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Travel tip: Vakiflikoy next weekend

August 4, 2010

The church choir in Vakiflikoy

So. What’re you doing the weekend of August 15? We will most likely be working away in Istanbul. But if you’re faced with some free time and a bit of curiosity about minority religious festivals in this country, boy do we have a hot travel tip for you: Vakiflikoy, a village a short jaunt from Antakya.

First, some background: Vakiflikoy is the last ethnically Armenian village in Turkey. It’s on the slope of Musa Dagh, or Mount Moses. At the turn of the last century, there were seven Armenian villages ranged around Musa Dagh, but after, well, you know, most of the population ended up moving southward. But backing up a bit, the story of Musa Dagh’s Armenians during the late 1910s is pretty interesting and inspiring. The six villages were one of the few Armenian communities in the Ottoman Empire to successfully resist the Ottomans’ eviction orders when they came – the residents of Musa Dagh fled up the mountain and camped out. For 53 days. Surrounded by Ottoman troops. Fortuitously for the Armenians, Musa Dagh is pretty much directly on the sea, so after nearly two months, with food supplies running frighteningly low, they sighted a French battleship, attracted its attention with large banners and sent guys swimming out to it to let the Allies know of their plight. Five ships promptly showed up to evacuate the embattled villagers, making the community one of the most intact to survive that era. In the 1920s and 1930s many of the evacuees apparently returned, but the area wasn’t part of Turkey as Hatay was still the Sanjak of Alexandretta, or part of the French’s Syrian mandate. In 1939 the area became part of Turkey as part of a complicated political shuffle designed in part to ensure that Turkey wouldn’t enter WWII on the side of the Axis. Oh politics.

In the aftermath of the evacuation and return, an Austrian, Franz Werfel, published a fictionalized account of the resistance, rescue, and evacuation, “The 40 Days of Musa Dagh.” Werfel changed the number of days the community was stranded on the mountain to 40 to make it more biblically resonant, and (spoiler alert) added a strong conflicted hero figure who dies at the end making sure everyone else is saved. The book is credited with popularizing the plight of the Anatolian Armenians.

Anyway, back to the present: Of the seven villages that came back, only one is left, Vakiflikoy. And the population is dwindling – Wikipedia says there are under 150 Armenians left in the village. For one weekend in August, though, the population swells several-fold, as people swarm in from all over the diaspora to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary and the blessing of the grapes at Surp Asdvadzadzin, the village’s church.

The Feast of the Assumption of Mary is held the second weekend of August. While there are celebrations on the Adalar in Istanbul, the celebration to be at is in Vakiflikoy. The day starts midmorning, with a three-hour-long church service (A word for the wise, bring water). Most people seem to wander in and out of the church for the service – it can get a bit sweltering, and everything’s in Western Armenian – but it’s a beautiful service and their choir has some gorgeous voices. While the service is under way, the church courtyard fills with people getting the grape branches ready and finishing the harisa. Harisa is a dish made of two parts lamb to one part wheat, stewed overnight in giant pots in the church courtyard. The dish is what the Armenians stranded on Musa Dagh survived on after they ran out of everything else to eat. Despite its desperate beginnings, it’s pretty darn good and would make a delicious hot sandwich filling.

At the end of the church service, the priests and the choir and everyone in the pews troops out to the courtyard for the blessing of the grapes. It’s quite stately, and ends with everyone getting grapes; by this time of the morning you’ll definitely be wanting grapes.

After the grapes are blessed, the priests go back into the church, the service finishes, and the real party begins. People snack on more grapes and line up for harisa as everyone catches up with distant relatives or complete strangers in a patois of Armenian, English, and Turkish. There are visne (sour cherry)-based products for sale, homemade by the villagers, including jam, liqueur, and wine. Protip: Buy the visne liqueur and wine. One of us is still regretting not picking some up two years ago. It was a tragic oversight.

To get to Vakiflikoy, the easiest way may be to rent a car in Adana or Antakya, but it’s quite doable by public transportation as well. Pegasus has pretty darn cheap tickets to Adana, from where it’s a 15 lira bus ride to Antakya. From Antakya, grab a dolmus to Samandag (there is a beach here, if you want a post-Vakifli dip, but it can get kind of gross. Absolutely no foreign tourists though, so that’s a pleasant change, beachwise). When you get to Samandag, you’ll have to hire a taxi to Vakifli, but it’s relatively easy and shouldn’t run more than TL 30 or so one-way, if I recall correctly. You can either arrange a round-trip with the taxi driver or figure out transportation back once you get to Vakifli – you might want to grab the taxi driver’s phone number just in case. There are quite a few dolmuses and minibuses at Vakifli on that weekend because of all the visitors, though, and there will most likely be one heading back to Samandag or Antakya mid-afternoon. If you’re spending a night in Antakya, I highly recommend staying at the Catholic church in town.

