Necessity and Evidences of the Revealed Books in Sa’id al-Nursi’s Rasa’il al-Nur: Some Reflections*
In this brief paper, we will illustrate some of the significant thoughts of Syaikh Sa’id al-Nursi with regard to the belief in messengers and revelations. The correlation between previous messengers and revelations can be seen in the correlation form with the finality of the Prophetic Muhammad (SAW) message and its Qur’anic mu’jizah (miracle).
Evidences of Messengers and Revealed Books
Syaikh Sa’id al-Nursi explains that the innermost essence of life symbolically proves the pillar of belief in the prophets send by the Almighty God to mankind. The cosmos was created for the sake of life, and life is in turn becomes one of the supreme manifestations of the Living, Self-Subsistent and Eternal One. It is one of His most perfect designs, one of His most beauteous arts. Further, the eternal life of God shows itself only through the sending of messengers and the revelation books. Here, Syaikh al-Nursi stresses the point if there were no books and prophets, than eternal life would remain unknown. He further illustrates that when a man speaks, he is recognized to be alive. Similarly, it is the prophets and revealed books that make manifest the words and decrees of the Being Who, from behind the world of the unseen (al-ghaybiyyat). The method of Allah informing human beings the truthfulness of the Messengers through signs which infringe the law of nature is like the method of informing them of His Divinity through signs which signify on it. (Badi’uzzaman al-Nursi, The Fruits of belief, pp. 256-258)
Significant of the Revelations
Syaikh al-Nursi illustrates the poignant point that all the revelations are manifestation from the One All-Knowing of the Unseen, a testimony to His existence and unity which is recognised far stronger than testimony of the present universe and created beings. In addition to this reality, Syaikh al-Nursi also stresses the fact that these revelations have been proclaimed in a consensus among 1,000 prophets through evidences and miracles contained in the sacred books and heavenly pages (perhaps it is meant as the Divinely Scrolls), which are the guides and examples of the overwhelming majority of humanity. (Badi’uzzaman al-Nursi, al-Lawami’, p.83)
Further, Syaikh al-Nursi views that the truth of revelation proclaims the five sacred truths as following: First: Speaking in accordance with men’s intellects and understanding which is known as “Divine condescension to the minds of men”; Second: The One Who is to make Himself known, fills the cosmos with His miraculous creations and endows them with tongues speaking of His perfections will necessary make Himself known to His own words. Third: It is a function of His Being the Creator to respond in words to the supplication and offering of thanks that are made by the most selected, the most needy, the most delicate and the most ardent among His beings, namely, the man; Fourth: The attribute of Speech, an essential concomitant and luminous manifestation of both Knowledge and Life, will necessarily be found in a comprehensive and eternal form in the being whose Knowledge is comprehensive and Whose Life is eternal; Five: It is a consequences of Divinity that the Being Who endows men with desire, poverty and need, anxiety for future, love and worship, should communicate His own existence through His speech to His most loved and lovable, His most anxious and needy creatures who are most desirous of finding their Lord and Master. ( Badu’uzzaman al-Nursi, The Rays/The Supreme Sign, p.148).
So, as Syaikh al-Nursi explains on the importance of God’s messengers and divine scriptures, refers to the a particular verse in the Qur’an: “And who believe in the revelation sent to thee (O Prophet), as well as in that which was bestowed before thy time; for it is they who (in their innermost hearts) are certain of the life to come. It is they who follow the Guidance (which comes) from their Sustainer and it is they who shall attain to a happy state.” (Surah al-Baqarah: 4-5). Muhammad Asad, the famous writer and thinker, elaborates this verse to the significant of the doctrine of the historical continuity of Divine Revelation. The Qur’an teaches us as continuity, organic process. (Hussain Abbara, 2008: 401). Of all those Prophets and Messengers none except Prophet Muhammad (SAW) brought the message of the Unity of Divinity (Tawhid or the Oneness of Allah) at a time when religions became devoid of Tawhid, although all the Prophets and Messengers too, were basically Muwahhidun (Unitarians) and preached the Oneness of Allah. The Prophet came as the Final Messenger and as the Final Prophet to reform the doctrine of Tawhid preached by his predecessors.
Supremacy of the Qur’an over the Previous Revealed Books
Syaikh al-Nursi views the importance of giving two comparisons as an illustration on the supremacy of the Qur’an to the revealed books as well as its supremacy over all speech and writings. Let us ponder the following examples: A king has two forms of speech and two forms of address. He is to speak on his private telephone with his common subject concerning some minor thing which is essentially a private matter. The other one is related to sublime sovereignty, supra vicegerent and universal ruler. As a ruler, he has to speak to his envoy or other higher official for the purpose of making known and promulgating his commands, to make an utterance through an elevated decree proclaiming his majesty. The other example is that one man holds the mirror which he is holding up to the sun. He receives light containing the seven colours according to the capacity of mirror. He becomes connected to the sun in which through that relation and converses with it. Supposedly, he directs the light-filled mirror towards his dark house or his garden covered by a roof, naturally he would benefit, not in relation to the sun’s value, but rather the capacity of the mirror. In this connection, the Qur’an says: “And If all the trees on earth were pens and the Ocean (were ink) , with Seven Oceans behind it to add to its supply, yet would not the Words of God be exhausted (in the writing). For God is in exalted in power, full of Wisdom.” (Surah Luqman: 27).
