(Introduction to the first edition edited by Iḥsān Qāsim al-Ṣāliḥī, published in Baghdad: Dār al-Anbār, 1989.)
All praise be to Allah, the Lord and Sustainer of all the worlds, and blessings and peace be upon Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah, to whom the Qur’an was revealed, the Seal of the Prophets and Messengers, and upon his family and companions and those who came after them, till the end of time.
Virtually all those who have studied the circumstances of the Muslims in recent centuries agree that Ustad Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was an Islamic figure of great stature, of strong faith and complete sincerity; a person of great dignity who was cognizant of divine unity and its truths; one of the most distinguished men of his time, vastly knowledgeable, of penetrating thought, and a steadfast and perceptive caller to Allah’s way. From his youth he took it on himself to find solutions for the afflictions suffered by the Muslims, and passed his life tirelessly striving to expound the teachings of Islam and explain its beliefs and doctrines. Similarly, he refuted invalid thought and those inconsistent philosophies that denied Islam and schemed against it due to the inability of Muslims to withstand the stormy intellectual onslaughts to which it had been exposed since the beginning of the 14th century of the Hijra; indeed, since before that.
Nursi indeed undertook a difficult task and his reward is with Allah the Most High alone, Who sees His righteous servants and faithful friends and the scholars who strive in His way and are true to His covenant, and fear not the criticisms of their accusers.
This present book is truly of high worth, firmly founded and containing unshakeable proofs. It demonstrates clearly the extraordinary power and effectiveness of Ustad Nursi and contains many examples of the precise and subtle meanings to be found in all his writings, and of his specialist knowledge. This genius and talent were given to him by the Most High so that by means of them and his knowledge, and profound intuitive understanding, and appropriate rational method he might penetrate His Word and discover the truth, and assist others in gaining complete certainty concerning the Qur’an’s miraculousness. Just as before him the learned scholars and men of eloquence had understood the importance of belief and that the Qur’an is the True Scripture revealed by the One All-Knowing of thetheory of its word-order; it was to penetrate into the meanings of the verses. For he wanted to expound them in detail in the light of reason in order to set forth the main beliefs of Islam and demonstrate their relations with the truths of existence.
It is quite obvious to anyone who studies this book and its arrangement that Nursi wanted to write a complete commentary of this sort. If he had been destined to do this, he would have produced a comprehensive commentary treating both rhetoric and eloquence and laying emphasis on reason, and this would have been fit to be his life-work. Certainly, it would have run to many volumes if he had continued to follow a method similar to that which we see here.
Allah the Most High, however, appointed for him something better than that; something higher and greater: to present the Qur’an to Muslims without distracting them with questions of rhetoric and the aspect of its miraculousness that pertains to its words. For the difficulties of the times prevented investigation of its finer questions, which could be understood only by a very few scholars. If it had been otherwise, the great majority of Muslims would have been unable to benefit from his unique talents and unrivalled zeal and faith. And then they would have been unequal to the awesome ongoing struggle of civilization and ideas, despite the attacks of atheistic materialism, which was bit by bit infiltrating the life of Islam, and in many Muslim countries the politics, economics, society, culture, and science, and their proponents.
Consequently, Nursi did not continue after this volume; the circumstances of the time and place thrust him into the thick of the fight, but with a new persona, called the New Said, the mark of which was calmness, gradualness, and holding out a constructive approach, and affecting the minds and hearts of Muslims without emotionalism, noisy agitation, confusion, confrontation, or striving for dominance. For the situation of Islam at the present time does not support such things; it does not have the power to face its powerful enemies, both external and internal.
With its decisive clarity, brilliant learned sedateness, highly pleasurable manner of expression, and cogent rational proofs, the Risale-i Nur replaces the former works the purpose of which was to prove aspects of the Qur’an’s miraculousness pertaining to its words, rhetoric, and reason in the light of its word-order. For now the Qur’an’s enemies are not qualified to challenge its eloquence or dispute its properties related to its inimitability, or suras, verses, and words. So they have concentrated on launching a general assault on the foundations of belief and the principles of the Shari‘a, and have attempted to shatter the moral order that the Qur’an brought.
