Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:
… Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? …And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well…
(quoted in Gospels of Matthew & Luke)
This beautiful prophetic advice reminds of the Qur’anic call to recognize our value as God’s creatures, and our incredible mission in life: to discover, adore and worship the Merciful Sustainer. May our Friday be blessed with awareness of our real purpose in life! May our interaction with the world, including food and clothing, be in God’s name. That is, let’s look at the creatures as mirrors and signs revealing the Creator’s greatness, inshallah! May we live up to the incredible honor of being a conscious guest of the Eternal One!
All human virtues [kamalāt al-insāniyya] and high aspirations of humankind are tied to oneness of God [tawḥīd] and are realized through the secret of unity [waḥda]. Otherwise, if there is no unity, human being becomes the most unfortunate of all creation, and lowliest of all beings. Without tawhid, human being turns into the most helpless animal and the most gloomy and depressed of all conscious beings. For, human beings have a very interesting nature. We are utterly weak and yet have endless challenges. We are so limited in our resources and yet have innumerable needs. Moreover, human nature is equipped with so many and various capacities and feelings that we can experience thousands of different kinds of sadness, and can enjoy and desire thousands of different kinds of pleasures. And, human being has such aspirations and yearnings that only someone who has disposal over entire universe can fulfill them. Hence, only through the secret of tawhid, which connects him to the One who has control over everything, that human being can be fulfilled and perfected…
O human being! Your service and effort, and your worship will not be wasted. An abode of reward and happiness has been prepared for you. In place of this passing world, an eternal Paradise awaits you. Believe and trust in the promise of the Glorious Creator … It is impossible that He would break His promise. He has no reason whatsoever to turn back on His promise. He has no shortcoming in His power whatsoever. Just as He created your small backyard, He can create– and has created– Paradise for you. He promised Paradise to you, and of course He shall take you in.
Look: we see before our very eyes how each spring millions of species are resurrected with utter order and balance, so easily and so quickly. Surely, the Powerful Glorious One who accomplishes this can keep His promise.
اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لّا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ، خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ، وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ، أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرٍّ مَا صَنَعْتُ، أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ، وَأَبُوءُ بِذَنْبِي فَاغْفِر لِي فَإِنَّهُ لَا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ
“O God, You are my Rabb [Sustainer], none deserves to be worshipped but You. You have created me and I am your servant and I am faithful to your covenant and promise as best as I can. I seek refuge in You from all the evil I have done. I acknowledge Your favor upon me and I acknowledge my sin, so forgive me, for verily no one can forgive sins except You.”
This powerful prayer is known as sayyidul istighfar [Chief of asking for forgiveness.] It has been taught to us by the beloved messenger Muhammad (peace be upon) who explained its significance as follows:
“If a believer says this with complete faith and sincerity in the morning and dies before that evening, he will enter paradise. And if he says it during the night and dies before the sun rises, he will enter paradise.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 75, Number 318]
This prayer reveals a truthful understanding of who we are. We are creatures, completely dependent on our Sustainer. The blessings we are gifted reflect our Sustainer’s majesty and mercy. Our shortcomings and yearning for perfection is a means for recognizing His perfection…May we all have a beautiful Friday soaked in the secret of asking for forgiveness (istighfar). Amen.
In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate
Know, then, [O human being,] that there is no deity save God. (Q. 47:19)
“I swear by the One in whose hands is Muhammad’s being…” (an oath used by the Prophet, mentioned in various authentic hadiths)
When the Messenger of God, peace be upon him, used to make an oath so as to emphasize a point, he repeatedly and most frequently used the phrase: “[I swear] by the One in whose hands is Muhammad’s being.” … This oath of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is very meaningful. It is an incredible and comprehensive expression of the oneness [tawhid] of “sustainership” [rubūbiyya]. Here we shall briefly present just three of the very lovely, precious and bright ‘fruits’ of the truth of tawhid…
First Fruit: Tawhid Reveals the Divine Beauty and Perfection
Divine beauty and perfection are revealed through oneness (tawhid) and unity (wahda). If there is no unity, then the eternal treasure becomes hidden.
Indeed, only tawhid discloses the limitless beauty and perfection of God, the endless splendor of the Sustainer, the incredible gifts of the Merciful, and the infinite beauty of the Unique One [kamal al-jamal al-samadaniyya] on whom everyone depends. For, tawhid is like a focal point that combines various reflections of beautiful names of God [asma al ḥusna] that shine on the ‘faces’ of particular creatures.
