The eleventh hope
After my return from captivity, I was living together with my nephew Abdurrahman in a villa on the hill of Çamlıca in Istanbul. In respect of worldly life, my situation could have been thought to be the happiest for people like us: I had been saved from captivity, and in the Darul-Hikmet al-Islamiya11 (“The House of Islamic Wisdom”), we were enjoying success in teaching and serving knowledge to the highest degree suited to my profession of teaching. The honor and attention afforded me was far greater than my due. I was living in Çamlıca, the most beautiful place of residence in Istanbul. Everything was perfect for me. I was together with my late nephew Abdurrahman, who was extremely intelligent and self-sacrificing, and was both my student, and servant, and scribe, and who was like a son to me. While in this situation knowing myself to be more fortunate than anyone else in the world, one day I looked in the mirror and I saw grey hairs in my hair and beard.
Suddenly, the spiritual awakening I had experienced in the mosque in Kosturma while in captivity began again. As a result, I began reflecting upon the circumstances and causes to which I was inwardly attached and which I supposed to be the means of happiness in the life of the world. Whichever of them I thought about, I now saw it as rotten, unworthy of attachment, a delusion of sorts. In the meantime, I suffered an unexpected and unimaginable act of treachery and betrayal at the hands of a friend I had supposed to be most loyal. I felt frightened of the world. I said to my heart, “Have I been utterly deluded? I see that many people look with envy at our situation, which in reality should be pitied. Are all these people crazy, or am I now going crazy so that I see all these world adoring people as such?”
Anyway, as a result of that intense awakening brought on by old age, first of all I took note of the transience of the short-lived things to which I felt attached. Then I took note of myself, and saw myself to be utterly powerless. Thereupon my spirit, which desired eternity and yet was deeply attached to transient things, supposing them to be eternal, pronounced most emphatically, “Since I am mortal regarding my body, what good can come from these mortal things? Since I am powerless, what can I expect from these powerless things? What I need is an All-Powerful, Everlasting One Who will provide a remedy for my ills.” And I began to search.
Then, before all else, I had recourse to the learning I had been studying for so long, and searched for a consolation, a hope. Unfortunately, up to that time I had filled my mind with “natural” sciences and the sciences of philosophy as well as Islamic ones, and had mistakenly imagined those philosophical and “natural” sciences to be the source of personal development and means of enlightenment. However, those philosophical issues had greatly muddied my spirit and hindered my spiritual development. Suddenly, thanks to the Mercy and Grace of God Almighty, the sacred wisdom contained in the wise Qur’an came to my aid. As explained in several parts of the Risale-i Nur, it washed away and cleansed the dirt of those philosophical issues.
For instance, the spiritual veils of darkness coming from “natural” sciences had caused the outer world to suffocate my spirit. In whichever direction I turned to seek enlightenment, I could find not a beam of light in those matters, nor could I breathe. And so it continued until the extraordinarily brilliant light of Divine Unity taught by the Qur’an with the declaration, “There is no deity but God,” dispersed all those veils of darkness, and I breathed easily. But based on what they had learnt from the people of misguidance and philosophers, my carnal soul and Satan attacked my reason and my heart. Thank to be God, the ensuing debate with my soul resulted in the victory of my heart. Those exchanges have been narrated in part in several parts of the Risale-i Nur. Without needing to go further, in order to show one thousandth part of that victory of the heart, I will explain here only one proof out of thousands. I hope that it may also purify, to a certain extent, the spirits of certain elderly people who have dirtied their spirits in their youth and caused their hearts to be diseased, spoiling their souls with matters that are in part misguidance and in part trivialities— the matters taught or studied in the name of what they call modern philosophy or certain modern sciences. And may their spirits be saved from the evil that Satan and the carnal, evil-commanding soul provoke concerning Divine Unity.
The one proof out of a thousand is as follows:
My carnal, evil-commanding soul said in the name of science and philosophy, “Due to their very nature, things have a share in the existence and operation of the universe. Everything depends on a cause. The fruit has to be demanded from the tree and seed from the soil. So what does it mean to seek the tiniest and least insignificant thing from God and to entreat Him for it?”
