by Dr. Mahmoud al-Misri
Life and the universe are manifestations of the Names of Allah (SWT). Those Names, which are eternal, necessitate that their reflections also be eternal. In this perspective, life should go on even after death, though it may be in a different place and form.
Anyone who has read Bediuzzaman Said Nursi’s Treatises of Light (Rasa’il al-Nur) can attest to the fact that the work is permeated by a scholarly, methodological approach which addresses the mind while moving the heart. Such an approach effects intellectual as well as experiential forms of knowledge, and is arrived at by means of a clear exposition of the manifestation of the Divine Names in all levels of created being in this world and the next. This is a matter to which Nursi devotes particular attention in his epistles. The effect of this intellectual/experiential approach is apparent even in to the way he deals with articles of the Islamic creed known only through revelation.
In this article, I shall discuss the manifestations of those Divine Names that are connected to the doctrine of resurrection—one of the articles of faith known only through revelation—as scholastically and precisely treated by Nursi in his epistle, ‘An essay on the resurrection’ (Risalat al-hashr). We shall demonstrate his approach through an exposition of three themes—intellectual and experiential—that are operative in the twelve metaphysical realities mentioned in his essay. In this paper, I will trace the occurrence of these three themes, which are:
- The relevance of the Divine Names mentioned by Nursi in his epistle to the doctrine of resurrection;
- The correlation of a given Divine Name to a corollary Name, according to Nursi;
- The appropriateness of Nursi’s ordering of the Divine Names in his ‘Essay on the Resurrection’.
Finally, examples of the relevance, correlation and appropriateness of the Divine Names are provided from the Qur’an.
Nursi provides these twelve metaphysical truths as the bases and corollaries for twelve arguments for the existence of a Final Judgment—an abode of requital and beneficence, as well as one of punishment and tribulation. These arguments are cast in the form of a parable, the crux of which is that it is not logically possible for a sovereign to possess a dominion which, while magnificent, is best compared to a temporary guest house, and then to not have another dominion, permanent and stable, which serves as the locus of the display of His greatness and the manifestation of His sovereignty.
First: The Name ‘the Lord (al-Rabb)’
The relevance of the Divine Name ‘the Lord’ to the doctrine of resurrection
Of the Divine manifestations of the Name ‘the Lord’ (al-Rabb) is the Creator’s cultivating and nurturing His servants, by His assuming responsibility for their wellbeing, and His showing them favour and kindness, until they reach the degree of refinement apportioned for them in His knowledge. This act of nurturing, in its perfection, comprises the physical nurturing of the servant’s bodily, mental, and psychological faculties; and his spiritual nurturing by way of Allah’s guiding him to the Straight Path—most importantly, through the guidance of the Prophets. The result of such perfect concern and support is that the human becomes prepared to achieve two goals—two goals that are the final objectives of all things:
- First: to comprehend the meaning and purpose for which man was created; namely, utter servitude to Allah, the Most High.
- Second: to fulfil all of the requirements and obligations which follow from this realization.
Reward or punishment, then, is the natural result of the servant’s either fulfilling or neglecting the requirements of his servitude. For the Divine Name ‘the Lord’ (al-Rabb) manifests itself in His dominion, of which all humans are a part: He is their Master, Who disposes them as He wills, in this world and the next.
Allah, the Most High says: ‘No, creation and command is His alone; the most Blessed is Allah, Lord of the worlds’. So He is the Creator, and in His grasp rests the command of creation, in this world and the next. From another perspective, the creature’s affair is not sound, in this world or the next, without following the command of He who created him. And it is for this reason that, after establishing the utter singularity of the Real’s prerogative of creation and command, he follows with His words: ‘Most Blessed is Allah, Lord of the worlds’. This is a statement of absolute praise of Allah, the Most High, emphasising that attribute by which His magnanimity unto the worlds is established: namely, the manifestation of the Name ‘the Lord’ (al-Rabb) in creation.
