The sixteenth hope


Once in my old age I was released from the Eskisehir prison after serving a year’s sentence. They exiled me to Kastamonu (in northern Turkey), where they kept me for two or three months as a guest in the police station. It may be understood how much distress someone like me suffered in a place like that; how difficult this was for one who prefers solitude, one who is wearied by meeting even loyal friends, and one who cannot endure the change of his classical, native dress. While in such tormenting conditions, Divine Grace suddenly came to the aid of my old age. The inspector and police officers in the police station became like faithful friends. They did not once warn me about how I dressed, and, as if they were my servants, they used to take me for trips around the town.

Then I took up residence in Kastamonu’s “Risale-i Nur Medrese,” opposite the police station, and started to write more of the Risale-i Nur. Heroic Risale-i Nur students like Feyzi, Emin, Hilmi, Sadik, Nazif, and Salahaddin attended the Medrese in order to duplicate the treatises in their handwriting and distribute them. We held scholarly debates even more profound than those I had held in my youth with my former students.

Then our secret enemies aroused the suspicions of some officials and some egotistical hojas and sheikhs concerning us. They caused us and the Risale-i Nur students from five or six provinces to be gathered together in the “School of Joseph” of Denizli prison. The details of this Sixteenth Hope are to be found in the short letters sent from Kastamonu and those I secretly sent to my brothers while in Denizli prison, and in the collection containing the court defense speeches. So referring the details to those letters and to my defense speech, I will cut it short here:

I hid certain confidential and important treatises under the coal and firewood so that they might be published after my death or after the top-ranking authorities in the capital city listened to the truth and came to their senses. While I was feeling relaxed about this, some detectives and the assistant public prosecutor suddenly raided my house. They pulled out those confidential and important treatises from under the wood. Afterwards, they arrested me and sent me to Isparta prison, although I was in bad health. While I was greatly upset and extremely saddened at the harm that had come to the Risale-i Nur, Divine Grace came to our aid. The authorities began to read with great care and curiosity these important treatises which had been hidden, and of which they were much in need, and the government offices became like Risale-i Nur study centers. Having started to read with the intention of criticizing, they began to appreciate them. Even in Denizli, although we were unaware of it, numerous official and unofficial people read the secretly printed edition of Ayetü’l-Kübra (The Supreme Sign), and their belief was strengthened. This reduced to nothing the disaster of prison that we were suffering.

Later they took us to Denizli prison, and put me into solitary confinement in a stinking, cold, damp cell. While struggling with old age, illness, and the unhappiness that arose from the troubles my friends were suffering because of me, as well as the grief and distress caused by the confiscations of the parts of the Risale-i Nur and the cessation in its activities, Divine Grace suddenly came to my aid. It changed that huge prison into a Risale-i Nur Medrese, proving it to be a School of Joseph. The Risale-i Nur started to spread through the diamond pens of the heroes of the Medresetu’z Zehra. In those severe conditions, one of those heroes, who is the most advanced in serving the Risale-i Nur, copied out more than twenty copies of the Fruits of Belief and the Collection of Defense Speeches in the space of three or four months. They began to conquer minds and hearts both within the prison and outside. This changed our losses in that disaster into great gains and our distress into joy. It once again demonstrated the truth in the verse, It may well be that you dislike a thing but it is good for you (2: 216).

