Conclusion: About four diseases
First disease: Despair
KNOW, O FRIEND, that those who fear the punishment of Hell and cannot perform their duty of servanthood to God desire the non-existence of punishment and an argument against it. When they see signs that seem to confirm such an argument, they begin to be recruited by devils into their legions. [If you are in such a state,] give a sincere and attentive ear to the following Qur’anic verse:
Report [to them what I say]: “O My servants who have transgressed against their own selves! Do not despair of God’s Mercy. Surely God forgives all sins; for He is the All-Forgiving, the Most Compassionate.” (39:53)
Second disease: Self-admiration (due to good deeds)
When despair causes us to look for support against Hell’s punishment, we look at our good deeds and deviate into self-admiration. In reality, we have no right to own our good deeds. You have no right to claim ownership of your body, for you neither created it nor found it on the way, and it is neither the result of blind chance nor the product of lifeless causes. Rather, through its amazing design and the marvels of the art it exhibits, your body testifies that it is the handiwork of an All-Wise Maker Who continually looks after it.
Our part in our body’s operations is minute. Although humanity is the noblest cause and has the most comprehensive willpower among creation, the amount of free will we exercise is quite small. The area for freedom of action is, despite its apparent comprehensiveness, very narrow. If reason cannot control such a faculty as imagination, how can other faculties be considered within the realm of human free will? How can anyone take personal pride in them?
Furthermore, many things work for or against us. Although we might be unaware of many of them, they evidently serve many deliberate purposes. This means that the One Who causes them to occur is an All-Hearing, All-Seeing One with infinite consciousness, and not the individual or other deaf and blind causes. Thus there is no reason to claim personal ownership of good deeds, for one’s share in them is quite limited.
We are rather susceptible to the faults and defects engendered by misusing our free will. Such misuse changes the quality of the virtues pouring into the world due to the incessant manifestations of Divine Perfections. Your body (dwelling place) is a free loan in which you are a guest. Good deeds are gifts [that the Almighty enables us to do]; sin and evil are the result of misused willpower. So say: He owns (all things in the universe), to Him is all praise, and there is no power and strength except with Him.
Third disease: Vanity
Vanity or conceit engender a “distant view” of past virtuous and illustrious individuals and causes people to belittle them. Such people are deprived of the blessing and benefits coming from their good deeds and virtues, for they are blinded by illusion and have a negative opinion them. So, [to be saved from this disease] view them closely and see how in 40 days they accomplished what we cannot accomplish in 40 years.
Fourth disease: Suspicion
Suspicion of others causes people to think that others suffer the same defects and vices that they do. This view causes them to condemn everyone and blind themselves to the virtues of present and past illustrious people, from whom they could derive some benefit. Thus they turn daylight into night for themselves.
May God save us from despair, self-admiration, vanity, and suspicion. Amen.
Four significant truths I witnessed in my intellectual and spiritual journey
During this journey, I witnessed the following truths:
KNOW, O FRIEND, that indifference to the True Owner, the All-Glorified and Majestic, causes people to claim absolute independence and ownership of their self. Such a mistaken belief leads one to imagine a realm of personal dominion. Then, after comparing other people and material causes to themselves, they share the rest of God’s property or dominion among them. However, the Almighty has given us a (human) ego for a totally different purpose: to allow us to measure or compare Divinity’s attributes so that we may comprehend them.42 But we abuse their powers or faculties, attempt to oppose the Divine Commandments, and contend against the Creator’s Destiny and Decree.
O you who are accompanying me in my journey! This truth has become manifest to me in all its dimensions, as follows:
People can learn subtle truths, particularly abstract ones, through comparison, and infinite things can be perceived by imagining limits to them. So the human ego, rooted in each one of us through the “water” of indifference [to the True Owner of creation], was given to us to serve only as a point of comparison by which we can perceive the Attributes of the Creator, Who has no partners, and none to contend against Him in His Sovereignty, Lordship, or Divinity.
The ego does not own itself or its body. Its body is not something found on the way, the result of chance, or self-formed. Rather, it is an extremely complex, intricate, and amazing Divine machine or factory in which the Pen of Divine Power continuously works in the hand of Destiny and Decree.
O SELFHOOD! Give up such a false claim. Submit the “property” (the body) to its owner, and be a reliable trustee in fulfilling your responsibility toward the body with which you have been entrusted. When people claim (ownership of) even one particle, they begin to share God’s property with fellow beings and then with material causes. [Herein lie the roots of many kinds of associating partners with God in the creation and rule of the universe.]
O SELFHOOD! People do not own themselves. They do not make or create their bodies. Material causes cannot claim to own it either. How can
people make their own bodies, seeing that basically they do not differ from sheep? [People and sheep are made of the same elements and do not have the least part in creating themselves.] How can a sheep claim it has made its body? There is a close affinity between a sheep and a pomegranate. How can a pomegranate’s dye make its seeds? How can a fruit placed at the top of a tree create the tree? If a sheep can make itself, if a pomegranate can create its tree, then a human being can own itself.
