Bediüzzaman Said NursîDamascus SermonLeaders of UmmahRisale-i NurWorld News

Damascus Sermon 1- The Recipe of Ummah’s illnesses and foresight of Future Islamic World by Bediüzzaman Said Nursi(1873- 1960)


In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
We too offer the praise and thanks and gifts that all animate creatures offer through the tongues of their beings and lives to their Creator, the Necessarily Existent One, Who said:
Do not despair of God’s mercy.(2)
And neverending blessings and peace be upon our Prophet, Muhammad the Elect of God (Upon whom blessings and peace), who said:
“I came to perfect morality.”(3)
That is, “An important reason for my being sent to mankind by Almighty God was to perfect good conduct and morality, and deliver mankind from immorality and vice.”
Having offered praise to God and sought His blessings for His Messenger, I say this: O my Arab brothers who are listening here in the Umayyad Mosque! I have not mounted this pulpit, which is far above my station,
(2) Qur’an, 39:53.
(3) ’Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa, i, 211.

in order to guide you, for to teach you is beyond my authority. I am like a child before this gathering, among whom are close on a hundred religious scholars, who goes to school in the morning and learns his lesson, then in the evening returns and repeats it to his father. His father sees whether or not what the child has learnt is correct, and the child awaits either approval or guidance from him. Yes, we are like children before you, and we are your students. You are our masters, and the masters of the other Muslim nations. I shall therefore repeat to you, our masters, part of the lesson I have learnt. It is as follows:

In the conditions of the present time in these lands, I have learnt a lesson in the school of mankind’s social life and I have realized that what has allowed foreigners, Europeans, to fly towards the future on progress while it arrested us and kept us, in respect of material development, in the Middle Ages, are six dire sicknesses. The sicknesses are these:

FIRSTLY: The rising to life of despair and hopelessness in social life.

SECONDLY: The death of truthfulness in social and political life.

THIRDLY: Love of enmity.

FOURTHLY: Not knowing the luminous bonds that bind the believers to one another.

FIFTHLY: Despotism, which spreads, becoming widespread as though it was various contagious diseases.

SIXTHLY: Restricting endeavour to what is per-sonally beneficial.

I shall explain, by means of six ‘Words,’ the lesson I have learnt from the pharmacy of the Qur’an, which is like a faculty of medicine. This lesson constitutes the medicine to cure our social life of those six dire sick-nesses.

First Word

The first word is ‘hope;’ that is, to nurture a strong hope of God’s mercy. As a consequence of the lesson I have learnt on my own account, I say: O congregation of Muslims! I give you this good news: the first signs of the true dawn of Arab happiness are just appearing. This happiness will occur through the kindling of the worldly happiness of all Muslims, in particular that of the Ot-tomans, and especially through the progress of Islam. The emergence of the sun of happiness has drawn close. In order to rub despair’s nose in the dust,(4) I say what is my firm conviction so that the world will hear:

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(4) The Old Said, through a presentiment of the event, gave news forty-five years ago of what occurred in 1371/1951, namely that the Islamic world, and foremost the Arabic states, would be delivered from subjection to foreign powers and their despotism, and would form Islamic states. He did not think of the two World Wars and thirty to forty years of absolute despotism. He gave the good news of what actually occurred in 1371/1951 as though it would occur in 1327/1909. He did not take into account the reasons for the delay.

The future shall be Islam’s and Islam’s alone. And its ruler shall be the truths of the Qur’an and belief. Therefore, we must submit to Divine Determining and our fate of the present, for ours is a brilliant future, while the

Europeans’ is a dubious past. I shall now mention one and a half preliminary arguments. I start with the premises of those arguments:

Islam and its truths possess the perfect capacity to progress, both materially and in moral and nonmaterial matters.

Progress in Moral and NonMaterial Matters, which is the First Aspect

You should know that history, which records actual events, is the most faithful witness to the truth. See! History is showing us. The testimony of the Japanese Commanderin Chief who defeated Russia to the validity and justice of Islam is this:

“History shows that the Muslims increased in civilization and progressed in relation to the power of the truths of Islam; that is, to the degree that they acted in accordance with that power. History also shows that they fell into savagery and decline, and disaster and defeat amidst utter confusion to the degree of their weakness in adhering to the truths of Islam.” As for other religions, it is quite to the contrary. That is to say, history shows that they increased in civilization and progressed in relation to their weakness in adhering to their religions

and bigotry, and were subject to decline and revolution to the degree of their strength in adhering to them. Up to the present, time has passed thus.

