Comments With Respect To Man’s Happiness And Misery
Man is created on the best pattern of creation and has been given a comprehensive disposition. Therefore he has been sent to an arena of trial where he will either ascend or descend to a station which may be ranked from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low, from heaven to earth, from the largest sun to the minutest particle. With the two ways to infinite ascent and infinite descent open before him, he is here on earth as a miracle of power, a wonder of art and the fruit of creation. We will now explain this infinite ascent and descent of man in five comments.
Man has some relationship with, and stands in some need of, most of the species of creation. His needs spread throughout all parts of the cosmos, and his desires extend to eternity. As he desires a flower, so he desires a whole spring. As he wishes for a garden, so he wishes for eternal Paradise. As he longs to see a friend of his, so he longs to see the Graceful One of Glory. As he needs to knock at the door of his beloved friend in order to visit him, so he needs to take refuge in the court of an Omnipotent One Who will close the door of his world and will open that of the hereafter, Who will remove the world and establish in its place the world – to – come, in order that he should be delivered from unending separation from the ninety-nine per cent of his friends who have departed for the intermediate world.
The true object of worship of a being in this position can only be an Omnipotent One of Glory, a Compassionate One of Perfection, in Whose Hand are the reins of all things, in Whose possession is the provision for all things, in Whose sight everything, and in Whose presence everywhere, is, unbounded by space or time, free of all weakness or deficiency. For the one to meet the limitless needs of man can only be One with infinite power and all-embracing knowledge. Thus, He is the sole One worthy of worship.
Now, o man, if you see yourself as a servant of His, and of none else, you will acquire a rank above all creation. If you refuse to be such, you will become a mean slave to powerless creation. Or, if you rely on your selfhood and strength abandon prayer and trust in God, and arrogantly claim to have power, then you will fall lower than a bee or an ant, and become weaker than a spider or a fly, with respect to positive acts and constructiveness. In negative acts and destructiveness, however, you will weigh heavier than a mountain and be more harmful than an epidemic disease. This is your being; it has two aspects: one of them is positive and active and has to do with constructiveness, invention, existence and goodness; the other is negative and passive and has to do with destructiveness, non-existence and evil.
Regarding the first aspect of your being, you cannot in yourself match a bee or a sparrow, nor have the strength of a fly or a spider. Regarding the second aspect, you surpass mountains, even earth and the heavens, for you bear a burden from which they hold back because of lack of strength; and your acts therefore show their effect in a wider realm than theirs.1 When you do an act of goodness, or construct something, this does not go beyond the reach of your hand and your strength. Your evil and destructive acts, by contrast, are aggressive and expandable. For example, unbelief is an evil, a nonexistence of affirmation, and is destructive. Though it seems a simple, single sin, it implies an insult to all creation, an aggression against all the Divine Names and an affront to all mankind. For all beings in creation have lofty ranks and important tasks in virtue of their nature as letters of the Lord, mirrors of His orders. Unbelief denies them the rank bestowed by these functions, reduces them to the state of instruments of coincidence, to the degree of insignificance, valuelessness and nothingness, and makes them perishable objects doomed to decay and separation. An unbeliever denies and thus offends the Divine Names, Whose beauties, impressions and manifestations are observed on the mirrors of beings throughout the cosmos.
Man is a work of poetry, praising God’s wisdom and beautifully displaying the manifestations of all the Divine Names, a manifest miracle of Power like a seed that contains the members of an eternal tree, holding the rank of the Divine vicegerent on earth, superior to angels and in ascendancy over mountains, over the earth and the heavens by virtue of the trust he holds. Unbelief throws him into a degree that is lower than that of the lowest animal, more helpless, and impotent, and more wretched, and degrades him to the state of a speedily perishable tablet on which are scribbled meaningless, confused things.
To conclude: the concupiscent soul can commit numerous crimes in wrongdoing and destructiveness; but it has little power in goodness and constructiveness. It can destroy a city in a single day, but cannot build one in a hundred. However, if it abandons selfhood and requests from God goodness and fertility, if it turns from arrogance, wrongdoing and destructiveness, and accepts the form of a perfect slave of God, it then becomes the referent of the Qur’anic verse:
‘God will change their evil into good’ (25.70).
The infinite capability for wrongdoing inherent in man then changes into an infinite disposition to goodness, and he thus ascends to the highest of the high, and gains the value of the best pattern of creation.
Now, o heedless man! Behold the grace and munificence of God Almighty: while it would be perfect justice on His part to do the reverse, He records a single sin only once, and records a single act of goodness as ten, or seventy, or seven hundred, or seven thousand. Also draw from this comment, some understanding that to enter Hell is the punishment of crime and mere justice, but to enter Paradise is the result of His perfect grace.
