On the Nature and Purposes of Man, Life and All Things by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
Translated from the Turkish by Şükran Vahide
IN THE NAME OF GOD,
THE MERCIFUL, THE COMPASSIONATE
And from Him do we seek help.
All praise be to God, the Sustainer of All the Worlds,
and blessings and peace be upon our master Muhammad,
and on all his Family and Companions.
[Brother! You wanted a few words of advice from me, so listen to a few truths included in eight short stories, which since you are a soldier, are in the form of comparisons of a military nature. I consider my own soul to need advice more than anyone, and at one time I addressed my soul at some length with Eight Words inspired by eight verses of the Qur'an from which I had benefited. Now I shall address my soul with these same Words, but briefly and in the language of ordinary people. Whoever wishes may listen together with me.]
%The First Word
Bismillah, "In the Name of God," is the start of all things good. We too shall start with it. Know, O my soul! Just as this blessed phrase is a mark of Islam, so too it is constantly recited by all beings through their tongues of disposition. If you want to know what an inexhaustible strength, what an unending source of bounty is Bismillah, listen to the following story which is in the form of a comparison. It goes like this:
Someone who makes a journey through the deserts of Arabia has to travel in the name of a tribal chief and enter under his protection, for in this way he may be saved from the assaults of bandits and secure his needs. On his own
he will perish in the face of innumerable enemies and needs. And so, two men went on such a journey and entered the desert. One of them was modest and humble, the other proud and conceited. The humble man assumed the name of a tribal chief, while the proud man did not. The first travelled safely wherever he went. If he encountered bandits, he said: "I am travelling in the name of such-and-such tribal leader," and they did not molest him. If he came to some tents, he was treated respectfully due to the name. But the proud man suffered indescribable calamities throughout his journey. He both trembled before everything and begged from everything. He was abased and became an object of scorn.
My proud soul! You are the traveller, and this world is a desert. Your impotence and poverty have no lim it, and your enemies and needs are endless. Since it is thus, take the name of the Pre-Eternal Ruler and Post-Eternal Lord of the desert and be saved from begging before the whole universe and trembling before every event.
Yes, this phrase is a treasury so blessed that your infinite impotence and poverty bind you to an infinite power and mercy; it makes your impotence and poverty a most acceptable intercessor at the Court of One All-Powerful and Compassionate. The person who acts saying, "In the Name of God," resembles someone who enrolls in the army. He acts in the name of the government; he has fear of no one; he speaks, performs every matter, and withstands everything in the name of the law and the name of the government.
At the beginning we said that all beings say "In the Name of God" through the tongue of disposition. Is that so?
Indeed, it is so. If you were to see that a single person had come and had driven all the inhabitants of a town to a place by force and compelled them to work, you would be certain that he had not acted in his own name and through his own power, but was a soldier, acting in the name of the government and relying on the power of the king.
In the same way, all things act in the name of Almighty God, for minute things like seeds and grains bear huge trees on their heads; they raise loads like mountains. That means all trees say: "In the Name of God," fill their hands from the treasury of mercy, and offer them to us. All gardens say: "In the Name of God," and become cauldrons from the kitchens of Divine power in which are cooked numerous varieties of different foods. All blessed animals like cows, camels, sheep, and goats, say: "In the Name of God," and produce springs of milk from the abundance of mercy, offering us a most delicate and pure food like the water of life in the name of the Provider. The roots and rootlets, soft as silk, of plants, trees, and grasses say: "In the Name of God," and pierce and pass through hard rock and earth.
Mentioning the name of God, the name of the Most Merciful, everything becomes subjected to them. The roots spreading through hard rock and earth and producing fruits as easily as the branches spread through the air and produce fruits, and the delicate green leaves retaining their moisture for months in the face of extreme heat, deal a slap in the mouths of Naturalists and jab a finger in their blind eyes, saying: "Even heat and hardness, in which you most trust, are under a command. For like the Staff of Moses, each of those silken rootlets conform to the command of, And We said, O Moses, strike the rock with your staff,1 and split the rock. And the delicate leaves fine as cigarette paper recite the verse, O fire be coolness and peace2 against the heat of the fire, each like the members of Abraham (UWP).
Since all things say: "In the Name of God," and bearing God's bounties in God's name, give them to us, we too should say: "In the Name of God." We should give in the name of God, and take in the name of God. And we should not take from heedless people who neglect to give in God's name.
Question: We give a price to people, who are like tray-bearers. So what price does God want, Who is the true owner?
The Answer: Yes, the price the True Bestower of Bounties wants in return for those valuable bounties and goods is three things: one is remembrance, another is thanks, and the other is reflection. Saying, "In the Name of God" at the start is remembrance, and, "All praise be to God" at the end is thanks. And perceiving and thinking of those bounties, which are priceless wonders of art, being miracles of power of the Unique and Eternally Besought One and gifts of His mercy, is reflection. However foolish it is to kiss the foot of a lowly man who conveys to you the precious gift of a king and not to recognize the gift's owner, it is a thousand times more foolish to praise and love the apparent source of bounties and forget the True Bestower of Bounties.
