The Fourteenth Word


A warning lesson for my heedless soul


In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.

The worldly life is but a transient enjoyment of delusion. (3:185)


My wretched soul, sunk in heedlessness, which sees this life as sweet and, oblivious of the Hereafter, seeks it alone. You resemble an ostrich that, seeing the hunter and unable to escape by flying away, sticks its head in the sand so that the hunter may not see it. However, its huge body remains in the open, so of course the hunter can see it. Only the ostrich’s eyes are closed in the sand, and so it cannot see the hunter.

O my soul! Consider the following comparison and understand how focusing only on this world changes a great pleasure into a grievous pain:

Imagine that there are two people in this village (Barla). Ninety-nine out of every hundred of one’s friends have moved to Istanbul, where they are living happily. He will shortly join them, and so longs for and thinks of Istanbul. When he is told he can go there, he will be overjoyed and go happily. The second person, facing the same situation, thinks that some of his friends have perished and that the others have gone where they do not see and cannot be seen. Imagining that they have gone to utter misery, he seeks consolation in his only remaining friend, who is about to get ready. He wants to compensate for the heavy pangs of separation through that friend.

O my soul! God’s Beloved above all, Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and all your friends are on the other side of the grave. One or two remain here, but they also will go there. So do not fear death or the grave, or avert your attention from death. Look at it bravely and listen to what it seeks. Laugh in its face and see what it wants. And be sure that you are not like the second person.

O my soul! Do not say: “Times have changed. This age is different, for everyone is plunged into this world and adores this life. Everyone is openly committed to the struggle for livelihood.” For death does not change. Separation does not end and become eternal union or companionship. Our intrinsic impotence and poverty do not change; rather, they increase. Our journey (through this world) is not cut; rather, it becomes faster.

Do not say: “I am like everyone else.” Everyone befriends you only as far as the grave. The consolation of everyone suffering the same misfortune cannot help you on the other side. Neither imagine that you are free and independent. Look at this temporary world with the eye of wisdom. See that everything has an order and purpose. How can you be left to yourself, for this would place you outside the order and cause you to be without purpose. All those events like earthquakes are not playthings of chance.

You see the earth’s extremely well-designed and finely embroidered clothes, which it is dressed in one over and within the other, and all plant and animal species are adorned and decked out from top to bottom with important purposes and instances of wisdom. It is turned like an ecstatic Mevlevi dervish in perfect order and for exalted aims. So how can you sup pose its vital, death-bringing events, like the recent earthquake,9 which may be understood as the earth’s shaking off the weight of certain forms of human heedlessness of which it does not approve—especially in believers—to be without purpose and the result of chance? How can you, by showing the grievous losses of those affected by such events as unrecompensed and as having gone for nothing, throw them into a dreadful despair? People who do so are committing a great error and a great wrong.

Such events happen at the command of One All-Wise and All Compassionate so that what the believers lose via such events might become just as worthy of reward as alms and thereby gain permanence. This loss is also an atonement for those sins arising from ingratitude for Divine bounties.

A day will come when this subjugated earth will see our works, which are the adornments of its face, tainted by associating partners with God and without the necessary gratitude. It will disapprove of them and, when the Creator commands, will wipe them off its face and cleanse it. At God’s command, it will pour those who associate partners with God into Hell and say to the thankful: “Come and enter Paradise.”


Bediuzzaman Said Nursi

9 It refers to the 1935 earthquake in Izmir, Turkey.