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IMAN AS A FOCAL POINT AND BEACON OF LIGHT
IN RISALE I NUR
Dr.Ibnor Azli Ibrahim
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Open University Malaysia
Kelab al-Quran al-Karim Malaysia
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الحمدلله وحده والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله وعلى آله وأصحابه ومن نصره ووالاه، وبعد :
Risale I Nur is a collection of writings by al-Imam Bediuzzaman Said an-Nursi. It was written without the benefit of a library or any form of assistance rendered to a unique and classical piece of writing such as this. The only references in the making of this Risalah were the al-Quran and Hadith which were etched in the memories of this great thinker and scholar (mujaddid). It is evidently a manifestation of the Quranic miracle.
Said Nursi regarded the Risalah as Allahs most valuable gift and sign of ihsan. He did not claim to have any role in the making of Risalah except as a person who prayed that he would be given the space and opportunity to make Risalah a success. An Nursi had produced Risalah verbally at an amazingly fast pace. The oral narration was dictated to his students who then compiled them into a written form. However, many of them who were present to take An-Nursis explanations and analyses could not jot them as fast as he would dictate, unless An-Nursi repeated them a number of times. One of the students involved in taking down notes of Risalah as it was dictated, stated: We swear, there are whole dictations that we jotted down from an-Nursi within a short period of one or two hours but we needed a day or two days to write the narration again on another sheet of paper. However, An Nursi would refuse to acknowledge his name as author of Risalah because he believed it would destroy the sanctity of the Risalah.
The focal point of the discourse in education of Risalah is faith (keimanan). For that matter, faith (Iman) is the focal point of any discourse. Risalah is a cognitive analysis (tafheem/tafsir) of the al-Quran which fulfills the requirement of tafsir naqli or athari. However, all the interpretations (tafsir) point towards faith (iman) and rarely are there discussions on issues related to Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). What then is the rationale of Risalahs focus on faith (iman)? It is the intention of this paper, therefore, to find answers to this question based on our own understanding of this Risalah and our short five-years of intermittent exposure to some aspects of the Risalah-i-nur in Kelab al-Quran al-Karim.
Al-Quran and Faith (Iman)
As a Quranic interpretation, Risalah conforms to the tenets of tarbiyyah as clarified in the al-Quran. It gives emphasis on aqidah and faith (iman). The discourse is simple: the first Surah in the al-Quran is al-Fatihah, a surah about faith that raises the Quranic curtain. This is followed by Surah al-Baqarah that begins with the following statement which reads:
....This is a book whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqun which becomes a guidance to those who are muttaqin, those who have faith in the unseen .....
If this is the focus of the al-Quran, it is of paramount importance, therefore, for an-Nursi to give a similar emphasis. Risalah is an interpretation of needs according to the al-Quran. An-Nursi revealed four practices which can be used as the simplest way (a short cut) to enhance faith especially amidst present-day chaos, confusion and conflicts in the practice and internalisation of Islam. The chaos experienced and observed in politics, financial matters, wars and conflict, have also contributed towards widening the gap between man and His Almighty, Allah s.w.t. An-Nursi then compresses a mans worldly practice into four, which if internalised and implemented, may be the individual insans shortcut towards meeting his/her Maker as a good Muslim, that is: al-Faqr, al-Ajz, Al-Syafaqah and al-Tafakkur.
Position of Faith in the Prophets mission
The struggles of Prophet Mohammed s.a.w in propagating Islam for 23 years in Makkah and Madinah successfully perfected the Islamic Syariah wihout missing out on a single point. The perfection of Islam is manifested in the following verse of the al-Quran:
Today We perfected your Religion and We bless Islam as your religion...
However, it took Prophet Mohammed s.a.w. 13 years to strengthen the aqidah of the ummah and to enhance Faith (Iman) among the followers in Makkah. It took another 10 years to do so in Madinah. This reflects the importance of Faith and how we should give priority to defend Faith. Once the issue of Faith is settled, it does not mean that the struggle to strengthen aqidah and Faith can stop. In fact, it should continue alongside efforts to teach and strengthen knowledge of fiqh (jurisdiction) among the ummah. This is because the acceptance of basic jurisprudence lies in the individuals FAITH.
Faith and tawheed that need to be defended are not merely tawheedic information. On the contrary, they refer to the total immersion of tawheed itself. An-Nursi explains two aspects of tawheed: First is Tawhid Aammiy, that is, when a person states: Allah has no association by partners, the whole universe is for Him, but this statement can still be forsaken and given way to disbelief in the heart of the proclaimer. Second, is Tawhid Haqiqi, when someone states that Allah is Lord and Sustainer of the universe in all matters of creation, planning and controlling, that is, the Creator; that for everything, the signs of the Lord, Sustainer and Creator are in every being. It is manifested in the whole universe, and his Lordship is omnipresent -- hudhur (reality); it is not possible for tawheed such as this to be affected by disbelief and confusion.
