4- Worship And The Prayers by Ustad Bediüzzaman Said Nursi r.a (1873-1960)
Omy self-worshipping soul! О my world-worshipping friend! Love is the cause of the universe’s existence, and what binds it; and it is both its light and its life. Since man is the most comprehensive fruit of the universe, a love to conquer the universe has been included in his heart, the fruit’s seed. Thus, only one possessing infinite perfection may be worthy of such an infinite love.
O soul and О friend! Two faculties, through which one may experience fear and love, have been included in man’s nature. This love and fear are bound to be turned towards either creatures or Creator. However, fear of creatures is a grievous affliction, while love for them is a calamitous tribulation. For you will fear people who will neither pity you nor accept your pleas for mercy. So fear is a grievous calamity. As for love, the one you love will either not recognize you or will depart without bidding you farewell. Like your youth and property. Or else he will despise you because of your love. Have you not noticed that in ninety-nine out of a hundred cases of metaphorical love, the lover complains about the beloved. For to love and idolize worldly beloveds with the inner heart, which is the mirror of the Eternally Besought One, oppresses the beloved, and he finds it disagreeable and rejects it. Because man’s nature rejects and casts away things that are contrary to it and unworthy of it. (Physical loves are outside our discussion.)
That is to say, the things you love either will not recognize you, or they will scorn you, or they will not accompany you. They will part from you in spite of you. Since this is so, direct your fear and love to the One by Whom your fear will become pleasurable abasement, and your love, shadowless happiness. Yes, to fear the Glorious Creator means finding a way to His compassionate mercy, and taking refuge in it. Fear is a whip; it drives you into the embrace of His mercy. It is well-known that a mother gently scares her infant, for example, and draws it to her breast. The fear is most pleasurable for the child, because it drives him to her tender embrace. Whereas the tenderness of all mothers is but a flash of Divine mercy. That means there is a supreme pleasure in fear of God. If there is such pleasure in fear of God, it is clear what infinite pleasure there is to be found in love of God. Moreover, one who fears God is saved from the calamitous and distressing fear of others. Also, because it is for God’s sake, the love he has for creatures is not tinged with sorrow and separation.
Indeed, man loves firstly himself, then his relations, then his nation, then living creatures, then the universe, and the world. He is connected with all these spheres. He may receive pleasure at their pleasure and pain at their pain. However, since nothing is stable in this world of upheavals and revolutions swift as the wind, man’s wretched heart is constantly wounded. The things his hands cling onto tear at them as they depart, even severing them. He remains in perpetual distress, or else plunges into heedless drunkenness. Since it is thus, my soul, if you have sense, gather together all those loves and give them to their true owner; be saved from those calamities. These infinite loves are particular to One possessing infinite perfection and beauty. When you give it to its true owner, you will be able to love everything without distress in His name and as His mirrors. That means this love should not be spent directly on the universe. Otherwise, while being a delicious bounty, it becomes a grievous affliction.
There is another aspect besides, O soul ! and it is the most important. You spend all your love on yourself. You make your own soul your object of worship and beloved. You sacrifice everything for your soul. Simply, you ascribe to it a sort of domini-cality. Whereas the cause of love is either perfection, because perfection is loved for itself, or it is benefit, or it is pleasure, or it is goodness, or causes like these. Now, O soul! In several of the Words we have proved decisively that your essential nature is kneaded out of fault, deficiency, poverty, and impotence, and like the relative degree of darkness and obscurity shows the brightness of light, with regard to opposites, you act as a mirror through them to the perfection, beauty, power, and mercy of the Beauteous Creator. That means O soul, that it is not love you should have for your soul, but enmity, or you should pity it, or after it is at peace, have compassion on it. If you love your soul because it is the source of pleasure and benefit and you are captivated by their delights, do not prefer the pleasure and benefit of the soul, which is a mere jot, to infinite pleasure and benefits. Do not resemble a firefly. For it drowns all your friends and the things you love in the darkness of desolation and suffices with a tiny glimmer in itself. You should love a Pre-Eternal Beloved on Whose gracious favours are dependent all the pleasures and benefits of your soul together with all the benefits and bounties and creatures of the universe with which you are connected and from which you profit and through whose happiness you are happy, so then you may take pleasure at both your own and their happiness, and receive an infinite pleasure from the love of the Absolutely Perfect One.
