Prof. Dr. Cristoph Elsas - Muslim And Christian Service Based On Human Impotence And Bareness: Nursi’s And Eckhart’s Solutio from Barla Platformu on Vimeo.
Muslim and Christian Service Based on Human Impotence and Bareness: Nursi’s and Eckhart‘s Solutions for Problems.
In 1960, that means 50 years ago, the Muslim theologian Bediüzzaman Said Nursi died in Turkey. In 1260, that means 750 years ago, the Christian theologian Meister Eckhart was born in Germany. Both, Bediüzzaman Said Nursi and Medieval Meister Eckhart, declare the strength of everything in nature to consist in its orientation to the only mightful Creator, the special strength of humans with their free will consisting in their fight against their own ego. What about spiritual aspects for convergences of Muslim and Christian ways? What can we win from their life and work for solving problems today?
There will be two parts of my paper, both with five equivalent aspects and a third part for conclusions:
I. Nursi’s main point is calmness (rahat-ý ruh/ruh rahatlýðý) for life and death resulting from the recitation of Qur’an.
For Nursi, the summary of the duties in human life is to confess one‘s neediness and observe the obligatory prayers, perceiving the weakness of every human and becoming a humble servant to the Sustainer. Humans will have fulfilled the obligation of gratitude for God‘s subjugation of nature to them, if they recognize one‘s own impotence and seek his help.
II. Eckhart’s main point is calmness (Gelassenheit) resulting from the birth of God in the bare human soul.
For Eckhart, the solution for all problems in human life is founded upon embracing the essential nothingness and emptiness of humans, because God loves all creatures equally and fills them with his being. Detachment into the bareness of our universal human nature and the imageless character of the soul‘s essence make it a place which God can inhabit. His Word is spoken in the nakedness of this nature, when one‘s own powers have been completely withdrawn from all their works and images.
If we think of service based on human impotence and bareness, what then about Nursi’s argumentation with the hope of husband and wife to be constant companions in eternal life? (Nursi’s Tenth Word, 108). What about Eckhart‘s preaching against the pride, when he cautions us against mistaking a way to God for God himself: “Whoever seeks God in a special way gets the way but misses God, who lies hidden in it“? (DW II, 363=Sermon 13b W)
Part I: Nursi’s main point is calmness (rahat-i ruh) for life and death resulting from the recitation of Qur’an.
In the beginning of his Eighth Word, Said Nursi writes on the fundamental problems of human life that stimulates him to work as a scholar, and emphasizes „how the world is a prison if there is no True Religion, and that without religion man becomes the most miserable of creatures“. (Nursi’s Eighth Word, 45). And he adds: “By nature man is extremely weak … Also he is utterly lacking in power … Also he is extremely wanting, yet his needs are indeed many. Also he is lazy and incapable, yet life’s responsibilities are most burdensome. Also his humanity has connected him to the rest of the universe …” (Nursi’s Ninth Word, 54)
Therefore, the 1st aspect is: Through recognizing one's own powerlessness and weakness one purifies oneself of the human wish to control.
Nursi’s First Word, that on “Bismillah”, is supported by his Second Station of the Fourteenth Flash: “O unhappy man struggling within a boundless impotence and endless want!” (25) But there is the possibility “to understand through … impotence and weakness, … poverty and need, the degrees of the Divine power …” (Nursi’s Eleventh Word, 141).
For if the mortal brings himself to cast to the ground and extinguish the dim torch that he himself has got to throw light on his life situation, then everything is shown in its own reality, illuminated by the Creator himself: “I saw in a vision … I had a dim torch in the face of this terrifying darkness … and I angrily cast it to the ground and broke it. Then on smashing it, the darkness suddenly dispersed …” (Nursi’s Twenty-Third Word, 321).
To this realization “that man is a guest-official and that everything is transient and inconstant”, corresponds the ritual purification (abdest) for “prostrating in utter humility”. That is the best answer to “the utter destruction of this narrow fleeting, and lowly world” (Nursi’s Ninth Word, 54 f. and 56).