Ustad Nursi perceived the tremendous changes brought about by the new struggle and he faced them with the truths of the Qur’an, which he presented in the light of natural, rational logic and the sciences of his time.
Nursi was able to prove the Qur’an’s miraculous nature on the basis of the completed section of his commentary comprising this present work, and to demonstrate to his readers and students that it is easy to adhere to his rational, learned, pleasurable way. He saw that it was appropriate and sufficient, so he dedicated the rest of his life to the most pressing question, that of saving the belief of Muslims at the time of an awesome worldwide struggle. As a result he wrote more than ten books and numerous treatises, which represented a new way, in order to inflict intellectual defeat on the atheistic enemies of Islam and those pursuing Westernization.
It would be an injustice to the present work to suggest that it contains nothing of the method Ustad Nursi developed for the new struggle; indeed, I can claim here from what I have learnt about his thought through reading his works of the later period, that there is no idea that he expounds, explains, and expands in those works but it is found in concise and essential form, or is elaborated, in this learned and substantial book, especially his presenting the fundamental Islamic beliefs in a contemporary scientific style. However in this book he was addressing his select students, combining the terminology of classical kalām and the beginnings of his new method, which found its definitive form in the Risale-i Nur.
Perhaps it was because it is a true commentary on the Qur’an that the Risale-i Nur was given this name, and in truth Nursi persisted in expounding the Qur’an and teaching its verses to Muslims until the final moments of his life, so full of tribulations and sorrows, and knowledge and learning and calling others to adhere to Allah’s Book and the Sunna of His Prophet (Upon whom be blessings and peace).
The publication of this book in new form offers a fresh analysis of rhetoric and eloquence to those concerned with the critical study of contemporary works on the Qur’an’s miraculousness, inimitability, and eloquence – especially scholarly circles. They will find expositions of the beliefs of Islam that utilize logical reasoning, augmented by the profound rational and scholarly discussions that Ustad Nursi appends to his analyses of the first part of Sura al-Baqara. (...)
(Prof.) Muhsin ‘Abdulhamid,
Faculty of Education, University of Baghdad
THE QUR’ANIC commentary Signs of Miraculousness (Ishārāt al-I‘jāz) was written on the front in the first year of the Great War when no books or sources were available. Apart from the War, there were four reasons for its being written extremely concisely. Sūra al-Fātiḥa and the first half are more concise and succinct.
Firstly: The time did not permit elucidation; the Old Said expressed what he intended succinctly and briefly.
Secondly: He had in mind his students’ level of comprehension, and they were highly intelligent; he did not give thought to others understanding it.
Thirdly: Because he was expounding the miraculousness of the Qur’an’s word-order, which is of the greatest conciseness and subtlety, the Old Said wrote briefly and to the point. But I have reread it now with the New Said’s eyes: in truth, notwithstanding all the Old Said’s faults, with its elevated discussions this work is a masterpiece. Since when he wrote it he was in a constant state of readiness to fall in battle; and since his intention was pure and he wrote it in conformity with the rules of rhetoric and the sciences of Arabic, I now have been unable to refute any part of it. If Allah so wishes, He will accept the work as atonement for the Old Said’s sins and will raise up people who will understand it completely.
If obstacles had not arisen such as the First War, and other fascicles and letters had included other exegetical truths similar to the miraculousness of the Qur’an’s word-order – one aspect of its miraculousness – which is expounded in this first volume, a fine comprehensive commentary would have been produced on the Qur’an of Miraculous Exposition. Perhaps in the future, taking this partial commentary and the sixty-six, rather, one hundred and thirty parts of The Words (Sözler) and Letters (Mektûbat) as its source, a fortunate committee will write such a commentary, God willing.
