BEDIUZZAMAN SAID NURSI
THE REPRESENTATIVE OF CONTEMPORARY ISLAMIC THINKERS:
HIS APPROACH TO THE QUESTIONS OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Prof. ?DEM TATLI*
The search for the truth in societies
Ever since he first appeared on earth, man has shown a close interest in his environment and has tried to understand and discover the laws to which things are subject. The aim of these endeavours has been to establish the way to both worldly and eternal happiness by gaining mastery over the physical world.
While doing this, he has either proceeded under the leadership of the reason and in the light of philosophy, or leaving the reason in second place, has acted in accordance with the principles of Revealed Books and Scriptures that are corrupted, or he has taken the Highway of the blending of the reason and the final Revealed Book.
The first group yielded the fruits of the schools of philosophy like the Materialists, Dehriyyun, and Sophists. And among individuals these sowed the seeds of enmity, envy, hatred, and vengeance, and were the cause of great gulfs emerging between the classes of societies; they made humanity live the life of Hell while still in this world.
The second way, in which reason and logic are rejected, drove societies into the valleys of bigotry and misguidance, and made lawful oppression and injustice between individuals.
On third way, the Highway, ease and plenty was promised in this world, and happiness in the next. In this field humanity lived an age like the Age of Bliss.
Communities which have been formed around the former ideas, opinions, and beliefs have not held back from having recourse to force in order to make accepted their own views. But in present times when reason and logic have come to predominate, proof and argument, persuasion and explanation have taken the place of force in making accepted scientific and philosophical matters in particular.
The exploitation of science and technology and its progress for ideological purposes
To a large degree materialist philosophy has made progress in the fields of science and technology the tool of its own ideo-logy and the view which is its basis. This basis is the denial of a creator and belief in the pre-eternity of matter. This doctrine has attributed the creation of animate and inanimate beings and their coming down to the present day, and the functioning of all the laws in the universe, entirely to chance and nature. It has studied them as their works, and has claimed that man too emerged as a product of chance.
A method in conformity with the understanding of this age
In the face of these pragmatic and materialist currents of thought, Islam's own particular world view had to be presented by positivist methods. The necessity arose to present Islam by a new method appropriate to the level of understanding of the present century.
It was this that Bediuzzaman Said Nursi did. He stated that no matter of Islam was contrary to reason. On the contrary, it was possible to prove and explain all its matters rationally. As while comparing Islam and Christianity, he saw that the great error of Christianity lay in its attaching no importance to reason and proof, and in its blind imitation of the clergy:
"What has cast Christians and their likes into misguidance is none other than their dismissal of the reason, rejection of proof, and blind imitation of the clergy."1
Islam relies on reason and proof
Bediuzzaman states that according to his nature, man always seeks renewal, that he is "inclined towards renewal,"2 and that Islam is in conformity with this:
"What continually makes Islam manifest and makes it develop in relation to the advancement of thought is its being founded on reality, relying on proof, being in agreement with the reason, established on reality, and being in conformity with the principles of wisdom, which are bound to one another from pre-eternity to post-eternity."3
Bediuzzaman says that Muslims consider everything through reason and thought:
"We Muslims, who are students of the Qur'an, follow proof. We approach the truths of belief through reason, thought, and our hearts. We do not abandon proof for blind imitation of the clergy like some followers of other religions. Thus, in the future when reason, science, and technology prevail, the Qur'an will surely then rule, which relies on reasoned proofs and makes the reason confirm its pronouncements."4
Bediuzzaman knew that in the future all power would lie in science:
"For sure, at the end of time, mankind will pour into science and technology. It will obtain all its power from science. Power and dominion will pass to the hand of science."5
According to Bediuzzaman, in the future, truth will take the place of force, and proof the place of sophistry:
"Through the endeavours of science, what will prevail entirely in the present and totally in the future, is truth instead of force, proof instead of sophistry, and reason instead of nature."6
Or in other words, he is pointing out that in the future the immaterial swords of truth and justice will take the place of the gun and the sword:
"Yes, just as in former times Islam's progress was obtained through weapons and the sword, by smashing the enemy's bigotry, destroying their obstinacy, and repulsing their aggression, in the future the immaterial swords of true civilization and material progress and truth and justice will defeat and rout the enemy in place of weapons and the sword."7
Bediuzzaman explains the main reasons for this as follows:
"Conquering the civilized is though persuasion, not by compulsion."8
The originality of Bediuzzaman's thought
Bediuzzaman showed through the originality of his thought and method of presenting it that he had not fallen into the swamp of scholastic thought. He said in connection with this:
"They suppose me to be a medrese professor sunk in the bog of scholastic thought, but I was occupied with all the modern sciences and the philosophy and learning of the present age."9
Bediuzzaman believed in the necessity of specializing in science. His sentences reflecting this idea are striking:
"One individual cannot be proficient and a specialist in many sciences... to attempt all is to abandon all."10
He stated that science and technology, which had been made the tool of materialism and irreligion, at base demonstrated Divine Unity with all its evidences. He was distressed at the matter not having been put forward in an Islamic perspective.
Islam is the father of all the sciences
According to Bediuzzaman, progress is the right of Islam, the guide, chief, and father of science:
"Islam is the lord and guide of knowledge, and the chief and father of all the true sciences."11
And he seeks the reason for our backwardness in our distance from Islam:
"History testifies that whenever the people of Islam have adhered to their religion, they have progressed relatively to former times. And whenever they have become slack in their adherence, they have declined. As for Christianity, it is the opposite of this."12,13
Bediuzzaman was never in his whole life carried away by despair, and he vehemently opposed despair and hopelessness in his works:
"And you are making a grievous error if you suppose in despair and hopelessness that the world is the world of progress for everyone and the Europeans, but the world of decline only for the unhappy people of Islam."14
And he makes a similar evaluation like this:
"Why should the world be the world of progress for everyone, and the world of decline only for us?"15
He states that in the course of time states and nations sometimes rise and sometimes fall, and that Islam is therefore destined for the true civilization of the future, which will being peace and happiness to mankind.
