A Summary of the Eighth Matter: Some of the benefits of belief in the Hereafter
In The Seventh Matter, we were planning to question numerous different beings with regard to the Resurrection. However, since the replies given by our Creator’s Names were so powerful and convincing, we contented ourselves with them, seeing no real need to question anyone or anything else. Now, in this Eighth Matter we were planning to elucidate a hundredth of the benefits that belief in the Hereafter has for humanity and their felicity in both this world and the next. However, since the miraculous Qur’an leaves no need for further explanation concerning the benefits of belief in securing happiness in the Hereafter, and since the benefits of belief for humanity in this world have been discussed in detail in the Risale-i Nur, readers may refer to the Qur’an and the relevant sections of the Risale-i Nur. Here, we will summarize only three or four out of the hundreds of results of belief in the Hereafter concerning human individual and social life.
THE FIRST: Just as a person has relations with their home, they also have relations with the world beyond it. Similarly, just as they have relations with their relatives, they also have relations with the rest of humankind. And just as they desire a kind of temporary permanence in this world, they also yearn passionately for an enduring permanence in the realm of eternity. In the same way that a person strives to meet the need of their stomach for food, they are, by nature, compelled to strive to provide sustenance to the metaphorical stomachs of their mind, heart, spirit and humanity. Their desires and demands are such that nothing but eternity and everlasting felicity can satisfy them. As mentioned in The Tenth Word, when I was young I asked myself: “Do you want to live for a million years as ruler of the world but then be dispatched into eternal non-existence? Or would you prefer to have an ordinary and at times difficult existence, but live forever?” I saw that my imagination always opted for the latter, saying: “I want to live forever, even though it be in Hell!”
Thus, since the pleasures of this world do not satisfy the imaginative faculty, which is a servant of the human essence, it follows that the comprehensive essence of humanity is, by its very nature, attached to eternity. For despite being preoccupied with boundless hopes and desires, humanity has only an insignificant faculty of will as their capital, stricken as they are with absolute poverty. Belief in the Hereafter, then, is such a powerful and sufficient treasury, such a means of happiness and pleasure, such a refuge and source of assistance and benefit, and such a means of consolation in the face of the endless sorrows of this world that if the life of this world had to be sacrificed in order to gain it, it would still be a cheap price to pay.
ITS SECOND FRUIT AND BENEFIT PERTAINING TO HUMAN PERSONAL LIFE:
This was explained in The Third Matter, and can be found in Gençlik Rehberi as a footnote.
The most constant and over-riding anxiety of humanity is that we will one day enter the grave, as our friends and relations have before us. The wretched human being, who is ready to sacrifice their very soul for a single friend, imagines that the countless millions of human beings who have entered the grave before them have been condemned to eternal annihilation, and this supposition makes them suffer the torments of Hell. Just at this point, belief in the Hereafter appears, opens our eyes and raises the veil. It tells us: “Look!” And looking with belief, we can see that our companions have been saved from eternal annihilation and are awaiting us happily in a light-filled world; realizing this, we receive a spiritual pleasure that is a reflection of the pleasures of Paradise. Contenting ourselves with the explanations of this second fruit in the Risale-i Nur, we will curtail the discussion here.
A THIRD BENEFIT: Human beings are superior to other living beings on account of their elevated characteristics, their comprehensive abilities, their universal ability to worship and the extensive spheres of existence which make up their life. However, the virtues which characterize the human being, such as love, zeal, brother and sister-hood and humanity, are acquired in accordance with the extent of this fleeting present time, which is constricted between the past and the future, both of which are dark and non-existent.
