The seventh hope


Once at the onset of old age when the laughter of the Old or Former Said was changing into the weeping of the New Said, some worldly-minded people in Ankara, supposing me to be still the Old Said, invited me there, and I went. At the close of autumn I climbed to the top of the city fort, which was dilapidated, and far more aged than me. It seemed to me as if it were formed by petrified historical events. The old age of the season of the year together with my old age, the fort’s old age, humankind’s old age, the old age of the glorious Ottoman State, and the demise of the sultanate representing caliphate, and the world’s old age all caused me to look in the most sorrowful, piteous, and melancholy state from that lofty fort to the valleys of the past and the mountains of the future. I found myself in an utterly dark state of mind in Ankara, encompassed by four or five layers of the darkness’ of old age, one within the other, and I sought a light, a solace, a hope.

As I looked to the right, that is, to the past, to find solace, it appeared to me in the form of the vast graveyard of my father and forefathers and the human race, causing me gloom rather than consolation. Seeking a cure I looked to the future on the left. It appeared as a huge, dark graveyard for myself, my contemporaries, and future generations, giving horror in place of relief and solace. Frightened in the face of what was to the left and right, I looked to the present time. To my heedless and historical eye it appeared as a coffin bearing my half-dead, suffering corpse, which was desperately struggling as if dying. Then, despairing from that direction as well, I raised my head and looked to the top of the tree of my life, and there was my corpse: it rested at the top of the tree and was watching me. Feeling horror from this direction too, I lowered my head, looking to the foot of the tree of my life, to its roots. I saw that the dust of my bones underfoot had mixed with the dust of my creation. That too provided no cure; it doubled my pain.

Then I felt forced to look behind me. I saw that this temporary world, which has no foundation, was revolving through the valleys of nothingness and the darkness of non-existence. I had been seeking a medicine for my pain, but this view only aggravated it. Seeing no good in that direction, I looked in front of me, I cast my eye ahead. I saw the entrance of a grave plain to view, right in my path, open and staring at me, its mouth wide open. The highway behind it led to eternity and the convoys traveling it caught my eye. And all that I have as my support and defense in the face of the horrors that come from these six directions is only a limited, insignificant willpower. Since that willpower, which is the sole human defense against those innumerable enemies and harmful things, is defective, short-range, and feeble, with no power to create, it is capable of nothing apart from being something receptive and committing. It can neither turn back and enter the past so that it can silence the sorrows that arise from there nor can it penetrate the future so that it can prevent the fears that come from there. I saw that my pains and ambitions concerning the past and future were to no avail.

Even as I was struggling with the horror, isolation, darkness and despair coming from these six directions, the lights of belief which shine in the heaven of the Qur’an of miraculous expression suddenly came to my aid. They lit up and illuminated those six directions to such a degree that if the horrors and darkness I had seen increased a hundredfold, the lights would still have been sufficient to dispel them. One by one they changed all these horrors into comfort and isolation into companionship. It was as follows:

Belief rent asunder the desolate view of the past as a vast graveyard and showed it with utter certainty to be a familiar and enlightened gathering of friends.

Belief showed the future, which appears in the form of a huge graveyard to heedless eyes, certainly to be a banquet of the All-Merciful in delightful palaces of happiness.

Belief rent the view of the present time as a coffin, as it appears to heedless eyes, and showed it with certainty to be a place of trade for the Hereafter and a splendid guesthouse of the All-Merciful.

Belief showed with certainty that the only fruit at the top of the tree of life was not a corpse, as it appears to heedless eyes, but that my spirit, which was created for eternal life and endowed with potential to gain eternal happiness, has left its worn-out home to travel through the stars.

Through its meaning and content, belief showed that my bones and the dust which was the source of my creation were not worthless dust trampled underfoot, but that the soil was the door to Divine Mercy and a veil before the hall of Paradise.

Belief also showed through the Qur’an that the world, which had appeared to my heedless eye as revolving behind me through the valleys of nothingness and the darkness of non-existence, consists of missives of the Eternally Besought-of-All and pages of the embroideries of the Divine glorification of God. When they (these missives and pages, that is, all the existent things and happenings in the world) have completed their tasks, displaying their content and meanings, they depart the world one after the other, leaving their results in existence in their place. With complete certainty the true nature of the world is made known.

Through the light of the Qur’an belief showed that the grave which is looking at me from a certain distance with eyes wide open is not the mouth of a well, but the door to the world of light, and that the highway stretching to eternity beyond the grave leads not to nothingness and non-existence but to existence and a realm of light, and eternal happiness. Since belief has shown this truth with convincing certainty, it is both a cure and ointment for my afflictions.

Furthermore, in place of a very minor ability to choose and implement, belief gives that limited human faculty of willpower a document through which it may rely on an infinite Power and be connected to a limitless Mercy in the face of these innumerable enemies and veils of darkness. Indeed, belief itself is that document in the hand of human willpower. Though this human instrument of willpower is in itself both short-range, feeble, and deficient, yet— just as when a soldier uses his limited capacities on behalf of the state, he performs duties far exceeding those capacities—through belief, if that limited willpower is used in the name of God Almighty and in His cause, it may also gain a paradise as broad as five hundred years of walking.

Belief takes from the body the reins of the willpower, which cannot penetrate the past or the future, and hands them over to the heart and spirit. Since the sphere of the life of the spirit and heart is not restricted to the present time as the body is, and since it encompasses a great many years from the past and a great many years from the future, the willpower no longer becomes limited and acquires universality. Just as through the power of belief it can enter the deepest valleys of the past and remove the darkness of the sorrows that arise from the past, so too through the light of belief it can rise as far as the farthest mountains of the future, and remove the apprehensions and anxieties that arise from there.

And so, my elderly brothers and sisters who, like me, are suffering the hardships of old age! Since, all praise be to God, we are believers, and belief contains so many light-diffusing, delightful, pleasant, and satisfying treasures; and since our old age drives us even further into the contents of those treasures, then, surely, rather than complaining about old age that is accompanied by belief, we should be offering endless thanks for it.

Bediuzzaman Said Nursi