"Consider this: time does not run in a straight line so that its beginning and end draw apart from one another. Rather, it moves in a circle, like the motion of the earth. Sometimes it displays the seasons of spring and summer as progress. And sometimes the seasons of storms and winter as decline. Just as every winter is followed by spring and every night by morning, mankind, also, shall have a morning and a spring, God willing. You may expect from Divine Mercy to see true civilization within universal peace brought about through the sun of the truth of Islam."16
The secret of progress
Bediuzzaman considered the secret of progress to lie in self-sacrifice, and in holding the nation's benefits above personal benefits. According to him, a Muslim should expend all his effort and energy for society, for such sacrifice would be rewarded not only in this world, but also in the next. But he says that our fine characteristics have passed from us to the Europeans, and laments that we have acquired their immorality:
"I say this to you with regret and sadne... that certain Europeans have taken our most valuable possessions and country from us and have given us a rotten price in return. And in the same way, they have taken from us our elevated morals and a part of our fine character that touches on social life. They have made them the means of their progress. And it is their corrupt morals and dissipated character that they have given us as their price.
"For example, because of the fine national feeling they have taken from us, one of them says, 'Should I die, let my nation live, for I have an everlasting life in my nation.' They have taken these words from us and it is the firmest foundation in their progress. These words proceed from the religion of truth and the truths of belief. They are our property, the property of the believers. However, because of the obscene and bad character that has infiltrated us from Europeans, a selfish man from among us says, 'If I die of thirst, it should not again rain in the world. And if I do not experience happiness, let the world go to rack and ruin as it wishes.' These ridiculous words arise from lack of religion and from not recognizing the Hereafter. They have entered among us from outside and are poisoning us."17
What sort of civilization?
Bediuzzaman argued strongly that science and technology, which are beneficial for mankind, should be acquired in civilization, and he opposed vice and evils, which are harmful, to the same degree:
"You should understand that what I mean are the good things that are civilization's virtues and its benefits for mankind. Not its iniquities and evils that idiots have imagined to be its virtues, and imitating them have devastated our possessions. And even giving religion as a bribe they have not gained the world."18
Bediuzzaman wanted the Japanese to be taken as examples in progress. He noted that in taking science and technology they had remained bound to their own national customs and practices:
"In acquiring civilization we have to follow the Japanese, for together with taking from Europe the virtues of civilization, they preserved their national customs, which are the means by which every people is perpetuated."19
Bediuzzaman was certain that in the race for civilization, we would close in a short time the distance it had taken Europe a long time to cover, and that we would even overtake them:
"O partriotic brothers of this land!...God willing, through a miracle of the Prophet, from the hundred-year distance we have remained backward in progress we shall mount with our actions the train of the Constitution, which is accordance with the Shari'a, and shall mount with our minds the Buraq (the Prophet's mount) of Islamic Consultation, and perfecting our means and crossing in a brief time this fearsome vast desert, shall compete neck and neck with the civilized nations. For they mounted ox-carts and set off; we shall straight away mount vehicles like trains and balloons, and shall overtake them."20
The scientific matters to which Bediuzzaman attached importance
Thus, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi's view of the world and his spiritual make-up was as desribed above. And now we shall put forward his approach to questions of science and technology with its Islamic perspective, quoting passages from his collected works, which exceeds six thousand pages.
When Bediuzzaman's works are considered from a scientific point of view, it is clear he gives importance to the matters which Naturalists and Materialists attribute to chance and nature, like the creation of the earth and other planets, the pre-eternity of matter, the question of ether, the creation, nature, and purpose of biological beings and in particular man, and the motion of particles and matter. With an Islamic perspective, he frequently states that biological beings are not the work of nature and chance as is imagined, but the works of a Creator posse...ing Knowledge, Will, and Power. He presents the most difficult and complex matters of biology in a way everyone can understand and is not wearisome together with examples with which he was familiar.
Bediuzzaman addresses his readers according to their level
A work written for some purpose generally addresses a particular section of society and those of an adequate cultural level. But people of all ages and every level can benefit from Bediuzzaman's works. The reason for this should be sought in his ability to analyse thoroughly people's inner and emotional worlds, and in the works being a sort of commentary on the Holy Qur'an, in addition to his mastery of the subject. An excellent example of this is the following simile used in proving the universe's Creator:
"You know that a village cannot be without a headman, a needle without the one who manufactured it, and a letter without its writer, so how is it that this country so infinitely well-ordered should be without a Ruler?"21
For sure, all his works are not at the same level, but according to Bediuzzaman, even if everyone does not understand every matter completely, so too they will not remain without a share:
"Everyone will benefit according to his own degree, although everyone will not understand every matter completely. Furthermore, since they are explanations of the truths of belief, they are both knowledge, and learning, and worship... According to the rule of 'even if a thing is not wholly obtained, still it may not completely slip from one's grasp,' it is not reasonable to abandon such a matter altogether, saying, 'I cannot pick all the fruits in this immaterial garden.' However many fruits a person may pick, that amount will be of benefit. For just as the matters concerning the Greatest Name are extensive to the degree that they cannot be comprehended, so are they also subtle to the degree that the intellect cannot distinguish them."22,23
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi studied Islam within the conceptions of the present age, and was highly successful in explaining the creation of all the beings in the universe by blending Islamic theology and the physical sciences.