Then due to the harsh criticisms of the first Experts Committee, based on incorrect and superficial official reports, and due to the dreadful attacks by the Education Minister and the statement he published against us, as well as some press releases, things went so far that they even tried to have some of us executed. While in these circumstances, Divine Grace came to our aid. First of all, against all expectations, an appreciative report came from the Experts Committee in Ankara. In addition, we proved in court that certain points that they had shown to be errors in the Risale-i Nur collections were completely correct, and that they themselves had been in error. Also, we showed almost ten errors they had made in their five pages of report. Then, while awaiting severe, threatening reproaches in return for the Fruits of Belief and Collections of Defense Speeches Collections, which we had sent to seven government offices, and for the entire Risale-i Nur, which had been sent to the Ministry of Justice, and in particular the strong criticisms that had been laid against certain important persons in confidential treatises, they responded extremely leniently. Even like the reassuring letter that had been sent to us by the Prime Minister, they were conciliatory, far from attacking us. All these proved decisively that, as a miracle of Divine Grace, the truths of the Risale-i Nur had caused them to study its treatises like a guide, and made those broad circles into a sort of study circle, securing the belief of numerous hesitating or bewildered people, causing us spiritual joy and profit a hundred times greater than our distress.

Then our secret enemies poisoned me and at the same time the late Hafiz Ali, the martyred hero of the Risale-i Nur, went to hospital and from there traveled to the Intermediate Realm of the grave in my place; we wept in despair. Before this disaster, I had repeatedly exclaimed on the mountain at Kastamonu, “My brothers, don’t give meat to the horse or grass to the lion!” That is, “Don’t give all the treatises to everyone, lest they misunderstand them and use them to attack us.” At the time when I had so exclaimed, as if he had heard via his spiritual telephone from a distance of seven days’ march, Hafiz Ali, may God have mercy on him, wrote to me, “Indeed, my teacher, it is a wonder of the Risale-i Nur that it does not give meat to horses or grass to lions. Rather, it gives horses grass and lions meat so that it gave that lion-like hoja the treatise on Sincerity.” I received his letter seven days later. We made the calculations, and discovered that at the very moment I was shouting out those words on the mountain, he was writing them in his letter.

Thus, just at the time when we were feeling depressed by the death of that hero of the Risale-i Nur and the intrigues that our hypocritical enemies undertook against us so that we would be suspected and punished, and when we were worried that I would be taken to hospital on official orders as I was ill from the poison, Divine Grace suddenly came to our aid. Through the sincere prayers of my blessed brothers, the risk of my death from the poison disappeared. According to powerful signs, Hafiz Ali, that blessed martyr, was occupied in his grave with the Risale-i Nur, and answered with the Risale-i Nur to the questioning angels; and the Denizli hero, Hasan Feyzi, may God have mercy on him, who would serve in his place and work according to his system, and his friends, were serving the Risale-i Nur effectively. Since the other prisoners were being reformed by the Risale-i Nur, even our enemies supported our being released from prison. Resembling the Companions of the Cave,25 the Risale-i Nur students turned that place of ordeal into a cave of the ascetics of former times, and endeavored to write and publish the parts of the Risale-i Nur with contented hearts. All of these proved that Divine Grace had come to our aid.

It also occurred to my heart that since leading scholars of the Law such as Imam A‘zam Abu Hanifa26 had suffered imprisonment; since a supreme defender of Islam like Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal27 had been severely tormented in prison for the sake of a single issue related to the Qur’an, and had borne it in perfect patience, not remaining silent about the matter in question; and since numerous religious leaders and scholars had offered thanks in complete patience, without being shaken, although they had been subjected to torments far greater than ours, then certainly we were obliged to offer endless thanks for the few troubles we had to suffer in return for the great reward that we gained from the many truths of the Qur’an. Let me describe briefly a manifestation of Divine Grace amidst humankind’s wrongful tyranny:

When I was twenty years old I used to repeatedly say, “Like the recluses who withdrew into caves in former times, towards the end of my life I will retreat from social life into a cave or onto a mountain.” Also, when I was a prisoner of war in the northeast of Russia during the World War I, I decided that I would spend the remaining part of my life in caves. I would withdraw from political and social life. I had had enough of them. Now I see that, in a way far better than my decision and wish, out of compassion for my old age, the Grace of the Lord and the justice of Divine Destiny changed those caves, which I had thought of withdrawing into, into prisons, retreats, and places of ordeal in loneliness and solitary confinement. It had given me Schools of Joseph that are far superior to the mountain caves of ascetics and recluses, and places of solitary confinement so that I might not waste my time. It had both granted me the benefits of the Hereafter that are expected of retreat in caves, and enabled me to carry out a sacred service to the truths of belief and the Qur’an, which is a kind of jihad. I had even thought of feigning guilt of some offense and remaining in prison following the acquittal of my friends, with bachelors like Husrev and Feyzi. On some pretext I would have remained in the cell for solitary confinement in order not to meet with people or not to waste my time on useless conversation or egotistical affectation. But Divine Destiny sent us to another place of ordeal. In accordance with the Divine rules, “That which God chooses is what is good,” and It may well be that you dislike a thing but it is good for you (2: 216), out of compassion for my old age and so that we should work harder in the service of belief, we were charged with duties beyond our will and power in this third School of Joseph.

There are instances of wisdom and three important benefits for the service of the Risale-i Nur in the Divine Grace compassionately turning the caves I had thought to withdraw into during my youth, when I had no powerful, secret enemies, into the solitary confinement cells of prison for my old age:

First instance of wisdom and benefit: At this time the Risale-i Nur students can gather only in the School of Joseph without harm. Their coming together outside would have both been expensive and caused suspicion. In such a situation it might even have happened that some of those who came to visit me would have spent forty or fifty liras but would have had to return after only seeing me for twenty minutes or not seeing me at all. Therefore, I would have willingly chosen the hardship of prison in order to be closer to some of my brothers. This means that prison is a favor and mercy for us.

Second instance of wisdom and benefit: The service to belief at this time through the Risale-i Nur is possible through publicizing it everywhere and drawing the attention of those who are in need of it. Thus, our imprisonment draws attention to the Risale-i Nur and contributes to its being known. Those who are most stubborn and in most need can find it and preserve their belief; their stubbornness is defeated and they are saved from the danger of going to the other world without belief, and thus the Risale-i Nur’s circle of study is widened.

Third instance of wisdom and benefit: The Risale-i Nur students who are imprisoned learn from one another’s conduct, character, sincerity, and self-sacrifice, and they no longer seek worldly benefits in their service through the Risale-i Nur. Indeed, since in the School of Joseph they have observed with their own eyes ten or even a hundred spiritual benefits and good results for every hardship and trouble they suffer, through the good results and extensive sincere service to belief, they are able to attain pure sincerity, no longer lowering themselves by seeking lesser, personal benefits.

There is, however, a sorrowful but agreeable point concerning these places of ordeal that concerns me alone. It is as follows:

I have observed the same situation here that I saw in the old medreses in my hometown during my youth. For traditionally in the Eastern Provinces, a portion of the needs of the medrese students were met from outside the medrese. In some medreses, their meals were prepared in the medrese itself. And there are several other ways in which the medreses resembled this place of ordeal. As I watch the prison with a feeling of pleasurable regret and longing, I travel in my imagination to those former sweet times of youth, and forget the difficulties of old age.

Bediuzzaman Said Nursi

25 The Companions of the Cave were seven youths who proclaimed their faith in God’s Unity in the presence of the polytheist king of the country, and therefore had to shelter in a cave. As a Divine miracle, they slept in the cave for three hundred years, and were awakened to find that their faith had become the official religion of their nation. Having witnessed this, they died and were buried in the cave. See, the Qur’an, 18:9–26. They are known as, the Seven Sleepers, in the West. (Tr.)

26  Imam A‘zam Abu Hanifa, Nu‘man ibn Thabit (d. 768): Founded the Hanafi School of Law and one of the greatest Muslim scholars of jurisprudence and deducer of new laws from the Qur’an and Sunna. He was also well-versed in theology. (Tr.)

27  Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d., 855): The founder of one of the four Sunni schools of law in Islam. He valiantly suffered persecution for the sake of his religious conviction. His Musnad is famous, containing about 40,000 Traditions that he collected. (Tr.)