RNK:HUTBE-İ ŞAMİYE : الخطبة الشامي . THE DAMASCUS SERMON
From the Risale-i Nur Collection
THE DAMASCUS SERMON
by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
Translated from the Turkish ‘Hutbe-i Şâmiye’
by Şükran Vahide, Staff-writer of Nur-The Light
Who was Bediuzzaman Said Nursi and what is the Risale-i Nur?
Publisher’s Preface to the Damascus Sermon
Introduction to the Turkish Translation of the Original Arabic Damascus Sermon
The Damascus Sermon
First Addendum-First Part
First Addendum-Second Part
First Addendum-Third Part[This part of the Addendum consists of newspaper articles written by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi forty-two years ago.]
Long Live the Illustrious Shari‘a! Volkan No: 73
Long Live the Illustrious Shari‘a! Volkan No: 73
Reality Volkan No: 70
The Voice of Truth. Volkan No: 86
To Dispel Any Fears. Volkan No: 90
Letter to Dervish Vahdeti. Volkan No: 105
Address to Our Heroic Soldiers. Volkan No: 107
Address to the Army Volkan No: 110
An Important Warning to the Societies and Clubs
Second Addendum - First Part - Seeds of Reality
Second Addendum - Second Par t- An Allusion of Sura al-Ikhlas
A Letter: The Qur’anic principles to save awakened mankind
Who was Bediuzzaman Said Nursi and what is the Risale-i Nur? Edit
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was born in eastern Turkey in 1877 and died in 1960 at the age of eighty-three after a life of exemplary struggle and self-sacrifice in the cause of Islam. He was a scholar of the highest standing having studied not only all the traditional religious sciences but also modern science and had earned the name Bediuzzaman, Wonder of the Age, in his youth as a result of his outstanding ability and learning.
Bediuzzaman’s life-time spanned the final decades of the Caliphate and Ottoman Empire, its collapse and dismemberment after the First World War, and, after its formation in 1923, the first thirty-seven years of the Republic, of which the years up to 1950 are famous for the government’s repressive anti-Islamic and anti-religious policies.
Until the years following the First World War, Bediuzzaman’s struggles in the cause of Islam had been active and in the public domain. He had not only taught many students and had engaged in debate and discussion with leading scholars from all over the Islamic world, but he had also commanded and led in person a volunteer regiment against the invading Russians in eastern Turkey in 1914 for nearly two years until taken prisoner. Furthermore, up to that time he had sought to further the interests of Islam by actively engaging in public life. However, the years that saw the transition from empire to republic also saw the transition from the ‘Old Said’ to the ‘New Said’. The ‘New Said’ was characterized by his withdrawal from public life and concentration on study, prayer and thought, for what was required now was a struggle of a different sort.
Although he had paid no part in it, and in fact had strongly advised its leaders to abandon their uprising against the government, during the events in eastern Turkey of 1925, Bediuzzaman was sent into exile in western Anatolia. Following this, for the next twenty-five years, and to a lesser extent for the last ten years of his life, he suffered nothing but exile, imprisonment, harassment and persecution by the authorities. But these years of exile and isolation saw the writing of the Risale-i Nur, the Treatise of Light, and its dissemination throughout Turkey. To quote Bediuzzaman himself, “Now I see clearly that most of my life has been directed in such a way, outside my own free-will, ability, comprehension and foresight, that it might produce these treatises to serve the cause of the Qur’an. It is as if all my life as a scholar has been spent in preliminaries to these writings, which demonstrate the miraculousness of the Qur’an.”
Bediuzzaman understood an essential cause of the decline of the Islamic world to be the weakening of its very foundations, that is, a weakening of belief in the basic tenets of the Islamic faith. This, together with the unprecedented attacks on those foundations in the 19th and 20th centuries carried out by materialists, atheists and others in the name of science and progress, led him to realize that the urgent and overriding need was to strengthen, and even to save, belief. What was needed was to expend all efforts to reconstruct the edifice of Islam from its foundations, belief, and to answer at that level those attacks with a ‘non-physical jihad’ or ‘jihad of the word.’
Thus, in his exile, Bediuzzaman wrote a body of work, the Risale-i Nur, that would explain and expound the basic tenets of belief, the truths of the Qur’an, to modern man. His method was to analyse both belief and unbelief and to demonstrate through clearly reasoned arguments that not only is it possible, by following the method of the Qur’an, to prove rationally all the truths of belief, such as God’s existence and unity, prophethood, and bodily resurrection, but also that these truths are the only rational explanation of existence, man and the universe.
Bediuzzaman thus demonstrated in the form of easily understood stories, comparisons, explanations, and reasoned proofs that, rather than the truths of religion being incompatible with the findings of modern science, the materialist interpretation of those findings is irrational and absurd. Indeed, Bediuzzaman proved in the Risale-i Nur that science’s breathtaking discoveries of the universe’s functioning corroborate and reinforce the truths of religion.
The importance of the Risale-i Nur cannot be over-estimated, for through it Bediuzzaman Said Nursi played a major role in preserving and revitalizing the Islamic faith in Turkey in the very darkest days of her history. And indeed its role has continued to increase in importance to the present day. But further to this, the Risale-i Nur is uniquely fitted to address not only all Muslims but indeed all mankind for several reasons. Firstly it is written in accordance with modern man’s mentality, a mentality that, whether Muslim or not, has been deeply imbued by materialist philosophy: it specifically answers all the questions, doubts and confusions that this causes. It answers too all the ‘why’s’ that mark the questioning mind of modern man.
Also, it explains the most profound matters of belief, which formerly only advanced scholars studied in detail, in such a way that everyone, even those to whom the subject is new, may understand and gain something without it causing any difficulties or harm.
A further reason is that in explaining the true nature and purpose of man and the universe, the Risale-i Nur shows that true happiness is only to be found in belief and knowledge of God, both in this world and the hereafter. And it also points out the grievous pain and unhappiness that unbelief causes man’s spirit and conscience, which generally the misguided attempt to block out through heedlessness and escapism, so that anyone with any sense may take refuge in belief.