2nd Aspect: Recognizing human impotence and poverty, one pays homage to God as the one and only help.
This makes it possible to believe in a revelation like this verse of the Qur'an: “God is the protector of those who believe; He leads them out of darkness into light.” (Sura Al-Baqarah , 257). Accordingly, Nursi’s Twenty-Third Word characterizes the human who places his trusts in God: “He entrusts all his burdens to the hand of power of the Absolutely Powerful One …, submission to God necessitates reliance on God …” (322). “It is to beseech and supplicate the Provider of Needs through the tongue of impotence and poverty; it is to seek from Him. It is to fly to the high station of worship and servitude to God on the wings of impotence and poverty … Furthermore, since man is subject to endless tribulations and afflicted with innumerable enemies despite his boundless impotence, and suffers from endless needs and has innumerable desires despite his boundless poverty, after belief, his fundamental innate duty is supplication” (324; cp. 325-327).
Nursi's Eleventh Word characterizes the sensible human beings who “bowed reverently in their impotence, and prostrated in humility with love and wonder. Then announcing their poverty and need, they responded with supplication and beseeching … and declared: ‘From you alone do we seek help!’” (138).
Accordingly, Nursi's First Word on “Bismillah” promises: “This phrase is a treasury so blessed that your infinite impotence and poverty bind you to an infinite power and mercy; it makes your impotence and poverty a most acceptable intercessor at the Court of One All-Powerful and Compassionate.” (Nursi’s First Word, 16). And he adds in his Fifth Word: “That is his duty. Anyway, you are powerless and wanting.” “Indeed, whoever made and bestowed life, … is the one who maintains and perpetuates it through sustenance. It cannot be another. Do you want proof? The most impotent and stupid animals are the best nourished…” (34 and 35).
Because of that, orientating oneself by the prayer is crucial for humans: “The meaning of worship is this, that the servant sees his own faults, impotence and poverty, and in the Divine Court prostrates in love and wonderment before dominical perfection, Divine mercy …” (Nursi’s Ninth Word, 52), “before the everlastingness of His Godhead … finding true consolation of heart and ease of spirit” (55: rahat-i ruh).
3rd aspect: The Qur'an teaches to understand world and mankind as a mirror of the Creator and a manifestation of His name.
Nursi emphasizes in his Twenty-Third Word: “Belief connects man to the All-Glorious Maker; it is a relation. Thus, man acquires value by virtue of the Divine art and inscriptions of the dominical Names which become apparent in him through belief.” (Nursi’s Twenty-Third Word, 319). God created man “to manifest all his Names and their inscriptions, in the form of a miniature specimen of the universe.” (320).
In his commentary to the verse that introduces again and again, “in the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”, the Suras of the Qur'an, Nursi feels reminded of that:
“On the face of the universe, the face of the earth, and the face of man are three stamps of dominicality … That is to say, ‘In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate’ is the sacred title of three stamps of Divine oneness …; it binds the lower world to the Divine Throne; it is a way for man to ascend to the human throne …” (Nursi’s First Word, 18f.) “So is the complete manifestation of the Name All-Merciful apparent in a small measure in man’s comprehensive form … just as it may be said of a shining mirror which reflects the image of the sun: ‘That mirror is the sun’, indicating the clarity of its brilliance and evidence …” (24). “The light of His mercy makes him close to us.” (25)
Moreover, Nursi’s Twentieth Word (First Station, 254 f.) declares: “You may understand that certain minor incidents in the Qur’an which are mentioned in the form of historical events, are the tips of universal principles”, for “the All-Wise Qur’an … manifested in detail with all their degrees all the Names which were taught in brief to Adam (peace be on him) …” (Second Station, 271).
4th aspect: Reacting to God offering faith and trusteeship, man realizes his dignity as mirror of this enlightenment.
