The tenth hope
After returning from captivity in Russia heedlessness overcame me for a year or two in Istanbul. During the days when the political atmosphere drew my attention away from myself to the outside world, I was once sitting on a high spot in the Eyüp Sultan graveyard overlooking the Golden Horn. I had a look around the horizons of Istanbul. I was suddenly overcome by such a state of mind that it was as if my private world was dying with my spirit being withdrawn in certain respects. Wondering whether the inscriptions on the gravestones were giving me such illusions, I withdrew my gaze. I looked not at the distance, but at the graveyard itself. Then the following was imparted to my heart: “This graveyard around you contains Istanbul a hundred times over, for Istanbul has been emptied here a hundred times. You cannot be an exception who can be saved from the judgment of the All-Wise and Powerful One, Who has poured all the people of Istanbul into here. You too will go.”
I left the graveyard and with that awesome experience entered a small cell in Eyüp Sultan Mosque where I had stayed many times before. I thought to myself: I am a guest in three respects: I am a guest in this small room, I am also a guest in Istanbul, and in this world. A guest has to consider the journey. In the same way that I will leave this room, so one day I will leave Istanbul, and yet another day I will leave this world.
Amidst these reflections, my heart was overwhelmed by a most pitiful, grievous sorrow. For I was not losing only one or two friends; I would be parted from thousands of friends whom I loved in Istanbul, and I would also part from Istanbul, which I loved dearly. And as I would be parted from hundreds of thousands of friends in this world, I would also be parted from the beautiful world that I loved and with which I was infatuated. Pondering this, I went up once more to the high spot in the graveyard. Having been to the movie theater from time to time in order to reflect and take lessons, just as the movie shows the images of dead people as if they were alive, moving around, that moment, all the dead of Istanbul appeared to me as corpses walking around. I said to my imagination: Since some of those in the graveyard appear to be walking around like people shown to move on a movie screen, so you should see those who are bound to enter the graveyard in the future as though they have entered it—they too are corpses, walking around.
All of a sudden, through the light of the Qur’an and through the guidance of Ghawth al-A’zam, Shaykh al-Jilani, my sorrowful state changed into a joyful, happy one. It was like this:
In the face of that sorrowful state, the light coming from the Qur’an reminded me: You had a few officer friends while you were in exile in Kosturma in the northeast of Russia. You knew that those friends would one day go to Istanbul. If one of them had asked you, “Would you go to Istanbul, or would you stay here?” certainly, if you had any intelligence, you would have gladly chosen to go to Istanbul. For out of a thousand and one friends, nine hundred and ninety-nine were already in Istanbul. Only one or two remained there, and they too would go to Istanbul one day. Going to Istanbul would not be a sad departure or a sorrowful separation for you. Moreover, at last, you came here and were you not happy to do so? You were delivered from the long, dark nights and cold, stormy winters in that enemy country. You came to this beautiful Istanbul, which resembled Paradise on the earth.
In the same way, from your childhood to your present age, ninety-nine out of a hundred of those whom you love have migrated to the graveyard; this is terrifying for you. You have only a few friends who are still in this world, and they too will go there. Your death in this world is not separation; it is a reunion—a reunion with all those friends. They—those everlastingly alive spirits—have left behind under the soil their worn-out dwellings, some traveling about the stars and some through the levels of the Intermediate Realm.
The Qur’an and belief demonstrate this truth so certainly and convincingly that unless one is entirely lacking in heart and spirit, or unless misguidance has suffocated one’s heart, it must be believed as though seeing it. For, most certainly and self-evidently, the All-Munificent and All-Compassionate Maker, Who adorns this world with His uncountable varieties of favors and gifts and so demonstrates His Lordship in an all-munificent and caring manner, preserving even the least significant things like seeds, would not annihilate or waste humanity—the most perfect, most comprehensive, and most important and beloved among His creatures—by sending it into eternal extinction or never-ending separation from those they love. Rather, as proven in the Tenth and Twenty-Ninth Words, like the seeds a farmer scatters over the earth, the All-Compassionate Creator temporarily takes that beloved creature of His under the ground, which is a door of mercy, in order to produce shoots in another life.
And so, after receiving this reminder from the Qur’an, the graveyard became more lovable to me than Istanbul. Solitude and seclusion became more pleasurable to me than conversation and company with people. And I found a place of seclusion for myself in Sarıyer on the Bosphorus. There, Ghawth al-A’zam al-Jilani, may God be pleased with him, became a master, doctor, and guide for me with his Futuhu’l-Ghayb (“Conquests Concerning the Unseen”), and Imam Rabbani, may God be pleased with him, a companion, a tenderhearted friend, and teacher with his Mektubat (“The Letters”). Then I was extremely pleased I had entered upon old age, renounced the pleasures of modern civilization, and withdrawn from social life. I thanked God.
And so, respected people who have entered upon old age like me and frequently remember death through its warnings! In accordance with the light of the teachings of belief in the Qur’an, we should look favorably on old age, death, and illness, and even love them in one respect. Since we have an infinitely precious gift like belief, old age is agreeable, and illness and death likewise. If there are things that are disagreeable, they are sins, dissipation, heresy, unacceptable innovations in the Religion, and misguidance.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi