behind the veil, a majestic king exists and governs.
Such a sovereign requires subjects worthy of himself. But now you see all his subjects gathered in a guesthouse filled and emptied each day. Moreover, his subjects are now gathered on a testing-ground for the sake of maneuvers. And this ground is also being changed each hour. Again, all the subjects stay in an exhibition-hall for a few minutes to behold examples of the king’s beneficence, priceless products of his miraculous art. But the exhibition itself alters each moment. Whatever goes does not come back again; whatever comes is destined to go. Now, this situation and circumstance conclusively show that beyond the guest-house, the testing-ground, the exhibition, there are permanent palaces, lasting abodes, and gardens and treasuries full of the pure and exalted originals of the examples and shapes we see in this world. It is for the sake of those that we exert ourselves here. Here he makes us work, and there he gives reward—a form and degree of felicity suited to everyone’s capacity awaits us there.
- Come, let us walk a little. Let us see what is to be found among these civilized people. Look! In every place, at every corner, photographers are sitting and taking pictures. Look, everywhere there are scribes sitting and writing things down. They are recording everything, registering the least significant of deeds, the most ordinary of events. Now look up at the tall mountain; there you see a supreme photographer installed, devoted to the service of the king.1 He is taking pictures of all that happens in the area. The king must have ordered that all the transactions made and deeds performed in his kingdom be recorded. In other words, that exalted personage is having all events registered and photographically recorded. The precise recording must without doubt be for the sake of one day calling his subjects to account.
Now, is it at all possible that an All-Wise and All-Preserving Being, Who does not neglect the most banal doings of the lowest of His subjects, should not record the most significant deeds of the greatest among his subjects? That he should not call them to account, not reward and punish them for their deeds? After all, it is those foremost among his subjects that perform deeds offensive to His glory, contrary to His pride and unacceptable to His compassion. They remain unpunished in this world. Their affairs are, then, left to a Supreme Tribunal.
- Come, let me read to you the decrees issued by that king. See, he repeatedly makes the following promises and dire threats: ‘I will take you from your present abode and bring you to the realm of my absolute rule. There I shall bestow happiness on the obedient and imprison the disobedient. Destroying that temporary abode, I shall found a different realm containing eternal palaces and dungeons.’ He is able to fulfill easily the promises that he makes, and these promises are very important for his subjects. It is, moreover, incompatible with his dignity and power that he should break his promise. So reflect, O confused one, on how you assent to the claims of your lying imagination, your distressed intellect, and your deceiving soul. They deny the words of a being Who cannot be compelled by any means to break his promise, whose high stature does not admit any such deception, and to whose trustworthiness all visible deeds bear witness. Surely you deserve a great punishment. You are like a traveler who closes his eyes to the light of the sun and looks instead to his own imagination for light. His fancy wishes to illuminate his awesomely dark path with the light of his brain, although it is no more than a glowworm. Once that king makes a promise, he will by all means fulfill it. Its fulfillment is most easy for him, and moreover, most necessary for all of us and all things, as well as for himself and his kingdom. There is, therefore, a Supreme Tribunal, and a lofty felicity.
- Come now! Look at the managers of these offices and heads of these groups.2 Each has a private telephone to speak personally with the king. Sometimes too they go directly to his presence. Consider what they say and unanimously report, that the king has prepared a most magnificent and awesome place for reward and punishment. His promises are emphatic and his threats are most stern. His pride and dignity are such that he would in no way stoop to the humiliation inherent in the breaking of a promise. The bearers of this report, who are so numerous as to be universally accepted, further report with the strong unanimity of consensus that the seat and headquarters of the lofty kingdom, some of whose traces are visible here, is another realm far distant from here. The buildings existing in this testing-ground are but temporary, and will later be exchanged for eternal palaces. This world will change. For that magnificent and unfading kingdom, the splendor of which is apparent from its works, can in no way be founded or based on so transient, impermanent, unstable, insignificant, changing, defective and imperfect matters. It is based rather on matters worthy of it, eternal, stable, permanent and glorious.
There is, then, another realm, and we are bound for it.
