GOD'S MESSENGER (PBUH) IN THE RISALE-I NUR
Bediuzzaman allotted a great deal of space to God's Messenger (PBUH) in his writings, and attempted to analyze and illustrate various aspects of his life and practices. These discussions are concentrated in seven treatises or sections of the Risale-i Nur. They are the Nineteenth Word, On the Messengership of Muhammad (PBUH);1 the section of the Twenty-Fourth Word which enumerates principles to assist in understanding Hadiths about the signs of the end of time and the merits and rewards of certain actions; the Thirty-First Word, about the Ascension of the Prophet (PBUH); the Nineteenth Letter, called The Miracles of Muhammad (PBUH); the Fourth Flash, called The Highway of the Practices of the Prophet ; the Eleventh Flash, called The Stairway of the Practices of the Prophet and Antidote for the Sickness of Innovations; the section of the Fifteenth Ray about the witnesses of Prophethood.2 The subject is mentioned in numerous other parts of the Risale-i Nur.3
It is understood from the above that Bediuzzaman did not intend to write a biography of the Prophet (PBUH) or set forth detailed information about his Sunna or practices. He left such subjects to the historians and scholars of Hadith, who have researched them and produced a plethora of works. As he states at the end of his treatises in a way appropriate to the subject and in keeping with his purpose, he studied specific aspects of his biography. In other words, as is seen in all the other parts of the Risale-i Nur, he concentrated on its dimension which looks to belief, aiming to strengthen faith in the face of unbelief and atheism, which he said was his chief goal. This forced him to break the shell surrounding historical events, penetrate to the inner spirituality, pass over the apparent face of things and reach their essence; in short, to leave aside the externals in favour of their unseen inner face.
Someone who looks fairly at these lines will appreciate that four of the seven treatises mentioned above have been assigned to Hadiths of the God's Messenger (PBUH). The most extensive of these, in order, are the treatise on the Prophet's Ascension, The Miracles of Muhammad, the treatise on predictions about the Unseen, and the section about Hadiths related to the end of the world. These treatises concentrate for the greater part on spiritual dimensions. But the Miracles of Muhammad departs from this, and while discussing events lays emphasis on the meanings and signs concealed behind the apparent face.
In his works about God's Messenger (PBUH), Bediuzzaman did not employ the historical method or its rules and conditions. Similarly, he did not employ the method of the scholars of Hadith. He rather favoured a reflective and deductive method developed by himself, which he applied in all the pieces he wrote about the Prophet's life and practices. Since he used it not only when describing the Prophet's biography, but on a broad scale in all his treatises, I shall quote here a passage illustrating its importance:
"... I shall mention a mark of Almighty God's favour and mercy which was apparent in the writing of this treatise, so that those who read it may understand its importance. I had no intention of writing this treatise, for the Nineteenth and Thirty-First Words4 about the messengership of Muhammad (PBUH) had been written. Then suddenly I felt a compelling impulse to write it. Also my power of memory had been extinguished due to the calamities I had suffered. Moreover, in accordance with my way, I had not taken the path of narrative, that is, 'he said that,' 'it was said that,' in the works I had written. Furthermore, I had no books of Hadith or the Prophet's biography available to me. Nevertheless, saying: 'I place my trust in God,' I began. It was extremely successful, and my memory assisted me in a way that surpassed even that of the Old Said.5 Thirty to forty pages were written at speed every two or three hours. Once fifteen pages were written in a single hour. It was mostly narrated from such books as Bukhari, Muslim, Bayhaqi, Tirmidhi, Shifa' al-Sharif, Abu Na'im, and Tabari. My heart was trembling, because if there had been any error in relating them -since they are Hadiths- it would have been a sin. But it was clear that Divine favour was with us and there was need for the treatise. God willing, what has been written is sound. If perhaps there are any errors in the wording of some of the Hadiths or in the names of the narrators, I request that my brothers will look on them tolerantly and correct them."6
I certainly agree with what the esteemed Edib Debbagh wrote in the introduction to the 1987 Arabic edition of the Miracles of Muhammad:
"If we take note of the hundreds of Hadiths set forth in this work, we see clearly, since he (Bediuzzaman) dictated it from memory, how well founded was his knowledge of the science of Hadith and of the Prophet's biography and its events. We feel certain that he could evaluate the Hadiths accurately, without error, and understand easily even those which are allusive and figurative.
"If we study the Hadiths in this estimable treatise,7 our certainty increases that we are faced with miracles founded on authentic scholarly and methodological principles which cannot be criticized."8
The Subjects and Their Treatment
In this section, I shall describe in summary form the subjects Bediuzzaman discusses in his works S?zler (The Words), Mektûbat (Letters), and Lem'alar (The Flashes Collection), and give details of them in eight different sections.
1. The Messengership of Muhammad (PBUH)
The Nineteenth Word is divided into fourteen 'Droplets.'
The First Droplet is about the three main 'instructors' which make our Sustainer known to us. These are: the book of the universe, God's Messenger (PBUH), and the Qur'an. Here, the second evidence is focussed on; the other two are discussed in other parts of the Risale-i Nur.
The Second Droplet describes the evidences of the previous revealed scriptures, and the miracles and paranormal happenings that occurred before the Prophet Muhammad's mission, all of which confirmed it.
The Third Droplet mentions the chief aims of the Messenger's mission, exemplified by his answering the three disturbing questions: "Who are you?" "Where did you come from?" and, "What is you destination?"
The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Droplets describe the great transformations which God's Messenger (PBUH) brought about through God's guidance and help.
The Eighth Droplet describes his extraordinary power in bringing about change in people. Making comparisons with similar feats, he points out that the people of philosophy and the Naturalists would be incapable of bringing about in a hundred years even a hundredth of what he achieved in a year.
The Ninth Droplet mentions evidences for his complete faithfulness to his cause.
The Tenth Droplet alludes to the cosmic changes he predicted, and the Day of Judgement when everything will be overturned and all balances will change, and points out that these recall to man numerous truths connected with his life.
The following Droplets return to the subject of the Prophet's faithfulness, mentioning the witnesses to this.