The Holy Qur’an addresses the intellect as well as man’s other inner faculties. It directs man to consider the universe and its functioning in order to learn its true nature and purposes as the creation and thus to learn the attributes of its Single Creator and his own duties as a creature. This, then, is the method that Bediuzzaman employed in the Risale-i Nur. He explained the true nature of the universe as signs of its Creator and demonstrated through clear arguments that when it is read as such all the fundamentals of belief may be proved rationally.
When this method is followed, a person attains a true belief that will be sound and firm enough to withstand any doubts that may arise in the face of the subtle attacks of Materialism, Naturalism and atheism, or the materialist approach to scientific advances. For all scientific and technological advances are merely the uncovering of the workings of the cosmos. When the cosmos is seen to be a vast and infinitely complex and meaningful unified book describing its Single Author, rather than causing doubt and bewilderment, all these discoveries and advances reinforce belief, they deepen and expand it.
Man’s most fundamental need is the need for religion, the need to recognize and worship Almighty God with all His Most Beautiful Names and attributes, and to obey His laws; those manifest in the universe and those revealed through His prophets. In explaining the message of the Qur’an, Almighty God’s final Revealed Book, brought and perfectly expounded by His final Prophet, Muhammad (Upon whom be blessings and peace), and Islam, the complete and perfected religion for mankind, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi demonstrated in the Risale-i Nur that there is no contradiction or dichotomy between science and religion; rather, true progress and happiness for mankind can, and will, only be achieved in this way, the way of the Qur’an.
Publisher’s Preface to the Damascus Sermon Edit
While visiting Damascus in early 1911, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was invited by the religious authorities there to give a sermon in the historic Umayyad Mosque. On their insistence he agreed, and delivered a sermon to a gathering of close on ten thousand, including one hundred scholars. It met with such a response that the text was afterwards printed twice in one week.
In this sermon, Bediuzzaman gave certain news that in the future Islam and the truths of the Qur’an would prevail, and he provided clear proofs that this would occur. Not only did he demonstrate how the Islamic world could heal itself through taking the medicines of the Qur’an, but he also pointed out a number of developments in the West, among them the stirrings of a genuine search for the truth, that indicated to a forthcoming acceptance of Islam. With extraordinary foresight, Bediuzzaman predicted that, as all the evidence suggested, Islam would in the near future gain ascendancy. However, the two World Wars and a period of despotism both in Turkey and elsewhere in the Islamic world, which he had not foreseen, delayed matters. That is to say, as the developments of which he gave news in 1911 slowly unfold, this sermon,
together with its diagnosis of some of the fundamental ills afflicting the Islamic world and the remedies from the Holy Qur’an that it points out, continues to be of the greatest relevance for Muslims of the present day.
As Bediuzzaman Said Nursi demonstrates, since Islam relies on reason and reasoned proof, it is the religion of the present and the future, for this is the age of science, technology and reason. This fact is being understood now by many who realize that they cannot live without a true and complete religion. The causes for the decline of the Islamic world and its material backwardness in comparison to the West should be sought in the failure of Muslims to adhere to the teachings and truths of the Holy Qur’an and Islam. Just as Islam provides for the material progress of man, and the indeed urges him towards it, so does it provide for man’s true progress and development in moral and spiritual matters. This combination forms the basis of true civilization.
Since Western civilization is not based on truth and justice, but on the principles of force, conflict, and aggression, the evils of civilization predominate over its virtues. If man is to survive he will embrace Islam, for he understands now his need for true civilization, founded on the positive truths of revelation, the Holy Qur’an and the Shari‘a of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), in which the virtues of progress predominate, and the benefits of civilization may be profited from.
In the form of “Six Words,” Bediuzzaman describes a number of those positive truths of Islam, which form the cure for the grievous sicknesses besetting the Muslim community. Hope, courage, honesty, love and brotherhood, self-sacrifice, awareness of the luminous bonds uniting the believers, mutual consultation. These are not qualities that are unimportant or may be dispensed with in the face of the difficulties or threats; on the contrary, they form the very foundation of Muslim society.
As the truths of the Qur’an and Islam become increasingly apparent in this age of scientific discovery and technological advance, the lessons of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi’s prophetic sermon of 1911 increase in significance. The civilization of the future is true civilization; the civilization of Islam. It will be achieved through Muslims heeding these lessons, and rebuilding their society on the foundations of belief, and on the morality of Islam.
Besides the two original printings of the Sermon, a further edition of the Arabic text was published in Istanbul in 1922. In the 1950’s it was translated into Turkish by the author, and then published as part of the Risale-i Nur Collection. Bediuzzaman expanded to some degree this Turkish edition, which is the source of the present translation, in order to address directly contemporary Muslims also. For this reason there are references to dates subsequent to 1911, and to other parts of the Risale-i Nur.
Bediuzzaman added other pieces to the Turkish edition, taken from various of his works, which all illustrate aspects of the main theme of his sermon, that not only Muslims, but all mankind, will find happiness and salvation only through applying the principles of the Qur’an in their social and political lives. It will also be useful for readers to bear in mind that Bediuzzaman saw the achievement of this through the spread of the healing light of the Qur’anic teachings on the truths of belief -exemplified in the Risale-i Nur- and their acceptance, rather than as a result of political activity.
Introduction to the Turkish Translation of the Original Arabic ‘Damascus Sermon’ Edit
In His Name, be He glorified!
And there is nothing but it glorifies Him with praise.
Peace be upon you and God’s mercy and blessings for ever!
My Dear, Loyal Brothers!
[With a presentiment of the future, the Old Said perceived the truths expressed in this Arabic sermon, which, on the insistence of the Damascus religious authorities, he delivered forty years ago in the Umayyad Mosque to a congregation of close on ten thousand, which included a hundred religious scholars; he gave news of those truths with complete certainty as though they were going to be realized shortly. However, the two World Wars and twenty-five years of absolute despotism delayed their realization; it is now that the signs of this, which were predicted then, are beginning to be seen in the world of Islam. Therefore, if you consider it appropriate, you may publish the translation of this most important and instructive piece, not as an old, outdated sermon, but as fresh and correct instruction on social and Islamic questions addressing directly, in 1371 instead of 1327, the congregation of three hundred and seventy (now more than a million) million in the mosque of the Islamic world, rather than in the Umayyad Mosque.]