For instance, let us look at the particular event of creation of milk. A helpless and unaware infant receives what he needs in the form of pure and wholesome milk. And this milk is sent from an unexpected place, amidst blood and excrement. When you look at this particular event from the perspective of tawhid, it will suddenly connect with a comprehensive and universal reality: the utterly wonderful and compassionate feeding of all infants and all the mothers being made to care about and serve these infants. Perceiving this universal context enables you to perceive the eternal beauty of the mercy of the Compassionate One [Rahman] with all its brightness. If you were to look at the same event without the perspective of tawhid, that incredible beauty would become hidden. And, that particular event would be explained away by invoking natural causes and chance. [In other words, since these unconscious causes, such as hormones and brain, are incapable of having mercy and purpose, you will disregard the incredible mercy and purposefulness manifested in each case.] The event will thus completely lose its value. In fact, its reality will be completely distorted.
Another example is being healed from a serious illness. If you look at it from the
perspective of tawhid, you will suddenly see how it is part of a bigger reality that encompasses the entire earth. You will notice all those who are being healed throughout the earth, with the remedies and medicines extracted from the “pharmacy” of the world. Thus, the beautiful compassion of the Absolutely Merciful One [Raḥīm al-muṭlaq] and the beauty of Divine mercy become visible with its splendor and comprehensiveness. In contrast, if you do not look at that particular instance of someone getting well from the perspective of tawhid, you will overlook that it is created knowingly, intentionally, and with wisdom. Instead, you will explain away that particular instance of healing by referring to the lifeless medicines and to the blind and unconscious nature. You will thus distort its reality, wisdom and value…
-Excerpted from, Said Nursi, Rays, Second Ray.
When we look at things that seem to be causes and effects in the universe, we realize that the most elevated cause is incapable of creating the most ordinary effect. This means that natural causes are a veil, and something else behind the scenes makes the effects. To take only a small example out of innumerable creatures, let us consider the faculty of memory. Our faculty of memory is associated with a small part within the brain. We see that the memory is like a comprehensive book, or even a library, containing incredible information about human life with amazing precision. Indeed, our power of memory is a miracle…
Now, what is the cause of this miraculous work? Is it the grey matter of the brain? Can the simple unconscious particles of its cells be the genuine causes of this? Or is it mere chance and coincidence that produces this incredible faculty of memory? No, rather, that miracle of art can only be the work of an All-Wise Maker…
Indeed, since they are comparable to human faculty of memory, consider also all eggs, seeds, and grains [where vast information is stored with incredible precision]. Then, to these small and comprehensive miracles compare other events in nature… Whichever effect and creature you look at, it contains such wonderful art that not only its common, simple cause, but if all causes were to gather, they would not be able to create such effects.
O People! A parable is set forth [herewith]; hearken, then, to it! Behold, those beings whom you invoke instead of God cannot create [as much as] a fly, even were they to join all their forces to that end! (Q. 22:73)
Surah Yasin, Chapter 36 of the Quran, after invoking the wisdom of the Quran (v.2), starts to talk about the messengers of God, first about the messengers in a broad sense (verses 3-13), and then about the story of three messengers sent to a town (14-30).
Messengers of God are a blessing, they reveal the presence of our Creator to us and lead us to a path of dignity. Isn’t it amazing that the verse emphasize that the messengers are sent from Aziz and Rahim, two beautiful names of God (v.5). Rahim means the Merciful One, and Aziz comes from the same root of izzah, dignity. The prophets are sent from the source of dignity, power and mercy! In their call, we are invited to a dignified life. How so? For, while we are vulnerable creatures fully dependent on the Creator, admitting this is not at all humiliating. For, by heeding the prophets, and recognizing our Creator, we find a genuine refuge for our needs, a source of mercy, which liberates us from worshiping mere creatures like ourselves. Belief is dignifying to human being.
When we think of the messengers mentioned in the Quran, we immediately think of selected human beings who have conveyed Divine messages to people in different times and places of history, including Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, the last messenger sent to all humanity with an ever-fresh call till the end of time. Such understanding is of course true. But why not also think of messengers of God in another sense as well? After all, the Quran uses the term “aya” in two senses: (1) as messages of God brought by prophets in history and (2) anything in the heavens and the earth that point to God. So we can read the term messenger not only in the sense of actual historical figures but also as signs in the world that we encounter throughout our life journey. Needless to say, without messengers in the first sense, we could not quite decipher the messengers in the second sense.
With such a more comprehensive understanding of messengers, I can take the message of the Quran as directly speaking to me. The messenger sent to me personally is Prophet Muhammad (who of course affirms all the previous prophets), who discloses to me all the other personal messengers that I encounter in my unique life journey as an individual creature of God.
