Meaning of the life and how it gains value

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Today, we will read a part [from Risale-i Nur] addressing the heart, rather than the mind. From “ayat al hasbiyya” –that is, the verse of hasbunallah wa ni’mal wakiil- It is a kind of explanation of our Ustaz [Bediuzzaman Said Nursi].

A beautiful piece that tells the meaning of the life, that how the life gains value when we look at it in the name of Allah. Let’s read and try to get benefit.

The fifth degree of the luminous verse ‘حسبنا الله ونعم الوكيل’ (For us Allah suffices)

“Another time when my life was being shaken by severe conditions, it turned my attention towards life and I saw that mine was swiftly passing. I was approaching the end of my life; it had begun to be dimmed with the oppression I suffered. But I thought sorrowfully of how, because of its important duties and virtues and valuable benefits, which are explained in the treatise on the Divine Name of Ever-Living, life deserved to be very lengthy, not to be swiftly extinguished in that way.”

Why does this valuable life extinguish (ends) very quickly, shouldn’t it be longer?

“I once again had recourse to my master, the verse For us God suffices, and He is the Best Disposer of Affairs!, and it told me: ‘Consider life from the point of view of the Ever-Living and Self-Subsistent One, Who gives you life!’”

This is the key sentence. “Consider life from the point of view of the Ever-Living and Self-Subsistent One, Who gives you life!” Not on your behalf, but on the behalf of the Creator. Let’s see what the meaning of the life is when we look at it in the name of Allah (swt).

“So I considered it and I understood that if one aspect of life looks to me, one hundred aspects look to the Ever-Living Granter of Life. If one of its results concerns me, a thousand of its results pertain to my Creator. In that respect it did not require great length,”

Its being long or short does not matter when we look at the aspect of Allah (swt).

“In fact it needed no time at all; to live for an instant was sufficient.

“This truth is elucidated together with proofs in various parts of the Risale-i Nur, so here it will be explained in four ‘Matters,’ in brief and summary form.”

So the matter here is how we can look at the life in the name of Allah (swt). And what are the results when we look at the life on His behalf.

“First Matter: I looked in the manner the essence and reality of life look to the Ever-Living and Self-Subsistent One, and I saw that in reality my life was a collection of keys with which to open the treasuries of the Divine Names,”

Every Name of Allah is a treasury. And the keys that open those treasuries are with the human. The faculties given to the human, very one of them, are like the keys to one Divine Name of Allah.

“and a small map of their inscriptions,”

A map that includes all the inscriptions of the Names of Allah (swt)! A map, as you know, can show a huge country on a small piece of paper. Likewise, the manifestations of the Divine Names of Allah (swt) can be shown in one creature, human. So human becomes like a map to those manifestations.

“an index of their manifestations, a sensitive balance and measure of the vast truths of the universe, and a word of wisdom written to know and make known, and to understand and make understood, the meaningful Names of the Ever-Living and Self-Subsistent One.”

Life is a collection of keys with which to open the treasuries of the Divine Names, a map that includes all the inscriptions of the Names of Allah (swt), and a conscious word that understands the meanings of those Divine Names and make others understood.

“When life’s reality is this, its value increases a thousandfold,”

So, the human is not aware of himself. He is not a being only made of blood, flesh and bone. When we look at the essence of the human from this aspect, that he is a mirror to the Names of the Creator of the universe, that he understands the manifestations of the Names, reflects upon them, and tells others about them, the life gains a thousandfold value. So, we understand that the more a person serves the Names of Allah, the more his life becomes valuable; the more brightly he shows the inscriptions of the Names of Allah on himself, or the more easily and beautifully he can read those inscriptions or make others read them, then the life of that man gains value so much.

“and one hour of it gains the significance of a lifetime.”

A one-hour life that serves the Names of Allah (swt) becomes more valuable than a long life that is not in that path.

“In respect of its relation to the Pre-Eternal One, Who has no time, [that the life is a mirror to the Divine Names] life may not be considered with regard to its length or brevity.”

So, when we look at the life from the aspect of understanding the manifestations of the Divine Names and make others understand them, and from the aspect of serving Allah (swt), life’s being short or long does not have any significance. A very short life spent for the sake of Allah (swt) is much more valuable than very long lifetimes spent otherwise.

“Second Matter: I considered the true rights of life, and I understood that my life is a heavenly letter; it invites my brothers, other intelligent creatures, to read itself; it is a place of study making known its Creator.”

The life of everyone, the body of everyone, being the inscriptions of the Divine names, are each a letter of Him. And they make other conscious beings read these letters of Allah (swt).

“It is also a manifesto proclaiming my Creator’s perfections.”

Yes, when we look at the work of arts in our bodies, we say “so the One Who created these things is perfect and powerful, all-knowing.” Our bodies show the perfection of the all Divine attributes on themselves.

“Knowingly adorning itself in the priceless gifts and decorations bestowed on it by life’s Creator, it displays them consciously, gratefully, and believingly to the Peerless Monarch in the daily parade.”