O my soul! If you do not wish to be foolish in that way, give in God's name, take in God's name, begin in God's name, and act in God's name. And that's the matter in a nutshell!
* * *
1. Qur'an, 2:60.
2. Qur'an, 21:69.
%The Second Station of the Fourteenth Flashes
This, which has been included here because of its relevance, concerns six of the thousands of mysteries contained in In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
'In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate'
NOTE: A bright light from In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate concerning Divine Mercy appeared to my dull mind from afar. I wanted to record it for myself in the form of notes, and to hunt it down and capture it, and circumscribe the light with twenty to thirty Mysteries. But unfortunately I was not able to do this at the present time and the twenty or thirty Mysteries were reduced to five or six.
When I say: "Oh, man!", I mean myself. And while this lesson is directed particularly to my own soul, I refer it as the Second Station of the Fourteenth Flash for the approval of my meticulous brothers in the hope that it may benefit those with whom I am connected spiritually and whose souls are more prudent than mine. This lesson looks to the heart more than the mind, and regards spiritual pleasure rather than rational proofs.
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
[The Queen] said: "Ye chiefs! Here is-delivered to me-a letter worthy of respect. It is from Solomon, and is [as follows]:'In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.'" 1
A number of mysteries will be mentioned in this Station.
I saw one manifestation of In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate as follows:
On the face of the universe, the face of the earth, and the face of man are three Stamps of dominicality one within the other and each showing samples of the others.
1. Qur'an, 27:29-30.
T h e F i r s t is the Great Stamp of Godhead, which is manifest through the mutual assistance, co-operation, and embracing and corresponding to one another of beings in the totality of the universe. This looks to In the Name of God.
T h e S e c o n d is the Great Stamp of Divine Mercifulness, which is manifest through the mutual resemblance and proportion, order, harmony, favour and compassion in the disposal, raising and administration of plants and animals on the face of the earth. This looks to In the Name of God, the Merciful.
T h e n there is the Exalted Stamp of Divine Compassionateness, which is manifest through the subtleties of Divine beneficence, fine points of Divine clemency, and rays of Divine compassion on the face of man's comprehensive nature. This looks to the Compassionate in In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
That is to say, In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate is the sacred title of three Stamps of Divine Oneness, which form a luminous line on the page of the world, and a strong cord, and shining filament. That is, through being revealed from above, the tip of In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate rests on man, the fruit of the universe and miniature copy of the world. It binds the lower world to the Divine Throne. It is a way for man to ascend to the Divine Throne.
In order not to overwhelm minds by Divine Unity, which is apparent in the boundless multiplicity of creatures, the Qur'an of Miraculous Exposition constantly points out the manifestation of Divine Oneness within Divine Unity. For example, the sun encompasses numberless things with its light. In order to consider the sun itself in the totality of its light, a most extensive conceptual ability and comprehensive view is necessary. So, lest the sun itself be forgotten, it is displayed in every shining object by means of its reflection. And in accordance with the capacity of each, all shining objects display the sun's qualities, such as its light and heat, together with the manifestation of its essence. And just as in accordance with their capacities, all lustrous objects show the sun together with all its attributes, so too do the sun's qualities, like its light and heat and the seven colours in its light, all encompass all the things facing it.
In the same way, And God's is the highest similitude1 -but let there be no mistake in the comparison-just as Divine Oneness and Eternal Besoughtedness have a manifestation together with all the Divine Names in everything, in animate creatures in particular, and especially in man's mirror-like essence, so too through Divine Unity does each of the Divine Names connected
2. Qur'an, 16:60.
to beings encompass all beings. Thus, lest minds become overwhelmed by Divine Unity and hearts forget the Most Pure and Holy Essence, the Qur'an constantly puts before the eyes the Stamp of Divine Oneness within Divine Unity. And that is In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, which points out the three important points of the Stamp.
What makes this boundless universe rejoice is clearly Divine Mercy. And what illuminates these dark beings is self-evidently Divine Mercy. And what fosters and raises creatures struggling within these endless needs is self-evidently again Divine Mercy. And what causes the whole universe to be turned towards man, like a tree together with all its parts is turned towards its fruit, and causes it to look to him and run to his assistance is clearly Divine Mercy. And what fills and illuminates boundless space and the empty, vacant world and makes it rejoice is self-evidently Divine Mercy. And what designates ephemeral man for eternity and makes him the addressee and beloved of a Pre-Eternal and Post-Eternal One is self-evidently Divine Mercy.
