• Q and A

    Questions and Answers from the Risale-i Nur Collection
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Does “Life,” as Still A Mystery, Serve as an Argument for the Afterlife, in Addition to Other Pillars of Belief?


The verse Look upon the signs and imprints of God’s Mercy, how He revives the earth after it is dead. Surely He it is Who will revive the dead (in the same way). He is powerful over all things, (30:50) contains nine convincing arguments for the Resurrection. Of them, the first, concerning life, which is a very clear one and pointed to in the verse,

Glory be to God, when you enter evening and when you enter morning. All praise is to Him in the heavens and on earth and at nightfall and when you enter noon. He brings forth the living from the dead and brings forth the dead from the living, and revives the earth after its death, and so you will be brought forth. (30:17-19)

will be expounded below, God willing:

Life has connection with the six articles of faith and, by a series of indications of their truth, establishes them.


The most important consequence of creation is life

The most important consequence of, and the most substantial reason for, the creation of the universe is, precisely, life, and life, that noble reality, can by no means be restricted to the fleeting, transient, defective and painful life of the world. Rather, the fruit of the tree of life, the purpose and result worthy to be the fruit of such a tree, is the eternal life of the Hereafter—life in the realm where even stones, trees and soil will be animate. If not, it must be that the tree of life, so abundantly adorned with significant means, yields no fruit, no benefit, no truth worthy for animate beings, and especially not for man—then man, who is indeed the most important and elevated of all creatures, will fall, as regards happiness in the worldly life, to a degree many times lower than a sparrow, which, in substance and faculties, he is many times superior to, and his state will be that of the least fortunate, the most humiliated, of poor creatures.


Life laden with hardships in this world cannot be restricted to this world

Similarly, intelligence, the most precious of man’s gifts, will wound his heart through constant reflection on past hardships and future fears. It will mix to one part of pleasure nine parts of hardship and grief, and so become a means of disaster to human life. And that is gravely false as a conclusion. Thus, the life in this world is a decisive argument for the article of faith that is belief in the Hereafter. It parades before our eyes, each spring hundreds of thousands of specimens of revival (which is an image of the Resurrection).


The importance given to the human life here points to the eternal life

Is it conceivable that an All-Powerful Agent Who promptly supplies and provides, with wisdom, care and mercy, all the means and tools needed for your life, in your body, in your garden and in your homeland; Who hears and answers the private, particular petition for sustenance made by your stomach on behalf of its survival; also shows His acceptance of that petition by means of so many delicious foods—is it conceivable that such a Being should be unaware of you or deaf to you, that He should not provide you with the means of eternal life, the highest purpose of being human? Is it conceivable that He should not, in answer to mankind’s greatest, most significant, worthy and universal prayer for eternity, establish eternal life and create Paradise? Is it conceivable that He should fail to hear the universal and insistent prayer of mankind, the most important of all His creatures, His vicegerent on the earth, a prayer that resounds throughout heaven and earth, or not pay to it the same attention, grant it the same acceptance as to the little plea of a stomach? Is it conceivable that He should thus cause His perfect Wisdom and infinite Mercy to be denied? No, a hundred times, no!


Eternity is the greatest aspiration of the human soul

Again, is it conceivable that He would hear the innermost voice of the tiniest of beings, cure its hurt and relieve its complaint; that He would nourish it with the utmost care and consideration and cause creatures greater than itself to do it service—is it conceivable that He would do all of this and yet not hear the thunderous cry of the greatest, most valued, most subtle, form of life? That He would pay no heed to its powerful prayer and pleading for eternity? It would be like equipping a single soldier with the most lavish care and completely neglecting a huge, obedient army! Like seeing a speck and overlooking the sun! Like hearing the whirring of a fly and not hearing the roaring of thunder! No, a hundred thousand times, no!


The Divine Being never condemns His Mercy, Love, Beauty and Caring to infinite ugliness by restricting their manifestation the defective earthly life

Again, can sense at all accept that an All-Powerful and All-Wise Being, Whose Mercy, Love and Caring are infinite, Who loves His own artistry, Who causes Himself to be loved, and Who greatly loves those that love Him—can sense accept that such a Being would, through a permanence of death, annihilate the spirit, the essence and core of life, that loves Him greatly, that is itself lovable and that by its nature worships Him, its Maker? Would He for ever offend and rebuff it? Would He injure the sentiments of the spirit, and thereby Himself deny, and cause others to deny, the meaning of His Mercy and the light of His Love? No, a hundred thousand times, no! An absolute Beauty that by manifesting itself makes creation beautiful, and an absolute Mercy that enables all creatures to rejoice, are exalted and raised far above any such immeasurable ugliness, any such absolute abomination and want of pity.

