The fifth hope
Once, at the onset of my old age, my spirit sought ease in solitude on Mount Joshua (Yusha Tepesi) up the Bosphorus in Istanbul. One day on that high hill, I looked around at the broad horizon, and saw an extremely pathetic scene of decay and separation through the warning of old age. I took a look from the high position of the forty-fifth branch, that is, the forty-fifth year, of the tree of my life to my life’s lower levels. I saw that down on each of the lower branches, in each year, there were numerous corpses of those I knew and loved, and to whom I was somehow related. Thinking of the friends who had left, with truly pitiful sorrow that arose from separation, I groaned like Fuzuli of Baghdad:6
As I recall your company I weep,
So long as there is breath in this dry body of mine, I
So saying, I sought solace, a light, a door of hope. All at once, the light of belief in the Hereafter came to my aid, offering an inextinguishable light, an indestructible hope. It is as follows:
Brothers and sisters who are elderly like me! As there is the Hereafter and it is everlasting, and it is a realm much better than this world, and as the One Who has created us is both All-Wise and All-Compassionate, we should not complain of or regret our old age. On the contrary, since old age is a sign of reaching the age of maturity in belief and worship, and signals a discharge from the duties of life and departure for the world of mercy in order to rest, we should be pleased with it.
A hadith says that one hundred and twenty-four thousand Prophets, who are the most eminent and distinguished among humanity, have been sent.7 All of these Prophets, based on Divine Revelation and their own spiritual observation, unanimously and in complete agreement gave news that the Hereafter does exist, that human beings will be sent there, and that the Creator will bring it as He promised. In addition, one hundred and twenty-four million saints, with spiritual illumination, discovery, and observation have confirmed the reports of the Prophets with the degree of certainty arising from knowledge, and testified to the existence of the Hereafter. Also, all the Names of the All-Wise Maker, through their manifestations in this world, show the absolutely necessary existence of and necessitate an everlasting realm. For example, the Eternal Power, Which every spring restores to life innumerable corpses of dead trees on the face of the earth with the command of “Be!” and it is, and Which revives hundreds of thousands of species of plants and animals as samples of the resurrection of the dead, most clearly necessitates the existence of the Hereafter. Likewise, the infinite, Eternal Wisdom, Which allows nothing to be in vain or purposeless, and the Eternal Mercy and Perpetual Favor, Which, with perfect compassion and in an extremely wonderful fashion, provides the sustenance of all living beings that are in need of it, and for a brief time in spring allow them to display their manifold varieties of adornment and decoration, require the Hereafter. Furthermore, the human being is the most perfect fruit of the universe and its Creator’s most beloved creature, and of all beings the human is the most closely and deeply connected and concerned with the other beings in the universe. The intense, unshakeable, and constant love of eternity and ambition for permanence that are innate in human nature prove the existence of a permanent realm, an everlasting abode of happiness that will follow this transient world, so decisively that they necessitate the acceptance of the Hereafter with the same certainty that we accept the existence of this world.8
Since one of the most important things the wise Qur’an teaches us is belief in the Hereafter, and since this belief is so powerful and it provides such hope and solace that if a single person were overwhelmed by old age a hundred thousand times over, the consolation arising from this belief would be sufficient to face it, then surely we who are elderly should say, “All praise be to God for perfect belief,” and love our old age.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
6 Mehmed Fuzuli (1490–1556). One of the greatest poets of Turkish literature. He lived in Iraq and wrote many works both in verse and in prose. His Divan (“Collection of Poems”), which he wrote in Turkish, Persian, and Arabic is the most famous among his works. Layla wu Majnun (“Layla and Majnun”), Tarjuma-i Hadith-i Arbain (“The Translation of the Forty Hadiths”), and Hadiqat asSu‘ada’ (“The Garden of the Holy Ones”) are among his most famous works. (Tr.)
7 Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, 5:265; Ibn Hibban, as-Sahih, 2:77. (Tr.)
8 The ease of reporting something which definitely exists and the extreme difficulty in denying it may be seen in the following comparison: if one person says, “There is a wonderful garden on earth, the trees of which have fruits that are cans of milk,” and another says, “There isn’t,” the one claiming it proves his or her claim only by pointing out its place or some of its fruits or a single member of it. Whereas, the one denying it has to scan and show the whole face of the earth. In just the same way, even if we ignore the hundreds of thousands of signs, fruits, and marks of Paradise which those who report its existence have pointed out, the testimony of two truthful witnesses to the truth of their report is sufficient. But in order to prove his denial, the one who denies it has to scan the limitless universe and infinite, unending time, and demonstrate its non-existence. And so, my elderly brothers and sisters, understand just how powerful is belief in the Hereafter.