One method we use to convince people in daily life is to present examples. Starting a sentence “Let me give you an example,” we see that a good example can be very useful to explain what we mean. For instance, we say, “If every man would just sweep his own doorstep, the city would soon be clean,” and we try to stir the sense of responsibility in people. To teach a child habits of cleanliness we say, “Look, even the flies clean themselves continuously.”
In fact, it is not surprising that a good example convinces people easily; because such examples help us to realize a great divine law in life which is actually known by many. Upon realizing the law with the help of an example, man realizes that it is valid for the issue he wants to solve as well.
According to Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, these kinds of examples showing the samples of general law are even stronger and more convincing than the definite proofs of logic. (The 32nd Word)
The Qur’an uses this example method often because of its convincing nature. For instance, in order to prove the resurrection, it gives the example of the revival every spring on the Earth. In order to explain the hypocrite’s deprivation of the light of guidance (hidayah nur), it presents the example of a traveller who makes a fire which suddenly dies away, leaving him in the dark. To convince people that the Prophet Isa (PUH) was created without a father, it reminds us that the Prophet Adam (PUH) was created having neither mother nor father. There are many kinds of these examples in the Qur’an. Moreover, it draws attention to this method of giving examples and its effect on man’s understanding:
“And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded.” (Ibrahim, 25)
“These examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought.” (Hashr, 21)
This method of Qur’an has provided the inspiration for many Islamic works throughout history. There are some works which made extensive use of examples, such as Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi’s Masnavi Sharif and Sadii Shirazi’s Bostan (The Orchard) and Gulistan (The Rose Garden). There are some scholars, as well, who used many examples to solve the difficult issues in their books, like Imam Rabbani and Bediuzzaman Said Nursi.
After this introduction about the method of presenting examples, we will try to explain the Treatise on Resurrection, one of the masterpieces of Bediuzzaman, and the wisdom of the example in it.
Imam Bediuzzaman depicts a city representing the world and the universe in which we live. The Sultan of that city temporarily establishes it to just present and exhibit his own wealth and arts, and to introduce himself; and he employs some of the citizens to work for him. And then two men start a discussion about it after entering the city. The issues discussed are as follows:
Is there a Sultan of the city, or not?
Will those who labour get a reward or punishment as a result of their works?
Is this city a permanent place, or will it be demolished one day and everyone move to another place?
One of the men denies all these issues, and the other gives twelve different evidences to prove them. All the evidences he gives are based on the apparent features of the city and the activities done there.
1- Proving the existence of a Sultan:
Every village must have its headman; every needle must have its manufacturer and craftsman. How then, can it be that so extremely well-ordered a city should have no ruler?
And how can so much wealth have no owner, when every hour a train arrives filled with precious and beautiful gifts?
And all the announcements and proclamations, all the seals and stamps, found on all those goods, all the coins and the flags waving in every corner of the city – can they be without an owner?
There are many activities going on in the city. Those activities cannot just happen coincidentally. There must certainly be a Sultan doing all those things.
2- Proving the existence of reward and punishment
It is essential that such an exalted and powerful Sultan will punish the rebellious and reward the obedient in order to administer for his purposes and make them work. Otherwise, people would not work and obey the Sultan. The perfect order in this city shows that there is a system of reward and punishment which makes those people work so hard.
Each of the twelve activities in the city shows us that the Sultan is absolutely powerful, just, merciful, keen on beauty and art, wealthy and loves to serve, strong, proud and loves honour, and does not neglect and make superficial work. He also causes everything happening in the city to be recorded continuously and meticulously. It is unthinkable that such a Sultan, who has proved that he has great attributes by his works in the city, would not reward the people in return for their loyal obedience and service to him. And it is not possible to suppose that such an honourable and powerful Sultan would be a mere spectator to the rebellious who harm his folk and hinder his purposes. There are certainly gifts and penalties.
3- The transient nature of the city and proving the existence of another city:
When we inspect the buildings and the way in which the city has been established, we see that they are impermanent and have no foundation; they are just for an exhibition and a fair season. That is, the real city of the Sultan is not this one; it is somewhere else.
People employed in this city see the great attributes of the Sultan and receive some gifts from him, but they just pass away without complete fulfilment. However, there must be a place befitting such a Sultan’s dignity, where his folk may stay
permanently, and where he continuously offers them bounties, in order that he perpetually manifest his majestic actions there, and where his folk become everlasting, getting to know and love their Sultan thanks to those manifestations. Because if they were transitory, the idea of separation would make them lose their love and respect for the Sultan. Moreover, his infinite mercy and favour do not let him take back the bounties he offered his folk. That is to say, the people moving from this city are sent to the permanent city of the Sultan, and they will be given everlasting gifts there.
Despite the wealth of such a powerful, benevolent and honoured Sultan, departing of those who fulfilled their services without getting paid, and those who oppressed others without any punishment show us that they are taken to the permanent capital city of the Sultan in order that they get reward for their service and punishment for their rebellion.