This part is interesting. One time our Ustaz asks “why the creatures were created, what that creation mean.” First answer, it is to show the inscriptions of the Divine Names of Allah (swt). And he says, “This meaning was sufficient to me for a while.” But after sometime, he says, I thought that there were some beauties which the conscious beings cannot see or realize, many works of art of Allah (swt), deep in the ocean, at the top of highest mountains, at the stars we see in the night. Who among us see them? At that moment I understood that, he says, Allah (swt) Himself observe them, He enjoys watching His own works of art in a way befitting His Divinity. Ustaz uses there the expression “so to speak “المقدّس لزت” (Divine pleasure).” He also adds that we are incapable of expressing it correctly. Allah (swt) presents His works of art to Himself. This meaning, he says, became sufficient for a long time.

What else? There is no stopping in the universe. There are things that come and go continuously. There is a constant renewal. What is the meaning of this constant renewal? Allah (swt) created, He presented them to Himself, and He observed them. But He destroys them, and creates again. Why is this renewal? At that moment I understood that, he says, the renewal of that action is related with some Divine qualities as we understand from the verse “كل یوم هو فی شأن” (every day He is bringing about a matter.) (Rahman, 55:29)

Imagine a calligrapher. He loves and enjoys writing; writing once and later looking at it is not sufficient for the calligrapher; so he writes and writes again; he loves it. Similarly, if we may say so, Allah (swt) wants to create.

Every creature displays the works of art on itself to Allah (swt).

“It comprehends, observes, and proclaims the thankful benedictions and glorifications of the Creator of innumerable living beings.”

This is the duty of the life.

“And it makes known verbally and through the tongues of disposition and worship, the beauties of the Ever-Living and Self-Subsistent One’s dominicality.”

It is to make known the lordship of Allah (swt) by obeying His commands.

“I understood with ‘the knowledge of certainty’ that the elevated rights of life like these did not require lengthy time, and that they elevate life a thousandfold,”

Think about it; we are a divine work of art of Allah (swt). By being so, how much value we gain? Calligraphy becomes valuable with the signature of the calligrapher on it. If he is a famous calligrapher, that one piece of paper costs a fortune; just because of his signature. If we erase that signature, it loses value a lot. Think about the painters. Some works of famous painters are imitated. If it is not realised, that fake picture is sold for high prices. But if it is realised that it is fake, the value drops instantly. Why is that so? The pictures are same. But the fact is that when it is realised that the painter is different, the value drops.

Think about it, every creature, every living being, is a work of art. They are the inscription of His Names. Allah (swt) constantly displays them to Himself. They are all works of art which Allah (swt) watches Himself. When we think in this way, the living beings, all creatures gain a tremendous value. But if they are not given to Allah (swt), if it is said they existed coincidentally, by themselves, or are made by the nature, they have no value anymore.

“And [those elevated rights of life] are a hundred times more valuable than the worldly rights of life.

“I exclaimed: Subhan Allah! (Glory be to Allah!) Belief is so valuable and living that it infuses with life everything it enters! It transforms the fleeting glimmer of transitory life into eternal life, dispelling the transience in it.”

When we look with the eye of faith, that transient life becomes luminous and valuable.

“Third Matter: I considered the innate duties of my life and its non-material benefits which look to my Creator,”

As he said earlier, if one of its results concerns us, a thousand of its results pertain to Allah (swt). So, what are those results?

“and I saw that it acts as a mirror to the Creator of life in three ways:

“The First Way: Through its powerlessness, weakness, poverty, and need, my life acts as a mirror to the power, strength, wealth, and mercy of the Creator of life.”

Although we are extremely poor in reality, all our needs are met. We are extremely weak, but all the creatures are in our service. Although one tiny microbe is enough to knock human down, huge creatures from stars to the Sun, animals from cows to chickens, all serve us; they become our lamps, our stoves; they serve us meat, milk, egg and etc. Why? We cannot do that by ourselves. If the entire universe serves us although we do not have the power, we think that there must be someone who has the power to make them serve us. So, with its powerlessness and poverty, our life shows Allah (swt) Who has endless wealth and power.

“Yes, just as the pleasure of food is known in proportion to the degree of hunger, and the degrees of light through the degrees of darkness, and the degrees of heat through the degrees of cold;”

During the daytime we cannot benefit from this lamp in this place so much. When there is daylight, the value of lamp is not known much. In winter the value of the cool air of AC is not known.

“in the same way, through the boundless powerlessness and poverty in my life, I understood the infinite power and mercy of my Creator, who answers my needs and wards off my innumerable enemies. I understood my duties of entreaty, supplication, worship, abasement, and seeking refuge with Allah, and I undertook these duties.”

So why has Allah (swt) given us weakness and poverty? In order to ask Him, seek refuge in Him, worship Him. So, the first one is that we become mirrors to the endless power and wealth of Allah (swt) with our weakness and poverty.

“The Second Way is acting as a mirror to the universal and comprehensive attributes and acts of my Creator through the meanings in my own life like partial knowledge, will, hearing and sight.”