It is fitting here to write the most important answer to a most important question. For the Old Said spoke prophetically in that lesson of forty years ago as though he was seeing the wondrous teachings of the Risale-i Nur and its effects. It is for this reason that I am writing that question and answer here. It is like this:
Many have asked both me and the Risale-i Nur students: “Why is it that the Risale-i Nur is not defeated in the face of so much opposition and so many obdurate philosophers and people of misguidance? By preventing to an extent the dissemination of numerous valuable and true books on belief and Islam, and by means of their worldly pleasures and vices, they have deprived many youths and others of the truths of belief. But their most violent attacks, vicious treatment, lies and propaganda have been directed at the Risale-i Nur, to destroy it and to scare people away from it and to give it up. Despite this, the Risale-i Nur has spread in a way never seen in any other work, six hundred thousand copies of its treatises being written out by hand with unflagging zeal and published secretly. How is it that it causes itself to be read with such enthusiasm, both within the country and abroad? What is the reason for it? In reply to the many questions of this sort, we say:
Being a true commentary on the All-Wise Qur’an through the mystery of its miraculousness, the Risale-i Nur demonstrates that in misguidance is a sort of Hell in this world, while in belief is a sort of Paradise. It points out the grievous pains in sins, bad deeds, and forbidden pleasures, and proves that in good deeds and virtues and the truths of the Shari‘a are to be found pleasures like the pleasures of Paradise. In this way it saves the sensible among those who have fallen into vice and misguidance. For at this time there two awesome conditions:
T h e F i r s t : Since man’s emotions, which are blind to the consequences of things and prefer an ounce of present pleasure to tons of future joys, have prevailed over his mind and reason, the only way to save the dissipated from their vice is to show them the pain present in their pleasure and to defeat their emotions. Although they are aware of the diamond-like bounties and pleasures of the hereafter, as the verse, They deem lovable the life of this world1 indicates, while being believers, the people of misguidance choose worldly pleasures, which are like pieces of glass soon to be shattered. The only way of saving them from this love of the world and from the danger of succumbing to it is by showing them the hell-like torments and pains they suffer even in this world. This is the way the Risale-i Nur takes. For at this time, due to the obduracy arising from absolute unbelief and the intoxication caused by the vice and misguidance arising from science, perhaps only one in ten or even twenty can be induced to give up his evil ways by proving the existence of Hell and its torments, after having told him of Almighty God. Having heard this, such people are likely to say: “God is Forgiving and Compassionate, and Hell is a long way off,” and continue in their dissipation. Their hearts and spirits are overcome by their emotions.
Thus, by showing through most of its comparisons the grievous and terrible results in this world of disbelief and misguidance, the Risale-i Nur makes even the most stubborn and arrogant people feel disgust at those inauspicious, illicit pleasures, leading them to repent. The short comparisons in the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Words, and the long one in the Third Stopping-Place in the Thirty-Second Word induce a person feel repugnance at the vice and misguidance of the way he has taken, and cause him to accept what they teach. As an example, I shall recount briefly the situations I beheld on a journey of the imagination, which were in fact reality. Those wishing for a more detailed account may look at the end of Sikke-i Tasdik-i Gaybi (The Ratifying Stamp of the Unseen Collection).
When on that journey of the imagination I looked at the animal kingdom through the eyes of materialist philosophy and of the people of misguidance and heedlessness, the innumerable needs of animals and their terrible hunger together with their weakness and impotence appeared to me as most piteous and grievous. I cried out. Then I saw through the telescope of Qur’anic wisdom and belief that the Divine Name of All-Merciful had risen in the sign of Provider like a shining sun; it gilded with the light of its mercy that hungry, wretched animal world.
Then I saw within the animal world another grievous world which was swathed in darkness and would make anyone feel pity in which young were struggling in their need and powerlessness. I was sorry I had looked through the eyes of the people of misguidance. Suddenly, belief gave me other spectacles and I saw the Name of All-Compassionate rise in the sign of clemency; it transformed and lit up that pitiful world in joyous and beautiful fashion, changing my tears of complaint and sorrow into tears of joy and thanks.
Then the world of humanity appeared to me as though on a cinema screen. I looked through the telescope of the people of misguidance and saw that world to be so dark and terrifying that I cried out from the depths of my heart. “Alas!” I cried. For they had desires and hopes that stretched to eternity, thoughts and imaginings that embraced the universe, the earnest desire for everlasting happiness and Paradise, an innate capacity and powers on which no limit had been placed and which were free, yet despite their innumerable needs and their weakness and impotence they were exposed to the attacks of innumerable enemies and the blows of innumerable calamities. Under the perpetual threat of death, they lived out their brief and tumultuous lives in wretched circumstances. Ever looking to the grave, which for the misguided is the door to everlasting darkness, they suffered the continuous blows of death and separation, the most painful state for the heart and conscience. I saw that singly and in groups they were being thrown into that black well.
On seeing the world of humanity in this darkness I was about to cry out with my heart, spirit, and mind, and all my subtle inner faculties, indeed all the particles of my being, when the light and power of belief proceeding from the Qur’an smashed those spectacles of misguidance, giving me insight. I saw the Divine Name of All-Just rising like the sun in the sign of All-Wise, the Name of All-Merciful rising in the sign of Munificent, the Name of All-Compassionate rising in the sign of, that is, in the meaning of, All-Forgiving, the Name of Resurrector rising in the sign of Inheritor, the Name of Giver of Life rising in the sign of Bountiful, and the Name of Sustainer rising in the sign of Owner. They lit up the entire world of humanity and all the worlds within it. They dispelled those hell-like states, opened up windows onto the luminous worlds of the hereafter, and scattered lights over the world of humanity. I declared: “Praise and thanks be to God to the number of particles in existence!” I understood with complete certainty that in belief is a sort of paradise in this world too and in misguidance, a sort of hell.