With repeated proclamations, that exalted Sultan has heralds announce in every corner of the city that this city is established temporarily only in order for him to introduce himself to his folk and examine their loyalty to him; and one day it will be totally demolished, and everyone will go to the permanent city all together to get rewards or punishments. Since that noble Sultan who has high attributes says that he will do so; he will certainly do.
There are many clear indications, like the three basic points mentioned above, that this city is temporary, and the day its duty finishes everyone will move to the permanent city.
Things proved by this story
Till this point followings are what we understand: one of the men in the story proved that there is a Sultan of the city; that Sultan is not an ordinary person, but has great attributes; that he has established the city temporarily to introduce himself to the folk; one day the people working there will move to the real and permanent city and get reward or punishment according to their deeds and stay there forever. While proving these things he based his evidences upon the apparent activities of the Sultan in the city and his attributes understood with those works.
The truth of the city story
At the beginning while informing you about giving examples, we said that a truth is proven by using some examples, and this is a different type of evidence and makes much effect than logical proof. We can say that “examples are like binoculars; they make far truths closer and to be seen clearly.” Now we will look at the truth of resurrection and hereafter with the help of that city example.
If we enlarge that city, it becomes the World. This World has a pre-eternal Sultan just as the city has a Sultan. And we know from His works and proclamations that the Sultan is a Lord Who is very Kareem, just and merciful. And just as the public of that city move somewhere else without getting any reward or punishment, so too the people in this world will leave it one day. That is, they go to a place where they will get their just reward.
In short, if someone were to study the example of this city carefully and be satisfied that ‘the city has a Sultan of course, and the people are leaving this transient city and going to the capital city of the Sultan to get their rewards,’ and when he thinks about this world in the same way, he will have no doubt that ‘one day the life of this world will come to an end, and people will go to Heaven or Hell.’
How the world proves the existence of Allah SWT
All those things exhibited in this world are great works of art and prove evidentially the existence of our pre-eternal Sultan. For a masterpiece can only be the work of a great master; it cannot be the result of coincidence or the work of weak entities. Moreover, millions of living beings, who are created during the spring, the summer and the entire year and who are exhibited on the earth, can only be manifested due to the existence of the All-Powerful Allah SWT. And this much wealth cannot be without an owner, and it certainly belongs to Him.
Furthermore, Allah SWT sent one hundred and twenty thousand prophets, four great holy books and one hundred suhuf (pages) (all of which prove His existence) and addressed the people through them. In order to prove the truthfulness of those prophets, who were chosen from the most trustworthy and morally upright of man, He gave miracles to them; and He did not leave any doubt that they were His messengers.
Reward and Punishment from the Test of this World
What Allah SWT wants from the people He sent to this world in order to introduce Himself to them is that they live according to the things He commands and forbids, strive to improve themselves and to deserve Heaven. Therefore, people have to strive for the good deeds and abstain from the bad things and from being rebellious to Allah SWT.
As you know there are two things which urge people to take action: reward and punishment. Every administrator who can motivate people in the way he wishes surely uses reward and punishment. This great steady universe shows that the governance of our Lord is excellent. It is unimaginable that such a Lord does not give rewards and punishments in order to make people work in His favour.
Furthermore, when we examine His works in the world, it is clear that He has endless mercy, gifts, wealth, justice and wisdom. It is unthinkable that our Creator, Who is loved, believed in, and obeyed by His believing servants, does not give favour as a reward for His servants’ efforts. But everyone dies before getting any reward. So this means they do not vanish, but are taken to Heaven.
How can it be possible that our great and glorious Lord Who rules over the universe will not punish those who rebel against Him, oppose His commands, oppress His folk and destroy the order of the world? But seemingly they leave this world without any punishment. That is to say, those people are not running away anywhere, but are seized by the angel of death and sent to the Hell where they will be punished. And one day, the entire world will be emptied for the Doomsday. Then a new world will be established. The obedient will go to Heaven to be the eternal folk there; the rebellious will be the denizens of Hell.
The Transient World and the Hereafter
The world’s being transient shows that it cannot be the eternal place of Allah’s sovereignty; because if there were no other place to live, people would vanish forever. And the people who think in this way would not be able to know and love Him truly; because if people, who feel the taste of life, were to be thrown away to nothingness, they would be enemy against Allah SWT. This would be contradictory with the purpose of Allah SWT in the test of this life.
Allah SWT did not create the test of life in order to have enemies. That would be absolutely nonsensical. Allah SWT has not created man to perish, but to live an eternal life. This can be clearly understood from the entirety of His beautiful creation, His merciful treatment, His favours, and the promises in His holy books. For this reason, one day the test will finish, the Doomsday will come, and Allah SWT will create a new realm, Heaven and Hell. All of mankind will be resurrected. Some will go to Heaven to get their rewards; some will go to Hell to get their punishment. Since this is promised by the words of 124,000 of His prophets, He will certainly keep that promise.