This subject is covered in the 30th Word which is about “the self.” Here are the keys mentioned earlier as a collection of keys with which to open the treasuries of the Divine Names. For instance, we say “I see.” So we understand what it is to see. And we say “Just as I do things by seeing, the One Who has created this universe must be seeing.” We understand the Divine Name “Al Basir” (The All Seeing) with the help our own seeing ability. What is more, we say “My seeing has defects. I cannot see without light. I cannot see thing that are too small. I cannot see things far away and too close.” But at the end of the day, this tells us what it is to be able to see. Then we say, “The Creator has no defect of vision. He does not need light. It does not matter whether things are small or big. He sees without any defect.” So, we understand the seeing of Allah (swt) with the help of our seeing.

For example, there is the matter of ownership. We say, “My book, my car, my house.” We are not the real owners, but we have a feeling of ownership. This tells us what it means to own something. If we did not have this feeling, we could not understand the ownership. So we would not understand when we hear “there is an owner of this universe.” We would ask “what is that?” That is, if we do not know the concept of ownership, we cannot understand it. As we say “This house is mine, this is my car,” we also realise the fact that “this huge universe must belong to someone.” So, the Divine Name of Allah (swt), Al Malik (The Sovereign Lord), starts to manifest.

In this way, with the help of the feelings he has human starts to understand the Divine qualities of Allah (swt).

“Yes, I understood through the many meanings in my own life and my conscious acts like knowing, hearing, seeing, speaking, and wanting —like my size relative to the universe but in far greater degree— my Creator’s all-encompassing attributes such as knowledge, will, hearing, sight, power, and life, and His qualities such as love, anger and compassion.”

If the human did not have the feeling of anger, he would not understand why Allah (swt) punishes people in the Hell. But Allah (swt) has given the human a share from the feeling of anger, so human can understand why Allah (swt) sends those who rebel against Him to the Hell. In this way, human can understand what is anger.

“Believing, I assented to them, and admitting this, I found another way leading to knowledge of Allah.

“The Third Way is acting as a mirror to the Divine Names, inscriptions and manifestations of which are present in my life.”

We have the inscriptions of the Divine Names of Allah (swt) on us. He has given us this shape with His Divines Names such as Al Khaliq (The Creator), Al Razzaq (The Provider), Al Malik (The Sovereign Lord), Al Alim (The All Knowing), Al Musawwir (The Fashioner). There are seen the manifestations of the inscriptions of these Divine Names.

“Yes, as I beheld my own life and body, I saw hundreds of sorts of miraculous works,”

Hundreds of miracles, not just one or two! Eyes, ears, and many others… Do you know that there are some tiny hairs in the ears, and they help us to hear? We generally think that it is the eardrum. But these hairs outside of the eardrum are the things that help us hear. When sounds come, they vibrate and we can hear. What else? The mucosa in the middle ear; they balance our body.

The other day I watched a documentary. It was about the capillary vessels at the forehead of a gazelle. There are many capillary vessels on its forehead that help cooling its blood while running. Because there are many capillary vessels on the forehead the way that the blood goes through becomes longer, so the blood gets cool. And that animal can continue running with the help of that system. Otherwise, it would die while running. The AC in our homes and offices uses the same system to cool the air.

There are many works of art in our bodies or in the bodies of other living beings.

“inscriptions, and arts, and observed moreover that I was being most compassionately nurtured.”

We are really nurtured compassionately. The trees, for instance, eat mud in fact. It is their basic food if we may say so. Allah (swt) could have made the human like them; we would eat mud and continue to live. Or He could have made a mush our main sustenance. They give serum to the patients, for example. It has no taste! We cannot get pleasure from it, that is. But they still live, don’t they?

However, while sending our sustenance, Allah (swt) gives them beautiful colours, delicious tastes, pleasant scent. Every food is appetizing. They appeal many of our feelings. This shows that we are nurtured compassionately.

“I understood therefore through the light of belief, how extraordinarily generous, merciful, skilful and gracious was the One Who created me and gave me life; how wondrously powerful and, if one may say so, ingenious, provident, and efficient. I understood too what the innate duties and aims of creation and results of life consisted of, such as glorification, sanctification, praise, thanks, exaltation, affirming Allah’s unity, and declaring His greatness and His praises.”

Here we see some results that pertain to our Creator. What are they: tasbih (glorification), taqdis (sanctification), hamd (praise), shukr (thanks), takbir (exaltation), tawhid (affirming Allah’s unity), ta’zim (declaring His greatness and His praises), ibadah (worship).

“And I understood with ‘the knowledge of certainty’ the reason life is the most valuable creature in the universe and why everything is subjugated to it, and the wisdom in everyone having an innate passion for life;”

Everyone wants to live, right? Everyone loves life.

“I understood that belief is the very life of life.”

May Allah (swt) make all of our lives attain these secrets. And may He help us understand these subtleties of the life, and perform those innate duties rightfully. Amin.


* This piece is a translation of a talk given in a halaqa.