Today, various theories are put forward for the creation of the universe. Their shared point is that the universe was created. That is, it emerged into the world of existence from non-existence. According to Bediuzzaman, for a being to come into existence, knowledge, will, and power are necessary. He expresses it like this:
"Existence necessitates the attributes of knowledge, will, and power, as that which distinguishes, specifies, and chooses."24
Knowledge is the attribute by which something that is going to be created is considered between various possibilities. The attribute of will chooses and distinguishes the most suitable among those various possibilities. And power is necessary to bring the manner chosen and decided upon into existence. According to Bediuzzaman, the creation of beings occurs in two ways at Allah's disposal:
"The All-Powerful One of Glory has two ways of creating: The first is through origination and invention. That is, He brings a being into existence out of nothing, out of non-existence, and creates everything necessary for it, also out of nothing, and places those necessities in its hand. The second is through composition, through art. That is, He forms certain beings out of the elements of the universe in order to demonstrate numerous subtle purposes, like displaying the perfections of His wisdom and the manifestations of many of His Names. Through the law of Providing, He sends particles and matter, which are dependent on His command, to these beings and employs the particles in them."25
The first sort of creation is bringing into existence out of nothing. Like the first creation of the universe. All things were brought out of non-existence into the world of existence. For certain purposes, Almighty God made the raw material produced subject to composition and dissolution, and constructed the creatures that flow in the stream of time from these elements, and wrote them on the stage of life, and is writing them.
The earth's creation
Bediuzzaman explains the creation of the world relying on Qur'anic verses. There are many parallels between these explanations and those of modern science.
Bediuzzaman explains that in the beginning the solar system and earth were in the form of a dough-like paste kneaded from matter called ether:
"...The solar system and the earth were in the form of a dough-like paste which the Hand of Power kneaded from ethereal matter."26
In another place he states that Almighty God created matter from a substance that was in a state of gas and liquid, and that He created all the stars and planets from these:
"In the view of what the Shari'a relates, Almighty God created a substance, some matter. Then through a manifestation, He made part of that substance gas, and a part of it liquid. Then through His manifestation He condensed the liquid part and made it into foam. Then He created the earth and the seven earth-globes from that froth. And in regard to this, a heaven was obtained for each earth from the wafting atmosphere. Then expanding the vaporous matter, He arranged the seven heavens and planted the stars in them. And the heavens were tied up which contained the stars, and came into existence."27
Based on the twenty-ninth verse of Sura al-Baqara, he describes their creation like this:
"Our globe and the other planets which form the solar system were in the form of unrolled-out dough in the beginning combined with the sun. Then the All-Powerful and Self-Subsistent One rolled out the dough, and placing each of the planets in their places, He left the sun where it was and brought the earth here."28
Bediuzzaman states that in time the earth hardened and became solid, and the rocks obtained from this produced the soil:
"The original creation of the earth was like this: at the Divine command some liquid matter solidified and became rock. With Divine permission the rock became soil.. the word earth means soil. That means the liquid matter was very soft and could not be dwelt on. And the rock was very hard and could not be benefited from. So the All-Wise and Compassionate One spread earth over the rock, and made it the dwelling place for living beings."29
The creation in six days
Verse 7 of Sura Hud, verse 54 of Sura al-Hadid, and verse 59 of Sura al-Furqan in the Holy Qur'an indicate that the heavens and earth were created in six days. Bediuzzaman says that the word 'day' in the Qur'an may refer to between a thousand and fifty thousand years.
"... rather, in order to convince of the elevated truth that indicates through the Qur'anic days, which consist of a long period of time like a thousand or fifty thousand years, that the human world and animal world will live in six days, we point out the flowing worlds, the travelling universes, and transient cosmoses which the All-Glorious Creator creates each century, each year, and each day, each of which is like a day..."30
As is clear, Bediuzzaman says that the creation of some beings is completed in a day, some in a year, or in a century, and that these periods of time are explained in the Qur'an with the concept of "day."
Bediuzzaman discusses which was created first, the earth or the heavens. Relying on verse 30 of Sura al-Anbiya, he states that the earth's forming a crust and reaching a state suitable to animate beings other than man was before the creation of the heavens:
"Thus, in regard to the earth swiftly forming a crust by solidifying and hardening before everything, and for a long period of time being the source of life, its creation and formation was before the heavens. But in respect of the earth acquiring a state whch was suitable to sustain humankind through its being spread out, it was after the arrangement and ordering of the heavens. Even if its creation started after the heavens, at the beginning they were together... In this way the apparent contradiction between those three verses is transformed into agreement."31
The impossibility of matter being pre-eternal
Up to ten years ago, the idea that matter did not appear later in time and was pre-eternal was the dominant opinion among numerous philosophers and scientists. Supporters of Marxism in particular were among those who defended this idea fervently. The Big Bang being widely accepted now, which asserts that the first matter of the universe appeared with a great explosion, has largely destroyed the former view.
Bediuzzaman repeatedly states and explains that matter is not pre-eternal and came into existence subsequently:
"Yes, the universe is created, for we see that each century, rather each year or each season a universe, a world, goes, and one comes. That means there is an All-Powerful One of Glory Who creating the universe from nothing, creates one each year, rather each season, and even each day, and shows it to the conscious and then takes it, and brings another in its place. He attaches one after the other, hanging them in chain-like form on the string of time... For sure, the One Who all the time creates and changes worlds within worlds must certainly have also created this world...
"..If non-existence and existence are equal, one who will specify, choose, and create is necessary. Because contingent beings cannot create one another in succession. Neither can this one create that, and that the next in chains of causes."32
Can't things come into existence of themselves?
The law of the conservation of matter or mass put forward by Lavoisier states that: "That which exists cannot be made non-existent, and that which does not exist cannot be made existent."
By presenting this law in absolute terms, certain demagogues have made it a tool to their ideologies. Whereas this law finds its expression under particular conditions and in closed systems:
"The conservation of matter is a law which is applied to a closed system the framework of which is defined, and shows the relations connected with weight during the transformations of matter."33
Bediuzzaman strongly opposes this law being made general:
"Philosophers, who have made many advances these days, claim that nothing is created out of nothing, and nothing is annihilated and goes to nothing; there is only composition and decomposition, and this makes the factory of the universe run.....
