Prof.dr. Ramadan Al-buti
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi has carried out long profound research on the Qur’an. In fact, his studies, bearing the name Risale-i Nur (The Epistles of Light), are all based upon the Qur’an, and the facts they contain are all derived from the light of the Qur’an.
With a contemplative eye, one finds that the facts he deduced from the treasures of this Divine Book are many and various and that they relate to all knowledge, science, culture, or philosophy, despite their differences.
In this article I will try to explain one of the many Qur’anic facts that Nursi derived and to which he drew attention, a fact that had not been explained before or whose share of study and research was brief, immature, or incomplete.
It is what he refers to as “the Qur’an’s preservation of the existing equilibrium among all sublime divine truths.” Explaining this fact, Nursi states that this preservation and equilibrium represent a property that certainly does not exist in any human work of art, in any of the thoughts of the greatest intellectuals, in any of the righteous people’s traditions, or in any of the books of illuminists who delve into hidden matters. Each of these groups clung to one branch, or at most two, of the great tree of truth, and so became preoccupied with its leaves and fruits, ignoring the other branches, either because of ignorance or because they were unmindful of them. It is as if there was a kind of division of labor so that they could specialize among them.
The ocean of truths
Nursi draws a similarity between this and a great treasure found by divers at the bottom of a sea. Because each one of them has seen only a small part of this great treasure, which is separated from the other parts, the divers’ perceptions of it differ and even contradict one another. Then, Nursi goes on to say, “The Qur’an, that ocean of truths, encompasses and sees in its verses the entire treasure and describes its jewels in such a harmonious and balanced way that they show their beauty perfectly” (Nursi, 25th Word, 2005, p 458).
I believe that this great truth to which Nursi draws our attention in the above lines needs some explanation, especially when its proof has become crystal clear in the extreme confusion prevailing among all western scholars or all those researchers who stray from the guidance and light of the Qur’an. This fact has also become manifest within their works or conversations, as will be seen later.
Many are those who think that the universe we live in is full of many different truths, whereas the fact is that this conception is a false illusion; the universe has only one single truth, which has many different branches and angles.
For instance, those who devote themselves to studying astronomy, geology, zoology, history, biology, psychology, philosophy, ethics, etc. walk in different directions along the one global truth. The magnitude of this truth, with its diverse aspects and directions, make many people, including many intellectuals and specialized scientists, think that there are various scientific truths that are independent from one another. That is why some of them do not concern themselves with what the others have discovered and limit themselves to the world of the independent truth they imagine to exist.
That is why the information people have in such fields is incomplete or even misleading. Further, such
information does not quench their thirst or satisfy their aspirations, but rather adds to their perplexity and confusion. This is because the more they delve into such information the more they are faced with threads that surpass the limits of their research and the ranges of their studies. If they try to follow some of this new information, they will be led to ranges which are more spacious and to threads which are more entangled and complicated.
Such partial knowledge, which may seem like independent truths within the firm universal structure are, in fact, like so many chapters in one great scientific book that is only concerned with one subject. What can one gain if one only finds one of its chapters and occupies oneself with studying it thoroughly and meticulously? Or even, what would one understand of such book if one studies all of its chapters without following any order or coordination, and without referring to any connection between one chapter and the other? It is unquestionably clear that such a person will not emerge from such a study, however meticulous and profound it is, with anything but some broken concepts and incomplete information, which are in total nothing but the worst kind of compound ignorance, even if they are partially true information. The same applies to the universe: It is a whole book, containing so many connected and harmonious parts, even if they seem to be independent and disharmonious before the eye that quickly glances over them.
The proof of that which Said Nursi has stated in brief is the fact that so many of the scholars and philosophers who have enjoyed world-wide fame have returned to in their final days, complaining about ignorance, seeking knowledge, and suffering confusion.
To illustrate, in his autobiography, we find Bertrand Russell stating that although he achieved much of what he had dreamt of, including love and peace, as far as seeking knowledge, he had gained nothing more than misfortune.
Even the man who created special and general theories of relativity and established the rules of space, time and gravity, that is, Albert Einstein, complained of the same problem and disclosed to his friend, the American writer George Ferk, that the information he had gathered about the universe could provide him with nothing except a mysterious riddle that was impossible to solve. When George Ferk asked him about death he answered, “I don’t know.”