Then the world of the earth appeared. On that journey of the imagination, the dark, hypothetical rules of the philosophy which does not obey religion depicted a ghastly world. Voyaging through space on the ship of the aged earth -which travels seventy times faster than a cannon-ball a distance of twenty-five thousand years in one year, ever disposed to break up, its interior in a state of upheaval- the situation of wretched human kind appeared to me in a desolate darkness. My eyes darkened. I flung the spectacles of philosophy to the ground, smashing them. Then I looked with an eye illuminated with the wisdom of the Qur’an and belief, and I saw the Names of Creator of the Heavens and Earth, All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Sustainer, Allah, Sustainer of the Heavens and Earth, Subjugator of the Sun and Moon had risen like suns in the signs of mercy, tremendousness, and dominicality. They lit up that dark, desolate, and terrifying world so that the globe appeared to my eye of belief as a most well-ordered, subjugated, pleasant, and safe ship, or aero plane or train. It contained everyone’s provisions, and had been decked out for trade and enjoyment and to carry beings with spirits through the dominical realms around the sun. I exclaimed: “All praise be to God to the number of particles of the earth for the bounty of belief.”
This has been proved with many comparisons in the Risale-i Nur, that those who follow vice and misguidance suffer a hellish torment in this world too, while through the manifestations of belief, the believers and righteous may taste through the stomachs of Islam and humanity the pleasures of Paradise. They may benefit according to the degree of their belief. But in these stormy times, currents which numb the senses and scatter man’s attention on peripheral matters, plunging him into them, have deadened his senses and bewildered him. As a result of this the people of misguidance are temporarily unable to feel their torment, while the people of guidance are overwhelmed by heedlessness and cannot truly appreciate its pleasures.
The Second Awesome Condition This Age: In former times, compared with the present there was very little absolute disbelief, or misguidance arising from science, or the disbelief arising from perverse obstinacy. The instruction of the Islamic scholars of those times and their arguments were therefore sufficient, quickly dispelling any unbelief arising from doubts. Belief in God was general, and they could persuade most people give up their misguidance and wrongdoing through teaching them about God and reminding them of Hell-fire. But now there are a hundred absolute disbelievers in one small town instead of perhaps one in a whole country. Those who lose their way due to science and learning and obstinately oppose the truths of belief have increased a hundredfold in relation to former times. With pride like that of the Pharaoh and their terrible misguidance these obdurate deniers oppose the truths of belief. A sacred truth is therefore much needed that will completely destroy the bases of their disbelief in this world, like an atom bomb, and will halt their aggression and bring some of them to belief.
All praise be to Almighty God that with its many comparisons, as the perfect remedy for the wounds of this time, the Risale-i Nur -a miracle of the Qur’an of Miraculous Exposition proceeding from its effulgence- has routed even the most worst of those obdurate deniers with the diamond sword of the Qur’an. Its proofs and arguments to the number of the atoms of the universe demonstrating Divine Unity and the truths of belief show that in twenty-five years it has not been defeated in the face of the severest attacks, but has itself prevailed and been victorious. Yes, with its comparisons of belief and unbelief, and guidance and misguidance, the Risale-i Nur proves those truths self-evidently. If note is taken for example of the proofs and flashes of the Second Station of the Twenty-Second Word, the First Stopping-Place of the Thirty-Second Word, the ‘Windows’ of the Thirty-Third Letter, and the eleven proofs of Asa-yı Musa (The Staff of Moses), it will be understood that it is the truths of the Qur’an manifested in the Risale-i Nur that will smash and destroy absolute disbelief and perverse misguidance at this time.In the same way that the parts of the Risale-i Nur solving the greatest mysteries of religion and the riddles of the world’s creation have been collected together in Tılsımlar Mecmuası (The ‘Mysteries’ Collection), the pieces which describe the hell in this world of the people of misguidance and the paradise-like pleasures of the people of guidance and show that belief is like a seed of Paradise while unbelief is a seed of the Zakkum-tree of Hell, will be put together in a small collection, God willing, and published.
S a i d N u r s i
The Damascus Sermon Edit
In the Name of God, the Merciful,
We too offer the praise and thanks and gifts that all animate creatures offer through the tongues of their beings and lives to their Creator, the Necessarily Existent One, Who said:
Do not despair of God’s mercy.1
And never-ending blessings and peace be upon our Prophet, Muhammad the Elect of God (Upon whom blessings and peace), who said:
“I came to perfect morality.”2
That is, “An important reason for my being sent to mankind by Almighty God was to perfect good conduct and morality, and deliver mankind from immorality and vice.”
Having offered praise to God and sought His blessings for His Messenger, I say this: O my Arab brothers who are listening here in the Umayyad Mosque! I have not mounted this pulpit, which is far above my station, in order to guide you, for to teach you is beyond my authority. I am like a child before this gathering, among whom are close on a hundred religious scholars, who goes to school in the morning and learns his lesson, then in the evening returns and repeats it to his father. His father sees whether or not what the child has learnt is correct, and the child awaits either approval or guidance from him. Yes, we are like children before you, and we are your students. You are our masters, and the masters of the other Muslim nations. I shall therefore repeat to you, our masters, part of the lesson I have learnt. It is as follows:
In the conditions of the present time in these lands, I have learnt a lesson in the school of mankind’s social life and I have realized that what has allowed foreigners, Europeans, to fly towards the future on progress while it arrested us and kept us, in respect of material development, in the Middle Ages, are six dire sicknesses. The sicknesses are these:
FIRSTLY: The rising to life of despair and hopelessness in social life.
SECONDLY: The death of truthfulness in social and political life.
THIRDLY: Love of enmity.
FOURTHLY: Not knowing the luminous bonds that bind the believers to one another.
FIFTHLY: Despotism, which spreads, becoming widespread as though it was various contagious diseases.
SIXTHLY: Restricting endeavour to what is personally beneficial.
I shall explain, by means of six ‘Words,’ the lesson I have learnt from the pharmacy of the Qur’an, which is like a faculty of medicine. This lesson constitutes the medicine to cure our social life of those six dire sicknesses.