Nursi (may Allah have mercy upon him) in order to further elucidate this correlation, says: ‘Is it possible for the Possessor of this Lordship and Divine sovereignty, who has brought into existence an utterly unique cosmos like ours, for lofty ends and magnificent purpose, and by which His perfection thereby becomes manifest…is it possible that He then not have in store a reward for the believers, who reciprocate these ends and purposes with faith and utter servitude, or that He not punish those of misguidance who reciprocated with rejection and belittlement?’
Nursi’s correlation of the Divine Name ‘the Lord’ (al-Rabb) with the doctrine of the resurrection, while drawing attention to the manifestation of this Divine Name (for example, in the servant’s response to the requirements of servitude), is found in His Most High’s saying: ‘Our Lord, Thou hast not created this for vanity. Glory be to Thee! Guard us against the chastisement of the Fire’; and in His Most High’s saying: ‘Our Lord, give us what Thou hast promised us by Thy Messengers, and abase us not on the Day of Resurrection; Thou wilt not fail the tryst.’ And we also find that the Divine reward for accepting His call is correlated, in the Qur’an, with the Divine Name ‘the Lord’ (al-Rabb): ‘And their Lord answers them: ‘I waste not the labour of any that labours among you’.
The appropriateness of Nursi’s ordering of the Divine Names ‘the Lord’, ‘the All-Generous’, and ‘the All-Just’
Nursi’s introducing of his essay with a discussion of the manifestations of the Name ‘the Lord’ (al-Rabb) is a brilliant display of introduction: for every created being is in need of nurturing, which itself requires the correlation of the other Divine Names later discussed in the context of the doctrine of resurrection. The manifestation of the Name ‘the Lord’ (al-Rabb) is followed by the manifestation of a group of other names which are necessitated by the act of nurturing, such as the Names ‘the All-Generous’ (al-Karim), ‘the Compassionate’ (al-Rahim), ‘the All-Wise’ (al-Hakim), ‘the All-Just’ (al-‘Adl), ‘Magnanimous’ (al-Jawwad), etc.
Allah, the Most High says, ‘Say: “Shall I seek after a Lord other than Allah, who is the Lord of all things?”’
Now, considering that one of the greatest forms of the Lord’s concern for, attention to, conducting the affairs of, and sustaining His servant is by means of the manifestation of His Divine generosity and mercy—since He nurtured their bodies through the existence of blessings, and nurtured their spirits through their witnessing of His mercy towards His servants; and since generosity is one of the qualities of sustaining, and mercy one of the qualities of concern—it was befitting that the manifestation of the Name ‘the Lord’ (al-Rabb) be followed by the manifestation of the Names ‘the All-Generous’ (al-Karim) and ‘the Compassionate’ (al-Rahim).
In the words of Allah, the Most High: ‘He said, “Our Lord is He who gave everything its creation, then guided it.”’ That is, it is He who chose to grant every created thing those traits that befit it, out of mercy for it, then paved a way for it to transverse its life path in accordance with those traits rendered fitting for it, out of His generosity.
Second: The Names ‘the All-Generous’ (al-Karim) and ‘the Compassionate’ (al-Rahim)
The relevance of the Divine Names ‘the All-Generous’ and ‘the Compassionate’ to the doctrine of resurrection
Of the manifestations of the Name ‘the All-Generous’ (al-Karim) is His tremendous bestowing of blessings, without limit, and without being asked. Ibn ‘Ata’illah (may Allah have mercy upon him) says: ‘Let not your ambition to go beyond Him to any other, for hopes cannot overstep the Most Generous.’ Sheikh Ahmad al-Zarruq comments: ‘That “other” should not be sought after, nor should it be sought from Him.’ This is also what Sheikh Ibn ‘Arabi (may Allah have mercy upon him) understood from His Most High’s saying: ‘O Man! What deceived thee as to thy generous Lord?’, commenting: ‘Allah has, in the very question, instructed man as to the response: ‘I was deceived by the generosity of the All-Generous, for His generosity is His bestowal of blessings without limits.’