With this understanding, let us look at verse 6. This verse notes that the prophet is sent so that he may “warn people whose forefathers had not been warned, and who therefore are unaware.” Elsewhere, the Almighty says that people resisted the messengers with the excuse that they have never heard that from their forefathers such messages. (See Quran, 23:24, 28:36, 38:7, etc. ) Until recently, I used to think that this verse refers exclusively to the final prophet, Prophet Muhammad, and to his immediate pagan community. As a result, I used to feel “well, I do not come from a pagan family, so this verse does not quite apply to me.”
In contrast, when I see the messages and messengers of God in a broader sense, then I can appreciate that we do each have personal signs sent to us. Each of us encounter a specific constellation of events, people and other creatures, this is no chance at all. Rather, all are calling us to our Creator in a way that best fits our needs and circumstances. And, I should be receptive to what these messengers are saying, instead of being heedless to them, living through my life steeped in ghaflah or in forgetfulness.
Thus, when the Quran refers to ”forefathers who have not been warned before”, I may understand that my unwarned forefathers are my past moments spent unaware. The reference to the prophet being sent to such people translates into the fact that I may be awakened to a sign of God, after having missed it for so long beforehand. Just because I was unaware beforehand does not mean that I should resist the messengers whom I see now. In reality, many of us resist positive changes in our lives simply because we find it unattractive to admit that what we have done so far was wrong. The verse is saying to me that while we may now see that what we have done in the past was misguided, we should not misdirect such regret.
Why let remorse become an obstacle to transformation here & now?
Whenever you encounter the boat of dignity and mercy, you may just board on!
Why dwell in the past and allow it to block you from getting on board?
Are you not aware that God has made subservient to you all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth, and has lavished upon you His blessings, both outward and inward? (Q. 31:20)
The various realms of existence and species surround human being and with wisdom they hasten to meet all human needs with superb order and support. This fact must be result of either one of the following two situations.
(1) Either each realm of beings in the universe itself knows human being, and obeys him, rushes to help him. This explanation is completely irrational and is also impossible in many respects. For an utterly vulnerable being, like human being, has to possess the power of the mightiest absolute sovereign to make all of the universe come to his aid.
(2) Or this assistance occurs through the knowledge of an Absolutely Powerful One behind the scenes of the universe. That is to say, it is not that the different beings in the universe know human being, but that they are the evidences of a Knowing, Compassionate One being acquainted with him and knowing him and employing these things for him…
(Excerpted from Flashes by Said Nursi)
Belief makes you a real human being. Indeed, it makes you a very noble one, like a king. Therefore, a human being’s real aspiration is belief and prayer…
There are many evidences for the truth that real humanity is attained only through belief. A clear and decisive evidence lies in the difference between the way human beings and animals come into the world. When an animal comes into the world, it comes with perfected abilities for its life. It is as though it has developed its capacities in another world, before arriving here. For, an animal quickly learns the necessities of its life within a couple of hours, days or months. In a very short period of time, it becomes appropriately oriented to its environment and starts functioning efficiently. Thus, for instance, a sparrow or bee acquires control of its life and learns the necessary skills for its duties within twenty days, while it would take a human being twenty years to get to a similar level of command over his life.
This fact shows that the real task of an animal is not to improve itself by learning more, nor is it to grow by acquiring knowledge, or to pray and worship by disclosing its vulnerability and weakness. Rather, the purpose of an animal is to work according to its abilities. It is to perform a particular function, and thus offer worship through action (‘ubūdiyya fi’liyyah).
In contrast, when a human being comes to the world, he is in need of learning everything and is completely ignorant about the rules of life, so much so that even within twenty years he is not completely done with learning about life. Indeed, his need to learn is not quenched until the end of his life. A human being is born in such a weak and needy condition that even learning to walk takes a year or two. Only around the age of fifteen, he is able to discern between harm and benefit more clearly, and only with the help of social support he is able to manage in life, attaining his needs and avoiding dangers.
All these facts about human development show that human nature is wired for growth through learning, and worship through asking for help. In other words, human nature calls for learning about matters such as “Through whose mercy am I being taken care of so wisely? How am I being nourished so delicately? Whose favors am I receiving?” Through realizing the answers to these questions, the mission of the human being is to turn to the One Who Fulfills All Needs (Qaḍi al-hājāt) with the disposition of his vulnerability, weakness and need.
