Sunday, 21 September 2014
Ustadz Said Nursi's (q.s.) Treatise on Scrupulosity
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
The following is excerpted from Ustadz Said Nursi’s (q.s.) “Treatise on Scrupulosity”, from “The Second Station of the Twenty-First Word.” This comprises five cures for five of the heart’s wounds. It was translated by Dr. Colin Turner.
“In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
O one afflicted with the sickness of scruples! Do you know what your scruples resemble? A calamity! The more importance they are given, the more they grow. If you give them no importance, they die away. If you see them as big, they grow bigger. If you see them as small, they grow smaller. If you fear them, they swell and make you ill. If you do not fear them, they are light and remain hidden. If you do not know their true nature, they persist and become established. While if you do know them and recognise them, they disappear. And so, I shall explain only five ‘aspects’ which, of the many sorts of these calamitous scruples, are those which most frequently occur. Perhaps it may be curative for you and for me, for these scruples are such that ignorance invites them and knowledge repulses them. If you do not recognise them they come, if you do recognise them they go.
First Aspect: Satan first casts a doubt into the heart. If the heart does not accept it, it turns from a doubt into abuse. It depicts before the imagination some unclean memories and unmannerly, ugly states which resemble abuse, and causes the heart to declare, ‘Alas!’, and fall into despair. The person suffering from scruples supposes that he has acted wrongfully before his Sustainer and feels a terrible agitation and anxiety. In order to be saved from it, he flees from the Divine Presence and wants to plunge into heedlessness.
The cure for this wound is this, O wretched man suffering from scruples! Do not be alarmed! For what comes to your mind is not abuse, but something imaginary. And like to imagine unbelief is not unbelief, to imagine abuse is not abuse either. For according to logic, an imagining is not a judgement, and abuse is a judgement. Moreover, those ugly words are not the words of your heart, because your heart is saddened and sorry at them. Rather they come from the inner faculty situated near the heart which is a means of Satanic whisperings. The harm of scruples is imagining the harm. That is, it is to suffer harm in the heart through imagining them to be harmful. For it is imagining to be reality an imagining which is devoid of judgement. Also, it is to attribute to the heart Satan’s works; to suppose his words to be from it. Such a person thinks it is harmful, so it becomes harmful. That is anyway what Satan wanted.
Second Aspect: It is this: when meanings arise in the heart, they enter the imagination stripped of form; it is there that they are clothed in an image or form. The imagination, always affected by some cause, weaves images of a sort. It leaves on the way the images of the things to which it gives importance. Whatever meaning passes through it, it either clothes it, or wears it, or taints it, or veils it. If the meanings are pure and clean, and the images, dirty and base, there is no clothing, but there is contact. The man with scruples confuses the contact with being clothed. He exclaims, ‘Alas! How corrupted my heart has become. This lowness has made me despicable!’ Satan takes advantage of this vein of his.
The cure for such a wound is as follows: Listen, O you unfortunate! Just as outward cleanliness, which is the means to the correct conduct of your prayers, is not affected by the uncleanness of the inside of your inner organs, and is not spoiled by it, so the sacred meanings being close to unclean forms does not harm them. For example, you are reflecting on some Divine Signs when suddenly you feel ill, or an appetite, or a stimulation like a need to pass water. Of course your imagination will see whatever is necessary to cure the ill or answer the need, and will look at it, weave lowly forms appropriate to them, and the meanings that arise will pass between them. But there is no harm in their passing, nor soiling, nor error, nor injury. If there is any mistake, it is in paying them attention and imagining the harm.
Third Aspect: It is this: there are certain hidden connections between things. There are even the threads of connections between things you least expected. They are either there in fact, or your imagination made them according to the art with which it was preoccupied, and tied them together. It is due to this mystery of connections that sometimes seeing a sacred thing calls to mind a dirty thing. As stated in the science of rhetoric, ‘Although opposition is the cause of distance in the outer world, it is the cause of proximity in the imagination.’ That is, an imaginary connection is the means of bringing together the images of two opposites. The recollection which arises from this connection is called the association of ideas.
