The fifteenth hope
When I was once in enforced residence in Emirdağ,24 in what was virtually solitary confinement, I became wearied of life because of the torments inflicted on me through unbearable surveillance and pressure. I regretted having been released from prison and longed for Denizli Prison with all my spirit, even wishing to enter the grave. But, even as I was thinking that prison or the grave were preferable to a life like this, Divine Grace came to my aid and bestowed on me the students of the Medresetu’z-Zehra , whose pens were like the duplicating machines that had just been invented. All at once, five hundred copies of each of the valuable collections of the Risale-i Nur appeared; one pen had become five hundred. The fact that this work gained new hearts on a wider scale made me love that distressing life, causing me to offer endless thanks.
A while later, the covert enemies of the Risale-i Nur could no longer bear its victories, and provoked the government against us. Again life started to become difficult for me. Then suddenly, Divine Grace showed itself: the officials connected with the case, who were in fact most in need of the Risale-i Nur, studied the confiscated copies of it in connection with their duties with great curiosity and care, and their hearts became friendly to it. When they began to appreciate this work instead of criticizing it, the Risale-i Nur circle of study greatly expanded. It produced spiritual profits a hundred times greater than our material losses, reducing our anxiety and distress to nothing.
Then, secret, hypocritical enemies drew the government’s attention to my person. They recounted my political activities during my days of the Old or Former Said. They caused both the justice department, and the education authorities, and the police, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs to be suspicious of me. Due to certain political trends and the provocation of certain communists, who were in fact anarchists, the suspicions became more widespread. They started to pressure us and arrest us, and confiscate those parts of the Risale-i Nur that came into their hands. The activities of the Risale-i Nur students came to a standstill. With the thought of disgracing me in the sight of people, a number of officials made false accusations so absurd that no one could have believed them at all. They tried to spread the most incredible slander, but they could not make anyone believe it.
Then on some most trivial pretext they arrested me during the intensely cold days of winter, and kept me in solitary confinement in prison, in a large and extremely cold cell that had no form of heating. When in my small room I had been accustomed to light my stove several times a day, and had always had live coals in the brazier because of my weakness and illness. Despite this, I was only able to endure the cold with great difficulty because of my weakness and illness. While struggling in the cell, suffering both from fever caused by the cold and from a dreadful distress and anger, a truth unfolded in my heart through Divine Grace. What follows occurred to my spirit:
You called prison the “Medrese-i Yusufiya”—the School of the Prophet Joseph. And while in the Denizli prison, circumstances a thousand times greater than your distress caused such spiritual gain that other prisoners benefited from the Risale-i Nur, and its conquests were on a larger scale; this caused you to offer thousands of thanks instead of complaining. They made each hour of your imprisonment and hardship equal to ten hours of worship, and those transient hours became eternal. God willing, the fact that those who suffer imprisonment in your third School of Joseph will benefit from the Risale-i Nur and find consolation in it will warm this cold, severe hardship of yours and transform it into joy. If those with whom you are angry have been deceived, then they are ill-treating you unknowingly. So, they do not deserve anger. But if they are tormenting you and causing you suffering knowingly, out of spite and on account of misguidance, soon they will enter the solitary confinement of the grave through the eternal execution of death, where they will suffer incessant torment. On account of their oppression, you are both earning merit and spiritual pleasures, and making your transient hours eternal, and performing scholarly and religious duties with sincerity.
With all my strength I uttered, “All praise and thanks be to God!” Being a human, I pitied those tyrants and prayed, “O my Lord, reform them!” As I wrote in my statement to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, those responsible for this new incident, which was completely unlawful in at least ten respects, were themselves the guilty ones. Those tyrants had acted unlawfully even in the eyes of human law. Through the most incredible pretexts they had contrived such slanders and fabrications that those who heard them laughed and lovers of truth wept, demonstrating to the fair-minded that they had been completely unable to find a way to attack the Risale-i Nur or its students according to the law or to justice, and therefore they had deviated into lunacy.
For instance, the officials who had spied on us for a month could find nothing to accuse us of, so they wrote a note that said, “Said’s servant bought raki from a shop and took it to him.” Unable to find anyone to sign the note, they finally picked up a drunken, uncivilized man and tried to bully him into signing it. Even he said, “God forgive us! Who would sign this most incredible lie?” So they were compelled to tear it up.