O human being who is in love with the fleeting world, in forgetfulness of the Eternal One! Know that your world is actually a narrow grave, even though you imagine it to be spacious. The walls of your small space are made up of glass, and you get deluded with the mirror effect: the glass walls reflect on each other and you think your small space is as big as a city. That is, your past and your future reflect within each other and your present moment seems spacious to you. In reality, you only have a fleeting present at hand, and both past and future are nonexistent. You confuse reality with imagination, and assume that a nonexistent world is present with you.
Indeed, this illusion is similar to seeing a two dimensional thing, such as a line, as three dimensional, like a surface, because of its fast movement. The reality of your existence is as thin as a line and your world is so narrow. And yet, because of your illusion, forgetfulness, and imagination your world seems vast to you, and the walls of your place seem to be far out there. In reality, if you were to wiggle a bit within your narrow place -which happens when a calamity hits you in life-, then you will immediately hit the wall that seemed so far away. That is, the calamities wake you up and do away with your illusion. Then, you see that your vast world is in fact as tight as a tomb, and narrow like a slim bridge. Your lifespan passes in lightening speed, and your life flows faster than a river.
Now, if the life of this world, and the physical and animal life is such, then you come out of the animal level. Give up being stuck in corporeality, enter into the higher level of the heart and the spirit. You shall find a life much more spacious than the vast world you used to imagine. You will find a realm of light. The key to that world is in tawhid: in “there is no god except God.” This phrase contains the secrets of knowledge of God (ma’rifatullah) and oneness of God (waḥdaniyya). Let your heart speak with it and let your spirit flourish with it.
When people are not aware of the sun, they adore the mirrors on which the sun reflects. That is silly! They eagerly try to protect the mirror, so that they don’t lose their sun in the mirror. Only when they realize that the real sun is out there, and does not vanish when their mirror breaks, they start loving the real sun. Their love turns completely toward the sun out there in the sky. They realize that the sun does not depend on the mirror. Rather, the sunshine in the mirror depends on the sun in the sky. The mirror is enlightened and shines because of the sun, not vice versa.
O human being! Your heart and nature is like a mirror. Your intense and innate love for eternity is not meant for the mirror, i.e. your heart and nature. Rather, that innate love is for the reflection of the Eternal and Majestic One, which shines upon the mirror of your heart to the extent of its capacity. It is because of a silly confusion that the love originally meant for the One got misdirected toward your own self. Now is the time to correct that mistake. Turn to Him and say, O the Eternal One, You are Eternal (Ya Baqī anta al-Baqī)! That is, since You exist and You are eternal, we do not worry at all about separation and nonexistence!*
All that lives on earth or in the heavens is bound to pass away: but forever will abide thy Sustainer’s Self, full of majesty and glory. (Quran 55:56-57)
*Excerpted from Said Nursi, Flashes, 17th Flash.
La sharīka lahu: He has no partner.
This Qur’anic phrase means not only that God has no partner in His sovereignty, but also that God has no partner in His sustaining, governance and creating. Contrast this with a situation where there is one sovereign and many governors. For instance, a human king may have no partner with him on the throne, and can be the one and only sovereign of a country. Yet, in the actual ruling of the kingdom, the king will have partners: governors and employees who are his helpers. These partners will not allow everyone to walk in before the king; instead they will demand that the petitioner speaks to them. In contrast, the Pre-Eternal and Post-Eternal King, God, does not have any partner neither in His sovereignty nor in His governance and sustaining of creation. He is in need of no helper in any context, and nothing can happen or influence anything without His direct command and power. Hence, everything and anyone can directly turn to Him. Since he has no partner or helper, no one can stop anyone from having direct recourse to God; anyone can speak to God at any time.
Thus, this phrase he has no partner, gives the following good news:
A believing human spirit can go before the pre-eternal and post-eternal at any moment and occasion without any obstacle, block or intermediary, at any time and place! The human spirit can directly turn and offer its petition to the Beautiful One with Glory and the Powerful One with Perfection, who owns all the treasures of mercy and happiness. Discovering His mercy and relying on His power, the spirit will find utter relief and joy!
And, [as you have been shown in your vision,] thus will your Sustainer elect you, and will impart unto you some understanding of the inner meaning of happenings…Verily, your Sustainer is all-knowing, wise!
Qur’an, Chapter 12 Yusuf/Joseph, v. 6
Things do not just happen. They also mean. They also signify. Indeed, things do not ever just happen. Rather, they are always brought into existence by the One who is all-knowing and all-wise. They are bridges of meaning, connecting the finite to the Eternal.
