What is the meaning of Islam in a general sense?
The Qur’an uses din, usually translated as “religion,” in different
contexts with various meanings, of which the most important and common are:
judging, rewarding, punishing (1:4, 51:6, 82:18-19, 37:53, 56:86); way, law,
constitution (12:76); penal law (24:2); the collection of moral, spiritual,
and worldly principles, system, way of conduct (33:5, 40:26); servanthood,
obedience (16:52); and peace and order (8:39).
General Islamic Beliefs
With Islam, God completed the religion He revealed and
chose for humanity (5:3). Literally, Islam means submission, peace, and salvation.
In its most fundamental aspect, Islam is epitomized in the most frequently recited
of all Qur’anic phrases, the Basmala—In the name of God, the Merciful
(al-Rahman), the Compassionate (al-Rahim). Both words are related to the quality
of rahma (mercy and compassion). God manifests Himself through His absolute,
all-inclusive Mercy and Compassion, and Islam is founded upon that affirmation.
The Qur’an calls Prophet Muhammad’s mission a mercy for all the worlds, for
God sent him to spread Islam to all of humanity.
Islam is uncompromisingly monotheistic, for its theology
begins and ends with God’s Unity (tawhid). Given this, the universe is
seen as an integral whole of interrelated and cooperative parts in which a splendid
coordination, harmony, and order is displayed both throughout the universe and
within each living organism. This harmony and order come from the Unity of the
One Who created them and Who is absolute, without partner, peer, or like. The
universe operates according to the laws God established for it, and therefore
is literally Muslim—absolutely submitted to God. Thus its operations are stable,
orderly, and harmonious.
God created the universe so that He could be known and
recognized in all His Names and Attributes, and
therefore His creation includes one
creature with free will:
man. Of all creatures, only man can manifest
the Divine Names the All-Willing, All-Knowing, and All-Speaking. God then endowed
us with the knowledge of things (“names”), and made us His vicegerent to rule
on Earth according to His laws. As having free will means that one must choose,
each person’s life consists of choosing between what is right and wrong.
God endowed humanity with three principal faculties fundamental
to our survival and carrying out our function as His vice-gerent: an appetite
for such things as the opposite sex, offspring, livelihood, and possessions;
anger or forcefulness in defense and struggle; and reason or intellect. Since
we are tested in this worldly life and are free to choose, God did not restrict
According to Islam, our individual and collective happiness
lies in disciplining our faculties so that we may produce a harmonious and peaceful
individual and social life. If they remain undisciplined, they may drive people
to immorality, illicit sexual relationships, unlawful livelihoods, tyranny,
injustice, deception, falsehood, and other vices. To prevent the ensuing chaos
and suffering, we must submit to an authority that guides and regulates our
collective affairs. Since one person will not accept the authority of another,
humanity needs a universal intellect, a guidance from beyond human reason and
experience, to whose authority all may assent freely. That guidance is the religion
revealed and perfected by God through His Prophets: Islam.
All Prophets came with the same essentials of belief:
belief in God’s Existence and Unity, the world’s final destruction, Resurrection
and Judgment, Prophethood and all Prophets without distinction, all Divine Scriptures,
angels, and Divine Destiny and Decree (including human free will). They called
people to worship the One God, preached and promoted moral virtue, and condemned
vice. Differences in particular rules and injunctions were connected with the
economic and political relationships existing at that time, and because all
Prophets prior to Prophet Muhammad were sent to their own people and for their
own time. Prophet Muhammad, however, was sent to humanity regardless of time
or place. Thus to be a Muslim means believing in all previous Prophets and the
original previous Scriptures.
A Prophet, one purified of sin and vice and having a deep
relation with God, guides people to truth and sets a perfect example for them
to follow. Such people have the following essential characteristics: absolute
and complete truthfulness, trustworthiness, and communication of the Divine
Message; the highest intellectual capacity, wisdom, and profound insight; sinlessness;
and no mental or physical defects. Just as the sun attracts the planets by the
invisible force of gravitation, Prophets attract people by the force of their
profound relation with God, certain miracles, and the sheer nobility of their
person, purpose, and character.
Faith or belief
Faith or belief, the essence of religion, is not just
a simple brief affirmation based on imitation. Rather, it has degrees and stages
of expansion or development, just as a tree’s seed is gradually transformed
into a fully grown, fruit-bearing tree. Belief contains so many truths pertaining
to God’s 1,001 Names and the realities contained in the universe that the most
perfect human science, knowledge, and virtue is belief as well as knowledge
of God originating in belief based on argument and investigation. Such belief
has as many degrees and grades of manifestation as the number of Divine Names.