In his Eleventh Word, Nursi states that humans “ascend to a rank above all creatures by which, through the auspiciousness of belief and assurance and ‘the Trust’, they became trustworthy Viceregents of God on Earth. And after this field of trial … the desirous, mirror-bearing lovers of an eternal, abiding beauty who gaze upon it will certainly not perish, but will go to eternity.” (138) Therefore “it is to perceive the lights of the Pre-Eternal Sun which are depicted in the mirror of your life, and to love them. It is to display ardour for Him as a conscious being. It is to pass beyond yourself with love of Him. It is to establish the reflection of His light in the centre of your heart.” (141)
In his Twenty-Third Word, Nursi expresses this realization of the special human dignity granted by god: “If the light of belief enters his being, all the meaningful inscriptions on him may be read. As one who believes, he reads them consciously, and through that relation, causes others to read them … In this respect insignificant man becomes God’s addressee and a guest of the Sustainer worthy of Paradise …” (320) “Belief makes man into a man, indeed, it makes man into a king.” (323)
Thus, the Bismillah formula “In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate” is for Nursi an inviting truth: “Draw close to the throne of the Pre-Eternal and Post-Eternal Monarch, and through the compassion and rays of Divine mercy, become the addressee, friend, and beloved of that Monarch.” (Nursi’s First Word, 20).
5th aspect: The body serves for realizing the names of God in life.
From his meditation of the Qur’an, Nursi draws instructions like: “to consciously display and make known through your life in the view of the creatures … the … subtle manifestations which the Divine Names have attached to you.” And on the other side: “to consciously observe the salutations of living beings to their Creator, known as the manifestations of life …” (Nursi’s Eleventh Word, 140). Because of his universal perspective, Nursi takes care of all natural causes and yet relates them to the One God: “Reliance on God is not to reject causes altogether; it is rather to know that causes are a veil to the hand of power and have recourse to them. Knowing that attempting causes is a sort of active prayer, it is to seek the effects only from Almighty God …” (Nursi’s Twenty-Third Word, 323). As a result, - besides “supplication with the tongue and the heart” - Nursi teaches that “to plough a field is to knock at the door of the treasury of mercy” and is a “sort of active supplication”. And he resumes: “Include in your supplications those of all the universe, like a king!” (327)
In his exegesis of the Qur'an, Nursi knows himself to be dependent upon God's wisdom and therefore adds supplications like: “O God! Grant us understanding of the mysteries of the Qur’an as You love and is pleasing for You, and grant us success in the service of it. Amen. Through Your Mercy, O Most Merciful of the Merciful!” (Nursi’s Twentieth Word, First Station, 259). By drawing parallels between the names of God found in the Qur'an and those found in the universe, he succeeds in relating traditional Qur'an scholarship and Western science with one another: “Come on, step forward, adhere to all My Names, and rise! … Continuously raising your head and studying carefully My Most Beautiful Names, make your sciences and your progress steps by which to ascend to those heavens.” (Second Station, 270).
The result is a calmness with a double foundation in this world as well as in the other: “Whoever makes this fleeting life his purpose and aim is in fact in Hell even if apparently in Paradise. And whoever is turned in all seriousness towards eternal life receives the happiness of both worlds. However difficult and stressing this world is for him, since he sees it as the waiting room for Paradise, he endures it and offers thanks in patience …” (Nursi’s Eighth Word, 50).
The most important foundation for that is the fivefold daily prayer concerning which Nursi explains in his Ninth Word: “Each of the times of prayer marks the start of an important revolution …” (51) and adds: “To be released from the pressure, ... leave behind those meaningless, transient things …” (54) “through declaring together with all the universe his ... impotence…” (55): With the Fatiha “You alone do we worship and from You alone do we seek help!” man “presents to Him in the name of all the creatures the worship and calls for assistance of the mighty congregation and huge community of the universe.” (57) Looking “at the great book of the universe” one “will see that on it as a whole a stamp of unity is read out”, for “… these beings support one another, stretch out their hands to assist one another … Co-operating and turned a single goal, they obey an All-Wise Disposer. They conform to a rule of mutual assistance …” (Nursi’s Twenty-Second Word, Seventh Flash, 309).