As for the manifestation of the Divine Name ‘the Compassionate’ (al-Rahim), this name necessitates that Allah sustain a thing after bringing it into existence. Now, Allah’s sustaining of the believer has been elucidated in His Most High’s saying: ‘He is All-Compassionate to the believers’; while the sustaining of the disbeliever is that he be increased in punishment, as expressed in His Most High’s saying: ‘We grant them indulgence only that they may increase in sin.’ Ibn ‘Ata’illah (may Allah have mercy upon him) says: ‘There are two blessings of which no created being is bereft, and every creature partakes of: He first blessed you with existence, then the continuation of His sustaining you.’ Allah Most High says: ‘Each We succour, these and those, from thy Lord’s gift.’
Thus, the full manifestation of the Divine Name ‘the All-Generous’ (al-Karim), and of the Divine Name ‘the Compassionate’ (al-Rahim), cannot be contained in a world that eventually passes into absence.
Nursi (may Allah Have mercy upon him) treats this correlation between Allah’s generosity and mercy on the one hand, and the resurrection on the other, following his discussion of the manifestation of Divine generosity and mercy. He explains: ‘All of this (indicating thereby the aforementioned sites of manifestation) intuitively shows us a generosity of the utmost beauty, and a mercy of the utmost kindness.’ He continues, ‘So long as the Lord of this world and the conductor of its affairs possesses such a liberal generosity and endless mercy; and so long as absolute majesty and might are His; and since this absolute majesty and might entail the disciplining of the contemptuous, and this absolute and liberal generosity entails endless ennoblement; and since the mercy encompassing all things calls for a corresponding degree of benevolence; and since nothing of this may be fully realized in this ephemeral world and short life, save for a portion so insignificant as to be no more than a drop from an ocean…’.
In addition to the aforementioned proofs for the necessity of the resurrection, as entailed by the manifestations of His generosity and mercy, Nursi furnishes further proofs based upon the argument that the lack of the existence of a resurrection would be inconsistent with Allah’s generosity and mercy. ‘There must be an abode of felicity,’ he says, ‘befitting His all-encompassing generosity, and in harmony with His expansive mercy. Otherwise, to deny this mercy—which is witnessed by one and all—is paramount to denying the existence of the sun whose light fills our days. Why? Because to argue that—after the demise of a thing, there follows no resurrection—is to necessarily negate the reality of mercy in existence: to do so is to replace tenderness with affliction, love with burning anguish, blessing with tribulation, pleasure with pain, and a sound mind with a barren brain.’
The correlation of the Divine Name ‘the All-Generous’ to its corollary ‘the Compassionate’, according to Nursi
Why, then, has Nursi seen it fit to correlate the Divine Names ‘the All-Generous’ (al-Karim) and ‘the Compassionate’ (al-Rahim)? The reason lies in the fact that, insofar as Allah’s mercy is exhaustive and all-encompassing, it necessitates that goodness be poured forth freely upon anyone in need, and that it be intended for any such person as a result of His pure concern for his wellbeing. The mercy is exhaustive insofar as He wills that the person’s needs be fulfilled, and thereby fulfils them; it is all-encompassing insofar as it encompasses both the deserving and the undeserving of his servants, both in this world and the next. These observations are unavoidably linked with the manifestation of the Divine Name ‘the All-Generous’ (al-Karim), whose giving and outpouring of generosity is of a limitless nature. As Sheikh Abu Madyan (may Allah have mercy on him) has said: ‘The Abidingly Real is all-governing, while the world is in need of His sustaining it. His act of sustaining it is generosity itself, for were His sustaining of it to be cut off, its very existence would crumble’. So, a thing’s being sustained through the Divine Presence of generosity is correlated to that mercy which encompasses all things. And were it not for the manifestation of these two Divine Names in the world, then the world would return to its original state—that of non-existence.