- Come, today is the vernal equinox.3 Certain changes will take place, and wonderful things will happen. On this fine spring day, let us go for a walk on the green plain adorned with beautiful flowers. See, other people are also coming toward it. There must be some magic at work, for buildings that were mere ruins have suddenly sprung up again here, and this once empty plain has become like a populous city. See, every hour it shows a different scene, just like a cinema screen, and takes on a different shape. But notice, too, that among these complex, swiftly changing and multifarious scenes perfect order exists, so that all things are in their proper place. The imaginary scenes presented to us on the cinema screen cannot be as well ordered as this, and millions of skilled magicians would be incapable of this artistry. This king whom we cannot see must, then, have performed even greater miracles.
O obstinate one! You ask, ‘How can this vast kingdom be destroyed and re-established somewhere else?’ You see that every hour numerous changes and revolutions occur, just like that transfer from one realm to another that your mind will not accept. From this gathering in and scattering forth it can be deduced that a certain purpose is concealed within these visible and swift instances of joining and separation, these instances of compounding and dissolving. It is as if ten years of effort is devoted to a joining together destined to last no longer than an hour. So these circumstances we witness cannot be ends in themselves. They are a kind of parable of something beyond themselves, an intimation of it. That exalted being brings them about in miraculous fashion, so that they are copied, and the result is preserved and recorded, in just the same way that every picture of a maneuver on the battleground is written down and recorded. This implies that an infinitely vast place of gathering will be built where proceedings will be based on what happens here. Further, the results of all that occurs here will be permanently displayed at some supreme exposition. All the transient and fluctuating phenomena we see here will yield the fruit of eternal and immutable form.
All the variations we observe in this world are then, for the sake of a supreme happiness, a lofty tribunal, for the sake of exalted aims as yet unknown to us.
- Come, o obstinate friend! Let us embark on a plane or a train traveling east or west, that is, to the past or the future. Let us see what miraculous works that being has accomplished in other places. See, there are marvels on every hand like those we perceive in our own station and sphere. They differ, however, with respect to art and to form. Note well, however, what order and harmony betokening manifest wisdom, what indications of evident favoring, what signs of lofty justice, and what fruits of comprehensive mercy, are to be seen in these transient stations, these impermanent spheres, these passing scenes. Anyone not totally devoid of insight will certainly understand that no wisdom can be imagined more perfect than his, no providence more beautiful than his, no compassion more comprehensive than his, and no justice more glorious than his. Let’s imagine for the sake of argument, as you do, that no permanent abodes, lofty places, fixed stations, no permanently resident and contented population, existed in the sphere of his kingdom. Let’s suppose that the truths of his wisdom, favoring, mercy and justice had no realm in which to manifest themselves fully. Then we would be obliged to deny the wisdom we see, to deny the provision we observe, to deny the mercy that is in front of our eyes, and to deny the evident justice. This would be as idiotic as denying the sun, whose light we clearly see at midday. We would also have to regard the one from whom proceed all these wise measures we see, all these generous acts, all these merciful gifts, as a vile playful trickster or treacherous tyrant (God forbid!). This would be to turn truth into its opposite. And the change of truths into their opposites is impossible, according to the unanimous testimony of all rational beings, excepting only the idiot sophists who deny everything.
There is, then, a realm apart from the present one. In it, there is a supreme tribunal, a lofty place of justice, an exalted place of reward, where all this favoring, wisdom, mercy and justice will be made fully manifest.
- Come, let’s return now. We will speak to the chiefs and officers of these various groups. Looking at their equipment, we will inquire whether that equipment has been given them only for the sake of subsisting for a brief period in that realm, or whether it has been given for the sake of obtaining a long life of bliss in another realm. Let’s see. We cannot look at everyone and his equipment. But by way of example, let’s look at the identity card and register of this officer. On his card, his rank, salary, duty, supplies and instructions are recorded. See, this rank has not been awarded him for just a few days; it may be given for a prolonged period. It says on his card: ‘You will receive so much salary on such-and-such a day from the treasury.’ But the date in question will not arrive for a long time to come, after this realm has been vacated. Similarly, the duty mentioned on his card has not been given for this temporary realm, but rather for the sake of earning a permanent felicity in some degree of nearness to the king. Then, too, the supplies awarded him cannot be merely for the sake of subsisting in this hospice of a few days’ duration; they can only be for the sake of a long and happy life. The instructions make it clear that he is destined for a different place, that he is working for another realm. Now look at these registers. They contain instructions for the use and disposition of weapons and equipment. If there were no realm other than this, one exalted and eternal, that register with its categorical instructions and that identity card with its clear information, would both be quite meaningless. Further, that respected officer, that noble commander, that honored chief, would fall to a degree lower than that of all men; he would be more wretched, luckless, abased, afflicted, indigent and weak than anyone. Apply the same principle to everything. Whatever you look upon bears witness that after this transient world another and eternal world exists.