For example, a person loves and serves their father, brother or sister, their spouse, nation or country, none of whom they knew before; they will see none of these people once they have departed from this world. Since the fleeting nature of life means that it is highly unlikely that a person would be able to achieve complete loyalty or sincerity in any one relationship, their virtues and excellences are proportionately diminished. Then, just at the point where they fall to a level lower than that of the animals and become more wretched than they already are because they have intellect and reason, belief in the Hereafter comes to this person’s assistance. It expands the present, which is as narrow as the grave, to the extent that it encompasses the past and future and manifests a sphere of existence as broad as the world, stretching from pre-eternity to post-eternity. Realizing that relations with one’s spouse, parents and siblings will continue for eternity in Paradise, they love, respect, help and have mercy on them while in this world. With this new realization, a person will not exploit such important duties based on the relationships that encompass this broad sphere of life and existence for the sake of the worthless affairs of this world and its petty interests. Being able to achieve earnest loyalty and sincerity, a person’s good qualities and attainments begin to develop accordingly, and their humanity becomes exalted. While they cannot match even a sparrow in enjoyment of this life, they can become the noblest and happiest of guests in the universe, superior to all animals, as well as being the best loved and most appreciated servant of the universe’s Owner. Since this matter has also been explained in the Risale-i Nur, we content ourselves here with this much.
A FOURTH BENEFIT OF BELIEF IN THE HEREAFTER,WHICH RELATES TO HUMAN SOCIAL LIFE:
What follows is a summary of this benefit, expounded in the Ninth Ray of the Risale-i Nur:
Children, who make up a third of the human race, can live a truly human life and maintain truly human capacities only if they have sincere belief in the Hereafter. Without belief in the Hereafter, they are forced to compensate for the anxiety they feel over their eventual oblivion by filling their worldly life with trivia and meaningless distractions. For the constant deaths around them of children like themselves have such an effect on their sensitive minds and weak hearts, which cherish far-reaching desires, and vulnerable spirits, that it makes life torture for them and their reason a tool of suffering. If, however, they are brought to belief in the Hereafter, the anxieties they once felt at the deaths of their playmates, which they try to escape by immersing themselves in meaningless distractions, will give way to joy and exhilaration as they realize the truth. For supported by belief in the Hereafter they will say: “My sibling or playmate has died and become a bird in Paradise. He (or she) is now flying around and enjoying himself much more than we are. And although my mother has died, she has gone to the realm of Divine mercy. One day I will see her in Paradise, where she will take me into her arms once again.” Such a realization will enable these children to live in a state which befits them as human beings.
It is only through believing in the Hereafter that the aged, who constitute another third of humankind, are able to find consolation in the face of what they see as the inevitable extinction of their lives and the fact that they too will soon be consigned to the bowels of the earth and their precious and lovable worlds have come to an end. Without belief in the Hereafter, those compassionate, respected fathers and those tender, self-sacrificing mothers would become so distraught and distressed in heart and spirit that their world would seem to be a prison of despair for them and life a heavy burden of torment. But belief in the Hereafter addresses them, saying: “Do not worry! A radiant, everlasting life awaits you and there you will enjoy eternal youth. You will be reunited in joy with your beloved children and the relatives that you have lost. All your good deeds have been preserved and you will be rewarded for them there.” Belief in the Hereafter gives them such solace and joy that were they to experience old age a hundred times over, it would not cause them to despair.
A third of humankind is made up of the youth. With their turbulent passions and emotions and the difficulty they have in controlling their bold intellects if they lose their faith in the Hereafter and do not bring to mind the torments of Hell, the property and honor of the upright members of society, along with the peace and dignity of the weak and the elderly, will be at serious risk. One youth is able to bring down destruction on a happy home for the sake of one minute’s pleasure, and the years of imprisonment that follow will turn them into a wild animal. But if belief in the Hereafter comes to their assistance, they quickly come to their senses, thinking: “It is true that the government informers do not see me and I can hide from them, but the angels of the All-Majestic Sovereign, Who has a prison known as Hell, see me and are recording all of my evil deeds. I am not free and left to my own devices: I am a traveler charged with duties. One day I too will be old and weak.” Suddenly this person begins to feel sympathy and respect for those they would have assaulted before without thinking twice. Being content with the explanations of this truth which the reader may find in the Risale-i Nur, we cut the discussion short here.
Another important section of humankind comprises the sick, the oppressed, the poor, those like us who are disaster-stricken and prisoners languishing in jail, subject to severe punishment. If belief in the Hereafter does not come to their aid, their lives are bound to be filled with torment. For illness reminds them constantly of death; the haughty treachery of the oppressor, in the face of whom they are unable to save their honor, causes them extreme distress; the loss of property or offspring in serious disasters brings untold despair; and the intolerable hardship of having to spend five or ten years in prison causes immeasurable pain and mental suffering. Without belief, all of these calamitous situations turn the world into a terrible prison for those who experience them and life becomes a living hell. But if belief in the Hereafter comes to their aid, they begin to feel relief and, to the degree of their belief, their distress, despair, anxiety and desire for vengeance diminish and, sometimes, even disappear completely.