Furthermore, from the blessed time of the Prophet (PBUH) up to the present, not a single event in history has shown us a Muslim who has embraced another religion, whether old or new, in preference to Islam, as result of reasoned argument and conclusive evidence. If the uneducated embrace another religion without evidence in blind imitation, it has no bearing on this matter. And to be without religion is yet another question. However, history shows us that followers of other religions, and even the English and preRevolution Russians, who displayed the greatest bigotry in religion, are gradually approaching and entering Islam on the strength of reasoned argument and cogent proofs, sometimes in groups.(5)

If we were to display through our actions the perfections of the morality of Islam and the truths of belief, without doubt the followers of other religions

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(5) Proofs of this claim, and powerful witnesses to it, are the following facts; that, fortyfive years after this claim was made, in spite of two appalling world wars and the emergence of an extreme and absolute despotism, small northern states like Sweden, Norway and Finland have accepted and started to teach the Qur’an in their schools as a barrier to communism and irreligion. A number of prominent English orators are also seen to be in favour of encouraging the English to accept the Qur’an. And America, now the most powerful state on earth, is seen to support the truths of religion with all its strength, and has decided that Asia and Africa shall find prosperity, peace and reconcilation through Islam, and it patronizes and encourages the newly emergent Muslim states and tries to enter into alliance with them.

would enter Islam in whole communities; some entire regions and states, even, would take refuge in Islam.

Moreover, man has been awakened and aroused by the modern sciences in particular; he has understood the true nature of humanity.

Without any shadow of a doubt, man cannot live without religion, aimlessly. He cannot. Even the most irreligious person is compelled to take refuge in religion. For the only point of support for impotent man in the face of the innumerable disasters and the external and internal enemies that plague him, and the only point from which he may seek help and assistance in the face of the innumerable needs with which he is afflicted, and his desires that stretch to eternity, despite his utter want and poverty, is in recognizing the Maker of the world, in faith, and in believing and affirming the hereafter. There is no help for awakened mankind apart from this.

If the jewel of true religion is not present in the shell of the heart, material, moral, and spiritual calamities of untold magnitude will break loose over humanity and man will become the most unhappy, the most wretched, of animals.

In Short: This century, man has been awakened by the warnings of war, science, and awesome events, and he has perceived the true nature of humanity and his own comprehensive disposition. Man has begun to understand that with his wonderful comprehensive abilities and disposition, he was not created only for this brief and troublesome worldly life, but that he is a candidate

for eternity, for there are within him desires that extend that far. Everybody has begun to realize that this narrow and transient world is not sufficient and cannot meet their boundless hopes and desires.

If it is said to the imagination, which is one of the faculties and servants of humanity: “You will rule the world and live for a million years, but in the end you will be despatched to nonexistence with no possibility of a return to life,” for sure, the imagination of one who has not lost his true humanity and who has been awakened, rather than being joyful and pleased, will weep longingly and with sighs and regrets at there being no eternal happiness.

Thus, included in this point is the fact that in everyone’s heart an inclination has sprung up to search earnestly for a true religion. In the face of the sentence of death, before anything else man is searching for a truth, contained only in true religion, so that he may save himself. The present state of the world testifies to this fact.

After fortyfive years and the appearance of irreligion, regions and states on the earth have begun to perceive, like a human being, this intense need of mankind. Furthermore, at their beginning and end, the verses of the Qur’an refer man to his reason, saying: “Use your intelligence! Think! Consult your mind and your heart! Confer with them so that you might know this fact!”

Look at the beginnings and ends of verses such as those; they say: “Why do you not look? Why do you not take warnings? Look so that you may know the truth.” Take note of the way “Know!” is used. Many verses contain

sentences that have the meaning of: “Why do men not know, why do they fall into compounded ignorance? Why do they not look? Have they become blind so that they cannot see the Truth? Why do men not call to mind and ponder over their own lives and the events in the world so that they might find the straight path? Why do they not think, deliberate and reason with the mind, and so fall into misguidance? O men! Take a lesson! Take a warning from past ages and try to be saved from the moral and spiritual calamities of the future!” These verses refer man to his intellect; they enjoin him to consult with his reason.