Those who attain the degree of certainty of belief coming from direct observation
of the truths on which belief is based can study the universe as a kind of Divine
The Qur’an, the universe, and humanity are three manifestations
of one truth. Therefore, in principle, there can be no contradiction or incompatibility
between Qur’anic truths (from the Divine Attribute of Speech) and truths derived
from the objective study of its counterpart, the created universe (from the
Divine Attributes of Power and Will). An Islamic civilization true to its authentic,
original impulse contains no contradiction between science (the objective study
of the natural world) and religion (the personal and collective effort to seek
God’s good pleasure). True belief is not based on blind imitation, but rather
should appeal to our reason and heart, and combine reason’s affirmation and
the heart’s inward experience and submission.
Another degree of belief is known as certainty coming
from the direct experience of its truths. This depends on regular worship and
reflection, and those who possess it can challenge the world. So, the Muslims’
foremost duty is to acquire this degree of belief and try, in full sincerity
and purely to please God, to communicate it to others.
The highest aim of creation and its most sublime result
is belief in God. The most exalted rank of humanity is the knowledge of God.
The most radiant happiness and sweetest bounty is the love of God contained
within the knowledge of God; the purest joy for the human spirit and the purest
delight for a person’s heart is the spiritual ecstasy contained within the love
Belief engenders different kinds of worship, such as responding
to explicit injunctions (e.g., the prescribed prayers, fasting, alms-giving,
and pilgrimage) and obeying prohibitions (e.g., avoiding all intoxicants, gambling,
usury, killing, and deception). Those seeking to strengthen their belief and
attain higher ranks of perfection should be careful of their heart’s and intellect’s
“acts” (e.g., contemplation, reflection, invocation, recitation of God’s Names,
self-criticism, perseverance, patience, thankfulness, self-discipline, and perfect
reliance upon God). Moral virtues are the fruits of religious life. As Prophet
Muhammad said: “I have been sent to perfect virtue.”
Islam also regulates our collective life
By means of belief and worship, as well as its intellectual,
moral, and spiritual principles, Islam educates us in the best possible way.
In addition, it uses its socioeconomic principles to establish an ideal society
free of dissension, corruption, anarchy, and terror, one that allows everyone
to obtain happiness both in this world and in the hereafter.
What is Islam’s position vis-à-vis
modern civilization, particularly in its materialistic
The Good Life, Islam, and materialistic aspects of
Many Western intellectuals and their counterparts in the
Muslim world assert that serving God or living a religious life is a compensatory
device contrived to console people for their own weaknesses and defects. But
such people, even though armed with science, technology, and the illusions of
freedom from belief and servanthood to a Supreme
Being as well as of their own existence as powerful beings, abase themselves
before anyone or thing, regardless of how low, if they consider it in their
self-interest to do so.
Sincere believers do not follow this path of self-degradation.
Dignified servants of God, they reject any worship of that which is not God,
even if it is something of the greatest benefit, like Paradise. Though modest
and gentle in their nature and bearing, they “lower” themselves voluntarily
before others only to the degree that their Creator permits. Though aware of
their weakness and neediness before God, they rely upon their One Master’s Wealth
and Power and so are independent of others. They act and strive purely for God’s
sake and good pleasure, and to be equipped with virtue.
However, Islam does not reject modern civilization altogether.
Said Nursi, the most
influential Turkish scholar and writer of the 20th century, there are two Europes
(or Wests): One that, benefiting from the religion of Jesus and Islamic civilization,
made human life more comfortable through its inventions and the regulations
it brought to human social life, and became the source of certain beauties;
and another one that, based on naturalistic and materialistic philosophy, opposes
the revealed religions. The evil of the latter is the cause of most human wretchedness
and suffering. Islam opposes this second West.
This second West spreads unbelief and ingratitude. It
tries to find happiness in rich clothes and worldly possessions, but its quest
is futile and impossible. For one disappointed or disillusioned by the non-fulfillment
of even one expectation, sweetness turns sour, pleasure changes into pain, and
the world becomes narrow. Can one be described as happy when his or her body
is in a deceiving, fleeting paradisial state while his or her spirit and heart
are in hellish torment?
The second West assumes that all living creatures are
their own lords, work in their own name and for their own pleasure, and that
their only aim in life is to survive. It does not see the universal mutual helping
among them, as established by their Creator. Plants help animals, and animals
help humanity. But it sees even this as conflict and contention, and preaches
that life consists of conflict even though all food particles or atoms
help nourish the body’s cells. It ignores the fact that a single apple needs
the sun, air, soil, and the apple seed to work in a coordinated manner so that
it can grow. This means that the real price of an apple is the universe. Such
mutual assistance results from everything obeying the order of a Munificent
Lord, and proves that no living creature is its own lord.
Moreover, this is so because humanity is the most honorable
creature of all living agents, for it is endowed with free choice and a wider
field of activity. Despite this, our part in our daily acts is minuscule. If
this most honorable creature, one endowed with free will and the widest field
of activity, has so little part in its own ownership and lordship, to what degree
can other animate and lifeless things claim lordship over themselves?