Through the light of the Qur’an, the meaning and mystery of Divine Unity then unfolded and my heart said to my soul as follows:
The tiniest and least significant thing, just like the greatest and largest, issues directly from the Power of the Creator of the entire universe and emerges from His treasury. It cannot occur in any other way. Causes are merely a veil. For, in respect of art and creation, sometimes the creatures we suppose to be the tiniest and least significant are greater than the largest ones. Even if a fly is not greater than a chicken in art, it is not lesser than it. So, we should not make a difference between great and small. Either all should be attributed to material causes, or all should be ascribed at once to a single Being. And just as the former alternative is inconceivable, the latter is necessary and inevitably acceptable.
For if things and beings are attributed to a single Being, that is, to One Who is Eternal and All-Powerful, since His Knowledge—the existence of which the order of the universe and uncountable instances of wisdom in it establish and demonstrate with utter certainty—encompasses everything; and since all things are determined in His Knowledge, each with a certain, particular measure; and since, manifestly, things and beings, infinitely full of art, constantly come into existence from nothing with infinite ease; and since, as has been convincingly demonstrated in many parts of the Risale-i Nur with numerous powerful proofs, the All-Knowing and All-Powerful One is absolutely able to create anything whatsoever with the command of “Be!” and it is, as simply as striking a match, He has limitless Power—this being so, the extraordinary ease and facility we observe in things coming into existence edge and the limitless immensity of that Power.
For example, if the appropriate chemical solution is applied to a book written in invisible ink, that book suddenly reveals its existence and makes itself read. Just so, the particular form and nature of everything are determined in the all-encompassing Knowledge of that Eternal, All-Powerful One with a certain, particular measure. Like the chemical solution applied to invisible writing, through His limitless Power and penetrating Will, the Absolutely All-Powerful One applies with the command of “Be!” and it is a manifestation of His Power to the being which exists as knowledge, giving it external existence with utter ease and facility. He makes read the embroideries of His Wisdom.
If all things are not all at once attributed to that Eternal, All-Powerful One, the Knower of all things, then as well as having to assemble, for example, the body of the tiniest thing like a fly from the great variety of beings in the world, in a precise measure, the particles operative in that tiny fly’s body will also have to know the mysteries of the fly’s creation and its perfect art in all its minutest details. For, manifestly and as agreed by all intelligent people, natural or physical causes cannot create something from non-existence. If they were able to create, they would be assembling the body of even the tiniest being from most of the species of beings. And if they were to be assembling it, no matter which animate being, as there are within each being samples of most elements and most species, as each living creature is like a seed of the universe or an extract from it, they would necessarily have to obtain a seed from the entire tree or animate being from the entire earth, carefully putting them through a fine sieve and measuring them with the most sensitive balance. However, natural causes are ignorant and lifeless, and they have no knowledge that will allow them to determine a plan, a content, model, or program according to which they can melt and cast the particles to shape the exact form of any being without allowing dispersal or deformation. Moreover, there are infinite alternatives for a thing or being to take on a particular form; this requires that the lifeless and ignorant natural causes know which form they should give to each thing and thus gather and hold together, according to a certain, particular measure, the particles of the elements that flow like floods. So, anyone who does not suffer from blindness in their heart will see how distant from probability and reason is the idea that natural causes can create all these beings, each with an extraordinarily well ordered body.
As a corollary of this truth, according to the meaning of the verse, Those whom, apart from God, you deify and invoke will never be able to create even a fly, even if all of them were to come together to do so (22: 73), if all physical causes were to come together and if they had willpower, they could not assemble all the systems and organs of a single fly in the exact order and balance particular to it to form its body. Even if they were able to assemble them, they could not retain or preserve them in the specified measure required by the existence of that body. Even if they were able to retain or preserve them thus, they could not make the particles in that body, which are constantly renewed or replaced by new ones coming from the outside world, work in order. Therefore, self-evidently, physical causes cannot claim ownership of things, and their True Owner is someone else.