In his book Anti-Duhring, Friedrich Engels expresses his confusion about the issues of the universe in a long speech in which he says, “How little we know about the origin of blood corpuscles, and how numerous are the missing links even today, for example, in the establishment of a rational relationship between the symptoms of a disease and its causes! Again, often enough discoveries such as that of the cell are made which compel us to revise completely all formerly established final and ultimate truths in the realm of biology, and to discard whole piles of them once and for all.” He continues, “But eternal truths are in an even worse plight in the third group of sciences, the historical ones; … In the sphere of human history our knowledge is therefore even more backward than in the realm of biology.” He goes on to say, “…and the generations which will correct us are likely to be far more numerous than those whose knowledge we are in a position to correct-often enough with considerable contempt.”I am certain that the appearance of extreme philosophical doctrines such as idealism, existentialism, pragmatism, and the like is but the fruit of a disorder that results from an incomplete and partial knowledge about conceiving the overall structure of existence, of course with the supposition that this partial knowledge is correct. Partial knowledge can never convince the mind and appease the soul, except if it comes after having achieved an overall comprehensive knowledge that encompasses the structure of all existence: humanity, universe, life, and the relationship between them. It is not important for such overall knowledge to be profound and precise, especially at first, yet, it is extremely important that it be correct and comprehensive. In this connection, I shall remind you of a scientific truth to which we should direct our attention as proof of what is being said. The study of 20% of a mass that is composed of many parts does not necessarily lead to a correct perception of 20% of the facts about this mass. In fact, such a study does not even lead to the correct perception of 1% of the facts of this mass, but it may lead to some distorted conceptions about this mass in general. What a researcher may conclude from such a study is nothing but some illusions which they consider to be information and science. What is the percentage of correct information which a person may conclude from putting a magnifying glass on a certain spot on the map and totally concentrating on the scope of this glass, contemplating bright colors and broad lines that appear under their eyes, before getting to know the whole map with all its longitudes and latitudes? Although they may get to know "some knowledge" when they comprehend the colors, read the names of towns and cities under the magnifier correctly, observing the bending lines, etc. this kind of knowledge should actually be called "dead knowledge" as it has no connection with any of the information contained on the overall map. Such is the truth of the knowledge gained by the person who searches for the truth about the universal existence and limits their mind to one of its angles or one of its parts. It is certainly a dead knowledge that has no relation with the knowledge and information that the universe as a whole reveals. That is why such knowledge cannot provide its owner with any aspect of the scientific certainty that the researcher seeks.
Now, the question is how can we get to know the overall comprehensive knowledge? In other words, where would one find this map, which displays to us the comprehensive perspective for perceiving all of the universal structure, and reveals to us the kind of relationship that exists between its major aspects and basic elements? It is certainly known that we shall not find any such map except in the Qur'an, as Nursi asserts. In fact, this is the essential mission for which the Qur'an was revealed and upon which the self-knowledge of humanity depends. Through the Qur'an mankind can easily identify its ability to shoulder the responsibility with which it was charged and for which it has been created. We should all be aware that only if the Qur'an is the word of the Creator of this universe can it comprise the whole comprehensive picture of the unity of these created things that are connected and intertwined in such a marvelous harmony. Whoever devotes themselves to studying the Qur'an with due contemplation, dedication, and scrutiny shall discover that this book starts by acquainting humanity with itself, its properties, and its missions in this life. Then, it explains to humanity the life that they enjoy with all the important and trivial things it contains, and causes them to see its beginning, its end, and its relation with what will come after it. After that, the Qur'an allows human beings to perceive universal phenomena around them and how these phenomena are connected to them in a comprehensive overall way. In this way, it causes us to observe the fixed courses that never undergo any development or change and the sophisticated symbols that are exploited for the interests of mankind. These are the general elements of the structure of this existence: human beings, life, universe, and any other components.
Therefore, these are the springs of all knowledge. In this way, the universal structure appears before human sight through their contemplation of that amazing Divine Book. It appears just like a huge tree would appear before you as you look at it from level ground without anything to block your view; the tree clearly appears before your eyes with its body, huge trunk, spread out branches, and the fruit it carries among its leaves. Thus, if human beings, after such overall comprehensive knowledge that is deduced from the Qur'an, plunge into the sea of universal existence and dive deep into whatever aspect or part they desire to know and study they will not be lost in mazes or be misled by the refracted spectrum that results from the view being limited to narrow separated angles. Through their dependence on this comprehensive map, which has become printed on their insight, human beings attain that which will protect them from being misled or deluded, and that which will make them aware of the relationship between the parts that may seem discordant or independent. This kind of awareness is what is meant by "knowledge," the importance and honor of which are recurrently mentioned in the Qur'anic verses. The Qur'an also refers to those who are gifted with such scientific insight, for example in the verse that states, The erudite among His servants fear God Alone (Fatir 35:28). As for those who start by placing huge magnifying glasses on small spots on the huge universal map and then stare at these spots while they are unaware of the map itself, these are the people to whom God refers in the verse that reads, They know only some appearance of the life of the world… (Rum 30:7). Some may think that the phrase "some appearance" (which is the translation of the Arabic word zahiran in the verse), refers to a superficial understanding of things. However, the fact is that the superficial understanding of a thing is knowledge about which a person brags while they are still ignorant of the truth and magnitude of this same thing. So they start to delve in and concentrate on a single corner of such a thing, abandoning its spacious magnitude.
Still, there is a question which should be directed to those who, like Said Nursi, state that no philosophy or any other branch of knowledge can substitute for the cognitive role of the Qur'an. The question is: Has anybody who understands the sciences of the universe in the light of the Qur'an thought of death as a perplexing mystery, as was the case with Einstein? In addition, has anyone, after starting to ponder upon the universal map shown in this Divine Book, happened to be taken away by their knowledge from the life in which they are living into confusing ignorance or desolate darkness? On the contrary, this only happens to those scientists and philosophers who embarked on their scientific journeys at a great distance from the great Qur'anic gate that gives humanity an overall perception of the universal mass and its comprehensive relationships. Examine closely, for as long as you like, the history of past and present scientists who have taken the Qur'an as a cognitive course for themselves and as a ship in their intellectual journeys throughout this universe. You shall never find anyone of them whose knowledge has thrown them into confusion or whose scientific discoveries have thrust them into fear or gloominess. The opposite is always true.