1. Qur'an, 39:53.
2. 'Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa, i, 211.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
First Word Edit
The first word is ‘hope;’ that is, to nurture a strong hope of God’s mercy. As a consequence of the lesson I have learnt on my own account, I say: O congregation of Muslims! I give you this good news: the first signs of the true dawn of Arab happiness are just appearing. This happiness will occur through the kindling of the worldly happiness of all Muslims, in particular that of the Ottomans, and especially through the progress of Islam. The emergence of the sun of happiness has drawn close. In order to rub despair’s nose in the dust,3 I say what is my firm conviction so that the world will hear:
The future shall be Islam’s and Islam’s alone. And its ruler shall be the truths of the Qur’an and belief. Therefore, we must submit to Divine Determining and our fate of the present, for ours is a brilliant future, while the Europeans’ is a dubious past. I shall now mention one and a half preliminary arguments. I start with the premises of those arguments:
Islam and its truths possess the perfect capacity to progress, both materially and in moral and non-material matters.
Progress in Moral and Non-Material Matters, which is the First Aspect
You should know that history, which records actual events, is the most faithful witness to the truth. See! History is showing us. The testimony of the Japanese Commander-in Chief who defeated Russia to the validity and justice of Islam is this:
“History shows that the Muslims increased in civilization and progressed in relation to the power of the truths of Islam; that is, to the degree that they acted in accordance with that power. History also shows that they fell into savagery and decline, and disaster and defeat amidst utter confusion to the degree of their weakness in adhering to the truths of Islam.” As for other religions, it is quite to the contrary. That is to say, history shows that they increased in civilization and progressed in relation to their weakness in adhering to their religions and bigotry, and were subject to decline and revolution to the degree of their strength in adhering to them. Up to the present, time has passed thus.
Furthermore, from the blessed time of the Prophet (PBUH) up to the present, not a single event in history has shown us a Muslim who has embraced another religion, whether old or new, in preference to Islam, as result of reasoned argument and conclusive evidence. If the uneducated embrace another religion without evidence in blind imitation, it has no bearing on this matter. And to be without religion is yet another question. However, history shows us that followers of other religions, and even the English and pre-Revolution Russians, who displayed the greatest bigotry in religion, are gradually approaching and entering Islam on the strength of reasoned argument and cogent proofs, sometimes in groups.4
If we were to display through our actions the perfections of the morality of Islam and the truths of belief, without doubt the followers of other religions would enter Islam in whole communities; some entire regions and states, even, would take refuge in Islam.
Moreover, man has been awakened and aroused by the modern sciences in particular; he has understood the true nature of humanity.
Without any shadow of a doubt, man cannot live without religion, aimlessly. He cannot. Even the most irreligious person is compelled to take refuge in religion. For the only point of support for impotent man in the face of the innumerable disasters and the external and internal enemies that plague him, and the only point from which he may seek help and assistance in the face of the innumerable needs with which he is afflicted, and his desires that stretch to eternity, despite his utter want and poverty, is in recognizing the Maker of the world, in faith, and in believing and affirming the hereafter. There is no help for awakened mankind apart from this.
If the jewel of true religion is not present in the shell of the heart, material, moral, and spiritual calamities of untold magnitude will break loose over humanity and man will become the most unhappy, the most wretched, of animals.
In Short: This century, man has been awakened by the warnings of war, science, and awesome events, and he has perceived the true nature of humanity and his own comprehensive disposition. Man has begun to understand that with his wonderful comprehensive abilities and disposition, he was not created only for this brief and troublesome worldly life, but that he is a candidate for eternity, for there are within him desires that extend that far. Everybody has begun to realize that this narrow and transient world is not sufficient and cannot meet their boundless hopes and desires.
If it is said to the imagination, which is one of the faculties and servants of humanity: “You will rule the world and live for a million years, but in the end you will be dispatched to non-existence with no possibility of a return to life,” for sure, the imagination of one who has not lost his true humanity and who has been awakened, rather than being joyful and pleased, will weep longingly and with sighs and regrets at there being no eternal happiness.
Thus, included in this point is the fact that in everyone’s heart an inclination has sprung up to search earnestly for a true religion. In the face of the sentence of death, before anything else man is searching for a truth, contained only in true religion, so that he may save himself. The present state of the world testifies to this fact.
After forty-five years and the appearance of irreligion, regions and states on the earth have begun to perceive, like a human being, this intense need of mankind. Furthermore, at their beginning and end, the verses of the Qur’an refer man to his reason, saying: “Use your intelligence! Think! Consult your mind and your heart! Confer with them so that you might know this fact!”
Look at the beginnings and ends of verses such as those; they say: “Why do you not look? Why do you not take warnings? Look so that you may know the truth.” Take note of the way “Know!” is used. Many verses contain sentences that have the meaning of: “Why do men not know, why do they fall into compounded ignorance? Why do they not look? Have they become blind so that they cannot see the Truth? Why do men not call to mind and ponder over their own lives and the events in the world so that they might find the straight path? Why do they not think, deliberate and reason with the mind, and so fall into misguidance? O men! Take a lesson! Take a warning from past ages and try to be saved from the moral and spiritual calamities of the future!” These verses refer man to his intellect; they enjoin him to consult with his reason.
O my brothers in this Umayyad Mosque as well as those in the vast mosque of the world of Islam! You too take warning. Take warning from the dreadful events of the last forty-five years. Come straight to your senses! O you who are wise and thoughtful and consider yourselves to be enlightened!
Conclusion: We Muslims, who are students of the Qur’an, follow proof; we approach the truths of belief through reason, thought, and our hearts. We do not abandon proof in favour of blind obedience and imitation of the clergy like some adherents of other religions. Therefore, in the future when reason, science and technology prevail, of a certainty that will be the time the Qur’an will gain ascendancy, which relies on rational proofs and invites the reason to confirm its pronouncements.
Moreover, the veils that have eclipsed the sun of Islam, hindered its emergence and prevented it illuminating mankind have begun to disperse. Those things that were hindering it have begun to fall back. The signs of the dawn appeared forty-five years ago.5 Then the true dawn broke in 1371/1951, or it will break. Even if it is the false dawn, in thirty or forty years’ time the true dawn will break.