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  1. March 13, 2011 5:17 am

    The Twenty-First Word
    [This Word consists of Two Stations.]

    First Station
    In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. For such Prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times.

    One time, a man great in age, physique, and rank said to me: ” The Prayers are fine, but to perform them every single day five times is a lot. Since they never end, it becomes wearying.”

    A long time after the man said these words, I listened to my soul and I heard it say exactly the same things. And I looked at it and saw that with the ear of laziness, it was receiving the same lesson from Satan. Then I understood that those words were as though said in the name of all evil – commanding souls, or else they had been prompted. So I too said: ” Since my soul commands to evil, one who does not reform his own soul cannot reform others. In which case, I shall begin with my own soul. ”

    I said: O soul! Listen to Five Warnings in response to those words which you uttered in compounded ignorance, on the couch of idleness, in the sleep of heedlessness.

    · FIRST WARNING

    O my wretched soul! Is your life eternal, I wonder? Have you any incontrovertible document showing that you will live to next year, or even to tomorrow? What causes you boredom is that you fancy you shall live for ever. You complain as though you will remain in the world for pleasure eternally. If you had understood that your life is brief, and that it is departing fruitlessly, to spend one hour out of the twenty-four on a fine, agreeable, easy, and merciful act of service which is the means to the true happiness of eternal life, surely does not cause boredom, but excites a real eagerness and agreeable pleasure.

    · SECOND WARNING

    O my stomach-worshipping soul! Every day you eat bread, drink water, do they cause you boredom? They do not, because since the need is repeated, it is not boredom, but pleasure, that they give. In which case, the five daily prayers should not cause you boredom, for they attract the sustenance, water of life, and air of your friends in the house of my body, my heart, spirit, and subtle faculties. Indeed, the sustenance and strength of a heart which is afflicted with infinite griefs and sorrows and captivated by infinite pleasures and hopes may be optained by knocking through supplication on the door of One All-Compassionate and Munificent. And the water of life of a spirit connected with most beings, which swiftly depart from this transitory world crying out a separation, may be imbibed by turning towards the spring of mercy and Eternal Beloved through the five daily prayers. And a conscious inner sense and luminous subtle faculty, which by its nature desires eternal life and was created for eternity and is a mirror of the Pre-Eternal and Post-Eternal One and is infinitely delicate and subtle, is surely most needy for air in the sorrowful, crushing, distressing, transient, dark, and suffocating, conditions of this world and can only breathe through the window of the prayers.

    · THIRD WARNING

    O my impatient soul! Is it at a11 sensible to think today of past hardships of worship, difficulties of the prayers, and troubles of calamities and be distressed, and to imagine the future duties of worship, service of the prayers, and sorrows of disaster and display impatience? In being thus impatient you resemble a foolish commander, who, although the enemy’s right flank joined his right flank and became fresh forces for him, he sent a significant force to the right flank, and weakened the centre. Then, while there were no enemy soldiers on the left flank, he sent a large force there, and gave them the order to fire. The centre was then devoid of all forces. The enemy understood this and attacked the centre and routed it.

    Yes, you resemble this, for the troubles of yesterday have today been transformed into mercy; the pain has gone while the pleasure remains. The difficulty has been turned into blessings, and the hardship into reward. In which case, you should not feel wearied at it, but make a serious effort to continue with a new eagerness and fresh enthusiasm. As for future days, have not yet arrived, and to think of them now and feel bored and wearied is a lunacy like thinking today of future hunger and thirst, and starting to shout and cry out. Since the truth is this, if you are reasonable you will think of only today in regard to worship, and say: “I am spending one hour of it on a agreeable, pleasant, and elevated act of service, the reward for which is high and whose trouble is little.” Then your bitter dispiritedness will be transformed into sweet endeavor.

    And so, my impatient soul! You are charged with being patient in three respects. One is patience in worship. Another is patience in refraining from sin. And a third is patience in the face of disaster. If you are intelligent, take as your guide the truth apparent in the comparison in this Third Warning. Say in manly fashion: “O Most Patient One!”, and shoulder the three sorts of patience. If you do not squander on the wrong way the forces of patience Almighty God has given you, they should be enough for every difficulty and disaster. So hold out with those forces!

