Among beings it is man and the jinn who are addressed by the Divine message. The aim of the creation of both is to worship God. Man was given reason or intellect so that he could carry out this duty properly. One of the characteristics of intellect or reason is "seeking the causes of things, and making a connection between one thing or event and another thing or event, and explaining them." Said Nursi for the most part utilized this faculty of man while proving Almighty God's existence and attributes. The classic example is "every needle must have its manufacturer and craftsman... How then can it be that so extremely well-ordered a kingdom should have no ruler?" Then, when proving that God works with wisdom, he gives examples illustrating the superiority, harmony, and benefits of man's members. Examples of this sort are very effective for "training the intellect."
The intellect was insufficient for man, so prophets and scriptures were sent as well. Moreover, man is "the miniature copy of the macrocosm." The entire universe has, in addition, been given for him to benefit from.
Man is an original being possessing numerous sides. Foremost the Qur'an and Hadiths inform us about him. Moreover, the numerous sciences and disciplines which have been developed up to the present increase our knowledge of man.
However important it is to be knowledgeable about a raw material in order to bring it to its manufactured state, it is similarly important to know man together with his various aspects so that he may be raised to the elevated stage of worshipping God.
In many places in the Risale-i Nur attention is drawn to man's inborn disposition, and methodical information is given as to how it should be guided. In proving the Creator, even, the necessity of worship is taken into account, in addition to man's various innate characteristics. In my view, it is in this point that one should seek the Risale-i Nur's ability to train and educate.
One of the characteristics of intellect or reason is "seeking the causes of things, and making a connection between one thing or event and another."
In numerous places in the Risale-i Nur Bediuzzaman makes criticism of the ways the Sufis and the scholars of kalam describe the world, and indirectly, man. He particularly rejects the Sufis saying: "There is no existent but Him," that is, there is nothing existent other than God, and others of them saying: "There is nothing witnessed save Him," and their forgetting the universe's existence, drawing a veil of oblivion over it. Instead he says "There is nothing worshipped save Him," and "There is nothing sought but Him." That is, there is no goal other than God's pleasure. The basis question is to realize that all the attributes observed in things are each the act of a Doer. The way of the Qur'an is this.
The above phrases in particular should be considered from the point of view of belief in Divine unity. Knowing man will also help us to work out what he should be. I reckon that those who study the Risale-i Nur from this angle will both understand it better and profit from it to a greater extent.
Man's Innate Characteristics as Portrayed in the Risale-i Nur
One of the most important differences between man and other living beings is that he comes into the world knowing nothing, whereas other animate creatures are born ready-programmed and they do not progress during their lives. Man however, is born with certain bio-psychic abilities and potentialities, which of course have to be developed. That is to say, man is a being who possesses possibilities. It is unthinkable these possibilites should be left as they are, without developing them. It is education that does this. As Kant said: "Man only becomes man through education."
This is discussed from various angles in many places in the Risale-i Nur. Primarily, it is pointed out that man has thousands of feelings and emotions, and that it is essential that these are taken into consideration:
"My guess is that one reason the advice and admonitions given at this time have been ineffective is that those giving them say: 'Don't be ambitious! Don't display greed! Don't hate! Don't be obstinate! Don't love the world!' That is, they propose something that is apparently impossible for those they address like changing their inborn natures. If only they would say: 'Turn these emotions towards beneficial things, change their direction, their channel,' their advice would be both effective, and they would be proposing something within the bounds of their wills."
"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."
It is from this angle that Said Nursi discusses Adam and Eve being driven out of Paradise, explaining it as follows:
"If Adam had remained in Paradise, his rank would have been fixed like that of the angels; man's potentialities would not have unfolded."
Said Nursi answers as follows, the question: In what way is the verse, We have honoured the sons of Adam conformable with the verse, He was indeed unjust and foolish?