Therefore, the knowledge of Usul Fiqh--which is a method of formulating Islamic lawsplaces knowledge (ilmu kalam) or aqidah or tawheed as the foundation of knowledge discourses, because laws discussed and referred henceforth are from the zat that must be respected, that is, Allah s.w.t.
Although interpretation of the al-Quran is very closely associated to language, literature and rhetorical discourses of the Quranic language, an-Nursi maintained his emphasis on faith as his main focus of attention. So much so, when this interpretation is translated into the Turkish language and thereafter into a number of other languages, it maintained the originality of the premise used in the discourse, that is, Faith.
In his introductory remarks about Isyaraatul Ijaz, Prof Muhsin Abdel Hamid stated: An-Nursis efforts did not focus on the Arabic language when he interpreted the al-Quran in Rasael an Nur. In fact, he dwelled deep into the meanings of each verse of the al-Quran. His intention was to explain the meaning as understood in the mind or in the logic of the specific verses about Islamic aqidah and its relationship with the realities of existence.
Faith: A Source of Strength and Success
Faith (Iman) is the determinant of mans success in the hereafter. Without faith one cannot enter Allahs Paradise. The al-Quran frequently allude to Faith. Good deeds of the faithful (amal soleh) can only be practised through faith. If a man places deeds of the heart and body above everything else (that is, tasauf), without the support of aqidah and faith, they are still rejected.
In this case, an-Nursi stated: Tasauf and tariqat are fardhu kifayah whereas syariat is a core responsibility and ainiy which must be fulfilled by every Muslim. This principle is also at the core of an-Nursis teachings. An-Nursi was confident that if every tarikat founder is alive today (example, al-Imam al-Ghazali, Sheikh Abdel Qader al-Jailani, and al-Naqsyabandi), and they were to witness what the Islamic world is like now, he is certain that none of them would be found at their places of uzlah. On the contrary, they would go all out to defend the syariat and mobilise every force available to fight kufur.
An Nursi also said: "I also believe that if Sheikh Abdul Qadir al-Jailani, al-Imam an-Naqsyabandiy and the other ulama of old are still with us today, they would join forces to defend the Islamic faith and aqidah because eternal happiness can only be attained through iman and aqidah, whereas the ills of faith may also result in eternal ills".
An-Nursi also advised that paradise cannot be entered without iman (faith), but many can enter it without tasauf and tariqat. He likened the Islamic faith to bread and rice which are staple foods, whereas tasauf is akin to fruits whch are supplementary foods. Life becomes difficult to continue without staple foods but possible to survive without supplementary food.
What do we achieve from Risalah?
Members of the Kelab al-Quran al-Karim use the Risalah to generate discussion and critical thinking. We also explore the inherent messages behind each interpretation of the al-Quran. In general, when we have finished reading and discussing the following books--al-Iman watakamulul Insan, al-ikhlas dan al-Ukhuwah, Murshid Ahlil Quran dan Anwar al-Haqiqahwe can sense that the Risalah has consistently attempted to restore our faith (iman) and aqidah, and to strengthen it. It teaches us the principles of a struggle. It also teaches us that the Syariat, which is the al-Quran dan Sunnah, is something that should be defended.
Risalah has reminded us of the concept of brotherhood among fellow beings. It discards boundaries, be they geographical, national, state, regional, ethnic and/or family ties. The mission of Iman (faith) is to make us more concerned and empathetic to each others destiny in the Hereafter. Here, the Risalah touches on the concept of Syafaqah, whereby every Muslim should be sympathetic not only to other Muslims but also to the non-Muslims who have not had the benefit of hidayah and hence exposed to the torments of hell. It is on this measure that we Muslims should continue actively and tirelessly with our mission to spread Islam, to be continuously engaged in discussion and explanation about Islam so that the whole world will revert to the true human disposition -- fitrah (Islam). This is the manifestation of Allahs name al-Rahim.
The following are some feedback from several members of the Kelab al-Quran regarding the Risalah:
Although our study sessions normally last about 90 minutes per week but we would always carry this burden of guilt if we were to miss even a single class.
When members of Kelab Al-Quran were first introduced to Risalah I Nur and Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, no one seemed to have heard of either name. However, thanks to our able Ustaz (who keeps reminding us that he should not be singled out as being the scholar of Risalah I Nur) we began to explore Said Nursis brilliant mastery of the Al-Quran and Sunnah.
Said Nursis very pragmatic approach to Islam and Iman makes it very compelling to the ummah of today -- the majority of whom do not understand the Quran and Hadith, do not care to make time for the Quran and Hadith, and are all the time distracted by worldly possessions and the trivialities of 20th _ 21st century living.
In the context of Malaysia, Rasael An-Nur was selected as our text of tarbiyyah primarily for the following reasons:
1- An-Nursi is a mujaddid who is the closest to our period. He was the most well-known mujaddid of late in the Muslim World.
2- An-Nursi never asked to be made the focus of discussion. On the contrary, he considered himself a student of Rasael An-Nur. In this regard, we can feel his presence in An-Nursi when trying to understand the present day problems of Iman.
3- An-Nursi paved the way of peace for all, non-Muslims and Muslims. This is most relevant for the diverse, multireligious, multicultural, multiethnic environment and heterogeneous population in Malaysia.
4- Issues relevant to Islam in Malaysia are touched upon in Rasael An-Nur without any evidence of discrimination; this makes the Risalah easily acceptable by all.
5- An-Nursi is a direct descendant of Rasulullah s.a.w. This strikes a chord among Malaysian Muslims who deeply love the ahlul Bait.
6- In Malaysia, the physical development of Islam in the field of education, law and jurisprudence, banking, and infrastructure development is very apparent compared with other Muslim nations. However, the people are still searching for the true spiritual development that can fill the incessant vacuum created directly or indirectly by the rapid physical growth of the countrys socio-economic development. In Turkey, the students of Rasael An-Nur have proven that spiritual development can be nurtured through Rasael An-Nur despite the secular constraints. We need to emulate this exemplary model in order to build our inner strength and overcome our weaknesses via Rasael An-Nur.
Said Nursi knew his audience too well and was able to offer relevant examples to approach the challenges and problems of Islam and Iman. One may be living in Istanbul or Russia or Kuala Lumpur or even in New York City, but the challenges to our Iman are undoubtedly the same for Muslims.
Said Nursi therefore keeps reminding each one that we would become most gullible to the enemies of Islam and succumb to our worldly and selfish needs if we do not give emphasis and priority to Allah.
Among many things, Rasael An-Nur emphasised that:
- Allah creates something every second of the day, and something perishes every second of the day; This temporal existence of Man seems to be elusive, as though man is born to live forever. Whereas, Said Nursi keeps reminding us that our existence on this earth is only temporary; that we are in transit to a more permanent abode, a different dimension of life.
Life is like being a traveller. When it is time to move on, we leave our homes and move from one destination to another. Therefore we should not be overcome by grief if we experience death in the family and bid farewell with those whom we love dearly.
Living on this Earth is like crossing a very busy highway. Therefore we need to be highly cautious, lest we ignore the dangers and be hit by the fast moving vehicles; as Allahs vicegerant on earth we should therefore learn to be responsible Muslims and not deviate from the straight path.
Every Muslim should have a mission in life, hence the questions:
(1) How do we utilise the worldly belongings entrusted to us by
(2) How do we utilise the time given to us in this life?
(3) How do we make use of the knowledge blessed upon us?
(4) Are our worldly belongings, our age and our knowledge, utilised in the pursuit of Allahs Mercy, or His Wrath?
Every good Muslim should always remember that Allah is al-Baqi (Everlasting), and all the 99 names in Asma ul Husna. We are therefore reminded to repeat the syahadah; constantly seek His forgiveness (istighfar); be convinced of His Power, and to remember that Allah does not break His promises!
When we receive His blessings, give away half of the material things to others who are in more need of them.
Be consistent in doing good and carry out our ibadah in the best possible way! However, each time we do good deeds, do not expect to reap the rewards on this Earth.
Be sincere in our ibadah and remember that a man who has Iman (mukmin) does not tell lies.
SUNNAH, SYARIAH, IKHLAS would collapse in the heart of someone who is doubtful. To purify the heart, one must always remember Allah, zikrullah, give alms and be generous especially to the poor and needy.
Do not give emphasis on worldly needs, but at the same time do not emphasise on wahdatul wujud until it is regarded as the absolute truth.
Many of the gems found in the words of Rasael An Nur are thought provoking and can sometimes be confusing to the uninitiated. However, given a more open mind and with some hidayah from Allah, we can hopefully break the shell of ignorance and become worthy students of Rasael An Nur, insyaAllah.
Right now, we are still trying to understand this statement of Said Nursi:
We think that we exist but in reality we do not exist!
وصلى الله على سيدنا ومولانا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين
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