Eight serious obstacles prevented the truths of Islam completely overwhelming the past.
THE FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD OBSTACLES: The Europeans’ ignorance, their barbarity at that time, and their bigotry in their religion. These three obstacles have been removed by the virtues of knowledge and civilization, and they have begun to disperse.
THE FOURTH AND FIFTH OBSTACLES : The domination and arbitrary power of the clergy and religious leaders, and the fact that the Europeans obeyed and followed them blindly. These two obstacles have also started to disappear with the emergence among mankind of the idea of freedom, and the desire to search for the truth.
THE SIXTH AND SEVENTH OBSTACLES : The despotism that was with us, and our degeneracy that arose from opposing the Shari‘a, were obstacles. The fact that the separate despotic power residing in a single individual is now declining indicates that the fearful despotism of larger groups in society and of committees will also decline in thirty to forty years’ time. And the great upsurge in Islamic zeal, together with the fact that the ugly results of immorality are becoming apparent, show that these two obstacles are about to decline, indeed, that they have begun to do so. God willing, they will completely disappear in the future.
THE EIGHTH OBSTACLE : Since certain matters of modern science were imagined to oppose and be contrary to the outer meanings of the truths of Islam, it prevented, to some extent, their prevailing in the past. Scientists and philosophers opposed Islam because they did not know the truth and, for example, imagined the two angels composed of spirit called Thawr and Hut, who are charged through a Divine command to oversee the globe of the earth, to be a great corporeal ox and fish.
There are hundreds of examples like this one. After learning the truth, even the most opinionated philosopher is compelled to submit to it. In the treatise called the Miraculousness of the Qur’an,6 the Risale-i Nur points out flashes of the Qur’an’s miraculousness that lie beneath each of all the verses that science attacks, and it sets forth clearly the elevated truths, which the hand of science cannot reach, in those sentences and phrases of the Holy Qur’an that the scientists suppose to be points of criticism; it compels even the most obstinate philosopher to submit. It is clear and self-evident, anyone who wishes may look. -So let them look and see how this obstacle is being destroyed, as these words forecasted forty-five years ago.
Some perspicacious Muslim scholars have indeed written on this subject. Signs that this eighth serious obstacle will be overturned are to be seen.
For sure, even if not now then in thirty to forty years’ time, in order to fit out and equip to perfection the three forces of science, true knowledge, and the virtues of civlization, and to rout and put to flight those eight obstacles, the desire to search for the truth, equity, and love of humanity will be dispatched to the eight fronts of those eight enemy squadrons. They have already started to drive them back. God willing, in half a century they will scatter them completely.
It it well-known that the most indisputable virtue is that which even its enemies testify to and affirm. The following therefore are two examples out of hundreds:
The First: A famous European scholar and philosopher of the 19th century, Carlyle, did not hold back from proclaiming in the loudest voice to philosophers and Christian scholars the following, which he also wrote in his works, that Islam was born like a brilliant flame and devoured the religions of its time as though they were dead wood. It was Islam’s right to do this he said, for it was a reality, while the other religions lacked reality. He said also that the words most worthy to be heeded first are those of Muhammad (Upon whom be blessings and peace), for the true word was his. He said too that if the truth of Islam is doubted then the most self-evident matters should be doubted, because the most self-evident and necessary truth is Islam.7
Second Example: A famous European of the last century who was also a scholar and philosopher, Prince Bismarck, said:
“I have studied all the revealed books, but since they are corrupted, I have been unable to find the true wisdom I was searching for, for the happiness of mankind. Then I saw that the Qur’an of Muhammad was far superior to all the other Books. I found wisdom in all its words. There is no other work that will serve man’s happiness like this. Such a work cannot be the word of man. Those who say it is Muhammad’s work are denying the imperatives of knowledge. That is, the Qur’an is self-evidently the word of God.”
So, supported by the fact that the clever fields of Europe and America have produced crops of brilliant and exacting scholars like Carlyle and Bismarck, I say with all assurance:
Europe and America are pregnant with Islam; one day they will give birth to an Islamic state. Just as the Ottomans were pregnant with Europe and gave birth to a European state.
O my brothers who are here in the Umayyad Mosque and those who are in the mosque of the world of Islam half a century later! Do the introductory remarks, that is, those made up to here, not point to the conclusion that it is Islam that will be the true, and spiritual, ruler over the future, and only Islam that will lead mankind to happiness in this world and the next; and that true Christianity, stripping off superstition and corrupted belief, will be transformed into Islam; following the Qur’an, it will unite with Islam?
Second Aspect Edit
That is, the powerful reasons for Islam’s material progress show that Islam will also be materially dominant in the future. The First Aspect demonstrated its progress in moral and spiritual matters and this Second Aspect offers strong proofs for its material progress and supremacy in the future. For established in the heart of the Islamic world’s collective personality are five extremely powerful, unbreakable ‘Strengths,’ which have blended and coalesced.8
First Strength: This is the reality of Islam, which is the master of all perfection, can make three hundred and seventy million souls as a single soul, has been furnished with a real civilization and positive, true sciences, and is such that it cannot be destroyed by any power.
Second Strength: An intense need, which is the real master of civilization and industry, and is the source and means of development, together with complete, back-breaking poverty, are such strengths that they may be neither silent nor crushed.
Third Strength: This Strength, which teaches men exalted aims in the form of competition for exalted things, and causes them to strive on that way, which shatters despotism, excites exalted emotions, and destroys jealousy, envy, malice and rivalry, and is furnished with true awakening, the eagerness of competition, the tendency towards renewal and predisposition for civilization, consists of the freedom which is accordance with the Shari‘a. That is to say, it has been fitted out with the desire for the highest accomplishments worthy of humanity.
Fourth Strength: This the fearlessness arising from belief, which is decked out with compassion. That is, neither to demean oneself or to be servile to oppressors and despots, nor to oppress and be arrogant towards the unfortunate; these form the foundations of the freedom which is accordance with the Shari‘a.
