The Twelfth Letter explains why Adam was expelled from Paradise, why some people will go to Hell, why Satan and evil things were created, and why calamities and tribulations are inflicted on even the innocent people and animals.
The Twelfth Letter
In His Name, be He glorified!
And there is nothing but it glorifies Him with praise.
Peace be upon you and on your companions.
My Dear Brothers!
You asked me a question that night and I did not reply, for it is not permissible to argue over the questions of belief. Your discussion of them was in the form of a dispute. For now I am writing very brief replies to your three questions which were the basis of your dispute. You will find the details in The Words, the names of which the chemist has written. Only, it did not occur to me to mention the Twenty-Sixth Word, about Divine Determining and man’s faculty of will; look at that too, but do not read it like a newspaper. The reason for my referring the chemist to study of those Words is this: doubts about matters of that sort arise from weakness of belief in the pillars of faith. Those Words prove all of the pillars of belief.
What wisdom does it spring from, Adam (Upon whom be peace) being expelled from Paradise and some of mankind, the sons of Adam, being sent to Hell?
T h e A n s w e r : The wisdom of it concerns the charging of duties; Adam was sent charged with such a duty that the unfolding of all mankind’s spiritual progress and the revealing of all mankind’s potentialities and man’s essential nature being a comprehensive mirror to all the Divine Names, are the results of it. If Adam had remained in Paradise, his rank would have been fixed like that of the angels; man’s potentialities would not have unfolded. In any case, the angels, whose ranks are unchanging, are numerous, and there is no need for man to perform that sort of worship. Indeed, since Divine wisdom required a realm of accountability appropriate to the potentialities of man, who would traverse infinite degrees, he was expelled from Paradise for his well-known sin, sin being the requirement of man’s nature and contrary to that of the angels. That is to say, just as Adam being expelled from Paradise was pure wisdom and pure mercy, so is it just and right that the unbelievers should be sent to Hell.
As is mentioned in the Third Indication in the Tenth Word, the unbeliever only committed one sin in a short life, but within the sin was infinite wrongdoing. For unbelief is an insult to the whole universe; it negates the value of all beings, it denies the testimony to Divine Unity of all creatures, and is contempt towards the Divine Names, the manifestations of which are to be seen in the mirrors of beings. Therefore, in order to avenge the rights of beings on the unbeliever, the beings’ monarch, the All-Compelling One of Glory, casts the unbelievers into Hell, and this is pure right and justice. For an infinite crime demands infinite punishment.
Why are devils created? Almighty Allah created Satan and evils; what is the wisdom in it? Isn’t the creation of evil, evil, and the creation of bad, bad?
T h e A n s w e r : God forbid, the creation of evil is not evil, the ‘acquisition’ of or desire for evil, rather, is evil. For creation and bringing into existence look to all the consequences, whereas such desire looks to a particular result, since it is a particular relation. For example, there are thousands of consequences of rain falling, and all of them are good. If through mischoice, some people receive harm from the rain, they cannot say that the creation of rain is not mercy, they cannot state that the creation of rain is evil. For it is due to their mischoice and inclination that it is evil for them. Also, there are numerous benefits in the creation of fire, and all of them are good. But if some people receive harm from fire through their misuse of it and their wrong choice, they cannot say that the creation of fire is evil; because it was not only created to burn them. Rather, they thrust their hands into the fire while cooking the food through mischoice, and made that servant inimical to themselves.
In Short: The lesser evil is acceptable for the greater good. If an evil which will lead to a greater good is abandoned so that a lesser evil should not be, a greater evil will then have been perpetrated. For example, there are certainly some minor material and physical harms and evils in sending soldiers to fight a jihad, but in the jihad is a greater good whereby Islam is saved from being conquered by infidels. If the jihad is abandoned due to those lesser evils, then the greater evil will come after the greater good has gone. And that is absolute wrong. Also, for example, to amputate a finger which is infected with gangrene and has to be amputated is good and right, although it is apparently an evil. For if it is not amputated, the hand will be amputated, and that would be a greater evil.
Thus, the creation and bringing into existence of evils, harms, tribulations, satans, and harmful things, is not evil and bad, for they are created for the many important results they yield. For example, satans have not been set to pester the angels, and the angels cannot progress; their degrees are fixed and deficient. However, in the world of humanity the degrees of progress and decline are infinite. There is an extremely long distance through which to progress, from the Nimrod’s and Pharaoh’s as far as the veracious saints and the prophets.
Thus, through the creation of satans and the mystery of man’s accountability and the sending of prophets, an arena of trial and examination and striving and competition has been opened so that coal-like base spirits may be differentiated and separated out from diamond-like elevated spirits. If there had been no striving and competition, the potentialities in the mine of humanity which are like diamonds and coal would have remained equal. The spirit of Abu Bakr the Veracious at the highest of the high would have remained on the same level as that of Abu Jahl at the lowest of the low. This means that since the creation of satans and evils looks to great and universal results, their being brought into existence is not evil or bad. The evils and instances of bad that arise from abuses and the particular causes known as inclination or choice pertain to man’s ‘acquisition’ and choice, not to Divine creation.
I f y o u a s k ? The majority of humanity become unbelievers due to the existence of Satan and embrace unbelief and suffer harm, despite the sending of prophets. If, according to the rule “the majority has the word,” the majority suffers evil as a result, then the creation of evil is evil, and it may even be said that the sending of prophets is not a mercy. Is that not so?
