The eighth hope


At a time when grey hairs, the sign of old age, were appearing on my head, I returned to Istanbul from captivity as a prisoner of war (in Russia) after the turmoil of the First World War, and this made the deep sleep of youth even heavier. In addition to the great celebrity and honor accorded to me, the kind treatment and attention far exceeding my due that I received from everyone, from the caliph, the shaykhul-Islam, and the commander in chief of the army to the students of religious schools, the intoxication of youth, and the mood produced by my position made the sleep of youth so heavy that I saw the world as perpetual and myself cemented in it as if there were no longer death.

Then, one day in the holy month of Ramadan, I went to Bayazid Mosque in Istanbul to listen to the sincere reciters of the Qur’an. Through the tongues of the reciters, the Qur’an of miraculous expression was proclaiming with its exalted heavenly address the decree, Every soul is bound to taste death (3: 185), which most powerfully declares the inevitable death of the human being and of all living creatures. It entered my ear, and established itself in the very center of my heart, shattering the extremely thick layers of my sleep of heedlessness and intoxication. I went out of the mosque. Because of the stupor of the sleep, which had for so long settled in my head in which now a tempest was raging and a fire was burning producing smoke, for several days I saw myself as a boat which had lost its course. Every time I looked in the mirror, the grey hairs told me, “Be careful!” And so the reality showed itself through the warnings of my grey hairs.

I noticed that my youth, which had so captivated me with its pleasures and in which I had so trusted, was saying farewell to me, and this worldly life in which I was so lovingly involved was beginning to fade; the world which I so loved and with which I was closely connected was seeing me off, warning me that I would be leaving this guesthouse. It was itself, while bidding farewell, preparing to depart. From the encompassing content of the verse, Every soul is bound to taste death, the following meanings were unfolding in my heart: humankind is a soul—it will die in order to be resurrected; the earth is a soul—it will die in order to assume an eternal form; and the world too is a soul—it will die in order to assume the form of the Hereafter.

So, while in this state, I considered my situation. I saw that youth, which is the mine of pleasures, was going away, being replaced by old age—the source of sorrow. Life, which shines so brightly, was departing, and death, which is apparently dark and terrifying, was preparing to take its place. The lovable world, which is thought to be perpetual and is the beloved of the heedless, was hastening to its demise.

In order to delude myself and plunge my mind into heedlessness once more, I considered the pleasures of the social position I enjoyed in Istanbul, which was far exceeding my due, but it was of no use at all. All the regard, attention, and consolation of people could only attend me as far as the door of the grave, which was so near me; there it would be extinguished. And since I saw a repugnant hypocrisy, cold pretension, self-adulation, and temporary stupefaction under the embellished veil of glory and renown, which is the greatest aim of those who chase celebrity, I understood that these things which had deluded me until then could provide no solace for me and that there was no light to be found in them.

I again turned to the reciters in the Bayazid Mosque in order to hear the heavenly teaching of the Qur’an and to be awakened once more. Then from its exalted instruction I heard glad tidings through such sacred decrees as And give glad tidings to those who believe…

Through the radiation provided by the Qur’an, I sought consolation, hope, and light, not beyond but within the matters that had provoked in me horror, desolation and despair. A hundred thousand thanks be to God Almighty, I had found the cure within the affliction itself, I had found the light within the darkness itself, and I had found the solace within the horror itself.

Firstly, I looked in the face of death, which terrifies everyone and is imagined as being the most terrible thing. Through the light of the Qur’an I saw that although death’s veil is black, dark, and ugly, for believers its true face is luminous and beautiful. We have convincingly expressed this truth in several parts of the Risale-i Nur. For instance, as we explained in the Eighth Word and the Twentieth Letter, death is not extinction and eternal separation; it is rather the introduction to eternal life, its beginning. It is a rest from the hardships of life’s duties, a demobilization. It is a change of residence. It is meeting with the caravan of one’s friends who have already migrated to the Intermediate World of the grave, and so on. I saw death’s true, beautiful face through realities such as these. It was not with fear but with a certain yearning that I looked at the face of death. Indeed, in a sense, it was with yearning, and I understood some meaning of the Sufis’ “contemplation of death.”