Just as Joseph (peace be upon him) was elected and taught to interpret the meaning of events, we can also be. After all, we each have been “dignified” as a child of Adam, before whom angels prostrated. (Q. 17:70) We will all be “elected” as a follower of Abraham, if we surrender and prostrate before the Sovereign of the Universe. (Q. 2:78)
Are you willing to see your vision, like Prophet Joseph? Are you willing to read the profound signs all around you, like Prophet Muhammad who received the call to “read in the name of Thy Sustainer”?
Let us all intend to seek and receive Divine guidance, and see the world anew shining with profound meanings, inshallah!
~ These are some of the gems from the treasure of Qur’anic Joseph story!
O human being! Your Wise Creator [Faṭir al-ḥakīm] has placed a very interesting feature in you. Sometimes, you feel so tight that the earth feels small for you. At other times, you inhabit a tiny space: you get lost in a memory, a moment, or a task. Your heart and mind, which does not fit the vast earth, gets consumed within that tiny thing. You focus with strongest feelings on a tiny memory or a recollection.
At the same time, you are also gifted with such spiritual and emotional faculties that some of them will not be satisfied even if they get the entire universe. And, you have other delicate senses that get burdened by a tiny thing. This spiritual complexity can be understood with the following metaphor from your physical body: your head can carry pounds of weight while your eyeballs will be burdened by tiny bit of hair. Similarly, you have some very delicate feelings that will not bear the weight of a ‘hair’, so to speak. That is, we have such delicate feelings cannot bear the smallest consequences of forgetfulness of God and misguidance. They can even choke and die at those situations.
Since this is so, be careful. Do not get drowned in a bit of pleasure, in an utterance, in a flash of light, in an indication or a kiss. You are made for much more…*
“and when I have formed him [Adam] fully and breathed into him of My spirit…”
[*Excerpted from Said Nursi, Flashes, 17th Flash, 14th point.]
As human beings we all share same fundamental human needs –for love, security, freedom, dignity and so on. And, our life journey consists of seeking a way of fulfilling these needs. While we may often be unaware, our needs and their fulfillment process enables us to encounter our Creator, with variety of His beautiful names, asma al-ḥusna…
A common temptation occurs to all of us repeatedly is to think that our needs are a liability and we are all left to our limited devices to fulfill these profound human needs. As scriptures teach us, this is the same temptation that occurred to our primordial ancestors, to Adam and Eve. They thought at first that they had a need that was “out of God’s plan.” The Quran notes that their need is eternity: they want to live forever and they believe Satan who swears to them that they will get to it if only they would eat from the forbidden fruit!
In other words, instead of embracing such needs and utilizing those needs for a deeper connection with their Creator, Adam and Eve were tempted to think that such need is ‘somehow illegitimate before their Creator.’ They mistakenly thought that their wish to live eternally, must be fulfilled outside of their connection with God. And since there is nothing ‘outside’ of God’s mercy, such attempt only revealed their complete ‘nakedness’ to them. Their first response was to reach out for leaves to cover themselves up. Don’t we also have our “leaf-stitching” attempts in our lives to cover up our intense neediness as human beings? Adam and Eve’s breakthrough came when they realized the real source of all support and power is God, and turned to their Sustainer in honesty and surrender…
Eid Mubarak! May your Eid be full of the joy of remembrance!
Ramadan was a window, opening us up to awareness of our reality, and to thereby feel the incredible presence of our Sustainer. May Eid be a climax of this awareness in joy, inshallah!
Let us intend in this Eid to remember the Merciful Giver of blessings, from air to water, to food to friendship, as we celebrate! Let us praise and glorify the One who sustains our weak existence, which became clearer to us during Ramadan! Let us be soaked in the beauty of gratitude to our Maker. Let us feel the special compliment to each of us, present in our every moment: our existence is a gift! It is a specially intended result by our Maker; each of us are unique guests of the Generous Host!
Each of us are intentional guests sustained each moment? Yes! That is billions and billions of people, currently and throughout the ages! What kind of a Creator is this, giving life to so many people, plants, animals, and sustaining each at every second? Blows your mind? Well, say allahu akbar! That is why allahu akbar “God is great” is a common invocation during Eid! Open up your heart & mind, and enjoy glorifying your Maker!
May this Eid be full of remembrance, gratitude and praise! May we all feel the joy of being created, being addressed and cared by the Merciful and Powerful One! May this joy spread to the rest of the year inshallah!
Receiving Nur Team
And I have not created the jinns and human beings to any end other than that they may [know and] worship Me. (Qur’an, 51:56)
Why are we here on earth? To worship God, says the Qur’an.
This is a profound response that is worthy of exploring.
What is meant by worship? Are we supposed to live in the mosque, or a monastery?
