• Q and A

    Questions and Answers from the Risale-i Nur Collection
  • 1

What does it mean that Man Moves Between the Highest of the High and the Lowest of the Low?


Ibn Sina, called Avicenna in the West, summarizes man’s earthly life in his poem on the human soul as follows:

It descended upon thee from out of the regions above,

That exalted, ineffable, glorious, heavenly Dove.

‘Twas concealed from the eyes of all those who its nature would ken,

Yet it wears not a veil, and is ever apparent to men.

Unwilling it sought thee and joined thee, and yet, though it grieve,

It is like to be still more unwilling thy body to leave.

It resisted and struggled, and would not be tamed in haste,

Yet it joined thee, and slowly grew used to this desolate waste,

Till, forgotten at length, as I ween, were haunts and its troth

In the heavenly gardens and groves, which to leave it was loath.

Until, when it entered the D of its downward Descent,

And to earth, to the C of its center, unwillingly went,

The eye (I) of infirmity smote it, and lo, it was hurled

Mid the sign-posts and ruined abodes of this desolate world

It weeps, when it thinks of home and the peace it possessed,

With tears welling forth from its eyes without pausing or rest,

And with plaintive mourning it broodeth like one bereft

O’er such trace of home as the fourfold winds have left.

Thick nets detain it, and strong is the cage whereby

It is held from seeking the lofty and spacious sky.

Until, when the hour of its homeward flight draws near,

And ‘tis time for it to return to its ampler sphere,

It carols with joy, for the veil is raised, and it spies

Such things as cannot be witnessed by waking eyes.

On a lofty height doth it warble its songs of praise

(For even the lowliest being doth knowledge raise).

And so it returneth, aware of all hidden things

In the universe, while no stain to its garment clings.

Now why from its perch on high was it cast like this

To the lowest Nadir’s gloomy and drear abyss?

Was it God who cast it forth for some purpose wise,

Concealed from the keenest seeker’s inquiring eyes?

Then is its descent a discipline wise but stern,

That the things that it hath not heard it thus may learn.

So ‘tis she whom Fate doth plunder, while her star

Setteth at length in a place from its rising far,

Like a gleam of lightning which over the meadows shone,

And, as though it ne’er had been, in a moment is gone.

(Translated by E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, quoted by S. H. Nasr in Science and Civilization in Islam, London 1987, pp. 398–9))

The Creator’s being One means or requires His being absolutely independent. God made man as the exhibition of the manifestations of all His Names and Attributes, and His being independent is manifested in man as the desire of freedom. Therefore, in the worldly life, which the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, described as a few minutes’ halt in the shade of a tree during a long journey, and Ibn Sina likened to a flash of lightning on the grass, man’s primary concern is freedom.

We have witnessed that many atheist communists—who regard life as only this-worldly and ascribe all human motivation to economic factors—have sacrificed their lives for the sake of an illusory communist society. It has always seemed to me unreasonable that one who does not accept meta-economic values and does not believe in an eternal life, sacrifices his life which must be his only aim, for the ‘economic relations’ which are the means of living that life. So, there must be some other motives behind such a person’s sacrificing his life. Man can manage without ‘bread’, but he cannot manage without freedom, nor can he easily give up his inborn nobility as a human being. Since he is noble in creation, he pursues guidance, but sometimes the ‘stone’ of misguidance falls on his head. In consequence of his ego, man can become trapped in a vicious circle, his inborn dignity and freedom, his nobler aspirations to justice and equality, being exploited by certain centers of power or leaders of communist movements.


This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.