O my brothers in this Umayyad Mosque as well as those in the vast mosque of the world of Islam! You too take warning. Take warning from the dreadful events of the last fortyfive years. Come straight to your senses! O you who are wise and thoughtful and consider yourselves to be enlightened!

Conclusion: We Muslims, who are students of the Qur’an, follow proof; we approach the truths of belief through reason, thought, and our hearts. We do not abandon proof in favour of blind obedience and imitation of the clergy like some adherents of other religions. Therefore, in the future when reason, science and technology prevail, of a certainty that will be the time the Qur’an will gain ascendancy, which relies on rational proofs and invites the reason to confirm its pronouncements.

Moreover, the veils that have eclipsed the sun of Islam, hindered its emergence and prevented it illuminating mankind have begun to disperse. Those things that

were hindering it have begun to fall back. The signs of the dawn appeared fortyfive years ago.(6)Then the true dawn broke in 1371/1951, or it will break. Even if it is the false dawn, in thirty or forty years’ time the true dawn will break.

Eight serious obstacles prevented the truths of Islam completely overwhelming the past.

THE FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD OBSTACLES: The Europeans’ ignorance, their barbarity at that time, and their bigotry in their religion. These three obstacles have been removed by the virtues of knowledge and civilization, and they have begun to disperse.

THE FOURTH AND FIFTH OBSTACLES : The domination and arbitrary power of the clergy and religious leaders, and the fact that the Europeans obeyed and followed them blindly. These two obstacles have also started to disappear with the emergence among mankind of the idea of freedom, and the desire to search for the truth.

THE SIXTH AND SEVENTH OBSTACLES : The despotism that was with us, and our degeneracy that arose from opposing the Shari‘a, were obstacles. The fact that the separate despotic power residing in a single individual is now declining indicates that the fearful despotism of larger groups in society and of committees will also decline in thirty to forty years’ time. And the great upsurge in Islamic zeal, together with the fact that the ugly results of immorality are becoming apparent, show that these two obstacles are about to decline, indeed,

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(6) That is, in 1906. [Tr.]

that they have begun to do so. God willing, they will completely disappear in the future.

THE EIGHTH OBSTACLE : Since certain matters of modern science were imagined to oppose and be con-trary to the outer meanings of the truths of Islam, it prevented, to some extent, their prevailing in the past. Scientists and philosophers opposed Islam because they did not know the truth and, for example, imagined the two angels composed of spirit called Thawr and Hut, who are charged through a Divine command to oversee the globe of the earth, to be a great corporeal ox and fish.

There are hundreds of examples like this one. After learning the truth, even the most opinionated philoso-pher is compelled to submit to it. In the treatise called the Miraculousness of the Qur’an,(7) the Risale-i Nur points out flashes of the Qur’an’s miraculousness that lie beneath each of all the verses that science attacks, and it sets forth clearly the elevated truths, which the hand of science cannot reach, in those sentences and phrases of the Holy Qur’an that the scientists suppose to be points of criticism; it compels even the most obstinate philosopher to submit. It is clear and self-evident, any-one who wishes may look. -So let them look and see how this obstacle is being destroyed, as these words fore-casted forty-five years ago.

Some perspicacious Muslim scholars have indeed written on this subject. Signs that this eighth serious ob-stacle will be overturned are to be seen.

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(7) The Twenty-Fifth Word. [Tr.]

For sure, even if not now then in thirty to forty years’ time, in order to fit out and equip to perfection the three forces of science, true knowledge, and the virtues of civlization, and to rout and put to flight those eight obstacles, the desire to search for the truth, equity, and love of humanity will be despatched to the eight fronts of those eight enemy squadrons. They have already started to drive them back. God willing, in half a century they will scatter them completely.

