Damascus Sermon 10- The Recipe of Ummah’s illnesses and foresight of Future Islamic World by Bediüzzaman Said Nursi (1873- 1960)
Close to the beginning of the Second Constitutional Period (1908-1918), I joined Sultan Reşad’s tour of Rumelia (18)on behalf of the Eastern Provinces. In our carriage of the train a discussion started with two friends who taught in the new secular schools and were wellversed in science. They asked me: “Which is more necessary and should be stronger, religious zeal or national zeal?” To which I replied:
With us Muslims religion and nationhood are united, although there is a theoretical, apparent and incidental difference between them. Indeed, religion is the life and spirit of the nation.
(18) June, 1911. [Tr.],
When they are seen as different and separate from each other, religious zeal encompasses both the common people and upper classes, whereas national zeal is felt by one person out of a hundred, that is, a person who is ready to sacrifice his personal benefits for the nation. Since this is the case, religious zeal must be the basis with regard to the rights of all the people, while national zeal must serve it and be its fortress.
This is especially so since we people of the East are not like those of the West: our hearts are governed by the sense of religion. The fact that it was in the East that preeternal Divine Determining sent most of the prophets indicates that only the sense of religion will awaken the East and impel it to progress. A convincing argument for this is the era of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and those who followed after him.
O my friends who are studying with me in this travelling school called a train! You asked me to which one should give more importance, religious zeal or national zeal. And now, all you who received secular education and are travelling with me towards the future in the train of time! I say the following to you as well:
Religious zeal and Islamic nationhood have completely fused in the Turks and Arabs, and may not now be separated. Islamic zeal is a luminous chain which is most strong and secure and is not born of this world. It is a support that is firm and certain, and will not fail. It is an unassailable fortress that cannot be razed.
When I said this to those two enlightened school teachers, they said to me: “What evidence is there for this? For a claim as great as this an equally great proof and powerful evidence are necessary. What is the evidence?” Suddenly the train emerged from a tunnel. We put our heads out of the window and looked. We saw that a child not yet six years old was standing right next to the railway line where the train was about to pass. I said to my two teacher friends:
Look, this child is answering our question just by the way he is acting. Let the innocent child be the teacher in our travelling school instead of me. See, his behaviour is stating the following truth:
You can see that the child is standing only a metre’s distance from where this hideous monster will pass the minute it roars shrieking out of its hole, the tunnel, with its fearful onslaught. Although it is roaring and threatening with its overwhelming attack saying: “Anything in my way better watch out!”, the innocent child is standing right next to it. With perfect courage, heroism and freedom of spirit he gives no importance at all to its threats. He has contempt for the monster’s onslaught, and says with his childish heroism: “Hey, railway train, you can’t frighten me with your thunderous roars!”
It is as if he is saying too through his resolution and fortitude: “Hey, railway train, you’re the prisoner of a system! Your bit and bridle are in the hands of the one who’s driving you. It’s beyond your power to attack me. You can’t seize me and hold me under your despotism. Off with you! Get on your way! Carry on down the track at the command of your driver!’”
O friends in this train and brothers who are studying science fifty years later! Traversing time, suppose that with their proverbial heroism Rustam of Iran and Hercules of Greece are there in place of the innocent child. Since at their time there were no trains, of course there was not the belief that trains move regularly, according to a system. When the train suddenly roars out of its hole, the tunnel, snorting thunder and fire, with lightening in its eyes, how Rustam and Hercules rush to one side at its threatening onslaught! How those two heroes are terrified and flee! For all their proverbial courage they run more than a thousand metres.
So look, see how their freedom and courage dissolve in the face of the monster’s threat. There is nothing they can do but flee. They do not realize that it is an obedient steed, because they do not believe in its driver and orderly system. They imagine it to be a sort of lion with twenty terrifying and rapacious lions the size of waggons attached to its rear.
O my brothers and my friends who are listening to these words after fifty years! What gives the fiveyearold child greater freedom and courage than those two heroes, and a fearlessness and confidence far exceeding theirs, is faith, trust and belief. Belief in the order and system of the railway, which is a seed of truth in that innocent child’s heart. Belief that the reins of the train are in the hands of a driver, that its movement is regulated, that someone is driving it on his own account.
While what terrifies the two heroes and makes their consciences prisoners to delusion is their ignorant lack of faith; it is the fact that they do not know the driver and do not believe in the order and system.
The heroism which arose from the innocent child’s belief in the comparison is like the heroism of a number of tribes in particular Turkish and Turkified tribes from among the Islamic peoples who, by reason of the faith and belief that was rooted in their hearts, for a thousand years raised the banner of Islam and all its perfections in the face of more than a hundred nations and states in Asia, Africa and half Europe; who went to meet death laughing and saying: “If I die, I shall be a martyr; if I kill, I shall be a champion of Islam.”