Who is God really?
And how come my purpose and fulfillment is tied to worshipping and adoring God?
What if I decline this purpose, what are the consequences?
Read more @ Journey to the Divine
The Eid of Sacrifice is drawing closer…May we all have a blessed eid full of peaceful surrender like Abraham and Ishmael!
Here is an insightful piece on Abraham’s sacrifice and its implications for our spiritual journeys:
WELCOMING EID WITH ABRAHAM (AS)
Laying Down Illusions Under the Knife of Mercy: Following Prophet Abraham and Ishmael
The story of Prophet Abraham attempting to sacrifice narrated in the Quran is worth reflecting on especially during this season of pilgrimage and Eid of Sacrifice.
Prophet Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son is narrated in Sura 37 right after the brief mention of how Abraham (peace be on him) challenged idol worship among his people, and his angry interlocutors decided to throw him into a blazing fire (Q. 37:83-98). The text alludes to his being saved from the fire, his migration for God and then moves right onto the sacrifice story….
Read more at Welcoming Eid with Abraham
Belief is both light and power. Indeed, a person who has attained to genuine belief can even challenge the entire universe and be saved from the pressures of world events and vicissitudes, in accordance with the degree of his faith. Saying, “I placed my trust in God,” he journeys with perfect ease and peace in the ship of life, sailing amidst the immense waves of events. He places all his burdens onto the powerful hand of the Absolute Powerful One and passes with ease from the world and rests in the Intermediate World (barzakh). Then, he flies into paradise to enjoy unending happiness. In contrast, if he does not trust in God, instead of flying, he gravitates down to the lowest of the low with the burdens of the world.
Indeed, genuine belief requires belief in the One, (tawḥid), which necessitates surrender (islam), and surrender requires trust (tawakkul), and trust, in turn, yields happiness in this world and in the next. Now, do not misunderstand putting trust in God. Trusting God does not mean giving up recourse to apparent causes. Rather, it means that you do work with apparent causes with the understanding that these causes are merely veils to God’s power. In other words, entrusting your affairs to God means that you have recourse to apparent causes as a form of prayer through action (du‘a fi‘liyya). As a result, you expect and acknowledge the results as coming from God only, and offer thanks to Him alone.
Let us offer a parable to clarify the difference between the one who puts his trust in God and the one who does not. Once upon a time, two men with heavy loads on their back purchased their tickets and got on a big ship. One of them released all his burdens on the deck as soon as he entered the ship, and sat on top of them to look after them. The other man, who was both foolish and arrogant, kept his loads on his back, and on his head, and refused to put them on the floor. People said to him, “Just put your heavy burden down, and be at ease.” He replied, “No way! I will not put it down! It may get damaged. I am strong; I will keep my belongings on me.” People said again: “Listen, this strong ship is carrying all of us and our loads, including you and your luggage. The ship is much stronger than you are, and can preserve your load. If you keep your burdens on, you will get tired and weak, and perhaps you will even get dizzy and fall into the sea. Your back is bending, and your head is getting heavy; you will not be able to continue with your burdens on you for long; you will collapse. And if the captain of the ship sees you, he will either think you are insane and disqualify you from being on the ship, or he will think you are viciously belittling the ship, and he will order punishment for you. And see how ridiculous you look in front of everyone. After all, any careful person can see the weakness within your pretension of strength, your neediness within your arrogance…Everyone can see it. Look, everyone is laughing at you…” When he heard all this, the man came to his senses. He put down his load, and said “Thank you so much! I am saved from all the trouble, as well as punishment and ridicule!”
O human being who does not put his trust in God! Come to your senses like this man in the story, and trust God! And, you will be saved from begging before the entire universe, trembling with fear before all events and challenges, and from conceitedness. You will be saved from ridicule, from the pressures of a constrained life in the world and from the pains of afterlife!
When blessings come to you through “apparent causes,” do not receive them in the name of those apparent causes, rather be aware of the Real Cause of that blessing…
If the apparent cause associated with that blessing does not have free will, like a tree giving fruit or a bee offering honey, it directly gives in God’s name anyway. For, it says bismillah, “in God’s name” through its very actions… Hence, you also take it in God’s name, saying bismillah.
Now, if a blessing comes to you and the apparent cause of it is a conscious being with free will, then take it only if the person says or acts with bismillah, or in God’s name. That is, you should only receive the benefit of a blessing in God’s name, which means that you attribute the blessing to God. If the person who is associated with giving you the blessing is not giving in God’s name, then do not take it. For, the Quran states, “and, do not eat of that over which God’s name has not been pronounced,” (Quran, 6:121) which implies that one should not accept a gift that does not remind one of the Real Giver, and is not given in His name.