The appropriateness of Nursi’s ordering of the Divine Names ‘the All-Generous’, ‘the Compassionate’, ‘the All-Wise’, and ‘the All-Just’
Since the basis of Allah’s being ‘the All-Generous’ (al-Karim) is His lack of concern for how much He gives, or to whom He gives; and since the basis of His being ‘the Compassionate’ is an exhaustive manifestation of His mercy upon all created things, as previously discussed; and since His giving is necessarily according to His wisdom and justice: since this all is true, it is necessary that—following the mention of the manifestation of the Divine Names ‘the All-Generous’ and ‘the Compassionate’—mention be made of the manifestation of the Names ‘the All-Wise’ and ‘the All-Just’. This ordering allows the specific to follow from the general, thereby alluding to necessity of the existence of an eternal hereafter following that of this ephemeral here-below. An example of such rhetorical specification after the establishment of a general category is found in His Most High’s saying, ‘The most noble of you is the most God-fearing’.
Third: The Divine Names ‘the All-Wise’ (al-Hakim) and ‘the All-Just’ (al-‘Adl)
The relevance of the Divine Names ‘the All-Wise’ and the ‘All-Just’ to the doctrine of resurrection
Verily, perfection of created things is the result of the Name ‘the All-Wise’, such that they emerge perfectly in their proper place, order, and level in accordance to Allah’s knowledge, will and power. After all, only that which is connected to His pre-eternal knowledge appears in this world. Al-Qushayri, (may Allah have mercy upon him), has said, ‘One aspect of Allah’s wisdom which remains unknown to all save Him is His pre-eternally selecting one group for felicity, without any preceding cause; and His pre-eternally selecting another group for damnation, without any preceding cause. The pen of destiny has dried in the case of both groups’. Contemplating the manifestation of this Divine Name nullifies objections and makes you reflect on that beauty which is unadulterated by any ugliness.
As for the Divine Name ‘the All-Just’ (al-‘Adl), one of its manifestations is in the fact that His actions are elevated above injustice, a point connected to His freedom of prerogative in regards to His dominion. It is axiomatic that injustice and oppression cannot be ascribed to Him, because all that exists besides Him is His possession. So, whoever contemplates and perceives that Allah is ‘the All-Just’, will not find himself anxious regarding the rulings and commandments of Allah, and will find repose in Allah through submitting himself to Allah’s decreed moral obligations, and to His self-disclosure.
Thus, the relationship between the manifestation of the Divine Names ‘the All-Wise’ and ‘the All-Just’ to the doctrine of resurrection becomes apparent in two matters:
- First, that the servant is subservient to and submits to the requirements and implications of Allah’s wisdom and justice, and that he will receive whatever recompense results therefrom.
- Second, that complete wisdom and perfect justice cannot be fully realized in the limitary here-below.
Nursi (may Allah have mercy upon him) has made these two items absolutely clear, saying: ‘Is it possible for a Creator possessed of majesty, the dominion of Whose lordship is manifest in His managing of the laws of existence—from atoms to galaxies—with the utmost wisdom and orderliness, and with utter justice and balance…only for Him to then treat those who have sought shelter in His lordship, and who have submitted to His wisdom and justice, with anything but surpassing goodness; and that He not recompense those who— through their acts of disbelief and injustice—rebelled against His wisdom and justice? How could this be, when in this ephemeral world man does not meet with what he deserves of reward or punishment in a way appropriate to His wisdom and justice, except in the rarest of cases?’
Nursi continues on to provide further proof for the doctrine of resurrection from another perspective that also is connected with the manifestation of the Names ‘the All-Just’ and ‘the All-Wise’: namely, the human need for survival. ‘Furthermore,’ he says, ‘Allah’s continuously and endlessly responding to what He is called on for, whether these petitions be implicitly arising out of the nature and existential needs of the petitioner, or be they consciously made in a state of duress…in both cases, such petitions reveal that Absolute Justice and Absolute Wisdom are the two realities upon which the wheel of existence turns. In light of this, is it even remotely possible to think that this justice and wisdom of His should neglect the greatest need: namely, the need for the preservation of the highest form of creation that is man?’
The correlation of the Divine Name ‘the All-Wise’ to its corollary Name ‘the All-Just’
Allah’s inveterate practice is to fulfil every right and meet every obligation of man’s physical and spiritual needs. This practice occurs in accordance with what has been apportioned for him, by means of Allah’s unlimited generosity and His all-encompassing mercy. It is this that has led to the correlation between the Divine Names ‘the All-Wise’ and ‘the All-Just’: these names are manifest in the placing of created things in their proper place, without corruption or injustice, such that every right is fulfilled and every obligation is met.
Nursi (may Allah Have mercy upon him) says, by way of highlighting the relationship between these two names: ‘The bestowal of existence on each thing is by means of a most sensitive scale, and a most specific measure; by being given a particular form, and by being placed in a locus most suitable to it. This shows, with greatly clarity, that matters proceed according to absolute justice and absolute balance. Similarly, everything is given its due in accordance with that which it is prepared for, and the abilities with which it has been bestowed. That is to say, everything is given that which it is in need of, and that which is necessary for its existence; and everything is provided with all that it requires for the continuation of its existence in the best of conditions. All of this points to the fact that the hand of absolute justice is that which drives matters in this world.’
The appropriateness of Nursi’s ordering of the Divine Names ‘the All-Wise’, ‘the All-Just’, ‘the Magnanimous’, and ‘the Beautiful’
It is the perfection and mastery of His craftsmanship that indicates His Divine Name, ‘the All-Wise’ (al-Hakim), just as it is the order and arrangement of His work in the loci in which He has placed all things that indicates His Divine Name ‘the All-Just’ (al-‘Adl). Furthermore, it is this ordering and arrangement that have made manifest that it is He who has given everything its creation by means of the manifestation of His Name ‘the Magnanimous’ (al-Jawad). For it is this very ordering and arrangement that has made manifest the Beauty of the Divine Presence by means of the manifestation of His Name, ‘The Beautiful’ (al-Jamil). Nursi has indicated a number of these correlations, writing: ‘Insofar as this transient world is far removed from being able to serve as a locus for complete justice and complete wisdom in regards to man—that being created for eternal existence—then it is necessary that there exist both an eternal Paradise and an eternal Hell, in the control of the Most-Just, the Majestic, the Possessor of Beauty, and of the All-Wise, the Beautiful, the Possessor of Majesty’.
The preceding has sought to establish the harmony of the Divine Names with the doctrine of the resurrection as found in the writings of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. It has established the clarity of his scholarly, methodological approach, as indicated in the introduction to this article. His frequent use of the phrase, ‘Is it within the realm of possibility?’ in an example of a trope is used by Nursi to alert the reader to the logic of his discourse. The argument, ‘Disbelief and misguidance are usually born out of a person’s deeming something to be unlikely. A person deems that which they do not believe to be far off the scales of reason and to be impossible. This begins with denial and disbelief. …But the denotation of the term ‘resurrection’ has been clarified, and conclusive proofs have been established that the only thing that may truly be deemed improbable, impossible, unreasonable, and difficult to accept is that one disbelieve in the resurrection, and that one accept the arguments of the people of misguidance. What is truly possible to believe, perfectly rational, and so obvious as to be effectively necessary to accept is actually the path of faith, and the way of Islam.’
Furthermore, the correlations that have been discussed confirm our position regarding the correspondence between direct experiential knowledge and intellectual knowledge in the approach of Nursi. This has been established by means of analysing the various manifestations of the Divine Names, beginning with the cosmos and ending with the microcosm, which is man himself. Such an approach to knowledge is readily detected in Nursi’s statement: ‘Yes, the subsuming of the totality of existents, the keys to the treasuries of Divine mercy, the totality of the Most Beautiful Names functioning as mirrors, in this small body of the human being…all of these indeed indicate a surpassing wisdom found in this most marvellous creation’.
It is only appropriate that we should conclude this paper with the words of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (may Allah have mercy upon him) himself, summarizing all that has been discussed: ‘Just as this world indicates—conclusively and with certainty—the existence of its Noble Craftsman, Possessed of Majesty, by means of the created things found therein: similarly, His Most High’s sanctified attributes and His Most Beautiful Names point to the existence of the final abode of the hereafter, leaving no room for doubt; rather, they make its existence patently clear, and in fact they necessitate it.’