"... Since these unfortunates are absolutely impotent and have absolutely nothing at their disposal apart from partial will, and although they are inflated like Pharaohs, can neither annihilate nor create anything from nothing, even a minute particle, because nothing comes into existence out of nothing at the hand of causes and Nature on which they rely, out of their stupidity they say, 'Nothing comes from non-being, and nothing goes to non-being.' And they even extend this absurd and erroneous principle to the Absolutely All-Powerful One....
"Yes, the Absolutely All-Powerful One creates in two ways: He both originates, and He composes. To annihilate what exists and to make exist what does not exist is most simple and easy for Him. It is one of His constant and universal laws. The man, therefore, who says, 'He cannot give existence to what does not exist' in the face of a power that in one spring makes exist out of nothing the forms and attributes of three hundred thousand animate creatures, and, besides their particles, all their conditions and states, such a man should himself be made non-existent."34
As is understood from this, just as creation from nothing in the form of origination occurred in the first emergence of the universe, so also it still continues. For example, things like the forms, smells, and tastes of the leaves and fruits of trees "composed" through the coming together of the elements of earth, water, air, and sunlight in the spring are not existent in the elements; they are created from nothing. In the same way, all the particularities which man possesses, from his features to his voice, like mind, memory, imagination, and anxiety, are not present in the atoms and molecules; they are the fruits of creation out of nothing. Moreover, it has been established today that non-being appears in the physical world too. Just as deficiencies may occur in its physical structure with matter turning into energy, so too it is a fact that certain stars whose masses are many times greater than that of the earth gradually disappear into places called 'Black Holes' the nature of which is unknown.
What is Nature?
As is frequently stressed today, Bediuzzaman insists that the creation and direction of the beings in the universe cannot be attributed to causes, chance, or Nature. He defines Nature like this:
"The imaginary and insubstantial thing Naturalists call Nature, if it has an external reality, can at the very most be a work of art; it cannot be the Artist. It is an embroidery, and cannot be the Embroiderer. It is a set of decrees; it cannot be the Issuer of the decrees. It is a body of the laws of creation, and cannot be the Lawgiver. It is but a created screen to the dignity of God, and cannot be the Creator. It is passive and created, and cannot be a Creative Maker. It is a law, not a power, and cannot possess power. It is the recipient, and cannot the source.....Since everything's existence is in need of numerous members and faculties, there is a Possessor of Absolute Power Who creates the nature and the cause."35
Thus, Bediuzzaman deals with Nature as the totality of the laws put by Allah. Nature is the work of art, the embroidery, of a Creator possessing a knowledge, will, and power greater than Nature.
"If beings, which are most well-ordered and well-measured, wise and artistically fashioned, are not ascribed to One Who is infinitely powerful and wise and instead are attributed to Nature, it becomes necessary for there to be present in every bit of soil as many factories and printing-presses as there are in Europe so that each bit of soil can be the means for the growth and formation of innumerable flowers and fruits, of which it is the place of origin and workshop."36
Bediuzzaman explains in various examples the impossibility of the elements performing duties in living structures either of themselves or by chance.
"Indeed, since beings exist and this cannot be denied, and since each being comes into existence in a wise and artistic fashion, and since each is not beyond time but is being continuously renewed, then, O falsifier of the truth, you are bound to say either that the causes of the universe create beings, for example, this animal; that is to say, it comes into existence through the coming together of causes, or that it forms itself, or that its coming into existence is a requirement and necessary effect of Nature, or that it is created through the power of One All-Powerful and All-Glorious. Since reason can find no way apart from these four, if the first three are definitely proved to be impo...ible, invalid, and absurd, the way of God's Unity, which is the fourth way, will necessarily and self-evidently and without doubt or suspicion be proved true."37
The following is one of many examples showing the impossibility of the first way:
"If you do not accept that the particles in your body are tiny officials in motion in accordance with the law of the Pre-Eternal and All-Powerful One, or that they are an army, or the nibs of the pen of Divine Determining, with each particle as the nib of a pen, or that they are points inscribed by the pen of power, with each particle being a point, then in every particle working in your eye there would have to be an eye such as could see every limb and part of your body as well as the entire universe, with which you are connected. In addition to this, you would have to ascribe to each particle an intelligence equivalent to that of a hundred geniuses, sufficient to know and recognize all your past and your future, and your forbears and descendants, the origins of all the elements of your being, and the sources of all your sustenance.
