Skip to main content
Historical Recurrences
May 1, 2013

Question: Taking into account the notion that history repeats itself, how should we view recent incidents and events that are taking place in our world today?

Indeed, the world has once again stepped into a zone of spiritual crisis—and this in itself is a historical recurrence. Before delving into the details of the topic, it would be more useful to expound on the meaning and nature of historical recurrences.

Yes, history is filled with recurrences. These recurrences are not identical to the past, but show some form of resemblance. If they had been identical, then lessons would have been learned and the same mistakes would not have been made. Thus we need to approach history not hoping to arrive at decisive conclusions, as if it would recur identically, but rather to draw wisdom from it, for we will encounter events that will resemble similar moments in the past. Let us now try and view our current crisis from this perspective.

It has often been observed that the periods in history when God burdened and pressured people the most have inspired humanity to sail towards new horizons. This is the case for individuals as well as communities. That is, just as when an individual’s burdens reaching their zenith indicates the moment of salvation is near, excessive social burdens have always refined the community and guided them in new directions. The following saintly words on the night’s darkness reflect what we are trying to say here: “Get as dark as you can. For the last phase of darkness is the moment light begins to shine forth.”

Furthermore, the macro-universe and the human being (the eminent sultan of the normo-universe) are so similar that they are almost identical. Due to this fact, let us start the discussion with the individual, by way of comparison. The relief and contentment experienced by individuals are sometimes followed by spiritual and conscientious expansions. In some other instances, the opposite may happen. Contraction, or qabdh in Islamic Sufi terminology, means being pressed or put under pressure. The handle of the sword that is interlocked with fingers and pressed is also called “qabdha.” Qabdh can also be defined as being held extremely tightly by an unknown hand. This term, indeed, has been added to Sufi terminology with this particular connotation.

The state of contraction may sometimes originate from certain individual sins, or from individual heedlessness. At first, a person unleashes himself into an effervescent climate, and lives, for some time, in a light-headed state. Immediately after, as a form of punishment, a person becomes exposed to contraction. Maybe, it is the soul that wishes to experience this state, for the redundancy of comfort and lethargy annoys the soul. Consequently, the soul often gets annoyed by the exuberance of the material world, because it wishes to be, and to stay, in a state of spiritual alertness and vibrancy regarding its longing for eternity.

In this regard, contraction results when a person lets go of himself, and is consequently cautioned by the Hand of Power. God exposes a person to contraction in order for that person to re-direct themself to Him. This is very similar to when a mother lightly slaps her child to prevent her baby from doing something wrong, or going somewhere bad, and then embraces her baby mercifully and lovingly.

In such a state, roads narrow and do not give way; causes gradually start to vanish. Here, just at this moment, one removes all causes from his memory and directs himself to the One who holds all causes in His Mighty Hand. Essentially, the aim of the Almighty is to direct a person to Himself. In these cases, if a person comprehends the real cause of what befell him, and returns to the Almighty, it means that the goal has been achieved. However, reaching this point requires an astute consciousness and perception to comprehend the fact that no single incident in the universe occurs due to blind or arbitrary coincidence. In his commentary on the Qur’an, Nursi portrays the position of two people who have fallen into a well in light of the current issue: One of the two is deprived of his ability to inquire about the hidden aspect of matters. The other person is a man of wisdom. And through the window of wisdom, this second man speaks to himself as follows (Eighth Word):

“These matters do not actually seem to be coincidental. A lion suddenly starts chasing me while I have been running in the desert; then I fall into a well and hold a tree; two mice, a black one and a white one, on the root of the tree have been gnawing at the tree; and, a dragon down below has been waiting for the moment of my fall, with a mouth wide open. Up above, the lion threatens me with his scary behavior. Standing shoulder to shoulder, these incidents can in no way take place coincidentally or by chance. Apparently, all these have been preplanned by Someone who knows me; and all these are represented through my existence.”

You see, every person who has experienced the state of contraction should view incidents in a similar way, and say to themselves: “all these incidents embracing me so tightly are directed by a superior might exceeding myself, and I am a mere extra in this play.” Of course, this should not be considered sufficient, and right away, one should take refuge in the sovereignty of the One who holds the entirety of existence in His Holy Hand.

This situation is valid for communities, too. A community is sometimes held and pressed by an iron claw, and this can be said to be that community’s contraction . Reasons for such contraction include living in idleness, being unaware of their return to Him, knocking on the wrong doors, or seeking cures in the wrong places.

Today, we can see, through the contraction of individuals and communities, that history repeats itself. This repetition has shown that troubles and turmoil can mark the beginnings of new exaltations. The crisis we are experiencing today shall become a bridge to new energy and exuberance. Indeed, is it not our mission to prepare a new era of exaltation for humanity?