Part II. Eckhart’s main point is calmness resulting from the birth of God in the bare human soul. He called this calmness, using a special German word, “Gelassenheit”.
Eckhart himself was a Dominican monk. His order not only honoured him twice by sending him to the famous university of Paris, but also entrusted him with the solution of some explosive ecclesiastical and social political conflicts involving religious women. His attempt of mediation between the individualistic exuberance of such women and the hierarchical regulation of the church includes an attitude of criticism towards exclusive fixations on either side:
“Indeed, if a man thinks he will get more of God by meditation, by devotion, by ecstasies or by special infusion of grace than by the fireside or in the stable – that is nothing but taking God, wrapping a cloak round His head and shoving Him under a bench. For whoever seeks God in a special way gets the way and misses God, who lies hidden in it. But whoever seeks God without a special way gets Him as He is in Himself, and that man lives with the Son [of God], and he is life itself.” (DW II 363 = Sermon 13b W). Such preaching indicates Eckhart's understanding of calmness (“Gelassenheit”).
Eckhart's approach towards a solution of the great conflicts of suffering and sorrow is determined by this as well: “Truly, a man who had quite renounced his own would be so surrounded by God that all creatures could not touch him, and whatever got to him would have to pass through God, and in doing so take on His flavour and become godlike. However great the suffering may be, if it comes through God, then God suffers first from it …, and if you will endure that which God endures and which comes to you through Him, then it inevitably becomes godlike …” (DW V, 228f = Talks of Instruction 11 W)
1st aspect (parallel to Nursi): Acknowledging the common creatural neediness means to leave oneself and the world (Latin relinquere).
Eckhart emphasized more clearly than Thomas Aquinas that “all creatures are a pure nothing. I do not just say that they are insignificant or are only a little something: They are a pure nothing. Whatever has no being, is not. Creatures have no being because their being depends on God’s presence… If God would turn away …, they would turn to nothing.” (DW I, 69 f. = Sermon 40 W).
Humans are distinguished by the special feature of being able to reflect – up to the point that a part of one's own life is one's own death in which one has to leave everything that can be perceived with the senses. Thus Eckhart teaches to understand the ideal of virginity: ‘Virgin’ is as much as to say a person who is void of alien images, as empty as he was when he did not exist … - if I had these without attachment, whether in doing or in leaving undone, … rather standing free in this present Now ready to receive God’s most beloved will and to do it continually, then in truth I would be a virgin, untrammelled by any images, just as I was when I was not.” (DW I, 24-26 = Sermon 8 W)
Eckhart also adds “that man who is established thus in God’s love must be dead to self and all created things, paying as little regard to himself as to one who is a thousand miles away …” (DW I, 201 = Sermon 57 W).
Therefore, “people should not worry so much about what they have to do, they should consider rather what they are.” (DW V, 197 = Talks 4 W). “The simple (ainualtig) intellect is so pure (luter) in itself that it comprehends the pure bare divine being immediately …” (DW I, 250 = Sermon 51 W).
2nd aspect: To the act of recognizing God as the sole being belongs the willingness to leave oneself to God (Latin committere).