Anyway, your intense love for yourself and your soul is love for the Divine Essence which you misuse and spend on your own self. In which case, rend the egotism in your soul and show Him. All your loves dispersed through the universe are love given to you to spend on His Names and attributes. You have used it wrongly and you are suffering the penalty. For the penalty for an illicit, mis-spent love is merciless torment. For sure, one particle of the love of a Pre-Etemal Beloved Who, through the Names of Most Merciful and Compassionate, has prepared a dwelling like Paradise adorned with houris for you in which all your bodily desires will be gratified, and through others of His Names has readied for you in that Paradise everlasting favours that will satisfy all the longings of your spirit, heart, mind, and other subtle inner faculties, and in all of Whose Names are contained many treasuries of grace and munificence — one particle of His love may take the place of the whole universe. But the universe cannot take the place of even a particular manifestation of His love. In which case, heed this Pre-Eternal Decree which that Pre-Eternal Beloved caused His own Beloved to announce, and follow it:
If you love God, follow me, and God will love уоu.(3:31)
O soul! Worship is not the introduction to additional rewards, but the result of previous bounties. Yes, we have received our wage, and are accordingly charged with the duties of service and worship. Because, O soul!, since the All-Glorious Creator, Who clothed you in existence which is pure good, has given you a stomach and appetite, through His Name of Provider, He has placed before you all foods on a table of bounties. Then, since He has given you a life decked out with senses, life too requires sustenance like a stomach; all your senses like eyes and ears are like hands before which He has placed a table of bounties as broad as the earth. Then, because He has given you humanity, which requires many immaterial foods and bounties. He has laid out before that stomach of humanity, in so far as the hand of the mind can reach, an extensive table of bounties as broad as the worlds of both the inner and outer dimensions of things. Then, since He has given you Islam and belief, which require infinite bounties and are nourished through countless fruits of mercy and are supreme humanity, He has opened up before you a table of bounties, pleasure, and happiness which includes the sphere of contingency together with the sphere of His sacred Names and attributes. Then, through giving you love, which is a light of belief, He has bestowed on you an endless table of bounties, happiness, and pleasure. That is to say, with regard to your corporeality you are an insignificant, weak, impotent, lowly, restricted, limited particular, but through His favour, you have as though risen from being an insignificant particular to being a universal, luminous whole. For by giving you life, He has raised you from particularity to a sort of universality; and by giving you humanity, to true universality; and by bestowing Islam on you, to an exalted, luminous universality; and by giving you knowledge and love of Him, He has elevated you to an all-encompassing light.
O soul ! You have received this wage, and you are charged with the pleasurable, bountiful, easy, and light duty of worship. But you are lazy in this too. If you perform it half-heartedly, it is as though the former wages are insufficient for you and you are overbearingly wanting greater things. Also, you are complaining: “Why was my prayer not accepted?” But your right is not complaint, it is supplication. Through His pure grace and munificence. Almighty God bestows Paradise and eternal happiness. So seek refuge in His mercy and munificence constantly. Trust in Him and heed this decree:
Say: “In the bounty of God, and His mercy —in that let them rejoice,” that is better than the [wealth] they hoard.(\0:5%)
If you say: “How can I respond to these countless, universal bounties with my limited and partial thanks?”
The Answer: With a universal intention and boundless belief… For example, a man’ enters a king’s presence with a gift worth five kurush, and he sees that other gifts worth millions have arrived from acceptable people, and have been lined up there. It occurs to him: “My present is nothing. What shall I do?” Then he says suddenly: “My Lord! I offer you all these valuable gifts in my name. For you are worthy of them. If I had the power, I would have given you gifts equal to them.” Thus, the king, who has need of nothing and accepts his subjects’ gifts as a sign of their loyalty and respect, accepts that wretched man’s universal intention and wish, and the worthiness of his elevated belief as though it was the greatest gift.
In exactly the same way, while performing the five daily prayers an impotent servant of Almighty God declares: “Salutations be to God!” That is, “I offer You on my own account all the gifts of worship all creatures offer you through their lives. If I had been able, I would have offered You as many salutations as them, for You are worthy of them, and worthy of more besides.” Such an intention and belief comprise extensive universal thanks. The seeds and grains of plants are their intentions.
And for example, the melon utters a thousand intentions in its heart in the form of the nuclei of its seeds: “O my Creator! I want to proclaim the embroideries of Your Most Beautiful Names in many places on the earth.” Since Almighty God knows how future things will come about, He accepts their intention as actual worship. The rule, “A believer’s intention is better than his actions”28 alludes to this mystery. The wisdom in offering glorifications in also infinite numbers is understood from this mystery. For instance:
Glory and praise be unto You to the number of Your creatures, that may be as pleasing to You as the extent of Your Throne and the ink of Your words, and we glorify You with all the glorifications of Your prophets and saints and angels.
Just as an officer presents all the duties of his soldiers to the king in his own name, so man, who acts as officer to other creatures, commands the animals and plants, has the capacity to be God’s vicegerent over the beings of the earth, and in his own world considers himself to represent everyone, declares:
You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help;(i:4)
He offers the worship and seeking of help of all creation to the All-Glorious True Object of Worship in his own name. He also says:
O God! Grant blessings to Muhammad to the number of the particles in existence and all their compounds!
He offers benedictions for the Prophet (PBUH) in the name of everything. Because everything is connected with the Muhammadan Light. Thus, you may understand the wisdom in the countless numbers mentioned in the glorifications and benedictions for the Prophet (PBUH).