T h e A n s w e r : Quantity has no importance in relation to quality. The true majority looks to quality. For example, if there are a hundred seeds of the date-palm and they are not put beneath the earth and watered and so do not undergo a chemical reaction and manifest a struggle for life, they are only a hundred seeds worth virtually nothing. But if they are watered and are subject to the struggle for life, and then eighty out of the hundred rot due to their faulty make-up, but twenty become fruit-bearing trees, can you say, “watering them was evil because most of them rotted?” Of course, you cannot say that, for that twenty have become like twenty thousand. One who loses eighty and gains twenty thousand suffers no harm, and it cannot be evil.
And for example, a peahen lays one hundred eggs, and they are worth five hundred kurush. If the hen sits on the hundred eggs and eighty are spoilt and twenty hatch into peacocks, can it be said that there was a high loss and the affair was evil; that it was bad to put the broody hen on the eggs and an evil occurred? No, it is not thus, it is rather a good. For the peacock species and egg family lost eighty eggs worth four hundred kurush, but gained twenty peacocks worth eighty liras.
Thus, through the sending of prophets and the mystery of man’s accountability, and through striving, and fighting with satans, in return for the hundreds of thousands of prophets and millions of saints and thousands of millions of purified scholars they have gained, who are like the suns, moons, and stars of the world of humanity, mankind has lost the unbelievers and dissemblers, who are numerous in regard to quantity, insignificant in regard to quality, and like harmful beasts.
Almighty Allah sends calamities and inflicts tribulations; is this not tyrannical towards the innocent in particular, and animals even?
T h e A n s w e r : God forbid, the sovereignty is His. He holds sway over His possessions as He wishes. Moreover, a skilful craftsman makes you a model in return for a wage and dresses you in a bejewelled garment that he has most artistically fashioned. Then in order to display his art and skill, he shortens it and lengthens it, measures it and trims it, and he makes you sit down and stand up. Are you able to say to him: “You have made the garment which made me beautiful ugly. You have caused me trouble, making me sit down and stand up.” Of course, you cannot say that. If you did say it, you would be crazy.
In just the same way, the All-Glorious Maker has clothed you in a most artistically wrought being bejewelled with faculties like the eye, the ear, and the tongue. In order to display the embroideries of various of His Names, He makes you ill, He afflicts you with tribulations, He makes you hungry, He fills you, He makes you thirsty; He makes you revolve in states like these. In order to strengthen the essence of life and display the manifestation of His Names, He makes you journey in numerous such conditions. If you say: “Why do you inflict these calamities on me?”, as is indicated in the comparison, a hundred instances of wisdom will silence you. In any event, calm, repose, idleness, monotony, and arrest from action are forms of non-existence, and harm. Action and change are existence and good. Life finds its perfection through action, it progresses by means of tribulations. Life manifests various actions through the manifestation of the Divine Names, it is purified, finds strength, it unfolds and expands, it becomes a mobile pen to write its own appointed course; it performs its duty, and acquires the right to receive reward in the hereafter.
Thus, the answers to the three questions in your dispute are briefly these. Explanations of them are to be found in the thirty-three Words.
My Dear Brother!
Read this letter to the chemist and to those who heard the argument whom you think suitable. And convey my greetings to my new student, the chemist, and tell him the following:
“It is not permissible to discuss subtle matters of belief like those above in a social gathering in the form of an unbalanced dispute. As an uncontrolled contest, while being a panacea it becomes a poison. It is harmful for both those who speak and those who listen. It is permissible to discuss such matters moderately and fairly as a exchange of ideas.” And tell him: “If doubts occur to you about matters of this sort and you cannot find the answer in the Words, then write to me privately...” And tell the chemist: “The following meaning occurred to me concerning the dream he had about his late father: since his late father was a doctor perhaps he had been of benefit to some of those close to Allah, and at the time of his death the spirits of those blessed people who had been gratified by him were seen by the one closest to him, his son, in the form of birds; it occurred to me that they came to meet him with a sort of welcoming that would be intercession for his spirit.” I send greetings to all the friends who were together here that night, and I pray for them.
The Enduring One, He is the Enduring One!
S a i d N u r s i
- How can the problem of evil be solved?
- The First Addendum to the Twenty-Fourth Letter: It explains the interpretation of the following verse and states the importance of supplication (dua): “O people! No importance would your Sustainer attach to you were it not for your supplication.”
- The Eleventh Letter offers a spiritual drug against the delusion of Satan by interpreting the verse "feeble indeed is the cunning of Satan". (an-Nisa: 76)
- While performing prayer, there are always things that come to my mind involuntarily, I think about something; does this invalidate my prayer?
- As he misleads many people, does it mean that Satan is very powerful?
- Gleams: Flowers from the Seeds of Reality. A short ‘Mathnawi’ and collection on the subject of belief for the Risale-i Nur students.
- First Topic: It emphasizes the importance of brotherhood and love among Muslims. It explains with a persuasive style how damaging rancor and enmity are from the point of view of both Islam and social, individual and spiritual life.
- Is the Quran makhluq (something created)? Is it true that some madhhab imams were tortured because of this issue?
- Why were devils and evil beings created? Is it not bad to create what is bad and is it not evil to created what is evil?
- How should we take refuge in Allah from the wickedness of jinn?