It is well known that the most indisputable virtue is that which even its enemies testify to and affirm. The following therefore are two examples out of hundreds:

The First: A famous European scholar and philosopher of the 19th century, Carlyle, did not hold back from proclaiming in the loudest voice to philosophers and Christian scholars the following, which he also wrote in his works, that Islam was born like a brilliant flame and devoured the religions of its time as though they were dead wood. It was Islam’s right to do this he said, for it was a reality, while the other religions lacked reality. He said also that the words most worthy to be heeded first are those of Muhammad (Upon whom be blessings and peace), for the true word was his. He said too that if the truth of Islam is doubted then the most selfevident matters should be doubted, because the most selfevident and necessary truth is Islam.(8)

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(8) Thomas Carlyle, 1795-1880. See his work, On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History, London, 1841, which is the transcript of six public lectures Carlyle gave in London in 1840, the second of which was entitled: The Hero as Prophet. Mahomet: Islam.

Second Example: A famous European of the last century who was also a scholar and philosopher, Prince Bismarck, said:

“I have studied all the revealed books, but since they are corrupted, I have been unable to find the true wisdom I was searching for, for the happiness of mankind. Then I saw that the Qur’an of Muhammad was far superior to all the other Books. I found wisdom in all its words. There is no other work that will serve man’s happiness like this. Such a work cannot be the word of man. Those who say it is Muhammad’s work are denying the imperatives of knowledge. That is, the Qur’an is selfevidently the word of God.”

So, supported by the fact that the clever fields of Europe and America have produced crops of brilliant and exacting scholars like Carlyle and Bismarck, I say with all assurance:

Europe and America are pregnant with Islam; one day they will give birth to an Islamic state. Just as the Ottomans were pregnant with Europe and gave birth to a European state.

O my brothers who are here in the Umayyad Mosque and those who are in the mosque of the world of Islam half a century later! Do the introductory remarks, that is, those made up to here, not point to the conclusion that it is Islam that will be the true, and spiritual, ruler over the future, and only Islam that will lead mankind to happiness in this world and the next; and that true Christianity, stripping off superstition and

corrupted belief, will be transformed into Islam; following the Qur’an, it will unite with Islam?

Second Aspect

That is, the powerful reasons for Islam’s material progress show that Islam will also be materially dominant in the future. The First Aspect demonstrated its progress in moral and spiritual matters and this Second Aspect offers strong proofs for its material progress and supremacy in the future. For established in the heart of the Islamic world’s collective personality are five extremely powerful, unbreakable ‘Strengths,’ which have blended and coalesced.(9)

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(9) We understand from the Qur’an’s teaching and instruction and what these indicate, that through mentioning the prophets’ miracles, the Qur’an is informing mankind that events similar to those miracles will come into existence in the future through progress, and is urging them to achieve them, saying:
“Come on work! Show examples of these miracles! Like the Prophet Solomon (UWP), cover a journey of two months in a day! Like the Prophet Jesus (UWP), work to discover the cure of the most frightful diseases! Like the Prophet Moses (UWP), extract the water of life from stone and deliver mankind from thirst! Like the Prophet Abraham (UWP), find materials and dress in them so that fire will not burn you! Like some of the prophets, listen to distant voices and see distant images in east and west! Like the Prophet David (UWP), soften iron like dough and make it like wax to meet the needs of mankind! How greatly you benefit from the clock and the ship, the miracles of the Prophet Joseph (UWP) and the Prophet Noah (UWP) respectively. Benefit in the same way from the miracles the other prophets taught you, and imitate them.”
By analogy with the above, the Qur’an instructs mankind in every respect, urges them to material, moral and spiritual progress, and proves that it is the universal teacher and master.

First Strength: This is the reality of Islam, which is the master of all perfection, can make three hundred and seventy million souls as a single soul, has been furnished with a real civilization and positive, true sciences, and is such that it cannot be destroyed by any power.

Second Strength: An intense need, which is the real master of civilization and industry, and is the source and means of development, together with complete, backbreaking poverty, are such strengths that they may be neither silent nor crushed.

Third Strength: This Strength, which teaches men exalted aims in the form of competition for exalted things, and causes them to strive on that way, which shatters despotism, excites exalted emotions, and destroys jealousy, envy, malice and rivalry, and is furnished with true awakening, the eagerness of competition, the tendency towards renewal and predisposition for civilization, consists of the freedom which is accordance with the Shari‘a. That is to say, it has been fitted out with the desire for the highest accomplishments worthy of humanity.

