Diversity in Creation: A Sign (ayah)

“And it is God who has created all animals out of water; and [He has willed that] among them are such as crawl on their bellies, and such as walk on two legs, and such as walk on four. God creates what He will. God has the power to will anything.” Quran, 24:45

We see an astonishing regularity and order in the universe. This shows that there is an infinitely Wise, Knowing and Powerful Creator.

 

We also see incredible diversity and variety in the universe. There are innumerable types of species. Moreover, within each species there is diversity: no two leaves are identical, each person is unique, and there is always an unpredictable aspect to events. This shows that the Creator is an agent with infinite free choice and will. God’s will is under no restriction whatsoever.

And, this is good news! If our Sustainer (Rabb) can will anything, then we can turn to our Rabb for healing and support in every situation!

 

~Quran translation adapted from M. Asad.

~Explanation adapted from Said Nursi, Flashes & Words.

www.alwaysrecievingnur.com

Who is the Source?

It is He who sends down water for you from the sky, from which comes a drink for you, and the shrubs that you feed to your animals.

With it He grows for you grain, olives, palms, vines, and all kinds of other crops. There truly is a sign in this for those who think.
(Quran 16, 10:11)

The Quranic passage is expecting us to see a sign by using our reason. The passage talks about a “He.” But who is He? My understanding of Him is expected to be shaped through recognizing what He does. I shouldn’t jump into conclusions utilizing my previous knowledge. Instead, I should ride the verse, and see where it is taking me regarding knowing the “He.” There’re certain actions that are attributed to “He” in the verses. He actively sends down water for us, grows for us grains etc. Continue reading “Who is the Source?”

Ways Leading to God

By Dr. Eren Tatari[1]

 “… So do not hold yourselves pure (sinless; it is vain self-justification). He knows best him who keeps from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety” (Qur’an, 53:32).

We have an innate disposition to love and to always defend ourselves. God has given this disposition to defend our rights and to be dignified as a human being. But the ego/ nafs’ job is to claim its independence of the Creator and declare false ownership of our qualities.

Every sense we have been given, we can use them in two opposite ways. We can either use it for the purpose it was given to us, or abuse the feeling and use it for the nafs. For example, envy is not innately bad. Envy can compel us to do good actions, which is useful. But if we use envy to viciously envy someone else, thinking we should have been given those things instead, this is wrong. Through iman education we can direct our senses to the positive ways. We have been given the ability to deny God, but we are given this sense to deny false deities (or those who attribute deity qualities to themselves), and say la ilaha (there is no deity). But we may misuse it and deny the true God.

The ego loves only itself, and sacrifices everything for itself. He praises himself as if he is worthy of worship. He exonerates himself from any fault, looks for any excuse to disclaim any fault. The verse is specifically referring to a person’s introspective/inner analysis in which he sees himself as faultless. In a way, God is saying “do not consider yourself pure, do not justify yourself, do not find excuses, do not exonerate yourself.” We need to realize that our nafs has such an inclination, hence with this awareness, when that inclination arises in us, we do not let it overtake our iradah (willpower), and we do not act upon it.

Our creation, including our partial-freewill and the nafs, is perfect. To have nafs is not bad, but to follow our nafs is bad. Because of our nafs, we can say la ilaha. We realize through our ego: “I do not want to worship something that is not worthy of worship.” We swim against the current of the ego to gain strength and rise in spiritual ranks. What make us human beings (i.e. our difference from animals and other created beings) is our partial-freewill, our ability to reason, and nafs.  Choice necessitates alternatives, one correct and one wrong, true vs. false, white vs. black. If I want to, I can choose the false, but I do not have to. Nafs is always telling us to choose the false. So the fact that, due to our nafs, we are able to say there is no God makes us perfect. This enables us to say la ilaha. Nafs has no power over us. If we educate our self through iman not to ever follow the nafs, then nafs loses its influence. Gradually the nafs realizes it is pointless to suggest the falsehood to the person. Then we become the perfect/complete person (al-insan al-kamil), by becoming a perfect worshipper of God, abd.

Is feeding the poor necessarily a good deed/action? It depends! If it is done in the name of the nafs, thinking I am good, this is bad. However, it is good for me to help people with the realization that it is my Creator who gave me the capacity to help someone (aka. I am only a mirror reflecting the manifestations of His Attributes). A person whose ego says: “I am feeding you,” as if claiming “I am your Lord,” like the Pharaohs, is in fact increasing his arrogance through this seemingly good deed. The person who feeds someone and recognizes the Creator as the source of that ability is living in pure submission. So in a sense, we could outwardly look like the best human being in terms of actions, but without submission to God, we would be pure ego, and our actions would be void, having no value in reality. When there is shirk (associating partners with God) in our actions, our actions become void. Shirk is committed by not attributing the action to God, but appropriating it to ourselves, as if we are the source of the goodness.

When the sunlight is reflecting from a mirror, the mirror is not the source of the light. Likewise, we are not the source of goodness. But when we close that mirror, preventing the light from reflecting, this is our fault. We choose to prevent the light. Hence, we are the cause of the bad we choose.

 


[1] Dr. Eren Tatari is the author of Surrendering to God: Understanding Islam in the Modern Age  (Tughra Publications, December 2012).  She is an Assistant Professor at Rollins College, FL focusing on Islam and Muslims in the West.

Only Revelation can answer the “How”

Do they not look at the sky above them – how We (royal we) have built it and made it beautiful and free of all faults?
And the earth – We have spread it wide, and set upon it mountains firm, and caused it to bring forth plants of all beautiful kinds,
thus offering an insight and a reminder unto every human being who willingly turns unto God.
And We send down from the skies water rich in blessings, and cause thereby gardens to grow, and fields of grain,
and tall palm-trees with their thickly-clustered dates,
as sustenance apportioned to men; and by all this We bring dead land to life: Likewise will be the resurrection.
(Koran 50, 6-11)

The passage above asks us to look at the creation, and gives many examples, at the macro level and the micro level. It points out to the skies, the earth, the mountains, and then zooms down to the plants, the gardens, the palm trees, and the dates. In a way, it wants us to think about the whole creation, but to let our minds concentrate on a point, it zooms down to the date. Of course, instead of a date, this could have been an apple, an orange, or a banana… And it asks us: don’t they look?

Opposite to all misunderstandings that belief in God must be blind; this passage emphasizes the need to look at the creation to find its Creator. The passage mentions these examples from creation and wants us to think how it has been made?

Some say that science answers the “how,” and religion answers “why.” But is this really so? The Koranic passage contradicts this understanding, and asks: How are thing coming to existence? Only when we understand the “how,” we come to understand the “why.”

We often think that science answers “how” related questions. For instance, science tells us that how the date comes into being. In layman terms, the seed, water, nutrients in the soil, and the sun produce the palm tree and the date. There are many chemical equations that scientists have devised to explain this procedure. And every day, we update some of these equations as we look further and deeper into the process of date forming. This is “how” it is happening according to science. However, this explanation is explaining what is happening rather than how it is happening. Science observes the phenomena and records its observations. The frequency and order of observing the same processes leads scientists to develop mathematical representations (equations) that identify our observations. This scientific approach answers the question of what is happening, not how.

Now, our observation that certain things happen after other things is correct, but it doesn’t explain how the news is prepared. My observations answer what is happening, not how. This is the paradigm we follow in science: we see the apparent causes of the effects, and we remove them one by one. If the effect is not realized, we conclude that the cause we removed is responsible for the effect. We call this the negative approach.

However, the Koran offers the positive approach to understanding how things are coming into being. Instead of removing the causes one by one, it looks at the effect and its properties. Then, it asks whether the apparent causes have the ability to produce the effect we observe. Instead of removing the causes one by one, the Koran first wants us to observe the news show and reflect on its properties. And then it poses the question whether the apparent causes I observe are capable of producing the show or not.

Looking at the Koranic passage, we see that the properties and outcomes of the effects are brought forth: skies that are adorned, plants that are beautiful, water that is blessed, dates that are sustenance to human beings… “Don’t you see how the creation is enormously complex and serves many meaningful functions,” the passage argues. Now, any effect with meaningful outcomes and special adornments can only be formed by a cause that has the ability to design and create these outcomes. So, we come to the conclusion that the cause of the creation of date must have absolute intelligence, power, wisdom, sense of beauty, compassion etc. We come to this conclusion because we have seen that these properties are necessary for the date to come into existence. Apparent causes like sun, water, soil, and seed do not have the intelligence and other properties required to bring the date into existence. They are used as materials, sure, but not as effective causes.

Now, going back to our question, how is the date coming into existence? The Koran answers: The date is coming into existence by the One who has absolute power, intelligence, and compassion capable to bring it into existence.

The passage ends with a vital point. It tells us that if you understand that nothing in creation can be made with the materials here, but it is coming into existence by the absolute creator, than you will realize that nothing is difficult for Him. Then, why would you doubt that He can resurrect you if He wishes so? He is already resurrecting everything around you (we intend to study resurrection in more detail in the future.)

Once we notice that everything around us is directly connected to the absolute One, we will start notice Him more and more. As we notice Him more, we will come to know Him, and as we know Him and his constant activities, we will come to love Him. This love will satisfy our infinite human needs that can only be satisfied by the Infinite One, and will let us understand the reason of our existence.

Post written by Omar

If you love God, follow the Guide, and God will love you

“Say: ‘If you love God, follow me, [and] God will love you…’ ” (Koran 3:31)

When we look at the verse above, we recognize that it is different from what we generally think; that when we love our creator, He loves us back. Yet, this verse suggests that to say “I love God” by itself is not enough to receive God’s love back. There’s a condition, it posits: “follow me (the guide).” But, why do we need to follow a guide?

My life is not transformed when I claim that I love God

When we look at our lives as people who claim to love God, we see that we are generally not transformed by this love. We don’t feel that we receive the love back. Our lives can still be miserable, our thoughts distracted, and our feelings hurt. We cannot comprehend many things happening in our lives and in the universe, and we become angry at the One behind all this. In summary, there is something missing with our claim.

The verse states that we won’t be able to feel the love of our creator in our daily life, except when we follow the guide. In fact, this love becomes a curse for us. Things, people, and moments that we love depart from us, leaving us with pain. We see things we don’t understand in the universe, and we become angry at the God we claim to love.

The verse starts by saying: “If you love God…” and pushes us to ponder that we are given the ability to love the creator of all good and brings us to this crucial point: “We witness that God creates everything with love, why don’t we feel it?” The answer is in the verse: “Follow me.” We are aware that we have freedom to choose many things in our lives and thoughts. So, in order to feel the love and close the loop, that is to recognize the meaning of my life and everything around us, we need to use our free will to follow the teachings of the guide on the meaning of the creation of the universe.

The verse above declares that claiming to love the creator is not enough to receive and feel the divine love in every part of our lives. It pushes us to look for a guide. But what kind of guide do we need to follow, and why?

The beauty I witness necessitates an appointed guide

Here is the fast answer: We see that there is beauty everywhere in the universe, and this necessitates guides appointed by the creator. But why?

Let’s give an example to understand this necessity. Now, think of any meaningful piece of technology, like a laptop for instance. Thousands of engineers are working constantly to design it for specific purposes. Every activity of designing the laptop is specifically for it to be used. Now, would it make sense to spend millions of dollars to design and manufacture a laptop and then sell it to be used as a coffee tray? Or even destroy it after it is manufactured? If that was the case, wouldn’t you conclude that these engineers have no wisdom at all? Why would they spend all this time and money to manufacture such a high-tech tool and then not use any of its functionalities? This won’t make any sense.

Now, let’s look at everything in the universe. There is magnificent well-ordered manifestation of art, from atoms to galaxies. Science is a proof that there is an undeniable order, since all what we do in science is trying to discover this order and show it in formulas. Formulas show that nothing is haphazard; it is ordered. Even things we don’t like such as bacteria function orderly. This order shows that there must be someone who puts these in order.

In fact, we witness not only a perfect order, but an artistic beauty. Every creature is not only designed to do a specific job, but it is complexly artfully adorned. This artistry shows that whoever forms everything in the universe wills to adorn them. It further shows me that these perfect adornments and arts must come from the love of the one forming them. Thus, He must love what He is doing.

Using the same thought process we used in the laptop example, would it make sense that the maker of the universe to adorn and create everything with such magnificent design and artistry and then not inform us what it means and what its purpose is? Then, the creator would be not wise at all, which is contrary to what I witness in the universe. Everything is being designed and sustained in a perfect manner pointing to the fact that their Maker is indeed absolutely wise. So, there has to be an explanation from Him regarding what He means by this magnificent artistry surrounding us.

An explanation is especially necessary for us; human beings. We are not only conscious of our existence, but we are also conscious of the existence everything around us, from atoms to galaxies. We are connected to everything in the universe. Not only that, but we are created in such a way that we love the beauty we witness in creation. We are created in such a way that we are able to ask the very questions I am writing about now.

Would it make sense that our maker would create us with the ability to see and inquire about the beauty around us, yet not provide an explanation? No. The engineers would design a laptop to be able to do calculations, but not tell any user about it. So, why did they design it in the first place? Are they insane? No. Then, the same illogic is not possible about the creator of this miraculously ordered universe.

When we reach this conclusion, we can cry out that there must be a guide appointed by the creator, i.e. a manual by Him for all this to make sense. This is the result of our witnessing.

The guide closes the loop

The engineers close the loop between the engineers and the users by preparing sophisticated manuals and online tutorials (prepared by appointed guides who have mastered the manual.) As a result of this, the users become happy and thankful of using that particular laptop. More importantly, the sophisticated design of the laptop is an important indication that there are users who will use all its functions. Maybe not every user will use all of them, but the fact that these functions exist is a proof that there are “super users” who utilize all these functions. These “super users” are the best guides and trainers that the laptop producer would appoint to train others. They are the ones who directly communicate with the engineers and understand the wisdom of each function of the laptop.

The same way, the fashioner of this universe closes the loop between Him and us (his conscious creation) by sending a clear manual and exemplary human guides that live and explain the manual. In fact, the very fact that there is this perfect order and art in the universe is an indication that there must be conscious creatures that understand and appreciate all this art. These human beings reflect deeply on every art of the creator, admire it, get excited by it, thank the Creator for it, know the wisdom of its creation, and love the one behind it all.  Wouldn’t they be the best guides for all other conscious beings? As a result of following the way of these “super users” that are appointed by the creator to explain the wisdom of everything in creation, other conscious creatures start to make sense of everything in this universe and of how to use their feelings, like the love of beauty. They recognize that the guides must be connected to the creator and His creation and explain us its meanings.

Going back to the example, although we say we love to use the laptop, we may not even be aware that it is a laptop and think that it is a coffee tray. We become angry at using it as a coffee tray, since it is heavy and bulky, and not the best tool to use to serve coffee. So, our love of it is not sufficient to receive the benefits from the laptop. Only when we learn from the guides we recognize the purposes of the laptop. We start to admire it more and we recognize the necessity of learning from the guides. And then we start receiving our love back from it.

This is similar to closing our eyes and thinking that the room and everything in it is dark, but when we open our eyes, everything that we thought to be in darkness turns out to be lively and bright. The guide reminds us that we are “users” too, and tells us how great it is to use the laptop. Similarly, when we use our free will to open our eyes, we realize the beauty of life and recognize that the one who gave us this life loves us. We receive the love back.

We need to look for the guides who comprehensively respond to the creator’s artistry by conscious reflection, admiration, thankfulness, and who explain to us with certainty that all this art that we witness must be fashioned by the absolute artist who is capable of doing so. Only when we use our free will to follow these guides, we start to feel the love of the artist and we recognize the meaning of this life. We start to feel the love, since we start to understand how to use our love of beauty and how to make sense of everything in life.

Like the laptop user who becomes ecstatic when he discovers how to use the laptop other than as a coffee tray, we become delighted at every insight we gain from these “super users.” And we recognize the significance of the verse above, which urges us to look for the guides appointed by the one who has created this universe full of art and meaning.

Post written by Omar