In sum, then, those of mankind who understand the purpose of the existence of life, who do not misspend their lives, will become reflective manifestations of everlasting Paradise. In this we believe. The shining of objects on the earth’s surface, brilliant through their reflecting the sun’s light, the momentary glinting on the ocean surface of little bubbles catching flashes of light, then being replaced by other bubbles which, like them, hold up mirrors to the sun and contain its images to the number of themselves—these images visibly demonstrate that those flashes of light are the reflected manifestation of the one, supreme sun. With their many, diverse tongues, they make mention of that one star and they point toward it with their ‘fingers’ of light.


God being the Ever-Living and Giver of Life requires the infinite life

In a like manner, through the supreme manifestation of the Name ‘Giver of Life’ of the Ever-Living and Self-Subsistent Being, all animate beings on the earth’s surface and in the depths of the sea shine back life. They do so through God’s Power, and then go out of sight behind the veil of the Unseen, thus demonstrating the ever-living quality of the Ever-Living One. Their going out is to make room for those that, after them, are coming in, a continual series of testimonies to, and indications of, the Life and Necessary Existence of the Ever-Living and Self-Subsistent Being.


Divine Attributes, including especially Knowledge, Will and Power require the eternal life

Similarly, all the arguments that attest to the Divine Knowledge, traces of which are visible in the ordering of all beings; all the evidences that establish the existence of a Power disposing the universe; all the proofs pointing to a Will directing the arranging and administering of the universe; all the signs and miracles that attest the Messengership of the Prophets, the means by which the Lord addresses His creation and reveals His commands; and the indications bearing witness to the seven attributes of Divinity1—all of them unanimously point and testify to the life of the Ever-Living and Self-Subsistent Being. For if the faculty of sight is present in a creature, there must also be life; likewise, if there is hearing; likewise, if there is speech.

Similarly, Attributes whose existence is established and self-evident by virtue of their traces throughout the universe—Attributes such as Absolute Power, All-Embracing Will, and Comprehensive Knowledge—bear witness, together with all their proofs, to the life and Necessary Existence of the Ever-Living and Self-Subsistent Being. They testify to His everlasting life, one shadow of which suffices to light the whole universe, and one manifestation of which suffices to give life to the Hereafter, together with all its component particles.


Life also establishes the existence of angels and Prophethood

His Attribute of Life is linked to the article of belief in the angels, and argues it indirectly. The most important of all the purposes of the universe is life: animate beings make up the most diversely spread type of creation, with its kinds and species multiplied on account of their worth. They enliven continually the hostelry of this world with their coming and going in caravans. The earth, in particular, which is stocked full with so many species of living creatures, is being continually emptied and re-stocked as the diverse species are renewed, varied and increased; even in its vilest and most rotten substances so many living things are given life so that it becomes a place where microscopic organisms swarm. Intelligence and consciousness, which are the distilled essence of life, and spirit, which is its subtle and stable substance, are also created everywhere on the earth in the very greatest multiplicity, so that it is as if the earth were teeming and bursting with the joy of life, intellect, consciousness and spirit. When all of that is given due consideration, it does seem totally impossible that the heavenly bodies, which are subtler, more lustrous, and by far more significant in dimension than the earth, should be inanimate, entirely without life, movement or voice.

Therefore, there must exist and be provided with the property of life, conscious, animate beings that enliven the skies, the suns, and the stars, giving them their vitality and so possessing them of the purpose for which the heavens were created, and receiving address from the Glorious One. These creatures, of a nature proper to the heavens, are the angels.

Similarly, with its meaning and essential nature, life also establishes the article of belief in the Prophets. The universe was created for the sake of life and life is in turn one of the supreme manifestations of the Living, Self-Subsistent and Eternal One. It is one of His most perfect designs, one of the most beautiful of His arts. Now, the eternal life of God is declared, first of all, through the sending of Messengers and the revelation of Books. If there were no Books or Prophets, then His being eternal would remain unknown. Just as a man is recognized as being alive when he speaks, so it is the Prophets and revealed Books that declare the words and decrees of the Being Who, from behind the world of the Unseen that is veiled by that visible universe, speaks and sends out His commands and prohibitions. Just as life existent in the universe is decisive testimony to the Necessary Existence of the Living and Eternal One, so also does it indicate and indirectly confirm the articles of belief in the sending of Messengers and the revelation of Scriptures, for these are the rays and manifestations of that Eternal Life. And of them, most especially the Prophethood of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and the Qur’anic revelation, which are the very spirit and intellect of life, are established as irrefutably as the very existence of life.


Life being the cream, the extract, distilled from the universe, establishes the Prophethood of Muhammad

Life is the cream, the extract, distilled from the universe. Sentience (consciousness and feeling) is the cream, the extract, distilled from life. Intellect is the cream, the extract, distilled from sentience. And spirit, finally, is the pure and unalloyed substance, the stable, independent essence, of life. The physical and spiritual life of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is the purest cream, the purest extract, distilled from the life and meaning of the universe, and His Messengership is the pure and distilled essence of the sentience, consciousness and intellect of the universe. Indeed, the life of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, in both its physical and its immaterial, spiritual aspects, is, as his accomplishments have proven, the true essence of the life of the universe, and his Messengership, the true light and essence of the consciousness of the universe. The Qur’anic revelation is, as its living and enlivening truths bear witness, the spirit of the life of the universe and the intellect of its consciousness.