I can even go so far as to say that if belief in the Hereafter had not come to the aid of myself and some of my brothers in the fearsome calamity that is this wrongful imprisonment, we would not have been able to bear a single day of incarceration: it would have been as unbearable as death and might even have driven us to say goodbye to life altogether. But boundless thanks be to God, for despite suffering the distress of my brothers, whom I love as much as my own life; despite the loss and the weeping over thousands of copies of the Risale-i Nur and my precious, gilded books, which I love as much as my eyes; and despite the fact I could not bear the slightest insult or stand to be dominated by others, I swear that the light and strength of belief in the Hereafter gave me the patience, endurance, solace, and steadfastness to cope. Indeed, this has given me enthusiasm to gain a greater reward through bearing the painful exertions of my ordeal, for as I said at the outset of this treatise, I considered myself to be a student in a place of instruction worthy of being called the School of Joseph. Were it not for the occasional pains and illnesses of old age, I would have learned my lessons more diligently and with greater ease of mind. However, we have digressed, and for this I hope I will be forgiven.
Also, everyone’s home is a small world for them, perhaps even a small paradise. If belief in the Hereafter does not underpin the happiness of that home, the members of that family will suffer anguish and anxiety in proportion to the compassion, love, and attachment they feel for their family. Their paradise will turn into Hell and they will have no option but to numb their minds with temporary amusements and distractions. Like an ostrich that sticks its heads into the sand thinking they cannot be seen by the hunter, these poor people plunge their heads into heedlessness in the hope that that death, decline, and separation may not find them. They seek a way out of their terrifying predicament by temporarily anesthetizing themselves. The mother, for example, trembles constantly at seeing her children, for whom she would sacrifice her soul, exposed to danger. Children, for their part, feel constant sorrow and fear at being unable to save their father or siblings from calamities that visit families only too often. Thus, in this tumultuous worldly life, the supposedly contented life of the family loses its happiness in many respects, and the kinship and close connections forged in this brief earthly existence do not result in true loyalty, heartfelt sincerity, disinterested service, or real love. Good character declines proportionately and is often lost completely. However, if belief in the Hereafter enters that home, it illuminates it completely: its members develop respect, love, and compassion for each other, not merely for the sake of relationships in this brief worldly life, but for the sake of their continuance in the eternal realm of happiness that is the Hereafter. They respect, love, and show compassion to each other sincerely; they are loyal to one another and ignore each other’s faults and their good character increases accordingly. As a result, the happiness of true humanity begins to develop in the home. Since this too is elucidated in the Risale-i Nur, we cut the discussion short here.
Also, a town is like a large home for those who live there. If the members of that large family do not have belief in the Hereafter, rather than sincerity, cordiality, virtue, mutual love and assistance, self-sacrifice, and the seeking of Divine pleasure and otherworldly reward—all of which form the basis of good conduct—vices such as self-interest, pretentiousness, hypocrisy, artificiality, bribery, and deception will dominate. Anarchy and savagery will hold sway beneath the façade of superficial order and a nominal humanity, poisoning the life of the town. The children will become idle troublemakers, the youth will plunge themselves into drunkenness, the powerful will embark on oppression, and the elderly will be left to weep.
By analogy, a country is also a home—the home of a national family. If belief in the Hereafter rules in such a home, sincere respect, earnest compassion, selfless love, mutual assistance, honest service, good social relations, unostentatious charity, and many other excellences and virtues will begin to flourish.
Belief in the Hereafter says to the children: “Stop messing around, for there is Paradise to be won!” and teaches them self-control through instruction from the Qur’an.
It says to the youth: “Hell truly exists: give up your heedlessness!” thus bringing them to their senses.
It says to the oppressor: “Severe torment will be your lot if you continue on this path!” and makes them bow to justice.
It says to the elderly: “In the world to come there exists not only perpetual happiness far greater than anything you could experience in this world, but also eternal youth. Try to win them for yourselves!” thus turning their tears into smiles.