For example, while performing the prayers or reciting supplications before the Ka‘bah in the Divine Presence, this association of ideas takes hold of you and drives you to the furthest, lowest trivia, although you are reflecting on Qur’anic verses. If your head is afflicted with association of ideas in this way, beware, do not be alarmed. Rather, the moment you come to your senses, turn back. Do not say, ‘I’ve done a great wrong,’ and keep playing with the trigger, lest through your attention, that tenuous connection strengthens. For the more you feel regret, the more importance you give it and that faint memory of yours becomes ingrained. It becomes an imaginary sickness. Do not be frightened, it is not a sickness of the heart. This sort of recollection is mostly involuntary. Especially in sensitive, nervous people it is more common. Satan works the mine of this sort of scruple a great deal.
The cure for this wound is as follows: The association of ideas is mostly involuntary. One is not answerable for it. In association, there is proximity; there is no touching or intermingling. Therefore, the nature of the ideas do not pass to one another and do not harm one another. Just as Satan and the angel of inspiration being in proximity to one another around the heart, and sinners and the pious being close to one another in the same house cause no harm, so too, if at the prompting of the association of ideas, dirty imaginings come and enter among clean thoughts, they cause no harm. Unless it is intentional, or by imagining them to be harmful, one is over-occupied with them. And sometimes the heart becomes tired, and the mind occupies itself with anything it encounters in order to entertain itself. Then, Satan finds an opportunity, and scatters dirty things before it, and eggs it on.
Fourth Aspect: This is a scruple arising from searching for the best form of an action. Supposing it to be fear of God, the more rigorous it becomes, the more severe the condition becomes for the person. It even reaches the point that while searching for even better forms of action, he deviates into what is unlawful. Sometimes, searching for a sunnah makes him give up what is obligatory. He says, ‘I wonder if my act was sound?’, and repeats it. This state continues, and he falls into terrible despair. Satan takes advantage of this state of his, and wounds him. There are two cures for such a wound.
In the first cure, scruples like this are worthy of the Mu‘tazilites, because they say, ‘Actions and things for which a person is responsible are either, of themselves and in regard to the Hereafter, good, and because of this good they were Commanded, or they are bad, and because they are bad they were Prohibited. That means, from the point of view of reality and the Hereafter, the good and bad in things is dependent on the things themselves, and the Divine Command and Prohibition follows this.’
According to this school of thought, the following scruple arises in every action which a person performs, ‘I wonder if my action was performed in the good way that in essence it is?’ While the true school, the Sunni school, says, ‘Almighty God Orders a thing, then it becomes good. He Prohibits a thing, then it becomes bad.’ That is, goodness becomes existent through Command, and badness through Prohibition. They look to the awareness of the one who performs the action, and are established according to that. And this good and bad is not in the apparent face which looks to this world, but in the face that looks to the Hereafter.
For example, you performed the prayers or took the ablutions and there was a cause that of itself would spoil them, but you were completely unaware of it. Your prayers and ablutions, therefore, are both sound and acceptable. However, the Mu‘tazilites say, ‘In reality, it was bad and unsound. But it may be accepted from you because you were ignorant and did not know, so you have an excuse.’ Therefore, according to the Sunni school, do not say about an action which is conformable with the externals of the shari‘ah, ’I wonder if it was sound?’; do not have scruples about it. Say, ‘Was it accepted?’; do not become proud and conceited!
Regarding the second cure; this is, there is no difficulty in religion. Since the four schools of law are true; and since realising a fault which leads to the seeking of Forgiveness is preferable for the person afflicted with scruples to seeing actions as good, which leads to pride, that is, it is better if such a person sees his action as faulty and seeks Forgiveness, rather than considering it to be good and falling into pride; since it is thus, throw away your scruples and say to Satan, ‘This state is a difficulty. It is difficult to be aware of the reality of things. It is contrary to the ease in religion expressed by: There is no difficulty in religion. It is contrary to the principle, religion is facility. Certainly such an action is conformable with a true school of law. That is enough for me. And at least by admitting my inability to perform the worship in a way worthy of it, it is a means of taking refuge with Divine Compassion through humbly beseeching Forgiveness, and to meekly supplicating that my faulty actions be Accepted.