Fourth Strength: This the fearlessness arising from belief, which is decked out with compassion. That is, neither to demean oneself or to be servile to oppressors and despots, nor to oppress and be arrogant towards the unfortunate; these form the foundations of the freedom which is accordance with the Shari‘a.

Fifth Strength: This is the dignity of Islam, which proclaims and upholds the Word of God. In this age, proclaiming the Word of God is contingent on material

progress; it may be proclaimed only through achieving true civilization. It cannot be doubted that in the future the world of Islam’s collective personality will carry out to the letter that categorical command issued by the dignity of Islam through belief.

In the past, Islam’s progress occurred through smashing the enemy’s bigotry and obstinacy and through defence against their aggression; through weapons and the sword. Whereas in the future, in place of weapons, the immaterial, moral swords of true civilization, material progress, and truth and justice will defeat and scatter the enemies.

You should understand that what I mean are the good things that are civilization’s virtues and its benefits for mankind. Not its iniquities and evils that idiots have imagined to be its virtues, and imitating them, devastated our possessions. Giving religion as the bribe, they have not even gained the world. Through civilization’s iniquities prevailing over its benefits and its evils being preferred to its virtues, mankind has suffered two calamitous blows in the form of two world wars, and overturning that sinful civilization men have been so utterly disgusted that they have smeared the face of the earth with blood.

God willing, through the strength of Islam in the future, the virtues of civilization will prevail, the face of the earth cleansed of filth, and universal peace be secured.

Indeed, the facts that European civilization is not founded on virtue and guidance, but on lust and passion, rivalry and oppression, and that up to the present

the evils of civilization have predominated over its virtues, and that it has been infiltrated by revolutionary societies like a wormeaten tree, are each like powerful indications and means for the supremacy of Asian civilization. In a short period of time it will prevail.

How is it that while there are such powerful and unshakeable ways and means for the material and moral progress of the believers and people of Islam, and although the road to future happiness has been opened up like a railway, you despair and fall into hopelessness in the face of the future, and destroy the morale of the Islamic world? In despair and hopelessness you suppose that “the world is the world of progress for Europeans and everyone else,” but “it is the world of decline only for the unfortunate people of Islam!” By saying that you are making a grievous mistake.

Since the desire to progress and be perfected has been included in the universe and in man’s essential nature, for sure, if doomsday does not soon engulf mankind as a result of its errors and wrongdoing, in the future truth and justice will show the way to a worldly happiness in the world of Islam, God willing, in which there will be atonement for the former errors of mankind.

Consider this: time does not run in a straight line so that its beginning and end draw apart from one another; it moves in a circle, like the motion of the globe of the earth. Sometimes it displays the seasons of spring and summer as progress, and sometimes the seasons of storms and winter as decline. Just as every winter is followed by spring and every night by morning, mankind

also shall have a morning and a spring, God willing. You may expect from Divine mercy to see true civilization within universal peace brought about through the sun of the truth of Islam.

At the start of the lesson I said I would demonstrate one and a half arguments to support my assertion. Now, one argument, in concise form, is finished and the remaining half argument is as follows:

As has been established by the prying investigations and innumerable experiments of the sciences, the fundamental and absolutely overriding aim and the true purpose of the AllGlorious Maker in the order of the universe are good, beauty, excellence and perfection. For all the physical sciences demonstrate such an order and perfection in the fields they study in accordance with their comprehensive laws that the intellect can find nothing more perfect.