Fifth Strength: This is the dignity of Islam, which proclaims and upholds the Word of God. In this age, proclaiming the Word of God is contingent on material progress; it may be proclaimed only through achieving true civilization. It cannot be doubted that in the future the world of Islam’s collective personality will carry out to the letter that categorical command issued by the dignity of Islam through belief.
In the past, Islam’s progress occurred through smashing the enemy’s bigotry and obstinacy and through defence against their aggression; through weapons and the sword. Whereas in the future, in place of weapons, the immaterial, moral swords of true civilization, material progress, and truth and justice will defeat and scatter the enemies.
You should understand that what I mean are the good things that are civilization’s virtues and its benefits for mankind. Not its iniquities and evils that idiots have imagined to be its virtues, and imitating them, devastated our possessions. Giving religion as the bribe, they have not even gained the world. Through civilization’s iniquities prevailing over its benefits and its evils being preferred to its virtues, mankind has suffered two calamitous blows in the form of two world wars, and overturning that sinful civilization men have been so utterly disgusted that they have smeared the face of the earth with blood.
God willing, through the strength of Islam in the future, the virtues of civilization will prevail, the face of the earth cleansed of filth, and universal peace be secured.
Indeed, the facts that European civilization is not founded on virtue and guidance, but on lust and passion, rivalry and oppression, and that up to the present the evils of civilization have predominated over its virtues, and that it has been infiltrated by revolutionary societies like a worm eaten tree, are each like powerful indications and means for the supremacy of Asian civilization. In a short period of time it will prevail.
How is it that while there are such powerful and unshakeable ways and means for the material and moral progress of the believers and people of Islam, and although the road to future happiness has been opened up like a railway, you despair and fall into hopelessness in the face of the future, and destroy the morale of the Islamic world? In despair and hopelessness you suppose that “the world is the world of progress for Europeans and everyone else,” but “it is the world of decline only for the unfortunate people of Islam!” By saying that you are making a grievous mistake.
Since the desire to progress and be perfected has been included in the universe and in man’s essential nature, for sure, if doomsday does not soon engulf mankind as a result of its errors and wrongdoing, in the future truth and justice will show the way to a worldly happiness in the world of Islam, God willing, in which there will be atonement for the former errors of mankind.
Consider this: time does not run in a straight line so that its beginning and end draw apart from one another; it moves in a circle, like the motion of the globe of the earth. Sometimes it displays the seasons of spring and summer as progress, and sometimes the seasons of storms and winter as decline. Just as every winter is followed by spring and every night by morning, mankind also shall have a morning and a spring, God willing. You may expect from Divine mercy to see true civilization within universal peace brought about through the sun of the truth of Islam.
At the start of the lesson I said I would demonstrate one and a half arguments to support my assertion. Now, one argument, in concise form, is finished and the remaining half argument is as follows:
As has been established by the prying investigations and innumerable experiments of the sciences, the fundamental and absolutely overriding aim and the true purpose of the All-Glorious Maker in the order of the universe are good, beauty, excellence and perfection. For all the physical sciences demonstrate such an order and perfection in the fields they study in accordance with their comprehensive laws that the intellect can find nothing more perfect.
For example, sciences such as anatomy in medicine, the science of the solar system in astronomy, and botany and biology, all demonstrate the miracles of power and the wisdom of the All-Glorious Maker in the order in their own particular fields, and the truth of the verse,
Who makes most excellent everything that He creates.9
Also, inductive reasoning and general experience demonstrate that evil, ugliness, defect, badness and futility are minor in the creation of the universe. They are not the aim; they are dependent and secondary. That is to say, ugliness has not entered the universe for the sake of ugliness, but as a unit of measurement in order to transform a single truth of beauty into numerous truths. Evil, and Satan even, have been set to pester man in order to be the means of his limitless progress through competition. Minor evils and ugliness like these have been created in the universe in order to be the means of instances of universal beauty and good. Thus, according to inductive reasoning, the true aim and result of creation prove that good, beauty and being perfected are fundamental in the universe and that they are the true aim. So since men have filthied and disordered the face of the earth to this degree with their wicked godlessness and depart this world without receiving their deserts and without reflecting the true aim present in the universe, they certainly shall not escape to non-existence. They shall rather be despatched to the dungeons of Hell.
Also, it is established by inductive reasoning and the investigations of the sciences that man is the most exalted among animals and the most important. For he discovers with his reason the steps between the apparent causes and effects existent in the universe, and the relationships of causes, which follow on after each other in succession. And, in order to imitate Divine art and orderly and wise dominical creation with his own insignificant art, and in order to understand Divine actions and Divine art through his partial knowledge and his own arts, he has been given the faculty of will as a scale and measure. Thus, the fact that man knows the universal, all-embracing actions and attributes of the All-Glorious Creator through the materials he works through the exercise of his will proves that he is the most honoured and exalted creature in the universe.
Also, according to the testimony of the truths of Islam concerning man and the universe, the most noble and exalted, the most excellent and the highest, are the people of Islam, who are the people of truth and reality. And, according to inductive reasoning and the testimony of history, among the people of truth, the most exalted among honoured mankind, the most excellent and superior was the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This is testified to by his thousand miracles, his elevated morals, and the truths of Islam and the Qur’an.
Since the three truths of this half argument give such news, is it at all possible that mankind should refute the testimony of so many sciences and deny this reasoning with their depravity, and, being perversely obstinate in the face of Divine will and pre-eternal wisdom, which embraces the whole universe, continue in their iniquitous savagery, willful godlessness and fearful destruction? Is it at all possible that they should continue in this way against Islam?
I swear with all my strength and, if I possessed them, with innumerable tongues by the All-Wise and Glorious One, the All-Beauteous Maker, Who creates the world with this perfect order, and the universe, from particles to the planets, from a fly’s wing to the lamps in the heavens, with an unbounded wisdom of regularity, that it is in no way possible for mankind, contrary to every other sort of being and opposed to the other species, which are its small brothers, to stand in opposition to the order in the universe through its universal acts of evil and to eat and digest the bitter fruits which, for thousands of years, have been the cause of evil predominating over good among men.