O soul! If, in a brief life, you want to do something that will profit you infinitely in the hereafter, and you want every moment of your life to be as beneficial as a life-time, and if you want to transform your habitual actions into worship and your heedlessness into awareness of the Divine presence, follow the Illustrious Practices of the Prophet (PBUH). For when you apply your actions to the rulings of the Shari’a, it affords a sort of awareness of God’s presence; it becomes worship of a sort and yields many fruits for the hereafter. For example, you bought something. The moment you applied what is acceptable and required by the Shari’a, that ordinary act of shopping acquired the value of worship. Recalling the injunctions of the Shari’a calls to mind Revelation. And by thinking of the Lawgiver, you are turned towards God. And that makes you aware of His presence. That means, in applying the Illustrious Sunna to your actions, are advantages like making this fleeting life the means of gaining an everlasting life which produces eternal fruits. Heed the decree:
So believe in God and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, who believes in God and His Word: follow him that you may be guided. (7:158)
Try to reflect comprehensively the effulgence and manifestation of all of the Most Beautiful Names, whose manifestations are diffused within the ordinances of the Shari’a and Illustrious Sunna…
O soul! Do not look at the worldly, and especially the dissipated and the unbelievers, and be deceived by their superficial glitter and illicit pleasures; do not imitate them. For even if you do imitate them,
you will not be like them; you will decline immeasurably. You cannot be an animal even. For the intellect in your head becomes an inauspicious tool which constantly beats you over the head. For example, there is a palace and in one of its large apartments is a powerful electric lamp. Small electric lights which branch out from it and are attached to it have been divided among its small apartments. Now, someone touches the switch of the big light and turns it off; all the apartments are plunged into deep darkness and desolation. Another palace has small electric lights in all its apartments which are not connected to the large light. If the owner of the latter palace presses the switch of the large electric light and turns it off, there may still be lights on in the other apartments by which he can carry out his work, and which will not allow thieves to profit from the darkness.
O soul! The first palace is a Muslim and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) is the large electric light in his heart. If he forgets him, or (I seek refuge with God from Satan the Accursed) he expels him from his heart, he will accept none of the other prophets, indeed, no place will remain in his spirit for any perfection. He will not even recognize His Sustainer. All the apartments and subtle faculties in his nature will be plunged into darkness, and there will be a terrible destruction and desolation in his heart. How will he profit in the face of this destruction and desolation, where will he find familiarity? What benefit will he secure which will repair the damage? However, Europeans resemble the second palace; even if they cast out from their hearts the light of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him), lights of a sort may remain, or they suppose they remain. They may continue to have a sort of belief in their Creator and in Moses and Jesus (Peace be upon them), which will allow them to attain good morals and character.
О my evil-commanding soul! If you say: “I am not a European and I want to be an animal,” how many times have I told you: “You cannot be an animal. For there is intelligence in your head, and it strikes your face, eyes, and head with the pains of the past and fears of the future, and beats you. It adds a thousand pains to one pleasure. Whereas animals receive pleasure without pain. So first pluck out your intelligence and throw it away, then be an animal! You will also receive the chastening slap of
Like cattle, nay, they are further astray.”(l:\19)
О my soul! As we have stated repeatedly, since man is the fruit of the tree of creation, he is a creature which, like a fruit, is the furthest and most comprehensive and looks to everything, and bears the seed of a heart which holds within it the aspects of unity of everything, and whose face looks to multiplicity, transience, and the world. As for worship, it is a line of union which turns his face from transi-
ence to permanence, from creation to Creator, from multiplicity to unity, and from the extremity to the source, or it is a point of union between the source and the extremity. If a valuable, conscious fruit which will form a seed looks to the living creatures beneath the tree, and relying on its beauty throws itself into their hands; if being heedless, it falls; it will fall to their hands and be smashed, and will go for nothing like a common fruit. But if the fruit finds its point of support, and it is able to think that by the seed within it holding the aspects of unity of the whole tree, it will be the means of tree’s continuance and the continued existence of the tree’s reality, then a single seed within that single fruit will manifest a perpetual universal truth within an everlasting life.
In the same way, if man plunges into multiplicity, is drowned in the universe and intoxicated by love of the world, is deceived by the smiles of ephemeral beings and casts himself into their arms, he certainly falls into infinite loss. He falls into both transitori-ness, and ephemerality, and non-existence. In effect he sentences himself to death. But if he listens with the ear of his heart to the lessons in belief from the tongue of the Qur’an and raises his head and turns towards unity, he may rise through the ascension of worship to the throne of perfections. He may become an eternal man.
О my soul! Since the reality is thus, and since you are a member of the nation of Abraham (Peace be upon him), like Abraham, say: / love not those that set(6:76) Tum your face to the Eternal Beloved and weep the following lines like me. The Persian verses to be included here have been included in the Second Station of the Seventeenth Word, and have not been repeated here.