"With His perfect power, Almighty God makes many things from a single thing, makes one thing perform numerous duties, and writes a thousand books on a single page; so too He created man as a comprehensive species, in place of many species. That is to say, He willed that through man, a single species, functions would be performed to the number of the different levels of all the species of animals. For this reason, He placed no innate limit on man's powers and senses, no natural restriction, and left them free. The powers and senses of the other animals are limited, and under a natural restriction. Whereas each of man's powers may roam free over an endless distance towards infinity. For since man is a mirror to the infinite manifestations of the Creator of the Universe's Names, his powers have been given an infinite capacity.
"For example, even if the whole world is given to man, with his greed, he will say: Are there any more? And through his selfishness, he finds it acceptable that a a thousand people should suffer harm for his own benefit. And so on. There is boundless development in bad morality and he may reach the degree of the Nimrods and Pharaohs; in accordance with the intensive form in the verse above, he is given to great wrongdoing. Similarly, he may manifest endless progress in good morality, and may advance to the degree of the prophets and veracious ones.
"Moreover, contrary to the animals, man is ignorant about all the things necessary for life and is compelled to learn everything. He is in need of innumerable things, and therefore in accordance with the intensive form in the same verse, is most ignorant. But when animals come into the world, they are both in need of few things, and may learn all the things they need, all the conditions of their lives, in one or two months, or even one or two days, or in some cases, in one or two hours. It is as if they have been perfected in another world, and come thus. But then man can only rise to his feet in one or two years, and in fifteen is only able to distinguish between what is beneficial and what is harmful. The intensive form of 'most ignorant' indicates this, too."
The Reasons for Man's Many-sided Creation
1. God chose to allow him to experience every sort and kind of His bounties.
2. So that man would seek all His bounties.
3. So that man would display to God through all his senses, feelings, and emotions, all the different manifestations of His Names.
Bediuzzaman draws attention to man's sense of wanting while expounding the verses: Call on Me; I shall answer You, and, Say, No importance would your Sustainer attach to you were it not for your supplication. He says:
"As the saying goes, 'If I had not wanted to give, I would not have given wanting.'"
Doubtless one of the things that most preoccupies man is the reality of death. If we consider it from another point of view, the thought of death shapes man's philosophy of life. The attitudes to life of those who look on death as annihilation and those who look at it as the passage to a new life, will be completely different.
The clear fact is that Every soul shall taste death. Seeing that it is impossible not to accept this, the basic question is whether or not there is life after death. Modern psychology and the other sciences that deal with man, however, begin from man's conception and end with his death. The frightening thing is this. But the Qur'an states that the chief substance of man's creation is earth, and his subsequent creation is the result of fertilization. While death is a period of passage.
This question is explained as followed in the Risale-i Nur:
"Death is a discharge from the duties of life; it is a rest, a change of residence, a change of existence; it is an invitation to an eternal life, a beginning, the introduction to an immortal life. Just as life comes into the world through an act of creation and a determining, so too departure from the world is through a creation and determining, through a wise and purposeful direction. For the death of plant life, the simplest level of life, shows that it is a more orderly work of art than life. For although the death of fruits, seeds, and grains appear to occur through decay and dissolution, their death is in fact a kneading which comprises an exceedingly well-ordered chemical reaction and well-balanced combining of elements and wise formation of particles; this unseen, orderly and wise death appears through the life of the new shoots. That is to say, the death of the seed is the start of life of the shoot; indeed, since it is like life itself, this death is created and well-ordered as much as is life.
"Moreover, the death in the human stomach of the fruits of living beings and animals is the beginning of their rising to the level of human life; it may therefore be said 'such a death is more orderly and created than their own life.'
"Thus, if the death of plant life, the lowest level of life, is thus created, wise, and ordered, so also must be the death that befalls human life, the most elevated level of life. And like a seed sown in the ground becomes a tree in the world of the air, so a man who is laid in the earth will surely produce the shoots of an everlasting life in the Intermediate Realm.