Then I looked at my departed youth, which had been spent in heedlessness—the youth which infatuates everyone and whose departure makes them weep. I saw that within its beautiful embellished garb was the ugliest, most drunken and stupefied face. Had I not learnt its true nature, in return for intoxicating and amusing me for a few years. If I remained in the world a hundred years, it would have caused me to weep that long. One such person lamented, “If only one day my youth had returned, I would have told it of the woes old age has brought me.”

Indeed, elderly people who, like that person, do not know the true nature of youth, think of their own youth, and weep with regret and longing. But youth spent in worship, good works, and trade for the Hereafter by believers with sound minds and hearts is the most powerful means of earning and the most agreeable and pleasant means of doing good works. For those who know their religious duties and do not misspend their youth, it is a precious and enjoyable Divine favor. When it is not spent in uprightness, modesty, and God-consciousness, youth poses numerous risks.

When unrestrained, it ruins eternal happiness and the life in this world. Indeed, in return for the pleasures of a few years’ youth, many years of grief and sorrow are caused in old age.

Since youth is harmful for most people, we elderly people should thank God that we have been saved from its dangers and harm. Like everything else, the pleasures of youth are transitory. If youth has been spent in worship and good works, its fruits remain perpetually in place and will be the means of gaining youth in eternal life.

Next, I looked at the world, which most people love with deep attachment. Through the light of the Qur’an, I saw that there are three universal worlds, one within the other:

The first relates to the Divine Names; it is a mirror to them.

The second relates to the Hereafter; it is an arable field for it.

The third relates to worldly people; it is the playground of the heedless.

Moreover, everyone has his own particular world within this world. It is as if there are worlds, one within the other, equal to the number of human beings. But the pillar of everyone’s private world is their own life. When their bodies are destroyed, their world collapses on their head, and it is doomsday for them. Since the heedless do not realize that their world has such a nature, which is bound for such speedy destruction, they suppose it to be perpetual as the general world appears to be and adore it. I thought to myself, “I too have a private world that will quickly collapse like the worlds of other people. What value does this private world of mine, this short life of mine, have?”

Through the light of the Qur’an, I saw that both for myself and everyone else this world is a temporary market place set up on the road for the passers-by to shop in, a guesthouse which is every day filled and emptied, an ever-renewed notebook of the Eternal Inscriber, in which He continuously writes and erases; every spring is a gilded letter of His and every summer a well-composed ode. It is formed of mirrors that reflect the ever-renewed manifestations of the All-Majestic Maker’s Names; it is a seedbed of the Hereafter, a flowerbed of Divine Mercy, and a temporary workshop producing tablets that will be displayed in the Realm of Eternity.

I offer a hundred thousand thanks to the Creator of Majesty, Who has made the world in this way. I understood that while humankind has been endowed with love for the beautiful, inner faces of the world, which look to the Hereafter and Divine Names, many have wasted that love on its transient, ugly, harmful, heedless face, and so realized the meaning of the hadith, “Love of this world is the source of all errors.”9

And so, elderly brothers and sisters, I realized this truth through the light of the wise Qur’an, and the warnings of my old age and belief opened my eyes; I have demonstrated this with decisive proofs in several parts of the Risale-i Nur. I have found a true solace, powerful hope, and radiant light. I am happy that I am old; and I am glad that my youth is gone. You do likewise: do not weep, but offer thanks. Since there is belief and since the truth is thus, it is the heedless who should weep and the misguided who should lament.

Bediuzzaman Said Nursi

9 al-Bayhaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman, 7:338; al-Mundhiri, at-Targhib watTarhib, 3:178. (Tr.)