    · FOURTH WARNING

    O my foolish soul! is this duty of worship without result, and is its recompense little that it causes you weariness? Whereas if someone was to give you a little money, or to intimidate you, he could make you work till evening, and you would work without slacking. So is it that the prescribed prayers are without result, which in this guest-house of the world are sustenance and wealth for your impotent and weak heart, and in your grave, which will be a certain dwelling-place for you, sustenance and light, and at the Resurrection, when you will anyway be judged, a document and patent, and on the Bridge of Sirat, over which you are bound to pass, a light and a mount? And are their recompense little? Someone promises you a present worth a hundred liras, and makes you work for a hundred days. You trust the man who may go back on his word and work without slacking. So if One for Whom the breaking of a promise is impossible, promises you recompense like Paradise and a gift like eternal happiness, and employs you for a very short time in a very agreeable duty, if you do not perform that service, or you act accusingly towards His promise or slight His gift by performing it unwillingly like someone forced to work, or by being bored, or by working in halfhearted fashion, you will deserve a severe reprimand and awesome punishment. Have you not thought of this`? Although you serve without slacking in the heaviest work in this world out of fear of imprisonment, does the fear of an eternal incarceration like Hell not fill you with enthusiasm for a most light and agreeable act of service?

    · FIFTH WARNING

    O my world-worshipping soul! Does your slackness in worship and deficiency in the prescribed prayers arise from the multiplicity of your worldly occupations, or because you cannot find time due to the struggle for livelihood? Were you created only for this world that you spend ail your time on it? You know that in regard to your abilities you are superior to all the animals and that in regard to procuring the necessities of worldly life you cannot reach even a sparrow, so why can you not understand that your basic duty is not to labour like an animal, but to expend effort for a true, perpetual life, like a true human being. In addition, the things you call worldly occupations mostly do not concern you, and which you meddle in officiously, trivial matters which you confuse. You leave aside the essential things and pass your time in acquiring inessential information as though you were going to live for a thousand years. For example, you squander your precious time on worthless things like, what are the rings around Saturn like, and how many chickens are there in America? As though you were becoming an expert in astronomy or statistics…

    I f y o u s a y : “What keeps me from the prayers and worship and causes me to be slack is not unnecessary things like that, but essential matters like earning a livelihood,” then my answer is this: if you work for a daily wage of one hundred cents, and someone comes to you and says: “Come and dig here for ten minutes, and you will find a brilliant and an emerald worth a hundred dollars.” If you reply: “No, I won’t come, because ten cents will be cut from my wage and my subsistence will be less,” of course you understand what a foolish pretext it would be. In just the same way, you work in this orchard for your Iivelihood. If you abandon the obligatory prayers, all the fruits of your effort will be restricted to only a worldly, unimportant, and unproductive livelihood. But if you spend the rest periods on the prayers, which are the means to the spirit’s ease and heart’s taking a breather, then you will discover two mines which are an important source, both for a productive worldly livelihood, and your livelihood and provisions for the hereafter.

    First Mine: Through a sound intention, you will receive a share of the praises and glorifications offered by all the plants and trees, whether flowering or fruit-bearing, that you grow in the garden.

    Second Mine: Whatever is eaten of the garden’s produce, whether by animals or man, cattle or flies, buyers or thieves, it will become like almsgiving from you. But on condition you work in the name of the True Provider and within the sphere of His leave, and see yourself as a distribution official giving His property to His creatures.

    So see what a great loss is made by one who abandons the prescribed prayers. What significant wealth he loses, and he remains deprived of those two results and mines which afford him great eagerness in his effort and ensure a strong morale in his actions; he becomes bankrupt. Even, as he grows old, he will grow weary of gardening and lose interest in it, saying, “What is it to me? I am anyway leaving this world, why should I endure this much difficulty?” He will cast himself into idleness. But the first man says: “I shall work even harder at both worship and licit endeavours in order to send even more abundant light to my grave, and procure more provisions for my life in the hereafter. ”

    I n S h o r t : O my soul! Know that yesterday has left you, and as for tomorrow, you have nothing to prove that it will be yours. In which case, know that your true life is the present day. So throw at least one of its hours into a mosque or prayer-mat, a coffer for the hereafter like a reserve fund, set up for the true future. And know that for you and for everyone each new day is the door to a new world. If you do not perform the prayers, your world that day will depart as dark and wretched, and will testify against you in the World of Similitudes. For everyone, each day, has a private world out of this world, and its nature is dependent on each person’s heart and actions. Like a splendid palace reflected in a mirror takes on the colour of the mirror, if it is black, it appears as black, and if it is red, as red. Also it takes on the qualities of the mirror; if the mirror is smooth, it shows the palace to be beautiful, and if it is not, it shows it to be ugly. Like it shows the most delicate things to be coarse, you alter the shape of your own world with your heart, mind, actions, and wishes. You may make it testify either for you or against you. If you perform the five daily prayers, and through them you are turned towards that world’s Glorious Maker, all of a sudden your world, which looks to you, is lit up. Quite simply as though the prayers are au electric lamp and your intention to perform them touches the switch, they disperse that world’s darkness and show the changes and movements within the confused wretchedness of worldly chaos to be a wise and purposeful order and a meaningful writing of Divine power. They scatter one light of the light-filled verse,

    God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth

    over your heart, and your world on that day is illuminated through the reflection of that light. And it will cause it to testify in your favour through its luminosity.