"As for the aspects of death that are bounties, we shall point out four of them.
"The First: It is a great bounty because it is to be freed from the duties and obligations of life, which become burdensome, and is a door through which to join and be united with the ninety-nine out of a hundred of one's friends who are already in the Intermediate Realm.
"The Second: It is a release from the narrow, irksome, turbulent, and agitated prison of this world, and, manifesting an expansive, joyful, troublefree immortal life, it is to enter the sphere of mercy of the Eternally Beloved One.
"The Third: There are numerous factors like old age which make the conditions of life arduous and show death to be a bounty far superior to life. For example, if together with your very elderly parents who cause you much distress were now in front of you your grandfather's grandfathers in all their pitiful state, you would understand what a calamity is life, and what a bounty, death. Also for example, it is understood how difficult are the lives in the conditions of winter of the beautiful flying insects, the lovers of the beautiful flowers, and what mercy are their deaths.
"The Fourth: Just as sleep is a comfort, a mercy, a rest, particularly for those afflicted by disaster and the wounded and the sick, so too is death, the elder brother of sleep, a pure bounty and mercy for those struck by disaster and suffering tribulations which drive them to suicide. However, as is proved decisively in many of the Words, for the people of misguidance, death is pure torment like life, and pure affliction, but it is outside the discussion here."
Man is a being with an innate wish for perpetual life, who has infinite hopes and feels boundless pains. He was created for eternity. For this world lacks the capacity to meet his needs. If man had not been created for eternity, God would not have given that sense.
Man's sense of eternity was also apparent in his being cast out of Paradise. As is known, in Paradise Adam and Eve were free to eat of the fruit of all the trees save one. Satan had opposed the creation of both of them from the start, and had wanted to find a way of violating the prohibition, destroying their sense of shame, and so of proving that they were not superior to him. So he decided to employ two deception techniques. He confronted them with these proposals:
1. " ... Your Sustainer has forbidden you to approach this tree only so that the two of you will not become angels and live for ever."
2. While saying this to them, he swore an oath and assumed a posture of doing good.
Wanting to be angelic and live for ever are elevated emotions. Satan was exploiting these elevated emotions while he was tempting them to be disobedient.* That is, he was lighting the fire from inside.
Man was created weak.
Said Nursi uses man's weakness to explain numerous matters. The chief of these is God's unity. In The Rays Collection, he gives the following explanation:
"Through its impotence, weakness, poverty, and need, my life acts as a mirror to the power, strength, wealth, and mercy of the Creator of life. Yes, just as the pleasure of food is known in proportion to the degree of hunger, and the degrees of light through the degrees of darkness, and the degrees of heat through the degrees of cold; in the same way, through the boundless impotence and poverty in my life, I understood the infinite power and mercy of my Creator, who answers my needs and wards off my innumerable enemies. I understood my duties of entreaty, supplication, worship, abasement, and seeking refuge with God, and I undertook these duties. "
Conscience is a sense that if we do something good it makes us feels pleased, and if we do something bad, it torments us. Another meaning of conscience is 'commonsense.' Conscience is a voice that prompts us to good and restrains us from bad. It is also what weighs up our conduct and morals. Conscience is a 'law-court' within man, due to which he feels inner torment when he does wrong.
Doubtless, on its own the conscience cannot find the truth: it most definitely has to be programmed correctly and trained. Man otherwise may not experience inner conflict when confronted by evils, and may become inured so he feels no torment in his conscience. We may liken the conscience to a computer programme. That is, however it is programmed, that is how it works. Said Nursi says the following concerning this:
"... But a [man with a] conscience that has fallen to the lowest degree knowingly sells his religion for the world..."
In the Qur'an, the word nafs has the meaning of "man himself" as a neutral power. The expression ana (I) is also used for nafs. Nafs is also used to mean "soul," "base feelings," "bad veins of temperament and ugly qualities," and so on. The nafs has numerous wishes and desires. In various contexts the Qur'an wwarns against "taking it as a god."
