The Damascus Sermon: A Gift From Istanbul II
“And from amongst you there must be a party who will call people to all that is good and will enjoin the doing of all that is right and will forbid the doing of all that is wrong. It is they who will attain true success. Do not be like those who fell into factions and became opposed to one another after Clear Signs had come to them. A mighty chastisement awaits them.”[al-Imraan: 104-105 ]
Last week we started the serialization of the great sermon of Damascus by Badiuzzaman Said Nursi and hope to continue this week, Insha’Allah.
“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 a 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.
[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 accepted and started to teach the Qur'an in their schools as a barrier to communism and irreligion. And certain important English orators are seen to be in favour of encouraging the English to accept the Qur'an. And America, which is 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 happiness, peace and reconciliation through Islam, and it patronizes and encourages the newly born Muslim states and tries to enter into alliance with them.]
If we were to display through our actions the perfections of the moral qualities of Islam and the truths of belief, without doubt, the followers of other religions would enter Islam in whole communities; rather, some entire regions and states, even, on the globe of the earth would take refuge in Islam.
Moreover, mankind has been awakened and aroused by the sciences of civilization, in particular; they have understood the true nature of humanity. Without any shadow of a doubt, they are not able to live without religion, aimlessly. They cannot. Even the most irreligious of them is compelled to take refuge in religion. For the only point of support for impotent mankind in the face of the innumerable disasters and the external and internal enemies that plague them, and the only point from which they may seek help and assistance in the face of the innumerable needs with which they are afflicted, and their desires that stretch to eternity, despite their 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 mankind and they will become the most unhappy, the most wretched of animals.
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; rather, 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 man’s 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, would 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 globe of the earth have each 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!”
For example, look at the beginning and end 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 does mankind not know, why do they fall into compounded ignorance? Why do they not understand, and then sink into lunacy? Why do they not look, have they become blind so that they cannot see the Truth? Why does man not call to mind and ponder over his own life and the events in the world so that h e might find the straight path’? Why do they not think, deliberate and reason with the mind and so fall i nto misguidance? Oh 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.
Oh 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 right to your senses! Oh you who are wise and thoughtful and consider yourselves to be enlightened!
We Muslims, who are students of the Qur’an, follow proof; we approach the truths of belief through reason, though, 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 the intellect, 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 intellect to confirm its pronounce
Moreover, the veils that eclipse the sun of Islam, hinder its emergence and prevent 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.* The true dawn broke in 1371 /1951, or it will break. Even if that was the false dawn, in thirty or forty years time the true dawn will break….”
We promised to conclude the article with a glimpse of the life and time of this great timeless scholar and reformer; Badiuzzaman Sa’id Nursi. Here is the fulfillment of the promise:
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was born in 1876 in Eastern Turkey (the Village of Nurs) and died in 1960 in Urfa in Turkey. Readers may refer to his biography for details of his long and exemplary life, which spanned the last decades of the Ottoman Empire, its collapse after the First World War and the setting up of the Republic, then the twenty-five years of Republican Peoples’ Party rule, well-known for the measures taken against Islam, followed by the ten years of Democrat rule, when conditions eased a little for Bediuzzaman.
Bediuzzaman displayed an extraordinary intelligence and ability to learn from an early age, completing the normal course of Madrasa (religious school) education at the early age of fourteen, when he obtained his diploma. He became famous for both his prodigious memory and his unbeaten record in debating with other religious scholars.
He was a scholar of the highest standing having studied not only all the available traditional religious sciences, but also modern sciences of his time. The extraordinary intelligence and capability of learning that he showed at a very early age made him popular with his teachers, colleagues and the people. When he was sixteen years old, he silenced the distinguished scholars who had invited him to a debate (debate was then a popular practice among scholars). This later recurred several more times with various groups of scholars, and he thereby began to be called Bediuzzaman (Wonder of the Age). The time he spent in education paved the way in his mind for the thought that at a time when the world was entering a new and different age, where science and logic would prevail, the classical educational system of theology would not be sufficient to remove doubts concerning the Qur’an and Islam. He concluded that religious sciences should be taught at modern schools on the one hand, and modern sciences at religious schools on the other. “This way,” he said, “the people of the school will be protected from unbelief, and those of the madrasa from fanaticism.” After completing a lifetime of almost a century, with every minute spent in the service of faith, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi departed from this world on the morning of March 23, 1960, with complete honor, dignity and victory, leaving behind him the Risale-i Nur Collection that would illuminate this and the forthcoming centuries and a love that would be handed over from generation to generation until eternity.
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.
The time he spent in education paved the way in his mind for the thought that at a time when the world was entering a new and different age, where science and logic would prevail, the classical educational system of theology would not be sufficient to remove doubts concerning the Qur’an and Islam. He concluded that religious sciences should be taught at modern schools on the one hand, and modern sciences at religious schools on the other. “This way,” he said, “the people of the school will be protected from unbelief, and those of the madrasa from fanaticism.” After completing a lifetime of almost a century, with every minute spent in the service of faith, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi departed from this world on the morning of March 23, 1960, with complete honuor, dignity and victory, leaving behind him the Risale-i Nur Collection that would illuminate this and the forthcoming centuries and a love that would be handed over from generation to generation until eternity, in sha Allah!