Again, man has two faces: one is related to his selfhood and turned to the worldly life; the other concerns his nature as a slave of God and gazes upon the eternal life. With respect to the former, he is so wretched a creature that he has nothing of free will beyond a brief and fast-ending period, and nothing of existence beyond a small, decaying body. In this state, he appears as no more than one of many feeble members of just one of the innumerable species that are spread over all levels of the whole of creation. With respect to his other, better nature, however, and by virtue of the impotence and poverty that lead him to worship, man has a comprehensiveness and a great importance. Indeed, the Wise Creator has purposefully included in him infinite impotence and poverty so that he should be a large and comprehensive mirror for the endless manifestations of the infinite power of the Compassionate One and the infinite richness of the Munificent One. In other words, man resembles a seed that is given ideal and important faculties by Power, and a delicate, precious programme by Destiny, in order that it will work under the ground to leave that narrow world of soil and enter the wide world of the air, request from its Creator through the tongue of its disposition to become a tree and to reach the perfect state that will befit it. If that seed, because of its bad temperament, employs the faculties that are given to it in attracting some harmful substance contained in soil, it will soon decay in that narrow place and become nothing. If, in compliance with the cosmic decree expounded in the verse-
“It is God Who causes the seed-grain and the date-stone to split and sprout” (6.95),
it uses its ideal faculties in their proper places, it will then emerge from that narrow world, become a big, fertile tree, and thus its small, particular nature will take the form of a great, comprehensive truth. The nature of man is likewise equipped with important faculties by Power and with precious programmes by Destiny. If he wastes his spiritual means on this narrow world, under the ground of the worldly life and for the sake of his desires, he will leave from this world with a burden on his unfortunate soul that will be his responsibility before God. If, on the other hand, man waters the seed of his disposition with Islam, feeds it in the soil of worship, exposes it to the Qur’anic decrees, directs his spiritual means to their true purposes, he will of a certainty become a seed containing the essentials of a permanent truth and of an everlasting tree that extends its branches in the physical and intermediate worlds and yields endless blessings in the hereafter and in Paradise. He will, in fact, become a blessed, luminous fruit of the tree of creation. The actual progress of man is possible only by turning his heart, spirit, intelligence, imagination and other inner faculties to the eternal life, so that each of them will be occupied by its own kind of worship. For what the misguided imagine to be progress, which is to put one”s faculties at the disposal of the concupiscent soul in order to penetrate into all the details of the worldly life and to taste all its lowly pleasures, is not progress, but decline.
I once observed this truth in a vision that was as follows:
I was in a large city full of big palaces. Outside some of the palaces were spectacles to attract and entertain everyone. As I came close to one of them, I saw that the master of the palace was at the door, playing with the dog. Women were absorbed in sweet conversation with young strangers, and grown-up girls were supervising children”s play. It was when I was the doorkeeper acting as the head of all the other people that I realized the inside of the palace was empty, and the important posts in the palace, obviously, had become so corrupted that their officials had left their duties and appeared in such a state outside the palace. I then came across another large palace. This time, a faithful dog was lying at the door, and beside it was standing a doorkeeper with a serious, stern and calm appearance. The palace seemed so quiet that I wondered why it was so, while the other palace was not. I entered the palace, and saw that the inside was, contrary to the outside, a scene of activity: one floor on another, different people with different, intricate tasks on each floor. Those on the first floor were conducting the management of the palace. On the second floor, girls and small children were studying; on the third were ladies occupied with fine arts and beautiful embroidery. On the top floor, the master of the palace was corresponding with the king in order to maintain the well-being of his people, and was also performing his own noble duties for his advancement and progress. As they did not see me, no one stopped me, so I was able to walk about. After I had left the palace, I realized that everywhere in the city there were palaces of these two kinds. I asked about this, and I was told that those palaces with empty insides and crowded outsides belonged to the notorious ones among the unbelievers and the people of misguidance, and the others to upright, eminent Muslims. Afterwards, I encountered another palace that attracted my attention, as my name Said was written on it. When I looked at it closely, I felt as if I were seeing my own shape on it. I was so bewildered that I began to cry, and at this point I woke up.
I will now interpret this vision, may God make its outcome fortunate! That city is the social life of humanity and the terrain of human civilization. Each palace is the faculties and organs, such as eyes, ears, heart, spirit and intelligence, the self, desires, the sense of anger and carnal appetites. Each faculty of man has a different task in worship; it has also different pleasures and different sorrows. From among them, the soul and desires, the sense of anger and carnal appetites are like doorkeepers and dogs in the palace of the being of man. Thus, to put the other lofty senses at the disposal of the self and desires, and to cause them to forget their innate duties, is by all means a decline, not progress. You may now interpret for yourself the other details of the vision.
By Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Risale-i Nur Collection (23rd Word)
References 1) The burden is described as the trust in the following verse: “Verily We offered the trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof. But man undertook it; he was indeed unjust and foolish&” (Qur’an, 33:72), and one of its aspects concerns self as explained in detail in the Thirtieth Word. [Tr.]