A second example: Someone I did not know personally and still do not know loaned me his horse so that I could take an excursion into the country. Because of my illness and in order to take some air, I would go out most days for a couple of hours in summer. Following my rule and in order not to feel indebted to anyone, I had promised the owner of the horse and the carriage (that came with it) books worth fifty lira. Is there any danger in such a thing? But as though it was an important political event or an incident that affected public security, the governor, the court officials, and the police asked us nearly fifty times who the horse belonged to. In order that this meaningless questioning might come to an end, out of human tenderness, one person said that the horse was his and another that the carriage was his. They were both arrested with me. We faced numerous childish games such as these and sometimes we laughed and sometimes we cried. We understood that those who attacked the Risale-i Nur and its students only made fools of themselves.
A peculiar conversation from among these incidents is as follows: On the paper authorizing my arrest it was recorded that it was for “disturbing public order.” Without having seen the document, I told the public prosecutor, “I spoke behind your back last night. I said to a police officer who was questioning me on behalf the Chief of Police, ‘If I have not served the public security of this country to the same degree as a thousand public prosecutors and a thousand police chiefs—I repeated this three times—may God damn me!’”
Then at that point, in those freezing conditions, I was almost overcome by anger and annoyance with those whose hatred and ill intentions had sent me into this unbearable exile, isolation, arrest, and oppression at a time when I was most in need of rest, of avoiding catching cold and being anxious about the world.
Divine Grace came to my aid, and it occurred to my heart as follows:
Divine Destiny, which is pure justice, has a large part in the oppression which these people are inflicting on you. You have food to eat in this prison; that provision of yours called you here. You should respond with contentment and resignation. The Wisdom and Mercy of the Lord have also a significant part in this situation: you should try to enlighten those in this prison and console them, so you might gain reward. Your response should be thousands of thanks and great patience. Your soul also has a part in this situation because of certain faults you may be unaware of. Your response should be repentance and seeking forgiveness, telling your soul that it deserved this blow. Also, some of your secret enemies have a part in it, through their deceitful intrigues that provoke certain ingenuous and suspicious officials to such oppression. In response to this, the powerful immaterial blows dealt by the Risale-i Nur to those hypocritical ones have sought your revenge completely. That is enough for them. Finally, the officials who were the actual means of bringing about this situation have a part in it. Your response should be—so that they may benefit from the Risale-i Nur through belief, whether they want to or not, and even if they came to it with the intention of criticizing it—to forgive them according to the rule, The God-revering, righteous ones—those who …. ever-restrain their rage (even when provoked and able to retaliate), and pardon people (their offenses) (3:134); that would be an act of magnanimity.
Due to the perfect contentment and gratitude I felt as a result of this veritable warning, I decided to remain in this new “School of Joseph,” and even to commit some harmless offence which would inflict upon me a prison sentence so that I might help even those who were opposed to me. Furthermore, I was seventy-five years old, without any worldly attachment, and out of seventy of those whom I loved only five remained alive. Besides, seventy thousand copies of the Risale-i Nur collection were in free circulation and would perform my duties, and in addition, I had brothers and sisters and heirs who would serve belief with thousands of tongues in place of my one tongue. Therefore, the grave was a hundred times better for me than this prison. And the prison was a hundred times more comfortable and more beneficial than liberty outside that had no freedom and which was subject to tyranny and oppression. For in place of having to suffer all alone outside the oppression of hundreds of officials, in prison, with hundreds of other prisoners, one only had to suffer the slight “formal” oppression of one or two people, like the prison governor and chief warder. But one receives the brotherly kindness and consolation of many companions in prison. In addition, Islamic compassion and human innate tenderness lead to the kind treatment of the elderly in such a position, thus turning the hardship of prison into mercy. In consideration of all these, I became resigned to prison.
When I went to court for this third trial, because of my difficulty in remaining standing due to weakness, old age, and illness, I sat on a chair outside the door of the trial room. The judge suddenly appeared and angrily asked in a spiteful manner, “Why isn’t he waiting standing up?” I became angry at this mercilessness in the face of old age. Suddenly, I saw that a large number of Muslims had gathered around us and were watching with complete affection and brotherly compassion, and not dispersing. The following two truths occurred to me:
The first: The secret enemies of myself and the Risale-i Nur had deceived certain ingenuous officials in the hopes that in this way they could put a stop to the Risale-i Nur’s conquests by destroying the public’s good opinion of me and damaging my reputation— something that in any case I did not want. They had provoked those officials to act disdainfully towards me in that way. But in place of that one man’s insults, see these hundred people as a Divine favor for the Risale-i Nur’s service to belief! Appreciating your service, they pity you and are offering their sympathy, and they welcome you and see you off. Indeed, the next day while I was answering the public prosecutor’s questions, about a thousand people gathered in the courtyard outside the court windows, showing their concern. It was as though they wished to tell the authorities not to oppress me. The police were unable to make them disperse. It occurred to me that in this perilous age these people desire true solace, an inextinguishable light, a powerful belief, and certain glad tidings about eternal happiness—by their very nature, they were searching for these. They must have heard that what they were searching for existed in the Risale-i Nur, and this was the reason why they showed my unimportant person such attention and regard for the little service I had performed for belief—the attention and regard that far exceeded my due.