Belief in the Hereafter shows its favorable effects in every group, particular or universal, and illuminates them. Let the sociologists and moral philosophers, who are concerned with the social life of humankind, take note of this. If the rest of the thousands of benefits to be had from belief in the Hereafter are compared with the five or six we have indicated briefly, we can understand that it is only belief that is the means of happiness in this world and the next.
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In The Twenty-Eighth Word and other treatises of the Risale-i Nur, powerful replies were given in order to silence the insubstantial doubts which exist concerning bodily Resurrection. Readers who desire a more detailed discussion may refer to these writings; here we will content ourselves with the following brief indication:
Just as the most comprehensive mirror of the Divine Names is to be found in corporeality, so the richest and most active centre of the Divine purposes for the creation of the universe is also in corporeality. Likewise, the greatest variety of the multifarious bounties of the Lord lies in corporeality, together with the greatest multiplicity of the seeds of the prayers and thanks offered by many to their Creator through the language of their needs. And the greatest diversity of the seeds of the metaphysical and spirit worlds also lies in corporeality.
Since hundreds of universal truths are centered in corporeality, in order to multiply it and favor it with manifestations of the above truths on the earth, the All-Wise Creator clothes successive caravans of beings in corporeal existence and sends them with awesome speed and activity to that glorious exhibition. Then He dismisses them and sends others in their place, constantly making the factory of the universe operate. Weaving corporeal products, He makes the earth into a seed-bed of the Hereafter and Paradise. In fact, in order to gratify the appetite of the stomach, He listens intently to the supplication for permanence which it makes in the form of hunger and accepts it. In order to respond to this prayer, He prepares innumerable sorts of ingenious foods and precious bounties, all of which produce different pleasures. This demonstrates, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that in the Hereafter the most numerous and diverse pleasures of Paradise will be corporeal, as will the bounties of that eternal abode of happiness to which all human beings aspire.
The All-Powerful and Compassionate, the All-Knowing and Munificent One, accepts the invocation offered by the stomach in the form of hunger and answers it with care and deliberation by providing it with an almost infinite variety of foods. The human is the most important result of the universe and has been appointed as the ruler of the earth: we are the Creator’s choice being and adorer. Is it at all possible, then, that the All-Powerful and Compassionate, the All-Knowing and Munificent One, Who accepts the prayer of a stomach and answers it, would not accept the numerous, universal supplications offered by the stomach of all humanity for universal, elevated corporeal pleasures in the eternal realm, which are innately desired and aspired to by humankind? Is it at all possible that He should not answer it with bodily Resurrection, thus gratifying humankind eternally? Would He listen to the buzz of the fly, but not the roar of thunder? Would He be attentive to the needs of a common soldier, but ignore the needs of a whole army? To do so would be infinitely impossible and absurd.
Indeed, as is stated explicitly in the verse: There will be therein all that souls desire, and eyes delight in (43:71), the people of Paradise will experience, in a form befitting their state, the corporeal pleasures with which they are most familiar, samples of which they have tasted during their earthly existence. The rewards for the sincere thanks and particular worship offered by each of their members—the tongue, the eye, the ear, and so on—will be given in the form of corporeal pleasures particular to those members. The miraculous Qur’an describes the corporeal pleasures so explicitly that it is impossible not to accept their literal meanings: there is no need to look for metaphorical interpretations.
Thus, the fruits and results of belief in the Hereafter show that just as the existence, nature, and needs of the stomach are decisive proof of the existence of food, the innate need and desire of humankind for eternity, together with the excellences and potentials they possess which demand the consequences and benefits of belief in the Hereafter, provide indubitable proof for the existence of the world to come and of Paradise and its eternal corporeal pleasures. Also, the perfections and meaningful signs which fill the universe, and the existential realities of humanity which are related to these signs, testify absolutely to the certain existence of the realm of the Hereafter, the Resurrection, and the opening up of Paradise and Hell. This fundamental truth has been explained convincingly in several treatises of the Risale-i Nur, including in particular The Tenth, Twenty-eighth and Twenty-ninth Words, and The Third and Ninth Rays. For a more detailed discussion, readers are referred to these writings.