Each creature proclaims: “I was made, in accordance with precise measures, by an All-Knowing, All-Wise, All-Hearing, and All-Seeing One.” Material causes are blind, deaf, and lifeless. Their intermingling only increases their blindness and deafness. Preparing a certain medicine requires proficiency in the relevant medical sciences and pharmacology, and accurate knowledge of the ingredients and the amounts needed. If these are all placed on a roof and a wind blows them down and then mixes them, can the required medicine be formed by itself or chance?
Materialists and naturalists attribute creation to itself, causes, or nature. If a given medicine can create itself in the circumstances outlined above, one can claim that creation is either self-created or the product of chance and causes. But the beginning of creation and the origin of things and life are questions that remain unanswered. Thus attributing creation to someone or something other than an All-Knowing, All-Wise, and All-Powerful Creator with an absolute Will is sheer, arrogant folly.
KNOW, O EVIL-COMMANDING SELF, that each person has a world particular to himself or herself, one which is very spacious and founded upon personal aspirations, relationships, and needs. Its main pillar is the individual’s life. However, this pillar is weakened by time, events, and diseases. In other words, it is unsound and subject to decay and sudden collapse. The human body is not long-lasting, for it is not composed of iron or rock, but of flesh, bones and blood, all of which are ready to disintegrate at any time. Its decomposition means the destruction of that individual’s world.
Look at the past—a large grave containing the ruined worlds of the dead; the future is a grave waiting to be filled. All of us stand between two large graves: yesterday became my father’s grave, and tomorrow will be mine. Although the world we live in is one, it contains as many worlds as the number of the people living in it. One’s death means the end of one’s world.
This world and its pleasures are a heavy burden. No one (except the corrupt in spirit) is contented with it. Rather than suffering from dependence on almost the whole universe, being needy of all means and causes, and appealing to contending deaf, dumb, and blind masters, people should seek refuge in a single, All-Hearing, and All-Seeing Master. If they place their trust in Him, He is enough for them.
KNOW, O EGO, that the scientific inventions woven around your head, the lines of conscious artistry connected to you, and the things put in your hands stretched out in neediness all demonstrate that your Creator, Maker, and Helper hears your sighs of destitution and your cries for help. Having mercy on you, He gratifies all your needs. Seeing that the Creator and Maker answers your tiniest cells’ calls for help, why should He—the All-Hearing, All-Seeing—not answer your call for help?
KNOW, O SPACIOUS CELL CALLED ego or selfhood and built up of lesser cells. Say: “O God! O Lord! O my Creator! O my Fashioner! O my Owner! O my Master! O my Guardian! Yours is the dominion (of all things) and to You is all praise! I am a guest in this body, Your property that You have entrusted to me.”
O SELFHOOD! Why do you claim to own that which you will never own? Give up this false claim that throws you into acute pain. Consider the emotions of pity and affection, which are among the spirit’s exhilarating embellishments: If they were left to your pretended ownership, they would harm and torment the spirit.
For example, the misfortune and calamities striking you or others would cause you to remain in continual pain and go so far as to blame Destiny for them. However, when you see a soldier who has lost his horse or whose residence has been burnt down by mistake working directly under a king, you do not feel much pity for the soldier. If you consider that both the horse and residence belong to the king, you will see that their disappearance does not cause a significant decrease in his property. Nor does the soldier worry about it—indeed, inasmuch as he is poor, it is highly probable that out of pity the king will compensate his losses with something better. In the same way, God is the All-Compassionate and always treats His servants with utmost compassion.43 Therefore, compassion for creatures as creatures of God exhilarates the spirit. By contrast, pity arising from supposing that everything owns itself continually suffocates and distresses the spirit.
One with a sound viewpoint based on belief in Divine Unity sees every living being’s body as resembling a hired captain on a king’s ship being controlled by that king, who controls his property as he wills. This viewpoint does not allow one to see an ant or a honeybee as contending with attacking causes. Rather, according to it, the ant controls an earthly “vehicle” while the other controls an “aircraft,” the reins of which are in the hands of the Power of an All-Powerful One. Causes do not have much weight in the sight of either animal, which depend on the True Owner (of all things).
By saying: Surely we are God’s and surely we are returning to Him (2:156), when struck by misfortune, one means: All property is God’s and I am under His command, journeying to Him. My relation with my body, which is His property, is like that of a soldier holding something belonging to the king. When robbers attack him, he states: “I am responsible for guarding this property entrusted to me. However, I am unable to guard it now. Like this property, I also belong to the king and am going to him.” When those with such a viewpoint see a fellow struck with misfortune or suffer personal misfortune, they are relieved of continual distress. Otherwise, they are constantly weighed down with pain and distress.
42 For example, a person equipped with the limited powers of sight, hearing, and learning may conclude that the Creator must be All-Seeing, All-Hearing, and All-Knowing. One’s poverty, helplessness, and mortality may lead one to discover that the Creator is Absolutely Wealthy, Powerful, and Permanent. (Tr.)
43 The best analogy applicable to certain aspects of the relation with God and the creation is that between a monarch and his subjects. Since many immaterial truths, especially those pertaining to the Divine Being, are abstract and difficult to understand, Divine Scriptures usually use parables, metaphors, similes, and analogies. For example, God is sometimes introduced like a monarch or king, having a throne and armies. Another reason why Said Nursi used such analogies may be that he wrote this book in the 1910s, when there was still a sultanate in Anatolia. (Tr.)