The Author’s Note to the Turkish Edition (1955) Edit
EXPLAINED below in three points are the reasons many minor points about the relations between the words in the light of the science of rhetoric, which will not be comprehensible and profitable for many people, are mentioned in this commentary interspersed among the detailed explanations of the twelve verses about dissemblers and two verses about unbelievers, while in the rest of the verses the nature of disbelief and the doubts clung on to by the dissemblers are touched on only briefly; and why the elucidation of the subtle indications and allusions of the Qur’an’s words is emphasized.
First Point: Inspired by the Qur’anic teachings, the Old Said perceived that something would emerge at this time similar to the obdurate, unlettered unbelievers of the early years of Islam and the dissembling members of former religions, and he expounded the verses about the dissemblers in explanatory and detailed fashion. But so as not to cloud the readers’ minds, he mentioned only briefly without explaining them the nature of their way and its bases. In any event, contrary to other ‘ulama, it is the way of the Risale-i Nur not to mention the doubts of opponents lest they taint the readers’ minds, and to give such answers that no place remains for suspicion or doubts. Like in the Risale-i Nur, so as not to confuse the readers’ minds, the Old Said only gave importance in this commentary to the indications and allusions of the words in respect of eloquence.
Second Point: Since the Qur’an’s letters are so valuable that the reading of a single letter may yield ten, a hundred, a thousand, or thousands of merits and everlasting fruits of the hereafter, certainly the Old Said’s expounding in this commentary points as fine as a hair or an atom related to the Qur’an’s words, is not wastefulness or irrelevant, but as valuable as the lashes are to the eye and atoms are to the eye’s pupil. He must have felt this, for the enemy’s bullets in the skirmishing lines in that terrible war did not confuse him or make him abandon his writing and thinking.
Third Point: The Turkish translation of the author’s brother, Abdül-mecid has not preserved the fluency, eloquence, and extraordinary value of the Arabic, and it is also sometimes abbreviated. I had therefore intended not to publish part of the lengthy discussion about the dissemblers. But since it is about the Qur’an, and even an atom about the Qur’an has high value, it will perhaps be useful for some people. God willing, if no obstacles arise, the Arabic commentary will be published following this translation and will complete its deficiencies. Moreover, there are some wonderful instances of ‘coincidences’ in the Arabic, in which human will has not intervened. So as far as it is possible the attempt should be made to produce it similarly to that printed copy, so that those wonders, a sign of its acceptance, are not lost.
Statement of Purpose Edit
THE QUR’AN OF MIGHTY STATURE is an all-embracing divine speech and universal dominical address delivered from the Sublime Throne that addresses all the classes, nations, and members of mankind in every age. So also, and especially at this time, does it encompass many sciences and branches of learning related to the physical aspects of the world, knowledge of which is beyond the capacity of a single individual or small group. Therefore, a commentary issuing from the understanding and imaginative power of a single individual, the scope of whose comprehension is very narrow with regard to time, place, and specialization, cannot truly expound the Qur’an. For an individual cannot be acquainted with and be an expert in all the exact sciences and the branches of knowledge concerned with the spiritual and material states of nations and peoples, all of whom the Qur’an addresses. And he cannot be free of bias towards his own profession and discipline that he might explicate the truths of the Qur’an impartially. Also, a person’s understanding is peculiar to him and he may not call on others to accept it – unless it be affirmed by a consensus of some sort. And his findings and judgements related to actions are binding only on himself and no one else, again unless approved by a consensus.
In consequence of this, a commentary should be written after minute studies and researches by an elevated committee of authoritative scholars each of whom is a specialist in a number of sciences, proving the Qur’an’s subtle meanings and its fine points to be found scattered through other commentaries, and its truths, which become manifest in time due to the discoveries of science. Just as its legal ordinances have to be ordered and regulated, not according to the thought of a single individual, but by such a committee after being scrutinized and studied minutely by it. Thus, gaining the trust and confidence of the mass of the people, the committee will implicitly assume responsibility for them and be an authoritative source for the Muslim community.