If the light of the Messengership of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, were to disappear from the universe, the universe would die. If the Qur’an were to forsake the universe, the universe would lose its sanity, the earth would lose its brain, its reason: dizzy and uncomprehending, it would collide with some other planet, and the end of the world would result.


Life is also linked to the article of belief in the Divine Destiny

Life is also linked to the article of belief in the Divine Destiny and establishes it indirectly. Life is the light of the visible world, pervading and dominating it; it is the result and goal of existence, the most inclusive mirror to the Creator of the universe, the most perfect sample and index of His activity as Lord, and—may the analogy not lead to any error or confusion—a kind of program in it. The meaning of life requires that the creatures in the Unseen, in the past and future (which have come and gone and are yet to come), should be disposed to conform to some order and regularity and other rules or commands such as being visible, each in its individual form and character such as the Almighty Creator has established for them to govern their lives. To cite an example, the original seed of a tree and its root, as well as the seeds contained in the outcome of its life, namely its fruit, each have a degree of life no less than the tree as a whole. Indeed, they carry in themselves laws of life more subtle than those of the tree. The seeds and roots left last autumn for the present spring, as well as the seeds and roots that will be left to subsequent springs after this one has passed—all bear the visible imprint of life, no less than the spring does, and are subject to its laws. All the branches and twigs of the cosmic tree each have likewise a past and a future. They constitute a chain of past and future stages and circumstances. The multiple stages of life of each species and each individual of each species, existing in Divine Knowledge, form a chain of being in meaning or knowledge: like the external (material) existence of things, their existence in knowledge or meaning also bears an aspect or manifestation of life. All the stages of the life of a living being and whatever happens to it during its whole life are the ‘materialized’ duplication of its life in the Divine Knowledge. What we call Destiny is, in one respect, a title of that Knowledge.

The fact that the world of spirits, which is a kind of the world of the unseen, is full of spirits, which constitute the essence and substances of life, certainly requires that past and future, which are another kind of the world of the unseen or its second form, should also receive the manifestation of life.

In addition, the perfect orderliness and meaningfulness of an existent in the Knowledge of God, the events and circumstances, the stages and fruits, inherent to it, also visibly demonstrate a sort of life. Being a light emitted by the ‘Sun’ of Eternal Life, life cannot be limited to the manifest world, to present time, to external existence. Rather, each world receives the manifestation of that light according to its capacity, and each of the worlds in the cosmos is alive and illumined through it. Otherwise—as the misguided indeed suppose, beneath the visible crust of transient life, each world would be a vast and terrible corpse, a dark ruin.

One broad aspect of the article of faith in the Divine Destiny and Decree is, then, understood through the meaning of life and is established by it. Just as the life and vitality of the material world and existent, visible objects becomes apparent from their orderliness and the consequences of their existence, so too past and future creatures—regarded as belonging to the world of the unseen—have an immaterial existence, an original, spiritual presence in God’s Knowledge, which is a sort of life. That life and presence attains visible form and is made known by means of the Tablet of Destiny and Decree which contains all the stages through which beings pass and all events happening to them in their material lives.


1. God’s Attributes can be presented in three kinds—the Essential Attributes of the Essence, Affirmative and Negative Attributes. All His Affirmative Attributes refer to the assertion of His absolute Unity. All His Negative Attributes refer to the negation of limitation and compositeness.

The Essential Attributes of the Essence are: Existence, Beginninglessness or Being Eternally Existent in the Past, Permanence, Dissimilarity to the Created and Self-Subsistence. The Affirmative Attributes, which are pointed to in the text above, are: Life, Knowledge, Power, Will, Speech, Seeing, Hearing, and according to some theologians, Creation also belongs to this category. The Negative Attributes can be explained as follows:

God is not describable in any physical or anthropomorphic terms. He does not consist of body, colour and size. It is not possible for any creature to see Him (in the world), to imagine and conceive Him. He is not to be presented in the terms of substance or contingency of matter or form. It is not possible to localize Him in any part of space or confine Him to any part of time. He is not to be aligned and counted with any being. Nothing can be co-existed or co-extensive with Him. He never begets nor is begotten. And so on.

2. The original word corresponding to what we sometimes translate as the Unseen and sometimes as the world of the unseen, is ghayb, meaning that which we cannot penetrate with our five senses, or is invisible to us and also unknown to us until we acquire knowledge of it through certain ways. Like the world of spirits, which we cannot see and the nature of which we cannot know through our senses, past and future are also unknown to us unless we obtain some knowledge of them through certain ways. Past and future, being the two branches of time, are the ‘realm’ where the world of the absolutely unseen manifests itself in the visible world, may be regarded as its second form.


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