The Twelfth and Thirteenth Droplets point out that God's Messenger (PBUH) is a certain proof of the resurrection of the dead and eternal happiness, and that with his guidance is a means of attaining that happiness. Moreover, due to his prayer and supplication, he is the reason for the creation of eternal happiness; he is "the pride of the human race ... this unique being who is truly the glory of the cosmos."
The final Droplet is the most comprehensive and stresses that the Qur'an is the greatest miracle of Muhammad's (PBUH) messengership.
With the truths and details of the above fourteen Droplets, Bediuzzaman went beyond the generally followed method. Moreover, unrestricted by any measure of time, he mentioned very few of the events here. His chief aim was to investigate the true purposes of prophethood, the principles that came with it and the essence of its ideas, and the fundamental aspects of the changes which it brought about. In doing this, Bediuzzaman had recourse to analysis and deduction of the reason and conscience. He provided numerous examples and made numerous comparisons. And while doing this, he used exceptional language in all the expressions and constructions he used, both illustrative and allusive.
Here, in the part assigned to God's Messenger (PBUH) and his messengership, Bediuzzaman passes to another aspect of his life, which is the distant aspect which looks to the Unseen. Sometimes when dealing with this, he has recourse to eminent sufis and spiritual leaders of Islam like Ghazzali, Bistami, and 'Abd al-Qadir Gilani.9
If one may say so, Bediuzzaman does not suffice with the visible part of the iceberg, for if one can see a tenth of it, nine tenths are hidden beneath the water. Because in order to reach the complete truth, the whole of it has to be seen.
The treatise on the Messengership of Muhammad (PBUH) is a comprehensive and swift journey through the world of prophethood and God's Messenger (PBUH). The details have been left aside; only the essence, basic transformations, and supreme duties have been mentioned. The Messenger is a guide taking people to God; his messengership testifies to this; his chief aims and the greatest changes he brought about; his power to cause change; his total veracity; humanity and the universe; his desire to save people. In Bediuzzaman's view, the Qur'an is the most powerful witness of the Messengership of Muhammad (PBUH).
Differently to the others, these striking statements head the sections in which Bediuzzaman discusses God's Messenger (PBUH). He does not concentrate on a single question or study a single subject in depth. For this reason this first of his treatises we are considering gives an adequate idea of all of them. It forms a concise introduction to the other sections we shall deal with in order.
2. Hadiths about the End of the World and the merits of certain actions
In the Third Branch of the Twenty-Fourth Word Bediuzzaman discusses the signs of the Last Day and Hadiths about them, and Hadiths about the merits of certain actions. He gives his reasons for this as follows:
"Since the Hadiths that speak of the signs of the Last Day, the events at the end of time, and the merits and rewards of certain actions have not been well understood, some scholars who rely on their reasons have pronounced some of them to be either weak or false. While some of the scholars whose belief is weak but whose egotism strong have gone as far as denying them."10
Here, in order to point out a way of understanding the Hadiths under discussion, Bediuzzaman does not want to enter into detailed discussion, but to draw attention to a number of principles and general rules. In the previous section it was mentioned that Bediuzzaman did not employ the usual method followed by the historians. Here too he left aside the way of the scholars of Hadith and in its place used reasoned evidence, inference, and deduction. This style is based sometimes on the witnessing of the reason, sometimes on the witnessing of the emotions, and sometimes on the witnessing of the spirit and conscience. In all these situations he sets out before the reader perfectly clear truths as sharp as a sword. In the First Principle, he introduces principles and general rules for understanding certain Hadiths:
"Religion is an examination, a test, which distinguishes elevated spirits from base ones. It therefore speaks of matters that everyone will see with their own eyes in the future in such a way that they remain neither altogether unknown, nor self-evident so that everyone would be compelled to confirm them. They open the door to the reason but do not take the will from the hand. For if a sign of the Last Day was completely self-evident and everyone was compelled to affirm it, someone with a disposition like coal would remain equal to someone with a diamond-like disposition. The mystery of accountability and results of examination would go for nothing. It is because of this that there has been much dispute over many matters like those of the Mahdi and Sufyan. Also, the narrations differ greatly; they have become contradictory statements."
While in the Second Principle, he says this:
"There are levels in the matters of Islam. If one requires certain proof, for another the prevailing opinion is sufficient. While others merely require assent and acceptance and not to be rejected. In which case, secondary matters or particular events in time which are not among the bases of belief do not require certain compliance and definite proof; they require only not to be rejected, and to be submitted to, and not to be interfered with."11
Having elucidated these two essential points, Bediuzzaman puts forward another principle. He mentions reasons like 'Isra'iliyat' infiltrating Islamic thought; some of things written by the narrators of Hadiths and their interpretations of them being confused with the texts themselves; and some of the inspirations received by scholars of Hadith who were 'people of sainthood' or diviners of the realities of creation being thought to be Hadiths. He says, moreover, that there are stories so well-know they have become proverbial, and the true meanings of these are ignored where they should be considered in the light of their intended meanings. Stories of this kind were used by God's Messenger (PBUH), and if there are errors in their meanings, these should be ascribed to custom and usage, and not to the Hadiths. As far as possible Bediuzzaman avoids detailed discussion of the Unseen (the past and future) and its events and conditions, yet he discusses them at length and draws attention to them. Great or small, he uses every matter to prove his point and persuade those he is addressing. He draws attention to the following question:
"The results of some of the questions of belief look to this restricted and narrow world, while others look to the world of the hereafter, which is broad and absolute. In order to have the desired effect of either encouraging or restraining, some Hadiths about the merits and rewards of actions are in an eloquent style, and some unthinking people have supposed them to be exaggerated. However, since they are all pure truth and reality, there is no exaggeration or overstatement in them. For instance, there is this Hadith which has worried the heads of the unfair more than any. Its meaning is: 'If the world had as much value as a fly's wing for Almighty God, the unbelievers would not have had so much as a mouthful of water from it.'"12, 13
In another Principle, he says: "Just as the Qur'an has obscure verses which are in need of interpretation or else require absolute submission, Hadiths also contain difficulties like the obscurities of the Qur'an. They are sometimes in need of extremely careful expounding and interpretation."14
Finally, he makes a comparison which is no less important than those preceding it:
"Since prophethood, the affirmation of Divine unity, and belief all look to unity, the hereafter, and Divinity, they see truth and reality in accordance with those. While since philosophers and scientists look to multiplicity, causes, and nature, they see in accordance with them. The two points of view are extremely distant from one another."15
3. The Ascension of the Prophet (PBUH)