Indeed, one who expounds the Qur’an should possess high intelligence, penetrating independent judgement, and a high degree of sainthood. But in these times in particular, such conditions can be met only by the brilliant
collective personality born of the co-operation of an elevated, esteemed committee and the uniting of the minds of its members, of their assistance for one another and harmony of spirit, and of their freedom of thought, and, being free of bias, of their complete sincerity. Only a collective personality such as this can expound the Qur’an. For in accordance with the rule, ‘What is not found in the parts is present in the whole,’ conditions like these which are not to be found in every individual are present in the group.
While awaiting, as I had for many years, the appearance of such a committee, I had a premonition that we were on the eve of a terrible earthquake that would lay waste the country.1 And so, in accordance with the rule, ‘It is not permissible to abandon a thing completely even if it is not wholly obtained,’ despite my impotence, faults, and difficult style of writing, I started to set down on my own some of the Qur’an’s truths and some indications of the miraculousness of its word-order. Then, on the Great War breaking out I found myself in the mountains and valleys of Erzurum and Pasinler. Whenever the opportunity arose while I was performing the duty of jihad in the midst of those tumultuous conditions, I used to write what occurred to my heart in phrases that did not always match one another. Since it was not possible to have any books or commentaries to refer to, what I wrote consisted only of what occurred to my heart. If these inspirations of mine are appropriate for a commentary, light of lights; if they contain contradictory aspects, these can be referred to my own defects. Certainly, there are places in need of correction, but since it was written with complete sincerity in the front lines of war among the slain, like it is not permissible to change the clothes and wash off blood of martyrs, I could not permit the ripped phrases in which it was clothed to be changed; my heart would not consent to it. And now it does not consent to it, for now at this time, I cannot find that utter sincerity and purity of heart.
Furthermore, I did not write this work of mine, called Signs of Miraculousness (Ishārāt al-I‘jāz), with the intention of its being a true commentary; only, in the event of its being well received, I wrote it as a model and source for a commentary to be written in the future, that treated a few aspects of Qur’anic exegesis. My eagerness drove me to what was beyond my power; if it is found acceptable it will give me the courage to continue.2
THE QUR’AN is the pre-eternal translator of the mighty book of the universe; the post-eternal interpreter of the various tongues reciting the verses of creation; the commentator of the book of the Worlds of the Seen and the Unseen; the revealer of the treasuries of the divine names hidden in the heavens and on the earth; the key to the truths concealed beneath the lines of events; the tongue of the Unseen World in the Manifest World; the treasury of the post-eternal favours of the Most Merciful and of the pre-eternal addresses of that Most Holy One, that come from the World of the Unseen beyond the veil of this Manifest World; it is the sun, foundation, and plan of the spiritual world of Islam; the sacred map of the worlds of the hereafter; the expounding word, lucid exposition, decisive proof, and clear interpreter of the divine essence, attributes, names, and functions; it is the instructor of the world of humanity; the light and water of Islam, the macroanthropos; the true wisdom of mankind; and the true guide and leader urging humanity to prosperity and happiness; it is both a book of law, and a book of prayer, and a book of wisdom, and a book of worship, and a book of command and summons, and a book of invocation, and a book of thought; it is a unique, comprehensive sacred book comprising many books to which recourse may be had for the needs of all mankind; it is a revealed scripture resembling a sacred library that offers treatises suitable for all the various ways and different paths of the all the saints and the veracious ones and the wise and the learned, which is appropriate for the illuminations of each way and enlightens it, and is suitable for the course of each path and depicts it.
Since the Qur’an has come from the Sublime Throne and the greatest name, and from the highest degree of each name, it is Allah’s Word in regard to His being Lord and Sustainer (Rabb) of all the worlds; it is a divine decree through His title of God of All Beings; it is an address in the name of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth; it is a conversation in respect of absolute dominicality (rubûbiyet); it is a pre-eternal discourse on account of universal divine sovereignty; it is a notebook of the favours of the Most Merciful from the point of view of all-embracing, all-