Foremost the Turks and Arabs, and all the Muslim peoples, never fearing, confronted with the heroism of belief the unending succession of hostile events in this world, and the threats of that fearsome railway train which is inimical to man’s comprehensive disposition, from microbes, even, to comets. Through the submission to Divine Determining and Decree that arises from belief, they took lessons, and gained wisdom and a sort of worldly happiness in place of terror and fright. The fact that, like the innocent child, they displayed this extraordinary heroism demonstrates that in this world as in the hereafter the absolute ruler of the future will be the nation of Islam.
The cause of the truly strange fear, alarm and anxiety of those two strange heroes in the two comparisons was their lack of belief, their ignorance, and their misguidance; a truth which the Risale-i Nur demonstrates with hundreds of proofs. It is as follows:
Unbelief and misguidance show to the people of misguidance a universe consisting wholly of series of terrible enemies. Thousands of different enemies from the solar system to tubercular bacteria are attacking unfortunate humanity with the hands of blind force, aimless chance, and deaf nature.By presenting to man’s comprehensive disposition, and his endless needs and infinite desires, continuous fear, pain and anxiety, unbelief and misguidance are forms of Hell; it puts those who follow it into a sort of Hell while still in this world.
All science and human progress outside religion and belief is worth nothing, like the heroism of Rustam and Hercules. All it does is to administer injections to deaden the senses so that through drunkenness and dissipation those grievous fears may be temporarily forgotten.
Thus, on the one hand belief and unbelief yield fruits and results in the hereafter like Paradise and Hell, and on the other in this world belief ensures a sort of Paradise, and transforms death into a release from duty, while unbelief makes this world into a sort of Hell, destroys true human happiness and reduces death to eternal nothingness. The Risale-i Nur, relying on definite insight and direct cognition, has demonstrated this truth with hundreds of proofs. Therefore, we refer you to those and cut short the discussion here.
If you wish to see the truth that lies in this comparison, raise your head and look at the universe. Look and see how many vehicles there are like the railway train: balloons, cars, aeroplanes, ships of the land and the sea… the globes of the stars, the heavenly bodies, the chains of events and successive occurrences that preeternal power creates with order, regularity, wisdom and purpose on land and sea and in space.
Anyone who has intelligence and sight is able to see most of these chains of events in the manifest world and corporeal universe and to confirm their existence. Similarly, they may confirm that there are even more wonderful successive events created by preeternal power in the spirit and incorporeal worlds.
Thus, all these material and immaterial chains of events in the universe attack, threaten and frighten the unbelieving people of misguidance; they destroy their moral and spiritual strength. Whereas, for the people of belief, rather than threatening and frightening them, they bring them joy and comfort, and give them hope and strength.
This is because the believers understand through their belief that an AllWise Maker is impelling each of those innumerable chains of events, corporeal and incorporeal railway trains and travelling universes, to carry out their functions within a perfect orderliness, regularity, wisdom and purpose; that He is causing them to work. Not one jot are they confused in their duties, nor can they transgress against one another.
The believers see through their belief that these events are displaying the perfections of His art and the manifestations of His Beauty in the universe. Thus belief gives all moral strength to them and demonstrates a sample of eternal happiness.
Nothing, then, no science, no human progress, can ensure moral strength in the face of the ghastly pains and fears that arise from the people of misguidance’s unbelief, nor give them any comfort. They destroy their courage, but temporarily draw a veil of neglect over them, deceiving them.The believers, by reason of their belief, look on these events, not with fear and crumbled moral strength but with an extraordinary strength and fortitude, and with the truth that is in belief, like the innocent child in the comparison. They observe the planning and will of an AllWise Maker within the sphere of His wisdom and are saved from delusion and fears.
They understand and say: “If it were not for the command and permission of the AllWise Maker, these travelling universes could not be in motion, they could do nothing.” With perfect confidence, they manifest happiness in the life of this world, each according to his degree.
When the seed of truth born of belief and true religion are not present in a person’s heart and conscience, and are not his point of support, in the same way that Rustam and Hercules’ courage and heroism crumbled in the comparison, such a person’s courage and morale too will be annihilated and his conscience will decay. He will become prisoner to all the events in the universe. He will sink to being a trembling beggar before everything.
Since the Risale-i Nur has demonstrated this truth concerning belief and the fearsome wretchedness that misguidance brings in this world with hundreds of decisive proofs, we shall cut short this long and extensive truth here.
Man in this century has perceived that his greatest need is for moral and spiritual strength, solace, and fortitude. Therefore, for him to abandon Islam and the truths of belief at this time, which are a point of support and secure the moral strength, solace, and happiness he needs, and, instead of benefiting from Islamic nationhood, under the pretext of becoming westernized, for him to rely on misguidance, dissipation, and lying politics and diplomacy, which completely destroy and annihilate all moral strength, solace, and fortitude, are acts far from all benefit and profit for mankind. Just how far they are from benefiting mankind, foremost the Islamic world, and all mankind, will realize. They will be awakened to this truth, and, if time has not run out for this world, they will adhere to the truths of the Qur’an.