In sum, both the one who gives a gift and the one who takes should invoke God’s name. If a person is not giving in God’s name and yet you are in need of what he is offering, then at very least you take in God’s name. Say, bismillah, and recognize the mercy of God as the real giver above that person, and take the blessing with gratitude to God. That is, take a moment to acknowledge the kindness [in‘am] present within that gift. As you notice acts of kindness and giving, be aware of the Real Giver who is the real agent behind them. [Mun’im al- Haqiqi] Such awareness itself is a kind of gratitude to the Giver. Then, pray for the person who was the means through which God’s gift reached you…
~Said Nursi, Flashes, 17th Flash.
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
God is the ally of those who believe, He brings them out of depths of darkness into light. (Q. 2:257)
Just as belief is a light that falls on the human being and reveals the beautiful messages from the Besought One [Samad] inscribed on him, it also enlightens the universe. Belief saves the past and future from darkness. The following Qur’anic verse guides us toward this meaning: God is the ally of those who believe, He brings them out of depths of darkness into light. (Q. 2:257). Through a parable, let us explain some of the profound wisdom contained in this verse and let us show how belief (iman) indeed takes us from a dark universe into one filled with light.
I imagine two high mountains standing across from one another and that there is an astonishing bridge connecting the two, with an incredibly deep river running underneath the bridge. I am standing on that bridge, and the entire world around me is shrouded in darkness. I look to my right, and it seems as if I see an enormous cemetery within the depths of darkness. And then I look to my left, and it seems that huge storms, hurricanes and troubles are building up within the darkness. I look below the bridge, and it looks like there is a huge abyss underneath. In the midst of all this scary darkness, all I have is a flashlight. When I turn it on and look around, the situation becomes even worse: I now see terrible monsters, lions, and dragons all around the bridge. I exclaim,, “I wish I did not have this torch and did not see all this terrifying stuff!” Wherever I direct my flashlight, I see more horrors. I say to myself, “this flashlight is trouble!”
I become so angry at the torch that I smash it on the ground. As soon as I break it, it is as if I turned on a light switch for the entire world: all the darkness disappears. Everything fills up with light, which reveals the truth of everything around me. I realize that what seemed to be a bridge over an abyss was actually a smooth road on a valley. What I thought was a huge cemetery on my right side turns out to be a beautiful green garden in which meaningful and happy gatherings of worship and service are held under the leadership of wonderful people. On my left, what I thought to be stormy and scary abysses and heights turn out to be incredible banquets and beautiful scenery vaguely visible behind lovely and impressive mountains. And, I realize that what seemed to be terrifying monsters around the bridge are actually domesticated familiar animals such as cows, sheep, goats, and so on. I say, “thanks and praise is due to God for the light of belief.” I recite the Quranic passage God is the ally of those who believe: He brings them out of the depths of darkness and into the light (Q. 2:257) and wake up from this vision.
Now, the two mountains in the vision symbolize the start and the end of life, one being the entrance to this world and the other being the entrance into the intermediate realm (barzakh). The right side in the parable is the past, and the left side corresponds to the future. The flashlight symbolizes the arrogant human ego, which rejects the heavenly message and pretends to know the truth on its own. And, what seemed to be monsters in the vision are the events and strange creatures of the world. The person who puts his trust in his ego and falls into the darkness of heedlessness and misguidance is represented by my first situation in the vision. The flashlight represents his lacking information tainted with his misguided approach, which shows the past as a big cemetery plunged in the darkness of non-existence. It is this flashlight that shows the future as tumultuous and scary, as subject to tortures of blind chance. Moreover, it depicts the events and beings that are under the direction of a Merciful and Wise One as harmful monsters. Hence, the person experiences the situation noted in the verse: as for the disbelievers, their allies are false gods who take them from light to the depths of darkness. (Q. 2:257)
When God’s guidance comes and belief enters into the heart, the arrogance of the soul is broken, and we heed the book of God. Then, my second state in the above vision comes about. The entire universe lights up, being filled with the light of God. The world recites the Qur’anic passage, God is the light of the heavens and the earth (Quran, 24:35). This light reveals that the past is not a huge cemetery plunged in non-existence. Rather, the heart now perceives that the past is where pure spirits of all eras are each gathered under the guidance of a prophet or a friend of God, having completed their life mission. They then ascend into high stations and pass onto the future, glorifying God. When the person looks to the left, he sees with the light of belief from afar that beyond the major transformations of the grave and the afterlife there are wonderful feasts of the Compassionate set up in palaces of joy. The person knows that everything, including events such as storms, earthquakes, and disease, is subservient to God’s wisdom.. It becomes evident that many events outwardly harsh are actually inwardly full of subtle wisdom. The person even realizes that death is good; death is the beginning of an eternal life and the grave is the gate to eternal happiness. (You decipher the remaining symbols from the parable and apply it to reality).