This possibility could only occur by supposing the impossible, that, although man is at the degree of having been charged with the ‘supreme trust’ over the universe, has the rank of Divine vicegerent of the earth, and is an elevated elder brother to the other beings in the universe, he was the lowest, most base, most wretched, most harmful and most insignificant, and as a consequence had stealthily entered the universe and caused chaos in it. This impossibility can in no way be accepted.
This half argument of mine for this fact leads to this conclusion that just as the existence of Heaven and Hell in the hereafter is a necessary fact, so too shall the religion of good and truth prevail absolutely in the future so that, as is the case with all other beings, good and virtue will prevail absolutely over mankind; and mankind may be equal to the rest of their brothers in the universe; and it may be said that the mystery of pre-eternal wisdom is established in mankind also.
In Short : As the definite facts mentioned above demonstrate, the choice result of the universe and the most important creature in the view of the Creator is man. And as man’s wrongful conduct up to this time necessitates the existence of Hell, so do his comprehensive innate abilities and potentialities and the truths of his belief related to the universe self-evidently necessitate Paradise. Thus, since he cannot endure the crimes, and two world wars, which have made the cosmos weep, and cannot digest the bitter evils he has swallowed; and because of his conduct, at which he is sick and through which he has filthied the whole face of the earth; and since he has caused humanity to fall to the most abject level and cannot endure the crime of having overturned a thousand years of progress; most certainly and without any doubt, if some ghastly catastrophe does not soon break loose over his head, the truths of Islam will be the means of delivering man from the low and debased degree to which he has fallen, of cleansing the face of the earth, and securing universal peace. We beseech this from the mercy of the All-Merciful and Compassionate One, and we await it with hope.
3. The Old Said, through a presentiment of the event, gave news forty-five years ago of what occurred in 1371/1951, namely that the Islamic world, and foremost the Arabic states, would be delivered from subjection to foreign powers and their despotism, and would form Islamic states. He did not think of the two World Wars and thirty to forty years of absolute despotism. He gave the good news of what actually occurred in 1371/1951 as though it would occur in 1327/1909. He did not take into account the reasons for the delay.
4. Proofs of this claim, and powerful witnesses to it, are the following facts; that, forty-five years after this claim was made, in spite of two appalling world wars and the emergence of an extreme and absolute despotism, small northern states like Sweden, Norway and Finland have accepted and started to teach the Qur'an in their schools as a barrier to communism and irreligion. A number of prominent English orators are also seen to be in favour of encouraging the English to accept the Qur'an. And America, now the most powerful state on earth, is seen to support the truths of religion with all its strength, and has decided that Asia and Africa shall find prosperity, peace and reconciliation through Islam, and it patronizes and encourages the newly emergent Muslim states and tries to enter into alliance with them.
5. That is, in 1906. [Tr.]
6. The Twenty-Fifth Word. [Tr.]
7. Thomas Carlyle, 1795-1880. See his work, On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History, London, 1841, which is the transcript of six public lectures Carlyle gave in London in 1840, the second of which was entitled: The Hero as Prophet. Mahomet: Islam.
8. We understand from the Qur'an's teaching and instruction and what these indicate, that through mentioning the prophets' miracles, the Qur'an is informing mankind that events similar to those miracles will come into existence in the future through progress, and is urging them to achieve them, saying:
"Come on work! Show examples of these miracles! Like the Prophet Solomon (UWP), cover a journey of two months in a day! Like the Prophet Jesus (UWP), work to discover the cure of the most frightful diseases! Like the Prophet Moses (UWP), extract the water of life from stone and deliver mankind from thirst! Like the Prophet Abraham (UWP), find materials and dress in them so that fire will not burn you! Like some of the prophets, listen to distant voices and see distant images in east and west! Like the Prophet David (UWP), soften iron like dough and make it like wax to meet the needs of mankind! How greatly you benefit from the clock and the ship, the miracles of the Prophet Joseph (UWP) and the Prophet Noah (UWP) respectively. Benefit in the same way from the miracles the other prophets taught you, and imitate them."
By analogy with the above, the Qur'an instructs mankind in every respect, urges them to material, moral and spiritual progress, and proves that it is the universal teacher and master.
9. Qur'an, 32:7.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
Second Word Edit
The Second Word has been born in my thought as a result of my experiences in the course of life. It is as follows:
Despair is a most grievous sickness and it has entered the heart of the world of Islam. It is despair that has as though killed us so that a small state of one or two million in the West has as though made twenty million Muslims in the East its servants and their country, its colony. And it is despair that has killed our high morals, and causing us to abandon the public good, has restricted our sight to personal benefits.
It is despair too that has destroyed our morale. Although with little power we were victorious from east to west through the moral strength that arose from belief, because it was destroyed through despair, tyrannical foreigners have made three hundred million Muslims their captives for the last four hundred years.
And because of this despair, Muslims even suppose the indifference and despondency of others to be an excuse for their own laziness and say: “What is it to me?” Saying, “Everybody is contemptible, like me,” they abandon the courageousness of belief and fail to perform their Islamic duties.
Since the sickness of despair has inflicted so much tyranny on us and is killing us, we shall totally shatter it with the verse,
Do not despair of God’s mercy.10
God willing, we shall destroy it with the truth of the Hadith, “Even if a thing is not wholly obtained, it should not be wholly left.”
Despair is a most grievous sickness of communities and nations, a cancer. It is an obstacle to achievement and is opposed to the truth of the Sacred Hadith, “I am with my bondsman who thinks favourably of Me.” It is the quality and pretext of cowards, the base and the impotent. It does not tell of Islamic courage. It cannot be the quality of a people like the Arabs in particular, who among mankind have been privileged with a fine character that is the cause of pride. The nations of the Islamic world have taken lessons from the Arabs’ fortitude. God willing, once more the Arabs will give up despair and will stand together with the Turks, who are the heroic army of Islam, and will unfurl the banner of the Qur’an in every part of the world.
10. Qur'an, 39:53.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi