Cause and Effect in the Risale-i Nur

Dr. Yamina Bouguenaya Mermer

“Recite in the name of your Sustainer Who created…”
We have all read or heard of how the first revelations came to Mohammed (PBUH). He first received revelation in the cave on Mount Hira, where he went frequently to plunge himself in profound contemplation, having withdrawn from daily occupations. Before conveying his Sustainer‟s command, Gabriel, the bearer of revelation, enveloped Mohammed in his embrace until he could endure no more and could almost not breathe. He then related the first command: “Read! (or Recite!)” Mohammed the Trustworthy, who remained apart from those who had taken false gods for themselves and performed his duty of worship of his Single God alone in a cave, gave this answer: “I don’t know how to read.” Gabriel did not leave it at that; he again embraced Mohammed as though to crack his ribs, and again said: “Read! (or Recite!)” What was the exhausted and hopeless Mohammed (PBUH) to recite, and how? Anyone who did not know how to do what they call “reading,” for example, to read “a text,” would give the same answer: “I don’t know how to read.” But because Gabriel the Trustworthy knew very well that Mohammed (PBUH) knew true “reading,” he embraced God’s Beloved once again, and saying: “Read!”, he conveyed the first revelation: “Read in the name of your Sustainer who created..”, which teaches what was intended, and how and why it should be read.
Through the revelation he received, Mohammed (PBUH), God’s Messenger, who because we supposed „reading‟ referred only to the reading of texts, we thought did not know how to read, was charged with the duty of teaching all mankind until the end of the world how to read.1
What is intended by this event, which everyone knows about, is quite clear to me. The verse, which is related to be the first revelation, states clearly what this person was to teach, who did not know how to read the writings on animal skins or leaves of paper: the teacher of “reading in the Name of the Sustainer Who created…”
From beginning to end, the Risale-i Nur, which never compromises its rule of taking the Qur‟an as its guide, explains, through the lesson it has received from that Glorious Teacher (PBUH) what, why, and how we should read in the name of our Sustainer, in a way that all sorts of people can understand, employing the Qur‟anic methods of comparison, allegory, and repetition.
Reading the Universe
The Holy Qur‟an mentions for example, the heavens 310 times, the earth 451 times, creation 262 times, the word ayat meaning for the most part „sign‟ rather than
Scientists have never at any time or in any way been able to prove that causes have a true effect, and they cannot prove it. They are aware of this. It is therefore not possible to prove that causes have an effect. Even if it was proved in principle that they do not have an effect, since up to now no one has been able
(Qur‟anic) „verse‟ 382, pointing out that these are signs and witnesses making known God. With phrases like, “So look at…,” “Do they not see…?”, “Do they not think…?”, it calls on us repeatedly to look at the universe and creation and to ponder over it.
In the Risale-i Nur, which follows the Qur‟an, one frequently comes across expressions like “Come, look all around you and note everything carefully,” “We see that…,” “When every conscious being that comes into the world opens it eyes, it sees that…” Together with inviting us to look, it shows that all things are signs and evidences making known our Maker and teaches us the method of reading and deciphering them. This is the education of “reading” everything “in the name of our Sustainer who created.” The saying “And in all things are signs indicating that He is One,” which is repeated in many places in the Risale-i Nur and teaches that all creatures make known the Single One of Unity, makes it clear that it has taken the way of the Qur‟an.
For the Qur‟an teaches us how the universe should be read, how we should understand its testifying to the Divine existence and unity:
Behold in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding.2
In this verse, our Sustainer teaches us what is the equivalent of the key to achieve this “reading:” “in the creation,” that is, considering the manner of creation.
Now, by means of an example, we may make an analysis of “reading” by considering the manner of creation.
They told us at school that plants produce their own food under the name of photosynthesis. We should first leave aside the preconception of themselves producing it, which has been implanted in our brains, and note together how their food is produced, that is, the food’s manner of creation.
If you crush the leaf of any plant in your hand, your fingers will be stained green. The substance that causes this is chlorophyll. The chlorophyll, which we see, is made up of atoms of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and magnesium, and works like a food factory. It captures sunlight, it draws water from the plant‟s roots, and ensures the production of hydrogen, oxygen, and energy stores known as ATP. Oxygen, which is vital for animate beings, is given to the air. The above steps form the first stage of the process of photosynthesis.
In the second stage, the energy store and hydrogen take carbon dioxide, which is toxic for us, from the air, and sugar is produced. A part of this sugar is used to perpetuate the plant‟s own life. And some of it is used in the production of starch, carbohydrates, and protein. In this way both the air is purified of poisonous gas, and
to prove it, they say that the thesis that causes have an effect is an accepted truth.
food is produced for humans and animals.
You probably looked at what I have said and thought that photosynthesis was very complex. In fact, it is a process of successive events perhaps a thousand times more complex than what I have explained. The Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to someone called Calvin, who was one of the scientists who have claimed down the centuries to have solved the riddle of the universe, for having found the order of the chemical reactions which occur in only the second stage, and set them down as formulae.
If the Nobel Prize is given to someone who has been able to formulate one part of the process of photosynthesis, what prize should be given to the one who makes that factory, which so small as to be invisible, function?
Let us summarize the benefits produced by photosynthesis: the air, which is vital for all animate beings, is cleansed by carbon dioxide being taken from it and oxygen given to it. And this is carried out in the most direct way, with the least cost, causing no harm, in a way that is beautiful, colourful, delicious and full of art. Results as important as these, and benefits as perfect, could only be the consequence of a will and purpose. In which case, these results must have been intentionally planned beforehand. In order to do this planning, it is necessary to know all animals and humans, and their needs, and to have compassion on them. In fact, it is necessary to have compassion for human beings in order to prepare delicious, pleasant smelling, artistic food for them, in a way that addresses all their senses. In order to achieve all these aims, it is necessary to:
i. know all the substances used in photosynthesis down to their finest details; and to know the sun, air, and water;
ii. have complete knowledge of all plants, in which they work, which are all different and therefore function according to different systems, and to work in harmony with them;
iii. know perfectly the physical make up of the living beings which will consume the food that is produced, and the systems according to which they function, and to work faultlessly in their bodies;
iv. have complete power so as to be able to control all these functions, make them subject to one‟s command and make them work. This power has to be such that it extends from the water, air, and minerals in the earth, and from man and the animals to the sun.
Only one possessing all the above characteristics can carry out photosynthesis and prepare our food for us. That is, no one can do all these matters other than one
possessing infinite knowledge and power.
This means that all the substances —that is, causes— connected with the process of photosynthesis either work through the command and will of one possessing infinite knowledge and infinite power, or each possesses infinite knowledge and power itself, so that it can carry out these perfect processes faultlessly, without confusion, at exactly the right time and at exactly the right place. Everyone who thinks knows that carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, water and sunlight possess not even a miniscule amount of knowledge, will, power, or compassion, let alone an infinite amount. They lack intelligence, will, and power. As it says in the Qur‟an,
Have they feet to walk with? Or hands to lay hold with? Or eyes to see with? Or ears to hear with?3
Materialist science is prejudiced and deifies causes
It is clear that none of these substances possess any characteristics that are their own and are directly their own property. Why then, although this is a fact, do the science books say that they carry out these functions themselves? Why, through expressions like “the plant produces its own food,” “chlorophyll captures the energy in the sunlight. The compound ATP stores some of this energy within itself,” “the rest of the captured energy divides the water between the oxygen and hydrogen,” is it shown the plants, chlorophyll, ATP and sunlight do these things themselves?
These books have been written by materialist scientists. Due to their prejudice, they deny the existence of a Creator who creates everything. They look at the universe as though there was no Creator. They discover the order in the universe, everything of which was created within an order. Since the order was created together with particular causes and particular effects, they observe that a particular cause is together with a particular effect. Looking at events with the preconception of there being no Creator, they are compelled to assert that the causes make the effects. Since they consider the causes to possess the perfections observed in the effects, they state that as in the example above, the chlorophyll, sunlight, water, and so on, possess attributes like infinite knowledge, will, power, and compassion. And this is to attribute the attributes of Godhead to causes.
To ascribe even the least effect, which is the work of will and power, to causes, which are themselves in need of being made and possess neither intelligence, nor consciousness, nor will, nor power, —let alone Divine attributes— is “delirious raving.”4
The Qur‟an states as follows that it is impossible to ascribe divinity to any being other than the Single Creator, Who continuously creates all things:
Yet they have taken besides Him, gods that can create nothing but are themselves created; that have no control of hurt or good to themselves; nor can they control death nor life nor resurrection.5 * Do they indeed ascribe to Him as partners things that can create nothing, but are themselves created. * No aid can they give them, nor can they aid themselves!6
If there had been any being other than God that possessed the attributes of divinity, it certainly would have intervened in creation and dominicality, and the order of the universe would have been spoilt. But just as the perfect order in all things from the tiniest fly and a particle in the pupil of an eye to the solar system shows that causes are not effective, so it testifies clearly to the existence and unity of a Necessarily Existent One.
Materialist science is based on a negative approach
Scientists have never at any time or in any way been able to prove that causes have a true effect, and they cannot prove it. They are aware of this. It is therefore not possible to prove that causes have an effect. Even if it was proved in principle that they do not have an effect, since up to now no one has been able to prove it, they say that the thesis that causes have an effect is an accepted truth.
To take our example, materialist scientists say that causes like sunlight, water and air, etc. are effective factors in the formation of nutrients. And to “prove” this they deprive a plant of water or sunlight, and demonstrate that it withers up and dies; that is, that photosynthesis is not carried out, and therefore nutrients not produced. Thus, they say, if there is no water or light, the nutrients are not produced. And going on from this “if there is no” they reach the conclusion that “water or sunlight produces the nutrients.” They suppose that in this way they have proved their thesis.
If it is noted carefully, it is seen that this is a negative approach; it is not a proof.7
On pressing the on/off button on a television, a picture appears on the screen. Whenever we press the button, the picture appears. While if we do not press it, there is no picture. According to the logic of the negative approach of materialist scientists, “the button makes the picture on the screen.” And the “proof” of this is that the picture does not appear when the button is not pressed. They do not think that the broadcasting is done outside, and it is not the button that does it. The button is merely part of the order of the television equipment. The person who made the television intentionally situated the button in the apparatus so the picture would appear on the screen. What logic is there if someone was to tell you that if you do not accept that the button produces the picture, make the picture appear without pressing it? The order and system of the television makes it impossible to work it without pressing the button. Because it was not made in that way. If the person says to you when you cannot make the television work without the button “There you
are! It‟s the button which makes the picture,” you would only laugh at the person.8
Who is the Creator of the system and order?
The fact that the result is not achieved when one of the causes is missing can in no way be proof that the cause in question had the effect. At the most, it is evidence that a particular cause and particular effect are made together.9 This is proof that the relation of cause and effect is established within an order.
Materialist scientists claim that because nutrients are not produced when there is no sunlight, it is the light that produces them. In order to prove this, they say “carry out photosynthesis without sunlight.”
The universe was created within an order. This order is how the Creator creates or is the manner of His creation. It is His sunna. The order continues because He does not change the manner of His creation.10 Creating photosynthesis and sunlight together is the manifestation of the order. The Creator creates photosynthesis and light together. He established the order of food production in this way. Photosynthesis is done without light so it might be investigated who does it. Proof of what is not cannot be required. The question is to prove who does what is; who does photosynthesis with light.
The Qur‟an does not say that God creates without causes. So what does it say? It says that it is God that creates both cause and effect; that it is God that ties cause and effect together within an order. It teaches that it is God Who creates both sunlight, and chlorophyll, and the nutrients. It states that those who do not accept this have to claim that there is in the sunlight, infinite knowledge, will, power, and compassion, which are necessary to make the nutrients; but that it is impossible to prove this.
Or have they taken for worship [other] gods besides Him? Say, “bring your convincing proof…”11
We may recall the meaningful conversation in the Qur‟an between Abraham and Nimrod: employing the order God has placed, Nimrod claimed: “I give life and death.” To which Abraham replied: “But it is God that causes the sun to rise from the east; so you cause it to rise in the west.” At which answer, Nimrod was “confounded.”12
We are bound to try to understand this lesson in belief in Divine unity given by the Qur‟an if we do not want to be faced with the danger of tainting our ideas and worlds with associating partners with God, and should also look at the universe in this way. As students of the Qur‟an, we should take this lesson from the Qur‟an: “My Creator is He Who makes food from sunlight, from water, and from carbon dioxide.”13 Also, in the light of the instruction we have received from the Qur‟an,
we should say this to those who do not accept the Creator and claim the sunlight makes the food: “Take the sunlight and without using the order placed by the Creator, for instance without using the leaf of a tree, make it produce food. Or make it do anything at all. Or if you like, gather together all the causes and obtain a result. Since you say causes do it, without following the order God has laid down, without using a fly‟s egg for instance, make a fly by gathering together all the causes.”14
Those on whom you call besides God, cannot create [even] a fly, if they all met together for the purpose! And if the fly should snatch away anything from them, they would have no power to release it from the fly. Feeble are those who petition and those whom they petition!15
Clearly, causes cannot create, for they are created. Causes are only signs and means for making known their Creator.16
The Qur‟an proves Divine Unity
The universe‟s creation is within an order. This order necessitates that creatures always come into existence under the same conditions. These conditions give rise to the result that all creatures come into existence together with other creatures. We observe this togetherness in the form of the cause and effect relationship. Whenever people are not aware of this and sink into heedlessness and habit, there is a very high possibility that they fail to see that cause and effect are created together and deviate into supposing that causes have an actual effect. It is mistaken to suppose that causes have an actual effect when it is God that makes both. It is to deviate into false thinking. To claim that effects are the work of causes, is knowingly or unknowingly to associate partners with God, even if the person says: “God created the universe.” In order to prevent people making this fearsome mistake, the Qur‟an continuously states in the clearest terms that nothing at all other than God possesses the attributes of Divinity, and that under whatever name, no cause has attributes like maker, creator, giver of sustenance, bringer down of rain from the skies, and raiser of plants from the earth.
Say: “Who is it that sustains you [in life] from the sky and from the earth? Or who is it that has power over hearing and sight? And who is it that brings out the living from the dead and the dead from the living? And who is it that rules and regulates all affairs?” They will soon say, “God.” Say, “ Will you not then show piety [to Him]?”17
From beginning to end, the Qur‟an teaches this, because associating partners with God is the most serious possible danger one can think of. No one of any intelligence can deny the existence of a Sustainer Who creates the heavens, earth, and all of us. It is because of this that Satan tries to push us not towards denial but towards associating partners with God. The Qur‟an continually warns us against this satanic device, and calls on us to follow the broad path of affirming Divine
Since first and foremost the Qur‟an teaches this, the Risale-i Nur, which receives instruction from the Qur‟an, does the same. It is seen in the Risale-i Nur, that its first task is to close the paths leading to associating partners with God. This is the purpose of its expressing on every opportunity that causes are created only as a veil to the manifestation of Divine power, that they cannot have any true effect that will have a result, and that only God, the Single One of Unity, can make the effects. Such statements are frequently to be encountered in the Risale-i Nur.
“… all apparent causes are only veils; they have no true effect in creation; if it is not for His will and command, nothing, not even a minute particle, can move.”18
If only people would think what it means to claim causes have effect, they would understand what a great lie19 and slander it is. If it is not said that all results or effects are directly the works of God, the Single One of Unity, then all the Divine attributes have to be ascribed to the cause of an effect.
This is because all things in the universe are tied to one another. A single thing can exist only in the totality of the universe. It is necessary to know the whole universe and possess power enough to have everything in existence under one‟s disposal in order to make one thing, so that the thing can be placed in the universe in the most meaningful and beneficial fashion and for it to function in harmony with other things.
If we employ an example given in the Risale-i Nur, a particle situated in the pupil of the eye has duties and benefits in relation to the nerves and blood vessels in the eye, with the face, head, and body, with other human beings and with all the beings the eye sees. Only one who creates all the members of the body can situate that particle in the pupil of the eye. Since man then has relations with all the universe, only the one who creates the universe can create man.20 It is necessary to possess innumerable attributes in order to be able to create the universe: infinite knowledge, infinite will, infinite power, infinite compassion, and so on. Is it possible that causes, which are in need of everything apart from themselves, could possess infinite attributes such as those?
For instance, it is said that plants “produce” their own food. What attributes does the plant possess so that it should be able to do this? Does it have intelligence so that it could plan those tremendous processes? Does it have eyes, so that it can see all the things in its environment and function in harmony with them? Does it have power so that it can make them work as it commands? Does it have compassion, so that it can store up the nutrients in excess to its needs and give them to other living beings who are going to eat it?21 The answer is clear: no! The poor plant has neither intelligence, nor power, nor compassion.
Those whom they invoke besides God create nothing and are themselves created.22
So why do the scientists who win Nobel Prizes make such a mistake that seems so simple? Do they not realize that an unconscious particle itself cannot do these things, which leave even man in amazement? Yes, they do know, but as it says in the Risale-i Nur, “Since the unbelievers do not accept a Necessarily Existent One, they are compelled according to their beliefs to accept as many false gods as there are particles. Thus, no matter how illustrious a philosopher or scholar he may be, an unbeliever is in profound ignorance to the utmost degree.”23
Those who say that causes have an effect are truly compelled to ascribe the attributes of divinity to causes. But this is not because they exalt them and suppose them to be god, but because they consider themselves to be great and do not want to accept an absolute Sustainer Whose commands they will be obliged to conform to.
For they, when they were told that there is no god except God, would puff themselves up with pride.24 * Then shall We say to those who joined gods [with Us]: “to your place! You and those you joined as „partners.‟” We shall separate them, and their „partners‟ will say: “It was not us that you worshipped! * Enough is God for a witness between us and you; we certainly knew nothing of your worship of us!”25
Both causes and effects show the Divine Names
The order of the universe was established in such a way that it makes known to us our Creator. All causes are created together with the effects in a wise and purposeful arrangement. Numerous benefits and aims are observed in all the relationships of causes and effects. The Qur‟an points out the wise purposes and significant benefits in the effects so that it will be understood that unconscious causes are infinitely distant from intending them and creating them, and it may be understood that causes are only veils and these wise aims are the work of One Who is All-Knowing, Wise, and Powerful, possessing infinite knowledge, wisdom and power.
The Qur‟an dismisses causes from owning their effects; it separates them. In this way, it makes known our Sustainer to us together with His beautiful Names. The Risale-i Nur follows this method and explains how the Divine Names may be seen through the Qur‟an‟s light.
When seen from afar, mountain peaks on the horizon appear to be adjacent to the sky. But as one approaches, it is understood that there is an infinite distance between the earth and the sky. As in this example, when seen from afar, that is, when seen superficially without questioning, causes and effects appear to be adjacent. But on drawing close, that is, when they are scrutinized intentionally and their characteristics questioned, it is realized that there is in reality a great distance
between cause and effect. That is, it is understood that the cause which appears to be most powerful has not the slightest influence on an effect which appears the most simple. Everything is directly a miracle of Divine power. The effect‟s cause does not possess the absolute knowledge, absolute power, and absolute will necessary for the occurrence of the effect. Cause and effect have no relationship by which they affect each other. It is only the Creator‟s wise and purposeful arrangment that has created them side by side. When one realizes the existence of this arrangement and the cause is dismissed from having any effect, it becomes perfectly clear that everything is a “miracle.” Should all causes unite even, they would be powerless to create the least significant being, for instance a mosquito. Mosquitoes are miracles before which all causes are impotent. For miracles are not events outside the events that determinists like Descartes, who got caught up on causality, called “ordinary,” and are outside the general order of the universe. Miracle means something “before which all things, all causes, are impotent;” and since all causes are impotent to make even the smallest fly, everything is a miracle of our Sustainer.
Understanding this saves us from the error of supposing that cause and effect are connected and that effects are the works of causes. To suppose that is not an unimportant error. For so long as we make it, we are open to the danger of associating partners with God, against which the Qur‟an continuously warns us. We may know the Divine Names in certain fashion only when we are saved from that situation and see all things directly as His art and miracle.
Just as it is understood on climbing the hill that the vast distance exists between the earth and the sky — and it is in that space that the stars rise; in exactly the same way, when it is understood that cause and effect cannot affect each other, a distance so vast opens up between them that “in the vast distance between cause and effect the Divine Names rise like stars.”26
We see that this way, this method, is taught in the Qur‟an from beginning to end. The Risale-i Nur follows this Qur‟anic method exactly. Doubtless this will be best explained with an example.
For example, in Sura „Abasa, by mentioning miracles of Divine power in a purposeful sequence, the Qur‟an ties causes to effects and points to an aim at its conclusion with the words for use and convenience to you. This aim proves that within the sequence of all the causes and effects is a hidden disposer who sees and follows the aim, and that the causes are a veil to him.
Then let man consider his sustenance. * For that We pour forth water in abundance. * And We split the earth into fragments. * And We produce therein corn, * And grapes and nutritious plants, * And olives and dates, * And enclosed gardens, dense with lofty trees, * And fruits and fodder, * For use and convenience
to you and your cattle.27
“Indeed, with the phrase, for use and convenience to you and your cattle, it dismisses all the causes from the ability to create. It is in effect saying: rain comes from the sky in order to produce food for you and your animals. Since water does not possess the ability to pity and feel compassion for you and produce food, it means that the rain does not come, it is sent. And the earth produces plants and your food comes from there. But lacking feelings and intelligence, it is far beyond the ability of the earth to think of your sustenance and feel compassion for you, so it does not produce it itself. Furthermore, since it is remote from plants and trees to consider your food and compassionately produce fruits and grains for you, the verse demonstrates that they are strings and ropes which One All-Wise and Compassionate extends from behind the veil, to which He attaches His bounties and holds out to animate creatures. And so from this explanation numerous Divine Names rise, like All-Compassionate, Provider, Bestower, and All-Generous.”28
In brief:
“… The results, purposes, and benefits attached to effects demonstrate self-evidently that they are the works of an All-Generous Sustainer, an All-Wise and Compassionate One, beyond the veil of causes. For unconscious causes certainly cannot think of some aim and work for it. Yet we see that each creature which comes into existence does so following not one, but many aims, benefits, and instances of wisdom. This means an All-Wise and Generous Sustainer makes those things and sends them… Furthermore, all the finely adorned plants which smile at creatures and the embellishments and displays in animals self-evidently point to the necessary existence and unity of an All-Glorious One behind the veil of the Unseen; One Who wants to make Himself known and loved through these beautifully adorned fine arts. That is to say, this adornment in things and these displays and embellishment indicate certainly the attributes of making known and making loved. While the attributes of making known and making loved self-evidently testify to the necessary existence and unity of an All-Powerful Maker Who is Loving and Known.
“In Short:
“i. Since causes are extremely commonplace and impotent and the effects attributed to them are most valuable and full of art, this dismisses causes.
“ii. And the aims and benefits of effects also discharge ignorant and lifeless causes, and hand them over to an All-Wise Maker.
“iii. Also, the adornment and skill on the face of effects indicates a Wise Maker Who wants to make His power known to conscious beings and desires to make
Himself loved.”29
Conceptual D i a g r a m (See overleaf)
The universe exists in order to make known to us our Creator. By considering the manner in which beings are created, those who think may find attributes which pertain to their Creator.30 Man was created with senses and faculties that enquire into where both he and the beings around him came from, where they will go to, and what functions they are performing; they seek the answers. The universe was also ordered in a way that supplies the answers to these questions.
Since the universe and all its beings are meaningful, full of art, lovable, and comprise numerous benefits, they make known to us its Creator together with His Beautiful Names. Since this is so, believers should study the universe down to its finest details; they should get to know their Sustainer through it; and act in accordance with the wisdom and purposes in its creation. Indeed, man was created to know his Sustainer and to offer thanks and worship to Him alone.31
Since the person who knows his Sustainer through the testimony of the universe knows that causes have no effect even in his daily relations with the universe, he will consciously have recourse to the Creator of causes directly. When he has recourse to causes, it will be a prayer to the causes‟ Creator. Due to this understanding, the farmer who ploughs his field is basically knocking on the door of his Sustainer, Who is the Compassionate Provider. In his view, it is not only human beings who offer prayer; the gathering together of all the causes God charges with duties when He creates something, is also the prayer of beings to their Sustainer.32
It is a great crime for believers to leave this meaningful, wise, and purposeful universe to the hands of the materialists and turn a blind eye to their condemning it to meaninglessness, purposelessness, chance and coincidence under the name of “scientific study.” The believer should take the universe in his hand, see it as a book, and under the guidance of the Qur‟an, “which teaches the meanings of the book of the universe,”33 read it in the name of his Sustainer. This is “scientific study” for the believer. In whatever field of knowledge he works, it is the duty of every believer who follows the wisdom of the Qur‟an to open up that long distance between cause and effect and to see the Most Beautiful Divine Names which show themselves clearly in that space, and to display them. The diagram given above shows the outline of this study.
Everything from the smallest unit of the universe to the largest —minute particles, cells, plants, animals, man, the land, the seas, the planets, the stars, and so on— must be made the subject of research and be seen as an “ascent in knowledge of
God”34 (a means,35 or stairway, to knowledge of God). There will be technological advances in the course of these researches, which will be the means to thanks since they will be seen as Divine bounties. Only “scientific studies” of this sort will be the means to happiness in both this world and the hereafter by making known to humanity its Sustainer.
1. Almost everywhere in the Risale-i Nur, the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) is portrayed as having the function of a teacher who instructs humanity how „to read,‟ or the subjects treated are analyzed in the light of what he taught. See in particular, the Nineteenth Word, Nineteenth Letter, Eleventh Word, the Eleventh Proof of the First Station of the Twenty-Second Word, the Third and Five Branches of the Twenty-Fourth Word.
2. See, Qur‟an, 3:190.
3. See, Qur‟an, 7:195.
4. Nursî, Bediüzzaman Said, Lem‟alar, Istanbul, Sözler Yayinevi 1995, 185 / The Flashes Collection [Eng. tr: Sükran Vahide], Istanbul, Sözler Publications 1995, 235).
5. Qur‟an, 25:3.
6. Qur‟an, 7:191-2; Sualar, 527
7. This approach is to be found everywhere in the Risale-i Nur and is summarized in the below passage: “What deceives those who worship apparent causes is the two things coming together or being together, which is called „association;‟ they suppose the two things cause one another. Also, since the non-existence of one thing is the cause of a bounty being non-existent, they suppose that the thing‟s existence is also the cause of the bounty‟s existence. They offer their thanks and gratitude to the thing and fall into error. For a bounty‟s existence results from all the bounty‟s conditions and preliminaries. Whereas the bounty‟s non-existence occurs through the non-existence of only a single condition.” See, Lem‟alar, 136-7 / The Flashes Collection, 182.
8. The basic arguments of this debate are set out in Dispute With The Devil, see, Mektûbat, Istanbul, Sözler Yayinevi 1994, 295-304 / Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Letters 1928-1932 [Eng. tr.], Sözler Publications, 1994, 365-376.
9. Qur‟an, 14:32. See also, 2:22; 6:99; 16:65; 35:27; 43:11; 50:9. A summary of the argument that causes have no effect, which is one of the basic questions dealt with in the Risale-i Nur, is this: “[God Almighty] creates cause and effect together directly. And in order to demonstrate His wisdom and the manifestation of His Names, by establishing a apparent causal relationship and connection through order and sequence, He makes causes and nature a veil to the hand of His power…” See, Mektûbat, 193 / Letters, 244).
10. See, Qur‟an, 48:23; 30:30; 33:62; 35:43.
11. Qur‟an, 21:24; see also, Qur‟an, 27:64.
12. Qur‟an, 2:258.
13. Qur‟an, 24:45; see also, 22:5; 86:6; 2:164; 21:30; 16:66; 25:54, etc.
14. “If all material causes were to gather together and if they possessed will, they could not gather together the being of a single fly and its systems and organs with their particular balance. And even if they could gather them together, they could not make them remain in the specified measure of the being. And even if they could make them remain thus, they could not make those minute particles, which are constantly being renewed and coming into existence and working, work regularly and in order. In which case, self-evidently, causes cannot claim ownership of things. That is to say, their True Owner is someone else.” Lem‟alar, 252 / The Flashes Collection, 308). See also, Sözler, Istanbul, Sözler Yayinevi 1993, 573-81; 590 / The Words [Eng. trans. Sükran Vahide], Sözler Publications 1992, 619-27; 636-7.
15. Qur‟an, 22:73.
16. There are numerous verses in the Qur‟an stating that creatures are „signs‟ (ayat). For example, 2:164. It is shown throughout the Risale-i Nur that causes are all „signs‟ making known their Maker. For an example, see the Third Window of the Fourth Flash, in the Second Station of the Twenty-Second Word, and the Second Point of the Second Aim of the Thirtieth Word. Here it explains how by carrying out important functions despite their impotence, all particles testify to the existence of the Necessarily Existent, and how, by acting as though consciously in conformity with the general order of the universe as well as conforming to particular order of the places they are found, they testify to His unity.
17. Qur‟an, 10:31; see also, 13:16; 29:61; 39:38; 43:9, 15, 87; 12:105-6.
18. Sualar, 532. See also, the introduction to Lem‟alar in Mesnevi-yi Nûriye. The following expresses very succinctly the position of causes: “Yes, dignity and grandeur demand that causes are a veil to the Hand of Power in the view of the mind, while Divine Unity and Oneness require that causes withdraw their hands from [having] an actual effect. (Sualar, 223).
19. See, Qur‟an, 10:66; 6:116; 53:23; 16:105.
20. See the Second Point of the Second Aim of the Thirtieth Word (Sözler, 537-9 / The Words, 576-8).
21. It is stated in various contexts in the Qur‟an in order to show that apart from God no cause has any effect, that causes possess nothing of themselves and that of themselves they can supply none of things we ask of them. For example, Were they created out of nothing, or were they themselves the creators? * Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Nay, they have no firm belief (52:35-6). And, …Such is God your Sustainer; to Him belongs all dominion. And those whom you invoke besides Him have not the least power. * If you invoke them, they will not listen to your call, and if they were to listen, they cannot answer your [prayer] (35:13-14). See also, 13:14; 56:63-4, 68-9; 7:194; 88:17-20; 20:35; 46:4; 26:72-3; 40:20, etc.
22. Qur‟an, 16:20.
23. See the First Aim of the Thirtieth Word, and the Second Point of its Second Aim.
24. Qur‟an, 37:35.
25. Qur‟an, 10:28-9.
26. Sözler, 411 / The Words, 435.
27. Qur‟an, 80:24:32.
28. Sözler, 393-4 / The Words, 435-6.
29. Sözler, 635 / The Words, 712.
30. See, Qur‟an, 3:191, etc.
31. See, Qur‟an, 51:56.
32. Mektûbat, 285-6 / Letters, 353-4.
33. Sözler, 426 / The Words, 452.
34. Sözler, 645-6 / The Words, 698-9.
35. The Qur‟an enjoins us to attempt every such means. See, 5:35 and 17:57.

The Heart of a Child

Caught in a child’s hand,

the seashell becomes treasure,

a catalyst of daydreams.  Tunes

hummed by innocence reach

the seagull nearby who gives up

flight to breathe in this fresh air.

An air that only they can bare,

that we forget through years

of aging hearts.


The sand still has memory of us,

although we forget.  And that starfish

under the stars waits our return,

but we turn. Away from the past

that gave us sight into a spark

of the divine.  To see creation

in it’s purest form, it’s brightest shine.

Each grain of sand will be called to

tell his story. Can you imagine?

When from the seen and unseen

Worlds come Men and Jinn.

And to be asked from such an old age,

why we could not stay like a child.

For a moment to see like a child.

To dream like a child.

To take into our heart,

the Heart of the world,

as a child does,

with every blink of existence.


By Jon Schuck

The Flower’s Song

The humble flower swaying free,

Bent down in prayer as winds blew by.

No glimpse of greed nor poverty,

Stretched up again below the sky.

Listen closely to the flower’s song,

As pedals play their part.

To turn Man’s eye a moment long,

To God’s great work of art.

“See order in my rhythm,

See plan in my design.

See prayer in my precision.

I’m sent here as a sign.

Ponder now, before I’m gone,

For winter here draws nigh.

Without knowledge of why we’re here,

Is not wisdom but a lie?

And as I sing my final song.

Take this as what we learn.

To God it is we all belong,

And to Him is our return.”


Jon Schuck

The Painter

You Paint with light,

Your works.

You serenade with thought.

You breathe breath forgotten,

You surrender what is lost.

You paint the entire Universe,

As easily as a tree.

You sustain it all through fading time,

Your brush, your word, is “Be”.

Your painting is your signature,

A master’s masterpiece.

Without your gift, apprenticeship,

Life as we know would cease.


Jon Schuck

The Galaxy Within

As galaxies spiral,

And planets revolve.

As the Earth rotates,

And Time dissolves.

As yesterday passes,

And twisted hearts turn.

As tomorrow comes,

And love within burns.

As minds reflect,

And perspective shifts.

As we see the signs,

And accept the gifts.

As we then see God ,

And know Him still.

As souls complete,

And hearts do fill.

As knowledge is sought,

And wisdom we send.

As we reflect on our heart,

And the galaxy within.

Then and only then

Do our hearts dance

With our souls.


Jon Schuck


The signs sing silhouettes of His being,

Creeping as shadows creep.

Minds stretch at the infinite meaning,

Manifest in the deepest of deep.

Are we now deaf to the powerful sound,

Numb to that which makes our souls weep.

The pages that expound, are now bound,

And the words to the heart we keep.

The wind travels without a sound,

Whispering only by thought:

The mind has no timeless bound,

But the search of beliefs sought.


Jon Schuck

Even the Tree Prays

I planted a seed,

but it did not ask me why.

As it grew I watered it,

but it did not ask me why.

When it grew leaves I pruned it,

But it did not ask me why.

When it grew so very tall,

It did not ask me why.

When I sat and leaned upon it,

It did not ask me why.

And when it then began to die,

It did not ask me why.

But I am Human,

And I ask why.

Oh if only I could be,

Like that very tree.

For it knows nothing,

Of what I ask,

And boasts not of,

That which I bask.

Yet reaches its branches

Up to the Heavens.

And leaves me at its base,

Asking why.


Jon Shuck


Passing From the ‘Self-Other’ Relationship to ‘Us’ in the Context of Belief in the Angels 

Dr. Mustafa Ulusoy

In his consulting-room, a therapist often works with people who complain of emptiness, meaninglessness, and loneliness.(1) They describe the feeling of emptiness as a subjective experience that is painful and discomforting. People who say they suffer from loneliness, often speak of feelings of emptiness. One out of every four Americans say they are “chronically lonely.” While in France, the same percentage of people say they frequently feel lonely, and 54% say they have suffered from loneliness at some time in their lives.(2) Zeldin states that this is not a modern sickness, but that loneliness pre-dates this era.(3)

“The subjective experience of emptiness represents a temporary or permanent loss of normal relations of the self with object-representations, that is, with the world of inner objects that fixates intrapsychically the significant experiences with others and constitutes a basic ego identity and, therefore, a stable integrated self and a stable integrated world of internal objects.”(4) Existential psychotherapists define the feeling of emptiness as “existential isolation.”(5) “Existential isolation refers to an unbridgeable gulf between oneself and any other being.” “It refers too to an isolation even more fundamental-a separation from the world.” Yalom asserts that even if a person has most satisfying relationships with other people, complete self-knowledge, and a sense of wholeness, existential isolation is still something he cannot overcome.

E. Fromm agrees with the existential therapists who consider existential isolation to be unavoidable and inevitable. He says: “The awareness of his aloneness and separateness, of his helplessness before the forces of nature and of society, all this makes his separate disunited existence an unbearable prison.”(6) “The experience of separateness arouses anxiety; it is indeed the source of all anxiety. To be separate means to be helpless, unable to grasp the world -thing and people- actively; it means that the world can invade me without my ability to react.”(7)

“A defamiliarization occurs when meanings are wrenched from objects, symbols disintegrate, and one is torn from one’s moorings of ‘at homeness.'”(8) These sentences express perfectly the sense of emptiness. The two concepts most closely related to the sense of emptiness and existential isolation are meaninglessness and alienation.

A person can only know himself and other things when they have meaning. He can only have relations with the things around him when he learns of their meaning and gets to know them. Kurt Reinhardt describes as follows the alienation caused by the loss of meaning:

“Something utterly mysterious intervenes between him and the familiar objects of his world, between him and his fellowmen, between him and all his ‘values.’ Everything which he had called his own pales and sinks away, so that there is nothing left to which he might cling. What threatens is ‘nothing,’ and he finds himself and lost in the void.”(9)

Even if he sees this as inevitable and unavoidable, Yalom still asks: “How does one shield oneself from the dread of ultimate isolation?” In his view: “One may take a portion of the isolation into oneself and bear it courageously or resolutely.” The second solution Yalom proposes is relationship. Relationship does not dispel the sense of loneliness and basic isolation, but it alleviates it.

It is precisely on this point that the schools of psychology, like Yalom, have come to an impasse. Is man condemned to existential isolation and loneliness? Can he not be saved from the subjective experience of loneliness? What I shall attempt in this paper is to seek the answer to these questions. For reference I shall use the Risale-i Nur, in which I shall search for hints of the answers.

The subjective experience of emptiness was a feeling Said Nursi was familiar with. The Sixth Letter is a good example of this.(10) He experiences several sorts of exile or separation one within the other. Separation from his friends and relations, separation from the place he was born, separation from the beings who abandoned him and departed, separation from all beings lost in the darkness of the night, and finally the separation of beings on their deaths. The separations all produce a sense of exile or strangeness, which in my view expresses very aptly the sense of not belonging anywhere. Not belonging to a place means being alienated from the other beings there.

Just as Said Nursi himself experienced a sense of emptiness or futility, so he frequently uses it when comparing the points of view of belief and unbelief. In many places in the Risale-i Nur one encounters expressions like “… since he imagines the pages of beings to be confused and meaningless…”(11)

I shall leave the solutions Said Nursi offered for the subjective experience of emptiness to the second and third categorizations of human beings that attempted below, for at this point I think one has to ask the following: what is it that a person loses due to the subjective experience of emptiness? If it describes the awareness of a sense of emptiness, there must have been something that previously disappeared from within him. The most useful clue to this is found in Kernberg psychiatry, which provides the best definition of emptiness: “The subjective experience of emptiness represents a temporary or permanent loss of the normal relations of the self with object-representations.”(12) This is an excellent definition. What are the self-representations and object-representations in man? Seeking the answer to this question will assist us greatly in gaining a good understanding of the sense of emptiness.


Man does not begin life as a ‘tabula rasa.'(13) “The infant is equipped with basic feelings, as well as the basic ability to communicate them through expressive-motor mechanisms that are mainly concentrated in the face system.”(14)

Although babies are equipped with numerous senses, they have to develop them in many respects. The Risale-i Nur emphasizes the great difference between the ways men and animals are sent to this world: “… when animals come into the world, they come complete in all points in accordance with their abilities as though having been perfected in another world; that is, they are sent.”(15) “As for man, he needs to learn everything when he comes into the world; he is ignorant, and cannot even learn completely the conditions of life in twenty years. Indeed, he needs to go on learning till the end of his life. Also he is sent to the world in a most weak and impotent form, and can only rise to his feet in one or two years. Only in fifteen years can he distinguish between harm and benefit.”(16) Said Nursi explains the reason for this as follows: “This means that man’s innate duty is to be perfected through learning and to proclaim his worship of God and servitude to Him through supplication.”

Thus, the human being begins life in “undifferentiated” form.(17) The chief characteristic of this is the fact that the ‘I’ is not developed. Since particularly in the first six months of life, he is not aware of his “self,” he is not aware of “the other.”

One who is not conscious of his own being, will not differentiate between himself and “the other,” that is, beings outside himself. But this does not mean that the infant is in a passive position. It can perceive various stimulants and respond to them. These stimulants are perceived and responded to within the sense of “we,” rather than differentiating between the self and the other.

The infant lives with an “us” system, formed with its mother, without being aware of any distinction between the self and the other. This gives a strong sense of security to the child, who is created absolutely helpless. He feels like a drop in the ocean (ocean feeling). He perceives himself and all beings outside himself, particularly his mother, as not completely distinct from each other, and as beings closely tied to each other within a single system.(18) This close interconnection is to a large extent biological.

At around two years of age, as the infant’s awareness develops, it becomes more aware of itself, and so its world begins to be divided into two. The first thing it encounters with its unfolding consciousness is his “self.” With his developing “I,” it is as though he starts slowly to emerge, becoming aware of himself. And becoming aware of himself, he becomes more aware of “the other” outside himself. The world has then become divided into “the self” and “the other.”

Another very important mechanism starts to function with the development of the infant’s consciousness: internalization and the formation of self and object-representations. The child experiences innumerable interactions with the other, especially with his mother. He introjects the representation of the self in interaction with that object, the representation of an object, and the affective colouring of both the object-image and the self-image at the time of the interaction.(19) When he reaches around two and a half years of age, he internalizes his own function, the function of the other with whom he is interacting, and the feelings he experiences in this interaction. This stage is the “identification” stage. What the child internalizes is his own image, the other’s image, and his own function and that of the other.(20) “Just as the world settles in the child’s inner world, so the child’s inner world starts to become established in the world.”(21)

On reaching puberty, a person has completed his development from the point of view of internalization. Being created animate, man has consciousness as well as life. “Life is the summit and foundation of everything.”(22) “Life is the light of existence.” If something is without life, “it is a stranger, alone.”(23) A lifeless being, for example, a stone, has no relations with other things. When life enters a body, it causes it to have relations with others. Since birds, bees, and trees have life, they have their own web of relations. However, they are unaware of these. Life is “illuminated” through consciousness.(24) A living being becomes aware of his own being and that of others through consciousness. The sentence “a human being is able to move through the rooms of his house through his consciousness and mind, which are the light of life,”(25) explains that man can as though internalize himself. Man becomes aware of himself through consciousness and mind. He gains awareness of all the branches of his own house-of all existence, and he comes to know his spirit, consciousness, body, intellect, and various senses and feelings. He conceptualizes himself. He reaches conclusions about himself and values. Through consciousness and mind, man has a “self.” He encompasses his “self” and includes it. The image (temess?l) of himself is reflected in the mirror of his spirit, forming a representation (temsil) of himself in his own spirit. Man’s perfect creation does not remain at this; “that conscious and animate being may go in spirit as though as a guest to those worlds.”(26) On this journey, he interests himself with the beings and worlds of the outer world. Moreover, “those worlds too come as guests to his mirror-like spirit by being reflected and depicted there.”(27) His consciousness and intellect convey the things with which he has formed relations to the mirror of his spirit.They are reflected in the mirror of his spirit, and their representations formed. In this way, a man is constructed who is “a universal within particularity, and a world within … insignificance,”(28) and who internalizes everything. “One man’s spirit is worth the whole cosmos.”(29) The aim is “to make man understand all His names and experience all the varieties of His bounty…” Man was first of all given life, then consciousness, and thus he gained “comprehensivness.” “For with the comprehensiveness of his nature, man can understand and take pleasure in all the divine names.”(30) By virtue of this, man has relations with all the universe, in both its inner and outward aspects. “… by reason of his comprehensiveness, man is like a tiny index and miniature specimen of the universe and so displays the embroideries of all the names.”(31)

The representations of beings taking form in the mirror of his spirit disposes man to reflect the manifestation of divine oneness and be vicegerent on the earth. The manifestation of divine oneness is the simultaneous manifestation in one thing of the Creator’s endless names, which are manifested in all things; it includes the duties of beings, which constitute representations by forming images in the mirror of man’s spirit.(32) The universe, which is ‘established,’ is also established in man through the consciousness that has been given him. For man is the divine vicegerent on earth.(33) Man’s representation of the glorifications and worship of God performed by all beings is realized primarily on the inner level. For man to be able to represent their worship and glorifications, he has to know them, and be aware of them, and not only that, must internalize them. In order to be able to establish the outside world within himself, man has been given the ability to internalize the representations of all the things with which he has relations.


With the development of consciousness up to the age of puberty, man gradually becomes aware of his “self.” The more he becomes aware of it, the more he is differentiated from “the other.” “Consciousness is an aspect of existence according to which beings are distinct from one another.”(34) The “ocean feeling” of infancy disappears, as though the ocean separated into millions of droplets. “To extent to which the child emerges from that world it becomes aware of being alone, of being an entity separate from all others. This separation from a world, which in comparison with one’s own individual existence is overwhelmingly strong and powerful, and often threatening and dangerous, creates a feeling of powerlessness and anxiety.”(35)

There is no separation for beings without consciousness. Because a stone or a tree has no self-perception, it cannot experience a sense of separation from “the other.” However, although consciousness gains an individuality for beings, so it recaptures things that have become separated, and ties things together that are far apart.” Consciousness and intellect want to establish relations between everything. “The realms of beings in the universe are so interwoven they have made the universe into a totality.”(36) Man therefore wants to be reunited within a framework of meaningful ties between his self and the other, and to live as part of the universe’s system. “Bringing forth a coherent world is the first and last condition for having a consistent self-identity.”(37) Man always searches for that “ocean feeling” he has lost. He wants to establish relations both with himself and with all the other things from the ocean. However, now he wants to belong to the ocean not biologically, but within the framework of meaningful ties.

Kernberg and other pyschiatrists do not go beyond saying that man’s inner world is filled with the object-representations of the universe and self-representations. How do the two basic points of view of belief and misguidance, one of the matters most emphasized in the Risale-i Nur, determine the structure and contents of the object-representations that are formed in the mirror of man’s spirit? What sort of connection is there between belief in the angels and self-representations and object-representations? What is the connection between the points of view of belief and misguidance and the feeling of emptiness? From now on I shall focus on these questions? The method I want to follow is this: firstly I shall describe the categorization of representation (reflection) (temess?l) in the Risale-i Nur. Then, imagining how three different people observe the same tree, I shall investigate how the tree is represented differently in each of the people.


Said Nursi says that there are three sorts of representation or reflection.(38, 39) The first of these is how the tree in the example is reflected and represented in a person who looks from the point of view of misguidance; the second sort is how it is reflected and represented from the point of view of belief; and in the third sort it is seen how, from the point of view of a profounder belief and with the addition of the dimension of belief in the angels, the representation of the same tree differs.

The First Sort of Representation (temess?l): This is the reflection of dense, physical objects. An example of this would be the reflection of a tree in a mirror, or water, or on a shining surface. Said Nursi says that reflections of this sort are “are … other than the thing reflected; they are not the same, and they are dead, without life. They possess no quality other than their apparent identity.” I want to stress here that the reflection is both other than thing itself, and not the same, and dead. The image of a tree reflected in a shining object is certainly not the same as the tree itself. It is completely different to it. The tree’s image is dead. All they have in common are the visible characteristics.

This sort of reflection may explain how the tree is reflected and its representation formed in the mirror of the spirit of a person who looks at himself and the tree from the point of view of misguidance. The representation formed in accordance with the view of misguidance is lifeless and dead like the representation in the mirror. There is no relation between the image of the tree and tree outside, except an apparent similarity. The image of the tree in the spirit of a person who holds this view, is dead.

First Person

He sees the ‘I’ as ‘I’, and says “I own myself.”(40) He accords himself a meaning as he thinks fit. He gives himself and everything outside of himself meaning in accordance with his own wishes. He denies creation. The ‘I’ is something that functions in its own name and whose sole duty is to satisfy its own physical wishes and desires. Such an ‘I’ will not form a connection with the Creator and does not want to do so. The person with such an ‘I’ does not want to accept that he was brought into existence. He thinks he exists of himself. He imagines he possesses power. He wants to realize his own existence, and receives a narcissistic pleasure from this. He attributes his existence to himself and to causes. In reality his existence does not belong to himself, he is the work and art of his Creator. According to this idea, the person’s “self,” whose representation is formed in the mirror of his spirit, has no relation with his “self” as it is in reality. Like the image of the tree in the mirror. Whatever apparently exists in the ‘I’ was given it by the Creator, so an ‘I’ness that perceives the ‘I’ as ‘I’, in reality is broken off from its own “self.”

The consequence of the person perceiving himself in this way is that a dead image in the mirror of his spirit, the representation of which is also dead, takes on the form of a dead representation. There is no true relation or connection between his self which is reflected in the mirror of his spirit, and his actual self.

The person who sees his ‘I’ as ‘I’, will see the tree as only a tree. “For the man who says ‘I own myself’ must believe and say: ‘Everything owns itself.'”(41) “It imagines books and meaningful missives to be common, meaningless inscriptions.”(42) The tree has no meaning, it is only something that produces fruit. It has no connection with the Creator. There can be no ties between a tree and other beings if it is not situated within a particular framework of meaning. Everything is separate and independent. There are no meaningful relations between them. The others are perceived in this way because the ‘I’ is perceived thus.

Now, the person’s consciousness and intellect will convey both his own self and other beings (the other) to the mirror of his spirit, and there, being reflected in the mirror of the spirit, representations and images will form. In his view, the tree is something without meaning, whose functions look to itself, is broken off from other things in the universe, and bears no meaning. The tree’s reflection in this person, and its representation, are entirely divorced from its reality, and are completely different to it. The tree’s representation, its reflection in the mirror of the spirit, and the form it has acquired there are lifeless and dead. Since the tree reflected in this way has not conveyed any meaning to the person’s spirit, his spirit cannot establish communication with the tree. In reality the tree is meaningful and has functions, and in this respect it is living. But here the only connection between the tree itself and its reflection in the mirror of his spirit is the similarity in appearance. Such a conception of a tree and a tree reflected in the spirit cannot nourish or sustain the spirit. For the person has not penetrated to the fact that the tree is created. The tree reflected in the mirror of the spirit by means of consciousness and intellect is not the tree as it is in actuality in the outside world. The tree is reflected in a way unrelated to the tree as it is in reality.

The tree’s being completely different to the image of it that takes form in the person’s spirit, and his not having penetrated to the tree’s reality, give rise in him to a sense of alienation. He is a stranger to the tree, he is not acquainted with it. The tree he has internalized is not the tree as it was created by its Creator, it is a tree that has taken on the colour of his own ‘I’ness, and has become meaningless. He thus never gets to know the tree. He is alienated from all other things, which are exemplified by the tree. ‘I’ and the other are two separate beings. They do not recognize or know one another. The sense of alienation towards the other, or to put it another way, not knowing it, is a source of serious anxiety and fear. The unknown other frightens and alarms man, so he is in permanent expectation of danger.

The person becomes alienated from his own internalized being. For the self that has been internalized and reflected inwardly in the mirror of his spirit, is not his true self as shaped by the Creator. While it should be he himself who is closest to man, he becomes the one most alien to himself. This is a significant cause of pain. If the ‘I’ sees itself as meaningless, the self that it has internalized and reflected becomes meaningless. Having loaded this alienation on himself, he then adds to it the alienation of the other. The internalized other also becomes lifeless, dead, and meaningless.

Even if the person lives amid boundless existence, the object-representations he has internalized and have accumulated in his spirit are lifeless, soulless, and as though dead. In this case, there are also no ties between the object-representations reflected in his spirit. They have no total meaning. The absence of relations between them causes his spirit pain. The representations also continuously disappear. The image of a withered tree in the mirror of the person’s spirit causes his spirit pain and distress. The tree withered up and died, and like the tree disappeared, so does its representation. In this respect, since the person anyway considered the tree to be meaningless, or because he did not arrive at a meaning that conformed to the reality of its createdness (we could also call this an imaginary meaning), the dead tree together with its role representation (the tree’s meaning that should be reflected in the person’s spirit) vanish from his spirit.

This point of view completely ’empties out’ a person, filling his world with utter loneliness and emptiness. For his internalized self and the inward representations of the beings of the outside world have no shared point other than an apparent similarity. To put it another way, because there is no relation between the inner representations of the outer things and himself, he experiences a sort of nothingness. There is nothing within him that is related to the things outside him. Nothingness means existential emptiness. The representations of things in the mirror of his spirit being without life, spirit, and meaning, means that his spirit is unnourished. An unnourished spirit continuously experiences a sense of existential emptiness. The spirit of such a person suffers constant distress. This “chronic meaninglessness” leads him to look on himself as though he had nothing within him at all. His spirit suffers distress because the representations reflected in his mirror are without life and meaning and are dead. He is filled with dead things. The self within him is dead and without life. Like a dead child in the womb. Just like the psychological distress suffered by a woman carrying within her a dead child, the person who bears within himself his dead self and the dead other, experiences terrible suffering.

For the person who thinks his existence is from himself and denies that he is created, relations are severed with the other and he is completely separate from them. There is no link whatsoever between ‘I’ and the other. The ‘I’ who is alien to his self is alien to the other. The ‘I’ and “the other” are two unconnected beings.

The Second Sort of Representation: The second sort of representation in Said Nursi’s categorization is “the reflection of physical luminous objects.”(43) By way of example, he cites the sun’s reflection in shining objects. Here, the sun’s reflection in the mirror is not identical with the sun outside, but it is not completely different either. Said Nursi says that the sun reflected in the mirror does not resemble the actual sun in essence, but that it possesses most of its characteristics and may be thought of as living. Light and the seven colours in light, which are attributes of the sun, are found in its reflection in the mirror. Also, heat radiates from the sun which is reflected in the mirror. The actual sun however is not present in the mirror, only some of its characteristics are found in it.

This sort of representation is a good analogy for helping us to understand how the tree may be represented in a person who looks at his “self” and the tree (the other) with “the consciousness of belief.”

The Second Person

The person’s ‘I’ accepts that he was given existence. He says: “I am the creature and artefact of the All-Glorious Maker. I manifest His mercy and munificence.”(44) He sees himself as a work of art of his Creator. His existence is not from himself but from the Creator. The reason for his existence is to recognize the Creator and know Him, and to serve Him as a mirror to the manifestation of His names. The representation of an ‘I’ that perceives himself thus in the mirror of his “self’s” spirit will be like the representation of the sun in the mirror. The reflection and representative of his “self” in the mirror of his spirit are fairly close to his own reality.

An ‘I’ such as this sees the tree not as a tree but as a means of communication bearing its Creator’s message. “When he obtains information about the universe, he sees that his ‘I’ confirms it. This knowledge will remain as light and wisdom for him…”(45) In his mind, the tree is something meaningful. Accepting the fact it is created, he forms a relation with its Creator. This relation leads him to ‘read’ the tree (the other) in the light of his tie and relation with the Creator. The tree is saved from the darkness of meaninglessness by being related to the Creator. It is the Creator’s work of art, and is read as a mirror reflecting His names. Being read in this way the tree becomes related to all other beings. Its reality is its being its Creator’s work, art, and a mirror to His names. Because this sort of reading draws close to its reality, the tree is transformed into something living and charged with duties. The intellect and consciousness of a person holding this view convey the tree to mirror of his spirit. The representation and reflection of the tree perceived in this way are like the reflection of the sun. The tree’s reflection is not the tree itself, and it is not different to it. The tree’s representation in the person’s spirit is living. It constantly speaks with him. For him, the tree is a living missive by which he may communicate with his Creator. It informs him about its Creator’s attributes, and makes Him known.

Since, thanks to this point of view and knowledge of God, the tree outside becomes luminous like the sun, the tree’s representation in the person’s spirit also gains luminosity. And that luminous, living tree nourishes the person’s spirit.

The representations of things in the mirror of the person’s spirit are related to one another, each of them (all the others) is a mirror to the works, art, and names of his own Creator.

Here, the thing whose representation is formed is the tree’s meaning within itself, its function (role representations). If the tree dies, it will cause no pain to the person’s spirit. For when that happens, its representation remains in the mirror of the spirit, and is living. For the tree is not independent or something that exists in its own name. It exists through its Creator and in His name. The tree may die, but just as the message contained in a torn up letter does not have to be erased from the reader’s memory; so the role representation-function representation in the person’s spirit persists. This prevents the person’s object-representations in the universe being lost. He does not suffer from such a problem. If the Creator exists, everything exists. If the Creator exists, everything has meaning and everything exists as representations and role representations in the mirror of his spirit.

The person’s personal universe is full of living representations of the things in the universe. These living representations nourish the spirit. The representations of things in the mirror of his spirit are not identical to the things ‘outside’ but they are not different to them either. This prevents the person suffering from an existential emptiness. His inner world is full of the representations of beings and these are living. In his spirit are innumerable living representations of things with which he can form relations. Man cannot be nourished with the image of fruit on the tree in the mirror, but just as a person may be warmed and illuminated by the sun reflected in the mirror, so too the spirit and heart may be nourished by the object-representations, which are living and meaningful. A nourished heart and spirit are saved from chronic existential emptiness and a feeling of meaninglessness, and the distress they cause.

Having the same Creator makes man the friend and companion of other beings. He sees himself and the others all together within a totality created by the same Creator. For man, who with his consciousness has been given the opportunity to know the other, is equal to it both in respect of createdness, and in the inability to be a god or object of worship. This awakens in man a warm feeling of belonging to one. All beings are transformed into things he knows. He is filled with the sense of living in a stable world, “like his own home,” in which all beings and things are bound to one another many times over. He lives in a friendly environment that might be described in terms of “All other things are letters carrying messages to me from my Creator.”

The state of this second person resembles that of a woman bearing within her a living child. The child is alive, not dead like with the first person, and it has ceased being a danger to the mother. He is not an “alien” who has to be saved from himself. Promising hope to the mother, the child expresses a meaning in her spirit. In one respect it is still not a human being who lives outside, on the planet. The mother still has not established full relations with it. She knows it partially. The child does not have the consciousness to be addressed fully. There are still some things missing.

Although the second person has formed a relation and connection with the Creator and his relationship with the tree is within the framework of this, there is still something deficient in the dimension of the relationship. What is it that is missing?

Man is a conscious being, and consciousness forms relations with consciousness. In this second point of view, man formed conscious relations with his Creator. This gave rise in him to a ‘belief consciousnessness.’ The consciousness afforded by belief saved “the other” from meaninglessness, allowed him the opportunity of reading the Creator’s art on the other. Reading things by virtue of the relation of knowledge of God established with the Creator, Who is absolute consciousness, secured an important leap forward. However, there are still some things missing in the other.

If the things with which man has relations are also conscious, it adds an important dimension to the relationship. Just as man reads the other with his consciousness, and is aware of it, and discovers it; so too he wants to be read by the other, and discovered, and known by it. Man reads the tree (the other) with the consciousness that springs from belief in the Creator, but there is still something missing in the tree.

The third sort of representation: This is the reflection of luminous spirits. The reflection of spirit beings, the creatures of the unseen worlds like the angels, is identical to the beings themselves.(46) That is to say, if the angels and other spirit beings are represented somewhere, they are present as they are in actuality. Said Nursi also emphasizes that the reflection in representations of this sort is living. However, since the representation appears in relation to the capacity of the mirror, he points out that there is a difference between the spirit being and the representation, and that the reflection is not the same in essence.

Who can be included among these? Said Nursi puts the angels in this group, the other beings of the unseen world and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This is the reason Said Nursi uses the expression “whose essence is light and selfhood, luminous.”

This sort of representation may explain how the representations of things will change when belief in the angels is articulated, in the spirit of a person if he and other beings are addressed with knowledge of God.

The Third Person

The third man is articulation of the second. What is deficient in the second man’s relationship with the tree is the tree’s lack of consciousness. Man is aware of the other (the tree) through his consciousness. He recognizes its existence. He establishes a relation with it. He internalizes the other by way of consciousness.

If beings have no consciousness, two major problems emerge. The First Problem: The function of all beings is to act as mirrors to the Creator’s infinite names. But if with his consciousness man is not aware of the Creator’s endless names, or they cannot be understood by man’s consciousness, or if although he is aware of them he cannot read them properly, the manifestation appears to us as unnecessary. For the decorations, beauty, and inscriptions of beings “self-evidently require the gazes of thoughtful admirers and wondering, appreciative lovers; it demands their existence.”(47) The Second Problem: Man’s perceiving with his consciousness that the tree is unconscious and is unaware of him, reduces the relationship to a single dimension. A relationship is communication between two beings. For a full relationship to be established between man and the tree, the tree also has to be conscious, and it has to be able to recognize and know man. If in respect of createdness, man sees himself as equal with the tree, and is friendly and familiar with it, he will want to be known consciously by “the other” in the dialogue he has set up with it.

If the attributes such as art, beauty, order, perfection, knowledge, power, intention, and care that are to be observed on the tree are not perceived by anyone, or even if they are perceived, are met with the sort of attitude of the first person above, they lose all meaning. If they are not recognized by consciousness and read as they should be, it is meaningless that they should be on the tree. “… creatures exist for conscious beings, and find their perfection though conscious beings, and rejoice through conscious beings, and are saved from futility through conscious beings…”(48) “Although external beings are outwardly inanimate and unconscious…”(49) However, the attributes observed on the tree demonstrate certainly an intention and purpose. The tree is raised most consciously in most purposive form, it is taken from stage to stage. “…they all perform extremely vital, living, and conscious duties and glorification.” If the tree’s passing from stage to stage occurs consciously, there must be a conscious being who will read it (the other) with his consciousness, and understand the names manifested on it, and study them.

It is here that the impossibility becomes clear of explaining beings without the angels. If the purpose of the existence of an unconscious being like a tree is not known by a conscious being, the being becomes meaningless, as though a non-thing. It is the angels who understand the duties of worship that unconscious beings perform and the glorifications they offer, and state them and represent them in the inner worlds, and offer them to the divine court. “Just as the angels are their representatives expressing their glorifications in the world of the inner dimension of things, so are they the counterparts, dwellings, and mosques of those angels in the external and manifest world.”(50) Like men, the angels are “spectators of the palace of the universe, the observers of the book of creation, and the heralds of the sovereignty of dominicality.”(51) In this way, through the angels, unconscious beings are saved from being meaningless, as would be the case if there was no one to observe and study them or to proclaim the duties they perform. Since the angels have undertaken the task of presenting the duties of beings “knowingly at the divine court,”(52) all beings perform their functions consciously and with awareness.

Because of the angels, our concept of “the other” changes. All the beings (the other) in the manifest world have to have angels. The angels belong to the unseen worlds, and for the reasons I tried to set out above, their existence is necessary. If there is a tree, there has also to be an angel. If there are no trees without angels, there will be significant differences concerning this point in our definition of existence. In the Twenty-Ninth Word it is said: “… beings are not restricted to this manifest world.”(53) This is an important step forward for man and for his understanding of existence. In the continuation it says “existence is not limited to it.” That is, beings are not limited to the beings we see here in the manifest world. The definition of “the other” is thus greatly expanded. “There are numerous other levels of existence in relation to which the manifest world is an embroidered veil. Furthermore, since, just as the sea is appropriate for fish, and the world of the unseen and the world of meaning appropriate for spirits, and this necessitates their being filled with them; and since all commands testify to the existence of the meaning of the angels…” Thus, angels and other spirit beings are included in existence, expanding the concept. The angels are created beings, charged with the duties of conveying the divine names to the manifest world, who themselves have no power to create.

The concept of “the other” is not only expanded with the angels and other spirit beings; visible beings also gain consciousness with them. With the angels the tree (the other) takes on another meaning. It is saved from the meaninglessness of being unconscious, and its duties being unknown and unrecognized.

Our first problem is thus solved with the existence of the angels. Now, man is not the only conscious being. The angels and spirit beings are creatures that have been given consciousness in the inner world. All beings have an angel, and these angels observe and gaze on the divine names manifested on the beings, and represent their duties in the name of beings which appear to be unconscious when it is supposed there are no angels.

Now there are no beings without consciousness. All beings are conscious by virtue of their angels. Neither is there an unconscious “other.” All “others” are conscious. They now cease to be mere meaningful missives, and become conscious envoys. In the view of the second person, the tree was the Creator’s missive. It has now as though become by means of the angels a conscious, conversing addressee. The angels are living, conscious envoys who come as guests to our spirits. The angel envoy is not one who comes bringing a letter, and goes taking another. He is an envoy who himself speaks. The tree consists of the words in the manifest world of the conscious, speaking angel. “… the All-Wise Maker causes all the realms of beings in the universe to speak.”(54)

The tree and the angel being perceived together forms another link between the ‘I’ and “the other,” and this will solve our second problem as well. When inanimate beings are thought to be without angels, they are lifeless and unconscious. This gives rise to an absolute loneliness. Being unknown is to be completely alone. Now, with each being is an angel who knows it and recognizes it, who watches it performing its functions, and acts as the herald of these duties. Every part of the universe is inhabited, and it is inhabited with life and consciousness. A universe without life and consciousness is dead. The stars, which hang suspended in the skies, whose aloneness frightens man have now become the vehicles of the conscious angels. With their consciousness they ponder over the face of the earth and observes the duties of beings. “… the universe is seen to be full of angels, spirit beings, and intelligent beings.”(55)

Since through his consciousness, man can internalize the other, be aware of the other, and experience his relations with the other consciously, he wants also to be known by the other, and to be internalized by it. This is one of man’s basic needs. For he internalizes the relations he forms with the other as much as he internalizes the other itself. It is clear that the internalization of relations formed with a conscious other will be very different to internalization of relations formed with an other who is unconscious.

On man internalizing the other itself and his relations with it and internally representing them, he is in a sense making firm and stable the other and his relationship with it. On the other becoming conscious by means of the angel, man also is perceived and known by the angel. In this way the angel too makes man firm and constant, as well as the other’s relationship with man. The relationship continues also in further dimensions. The angels loves those men who are aware of them and have as their viewpoint that of the third person. They pray to their Compassionate Sustainer for them, seeking their forgiveness, and calling down blessings on them.(Qur’an: 33:56; 40:7, 8, 9.)

The tree has now ceased to be something with which man has formed a one-way relation. Apparently unconscious, by means of its angel it responds to the person who is its addressee. There is now two-way conscious communication. The relationship has become a two-way process and a true relationship.

The contact of a person who has feeling for the tree, makes contact with it, knows that it is affected, and knows that it knows it is recognized and felt through the angel, who is the tree’s consciousness. By means of the angel the tree also knows that contact has been made with it, and will understand and feel that it has been pondered over. By means of its angel the tree will even feel a gratification particular to angels.

The tree’s nature has now changed having gained consciousness through its angel. Its representation and reflection will also change in the mirror of the person’s spirit, who through belief in the angels sees the tree together with its angel. I stated above that in the third sort of reflection investigated in the Risale-i Nur, the representations of the angels and spirits are identical [with their actual beings]. Whatever the tree is, when perceived together with its angel its representation in the person’s spirit is the same. Through belief in the Creator in the second point of view the representation acquires life; then with belief in the angels another dimension is added to it, and it acquires consciousness as well. The tree represented in the mirror of the person’s spirit is identical with the external tree. The tree which is reflected inwardly in man, is now a tree that is a mirror to its Sustainer’s names, that glorifies Him, and has become conscious with its angel, which, being a conscious being perceives the manifested names and glorifications, represents them and offers them to the divine court. Now, by means of their angels, all external beings are conscious, and in all inwardly-reflected beings are conscious. The person’s spirit is now full of the reflections of conscious beings. He establishes conscious relations with all beings. He represents their duties, while their angels represent his reflections.

A sense of “us” is born from the equality of both the ‘I’ and the other being created; but this sense cannot be attained completely with an other that has no angel. The sense of “us” is a sense of shared belonging, with all beings on both sides knowing each other. It is a basic existential need for man.(56) Throughout his life man searches for the “ocean feeling,” which he lost when he grew out of babyhood. In order to say “us creatures,” all beings have to be able to say “we.” The tree (and inanimate beings) proclaim their createdness through the tongue of disposition only, but with the consciousness it gains through the angel, who by virtue of its consciousness is aware of the tree’s createdness and proclaims it, it becomes possible for it to consciously say “us.” Through this relationship, which is established between the ‘I’ and the other through createdness, mutual recognition, and knowledge of each other’s duties, the person acquires a sense of “us” without losing his own individuality.

To return to the analogy of the child in the womb: the child has now been born. Mother and child are now talking with one another and getting to know one another. Both are responding to each other, that is, they are able to establish full mutual communication.

For the person, all beings (the other) in the universe together with the angels are now not just acquaintances, they have founded a friendship between two conscious beings who know each other. It is not a one-sided familiarity and acquaintanceship with the beings in the universe, but a familiarity in which both sides know each other. The split between ‘I’ and the other resulting from the viewpoint with no Creator, was healed on one side with knowledge of God. Then, with belief in the angels, the split was completely healed, and the second side of the relationship, that of the other, was included. When the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Uhud is a mountain; we love it and it loves us,” he was pointing out this two-sided relationship.

At the same time, the universe is the scene of the constant renewal of all beings (the other), and their passing from state to state, and vanishing and new beings replacing them. For the third person, who faced a dead tree with knowledge of God and belief in the angels, the tree’s death will cause his spirit no pain. The tree’s leaves may wither up and fall, or even rot, but the tree’s angel continues its existence, without dying or rotting. The representation of the tree’s angel in the person’s spirit may persist, even if the tree dies and rots. It still represents the tree’s glorifications. It still may be light and sustenance for the person’s spirit through the glorifications it represents. Even if the tree dies, the representations of its duties continue in the spirit. In any event, this is the tree’s duty as far as man is concerned. Although beings pass from state to state, and flow on and depart, the angels hold in their hands the names manifested on them, and their duties and glorifications. Thus, the person understands that nothing at all goes to nothing.

Man’s companionship with the angels continues after death. Death is not a journey he makes alone. It is a journey made in the companionship of angels, who are familiar friends. Azra’il, the angel of death, who represents the glorifications man offers at the moment his spirit leaves his body, ceases to be an object of fear, and becomes a friend together with whom he makes the journey.(57)

* Psychotherapist and psychiatrist.

** The brackets are mine.

1. I. Yalom, Love’s Executor and Other Tales of Psychotherapies (Basic Books), 3.

2. T. Zeldin, ?nsanl???n Mahrem Tarihi [Turk. trans.] (Ayr?nt? Yay?nlar?, 1998) 67.

3. Zeldin, ?nsanl???n Mahrem Tarihi, 68.

4. O. Kernberg, S?n?r Durumlar ve Patolojik Narsisizm [Turk. trans.] (Metis Yay?nlar?, 1999), 192.

5. I. Yalom, Existential Psychotheraphy (Basic Books, 1980), 355.

6. E. Fromm, The Art of Loving (New York: Bantum Books, 1956), 7.

7. Fromm, TheArt of Loving, 7.

8. Yalom, Existential Psychotheraphy, 358.

9. K. Reinhardt, The Existential Revolt (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1957), 235.

10. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Letters 1928-1932 [Eng. trans.] (Istanbul: S?zler Publications, 2nd. edn. 1997) 42 ff.

11. ?

12. Kernberg, S?n?r Durumlar ve Patolojik Narsisizm, 192.

13. V. F. Guidano, The Self in Process (The Guildford Press, 1991), 17.

14. Guidano, The Self in Process, 18.

15. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, The Words [Eng. trans.] (Istanbul: S?zler Publications, new edn. 1998), 324.

16. Nursi, The Words, 324.

17. N. G. Hamilton, Self and Others: Object Relations Theory in Practice (London: Jason Aranson, 1988), 36.

18. Hamilton, Self and Others: Object Relations Theory in Practice, 38.

19. O. Kernberg, Object Relations Theory and Clinical Psychoanalysis (London: Aranson, 1995) 29.

20. Kernberg, Object Relations Theory and Clinical Psychoanalysis, 38.

21. D. M. Orange, G. E. Atwood, R. D. Stolorow. Quoted by, Cahit Ardal? and Yavuz Erten, Psikoanalizden Dinamik Psikoterapilere (Alfa, 1999), 88.

22. Nursi, The Words, 523.

23. Nursi, The Words, 523.

24. Nursi, The Words, 523.

25. Nursi, The Words, 524.

26. Nursi, The Words, 524.

27. Nursi, The Words, 524.

28. Nursi, The Words, 338.

29. M. D. Unamuno, Ya?am?n Trajik Duygusu (Istanbul: ?nkilap Kitabevi, 1986).

30. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, The Flashes Collection [Eng. trans.] (Istanbul: S?zler Publications, new edn. 2000), 456.

31. Nursi, The Flashes Collection, 458.

32. Nursi, The Words, 523-4.

33. Nursi, The Words, 115.

34. J. Kovel, Tarih ve Tin: Özg?rle?me Felsefesi ?zerine Bir ?nceleme (Ayr?nt? Yay?nlar?, 1991), 95.

35. E. Fromm, Escape From Freedom (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1941), 29.

36. Nursi, The Flashes Collection, 415.

37. Guidano, The Self in Process, 15.

38. Nursi, The Words, 210.

39. Bedi?zzaman Said Nursî, Mesnevi-i Nûriye [Turk. trans. Abd?lmecid Nursî] (Istanbul: S?zler Yay?nevi, 1977), 113.

40. Nursi, The Words, 560.41. Nursi, The Words, 560.

42. ?

43. Nursi, The Words, 210.

44. Nursi, The Words, 320.

45. Nursi, The Words, 559.46. Nursi, The Words, 210.47. Nursi, The Words, 522.

48. Nursi, The Words, 98.

49. Nursi, The Words, 530.

50. Nursi, The Words, 530.

51. Nursi, The Words, 191.

52. Nursi, The Words, 531.

53. Nursi, The Words, 528.

54. Nursi, Letters, 339-40.

55. Nursi, Letters, 342.

56. Yalom, Existential Psychotheraphy, 362.57. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, The Rays Collection [Eng. trans.] (Istanbul: S?zler Publications, 1998), 277.

The Compassionate Teacher

By Dr. Eren Tatari

What we perceive the meaning of life to be and what we make of the hardships in life makes us or breaks us. And it is a strong possibility that our understanding of reward, sin, punishment, repenting…etc. is way different than how it is described in the scriptures (the fact that we are using the same words to describe a phenomenon does not guarantee that we mean the same thing). This story summarizes the Islamic perspective on who God is, why He creates us (the purpose of life), the nature of our relationship with Him, and the meaning of so-called challenges in life. Contemplating this story is an amazingly powerful prayer that will hopefully open many doors to Divine love…

“Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a very merciful and kindhearted teacher, who wanted nothing but the best for his students. He went to great lengths to create the most nourishing atmosphere for his students so that they could make the best of their abilities.

He always cared for them and advised them at every opportunity. He did not want his students to find themselves unprepared for life once they left school. He knew that by studying his works, they would be equipped with the knowledge and wisdom to become the individuals they were meant to be. He knew that if students did not educate themselves during the years they spent at school under his guidance, they would feel miserable and suffer great pain for the rest of their lives.

The teacher prepared tests for his students and advised them to study and give their all to make good grades. These tests would enable them to assess their skills and improve themselves.

Out of his endless benevolence towards his students, he made it clear that if they failed to pay attention to what he was teaching at school, they would experience the consequences later on in life.

Some students did not understand the teacher’s methods. Instead of studying, they entertained themselves with trivial games. Those students began to think that the teacher was a cruel person for making them do things they did not feel like doing. They were unmotivated by the teacher’s descriptions of the “real world” and did not understand or care for his advice. They felt that the tests he was giving them were meant to make their lives miserable.

When the end of the semester came, the lazy students failed and complained, accusing the teacher of being a cruel and uncaring punisher. ‘He failed us,’ they complained, completely ignoring the fact that they had prepared themselves for this end.

Some of those students, though, realized the truth and repented for what they had done. They realized that, not only did they wrongly describe him as unjust and cruel, but they also committed an injustice against themselves since they did not take the opportunity to make the best of their abilities.

Knowing how easily the teacher forgave, those who repented went to him to ask for forgiveness. The teacher forgave each student who was willing to realize his or her mistakes. The students learned to enjoy their education and realized that they were being prepared by their benevolent mentor to do well in the life that was to come thereafter.

Since they were thus equipped with what they needed for their life, they were doubly rewarded after graduation and led very successful and blissful lives. The students were always thankful for the guidance the teacher had provided them, without which they would not be in the heavenly conditions that they are now. And they lived happily ever after.”[1]


Questions to ponder:

1. What is ‘sin’?

2. What is ‘punishment’?

3. Who ‘punishes’ you when you commit a ‘sin’?

4. What is ‘asking for forgiveness’?

5. What happens when you ‘repent’?

6. What happens if you commit the same sin a thousand times? Can you still repent?


There are approximately 339 references to God’s compassion in the Qur’an. God states on many occasions that He is the Forgiver and reminds people to repent of their mistakes and ask for forgiveness. Repentance means: a) To realize and acknowledge that we have been on a wrong or self-damaging path (as a state of mind, heart, being, or action), b) state a commitment to strive to be on the straight path that fits our nature best, and c) ask for forgiveness from God because we have insulted Him by thinking that He is unjust or uncaring. Repentance helps us to heal the damage we have done to our hearts. It is not an act for God. Even the last component of repentance (asking God’s forgiveness for having insulted Him) is for us to make it right within our self again.

The following verses speak directly about God’s forgiveness:


In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. (Qur’an, 1:1)


And when (O Messenger) My servants ask you about Me, then surely I am near: I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he prays to Me. So let them respond to My call (without hesitation), and believe and trust in Me (in the way required of them), so that they may be guided to spiritual and intellectual excellence and right conduct. (Qur’an, 2:186)


God wills to turn to you (with mercy and favor, by explaining to you His commandments and guiding you to the Straight Path), whereas those who follow (their) lusts (i.e. for women, offspring, wealth, fame, status, and position) desire you to deviate greatly (from the Straight Path). (Qur’an, 4:27)


The above verse refers to a common human-state. When we do good or bad, we want others to follow suit. When we do good deeds, we want to share them with others so they feel the same joy we feel. When we do bad deeds, we know somewhere inside that it is bad, hence we do not want to be the only one doing it. For instance, the class clown tries to make his actions look cool so others will want to be like him. A person who has an irresponsible lifestyle tries to make others feel inadequate or boring for having orderly and responsible lives. Hence, as the verse states, when we follow our lowly desires, we want others to deviate from whatever good they are doing. It is like seeking an accomplice in our mischief.


When those who believe in all of Our Revelations and signs (whenever they come to them) come to you, say in welcome: “Peace be upon you! Your Lord has bound Himself to mercy (to treat His servants with mercy) – so that if any of you does a bad deed due to ignorance (an instance of defeat to the evil-commanding soul), and thereafter repents and mends his way and conduct, surely He is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate. (Qur’an, 6:54)


Whoever comes to God with a good deed will have ten times as much, and whoever comes with an evil deed will be recompensed with only the like of it; and they will not be wronged. (Qur’an, 6:160)


… and My Mercy embraces all things; and so, (although in the world every being has a share in My Mercy, in the Hereafter) I will ordain it for those who act in reverence for Me and piety and pay their Prescribed Purifying Alms, and they are those who truly believe in all of Our Revelations and signs. (Qur’an, 7:156)


Inform, (O Messenger) My servants that I surely am the All-Forgiving, the All-Compassionate. (Qur’an, 15:49)


For God will blot out from them (even) the worst of what they once did, and pay them their reward in accordance with the best of what they used to do. Is not God sufficient for His servant? (Qur’an, 39:35-36)


Say: “(God gives you hope): ‘O My servants who have been wasteful (of their God-given opportunities and faculties) against (the good of) their own souls! Do not despair of God’s Mercy. Surely God forgives all sins. He is indeed the All-Forgiving, the All-Compassionate.’” (Qur’an, 39:53)


He is the One Who accepts repentance from His servants and excuses evil deeds, and He knows all that you do. (Qur’an, 42:25)


God also encourages us in the Qur’an to be forgiving towards our fellow human beings:


They spend (out of what God has provided for them) both in ease and hardship, ever-restraining their rage (even when provoked and able to retaliate), and pardoning people (their offenses). God loves (such) people who are devoted to doing good, aware that God is seeing them. (Qur’an, 3:134)


As for asking for forgiveness, we are taught Prophet Abraham’s prayer: “He said: ‘Who would despair of his Lord’s mercy, other than those who are astray?’” (Qur’an, 15:56). An essential part of the Qur’an’s message is that God forgives those who ask for forgiveness. The following are examples of the numerous verses in which God states that He accepts sincere repentance:


They are also the ones who, when they have committed a shameful deed or wronged themselves (through any kind of sinful act), immediately remember God and implore Him to forgive their sins – for who will forgive sins save God? – and do not persist knowingly in whatever (evil) they have committed. (Qur’an, 3:135)


God’s acceptance of repentance is only for those who commit evil due to ignorance (an instance of defeat to the evil-commanding soul), and then (pull themselves together and) repent shortly afterwards. It is they whose repentance God returns with forgiveness; and God is All-Knowing (of what everyone does and why), and All-Wise. (Qur’an, 4:17)


Pray God for forgiveness. Surely God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate. (Qur’an, 4:106)


Yet, whoever does an evil or wrongs himself (by committing sins to harm himself spiritually), and then implores God for forgiveness will find God All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate. (Qur’an, 4:110)


But he who repents after having done wrong, and mends his ways, surely God accepts His repentance. For God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate. (Qur’an, 5:39)


But as for those who do evil deeds, but later turn to God in repentance and (truly) believe – after that (effort of self-reform) your Lord is assuredly All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate (especially towards His servants who turn to Him). (Qur’an, 7:153)


But God would not punish them so long as you were among them; and God is not to punish them (or other people) while they implore Him for forgiveness for their sins. (Qur’an, 8:33)


Except he who gives up his way in repentance and believes (without associating partners with God), and does good, righteous deeds – such are those whose (past) evil deeds God will efface and record virtuous deeds in their place (and whose faculties which enabled the evil deeds He will change into enablers of virtuous deeds). God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate. (Qur’an, 25:70)


He said (in supplication): “My Lord! Indeed I have wronged myself, so forgive me.” So He forgave him. Surely He is the One Who is the All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate (especially toward His believing, repentant servants). (Qur’an, 28:16)


The only exception to God’s encompassing forgiveness is assigning deity to anything other than God:


Assuredly, God does not forgive that partners be associated with Him; less than that, He forgives to whomever He wills (whomever He has guided to repentance and righteousness, either out of His pure grace or as a result of the person’s choosing repentance and righteousness by his freewill). Whoever associates any partner with God has indeed fabricated a most heinous sin. (Qur’an, 4:48)


Indeed God does not forgive that partners be associated with Him; less than that He forgives to whomever He wills (whomever He has guided to repentance and righteousness as a result of his choosing repentance and righteousness by his freewill). Whoever associated partners with God has indeed strayed far away (from the Straight Path). (Qur’an, 4:116)

[1] Anonymous.

Experiencing Divine Love through Spiritual Dependence

My reflections on the following two quotes from Nursi’s Noor letters:

“Spiritual dependence (‘ajz) is a path, like love, that takes you closer to God. However, the way of dependence (powerlessness) is shorter and safer than the way of love.”

“Spiritual dependence, is like love, but it is a safer path. It takes you to become the Divine beloved through the way of servanthood (‘ubudiyyah)”

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