The Twelfth Premise
One who cannot discover the kernel becomes occupied with and restricted to the shell. One who does not know the truth deviates into whims and fancies. One who cannot detect or find the straight path goes to extremes. One who does not have a true balance not only deceives others, but is greatly deceived.
One of the reasons for the deception of those restricted to the literal meaning of a text is their confusion of the narrative and the lesson found within it, as well as the closeness of the premise and the meaning intended by a text in the mind of the listener or reader. Please heed this point, for it is important.
An important reason that gives rise to chaos in opinions, which creates myths, superstitions, and exaggeration, is discontent with the beauty and magnificence in creation. It is trying to judge the order of existence with one’s imperfect reason and knowledge, and thus demeaning it. In fact, the order, beauty, perfection, and magnificence in creation, each element of which is a miracle when perceived with sound reason and wisdom, are so apparent when compared with the beauty and perfection of those driven by dreams and fantasy that they appear in all their splendor and brilliance, without losing anything of their extraordinariness. It is everyday familiarity, which is a sister to multi-layered ignorance and the mother of superficial views that has blinded those fond of exaggeration. In order to open the eyes of such people, the Wise Book orders a careful observation of the facts in the human world, including physical composition, as well as an examination of the outer world. It is only the verses of the Qur’an that open eyes. These verses are stars with piercing lights; they remove the darkness of ignorance and superficiality, they rend apart the veils of everyday familiarity and restrictions to literal meanings, guiding intellects to the facts of the outer world and human inner world, and thus to the truth.
What prompts exaggeration is the natural tendency we have to realize our inclinations. A part of this tendency is that human beings innately desire to see and exhibit unusual things and invent new things. For this reason, when they do not feel the ever-original taste of the sustenance that feeds and satisfies the spirits in the universe, because obscured by superficial perception and everyday familiarity, they become tired of trying to lift the covering and the outer surface, and surrender to an appetite for rarity and “extraordinariness.” This leads human beings to use exaggeration for the sake of novelty or to demand what is unusual. Like a snowball falling down a mountain-side, when exaggeration rolls from the highest summit of imagination down to the tongue and then from one tongue to another, it grows like an avalanche, while at the same time some parts are scattered around. The exaggeration grows so much that it fits neither into the heart nor the perceptive senses nor even the faculty of imagination. But later, a truth-seeing eye appears and uncovers all the extraneous parts, reducing that exaggeration to the original truth. Thus, the meaning of The truth has come, and falsehood has vanished (17:81) reveals itself.
A recent event can provide an illustration of this:
I have long tried to remove the stains that going to extremes has smeared on the truths of Islam, and striven to show those truths in all their brilliance. Recently I have clarified that Islam in no way opposes the obvious, long-established fact that the earth is spherical. On the contrary, Islam has many elements that support it. In doing so I have been able both to dismiss the objections of the enemies of Islam and remove the doubts of its friends. This matter will be explained in the section, The Matters. However, the minds of the literalists, which have long been accustomed to nightmares, seem discontented. It is as if they would like to make day into night by closing their eyes or by extinguishing the sun by blowing on it. They think that one who thinks that the earth is spherical opposes many truths of the Religion. Based on this supposition, they have slandered me. As they have found some fertile suspicious minds, they have gone so far in their slanders that they have caused much grief to people who are truly religious, as well as hopelessness in the hearts of some who are eagerly striving for the progress of Muslim peoples. This has provided me with an important lesson: an ignorant friend is as harmful as an enemy. Until this event, I had sought to break the extreme falsehoods of the enemies with the diamond sword of truth. Now I feel obliged to use this sword to a certain extent against the extreme whims of such friends. This is a matter which is important for understanding the present conditions of the religious schools in the East and if and how they are to be improved. I assure these literalists that their efforts are in vain. To date, they have aimed to win the applause of the common people and have caused our ignorance. They desire that we should remain ignorant and that they should continue to benefit from our ignorance. However, this can no longer be so, and religious schools truly need to be revitalized.22
Another point that should be mentioned concerning the confusion in the minds of the literalists and the disorder in their imaginings is that they believe that the evidence for the truth of the Prophets consists only in their miracles. Because of this, they maintain that our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, was extraordinary in all his acts, attitudes, and states. Since this does not conform to reality, they have no order or balance in their thinking about him. This assertion derives from unawareness of the subtle truths of Divine Wisdom and the fact that, like all other people, the Prophets submitted and adhered to the Divine laws that operate in existence. Every act, word, and state of our Prophet shows his truthfulness and bears witness to his submission to the truth and that he followed the Divine laws and practices. This point will be discussed in the Third Part.
God creates miracles at the hands of the Prophets in order to demonstrate their Prophethood and to encourage people to affirm the same. The miracles every Prophet worked were sufficient to prove his Prophethood. To work miracles or display instances of extraordinariness beyond what is necessary would be pointless and contradict the responsibility that is a means of testing people with what they are expected to believe in. No one is invited to believe in something that is obviously undeniable. Such an invitation would be contrary to Divine wisdom in sending Prophets and Religions, and which tests people by their acceptance of or faith in what has been taught to them. Prophets are responsible for submission and obedience to the Divine wisdom first of all and to an extent greater than others.