Because this aspect belongs to the Middle High German word gelâzenheit coined by Eckhart, it includes: “The soul is all things. Whatever is the noblest, the purest, and the highest in all things beneath the soul, God pours all this into it [the soul]. God is all and is one.” (DW I, 370 = Sermon 97 W). This is the other side of the act of leaving: “Our perfection and all our bliss depends on our traversing and transcending all ... being and getting into the ground that is groundless. We pray to our dear Lord God that we may be one and indwelling, and may God help us to find this ground.” (DW II, 309 = Sermon 80 W)
Eckhart’s Sermon on Matt. 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” gives the explanation: “A poor man is one who wants nothing and desires nothing”, “who knows nothing” and “who has nothing”. (DW II, 488 = Sermon 87 W)
This means: “We should place ourselves with all we have in a pure renunciation of will and desire, into the good and precious will of God …” (DW V, 283 = Talks 21 W). And: “Then I am what I was … Here God finds no place in man, for man by his poverty wins for himself what he has eternally been and shall eternally remain. Here, God is one with the spirit, and that is the strictest poverty one can find.” (DW II, 499 = Sermon 87 W). Then the spirit will be a place in which God can work, and as a essential and not only as an assumed god:
“So we say that a man should be so poor that he neither is nor has any place for God to work in. To preserve a place is to preserve distinction. Therefore I pray to God to make me free of God, for my essential being is above God, taking God as the origin of creatures.” (DW II, 49 = Sermon 87 W)
3rd aspect: Man can experience a gracious birth of God in himself, because Jesus Christ as His essential son manifests the love of God that is bestowed upon mankind.
In the treatise “On Detachment” we read of the “highest virtue whereby a man may chiefly and most firmly join himself to God, and whereby a man may become by grace what God is by nature, and whereby a man may come closest to his image when he was in God …, before God made creatures.” (DW V, 401 = Detachment W) Reflecting upon his creatural nothingness men will recognize: “Poverty of spirit means being so free of God and all His works, that God, if He wishes to work in the soul, is Himself the place where He works” (DW II, 500 = Sermon 87 W).
Because the imageless character of the soul's essence makes it a place which God can inhabit the soul “must keep absolutely pure.” “There must be a silence and a stillness, and the Father must speak in that and give birth to His Son, and perform His works free of all images.” (1 Pfeiffer = Sermon 1 W). “For God to be born in the soul, all time must have dropped away from her ...” (DW II, 231 = Sermon 29 W). Then “God must enter into your being and powers, because you have bereft yourself of all possessions, and become as a desert ...” (3 Pfeiffer = Sermon 3 W). For “God’s natural place is unity and purity and “therefore God is bound to give Himself to a detached heart”” (DW V, 403 = On Detachment W).
Orientated towards Christ Eckhart can preach about God like this: “What is God’s love? His nature and His being: that is His love. If God were deprived of loving us, that would deprive Him of His being and His Godhead, for His being depends on His loving me” because “God has only one love: with the same love with which the Father loves His only – begotten Son, He loves me”(DW II, 287 = Sermon 43 W).
4th aspect: In relying on God's own grace, man sufficiently prepares for God's birth within himself.
Eckhart is sure for the soul”: In drawing God into itself it is changed into God, so that the soul becomes divine. God does not become the soul. Then the soul loses its name and its power, but not its will or existence. Here the soul remains in God as God remains in Himself” (DW III, 387 = Sermon 94 W). There is the example of St. Paul, as Eckhart remarks: He “left everything that God was able to give him and everything that he was able to receive from God. When he had left all this, he left God for God’s sake, and there remained for him God as God exists in Himself ... He never gave God anything nor did he ever receive anything from God. It is a oneness and a pure union. In this state a person is a true human being …” (DW I, 197 = Sermon 57 W).
For “when the soul receives a kiss from the Godhead, then she stands in absolute perfection and bliss; then she is embraced by unity.” And: “God creates the world and all things in one present now … If a soul stands in this present now, the Father bears in her His only-begotten Son, and in that same birth the soul is born back into God. It is one birth: as often as she is born back into God, the Father begets His only-begotten Son in her.” (DW I, 172 = Sermon 66 W)
This implies the solution for the fundamental conflict of dying: “There is oneness in the Godhead and in eternity …” (DW I, 216 = Sermon 24a W). Therefore “do away with whatever is an accident in you and take yourselves in the freedom of your invisible human nature.” (DW II, 381f. = Sermon 47 W) For it is this universal human nature which was assumed and so divinized by Christ.