[Excerpted from Said Nursi on Belief and Human Nature, from Words, “23rd Word,” 2nd Point]
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Indeed, We have created the human being in the most excellent of patterns, * Then sent him down to the lowest of the low, * Except those who believe and do good deeds.
Quran, 95: 4-6.
This verse presents belief as marking the distinction between the highest and lowest stations of human existence, between the most excellent pattern and the lowest of the low. Let us explore how the above Qur’anic verse is not an exaggeration but a truthful exposition of how belief elevates human being and how disbelief disgraces him.
With the light of belief, the human being ascends to the highest of the high and acquires a value that makes him worthy of Paradise. In contrast, with the darkness of unbelief, he falls down to the lowest of the low, to a Hell-like state. For, belief is connection: belief connects the human being to his Glorious Maker. Indeed, the human being is a work of art that is full of inscriptions of the Beautiful Names of God. Through belief, all this divine artistry on him becomes visible. As a result, human being acquires great value in relation to that great art.
In contrast, disbelief severs such a connection to the Glorious Maker, and the Divine artistry in the human being becomes hidden. As a result, the value of the human being is reduced to the value of his physical being or flesh. As is well-known, in regards to physicality, it consists merely of animal life, which is passing, vanishing and temporary. Hence, the value of the human being is reduced to nothing of lasting value.
Let us clarify this subtle point, i.e. how belief contributes to the worth of a human being, with a metaphor from everyday life. Let us take the case of a work of art, say a painting, and think about the value of the material used for the art and how much the art itself is worth. Sometimes they are of the same value, sometimes the material used in the art is more valuable than the artistry itself, and sometimes a very cheap material worth five cents carries incredible art worth thousands of dollars. Indeed, it happens that sometimes an antique work that is worth a million dollars is made from a material that is not even worth five cents. Now think of such an antique work of art: if it is taken to a high antique market and its relationship to a wonderful famous classical artist is disclosed, the item will be appraised for a very high price. On the other hand, if you took the very same antique work to scrap-dealers, it would be sold only for couple of cents for the material it is made from.
Now, the human being is such an antique work of art of Almighty God. Indeed, the human being is a subtle and fine miracle of Divine power because he or she has been created as a recipient of all of the manifestations of God’s various Beautiful Names. Indeed, the human being has been adorned with all the inscriptions pointing to God’s beautiful attributes; he has been created as a micro sample of the entire universe.
When the light of belief enters into the human being, then all the meaningful inscriptions of the Beautiful Names inscribed on him become eligible with that light. As a believer, he will read them himself consciously, and through the connection of belief, he will allow others to read these inscriptions on him pointing to the Beautiful Names of God. That is, for instance, he shall convey meanings such as “I am the art and creature of the Glorious Artist…I am showered with His mercy and generosity…” Thus, all the artistic touches on him will become revealed through the connection of belief. Given such art of the Sustainer and given that he is a mirror to the One Besought [Samad], the value of the human being will be extremely high. Thus, with this connection, an insignificant human being acquires a value above all creatures, and becomes an honored addressee of God and a guest of the Sustainer on earth. He attains a Paradise-like state.
On the other hand, if disbelief, which disconnects and cuts off such relation, enters into human being, then all the meaningful inscriptions and adornments of the Beautiful Names of God fall into darkness and become invisible. For, if you forget the Artist, then the spiritual aspects disclosing the Artist become incomprehensible. Most of the elevated artistry and meaningful fine artwork becomes hidden. The remaining artistry that is less subtle and that pertains to the flesh also dissipates because it is explained away by referring to lowly apparent causes, to nature, and blind chance. While each adornment is like a diamond, each becomes reduced to dull pieces of glass. The value of the human being is thus reduced to his animal “material”, i.e. flesh. This yields only a limited and passing life of the most wretched, most vulnerable and most miserable animal, after which human being passes away and decays . See how disbelief destroys human nature and transforms it from diamonds into coal. See how the above Qur’anic verse is not an exaggeration but a truthful exposition of how belief elevates human being and how disbelief disgraces him.
[Excerpted from Said Nursi on Belief and Human Nature, from Words, “23rd Word.”]