Taking the soul or self as one's god, means submitting unconditionally to its wishes. In Islam, the most worthwhile action after belief is jihad. This is mentioned in numerous places in the Qur'an and Hadith. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that the best jihad was the struggle with one's own soul. To struggle with the instinctual soul is certainly a difficult struggle. In expounding the verse Therefore, do not justify yourselves, Said Nursi says:
"For on account of his nature and innate disposition, man loves himself. Indeed, he loves himself before anything else, and only himself. He sacrifices everything other than himself to his own soul. He praises himself in a manner befitting some object worthy of worship. He absolves and exonerates himself from faults in the same way. As far as he possibly can, he does not see faults as being appropriate for him, and does not accept them. He defends himself passionately as though worshipping himself. Even, using on himself the members and faculties given him as part of his nature in order to praise and glorify the True Object of Worship, he displays the meaning of the verse, Who takes as his god his own desires. He considers himself, he relies on himself, he fancies himself. Thus, his purification and cleansing at this stage, in this step, is to not purify himself; it is not to absolve himself."
And in expounding the verse, "Nor do I absolve my own self [of blame]; the [human] soul is certainly prone to evil," Said Nursi said this:
"Yes, one who is fond of himself and relies on himself is unfortunate. While one who sees his own faults is fortunate. So you are fortunate! Nevertheless it sometimes happens that the evil-commanding soul is transformed into 'the blaming soul' or 'the tranquil soul,' but it hands over its weapons and equipment to the nerves. And the nerves and veins of temperament continue its function till the end of life. Although the evil-commanding soul died long beforehand, the person's nerves are still apparent. There have been many great saints and purified ones who have complained of their evil-commanding souls while their souls were 'tranquil.' They have lamented over sickness of the heart while their hearts were completely sound and illumined. Thus, what afflicts these persons is not the evil-commanding soul, but the evil-commanding soul's function which has been handed over to the nerves. The sickness is not of the heart, but of the imagination."
Man loves possessions. If you were to give him a mountain of gold, he would want a second one. One of the chief reasons for the rivalry and strife in the world is man's love of possessions. Because of it, he does not easily spend of his possessions for the good of others. Said Nursi suggests that a solution for this problem may be found by considering it in this way:
"One should give in God's name and take in God'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."
Sustenance forms the centre of man's world and that of the animals. It is as though man and the animals are enamoured of sustenance and have been made subservient to it. That is, what governs them is sustenance.
In sustenance is a vast, rich treasury. It comprises innumerable bounties. In fact, in order to taste only one sort of all the varieties of sustenance, through an instrument called the sense of taste, tiny sensitive scales to the number of foods have been placed in the tongue.
Sustenance is offered on a very broad scale. If considered carefully, it is seen that in sustenance lies the strangest, richest, sweetest, most comprehensive, original, and wonderful truth in the universe.
"Among animate species the most needy for the varieties of sustenance is man. Almighty God created man as a comprehensive mirror to all His Names; as a miracle of power with the capacity to weigh up and recognize the contents of all His treasuries of mercy; and as His vicegerent on earth possessing the faculties to draw to the scales all the subtleties of the different manifestations of His Names. He therefore gave him a boundless need, making him needy for the endless different varieties of sustenance, material and immaterial. The means of raising man to 'the best of forms,' which is the highest position in accordance with this comprehensiveness, is thanks. If he does not give thanks, he falls to 'the lowest of the low,' and perpetrates a great wrong."
Man has been given so many bounties, it indicates both the greatness of the One who bestowed them, and his own nature and faculties, which benefit from them.
Impotence and poverty bind man to an infinite power and mercy. They are also most acceptable intercessors at the Court of One All-Powerful and Compassionate.