O friend! This temporary world is like a field. It is a place of training, a market. Without doubt a supreme tribunal and ultimate happiness will succeed it. If you deny this, you will be obliged also to deny the identity card of all officers, their equipment and their orders. In fact, you will have to deny too all the order existing in the country, the existence of a government in it and all the measures that the government takes. Then you will no longer deserve the name of man or the right to be called a conscious being.
– Beware, do not imagine that the proofs of the transfer of creation from one realm to another are restricted to these Twelve Pictures. There are indications and proofs beyond counting and enumeration, all showing that this impermanent, changing kingdom will be transferred into a permanent and immutable realm. There are also innumerable signs and evidences that men will be taken from this temporary hospice and sent to the eternal seat of rule of all creation.
I will show one proof in particular that is stronger than all the Twelve Pictures taken together.
Eternal announcement of the noble commander
- Look, in the midst of the great assembly visible in the distance, the same noble commander whom we previously saw on the island, adorned with numerous decorations, is making an announcement. Let’s go and listen. See, that luminous and most noble commander is conveying to the assembly an imperial edict, hung high over there. He says:
Prepare yourselves. You will go to another and permanent realm, a realm such that this one will appear as a dungeon by comparison. You will go to the throne of our king, and there receive his compassion and his bounty, if you heed this edict well and obey it. But if you rebel and disobey it, you will be cast into awesome dungeons.’
Such is the message that he conveys. If you look at the decree, you will see that it bears such a miraculous seal that it cannot in any way be imitated. Everyone apart from some obstinate, rebellious ones such as you knows of a certainty that the decree is from the king. Moreover, the noble commander bears such bright decorations that everyone except those unseeing like you, understands full well that he is the truthful conveyor of the king’s orders.
Is it at all possible that the teaching of transfer from one realm to another, challengingly conveyed by that noble commander in the supreme edict he has received, should be open to objection? No, it is not possible, unless we deny all that we have seen.
– Now, O friend, it is your turn to speak. Say what you have to say.
– I say only: Praise be to God. A hundred thousand thanks that I have been saved from the dominance of fancy and vain imagination, and delivered from an eternal prison. I have come to believe that there is an abode of felicity in some degree of nearness to the king, separate from this confused and impermanent hospice.
1. Some of the truths indicated in this parable have been set forth in the Seventh Truth. However, let us point out here that the figure of the photographer devoted to the service of the king is an indication of the Supreme Guarded Tablet. The reality and existence of this Tablet has been proved in the Twenty- sixth Word as follows: a little portfolio suggests the existence of a great ledger; a little document points to the existence of a great register; and little drops point to the existence of a great water tank. So too the retentive faculties of men, the fruits of trees, the seeds and kernels of fruit, being each like a little portfolio, a guarded tablet in miniature or a drop proceeding from the pen that inscribes the great Guarded Tablet, they point to, indicate and prove, the existence of a Supreme Memory, a Great Register, an exalted Guarded Tablet. Indeed, they demonstrate this conclusively to the sharp intellect.
2. The meanings indicated in this parable can be found in the Eight Truth. For example, by heads of offices we mean the Prophets and the saints. As for the telephone, it is a link and relation with God that goes forth from the heart and is the mirror of Revelation and the receptacle of inspiration. The heart is like the ear- piece of that telephone.
3. You will find in the Ninth Truth what this aspect alludes to. The equinox represents the beginning of spring. The green fields full of flowers represent the earth in spring. The changing scenes stand for the creatures, beings and things in springtime and the provisions for mankind and animals which a Majestic, Powerful Maker, an All-Wise, Gracious Creator, from the beginning of spring to the end of summer, brings forth in orderly succession, renews with the utmost compassion, and dispatches continuously one after the other.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.