Oh man! Since Divine Mercy is such a powerful, inviting, sweet, assisting lovable truth, say: In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, adhere to this truth and be saved from absolute desolation and the pains of unending needs. Draw close to the throne of the Pre-Eternal and Post-Eternal Monarch, and through the compassion and rays of Divine Mercy, become the addressee, friend, and beloved of that Monarch.
Indeed, to gather with wisdom around man the realms of beings in the universe, and to make them hasten to meet all his needs with perfect order and favour is clearly one of two situations. Either each realm of beings in the universe itself knows man, and obeys him, runs to help him, which just as it is completely irrational is also impossible in many respects, or an absolutely impotent being like man has to possess the power of the mightiest absolute sovereign, or this assistance occurs through the knowledge of an Absolutely Powerful One behind the veil of the universe. That is to say, it is not that the different beings in the universe know man, but that they are the evidences of a Knowing, Compassionate One being acquainted with him and knowing him.
Oh man! Come to your senses! Is it at all possible that the All-Glorious One, Who causes all the varieties of creatures to turn towards you and stretch out their hands to assist you, and causes them to say: "Here we are!" in the face of your needs, is it possible that He does not know you, is not acquainted with you, does not see you? Since He does know you, He informs you that He knows you through His Mercy. So, you know Him too, and with respect let Him know that you know Him, and understand with
certainty that what subjugates the vast universe to an absolutely weak, absolutely impotent, absolutely needy, ephemeral, insignificant creature like you, and despatches it to assist you is the truth of Divine Mercy, which comprises wisdom, favour, knowledge, and power.
Most certainly, a Mercy such as this requires universal and sincere thanks, and earnest and genuine respect. Therefore, say: In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, which is the interpreter and expression of such sincere thanks and genuine respect. And make it the means of attaining to the Mercy, and an intercessor at the Court of the All-Merciful One.
Indeed, the existence and reality of Divine Mercy is as clear as the sun. For just as a woven tapestry centred on one point is formed by the order and situation of the threads of its warp and weft coming from all directions, so too the luminous threads extending from the manifestation of a thousand and one Divine Names in the vast sphere of the universe weave such a seal of compassionateness, tapestry of clemency, and seal of benevolence within a Stamp of Mercy that it demonstrates itself to minds more brilliantly than the sun.
The Beauteous All-Merciful One, Who orders the sun and moon, the elements and minerals, plants and animals like the warp and weft of a vast woven tapestry through the rays of His thousand and one Names, and causes them to serve life; and demonstrates His compassion through the exceedingly sweet and self-sacrificing compassion of all mothers, plant and animal; and subjugates animate creatures to human life, and from this demonstrates man's importance and a most fine and lovely large tapestry of Divine dominicality, and manifests His most brilliant Mercy, has, in the face of His own absolute lack of need made His Mercy an acceptable intercessor for animate creatures and man.
Oh man! If you are truly a human being, say: In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Find that intercessor. For sure, it is clearly, self-evidently, Divine Mercy which, without forgetting or confusing any of them raises, nurtures, and administers the four hundred thousand different plant and animal species on the earth at precisely the right time, and with perfect order, wisdom, and beneficence, and stamps the Seal of Divine Oneness on the face of the globe of the earth. And just as the existence of Divine Mercy is as certain as the existence of the beings on the face of the earth, so too do the beings form as many evidences to its reality as their own number.
Like on the face of the earth there is such a Seal of Mercy and Stamp of Divine Oneness, so also on the face of man's nature is a Stamp of Divine Mercy which is not inferior to the Stamp of Compassion and vast Stamp of Mercy on the face of the universe. Simply, man possesses a comprehensiveness like being a point of focus of a thousand and one Divine Names.
Oh man! Is it at all possible that the One Who gives you this face, and places such a Stamp of Mercy and Seal of Oneness on it would leave you to your own devices, attach no importance to you, pay no attention to your actions, make the whole universe, which is turned towards you, futile and pointless, and make the tree of creation rotten and insignificant with decayed fruit? Would He cause to be denied His Mercy, which is as obvious as the sun, and His Wisdom, which is as clear as light, neither of which can in any way be doubted, nor are in any way deficient? God forbid!
Oh man! You should know that there is a way to ascend to the throne of Divine Mercy, and that is, In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. If you want to understand how important this way of ascent is, look at the beginning of the one hundred and fourteen chapters of the Qur'an of Miraculous Exposition, and at the beginnings of all estimable books, and at the start of all good works. And a clear proof of the God-determined grandeur of In the Name of God is that the very foremost Islamic scholars like Imam Shafi'i (may God be pleased with him) said: "Although In the Name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate is one verse, it was revealed one hundred and fourteen times in the Qur'an."