Clearly, Syaikh al-Nursi argues further that the Qur’an has been given the highest rank among the infinite God words because the Qur’an has come from the greatest Divine Name. It is God’s word in respect of His being Sustainer for the world, and also His decree through His title of God for all Being. He is the creator of the heavens and the earth. In his exposition on the uniqueness of the Qur’an, briefly it can be illustrated as following: “….The Qur’an is the interpreter on the book of the unseen (‘alam al-ghyb) and the physical world (‘alam al-shahadah), the unvealing of the treasure of spiritual of His names which are concealed between the earth and the throne, the opener of the realities which are concealed in the happenstances, the sun of the spiritual world for Islam and its principles, it is the map for the otherworld, the interpreted words, the clear exegete, the decisive prove and the capable translator for the Essence of Allah and His attributes, Names and Things, it is the educator for this universe, the water and radiance of Islam for the greater humanity.” ( Badi’uzzaman al-Nursi, al-Mu’jizat al-Qur’aniyyah, 2009:5).
Syakh Sa’id al-Nursi postulates the subject of ‘ijaz al-Qur’an (miracle of the Qur’an) and the true word of God (al-kalam al-muwahiyy) in a beautiful exposition. He gives four points to illustrate his arguments: First: The Qur’anic miracle is indeed the greatest prove of Sayyidina Muhammad’s (SAW) prophecy (nubuwwah) and perfection of his knowledge; Second, the Qur’an in this world brought about in so luminous and truthful, a revolution in the social life of man, and more significant revolutions in the souls, hearts, spirits and intellects of men. For the last fourteen centuries at every moment, the Qur’an with six thousand, six hundred and sixty –six verses have been read by more than a hundred million men. Such a book is of a certainty unparalleled. Certainly, the Qur’an is a wonder, a marvel and a miracle; Third; The Qur’an, from that age down to the present has demonstrated such eloquence that it caused the value attached to the odes known al-Sab’u al-Mu’allaqat (Seven Hanging Poems) that were written in the gold on the wall of Ka’bah to descend to such a point that the daughter of Labid when taking down her father’s poem from the Ka’ba said: Compared with verses of the Qur’an, this no longer has any value.”; Every century sees the Qur’an enjoying a new youth, as if it were addressing that century in particular. Scholars of every branch of discipline see the Qur’an maintains the originality of its style and manner of explanation. (al-Mu’jizat al-Qur’aniyyah, 2009: 14)
Syaikh al-Nursi explains the importance of rethoric (al-balaghah) in the life of Arab before and after the coming of Islam. The Arabs were known as the protector of the excellent speech in the form of poem (shi’r) even though they were illiterate (ummiyyun). So, they considered speech as the most valuble thing in their life and they transmitted from one generation to another. If the witchcraft (al-shir) became the tangible practices in the times of Sayyidina Musa (a.s) and Sayyidina ‘Isa (a.s), then the Quran was revealed by Allah (SWT) in its unique form (‘ijaz) to the Meccan people in the time of the rhetoric speech (balagaht al-kalam) achieved its highest influence. The Qur’an challenged the Arab poets such as Imar’ul Qays, Labid, ‘Antarah, etc, to come up the shortest sentence which exemplified the shortest surah in the Qur’an. The Qur’an affirms: “And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Surah like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (if there are any) besides God, if your (doubts) are true.” (Surah al-Baqarah: 23). (al-Mu’jizat al-Qur’aniyya, 2009: 10).
The supremacy of the Qur’an as a prophetic miracle has been shared some other contemporary Muslim scholars such as Wahiduddin Khan. He gives three reasons why the Qur’an is a genuine miracle: a) The language of the Qur’an – Arabic – has, unlike other international languages , remained form of communication over the ages; b) The Qur’an is unique among divine scriptures. Its text has remained intact in the original form; c) the Qur’an challenged its doubters to produce a book like it. No one has been able to take this challenge, and produce anything comparable to the Book of God. (Wahiduddin Khan, The Qur’an – An Abiding Reminder, New Delhi, 2000, pp.56). The famous historian Gibbon admits that “The creed of Muhammad is free from suspicious of ambiguity, and the Qur’an is the glorious testimony to the Unity of God.” (Quoted in Hussain M.Abbara, The Straight Path, Vol.1, 2008:238).
From the above discussion, we can understand that Syaikh al-Nursi’s thought in Risalah al-Nur has prompted us to study more about God’s Essence and Attributes in the Qur’an as the genuine practical action and action in our daily life as a committed Muslim. His emphasis on the importance of tawhid as brought by all messengers sent by Allah (SWT), and in particular the message of tawhid carried out by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) need to be studied in a serious manner. The Qur’anic approach on tawhid and the stories of God’s creation of this universe and his vicegerent is indeed fresh forever.
*This paper presented for the International Symposium on the 50th Anniversary of Shaikh Badi’uzzaman al-Nursi, Konya, Turkey, 5th-6th, June, 2010.
**Muhammad Nur Manuty
Senior Academic Fellow, International Islamic University College of Selangor Malaysia (KUIS)
Deputy President WADAH