"To attribute the knowledge and consciousness of a thousand Plato's to a single particle of one such as you who does not possess even a particle's worth of intelligence in mattters of this kind is a crazy superstition a thousand times over!"38
By stating that Almighty God makes the centuries, years, days, and even the hours a model, and adorns all creatures with his artistic works on the string of time, Bediuzzaman points out that all these cannot be explained by chance:
"Also, just as the Possessor of Absolute Power makes each century, each year, each day a model, so too He has made the face of the earth, and each mountain and plain, and garden and orchard, and each tree a model. Continuously He establishes a fresh, new universe on the earth and creates new worlds. Each world He takes, and brings another well-ordered world... Each spring He clothes each tree in its new brocade dress... Thus, the One Who performs these works with infinitely fine art and perfect order, and changes with infinite wisdom and grace, and perfect power and art these travelling worlds that follow on one after the other and are attached to the string of time is surely most Powerful and Wise, and Seeing and Knowing to an infinite degree. Chance could not interfere in His works."39
The motion of atoms
Bediuzzaman points out that the motion or rest in atoms is not haphazard, but rests on the strength and power of one possessing all-embracing knowledge:
"In every facet of the motion of every particle the light of Unity shines like the sun. Because....if every particle is not an official of God acting with His permission and under His authority, and if it is not undergoing change within His knowledge and power, then each must have infinite knowledge and limitless power, it must have eyes that see everything, a face that looks to all things, and authority over all things."40
He explains the reason for this as follows:
"Each particle of air can enter the bodies of all animate beings, the fruits of all flowers and the structures of all leaves. They can act within them, although the forms of these beings are all different and the order of each quite distinct from the rest. A fig may be likened to a textile mill, for example, and a pomegranate to a sugar factory, and so on..... In which case, the particles which perform these duties, either work with the permission and at the command of One possessing comprehensive knowledge, and through His knowledge and will, or a similar all-embracing knowledge and power has to be present in itself....."41
According to Bediuzzaman, someone who does not accept one God is compelled to accept gods to the number of particles. For the work which each atom performs is only possible through a comprehensive knowledge, will, and power. He describes this matter like this:
"To attribute a most well-ordered creature with unity, which, through the mystery of unity, can only be the work of a Single One of Unity, to innumerable particles, anyone with even a particle's amount of consciousness will realize is a most obvious impossibility, rather, a hundred-fold impossibility."42
"If everything is not attributed to the Possessor of Absolute Power, it is necessary to accept an impossibility compounded a hundred times like accepting innumerable gods in place the single God, rather, gods to the number of the particles in the universe; it means descending to the ravings of a lunatic."43
Progress from the inanimate to the animate world
Bediuzzaman states that with performing duties in the bodies of plants, animals, and humans, the elements rise to an animate level from the inanimate world and acquire a state worthy of the Hereafter:
"...a further instance of wisdom of the thousands contained in the transformations of particles and their motion in the bodies of animate beings is to illuminate the particles and to make them alive and meaningful in order to be fitting for the construction of the world of the Hereafter. It is as if the bodies of animals and humans, and even plants, are like guest-houses, barracks, and schools for those who enter in order to take lessons and be trained; inanimate particles enter them and are illuminated. Simply, the particles receive training and instruction and acquire a fineness. By fulfilling different duties, they become worthy to be particles in the world of permanence and the realm of the Hereafter, which is alive with all of its elements."44
The transformation of particles from the point of view of the Qur'an
Bediuzzaman describes the motion and transformations of particles like this:
"From the point of view of the wisdom of the All-Wise Qur'an, the transformations of particles have many purposes and duties, and demonstrate many instances of wisdom.....We shall mention several of these by way of example:
"The First: The Necessarily Existent and Glorious Creator causes particles to move and employs them through His power by taking each spirit as a model and every year clothing it in a fresh body. He performs this through miracles of His power in order to renew and refresh the manifestations of His act of creating, to transcribe with His wisdom from each book thousands and thousands of different books, and to demonstrate a single truth in ever-differing forms, and also in order to prepare the ground and make way for the beings, worlds, and universes which follow on one after the other, group by group.
"The Second: The Glorious Lord of All Dominion created this world, and especially the field of the face of the earth, in the form of a cultivated property..... Thus, by causing the motion of particles with wisdom and employing them in an orderly fashion in His field of the face of the earth, He displays every age, every season, every month, indeed every day, and every hour, through miracles of His power, endless beings, each of which is a cosmos, and causes His field to produce ever-differing crops...
"The Third: The Pre-Eternal Inscriber caused the motion of particles with perfect wisdom and employed them with perfect order so that, through displaying the embroideries of the endless manifestations of the Divine Names, He might exhibit the endless embroideries in a limited field, and in order to set forth the manifestations of those Names, and so that He might write the infinite signs, which will point to infinite meanings, on a small page. Indeed, in essence this year's crops are like those of last year, but their meanings are all different...
"The Fourth: The All-Wise and Glorious One causes the motion of particles in the narrow tillage of this world, in the workshop and field of the face of the earth, thus making the cosmos as flowing and beings as travelling, in order to grow things like crops or things for decoration or provision suitable for the most broad World of the Inner Dimensions of Things and endless other worlds of the Hereafter, like the infinite World of Similitudes...
"The Fifth: By causing the motion of particles with perfect wisdom through His power and employing them with perfect order in order to display infinite Divine perfections, endless manifestations of Beauty and Glory, and countless dominical glorifications in this narrow and limited field and finite and short time, He causes endless glorification in finite time and in a limited field...
"Those brainless philosophers suppose to be purposeless the transformations of particles, which occur with wisdom not limited to the five above examples but with infinite wisdom. They fancy those particles, which revolve like Mevlevi dervishes glorifying God and reciting His Names in two ecstatic movements, one turning on their own axes, the other describing circles, to be reeling around as though stunned and aimless. It may be understood from this, then, that their knowledge is not knowledge, it is ignorance, and their philosophy, futility."45
As is seen from this, Bediuzzaman situates the purpose of the motion of particles, both within themselves and among others, on five main bases, and says that Almighty God causes their motion in order to renew His creation each century and even each hour and make the field of the face of the earth produce crops; to display the manifestations of His Names, and to produce things suitable to the world of the Hereafter, and to make them offer infinite praise and glorification.
From the Manifest World to the World of the Unseen
Bediuzzaman wants it to be known that creative power is only from God, and points out that beings come from the World of the Unseen, pass through the present, and return to that world:
"At its Sustainer's command, the universe is in continuous motion. With divine permission, all creatures are unceasingly flowing in the river of time. They are being sent from the World of the Unseen, being clothed with external existence in the Manifest World, and are then being poured in orderly fashion into the World of the Unseen, and it is there that they alight. And, at their Sustainer's command, they continuously come from the future, stop by in passing pausing for a breath, and are poured into the past."46
Thus, Bediuzzaman is reminding that according to the people of the 18th century, those of the future and now breathing the present, will pass on to the past of the coming century, that they will pass on to the World of the Unseen. He is stating that in both being brought to this world and being sent to that one, all creatures including man are willy-nilly subject to the laws Almighty God has put and by which He governs. He wants it to be known that one who cannot rule the past and the future, cannot claim power over life and death:
"Thus, is it at all possible that one who does not have the ability to administer the universe in its totality, whose authority does not stretch throughout time, whose power is not sufficient to make the world manifest life and death like a single individual, who cannot bestow life on the spring as though it was a single flower, attach it to the face of the earth and then pluck it from it with death and gather it up, could such a one be the owner of death and the granter of death? Indeed, the death of the most insignificant animate being, even, like its life, must necessarily occur according to the law of One of Glory in whose hand are all the truths of life and varieties of death, and with His permission, and at His command, and through His permission, and at His command, and through His power, and with His knowledge."47
That is to say, Bediuzzaman considers that however necessary knowledge, will, and power are for the continuation of life, those attributes are necessary to the same degree for death. Because if such an order did not prevail, the oceans would have been choked with dead fish and the land with dead plants and animals, and the elements, which are the raw materials which will manifest life, could not have hastened to this duty.
The strange caravan which comes from the Unseen
Bediuzzaman describes the trees and flowers coming to life in the spring, and their being sustenance for humans and animals like this:
"Look! A strange caravan has appeared and is coming from the Unseen; it is the caravan of plants and trees, which bear the animals' foods. Their mounts resemble trees, plants, and mountains. They are each bearing trays of provisions on their heads. Look! They are bringing the food of the various animals which are waiting here. And look! The vast electric lamp of the sun in this dome is providing light for them, and is cooking beautifully all their foods. The foods that are to be cooked are each attached to a string by a hidden hand. Those foods attached to the string are the slender branches of the trees and their delicious fruits. They merely hold them up to the sun."48
Bediuzzaman likens fruit-bearing trees to machines:
"...each bears on its slender branches hundreds of looms and factories, and weaves its leaves, blossoms, and fruits, and adorns and cooks them, and holds them out to us. However, majestic trees like pines and cedars have set up their looms on dry rock, and work away there."49
"See how before our eyes a tiny poppy seed, a tiny apricot kernel, a melon seed bring forth from the treasury of Mercy leaves more finely woven than broadcloth, flowers whiter than linen, and fruits sweeter than sugar, and finer and more delicious than k?ftes and preserved foods; see how they present them to us."
Bediuzzaman points out the creation of animals from the elements in this way:
"And look, He has taken this iron, earth, water, coal, copper, silver, and gold to His hidden hand and made a piece of flesh."
In conclusion he shows that these ways of being formed are each an evidence pointing to Divine Unity:
"In each of these are works which tell of that hidden Being. Quite simply as if each was a stamp or seal making known that unseen One."50
Bediuzzaman likens the universe to a garden and the earth to a tree:
"That is to say, each fruit is a seal of Divine Unity that makes known the Maker of the earth which is its tree and the Inscriber of the book of the universe, which is its garden, and demonstrates His Unity."51
"A crocus in a garden is like a seal of the garden's Inscriber. To whomever that flower-seal belongs, all the flowers of that sort on the face of the earth indicate clearly that they are like the words of that person and that the garden too is his writing."52
The seas do not spill over
Bediuzzaman describes the spinning of the earth and state of the seas in this way:
"Although the seas, which like living beings are continuously being shaken and in whose nature it is to spread and pour forth and invade, encircle the earth and are being made to hasten at extreme speed in a twenty-five thousand year circle in one year, they neither spread, nor spill over, and nor do they encroach on their neighbouring earth. That means they remain, and travel, and are preserved through the command and power of One most Powerful and Mighty."53
Bediuzzaman expresses the relationship of man and the universe and the genetic characteristics of animate beings like this:
".. whatever the pen of Power has written in the mighty book of the world, it has written its summary in man's nature. And whatever the pen of Divine Determining has written in a mountain-like tree, it has also written it in its fruit the size of a fingernail."54
He draws attention to the genetic structure of eggs and sperm which he calls the programme of Divine Determining, despite their resembling one another in regard to matter:
"And just as the spirit is dominant over the body, so too the creative commands which Divine Determining writes in inanimate matter are dominant over it. The inanimate matter can take up a position and order according to the immaterial structure of Divine Determining. For example, in regard to the creative commands which Divine Determining has written differently in all the varieties of eggs, sorts of sperm, categories of kernels, and species of grains, it possesses ranks and lights which are all different. And the inanimate matter which is of the same nature with regard to matter becomes the source of innumerable different beings."55
Bediuzzaman states that in regard to physical and spiritual make-up man is a miniature sample of the universe, and whatever there is in the universe whether material or immaterial its like is to be found in man:
"Just as the elements in man allude to and point to the elements in the universe, and his bones to its stones and rocks, his hair to its plants and trees, and the blood that flows in his body and fluids that issue from his eyes, ears, nose and mouth to the spring and mineral waters of the earth, so too does man's spirit allude to the Spirit World, his faculty of memory to the Preserved Tablet and his power of imagination to the World of Similitudes, and so on. Each of his members and faculties alludes to a different world and bears decisive witness to its existence."56
What is life?
One of the subjects today's biology has remained impotent before is the definition of life; it has been unable to describe its true nature. Bediuzzaman approaches the subject from various angles, and more often notes the purpose of the giving of life. He says that an inanimate creature's relationship with its surroundings is only in regard to the place in which it is situated, but on life entering it, it attains a state whereby it is connected with the whole universe:
"Life is the most important aim of the universe... and its greatest result...and it is a miraculous truth that makes a tiny creature like a universe...and it is a most wonderful miracle of Power which, just as it is the means of the universe being situated in an animate creature, so too it shows a sort of index of the vast universe in that creature, and connects it with most beings and makes it like a miniature universe."57
The question of the purpose of life, and man's life in particular, and what the function of this majestic universe is have occupied all humanity since the time of Adam. Bediuzzaman provides the answer most concisely and succinctly:
"Since this life is the greatest result and vastest purpose and most valuable fruit of the universe, life too certainly has to have a purpose and result as great as the universe. For just as a tree's result is its fruit, the fruit's result by means of its seed is a future tree. Yes, just as the purpose and result of this life is eternal life, so too one of its fruits is thanks, worship, praise, and love for the Ever-Living Giver of Life, who bestows it. And just as this thanks and love and praise and worship is the fruit of life, so too is it the purpose of the universe."58
As is shown by this, Bediuzzaman says that the primary purpose of life is to offer thanks to and praise of Almighty God, and another is eternal life. The factory of the universe runs to secure these.
He also considers life from a different angle, approaching it in regard to the balance on the earth and the biological purification in the universe, and points out the perpetual motion of the elements:
"Also, life is a transformation machine in the vast workshop of the universe which continuously purifies on all sides, and cleanses, and produces progress, and illuminates...And it is as though the place where life dwells is a guest-house, a school, a barracks for the caravans of particles, in order to serve, and illuminate, and train them. Quite simply, by means of the machine of life, the Ever-Living Giver of Life makes subtle and illuminates this dark, transitory, lowly world and gives it a sort of permanence, preparing it to go to another perpetual world..."59
Bediuzzaman establishes the following connection between consciousness and feeling, and life:
"Life is the clarified essence of the universe; consciousness and feeling are the clarified essence of life; the intellect is the clarified essence of consciousness; and so too is the spirit the pure and sheer substance, the stable and autonomous essence of life."60
Is there life on other planets?
Bediuzzaman refers to the existence of life on the stars and other planets like this:
"If it was not for life, existence would not be existence... Life is the light of the spirit. Consciousness is the light of life. Since life and consciounsess are important to this great extent... And since this wretched globe, this giddy earth of ours, is filled with uncountable numbers of animate beings, and beings with spirits, and percipient beings, it may surely be judged by truthful conjecture and with certainty that the heavenly palaces, the lofty constellations have living and conscious inhabitants appropriate to them. Like fishes live in water, so too those luminous inhabitants are to be found in the fire of the sun. Fire does not consume light, it rather assists it. Since Pre-Eternal Power observedly creates innumerable living beings and beings with spirits from the most common substances and densest elements, and giving it great importance, transforms dense matter by means of life into subtle matter, and scatters the light of life everywhere in abundance, and gilds most things with the light of consciousness, for sure, with His perfect power and faultless wisdom, that All-Powerful and All-Wise One will not neglect other subtle flowing matter like light and ether, which is close to and appropriate to the spirit; He will not leave it without life, inanimate, without consciousness. Indeed, He creates living and conscious beings in abundance from light and from darkness, from ether, and even from meanings, from air, and even from words. Just as He creates numerous species of animals, so too He creates numerous different spirit beings from those subtle flowing sorts of matter. One kind of them are the angels, another are the kinds of jinn and spirit beings.. The infinite vastness of space and the majestic heavenly constellations with their stars are full of conscious beings and living beings and beings with spirits."61
According to Bediuzzaman, all the stars and planets in the universe are inhabited by living creatures. Almighty God has created beings with consciousness, life, and spirit appropriate to each place. Even in the sun, the temperature at the centre of which is 15 million degrees, are creatures appropriate to it manifesting life. With a brilliant logical analogy, he demonstrates clearly that just as fish live in water and humans on land, the airless stars too can be lived on. He shows as an evidence the fact that millions of living beings are created from dense, solid, inanimate earth.
When it is recalled that animate beings exist in anaerobic conditions on the earth, and that one gramme of soil contains close on seven thousand million living creatures, it may be understood how apt Bediuzzaman's assertions are.
The earth resting on an ox and a fish
One of the questions disputed by science and Islamic philo-sophy in the past was the earth resting on a fish and an ox. Bediuzzaman explained this too in a way that would satisfy both sides:
"This time you ask in your question: 'The religious scholars say that the earth rests on an ox and a fish. Whereas geography sees it hanging in space and travelling like a star. There is neither an ox nor a fish?'
"The Answer: There is a sound narration attributed to people like Ibn Abbas (May God be pleased with him) which is that they asked The Most Noble Prophet (PBUH): 'What is the world on?' He replied: 'On the ox and the fish.' In one narration, he said one time, 'On the ox,' and on another occasion he said, 'On the fish.'"62
Bediuzzaman is stating here that the reason for the matter being misunderstood is the ignorant supposing certain alleg-ories and figures of speech to be literal:
"On comparisons and metaphors falling from the hands of learning to those of ignorance, they are imagined to be literally true with the passage of time.. Thus, with a subtle, sacred comparison and meaningful allusion, two mighty angels were called Sevr and Hut (Ox and Fish). On this entering the common language from the sacred elevated tongue of Prophethood, the comparison was transformed into the literal meaning, and quite simply they took on the form of a truly enormous ox and awesome fish.
"Just as the Qur'an has allegories and comparisons, and teaches most profound matters by means of comparisons and similes to the ordinary people, so too do Hadiths have comparisons and allegory; they express most profound truths through familiar comparisons."63
Bediuzzaman states that this Hadith can be understood in three ways:
"The First: ...Almighty God...also appointed to the earth two angels as supervisors and to bear it. The name of one of them is 'Ox,' and the name of the other is 'Fish.' The reason for His giving these names is this: there are two parts to the earth, one is water, and the other is earth. It is fish that inhabit the part that is water. While agriculture, which is the means of man's life is with oxen, which inhabit the part of the earth which is earth, and it is on the shoulders of oxen...
"The Second: For example, if it is said: 'What does this state and rule rest on?,' it will be said in reply: 'On the sword and the pen.' That is, it rests on the courage of the soldier's sword and the perspicacity and justice of the official's pen. In just the same way, since the earth is the dwelling-place of animate beings and the commander of animate beings is man, and fish is the means of livelihood of the majority of men who live by the sea, and the means of livelihood of the majority of those who do not live by the sea is through agriculture which is on the shoulders of oxen, and fish is also an important means of trade, for sure, just as the state rests on the sword and the pen, so too it may be said that the earth rests on the ox and the fish. For whenever the ox does not work and the fish does not produce millions of eggs, then man cannot live, and life falls...