To declare: "You alone do we worship" in the face of the manifestation of Divine Unity within boundless multiplicity is not sufficient for everyone; the mind wanders. It is necessary to possess a heart as broad as the globe of the earth in order to observe the Unique and Single One behind the unity in the totality of beings, and to say: "You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help."3 As a consequence of this, so that the Seal of Divine Oneness should be apparent on all species and realms of beings just as it is shown clearly on individual objects, and that they should call to mind the Unique and Single One, it is shown within the Stamp of Divine Mercy. Thus everyone at every level may turn to the Most Pure and Holy One, and saying: "You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help," address Him directly.
It is in order to express this mighty mystery and clearly point out the Seal of Divine Mercy that the All-Wise Qur'an suddenly mentions the smallest sphere and most particular matter when describing the vastest sphere of the universe, for example, the creation of the heavens and the earth. And so that the mind does not wander, nor the heart drown, and the spirit may find directly its True Object of Worship, it opens the subject of man's creation and man's voice, and the subtle details of the bounties and wisdom in his features, for example, while mentioning the creation of the heavens and
3. Qur'an, 1:5.
earth. The verse,
And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and in your colours4
demonstrates this truth in a miraculous fashion.
Within innumerable creatures and an infinite multiplicity, there are sorts and degrees of Stamps of Divine Unity like concentric circles from the greatest Stamp to the smallest. But however clear that Unity is, it is still a unity within multiplicity. It cannot truly address observers. It is because of this that there has to be the Stamp of Divine Oneness behind Unity. So that unity does not call to mind multiplicity, and directly before the Most Pure and Holy One a way may be opened up to the heart.
Furthermore, in order to direct gazes towards the Stamp of Divine Oneness and attract hearts towards it, a most captivating design, shining light, agreeable sweetness, pleasing beauty, and powerful truth, which is the Stamp of Divine Mercy and Seal of Divine Compassion, has been placed on it. For sure, it is the strength of that Mercy which attracts the gazes of conscious beings, draws them to It, and causes them to reach the Seal of Oneness and to observe the Unique and Single One, and from that to manifest the true address in You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help.
Thus, it is through In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate being the index of the Sura al-Fatiha and a concise summary of the Qur'an that it is the sign and interpreter of this mighty mystery. One who acquires this sign may travel through the levels of Divine Mercy. And one who causes this interpreter to speak may learn the mysteries of Divine Mercy and see the lights of Divine Compassion and pity.
There is a Hadith which goes something like this:
"God created man in the form of the All-Merciful One."5
It has been interpreted by some Sufis in an extraordinary way inappropriate to the tenets of belief. Some of them who were ecstatics even considered man's spiritual nature to be 'in the form of the All-Merciful'. Since ecstatics are mostly immersed in contemplation and confused, they are perhaps to be excused in holding views contrary to reality. But on consideration, those in their senses cannot accept their ideas which are contrary to the fundamentals of belief. If they do, they are in error.
Indeed, the Most Pure and Holy Deity, Who administers with order the
4. Qur'an, 30:22.
5. "Indeed, Allah created Adam in the form of the Most Merciful." Bukhari, Isti'dhan 1; Muslim, Birr 115; Musnad, Janna ii, 22, 244, 251, 315, 323, 434, 463, 519.
whole universe as though it was a palace or house, and spins the stars as though they were particles and causes them to travel through space with wisdom and ease, and employs minute particles as though they were orderly officials, has no partner, match, opposite, or equal. So also according to the meaning of the verse:
There is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He hears and sees [all things],6
He has no form, like, or peer, there is nothing resembling or similar to Him. However, according to the meaning and manner of comparison of the following verse,
And His is the highest similitude in the heavens and the earth, and He is Exalted in Might, Full of Wisdom,7
His actions, attributes, and Names may be considered. That is to say, there is allegory and comparison in regard to His actions. One aim of the above-mentioned Hadith is as follows: "Man is in a form showing the Divine Name of All-Merciful in its entirety."
For sure, as we explained before, just as the Divine Name of All-Merciful is manifest through the rays of a thousand and one Names on the face of the universe, and is apparent through the innumerable manifestations of God's absolute dominicality on the face of the earth, so also is the complete manifestation of the Name All-Merciful apparent in a small measure in man's comprehensive form, like on the face of the earth and the face of the universe.
A further indication is this: the evidences to the Necessarily Existent One of places of manifestation like animate creatures and man, who are proofs of and mirrors to the All-Merciful and Compassionate One, are so certain, clear, and obvious that just as it may be said of a shining mirror which reflects the image of the sun: "That mirror is the sun," indicating to the clarity of its brilliance and evidence, so also it has been said and may be said: "Man is in the form of the All-Merciful One," indicating to the clearness of his evidence and completeness of his connection. It is as a consequence of this mystery that the more moderate of those who believed in 'the unity of existence' said: "There is no existent but He," as a way of expressing the clarity of this evidence and perfection of connection.