The Second Letter explains through six reasons that those working for the religion should not accept alms and gifts if there is no compelling reason and that they should practice self-sufficiency.
The Second Letter
In His Name, be He Glorified!
And there is nothing but it glorifies Him with praise.
[Part of the letter written in response to a gift from his above-mentioned, well-known student]1
T h i r d l y : You sent me a present, and want to break an extremely important rule of mine! I do not say: “I don’t accept presents from you in the same way that I don’t accept them from Abdülmecid2 and Abdurrahman,3 my brother and nephew,” because since you are more advanced than them and closer in spirit, even if everyone’s gifts are refused, just this time, yours may not be refused. But in connection with this, I shall tell you the reason for my rule. It is like this:
The Old Said never accepted favours. He preferred death to becoming obliged to people. He never broke that rule of his despite suffering great hardship and difficulty. This characteristic, which was left as a legacy by the Old Said to this wretched brother of yours, is not asceticism or artificial self-sufficiency, but is based on four or five serious reasons.
The First: The people of misguidance accuse religious scholars of making their learning a means of subsistence. They attack them unfairly, saying: “They are making knowledge and religion a means of livelihood for themselves.” It is necessary to show this to be false by action.
The Second: We are charged with following the prophets in disseminating the truth. In the All-Wise Qur’an, those who do this say,
My reward is only due from Allah * My reward is only due from Allah4
and display independence. The sentence in Sura Ya. Sin.,
Follow those who ask no reward of you, and who have themselves received guidance5
is most meaningful regarding this matter of ours.
The Third: As is explained in the First Word, one should give in Allah’s name and take in Allah’s name. Whereas mostly either the one giving is heedless and gives in his own name and implicitly puts the other under an obligation, or the one who receives is heedless; he gives the thanks and praise due to the True Provider to apparent causes and is in error.
The Fourth: Reliance on Allah, contentment, and frugality are such a treasury and wealth that they can be exchanged for nothing. I do not want to take things from people and shut up that inexhaustible treasury and store. I offer hundreds of thousands of thanks to the All-Glorious Provider that since my childhood He has not compelled me to remain under obligation and be abased. Relying on His munificence, I beseech His mercy that I may also spend the remainder of my life in accordance with this rule.
The Fifth: As a result of many signs and experiences over the past year or two I have formed the firm conviction that I am not permitted to receive the people’s goods and particularly the gifts of the rich and of officials. Some of them make me ill... rather, they are made to be like that, they are made so that I cannot eat them. Sometimes they are turned into a form that upsets me. This means that it is in effect an order not to receive the goods of others and is a prohibition to receive them. Moreover, I have a need for solitude, I cannot receive everyone all the time. Accepting the people’s gifts necessitates considering their feelings and accepting them at times I do not want to. And I do not find that agreeable. I find it more agreeable to eat a small piece of dry bread and wear clothes patched in a hundred places, and be saved from artificiality and sycophancy. It is disagreeable for me to eat the best quality baklava and wear the finest clothes at the hands of others and be obliged to consider their feelings.
The Sixth: The most important reason for self-sufficiency is what Ibn Hajar, the most reliable scholar of our school of law, says: “If you are not righteous it is forbidden to accept something intended for the righteous.”6
Thus, due to greed and ambition, the people of this age sell the smallest gift very expensively. They imagine a sinful wretch like myself to be righteous or a saint and they give him a loaf of bread. If, God forbid, I consider myself to be righteous, it is a sign of pride and points to the absence of righteousness. If I do not consider myself to be righteous, it is not permissible to accept those goods. Also, to receive alms and gifts in return for actions directed towards the hereafter, means consuming the eternal fruits of the hereafter in transitory form in this world.
The Enduring One, He is the Enduring One!
S a i d N u r s i
1. This refers to Hulûsi Yahyagil, “the first student of the Risale-i Nur.” From Elazig in eastern Turkey, he was then serving as a captain in the army stationed at Egridir. He first visited Bediuzzaman in the spring of 1929. In Bediuzzaman’s words, “his zeal and seriousness were the most important reason for the last of The Words (Sözler) and the Letters (Mektûbat) being written. See, Barla Lahikasi, 18. Also, Necmeddin Sahiner, Son Sahitler, i (1st ed.), 33-55. (Tr.)
2. Abdülmecid (‘Abd al-Majid) was Bediuzzaman’s younger brother. A teacher of the religious sciences, then a Mufti, he translated parts of the Risale-i Nur into Arabic, and Isharat al-I‘jaz and al-Mathnawi al-Nuri (Mesnevi-i Nuriye) from Arabic into Turkish. He died in 1967. (Tr.)
3. Abdurrahman was the son of Bediuzzaman’s elder brother, Abdullah. He was born in Nurs in 1903. His spiritual son, student, and assistant, he joined his uncle in Istanbul following Ist World War, and published a short biography of him at that time. He died in 1928. (Tr.)
4. Qur’an, 10:72, etc.
5. Qur’an, 36:21.
6. Ibn Hajar al-Haythami al-Shafi’i, Tuhfat al-Muhtaj li-Sharh al-Minhaj i, 178.
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