Said Nursi portrays various human types while illustrating different subjects with comparisons and examples. Sometimes he gives opposites. We may list them as follows:
1. Self-centred, inauspicious man.
2. God-centred, fortunate man.
3. Rebellious, capricious man.
4. Needy being.
5. Unfortunate, unhappy type.
7. Fond of his stomach.
8. Arrogant (like Pharaoh).
9. The type given to drink.
Said Nursi's works have been studied from many angles, and books written about them. In my opinion, what is most significant about him is his being inspired by the Qur'an, being acquainted with the age and its problems, his being an acute observer, and basing the questions on the human reality.
I reckon that in the future research of this sort should be given priority. In this humble paper, I have tried to show that this subject should be given due thought. But my advice to those who will research the matter is that while studying the Risale-i Nur they keep in view the findings of other scientific disciplines which make man known. The clear purpose of this focus in the Risale-i Nur is to make man known to man. Its following recommendation is most meaningful:
"O you who considers himself to be a true man! Read yourself! Otherwise it is possible that you will be a man who is either animal-like or inanimate!"
* * *
|2.||Reason or intellect is an instrument or tool for man. If he uses it on account of his instinctual soul it will cause him harm. See, Nursî, Bediüzzaman Said, Sözler (n.p., n.d.) 28.|
|5.||See, Sözler, 61-9.|
|6.||Sözler, 43, 68.|
|7.||By \'treatises\' is meant Said Nursi\'s works, the Risale-i Nur.|
|8.||See, Sözler, 23.|
|9.||See, Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, Mektûbat (n.p., n.d.) 338-9. |
|10.||See, Mektûbat, 341-2.|
|11.||See, Takiyyettin Mengüşoğlu, Felsefî Antroplojinin Işığında Eğitim (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi, Felsefe Grubu Seminerleri, 1977) 13-15.|
|17.||This Qur\'anic expression is used in reference to Hell: One Day We shall ask Hell, \"Are you filled to the full?\' It will say, \"Are there any more [to come]?\" [50:30], as if it is drawing a comparison between Hell\'s greed for sinners and man\'s greed for possessions.|
|18.||In this respect man is a being who learns.|
|20.||For more details, see, Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, Şuâlar (n.p, n.d.) 57-8.|
|25.||Qur\'an, 23:16. See also, 22:5.|
|31.||Qur\'an, 2:34-5; 7:20.|
|32.||See, 7:19-22. *When people of the present are subject to temptation, it is always these high senses and emotions that are exploited. For it is easy to lead man astray in this way. In fact, Satan\'s wiles are feeble (Qur\'an, 4:76), but a moment\'s failure to use his will may pave the way to man falling in to those feeble traps.|
|35.||The conscience is a faculty of the soul or self (nafs). When man intends to do or think something wrong, it reproaches and blames him. It is also called \'the blaming soul.\' For detailed discussion, see, Mevdudi, Tefhim el-Kur\'an [Turk. trans.] (Istanbul: İnsan Yayinlari, 1987) vi, 486-7.|
|36.||Mahmud Mahdi al-Istanbuli, Kayfa Nurabbi Atfalana (Beirut: 2nd edn. 1985) 54.|
|40.||We may list as follows some of the basic concepts related to the nafs:
i. Nafs-i jamadi: the physical nafs; the force which holds the physical self together and prevents its dispersal.
ii. Nafs-i nabati: the vegetal nafs; the power of reproduction, growth, and nutrition.
iii. Nafs-i haywani; the power of acting voluntarily and under the emotions and feelings.
iv. Nafs-i insani; man\'s power of reason and conceiving universals.
v. Nafs-i natiqa; the human spirit; the substance defining man\'s place among animate creatures.
vi. Nafs-i qudsiya; the nafs with the ability to acquire all the things it is possible for the species to acquire. The world\'s soul. The universe\'s spirit. The belief that the world is like a human being (macroanthropos), and this is its spirit.
vii. Nafs-i kull; the whole nafs. A metaphor for the Sublime Throne (\'Arsh A\'la). See, Süleyman Uludað, Tasavvuf Terimleri Sözlüðü (Istanbul: Marifet Yayýnlarý, 1991) 368-369; Ferid Develioðlu, Osmanlýca Türkçe Ansiklopedik Lugat, relevant articles).
The levels of the nafs:
i. Nafs-i ammara: the ugly veins of the nafs. The nafs which prompts man to do evil. The nafs which is obscured by dense veils.
ii. Nafs-i lawwama, which rebukes and blames a person when they intend to do or think something wrong.
iii. Nafs-i mutma\'inna: This concept is found in verse 27 of Sura al-Fajr (89:27). The nafs which finds satisfaction in persisting on the straight path and avoiding deviant paths. The person who reaches God Almighty, accepting with ease of heart and without any doubt or hesitation that He is the Sustainer and Lord, and that the religion brought by His prophets is the true religion. Such a person accepts all the beliefs and actions taught by God\'s Messenger, and refrains from what His religion forbids not because he has to, but because he wishes to do so. In short, the person who happily accepts everything taught by Islam. See also, commentaries on Qur\'an, 89:27.
iv. Nafs-i radiya wa mardiyya: This concept is found in Qur\'an, 89:28. Verses 27 and 28 are: [To the righteous soul will be said:] \"O [you] soul, in [complete] rest and satisfaction! * \"Come back to you Lord - well pleased [yourself], and well-pleasing unto Him!\" This will be said to man at the time of death. When he is raised to life at the resurrection and attends the Great Gathering, every stage of God\'s judgement will please him. For he will be drawing close to God\'s mercy.
In some books on Sufism, there are also the nafs-i mulhima, the nafs which gives inspiration, and the nafs-i kamila, the perfected nafs. But in works of this sort, such concepts are for the most part given esoteric or \'inner\' meanings.
|41.||Qur\'an, 25:43; 45:23.|
|42.||See, Mevdudi, v, 308-9.|
|43.||The word jihad comprises numerous meanings, including every sort of strenuous striving and exertion, conflict, and war. To make jihad for God\'s sake means opposing those who prevent others following God\'s way, on His way and to win His pleasure. Jihad demands fighting first of all one\'s own soul in order to make it submit. For so long as a person does not combat the evils of his own soul, and express his wishes and desires in the form of obeying God, he cannot carry out a true jihad.|
|44.||Qur\'an, 2:218; 3:142; 8:74; 9:16, 19; 22:78. See also, Bukhari, Hajj, 4; Jihad, 1; Adab, 1; Muslim, Iman, 80.|
|45.||The Prophet (PBUH) from time to time emphasized the necessity of this sort of jihad. See, Tirmidhi, Fada\'il al-Jihad, 2; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vi, 20-2. Another important point that should be noted here is that Islam looks on the struggle with the soul in terms of training it. Certainly not as \'killing\' it or repressing it.|
|49.||Qur\'an, 12:53. Prophet Yusuf said these words only after having undergone numerous trials.|
|50.||See, Mektûbat, 337.|
|52.||See, Mektûbat, 375-7. According to Said Nursi, \"Thanks is the most essential of the four fundamental principles of the way of worship and winning God\'s love, the highest and most elevated way. These four principles have been defined as follows: \"Four things are necessary on the way of the impotent, my friend: \"Absolute impotence, absolute poverty, absolute fervour, and absolute thanks, my friend....\"|
|53.||See, Sözler, 69.|
|54.||See, Sözler, 6.|
|55.||Sözler, 16. |
|57.||Sözler, 19, 24, 25.|
|62.||These words recall the lines of Yunus Emre:
\"Knowledge means knowing;
Knowledge means knowing yourself;
If you do not know yourself,
You\'ll have to study to find out.\"|
||The Importance of Knowing Man
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