    B e w a r e, d o n o t say : “What are my prayers in comparison with the reality of the prayers?”, because like the seed of a date-palm describes the full-grown tree, your prayers describe your tree. The difference is only in the summary and details; like the prayers of a great saint, the prayers of ordinary people like you or me – even if they are not aware of it, have a share of that light. There is a mystery in this truth, even if the consciousness does perceive it… but the unfolding and illumination differs according to the degrees of those performing them. However many stages and degrees there are from the seed of a date-palm to the mature tree, in the degrees of the prayers the stages may be even more numerous. But in each degree the basis of that luminous truth is present.

    O God! Grant blessings and peace to he who said: “The five daily prayers are the pillar of religion”, and to all his Family and Companions.
    The Second Station of the Twenty -First Word
    [This comprises five cures for five of the heart’s wounds.]
    In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. And say: “O my Sustainer! I seek refuge with You from the suggestions o, f the evil ones * And I seek refuge e with you, O my Sustainer, lest they should come near me. ”

    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 recognize 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 recognize them they come, if you do recognize them they go.

    · FIRST ASPECT – FIRST WOUND

    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. And 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 the 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. And anyway that is 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 form. And the imagination, always under some cause, weaves forms of a sort. It leaves on the way the forms 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 forms, 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 baseness and meanness drive me out!” Satan takes advantage of this vein of his. The cure for this wound is as follows:

    Listen, O you unfortunate! Just as outward cleanliness, which is the means to the clean correctness of your prayers, is not affected by the uncleanness of the inside of your inner organs, and is not spoiled by it, so too the sacred meanings being close to unclean forms does not harm them. 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 in things which you least expected. They are either there in fact, or your imagination made them according to the art with which it was occupied, 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, “Opposition, which is the cause of distance in the outer world, is the cause of proximity in the imagination. That is, the means of bringing together the forms of two opposites, is an imaginary connection. The calling to mind which arises through this connection is called the association of ideas.

    For example, while performing the prayers or reciting supplications before the Ka’ba, in the Divine Presence, although you are reflecting on Qur’anic verses, this association of ideas takes you and drives you to the furthest, lowest trivia. If your head is afflicted with association of ideas such as that, 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 weak connection finds strength. Because the more you show regret, the more importance you give it, and that weak 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 them. And 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 do not cause 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, in order to entertain itself, occupies itself with anything it encounters. Then Satan finds an opportunity, and scatters dirty things before it, and drives 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 reachs such a point that while searching for even better forms of action, he fall into what is unlawful. Sometimes searching for a Sunna 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 this wound.

    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 that 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, Ahl-i Sunna va Jama’at, say: “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 and that 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 Ahl-i Sunna School, do not say about an action which is conformable with the externals of the Shari’a: “I wonder if it was sound?”; do not have scruples about it. Rather, say:

    “Was it accepted?”; do not become proud and conceited!

    The Second Cure : This is: There is no difficulty in religion. Since the four schools of law are true; and since realizing 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 seeing it as good and falling into pride; since it is thus, you 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 an action of mine such as that is conformable with a true school of law. That is enough for me. And at least by confessing my impotence since I cannot 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 comes 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 come to his imagination to be a doubt that has entered his mind, and supposes that his beliefs have been spoiled. And sometimes he supposes a doubt he has imagined to have harmed his belief. And sometimes he supposes a doubt he has imagined to have been confirmed by his reason. And sometimes he supposes pondering over a matter pertaining to unbelief to be unbelief. That is, he supposes to be contrary to belief the exercising of his ability to reflect in the form of understanding the causes of misguidance, and its studying and reasoning in impartial fashion. Thus, 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, and other than them. They are free to a degree. They do not listen to the faculty of will. They do not altogether enter under 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 affirming and submitting, so too 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, calling it unbiased reasoning or being fair, continuously taking the part of the opposing side reaches such a point that such a person involuntarily favours the opposing side. His preference of the truth, which is incumbent on him, is shattered. And he too falls into danger. A state of mind becomes established 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 the certainty afforded by knowledge and it 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 causes no harm to our certainty and does not give rise to any doubt. Thus, like this, baseless 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 bases of religion and the bases 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: 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 are the means to seriousness. They cast away indifference and repulse carelessness. Therefore, in this realm of examination and arena of competition, the Absolutely Wise One gave them to the hand of Satan as a whip of encouragement for us. He strikes it at our heads. If it hurts excessively, then one must complain to the All-Wise and Compassionate One, and say: I seek refuge with God from Satan the Accursed.

    * * *

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