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Suffering and Mercy
Jul 1, 2008

Last month marked a great loss in world literature; on June 10 Chingiz Aytmatov died. This author, who had earned worldwide fame, surrendered to his fate and left behind a long list of remarkable works that have been translated into almost every language, and which have won a popular readership. This exceptional man of letters voiced the grievances of millions who had suffered unimaginable atrocities, and for many decades he inspired hope and stamina in many generations. Readers who are familiar with Aytmatov’s works will find that the Lead Article in this issue echoes his cry even though his name is not mentioned (this article was written before he died). Starting with the title “Longing for Love,” the article is filled with depictions of our time which are very reminiscent of the 1930s–40s, even if not in the same manner. “It seems that we have forgotten how to act like human beings . . . One party carves out the eye of another or murders them; the other responds by running into crowds as suicide bombers or driving a car filled with explosives through them. Violence is everywhere, as savage as, or perhaps even more atrocious than that caused by any barbarian.” Gulen portrays our times painfully. Cut this description, carry it back in time seventy years and paste it in the context of Central Asia – it is a perfect match. Chingiz saw his father last when he was only nine, just before he was taken away. He never heard of him again until DNA tests revealed that a corpse buried in a collective grave, discovered fifty-six years later in the south of Bishkek, was that of his father; he was murdered in a massacre like many leading figures of his nation. It is certain that Aytmatov will remain as one who engraved images in our memory for a long time. We offer our condolences to the Kyrgyz nation and to all his readers.

Another man of letters discussed in this issue is from a neighboring literary nation to that of Aytmatov’s: Dostoyevsky. From his masterpiece Crime and Punishment, Alice Bolton produces a thought-provoking analysis of nineteenth-century “human-centered theories and movements that would be implemented later in the twentieth century.” This piece sheds a bright light on why we continue to have violence at all levels of human existence and how such bloody atrocities, which most of us cannot even stand to hear of, can easily be perpetrated by some people. For those of our readers who would rather focus on the spiritual than the criminal, Bolton’s conclusion offers a comforting solution: “The repair of the human soul is possible only through a return to the Absolute Being.”

Another heart-expanding analysis comes from Mesut Sahin who discusses how we can come to an understanding of suffering in the world that is in agreement with God’s Mercy. He shares with us the glad tidings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who said, “Never is a believer stricken with a discomfort, an illness, an anxiety, a grief or mental worry or even the pricking of a thorn but God will expiate his sins on account of his patience.”