The second truth: It occurred to me that in return for the insulting ill-treatment of a few deceived individuals which they inflicted on us due to their ungrounded suspicions that we were disturbing public order and with the intention to prevent our service for belief and to destroy public acclaim and regard for us, came the applause and appreciation of innumerable people of truth and forthcoming generations.
Through the strength of certain, verified belief, in every part of this country the Risale-i Nur and its students have halted the dreadful corrupting efforts of anarchy that shelter under the veil of communism and which are trying to destroy public order. The Risale-i Nur and its students work to maintain public order and security, and as a result in over twenty years three or four courts and the police in ten provinces have not been able to find or record any incidents of public order violation by the Risale-i Nur students, who are very numerous and found in every part of the country. And some fair-minded police officers in three provinces have stated, “The Risale-i Nur students are moral police. They help us with the preservation of public order. Through certain, verified belief, something is left in everyone’s head who reads the Risale-i Nur that prevents them from committing any offense. They work to secure public order.”
An example of this was Denizli prison. When the Risale-i Nur, including in particular Meyve Risalesi (The Treatise on the Fruits of Belief), which was written in that prison, entered there, within a period of three or four months the prisoners, numbering more than two hundred, became so extraordinarily obedient and acquired such religious, righteous conduct that a man who had killed three or four people held back from even killing bedbugs. They became completely compassionate, harmless and beneficial members of the nation. The officials observed this change in amazement and appreciation. Before receiving their sentences, some youths even said: “If the students of the Risale-i Nur remain in prison, we will try to have ourselves convicted so that we can be taught by them and become like them. We will reform ourselves through their teaching.”
So, those who accuse the Risale-i Nur students, who are of that quality, of disturbing public order are surely seriously mistaken, or have been deceived, or knowingly or unknowingly are deceiving the government for the sake of anarchy, and trying to crush us through oppression. We say the following to them:
Since death cannot be killed and the grave is not to be closed, and the travelers in this guesthouse of the world, convoy after convoy, enter the earth with great speed and ado, and disappear, certainly we too will part from one another very soon. You will receive the punishment for your oppression in a terrible fashion. You will mount the gallows of death, which is a door to eternal punishment for you but the discharge papers for the oppressed people of belief. The passing pleasures you have received in this world, which you imagine to be permanent, will change into everlasting, grievous pain.
Regrettably, our covert hypocritical enemies sometimes attach the name of “Sufi order” to the truth of Islam, which has been gained and preserved with the efforts of hundreds of millions of martyrs of the rank of saints and heroic veterans of this religious nation. While the way of Sufi orders is only a single ray of the Sun of Islam, they attempt to show it as the sun itself, and deceive certain careless government officials. Labeling the Risale-i Nur students, who in fact work effectively for the truths of the Qur’an and belief, as “followers of a Sufi order” and “members of a political society,” they wish to provoke such officials against us. We say to them, and to those who lend an ear to them against us, what we told the fair court at Denizli:
Let us too be sacrificed for a sacred truth, for which hundreds of millions of others have been sacrificed! Even if you set fire to the world to burn us, we who sacrifice ourselves for the truths of the Qur’an will not lay down our “arms” before heresy; by God’s will and help, we will not abandon our sacred duty!
And so, because of the sacred solace for the pains and despairing condition of my old age that emanates from belief and the Qur’an, I would not exchange even the most distressing year of my old age for ten of the happiest years of my youth. Particularly so, as every hour in prison of those who repent and perform the obligatory Prayers is equal to ten hours of worship under normal conditions, and each transient day spent in illness and oppression gains the reward of ten days of perpetual life, I have understood how deserving of thanks are these days for someone like me who is awaiting his turn at the door of the grave. I utter, “Endless thanks be to my Lord!” and am content with my old age and pleased with my imprisonment. For life does not cease; it passes swiftly. If it passes in pleasure and happiness, since the disappearance of pleasure is pain, it causes regret and grief, and due to thanklessness and heedlessness, it departs leaving sins in its wake. Whereas, if it passes in prison or hardship, since the disappearance of pain is a pleasure in spirit, and since it is considered to be a sort of worship, it becomes perpetual in one respect, and through its good fruits, gains permanence. It becomes atonement for the sins committed in the past and the mistakes that were the cause of imprisonment, purifying them. From this perspective, those among the prisoners who perform at least the compulsory parts of the obligatory Prayers should offer thanks in patience.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
24 Emirdağ is a district of Afyon, a province in the west of Turkey. (Tr.)