For example, sciences such as anatomy in medicine, the science of the solar system in astronomy, and botany and biology, all demonstrate the miracles of power and the wisdom of the AllGlorious Maker in the order in their own particular fields, and the truth of the verse,

Who makes most excellent everything that He creates.(10)

Also, inductive reasoning and general experience demonstrate that evil, ugliness, defect, badness and futility are minor in the creation of the universe. They are not the aim; they are dependent and secondary. That is

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(10) Qur’an, 32:7.

to say, ugliness has not entered the universe for the sake of ugliness, but as a unit of measurement in order to transform a single truth of beauty into numerous truths. Evil, and Satan even, have been set to pester man in order to be the means of his limitless progress through competition. Minor evils and ugliness like these have been created in the universe in order to be the means of instances of universal beauty and good. Thus, according to inductive reasoning, the true aim and result of creation prove that good, beauty and being perfected are fundamental in the universe and that they are the true aim. So since men have filthied and disordered the face of the earth to this degree with their wicked godlessness and depart this world without receiving their deserts and without reflecting the true aim present in the universe, they certainly shall not escape to nonexistence. They shall rather be despatched to the dungeons of Hell.

Also, it is established by inductive reasoning and the investigations of the sciences that man is the most exalted among animals and the most important. For he discovers with his reason the steps between the apparent causes and effects existent in the universe, and the relationships of causes, which follow on after each other in succession. And, in order to imitate Divine art and orderly and wise dominical creation with his own insignificant art, and in order to understand Divine actions and Divine art through his partial knowledge and his own arts, he has been given the faculty of will as a scale and measure. Thus, the fact that man knows the universal, allembracing actions and attributes of the AllGlorious Creator through the materials he works

through the exercise of his will proves that he is the most honoured and exalted creature in the universe.

Also, according to the testimony of the truths of Islam concerning man and the universe, the most noble and exalted, the most excellent and the highest, are the people of Islam, who are the people of truth and reality. And, according to inductive reasoning and the testimony of history, among the people of truth, the most exalted among honoured mankind, the most excellent and superior was the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This is testified to by his thousand miracles, his elevated morals, and the truths of Islam and the Qur’an.

Since the three truths of this half argument give such news, is it at all possible that mankind should refute the testimony of so many sciences and deny this reasoning with their depravity, and, being perversely obstinate in the face of Divine will and preeternal wisdom, which embraces the whole universe, continue in their iniquitous savagery, wilful godlessness and fearful destruction? Is it at all possible that they should continue in this way against Islam?

I swear with all my strength and, if I possessed them, with innumerable tongues by the AllWise and Glorious One, the AllBeauteous Maker, Who creates the world with this perfect order, and the universe, from particles to the planets, from a fly’s wing to the lamps in the heavens, with an unbounded wisdom of regularity, that it is in no way possible for mankind, contrary to every other sort of being and opposed to the other species, which are its small brothers, to stand in opposition to the order in the universe through its universal acts of

evil and to eat and digest the bitter fruits which, for thousands of years, have been the cause of evil predominating over good among men.

This possibility could only occur by supposing the impossible, that, although man is at the degree of having been charged with the ‘supreme trust’ over the universe, has the rank of Divine vicegerent of the earth, and is an elevated elder brother to the other beings in the universe, he was the lowest, most base, most wretched, most harmful and most insignificant, and as a consequence had stealthily entered the universe and caused chaos in it. This impossibility can in no way be accepted.

This half argument of mine for this fact leads to this conclusion that just as the existence of Heaven and Hell in the hereafter is a necessary fact, so too shall the religion of good and truth prevail absolutely in the future so that, as is the case with all other beings, good and virtue will prevail absolutely over mankind; and mankind may be equal to the rest of their brothers in the universe; and it may be said that the mystery of preeternal wisdom is established in mankind also.

In Short : As the definite facts mentioned above demonstrate, the choice result of the universe and the most important creature in the view of the Creator is man. And as man’s wrongful conduct up to this time necessitates the existence of Hell, so do his comprehensive innate abilities and potentialities and the truths of his belief related to the universe selfevidently necessitate Paradise. Thus, since he cannot endure the crimes, and two world wars, which have made the cosmos weep, and

cannot digest the bitter evils he has swallowed; and because of his conduct, at which he is sick and through which he has filthied the whole face of the earth; and since he has caused humanity to fall to the most abject level and cannot endure the crime of having overturned a thousand years of progress; most certainly and without any doubt, if some ghastly catastrophe does not soon break loose over his head, the truths of Islam will be the means of delivering man from the low and debased degree to which he has fallen, of cleansing the face of the earth, and securing universal peace. We beseech this from the mercy of the AllMerciful and Compassionate One, and we await it with hope.

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