"The Third Aspect: In the view of ancient cosmology the sun travelled, and they defined a constellation every thirty degrees of its journey. If hypothetical lines are drawn connecting the stars in the constellations with one another, when a single situation results, sometimes they show the form of a lion, sometimes the form of a fish. Names were given to the constellations as a consequence of those relationships. But in the view of astronomy this century, the sun does not travel...the globe of the earth travels instead of the sun... Each month the earth is in the shadow and likeness of one the heavenly constellations. It is as if the heavenly constellations are represented in the mirror-like yearly orbit of the earth...
"Thus in this respect, indicating to a most profound truth which would be understood many centuries later, the Most Noble Prophet (PBUH) said one time, 'On the ox,' because at the time of the question, the earth was in the likeness of the Constellation of the Ox. And on being asked one month later, he said: 'On the fish.' For then the earth was in the shadow of the Constellation of the Fish."64
Today it it still claimed that there are eleven planets. Whereas nearly fifty years ago Bediuzzaman Said Nursi spoke of twelve planets, and by pointing the finger of proof where science cannot reach, he demonstrated the far-sightedness of Islam.
"The universe's lamp, the sun, forms a window onto the existence and Unity of the universe's Maker that is as brilliant and luminous as the sun itself. Indeed, despite their great differences with regard to size, position, and speed, the twelve planets including our globe known as the solar system are in motion and revolve with perfect order and wisdom and perfect balance without a second's confusion, and are bound to the sun through a Divine law known as gravity, that is, they follow their leader as though in prayer. This demonstrates on a vast scale the tremendousness of Divine Power and the Unity of their Sustainer."65
Bediuzzaman gives considerable space to subjects like ether, the nature of which is debated in scientific circles. He states that the universe is not empty, but full of matter called ether which transmits electricity, heat and light:
"It is established by science and philosophy that this infinite space is not an endless vacuum, but filled with matter they call 'ether'... Some matter fills space which is the bond of the laws of the lofty bodies like the laws of attraction and repulsion, and is the transmitter and diffuser of the forces in matter like light, heat, and electricity."66
He discusses ether in one respect as a refined ink in which the beings in the universe are written, and in another, as a seed-bed:
"The matter known as ether, which is ......a refined ink for the Glorious Maker's writing, a most fine raiment for His creating, a leaven of His artefacts, and a tillage for His seeds...."67
"After the matter ether had been created, it became the centre for the manifestations of the Maker's first creations. That is to say, after creating the ether, He transformed it into atoms."68
According to Bediuzzaman, the origin of atoms is the matter ether.... He accepts that it frequently changes its form:
"Ether, which is matter that is material, unbounded and numerous, is the least stable level of existence and the least tangible, the most changing and the most varying, and the most dispersed through space..."69
He states that the stars in space are within the ether and that all space is filled with it:
"...of milions of globes and stars thousands of times larger than the globe of the earth some have been made in part stationary in the matter known as ether, which is subtler than air, while others have been made to travel in part as their duty."70
"In regard to beings, the matter ether penetrates between them like a flowing liquid... Ethereal matter, on condition it remains as ether, has different states and is of different sorts. Like steam and water and its different states."71
Bediuzzaman also says that the seven heavens are made from this ether:
"Indeed, just as three sorts of things, gas, liquid, and solid, occur from the same matter, like steam, water, and ice, so too there is nothing to reasonably prevent there being seven levels of ethereal matter; there is no reason for it to be objected to.... The All-Powerful and Glorious One created the seven heavens from the matter ether, and arranging them set them with an extremely fine and wonderful order, and sowed the stars in them."72
Bediuzzzaman states that ether is so fine that a Qur'an could be written with its particles on an atom:
"...Rather that matter's particles, which are far smaller than an atom..."73
"If a Qur'an was written by the Pen of Power with particles of ether on an atom.."74
Bediuzzaman's views concerning ether may be summarized like this:
1. Ether is the tillage and origin of the atoms and elements.
2. The matter ether is so fine a Qur'an could be written in its particles on an atom.
3. The stars which form the galaxies swim within ethereal matter.
4. Ether is extremely fine and fluid and enters between everything like water. It even fills the space between the nucleus and electrons of an atom.
5. Ether carries out the duty of transmitting and diffusing forces like light, heat, and electricity, and acts also as the bond of the laws of attraction and repulsion.
The coccyx ('ajb al-dhanab)
It is said in a Hadith about the resurrection of the dead that a tiny bone which is part of the coccyx ('ajb al-dhanab) will form the base of the second creation. A physical bone has generally been understood from this Hadith, and it has been a point of dispute. However, Bediuzzaman's approach to the subject is in keeping with contemporary considerations, and he studies the 'ajb al-dhanab at the atomic level:
"Essential parts and fundamental particles which are like nuclei and seeds and are called the 'ajb al-dhanab in Hadiths, are a sufficent base and foundation for the second creation. The All-Wise Maker will construct the human body on these."75
In another work, he likens the resurrection to the creation of a tree from the seed, and a complex animate being from a single-celled being:
"Like the seeds of plants, certain particles known as the 'ajb al-dhanab will be like the seed of man, and at the resurrection the human body will be formed on those particles and will grow."76
Debate on the question of how animate and inanimate beings appeared and what sort of changes they have undergone till the present time have continued unabated for the last two centuries. The widespread opinion put forward primarily by evolutionists is that complex animate beings have been formed in continuous sequences like chains, and by chance.
Bediuzzaman points out the stages the human embryo undergoes. He recalls that the greater part of the body's cells are changed every year, and says that this can only occur through purpose, knowledge, and will:
"Look first at the human body. See how under a purpose, a will, a choice, and through particular laws and a specific order and regular movement it progresses from stage to stage, that is, from sperm to a clot of congealed blood, from the clot to a foetus lump, from the lump to flesh and bone, and from flesh and bone to the form of a human being; see how it enters and emerges from mould after mould. Then note carefully how man is perpetuated. He changes the dress of his body each year. This changing of the body occurs through the destruction and remaking of the body's cells...Indeed, if it is studied with a scientific eye, it is understood that the motion of those particles is not the work of