O you who heed these inarticulate words of mine! The seeds of inclinations implanted in your nature will grow and flourish in the sun of the truth which appears in these Twelve Premises; this sun is at the same time mobile and stable.23
It is sinful to deny that one descends from the Prophet’s Family; it is also a sin to claim to be a descendant of the Prophet’s Family although one is not. In the same way, it is strictly forbidden to add to or subtract from the Qur’an and the Prophetic Traditions. Addition is more harmful, as it destroys the order and causes doubts and misconceptions, whereas ignorance may be an excuse for unintentional omission. Similarly, removing something from the Religion or making any addition to it is not permissible.
With the cheap coin of narratives, the rubbish of borrowings from earlier corrupted religions, and the pus of some similes, the diamond of the Islamic creed, the jewel of the Shari‘a, and the pearls of the Islamic rules of life, have been devalued, discouraging and repulsing those who seek the truth.
A FINAL CONCLUSION
It would be in contradiction of the Divine laws of creation and life if a person were to abandon something for which they have a talent and attempt to do something which they are not qualified to do. Everyone is expected to develop their talents by applying them in a task for which they are qualified, following the rules of the craft or job at which they are skilled. Misuse of such talents and acting contrary to the rules of any craft or job causes distortion and corruption. Any incompatibility between a natural skill or capacity and a task performed will give rise to confusion. For this reason, many people who aspire to superiority and domination over others abuse knowledge, employing it as a force to exert their domination, despite the fact that knowledge and teaching require encouragement, the provision of guidance, advice, and gentleness. Even though people are expected to serve knowledge, some use it for their personal interests. This has caused many public offices to be occupied by those who are not qualified, leading to the near collapse of religious schools. Thus, we should follow the Divine wisdom in the creation of people with different talents, and apply the rule of the division of labor, encouraging a concentration on religious sciences so that everyone can study the subject they choose and for which they have an aptitude.
An important cause of the degeneration of religious education and its distortion from its true course is this: The subordinate or instrumental sciences (such as logic, linguistics, and philology) have been given more importance than the primary, exalted sciences (such as jurisprudence, Qur’anic interpretation, and study of Hadith). The grammatical analysis of Arabic texts has conquered minds, with the result that the study and knowledge of the primary or basic sciences have been considerably neglected.
O brothers and sisters of conscience! It is my opinion that you would like to see the nature of the matters to be discussed in the following lines based upon the premises discussed. But I beg of you a little more time! Here, I would like to present something that constitutes the core or outline of those matters. Then I will present ten matters for your perusal.
I will try to rise to the sciences of the heavens by the means provided by the Qur’an and those sciences themselves. We will see that the All-Wise Maker unceasingly turns the earth like a ball in His Hand of Power. We will see with the eyes of wisdom that He can and will destroy it utterly and replace it with a new one. Then, traveling through the atmosphere, we will land on the earth, which the All-Merciful Creator has made as a couch or cradle for living beings, including humankind. Afterwards, we will carefully observe that just as a person grows out of childhood and stops lying in a cradle, humankind will destroy its cradle and be sent to the world of eternity. After this observation, we will make a spiritual journey beyond the restrictions of time and space, and enter the realm of the past, communicating with its residents through the historical current of “electricity.” We will learn all that took place on that western edge where every shining object sets, and build from it a train for our thoughts. Following this, we will turn back to the future where the sun rises in order to welcome the newcomers, demonstrating and observing from afar the morning of happiness. We will board the train of progress and the ship of labor and endeavor, both of which attract Divine help, and with lamps in our hands, enter that part of time that has a dark beginning but a bright future. In the end, we will shake hands with future generations and congratulate them on their happiness.
This small illustration contains a beautiful scene; in the following pages it will present itself to you through words. In the ground marked out here the trees of the future chapters of this book will grow.
O brothers and sisters! Now in order to hold your hand and take you to the treasury of truth, I will deal with some matters, trying to remove the phantasms before your eyes that prevent you from seeing clearly. These phantasms veil your eyes and frighten you. Even if they do not completely prevent you from seeing, they cause light to appear as fire and pearls as pebbles. Avoid these phantasms. The main source of your suspicions and misconceptions are some particular matters, many of which are concerned with the earth. These are the Prophetic Tradition which says that the earth stands on an ox and a fish, and the matters such as the nature of Mount Qaf, the barrier of Dhu’l-Qarnayn (Qur’an, 18: 93–96), the Qur’anic description of mountains as masts (78:7), the statement that Hell is located under the earth, and other issues mentioned in the following Qur’anic statements:
He sends down hail out of snow-laden mountains from the sky (24:43);
And the sun runs the course appointed for it for a term to its resting place for its stability (36:38);
He has spread out the earth (in egg-shape for habitability) (79:30); And the earth—how it has been spread out? (88:20)
I will explain the truth of these matters so that the enemies of the Religion can no longer exploit them against the Religion, and so that the eyes of its friends will be opened.
22 Bediüzzaman Said Nursi criticizes here some of the contemporary scholars in the south-east of Turkey. (Trans.)
23 Here Said Nursi refers to the fact that the sun is both stable and mobile in itself and in its system, a fact which modern Astronomy discovered in 1993. See, M. Bartusiac, “Sounds of the Sun,” American Scientist (Jan.-Feb. 1994): 61-68; Ali Ünal, “The Styles of the Qur’an and the Movement of the Sun,” Islamic Perspectives on Science, The Light, New Jersey, 2007, pp. 155159. (Trans.)