This subject is discussed extensively in thirty or so pages in the part of the Risale-i Nur called the Thirty-First Word. Since it is "a question that results from the essentials and pillars of belief, and follows on after them, and is a light that draws strength from the lights of the pillars of belief," Bediuzzaman pays particular attention to it. He says that
"The Ascension cannot be proved independently to irreligious atheists who do not accept the pillars of belief, because it cannot be discussed with those who neither know God, nor recognize His Messenger, nor accept the angels, and who deny the existence of the heavens. Firstly those pillars must be proved. Since this is the case, we shall address the discussion to a believer who, since he considers it unlikely, has misgivings about the Ascension; we shall explain it to him. However, from time to time we shall take into account the atheist who is the position of listener and shall set forth the matter to him."16
Bediuzzaman says that the reality of the Ascension has been examined in various parts of his works, but here his intention is "to unite all those different flashes with the essence of the truth, and with all of them form a mirror to the beauty of the perfections of Muhammad (Upon whom be blessings and peace)."17
Bediuzzaman penetrates from the outward face of verses to their realities and inner dimensions, and apart from one place where he quotes a Hadith authenticated by Imam Ahmad and Tirmidhi,18 he does not rely on narrations about the Prophet. Moreover, he does not have recourse to historical narrations set out at length in the books on the Prophet's biography, even if they are true. At the same time, he gives the two passages from the Qur'an19 where the event in question is mentioned with this aim. And behind all these, he bears in mind the principles of the sciences of Hadith and history, constructing his analyses and deductions on them. He uses matters that are agreed upon to grasp the realities which lie concealed behind the apparent face of events, so as to enquire into their true nature.
This treatise is divided into four sections and in each he approaches the question from its apparent face. In the first he explains the reason for the Ascension's necessity; in the second, the reality of the Ascension; in the third, the reason and purpose of the Ascension; and in the fourth, the fruits and benefits of the Ascension. In all these Bediuzzaman displays openly his skill at analysis and deduction. He gives numerous examples in order to bring distant truths close in a way appealing to the reader's power of imagination and to their ears. Similarly, he divides the subject into parts, dealing with them in different sections, asking interesting questions, voicing objections, and answering each in turn. Sometimes he puts it in the form of a debate or conversation, analyzing the question from an intellectual angle down to the finest details.
Thus, in summary, he says the following about the reasons for the Ascension's necessity:
"A king has two sorts of interviewing, conversation, and discussion at his disposal, and two modes of address and favour. The first is to converse with a common subject about a particular matter and special need by means of a private telephone. The second, under the title of august sovereignty, in the name of supreme kingship, with the dignity of universal rule, and with the aim of publishing and promulgating his commands, is to converse and speak through an envoy connected to those matters or by means of a high official related to those commands..."
"... The Creator of the universe, the Lord of all things with their apparent and inner faces, the Sovereign of Pre-Eternity and Post-Eternity, has two modes of conversing, speaking, and favouring. The first is particular and private, the other universal and general. Thus, the Ascension was a manifestation of the Sainthood of Muhammad (PBUH) in the form of a universality and exaltedness superior to all other sainthood. It was being honoured by God Almighty's conversation and address through His Name of Sustainer of All the Universe and title of Creator of All Beings."20
The reality of the Ascension he expounds like this:
"It consisted of the journeying of the person of Muhammad (PBUH) through the degrees of perfection. That is to say, through the different Names and titles He makes manifest in the disposition of creatures, God Almighty showed His special servant all the works of His dominicality which He displays in the spheres, creation, and regulation of its sovereignty, and in the levels of the heavens within those spheres, each of which is the means to a seat of dominicality and centre for the disposal of power.
"In order to make that servant both embrace all human perfections, and display all the Divine manifestations, and view all the levels of the universe, and to make him the herald of the sovereignty of dominicality and the proclaimer of those things pleasing to God and the solver of the talisman of the universe, He mounted him on Buraq, caused him to flash through the heavens like lightning traversing all its levels, observe Divine dominicality from mansion to mansion like the moon, and from sphere to sphere, and showing him each of the prophets, his brothers, whose abodes are in the heavens of those spheres, He raised him to the station of a distance of two bow-lengths and displayed to him His Oneness and His Word and the vision of Himself."21
As for the wisdom and purpose of the Ascension, it "is so exalted that human thought cannot comprehend it. It is so profound that human thought cannot reach it, and so subtle and fine that the intellect cannot see it by itself."22 Yet, as he always does, Bediuzzaman asks questions, and providing examples, gives answers which are perfectly clear. If those listening do so as though hearing it from him directly, they will understand this clearly. We may give the following passage to illustrate Bediuzzaman's views on the purpose of the Ascension:
"The most lovable and elevated among the works of art are animate beings. And the most lovable and elevated among animate beings are conscious beings. And by reason of their comprehensiveness, the most lovable among conscious beings are to be found among human beings. The most lovable individual among human beings is the one who has most fully developed his potentiality and displayed the samples within it of the perfections manifested in all creatures and spread among them.
"Thus, in order to see at one point and in one mirror all the varieties of His love spread through all creatures and to display, through the mystery of His Oneness, all the varieties of His beauty, the Maker of beings will take a person so high as to be a luminous fruit of the tree of creation and whose heart is like a seed containing the essential truths of that tree, and will demonstrate the belovedness of that individual, who represents the universe, through an Ascension like a thread linking the seed, which is the origin, with the fruit, which is the end. He will draw him to His presence and honour him with the beauty of the vision of Himself. And, in order to cause him to spread that sacred state to others, He will favour him with His Word and entrust him with His Decree."23
Bediuzzaman describes five fruits and benefits of the Ascension, which are: "to see as though they were visible the truths of the pillars of belief and to behold as though they were visible the angels, Paradise, the hereafter, and even the All-Glorious One;" the bringing "to jinn and man as a gift the fundamentals of Islam, and first and foremost the prescribed prayers, which constitute those things pleasing to the Sustainer, the Ruler of Pre-Eternity and Post-Eternity, Who is the Maker of beings, Owner of the universe, and Sustainer of all the worlds;" he saw "the treasury of eternal happiness, obtained the key, and brought it as a gift to jinn and men;" "just as he himself sampled the fruit of the vision of Divine beauty, so did he also bring it as a gift to jinn and men, which is that it is attainable by all believers;" "man's being the precious fruit of the universe and the petted beloved of the Maker of the universe was understood through the Ascension, and he brought this fruit to jinn and men."24
All dispute and argument about the nature of the Ascension was settled by Said Nursi's ideas, as it is by Islam.
From the time the affirmation of Divine unity was proclaimed in a single stage by God's Book and the Trustworthy Prophet (PBUH) to the present, the Muslim conscience has been tranquil, since it removed the dualism between the spirit and body, and put a stop to fragmentation and division; the religion of Islam brought the profession of Divine unity so that mutual relations between people could be balanced.
Having attained such certainty, by virtue of continuous good intention and purpose, it is not possible to deviate from the straight path even a little. Nevertheless, good intention may not always keep one on that way. The Islamic view, which is founded on firm foundations, is far superior to other views and beliefs. This religion came in order to be practised by men. All acts that are in accordance with it, every truth that emerges from it, every principle proceeding from its incomparable interwovenness and which is poured into the great pool of the affirmation of Divine unity, - these are all elements binding together the spirit and the body, the conscience and the mind, the seen and the unseen.
If it occurs to us even for an instant that this world and the universe and its beings are one-sided or one-dimensional, we cannot be true Muslims. For beyond that single side are innumerable facets, and beyond that single dimension are innumerable dimensions.
As Muslims, our exceptional position vis-à-vis other beliefs and religions stems from this. Furthermore, these are truths which Bediuzzaman sought to describe, penetrating to their meanings and allusions from outward appearances.
4. The Miracles of Muhammad (PBUH)
Discussion of the Miracles of Muhammad (PBUH) may be much extended, for they have been investigated by many people in many works. Unlike some other subjects, the events of the era of the Prophet (PBUH) are not a closed question.
Those who find in God's Book the supreme miracle, which in all times and places presents an active, affirmative view, and who confirm that it contains nothing that is false or futile and that God will always preserve it; they observe a miraculousness in all of its verses, sections, and suras in this respect or in respect of life, existence, or of human advances and their final point; those who consider its styles and contents to be on the same level and believe that it cannot be the work of anyone other than One All-Wise and All-Knowing, far exceeding human power and far superior to anything men could say; those who having seen these truths act in accordance with them, and neglecting it neither morning nor evening, consider it unnecessary to seek any other miracles, even insignificant and ineffectual ones.
All their endeavours, then, have been focussed on Islam's opposing the attacks against it with its array of wonders and miracles -contrary to former religions and messengers. Without doubt the Qur'an has won an overwhelming victory on its own, and will continue to do so. The Qur'an itself alludes to this truth in many places and corroborates it: "And We refrain from sending the signs, only because the men of former generations treated them as false."25 Human consciousness has developed in the course of time and man's store of knowledge has increased: "Soon will We show them Our signs in the [furthest] regions [of the earth], and in their own selves, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth."26 "Nay, they charge with falsehood that whose knowledge they cannot compass, even before the elucidation thereof has reached them; thus did those before them make charges of falsehood."27
All this is true. Also its testimony to the era of the Prophet (PBUH) is true. In order to confirm God's Messenger (PBUH), rout his enemies, exalt him, or for similar reasons, it occasionally draws attention to his miracles, which overturned the known laws of nature. Thus, those temporal miracles corroborate the Qur'an, the supreme miracle. It is seen therefore that there is no break and lack of communication between them. The angels joining in the Battle of Badr to assist the Muslims in their inferior position shows this clearly.
What is more important than anything is a person not overstepping his mark and trying to exceed the reasonable and harmonious bounds of the Prophet's biography. He should not put forward ideas about any aspect of it which he has forgotten or which has remained closed to him.
No fair-minded person should refrain from observing the above facts, which is the custom as well as being obvious. It is seen that here Bediuzzaman acts in accordance with the dictates of reason. In all his treatises he bears in mind the inner face of events as well as their outer appearances, and tries to penetrate their unseen aspects. It is therefore not surprising that he dwells at length on the miracles of Muhammad (PBUH) in particular, among the events and details of his life and practices. Just as he does when dealing with the questions of the Ascension and predictions about the Unseen and the end of the world, and subjects like the attributes of prophethood and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Then, and this is most important, he bases his observations about the miracles on sound Hadiths rather than the writings of the storytellers, narrators, and historians. Moreover, apart from a very few limited instances, he does not have recourse to weak Hadiths. So if it is a narration concerning the Prophet's practices about which there is no consensus, the reader has the right not to accept the miracle described. However, in the majority of cases Bediuzzaman relies on the criteria of the scholars of Hadith. Our duty, therefore, is to accept them, or if they oppose the clear statements of the Qur'an, disregard them. However, if appropriate, we may interpret such Hadiths so that messengership and God's Messenger (PBUH) are poured into the ocean of absolute faithfulness. As Bediuzzaman himself pointed out, we should always bear in mind that very many of the wonders that proceeded from God's Messenger (PBUH) were not miracles, but wonder-working or "Divine favours" or "banquets bestowed by the Most Merciful One."28
Another important point is that when discussing the miracles we mentioned above, he does not make them the main aim of what he is saying, and does not treat haphazardly Hadiths of high worth in regard to the Prophet's life and person, with their various aspects. The events of that time have to be studied within the framework of particular limitations, and the causes, conditions, and understandings have to be well appreciated. At the same time, the Prophet's (PBUH) miracles are not sufficient. The field encompassing the outer aspects of the Qur'an, a vast ocean and comprehensive sphere, is truly very limited. Here are found subjects like belief and action related to actual events, human characteristics, comprehension, attempting causes, the occurrence of incidents, Divine power being concealed in the world, and history.
Thus, in his treatise called The Miracles of Muhammad, which is the Nineteenth Letter, Bediuzzaman looks in balanced fashion behind the apparent face of events. Because of its importance, the treatise (together with its addenda) is nearly 150 pages in length. Being assigned to subjects from the Prophet's life and practices, it is his longest treatise. He attempted while dealing with this extensive subject, to spread it over a broad area. He mentions more than three hundred of the miracles that occurred in the Era of the Prophet. He assigns a different group to each of the sections, as he does in all his treatises. It consists of nineteen 'Signs.' The first four enumerate principles, explanations, and necessary criteria that should be borne in mind in connection with miracles. These 'Signs' therefore hold greater importance than the others, for they dispel many points of confusion, and some doubts, suspicions, and delusions. Offering a balanced way of reaching a conclusion, they prevent deviant understandings of Hadiths of this sort.
According to Bediuzzaman,
"Miracles are the confirmation by the Creator of the cosmos of his declaration of prophethood; they have the effect of the words, 'You have spoken truly!'"29
"However, the evidences of the veracity of this being and the proofs of his prophethood are not restricted to his miracles. All his deeds and acts, his words and behaviour, his moral conduct and manners, his character and appearance prove to the attentive his truthfulness and seriousness. ... And hundreds of thousands of men with varying opinions have affirmed his prophethood in an equal number of ways. The Wise Qur'an alone demonstrates a thousand of the proofs of his prophethood, in addition to its own forty aspects of miraculousness."30
Bediuzzaman says there are two categories of evidences of prophethood:
"T h e F i r s t is called irhasat and includes the paranormal events that happened at the time of his birth, or before his prophetic mission.
"T h e S e c o n d group pertains to all the remaining evidences of his prophethood, and contains two subdivisions:
"The first are those wonders that were manifested after his departure from this world in order to confirm his prophethood, and the second, those that he exhibited during the era of his prophethood. The latter has also two parts:
"The first, the evidences of his prophethood that became manifest in his own personality, his inner and outer being, his moral conduct and perfections, and the second, the miracles manifested in the outer world. The last part again has two branches:
"One, those concerning the Qur'an and spirituality, and the other, those relating to materiality and the universe. This last branch is again divided into two categories:
"The first involves the paranormal happenings that occurred during his mission either to break the stubbornness of the unbelievers, or to augment the faith of the believers. This category has twenty different sorts, such as the splitting of the moon, the flowing of water from his fingers, the satisfying of large numbers with a little food, and the speaking of trees, rocks and animals. Each of these sorts has also many instances, and thus has, in meaning, the strength of confirmation by consensus. As for the second category, this includes events lying in the future that occurred as he had predicted upon God's instructions."31
Bediuzzaman says that although all the conduct and actions of God's Messenger (PBUH) testified to his messengership, they did not all have to be miraculous:
"For God Almighty sent him in the form of a human being so that he might be a guide and leader to human beings in their social affairs, and in the acts and deeds by means of which they attain happiness in both worlds; and so that he might disclose to human beings the wonders of Divine art and His disposive power that underlie all occurrences and are in appearance customary, but in reality are miracles of Divine power. ... For, in accordance with the purpose of the examinations and trials that man is to undergo, the way must be shown to him without depriving him of his free will: the door of the intelligence must remain open, and its freedom must not be snatched from its hand. But if miracles had occurred in so apparent a way, intelligence would have had no choice..."32
The great majority of the accounts that have come down to us about the Messenger's (PBUH) miracles and the evidences of his prophethood, have been unanimously reported. Bediuzzaman says there are two sorts of unanimous report:
"One is those reports about which there is 'explicit consensus,' the other is 'consensus in meaning.' The latter is also of two kinds: the first includes those concerning which the consensus is implied 'by silence.' ... The second kind of 'consensus in meaning' is that which occurs when different people relate a particular incident...
"Most of the reports concerning the miracles and the evidences of the prophethood of the Most Noble Messenger (Upon whom be blessings and peace) that have come down to us are either of the category of 'explicit consensus,' or 'consensus in meaning,' or 'consensus implied by silence.' As for the others, although they are the report of a single person, they also have the certainty of 'consensus' as they have received the acceptance of the meticulous authorities on Hadith. "33
The following is not the final matter, but it is the last we shall mention here and is related to Bediuzzaman's method:
"Although some qualities and aspects of the Most Noble Messenger (Upon whom be blessings and peace) have been described in books of history and biography, most of those qualities relate to his humanity. But in reality, the spiritual personality and the sacred nature of this blessed being are so exalted and luminous that the qualities described in books fall short of his high stature. ...
"In order not to proceed in error, one should raise his head beyond the ordinary qualities of the Prophet (PBUH) that pertain to his participation in the human state, and behold instead his true nature and luminous stature that pertain to the rank of messengership. Otherwise, one will either show him irreverence, or instil doubts in oneself."34
5. The Highway of the Practices of the Prophet
This treatise is the Fourth Flash. Bediuzzaman named this piece The Highway of the Practices of the Prophet because it explains concisely love for the Prophet's Family, and with the excesses in this in later periods, the division between the Sunnis and Shi'a. This is a question with historical dimensions, and in regard to time, is outside the Prophet's life and practices, but due to its connections with them and the Qur'an, it was examined by Bediuzzaman together with some other questions.
Bediuzzaman cites two verses as testimony:
Now has come a prophet from among yourselves; it heavily weighs upon him that you might suffer; full of concern is he for you, and full of compassion and mercy towards the believers. * But if they turn away, say: God is enough for me, there is no god but He. In Him have I placed my trust, for He is the Sustainer of the Mighty Throne.35 * Say: I ask no recompense of you save love of close kin.36
Bediuzzaman passes from the general to the particular in the light of the above verses:
"Among the universal and general duties of his prophethood, God's Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) displayed great compassion in certain particular, minor matters. ... For example, the extraordinary compassion the Messenger (PBUH) showed towards Hasan and Husayn in their childhood and the great importance he gave them was not only due to love arising from natural kindness and family feeling, it was rather because they were each the tip of a luminous thread of the function of prophethood, and the source, sample, and index of a community of great consequence which would receive the legacy of prophethood."
Bediuzzaman does not remain in the time of the Prophet but turns to the period of the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs and those that followed them, which saw the beginning of the splits in the community. He describes the best way to follow like this:
"Too much or too little of anything is not good. Moderation is the middle way, and that is the way the Sunnis have chosen. But, alas, like Kharijite ideas have infiltrated the Sunnis to an extent, so also addicts of politics and some atheists criticize 'Ali. ... And so, O Sunnis, who are the People of Truth, and 'Alawis, whose way is love of the Prophet's Family! Quickly put an end to this meaningless, disloyal, unjust, and harmful dispute between you!"37
6. Predictions about the Unseen
In the Seventh Flash, which is eleven pages in length, Bediuzzaman describes seven sorts of predictions about the Unseen. There is no direct connection with the Prophet's (PBUH) life. He expounds the last two verses of Sura al-Fath, which mention the Messenger's dream about entering the Masjid al-Haram and God confirming this; Islam being proclaimed over all religions; and some of the attributes of the Messenger (PBUH) and his Companions.
Here, Bediuzzaman puts himself before history, that is, the events of the Prophet's life which the verse mentions, and speaks of a generation raised and trained by God's Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him). While doing this, he does not consider it necessary to refer to the sources of the Prophet's life and the immediate reasons for the verses' revelation; as in many places, relying on his own store of knowledge and accurate memory, he makes various analyses.
Bediuzzaman mentions a number of aspects of miraculousness in this concise treatise:
"[The vision] gave certain news of the conquest of Mecca before it happened. It occurred two years later just as predicted. ... for sure the Peace of Hudaybiya was apparently opposed to the interests of Islam and the Quraysh were victorious to an extent, but it is giving news that in reality it would be a great victory and the key to further conquests. For although with the Peace of Hudaybiya the physical sword was temporarily hung up, the flashing diamond sword of the Qur'an was unsheathed, and it conquered minds and hearts. Through the truce, the two sides mixed with one another. The virtues of Islam and lights of the Qur'an rent the veils of obduracy and tribalism, and enacted their decrees. ... However at that time the majority of the nomadic peoples of the Arabian Peninsula were hostile, and most of the environs of Mecca and the tribe of Quraysh, enemies. Through predicting that 'Soon you shall circumambulate the Ka'ba without fear,' it was indicating and foretelling that the Arabian Peninsula would submit and all the Quraysh enter Islam and total security be established. And it all occurred exactly as predicted. ... at that time Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism had hundreds of millions of adherents and were the official religions of world-dominant states like Rome, China, and Persia, which had hundreds of millions of subjects, and Muhammad the Arabian was unable to subdue his own small tribe even. Yet it is foretelling that the religion he brought would triumph over all religions and be victorious over all states. And it does this in most clear and definite manner. The future confirmed this prediction, with the sword of Islam extending from the Pacific Ocean in the East to the Atlantic Ocean in the West. ... Through telling of the elevated qualities and characteristics which were the reason for the Companions being the most elevated of human kind after the prophets, the start of this verse describes through its explicit meaning the excellent qualities which would mark out that group. While through its implied meaning, the verse alludes to the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, who would succeed to the office of the Prophet (PBUH) after his death through the institution of the Caliphate, and gives news of the fine attributes which were what most distinguished each of them and marked them out. ... It gives news of the qualities of the Companions mentioned in the Torah, which was as though the Unseen for an unlettered person like the Prophet (Upon whom be blessings and peace)."
Previous to this, Bediuzzaman asks the following question:
"What was the wisdom in the defeats of the Companions of God's Messenger (Upon whom be blessings and peace), the Glory of the World and Beloved of the Sustainer of All the Worlds, against the idolators at the end of Uhud and beginning of Hunayn?"
And he replies, before expounding the verse in question, by citing some historical evidences:
"Among the idolators were many persons like Khalid who in the future would be equal to the leading Companions of that time. Therefore, so as not to degrade them entirely in the view of the future, which for them would be glorious and honourable, Divine wisdom gave them in the past immediate recompense for their future good works and did not completely destroy their pride. That is to say, the Companions of the past were defeated by the Companions of the future, so that the future Companions would enter Islam, not through fear of the flashing sword, but through zeal for the flash of truth, and so that they and their natural valour should not be brought low."38
Personally I do not agree with Bediuzzaman's conclusion here. In my opinion, their being defeated at Uhud and at the beginning of Hunayn was tied to an historical law, as the Qur'an itself says. In accordance with Divine will and some laws of historical progression, they were routed on various occasions. For if they wanted to conquer their enemies in truth and be victorious on the face of the earth, they had to gain a better understanding of these laws, and following them closely, carry out what they required.
7. The Stairway of the Practices of the Prophet and Antidote for the Sickness of Innovations
This is the final treatise Bediuzzaman allotted to the life of God's Messenger (PBUH) and his practices (Sunna).39 In it he successively urges adhering sincerely to the Prophet's practices, for which he puts forward certain principles and draws a number of conclusions. His call begins with the following verses of the Qur'an:
Now has come to you a Prophet from among yourselves; it grieves him that you should perish; ardently anxious is he over you; to the believers is he most kind and merciful.. * But if they turn away, say: "God suffices me, there is no god but He; in Him do I place my trust-He the Sustainer of the Throne [of Glory] Supreme!"40 * Say: "If you do love God, follow me: God will love you and forgive you your sins; for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."41
There are probably hundreds of questions that could be discussed in the light of these verses, but Bediuzzaman concentrated on eleven. He uses the Qur'an as evidence and testimony for these matters, and at the same time mentions a number of Hadiths. In two places he also quotes from religious figures, one of whom is the Regenerator of Religion Shaykh Ahmad al-Faruqi al-Sirhindi (971/1563-4-1034/1624-5). Only, for the most part he makes extensive analyses and deductions, and sometimes uses logic and reasoned argument illustrated with his own personal experiences.
Bediuzzaman stresses in particular the high value of following the Prophet's practices when the Muslim community is corrupted and innovations are rife. Only in my opinion, faithful and sincere adherence to the Prophet's practices has no connection with the "antidote for the sickness of innovations," as it says in the title at the beginning of the treatise. He reaches the conclusion:
"Following the Practices directly recalls the Noble Prophet (Upon whom be blessings and peace), and that recollection and remembrance is transformed into recollection of the Divine Presence. The moment the Practices are complied with in even the least significant dealings, in the conduct of eating, drinking, or sleeping, such habitual, natural acts become meritorious acts of worship in compliance with the Shari'a. ... And so, due to this mystery, one who makes it his practice to follow the Practices of the Prophet (PBUH) transforms all his actions into worship, and may make his whole life fruitful and yielding of reward."42
Bediuzzaman describes following the practices as:
"...like qibla-directing compasses showing the course to be followed in ships, each of the matters of the Practices, and even small points of conduct, were like electric switches among innumerable hazardous, dark ways."43
He dwells particularly on the verse: Say: "If you do love God, follow me: God will love you and forgive you your sins; for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful,44 saying:
"[This verse] proclaims in definite fashion just how necessary and important it is to follow the Practices of the Prophet (PBUH). Yes, among the syllogisms of logic, this verse is the most powerful and certain of the sort called hypothetical or conditional syllogisms. ... the above verse says: If you love God, you will follow God's Beloved. If you do not follow him, it points to the conclusion that you do not love God. If a person loves God, it entails following the Practices of God's Beloved."45
"The Practices of the Prophet (PBUH) are courtesy. There is no matter among them beneath which a light, and courtesy, is not to be found. God's Messenger (Upon whom be blessings and peace) said: "My Sustainer taught me good conduct, and how well he taught me."46 Yes, one who studies the Prophet's biography and knows his Practices will certainly understand that Almighty God gathered together in His Beloved all the varieties of courtesy and good conduct. One who gives up the Practices abandons courtesy."47
Bediuzzaman says about himself that:
"I have observed and experienced perhaps a thousand times in my own self that the principles and matters of the Shari'a and Practices of the Prophet (PBUH) are each most beneficial remedies for sicknesses of the spirit, mind, and heart, and particularly for social sicknesses, and that matters put forward by philosophy cannot take their place, and to an extent I have made known to others in the Risale-i Nur what I have experienced."48
Bediuzzaman says that following to the letter every aspect of the practices is bestowed only on the highest of the elite, then continues:
"If it is not possible to follow them in practice, everyone can seek to do so by intention, purpose, and by supporting them and being biased towards them. In any event one is compelled to follow the obligatory and compulsory sorts. Even if there is no sin involved in giving up the Practices which are 'recommended,' it results in considerable loss of merit. And if they are changed, it is a great error. When the Practices are followed in habitual actions and dealings, such acts become worship. While if they are not followed, it is not to be reproved, but the benefit from the light of the daily conduct of God's Beloved is less."49
God's Messenger (PBUH) being described by the verse And you [stand] on an exalted standard of character,50 and by A'isha as "His character was the Qur'an,"51 show that "Muhammad (Upon whom be blessings and peace) is the exemplar of the fine moral qualities that the Qur'an expounds. He conforms to them more than anyone, and his nature was created in accordance with them."52
"Since the Noble Messenger (Upon whom be blessings and peace) was created with a most moderate character and in the most perfect form, his actions and rest all proceeded on moderation and equanimity. His biography shows clearly that in all his actions he proceeded with moderation and equanimity, avoiding excess and negligence. Yes, the Noble Messenger (Upon whom be blessings and peace) conformed completely to the command Therefore stand firm [in the Straight Way] as you are commanded, (11:112) and therefore moderation is apparent in all his acts, words, and conduct."53
8. The Witnesses to Prophethood
In the third section of the Fifteenth Ray, el-H?ccet?'z-Zehra (The Shining Proof), Bediuzzaman offers a thirteen page discussion (pages 521-33) on the witnesses to Muhammad's (PBUH) prophethood. As with some other parts of his writings, this section has no particular name, but at its head is the sentence "The third part of a single lesson of the third 'School of Joseph.'" In the introduction, it says:
"The Second Part was written at the implied command of Sura al-Fatiha in the five daily prayers, and through the effulgence of 'I testify that there is no god but God.' Now I have been obliged to write this Third Part, prompted by the tongue of 'I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God,' and through the effulgence of the sublime verses at the end of Sura al-Fath: It is He Who sent His Prophet with guidance and the Religion of Truth, to proclaim it over all religion, and enough is God for a Witness. * Muhammad is the Messenger of God; and those who are with him are strong against unbelievers, [but] compassionate among each other,54 which display five miracles which look to the Unseen."55
For "the details, explanations, and documented proofs" Bediuzzaman refers listeners (or readers) to the treatise The Miracles of Muhammad (discussed above) and the Arabic al-Hizb al-Nuri.56 Here we shall suffice with making a few points in very summary fashion.57
Bediuzzaman bases his discussion on two 'Signs' and fifteen 'Testimonies.' The First Sign is a discussion emphasizing how necessary for the world is Muhammad's (PBUH) prophethood. The Second Sign, which Bediuzzaman himself recited every day as part of his supplications is expressed [in Arabic] in the following concise lines:
"Muhammad is the Messenger of God, ever faithful to his promise, through the testimony of his sudden appearance with a perfect religion, Islam, and Shari'a despite being unlettered, with the firmest belief, faith, and worship, the most elevated cause, supplications, and prayers, the most general message, utter steadfastness, and wondrous fruitfulness, all without equal."58
Following this, Bediuzzaman lists the testimony to and evidence for Muhammad's (PBUH) prophethood:
"The First is a proof of prophethood proceeding from eleven of his attributes and states. Yes, his appearing -despite being unlettered- suddenly and without experience with a religion which has left in amazement the learned men and philosophers of fourteen centuries and has won first place among the revealed religions, is an attribute without equal. Also without like is the fact that Islam, which emerged from his words, actions, and conduct, has at all times educated and trained the spirits, souls, and minds of three hundred and fifty million people, taking them to spiritual advancement. Moreover, he appeared with such a Shari'a that for fourteen centuries it has ruled with its just laws one fifth of mankind leading it to material and spiritual progress. So too that Being (PBUH) appeared with such a faith and creed, and such strength of belief that all the people of reality have unanimously affirmed that, since they receive perpetual effulgence from it, his belief is at the highest and most powerful degree. The opposition of his innumerable opponents at that time not causing him the slightest anxiety, doubt, or scruple, shows too that the strength of his belief was without equal or like. And he displayed such worship of and servitude to God that bringing together the beginning and end of worship, imitating no one, he saw and conformed to the subtlest mysteries of worship, and fulfilled them even in the most tumultuous times. This was an incomparable attribute, as was his offering such prayers, supplications and entreaties to his Creator that up to the present his degree has not been reached, even with the meeting of many minds, and no one has attained to his knowledge of God. And he called people to religion with such steadfastness and announced his prophethood with such boldness that although his people, his uncle, the great powers of the world, and the followers of the former religions were all opposed and hostile to him, he did not fear or hold back even a jot, but challenged them all and successfully accomplished his task. This too was an incomparable attribute.
"Thus, these eight wondrous, incomparable attributes form a most powerful testimony to his veracity and prophethood."59
The Second Testimony describes the testimony to Muhammad's (PBUH) messengership and veracity, of the truths and veracity of the six pillars of belief.60
In the Third Testimony he says that his thousands of miracles, perfections, and elevated fine morals testify most powerfully to his messengership and truthfulness.61
In the Fourth, he says that with its innumerable truths and proofs the Qur'an itself testifies to his messengership and veracity.62
The Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Testimonies concentrate on evidences to his prophethood like his attachment to God and his affirmation of Him and his turning to Him, the historical signs forewarning of his prophethood, the wonders before his mission, and some other events:
"For example, close to the time of the Prophet's (PBUH) birth stones being rained down from the claws of the ababil birds on the heads of Abraha's soldiers, who had come to destroy the Ka'ba; and on the night of his birth the idols in the Ka'ba all toppling over; and the palace of Chrosroes the Persian being destroyed; and the fire-worshipping Zoroastrians' fire being extinguished that night, which had been burning continuously for a thousand years; and on the certain reports of Bahira the Monk and Halima al-Sa'diya, clouds throwing shadows around his head; numerous events like these gave forewarning of his prophethood before its commencement. Also, there were very many events of differing kinds that he predicted would occur in the future, that is, after his death. For example, eighty miracles of his predictions about the Unseen like 'Uthman (May God be pleased with him) being martyred while reading the Qur'an, and Husayn (May God be pleased with him) being martyred at Karbala, have been described in detail on the basis of sound narrations and the books of history and the Prophet's biography."63
The Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Testimonies:
"... Spiritual poles and leaders like the great saints from Prophet's (PBUH) Family, who were the equivalent of the descendants of Abraham (Upon whom be peace), and 'Ali, Hasan, Husayn, the twelve Imams of the Prophet's Family, and the Gawth al-A'zam, Ahmad al-Rufa'i, Ahmad al-Badawi, Ibrahim al-Dassuqi, and Abu'l-Hasan al-Shazali... The Companions of the Prophet, considered to be the elevated and esteemed group after the prophets, and the mujtahids, imams, and learned scholars, who are known as the purified ones and veracious ones... Their belief at the degree of 'knowledge of certainty' in Muhammad's (PBUH) messengership and veracity forms a universal testimony... One of those innumerable witnesses is the Risale-i Nur, before which the deniers have found themselves helpless, and so deceiving the police and judiciary, have tried to silence it by means of the courts."64
The Thirteenth Testimony gives certain proofs of famous persons living in former times which confirm the prophets, and describes how
"chiefly the prophets, and the gnostics, soothsayers, and voices from the unseen, unanimously, repeatedly, and explicitly foretold the coming and messengership of Muhammad (PBUH), as signs known as 'irhasat.'"65
The Fourteenth Testimony is "the powerful testimony of the universe:"
"Just as the universe points to its Maker, Writer, and Inscriber, Who creates, administers, and organizes it, and decorating, determining, and planning it, has disposal over it as though it was a palace, a book, an exhibition, or place of display; so it requires and demands an elevated herald, a truthful discoverer, an exacting master, a faithful teacher, who will know the Divine purposes in its creation, and make them known, and will teach the instances of dominical wisdom in its changes, and announce the results of its dutiful motions, and proclaim its value and the perfections of the beings within it. Since this is so and it points to his existence, surely testifying in powerful and universal fashion to the veracity of Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him), who performed these duties better than anyone, and to his being the highest and most loyal official of its Creator, it declares: 'I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.'"66
The Fifteenth Testimony "comprises numerous sacred testimonies:"
"The Qur'an of Miraculous Exposition being given to Muhammad (PBUH) since, as demanded by 'the acts of Divine mercifulness,' within the regular disposals before our eyes in the universe, it is a custom of dominicality, with justice and wisdom, mercy, favour, and protection, to always protect the good and deal blows at the bad and liars; and nearly a thousand miracles of very many sorts being bestowed on him; and his being compassionately preserved in all circumstances and dangerous situations, even by a pigeon and a spider; and his being completely successful in all his duties; and his perpetuating his religion together with all its truths; and his conveying Islam to the earth and mankind; and his being given a position of honour above all creatures and a permanent rank of acceptance superior to all the pre-eminent of mankind and the highest character and qualities, as is agreed by friend and foe alike; and one fifth of mankind being made his community - all these testify in most decisive fashion to his faithfulness and messengership... His being made the highest leader and master of mankind, as is indicated by his having gained every day for fourteen centuries the equivalent of all the good works of his community and shown by his works in the life of society and man's spiritual life; and his being sent to the aid of mankind with burdensome, sacred duties, and men being made needy for his religion, his Shari'a, and the truths of Islam as they are for mercy, wisdom, justice, food, air, water, and light... all offer sacred testimony to the messengership of Muhammad (PBUH)."67
If we now turn back and take a look at the matters Bediuzzaman offered in connection with the Age of the Prophet, we see that they are centred on two basic sequences. The first of these and largest in respect of the areas it covers, comprises the following: (1) Miracles; (2) The Ascension; (3) Predictions about the Unseen; (4) Hadiths about the end of the world and the merits of certain actions. These are all subjects pertaining to the Unseen