Indeed, their True Owner is One for Whom, according to the verse, Your creation and your resurrection are but as (the creation and resurrection) of a single soul (31: 28), He revives all the living beings on the earth as easily as He revives a single fly. He creates the spring as easily as He creates a single flower, for He has no need to assemble things to create. Since He possesses the command “Be!” and it is and since every spring, in addition to the physical elements forming the bodies of beings, He also creates the innumerable attributes, states, and forms of innumerable beings from nothing, and since the plan, model, contents, and program of everything are already determined in His Knowledge, and since all particles and atoms move within the sphere of His Knowledge and Power, He creates everything with infinite ease, as though striking a match. And nothing confuses this motion in the least. In the same way that the planets are His obedient army, particles and atoms too move like a regular, well-ordered army for Him.
Since they move in dependence on that eternal Power, and operate in accordance with the principles of that eternal Knowledge, all things and beings come into existence with the invention of that Power. So, they should not be considered insignificant because they are small in body. Through the power it has because of its connection with that Power, a fly can destroy a Nimrod, an ant can ruin Pharaoh’s palace, and the tiny seed of a pine caries the burden of a tree that is as tall as a mountain. We have proved this truth in numerous places in the Risale-i Nur. In the same way that due to his connection with the state as a member of the army, an ordinary soldier can take a king prisoner, thus far exceeding his own personal capacity, so too, due to their connection with the eternal Power, all things can be favored with and display miracles of art exceeding the capacity of their natural causes by hundreds of thousands of times.
In short, the fact that all things come into existence with both infinite art and infinite ease shows that they are the works of an Eternal All-Powerful One Who has all-encompassing Knowledge. Otherwise, because of hundreds of thousands of impossibilities, far from being possible, their existence would be absolutely unimaginable.
Through this most subtle, powerful, profound, and self-evident proof, my carnal, evil-commanding soul, which had been a temporary student of Satan and the spokesman for the people of misguidance and deviant philosophy, was silenced, and, all praise be to God, came to believe completely. It said:
I need such a Creator and Lord that He should know the least and most secret occurrences to my heart and my most secret appeals. And, just as He should answer the most hidden needs of my spirit, He should also have the power to replace this mighty world with the Hereafter in order to give me eternal happiness, and to create the heavens as easily as a fly, and to place a particle in the pupil of my eye just as He fastens the sun as an eye in the face of the sky. For one who cannot create a fly cannot do anything in relation to the thoughts of my heart and cannot hear the appeals of my spirit. One who cannot create the heavens cannot give me eternal happiness. In that case, my Lord is He Who both corrects and purifies the occurrences to my heart, and, as He fills and empties the skies with clouds in an hour, He will replace this world with the Hereafter, make Paradise, and open its doors to me, telling me to enter.
So, my elderly brothers and sisters, who, misled by some unfortunate considerations as my soul was, having spent part of your lives on lightless materialist philosophy and scientism! Understand from the sacred decree of There is no deity but He, which is perpetually pronounced by the Qur’an, just how powerful and true, how unshakeable and impregnable, how unchanging and sacred a pillar of belief this is, and how it disperses all spiritual darkness and cures all spiritual wounds!
In any case, due to the grey hairs appearing in my hair and beard and the treachery of an old friend, I felt disgust at the pleasures of Istanbul’s glittering and apparently pleasant worldly life. My soul searched for spiritual pleasures in place of the pleasures with which it had been infatuated. It desired a light, a solace, in this old age, which the heedless think to be cold, burdensome, and unpleasant. And all praise be to God and countless thanks, just as I found the true, lasting, and sweet pleasures of belief in There is no deity but He and in the light of Divine Unity in place of all those false, unpleasant, fleeting and fruitless worldly pleasures, so too through the light of Divine Unity, I saw old age (which the heedless think cold and burdensome) to be most light, and warm, and luminous.
And so, elderly men and women! Since you have belief and since you regularly pray and offer supplications which illuminate and strengthen belief, you can view your old age as eternal youth. For you can gain eternal youth through it. The old age that is truly cold, burdensome, ugly, dark, and full of pain is the old age of the people of misguidance; indeed, their youth is thus as well. They should weep and utter sighs and regrets. But you, respected believing elderly people should thank God and rejoice, saying, “All praise and thanks be to God for every state!”
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
11 Darul-Hikmet al-Islamiya (“The House of Islamic Wisdom”), which was established in August 1918, was an Islamic academy. It was established in order to answer the questions posed to Islam, clarify the doubts raised concerning its precepts, and publish books to teach it. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi was one of its leading members. (Tr.)