The Qur’anic descriptions of Hell are so clear and explicit that they leave no need for further description. Detailed discussions of the subject can be found in the Risale-i Nur; here we will clarify in brief just two or three points in order to dispel one or two insignificant doubts.
THE FIRST POINT: The thought of Hell does not diminish the pleasures of the above fruits of belief with the fear it provokes. For infinite Divine Mercy says to the fearful person:
“Come to me! Enter through the door of repentance, so that the existence of Hell will, rather than frighten you, make known in full the pleasures of Paradise and enable you and all creatures whose rights have been violated to avenge, as well as giving you enjoyment. If you have drowned in misguidance, from which you cannot emerge, the existence of Hell is still immeasurably better than eternal annihilation; it is also a kind of compassion for the unbelievers. For humans, and even animals with young, derive pleasure from the pleasure and happiness of their relatives, offspring and friends, and in one respect become happy themselves.
“And so to the disbelieving materialists I would say this: because of your misguidance, you will either fall into eternal non-existence or you will enter Hell. As for non-existence, it is absolute evil, and since it also means the eternal annihilation of you yourself and all those relatives, ancestors and descendants of yours, whom you love and whose happiness also makes you happy, the thought of eternal non-existence pains your heart and spirit more grievously than a thousand Hells. For if there were no Hell, there would be no Paradise. Through your unbelief, everything falls into nonexistence. But if you go to Hell and remain within the sphere of existence, your loved ones and relatives will either be happy in Paradise or be favored with compassion in one respect within the sphere of existence. This means that you should defend the notion that Hell exists, for to oppose it is to support non-existence, which in turn is to support the obliteration of the happiness of innumerable relatives and loved ones.”
Hell is an awesome, majestic realm which performs the wise and just function of being the place of imprisonment belonging to the Sovereign of Majesty in the sphere of existence, which is pure good. In addition to performing the function of being a prison, Hell has numerous other duties, serving many wise purposes and carrying out many tasks related to the everlasting realm. It is also the awe-inspiring dwelling of many living beings, such as the Angels of Hell.
THE SECOND POINT: The existence and terrible torments of Hell are not contrary to the infinite Mercy, true Justice and balanced Wisdom of God. Rather, Mercy, Justice, and Wisdom demand its existence. For to punish an oppressor who tramples on the rights of a thousand innocents or to kill a savage animal who tears to pieces a hundred cowering animals is not only just, it is a great mercy for the oppressed. To pardon the oppressor and to leave the savage beast free shows a gross lack of pity for hundreds of innocent wretches in return for a single act of misplaced mercy.
Among those who will enter Hell are the absolute unbelievers. They will enter that place on account of the fact that they have transgressed the rights of the Divine Names by denying them, and they have transgressed the rights of all creatures who testify to those Names by denying their testimony and the elevated duties of glorification they perform in the face of the manifestation of the Names in creation. Also, by denying the fact that all creatures are mirrors for the manifestation of Divine Lordship and respond to this Lordship with worship, which is the raison d’être of the creation and continued existence of the universe, they transgress the rights of all other creatures even further. Unbelief is therefore such a tremendous crime that it cannot be forgiven; it truly deserves the threat enshrined in the verse: Assuredly, God does not forgive that partners be associated with Him (4:48,116). Not to cast that unbeliever into Hell would be a misplaced act of compassion, and would serve to withhold justice and mercy from those innumerable claimants whose rights have been transgressed. In the same way that these claimants demand the existence of Hell, the Divine dignity of Majesty and the grandeur of His Perfection most certainly demand it.
If a rebellious outlaw who assaults the people affronts the dignity and authority of a town’s governor by saying: “You can’t put me in prison!”, even if there is no prison in the town, the governor will have one built just to imprison that ill-mannered wretch. Similarly, through their unbelief, the absolute unbelievers commit a serious assault on the dignity and authority of God’s Majesty; through their denial they affront the grandeur of His Power and through their aggression offends the perfection of His Lordship. However many functions Hell may or may not have, and however many reasons or instances of wisdom there are which necessitate its existence, it is the Dignity and Majesty of God more than anything else which demand the creation of Hell for unbelievers such as those described above.
Moreover, even the essence of unbelief suggests Hell. For example, if the essence of belief were to be embodied, it would, with its pleasures, assume the form of a private paradise and, in so doing, provide a taste of the Paradise yet to come. Similarly, as has been discussed previously and in other parts of the Risale-i Nur, the spiritual pains and torments of unbelief, hypocrisy, and apostasy are such that, if they were to be embodied, they would take on the form of a private hell for those fettered by unbelief and would give them a taste of the Hell yet to come. Also, bearing in mind that the little truths in the field of this world will grow into elaborate trees in the Hereafter, this poisonous seed that is unbelief foreshadows the emergence of the tree of Zaqqum, saying:
“I am its origin. For the wretched who bear me in their hearts my fruit is a private sample of that bitter tree of Zaqqum.”
Since unbelief is a violation of so many rights, it is certainly an infinitely evil crime that will deserve infinite punishment. Human justice considers a sentence of fifteen years imprisonment—approximately eight million minutes—to be appropriate for a murder that has been committed in a minute or less; human justice regards such a sentence to be in conformity with the public interest and the good of society as a whole. Therefore, since one instance of absolute unbelief is the equivalent of a thousand murders, to suffer torments for nearly eight billion minutes for one minute’s absolute unbelief is in conformity with that law of justice. A person who passes a year of their life in unbelief deserves punishment lasting countless billions of minutes, thus manifesting the meaning of the verse: They will abide therein for ever (4:169; 33:65).
The miraculous descriptions of Paradise and Hell in the wise Qur’an and the proofs of their existence contained in the Risale-i Nur, which issues from and interprets it, leave no need for further explanations.
Numerous Qur’anic verses such as:
They (the people of discernment) reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth (and they pray): “Our Lord, You have not created this (the universe) without meaning and purpose. All-Glorified are You, so save us from the punishment of the Fire!” (3:191)
“Our Lord! Ward off from us the punishment of Hell; its punishment is surely constant anguish: how evil indeed it is as a final station and permanent abode!” (25:65–66).
and the prayers of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and all other Prophets and people of truth in order to be saved from the punishment of Hell, saying “Preserve us from Hell-fire! Deliver us from Hell-fire! Save us from Hell-fire!”—it becomes clear from all these that the most important issue for humankind is how they are to be saved from eternal perdition in Hell. Hell is an extremely significant, tremendous and awesome reality—one which some of the people endowed with inner vision and the capacity for spiritual unveiling have been able to gaze upon, or see its manifestations and shadows. And such vision has led all of them to cry out in terror, “Save us from it!”
The confrontation, co-existence, and intermingling of good and evil, pleasure and pain, light and darkness, heat and cold, beauty and ugliness, and guidance and misguidance in the universe are there for an extremely important purpose and are full of wisdom. If there were no evil, the existence of good would be indiscernible. If there were no pain, pleasure would have no meaning. Light without darkness would have no importance and the different degrees of heat are realized only through the existence of cold. Through ugliness, a single truth of beauty becomes a thousand truths, and thousands of varying degrees of beauty come into existence. If there were no Hell, many of the pleasures of Paradise would remain hidden. Extrapolating from these examples we see that in one respect everything becomes known through its opposite; a single truth contained in any one thing produces numerous shoots and becomes numerous truths. Since these intermingled beings flow from this transient abode into the abode of eternal permanence, certainly, just as things such as good, pleasure, light, beauty, and belief flow into Paradise, so harmful matters such as evil, pain, darkness, ugliness, and unbelief pour into Hell. The floods of this continuously agitated universe are emptied into these two lakes. We curtail this discussion here, referring readers to the subtle and meaningful Points and Matters at the end of The Twenty-Ninth Word.
To my fellow students here in this School of Joseph, I would say this: If we take advantage of our worldly imprisonment for the good and, as we are saved from the many sins which are not possible to commit here, repent our former sins and perform our obligatory religious duties, we will be able to make every hour of our prison life into the equivalent of a whole day’s worship. If we can do this, our imprisonment will be the best opportunity we have to be saved from that terrible eternal imprisonment; it will be our key to the door of that light-filled Paradise. But if we miss this opportunity, our afterlife will be filled with misery, just as this world is filled with misery, and we will receive the chastisement indicated in the verse: He (thereby) incurs loss of both this world and the Hereafter (22:11).