A Symposium has been organized in Istanbul on the regenerator of religion and Islamic thinker Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, who produced a matchless work with the Risale-i Nur, which consists of pieces he wrote for his students and followers. Those taking part have offered discussions of his many sides and activities. Some have considered him as a sufi who opened his heart to the utmost extent to the Creator's signs in creation. Some have presented him as a scholar of kal?m, who contributed to that science, delivering it from consisting merely of dry logical phrases and infusing it with the freshness of belief. Some discussed him as a literary figure the art of whose discoveries and expression was of a high order. While others described him as a man of action who resolutely withstood the attacks on Islam and endeavoured to preserve the people's belief. And in truth Bediuzzaman possessed all these characteristics and abilities.
Throughout his life Bediuzzaman pursued this struggle, and in one of his treatises described his position like this: the knowledge of God deduced from the proofs of the science of kal?m is not perfect knowledge; it does not afford assurance for the heart. However, if this knowledge is founded on the method of the Qur'an of Miraculous Exposition, then man may attain perfected knowledge and his heart gain complete assurance.
In the face of the knowledge of the Qur'an, the sufis' way of knowledge is deficient and fruitless. For like Ibn 'Arabi, the followers of the Unity of Existence say: "There is no existent but He." In order to gain a sense of God's (May He be glorified and exalted) presence in the heart, they went so far as denying the universe. Whereas the knowledge springing from the Qur'an neither plunges the universe into non-existence, nor condemns it to absolute oblivion. On the contrary, it saves it from futility and neglect and employs its in God's way, making everything a mirror reflecting knowledge of God and opening up in all things windows onto that knowledge, thus gaining a permanent sense of the Divine presence in the heart.
Dr. Muhsin 'Abd al-Hamid, Professor of Qur'anic Exegesis and Islamic Thought in the University of Baghdad considers that Bediuzzaman put forward a new way among the ways leading to knowledge of God. It was a method based directly on the Qur'an which is read, and the visible Qur'an, that is, the universe, and the articulate Qur'an, that is, God's Messenger (PBUH).
The Mathnawi al-'Arabi al-Nuri
Writing has a chief source, which is reading. We can also call this culture. The writer presents the angle of his writing according to his cultural level, his experience, and what he has acquired through his senses, abilities, and faculties. There are exceptions to everything, but generally speaking all books confirm this rule.
Sometimes one reads something and one feels certain that no one has produced its like. One is astonished when one learns that the writer was not an expert in writing. Basically, they cannot make a living from it, or live in that way.
We may give an example of this. While speaking of subtle, brilliant truths, the sufi Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Jabbar al-Nafari did not have them written down. He said that those of his students who wished could write down what he said.
Another example: everything Said Nursi said was a jewel. But very little of what he said, he had written, with few exceptions. For the most part what he said to his students and followers consisted of his treatises. On examining the sources the sufis and regenerators of religion left behind them, we are amazed to see that heroes like these were not understood to be heroes in the true sense. Consider for example the Risale-i Nur, written by the great regenerator Bediuzzaman in the form of letters to his students.
He has a work called Mathnawi al-'Arabi al-Nuri. The Mathnawi is really the work of Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi. As is known, the word 'Mathnawi' means couplet, that is, two-lined verses. Rumi wrote around twenty thousand of these in his Mathnawi. Later Bediuzzaman came and put the name Mathnawi al-'Arabi to the work he wrote in Arabic. The work is not a diwan of poetry, but Bediuzzaman chose the name specifically. What did he want to say through this choice, I wonder? I think he wanted to indicate the work's effectiveness on the heart, intellect, soul, and spirit. By its renewing belief and establishing it firmly in the heart and illuminating darkened spirits, it has an effect similar to that of Jalal al-Din al-Rumi's work, which he wrote in Persian. Thus, in order to confirm its conformity to Rumi's spirit, and yet to distinguish it from his Mathnawi, he called it Mathnawi al-'Arabi. In truth this book is advanced in the art of writing, other writers cannot reach the level of its eloquence.
"What you say is not understood"
Under the heading 'Statement of Intent,' Bediuzzaman says:
"When I go into a garden, I select the best of it. If I experience difficulty in picking [its produce], I am pleased. When I see something rotten in it, or unripe, I say: 'Take what's best.' I want my readers to be like that too. They say: 'What you say is not understood.' I know that sometimes I speak from the top of the minaret, and sometimes from the bottom of the well. What can I do? That's the way it comes. The one speaking in this book is my impotent heart. The one I address, my rebellious soul. My listener, a Japanese seeker after truth. Those looking on should bear this in mind... "
These words allow us to navigate the seas of Bediuzzaman, for he is an ocean the surface of which is full of stormy waves, while at its bottom are jewels and pearls. Great effort, comprehension, and striving are needed to bring up these jewels to the light of day.
Sometimes his style is refined like the sweetness of spring. Sometimes it roars like a harsh winter storm. At others it weeps together with the skies, and its readers. And at others still, his words diffuse peace and tranquillity. These differing states follow on one after the other in succession like time and the seasons on the face of the earth. Just as man does not rule the four seasons, so there is no question of dominating the sweet flow of his words.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi says:
"Know, O Friend! Although before the seed became the tree, the egg became the chick, and the seed sprouted, they had the potentiality, amid thousands of possibilites, of taking on thousands of forms and shapes, they retreated from those haphazard possibilities and were driven towards direct, correct, and fruitful shapes and forms. It is understood from this that the seeds were under the direction of the One All-Knowing of the Unseen previously as well, and were being raised by Him. It is as though each of them was a small notebook copied out from the ledgers of Divine Power, or a index taken from Pre-Eternal Knowledge, or a number of principles inscribed from the volumes of Divine Determining."
* AHMAD BAHJAT (Writer)
Ahmad Bahjat is one of the best known journalists of the Arab world and for around forty years has had his own column in al-Ahram, Egypt's largest newspaper. His articles appear on the second page. He is also assistant-editor of the paper, and has his own analysis programme on the radio every day. Ahmad Bahjat is a Nobel-prize winner of literature, and has published around forty books. Four of these have been translated into English, French, Turkish, Hindustani, and Serbo-Croat.