Inasmuch as it leads towards receptivity for God's power, love as an ability of the soul can be called the highest creatural power by Eckhart. For love is the necessary and sufficient readiness for God who unites the soul with Himself through the love power of the Holy Spirit. Then “God operates above the power of the soul, not within the soul, but divinely within God. There the soul is immersed in God and baptized in divine nature and receives a divine life and accepts divine order, so that the soul will be put in order according to God.” (DW III, 23f. = Sermon 45 W). Thus the soul experiences God's naturally overflowing love that offers only to man the liberty to reject it or to open up towards it, to “receive” it.
Eckhart preaches thus: “When the soul does not go out after things outside, it has come home and dwells in its simple, pure light.” (DW III, 547 = Sermon 19 W) And: “In my breaking-through, where I stand free of my own will, of God’s will, of all His works, and of God Himself, then I am above all creatures and I am neither God nor creature, but I am that which I was and shall remain for evermore. There I shall receive an imprint that will raise me above all the angels. By this imprint I shall gain such wealth that I shall not be content with God inasmuch as He is God, or with all His divine works: for this breaking-through guarantees to me that I and God are one.” (DW II, 504f. = Sermon 87 W) For Eckhart that birth of God in man is orientated towards Christ, in the Trinity of the One God the Son as image of the Father: “In so far as we can like this image, from which all images have flowed out and fled, and as we are reflected in this image and equally entered into the image of the Father” (DW III, 197f. = 41 W), “God can do no more for the detached mind than give Himself to it … That is what St. Paul meant when he said: ‘I live and do not live – Christ lives in me’ (Gal. 2:20).” (DW V, 411 = Detachment W)
5th aspect: The body serves to convert God's birth into the calmness in life.
According to Christian conviction, God has co-suffered in the suffering and dying of Jesus Christ. Therefore Eckhart combines the idea of God's birth in man with the compassion. In the imitation of Christ the immediate presence of divine love can be ascertained. Therefore Eckhart writes in his “Talks of Instruction”: “One must have a well-trained detachment” and “we must school ourselves in abandoning till we keep nothing back. All turbulence and unrest comes from self will … We should place ourselves with all we have in a pure renunciation of will and desire, into the good and precious will of God …” (DW V, 280 f. = Talks 21 W).
Moreover, the mortal fear of Jesus and Maria's lamentation under the Cross are according to Eckhart only related to their external nature experiencing sensory perceptions and vehement emotions: “You should know that the outer man can be active while the inner man is completely free of this activity and unmoved. Now Christ too had an outer man and an inner man, and so did our Lady, … but the inner man remained in unmoved detachment ….” (DW V, 419-422 = Detachment W).
The person who has totally delivered himself to God, even if he suffers the experience of himself being deserted by God, remains in his interior through God's nature “in equality and in unity and remains completely the same”: “The person who has forsaken all and remains in this state and never for an instant casts a glance toward what he has forsaken and remains constant and unmoved in himself and unchanging, only such a person is detached ...” (DW I, 203 = Sermon 57 W). In another sermon Eckhart explains: “A person who is in a race, a continual race, and is in peace, such a person is a heavenly person. The heavens are constantly running around [i.e. revolving] and in running they seek peace.” (DW I, 118=Sermon 72 W)
“Out of this inmost ground, all your works should be wrought without Why … And so, if you were to ask a genuine man who acted from his own ground, ‘Why do you act?’, if he were to answer properly he would simply say, ‘I act because I act’. Where creature stops, God begins to be.” (DW I, 91 f. = Sermon 13 b W)
Eckhart explains the unity of contemplation and activity in a Christian way: “It was not until after the time when the disciples received the Holy Spirit that they began to perform virtuous deeds.” (DW III, 492 = Sermon 9 W)
In this context it is all about enhancement of world and life: „See God in all things, for God is in all things. St. Augustine says God made all things, not that He might let them come into existence while He went His way, but He stayed in them.” (DW II, 100f. = Sermon 18 W) This does not mean any pantheistic deification of the world, but lays a foundation for the love of God and one's neighbour: “The first object of your love should be God alone, and after that your neighbour as yourself, and no less then yourself.” (DW II, 104 = Sermon 18 W). According to Eckhart this should be happening in the certitude that who has left his own will becomes „just because of justice“ (LW III, 104): “Thus God loves all creatures equally and fills them with his being. And thus, too, we should pour forth ourselves in love over all creatures.” (DW III, 296 = Sermon 88 W) For “what God performs, the humble man performs ...” (DW I, 235 = Sermon 50 W).
III. Convergences of Nursi’s and Eckhart’s intentions in their responses to social challenges
This way being parallel from a Moslem and a Christian starting-point, calmness in the sense of rahat-i ruh and in the sense of Gelassenheit, the intentions of Nursi’s and Eckhart’s solution for problems are coming together. That means for Christians and Moslems in present time to respect the differences together with learning from each other for fulfilment of humanity.
1. A first example is living together in religious plurality.
In the 14th century, Eckhart’s starting-point is to turn against attaching more importance to one's own interests than to anything else, even in piety “If a man were in an ecstasy as St. Paul was (2 Cor. 12: 2-4), and if he knew of a sick person who needed a bowl of soup from him, I would consider it far better if you were to leave that rupture out of love and help the needy person out of greater love.” (DW V, 221 = Talks 10 W)
These explanations in the 10th chapter of the „Talks of Instruction“ demonstrate at the beginning of Eckhart's activity the meaning of the many forms in which God's activity can be translated into life and love. Then and now, different ways of men and women are being seen, and today more than in the former days also different ways of confessions and religions, according to the 17th chapter of Eckhart: “God has not bound man’s salvation to any special mode. Whatever has one mode has not another, but God has endowed all good ways with effectiveness and denied this to no good way. For one good does not conflict with another good … Let every man keep to his own good way and include all ways in it, and take up in his way all goodness and all ways.” (DW V, 251 f. = Talks 17 W)
In 20th century Nursi’s starting-point is manifest in the Risale-i Nur in footnote 8 to the Second Cause to the Twentieth Flash. It envisions a Christian-Islamic alliance: “It is even recorded in authentic traditions of the Prophet that at the end of time the truly pious among the Christians will unite with the People of Qur’an an fight their common enemy, irreligion … aggressive atheism.” As a consequence of his appreciation of Christians, Nursi in his Debates advocated the freedom of the Greeks and Armenians in Eastern Anatolia during the violent ethnic confrontations in World War I around 1915: In his opinion, their freedom implied to leave them alone and not to suppress them, because this was the commandment of the shari’a. For him this was definitely God’s will, the more so as the real enemy was not to be seen in a Christian community. The enemies who are destroying Eastern Anatolia were firstly ignorance, secondly the resulting poverty and thirdly the hostility derived from that. In each case, God’s mercy for the suppressed would appear visible.
2. A final example is living together of men and women.
Nursi dedicated his “Treatise on Independent Judgements of the Law (Ijtihad)“ to a contemporary conflict concerning the Islamic way of life in view of the capitulation of the Ottoman Empire and the transition to modern Turkey. It was his Twenty-Seventh Word that started: “The door of independent judgements on the law is open, but at the present time there are six ‘Obstacles’ to entering it” – “at this time of denial and the assault of the customs of Europe and the legion of innovations and the destruction of misguidance …” (495). He criticized that too free interpretations of the rule “Necessity makes permissible what is forbidden” “make interpretation of the law earthly at this time and prevent it from being heavenly. Whereas the Shari’a is heavenly, revealed, and since interpretations of it make known its hidden ordinances, they also are heavenly.” (Nursi’s Twenty-Seventh Word, 498 and 497) Nursi stressed the inner ethical function of the Shari’a: “The ordinary people are not in need of learning their necessity or unlawfulness, but through encouragement and warning, to be reminded of those sacred decrees …” (499). For “through forming a barrier against the assaults of nature, the Shari’a modifies it and trains the evil-commanding soul …” (502).
At the end of this treatise Nursi shows a possibility to resolve the conflicts: With a Shari'a being dynamic, the prescriptions of holy law are liable to change according to time and to the abilities of the nations. Nursi contends that in the prescriptions of the Shari'a the facts of secondary importance are concerning human circumstances, confirming to that circumstances like medicine. His basic argumentation is that because not all humans are dwelling on the same stage of knowledge and under the same social conditions, there arose several schools of Islamic jurisdiction. Starting from a hypothesis reminding me of the famous German sociologist Max Weber, he reflects: At first, there will be a change in nature as a result of the Shari'a representing a barrier against its assaults. Secondly, there will be a change in the secondary prescriptions of the Shari'a as a result of the townspeople moving in a socially high and very cultivated and civilized context, provided that they are really honourable.
Accordingly Nursi, in his treatise “On Islamic Dress for Women”, accepted cultural changes. His treatise ends with reflexions on different environmental conditions that bear on what is regarded as preservation of respectability. He acknowledges that women sometimes have to do their work unveiled if this is necessary for making their living and if they do not arouse sexual desire in males. However, he only did not want that to become a common rule. Regarding the danger of Islamic values getting lost in Turkey during his lifetime he explained: “At this time, the only means … causing the elevated qualities of women to unfold, is Islamic conduct within the bounds of the Shari’a.” (263)
Nursi finds the solution for the primeval conflict, i. e. the conflict between life and death, merely in the faith in resurrection, according to the request to praise God in the Qur'an: “It is He Who brings out the living from the dead, and brings out the dead from the living, and Who gives life to the earth after it is dead: and thus shall you be brought out [from the dead].” (Sura al-Rum , 19; cp. Nursi’s First Part of an Important Supplement and Addendum to the Tenth Word, 108)
The very same belief becomes the deciding aspect of a relation between man and woman that is independent from external elements: “One says, for example: ‘My wife will be my constant companion in an everlasting world and eternal life. It does not matter if she is now old and ugly, for she will have an immortal beauty’. He will … treat his elderly wife lovingly and kindly as though she was a beautiful houri.” (110f.)
Eckhart, the medieval theologian, has sometimes taken up social traditions of the superiority of males above females that can be found in the New Testament as well. However, he just uses them for preparing his subject, to leave things behind in order to get the highest power of the soul free: “This power grasps all things in truth. Nothing is hidden from this power. According to scripture men’s heads should be bare, and women’s covered (Cf. 1 Cor, 11: 6-7). The women are the lower powers, which should be veiled. The man is this power, which should be bare and unveiled.” (DW I, 160 = Sermon 68)
As he joins Antiquity and the Middle Ages in assuming that the male is the natural and normal human form, Eckhart emphasizes God's partiality for the one who is – allegedly – placed at a disadvantage by nature for anormality: “Nature’s intention … is always the man …; and when nature ceases her operation, God begins to work and create, for without women, there would be no men.” (DW II, 64 = Sermon 17 W). Another step in his argument leads to equality in love: “Love does not wish to be anywhere but where there is likeness and oneness. Where there is a master and servant there is no peace, for there is no likeness. A woman and a man are unlike, but in love they are alike.” (DW II, 47f. = Sermon 12 W)
In a way typical for him, Eckhart relates this towards God's own love: “St. John says: ‘The Word was with God’. It was all together equal and side by side with Him, not below or above, but equal. When God made man, he made the woman from the man’s side, so that she should be like him. He did not make her from the head or from the feet, so that she ... should be his peer.” (DW I, 106f. = Sermon 65W) This paragraph ends with the words: “And so the just soul will be equal with God and beside God, just equal, neither below nor above.” This sentence shows that in Eckhart’s argumentation love and justice caused by God are the foundation for calmness as a way to solving conflicts. Together with Nursi’s parallel argumentation it is a multireligious way with interreligious implications.