Fifth Aspect: In matters of belief, what occurs to one in the form of doubts are scruples. The unhappy man suffering from scruples sometimes confuses conceptions in his mind with imaginings. That is, he imagines a doubt that has occurred to his imagination to be a doubt that has entered his mind, and supposes that his beliefs have been damaged. Sometimes he supposes a doubt he has imagined to have harmed his belief. Sometimes he supposes a doubt he has imagined to have been confirmed by his reason. Sometimes he supposes pondering over a matter related to unbelief to be unbelief. That is, he supposes to be contrary to belief his exercising his ability to reflect in the form of understanding the causes of misguidance, and his ability to study and reason in impartial fashion. Then, taking fright at these suppositions, which result from the whisperings of Satan, he exclaims, ‘Alas! My heart is corrupted and my beliefs spoiled.’ Since those states are mostly involuntary, and he cannot put them to rights through his faculty of will, he falls into despair.
The cure for this wound is as follows: Just as imagining unbelief is not unbelief, neither is fancying unbelief, unbelief. And just as imagining misguidance is not misguidance, so too reflecting on misguidance is not misguidance. For both imagining, and fancying, and supposing, and reflecting, are different from confirmation with the reason and submission of the heart, they are other than them; they are free to an extent; they do not listen to the faculty of will; they are not included among the obligations of religion. But affirmation and submission are not like that; they are dependent on a balance. And just as imagining, fancying, supposing, and reflecting are not affirmation or submission, so they cannot be said to be doubt or hesitation. But if they are repeated unnecessarily and become established, then a sort of real doubt may be born of them. Also, continually taking the part of the opposing side calling it unbiased reasoning or being fair reaches the point that the person involuntarily favours the opposing side. His taking the part of the truth, which is incumbent on him, is destroyed. He, too, falls into danger. A state of mind becomes fixed in his head whereby he becomes an officious representative of Satan or the enemy.
The most important of this sort of scruple is this: the person suffering from it confuses something that is actually possible with something which is reasonably possible. That is, if he sees something which is of itself possible, he imagines it to be reasonably possible and reasonably doubtful. Whereas one of the principles of theology is that something which is of itself possible is not opposed to certain knowledge and does not contradict the demands of reason. For example, the Black Sea sinking into the earth at this moment is of itself possible, but we judge with certainty that the sea is in its place, and we know this without doubting it, and that possibility which is actually possible causes us no doubt and does not damage our certainty. And, for example, of itself it is possible that the sun will not set today or that it will not rise tomorrow. But this possibility in no way damages our certainty that it will rise and gives rise to no doubt. Similarly, unfounded suspicions arising from possibilities of this sort about, for example, the setting of the life of this world and rising of the life of the Hereafter, which are among the truths of belief, cause no harm to the certainty of belief. Furthermore, the well-known rule, a possibility that does not arise from any proof or evidence is of no importance is one of the established principles of both the sciences of the principles of religion and the principles of jurisprudence.
If you say, ‘What is the wisdom and purpose in scruples being visited on us, which are thus harmful and an affliction for believers?’ The answer is, on condition they do not lead to excess or overwhelm a person, essentially scruples are the cause of vigilance, lead to seeking the best way, and give rise to seriousness. They banish indifference and repulse carelessness. Therefore, in this realm of examination and arena of competition, the Absolutely Wise One put them in the hand of Satan as a whip of encouragement for us. He strikes it at our heads. If it hurts excessively, one must complain to the All-Wise and Compassionate One, and say, ‘I seek Refuge with God from Satan the Accursed.’”