Many people who write on religion spend their lives authoring academic tomes or theological treatises that are abstract or divorced from the reader’s life. Others offer such simplistic and “feel-good” explanations that they are worse than useless and in fact might actually do great harm.
Said Nursi, however, makes the same points just as eloquently through simple parables and allegories from which everyone can benefit. Even more importantly, his solutions and explanations fit right into real life, regardless of our level of mental, spiritual, or cultural development. In that respect, he follows the style of the Qur’an, the final Divine Revelation addressed to every person, regardless of his or her particular era, culture, language, age, or level of intelligence.
Although written during the second quarter of the twentieth century, Said Nursi’s views have not been made obsolete by time. If his calls for avoiding nationalism built on ethnicity or any other human consideration had been heeded, would we have had to endure the atrocities in Bosnia and Rwanda, or the even more horrific examples of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and Maoist China? If we had based our progress upon scientific knowledge and understanding, instead of ideological assertions and utopian thought, would we have had to watch communist regimes destroy their countries and their citizens by ignoring reality and what makes people human? If we had used our knowledge and wealth to uplift all of humanity, instead of just certain sections, would we still be faced with the massive—and apparently unsolvable—problems of Third World poverty, debt, illiteracy, human rights violations, and thuggish leaders who hold on to power at all costs?
Would we be spending most of our resources on making better weapons or improving national infrastructures to deliver food and the conveniences of modern life to those who do not have them; on building military bases or on building schools, clinics, hospitals, and better housing; on drawing farther apart from those who are different from us instead of drawing closer and working together for a better future for all of our children? Read his words carefully, and try to find yourself in them so that you can do your part to improve your own life and the lives of those around you.
A FINAL NOTE: Every effort has been made in this book to allay the misperception that Islam is a male-dominated religion and for men only. This view has been popularized in the media and in academia. We would like to point out that no religion can be blamed for the misunderstandings of its followers. Islam teaches that Adam and Eve were created, lapsed, and were forgiven in equal measure; that men and women are equal in God’s eyes; and that they are equal as regards their responsibilities and duties toward God and others. As God states in the Qur’an: I shall not allow to go to waste the deed of any one among you, whether male or female. You are one from the other (3:195). However, in the interest of textual fidelity, most of the time only men are mentioned.
— The Editor