The second West fell into such error because its
genius caused it to forget its Lord—the Creator of everything. As a result,
this illusion of its true nature caused it to attribute all things and acts
to (material) causes and to share what belongs to God with false “claimants”
to divinity. This view compels all living beings to struggle with
innumerable aversions and hostilities to satisfy their endless needs,
although they have only an atom’s weight of power, a hair’s capacity of
will, a gleam’s light of consciousness, and a tiny sparkle of life. Whatever
they have (by way of power and will,
consciousness and life) cannot satisfy even one of their needs. When misfortune
visits them, they seek help from deaf and blind causes. But their appeals are
The second West’s dark and darkening genius changed humanity’s
day into a night illuminated with false, illusory lights. Students of its genius
see every living being as wretched and attacked by darkness from all sides.
They see the world as an abode of lamentation, and all voices in it as wailings
over death and the groans of beings.
Consider their qualities: Those educated by this second
West flee from even their own family members to pursue their own interests,
whereas sincere followers of Islam regard all servants of God as family members.
The Qur’an gives its students all particles in the universe to use as prayer
beads to glorify God. In place of the 99-bead rosary, it gives them all the
atomic chains in the universe to mention their Lord to an infinite degree.
Students of the Qur’an see that everything in the universe
glorifies, mentions, and praises God to an infinite degree. Though weak enough
to be defeated by a microbe and driven to distress and despair by the least
grief and anxiety, they can rise to such exalted ranks as to be beloveds of
God. They regard the world and its contents as insufficient to say their beads,
and belittle Paradise as the aim of their praise and glorification. Despite
this, they do not consider themselves greater and more virtuous than the least
of God’s creatures.
The Qur’an guides humanity, for the purpose of life is
to reflect the manifestations of God’s Names and Essential Qualities. When misfortune
visits you, say:
We are God’s and in His service. If you have come with
His permission, welcome. We are returning unto Him and desire a vision of Him.
He will free us from life’s duties and difficulties whenever He wishes. If,
O misfortune, this will happen by your hand, it is alright. However, if He has
allowed you to come to test my truthfulness to His trust, but has not allowed
me to submit myself to you, then I will never submit His trust—the life He has
The second West assumes that collective life consists
of competing selfish interests that are necessarily in a state of conflict and
arbitrated by force or might. To unify its various communities, it promotes
an aggressive and negative nationalism that often degenerates into a brutal
racism. As a result, most of the world’s people still dominated by this aspect
of the West continue to suffer the accompanying acute misery and humiliation.
Meanwhile, the very small number of people benefiting from such dominance continue
to gratify their worldly desires, which are continually stimulated and increased,
and thereby bring about more competitiveness and anxiety.
The life of religion and serving God accepts right, not
force, as the point of support in social life. It proclaims that the aim of
both individual and collective life is to attain virtue and God’s approval instead
of realizing selfish interests, and mutual assistance instead of conflict. It
proclaims a community’s internal and external unity through ties of religion, profession,
and country, not through racism and negative nationalism. It works to erect
a barrier against worldly desires and encourages us to strive for perfection
by urging the soul to sublime goals. Right calls for unity, virtue brings solidarity,
and mutual assistance means helping each other. Religion secures brotherhood,
sisterhood, and attraction. Self-discipline and urging the soul to virtue brings
happiness in this world and the next.
How the West triumphed
According to Said Nursi, Muslims are required to be Muslim
(submitted to God) in all of their attributes and actions, but cannot always
be so in practical life. It is the same with non-Muslims, for not all of their
attributes and actions necessarily originate in unbelief or transgression. Thus
non-Muslims who acquire Muslim attributes and conform to Islamic principles
can defeat Muslims who neglect to practice Islam.
God has established two kinds of laws: the Shari‘a (issuing
from His Attribute of Speech and governing our religious life) and the so-called
laws of nature (issuing from His Attribute of Will and governing creation and
life). The reward/punishment for following/ignoring them is given at different
times. In the first case, these usually are given in the afterlife; in the second
case, these usually are given in this world.
The Qur’an constantly draws our attention to natural phenomena,
the subject matter of science, and urges us to study them. Throughout the first
five centuries of Islam, Muslims united science with religion, the intellect with
the heart, and the material with the spiritual. Later on, however, Europe took
the lead in science due to its unconscious obedience to the Divine laws of nature,
and thus was able to dominate the Muslim world, which no longer practiced Islam’s
religious and scientific aspects.
Power and force have some right in life, and were created
for some wise purpose. Armed with power through science and technology, Europe
defeated the Muslim world. A sparrow develops its defensive strengths and skills
by defending itself against a hawk’s attacks. In a comparable way, God allows
unbelief to attack Islam so that Muslims will reconsider their religion and
acquire the skills and strengths needed to restore Islam to its original purity
and govern their lives.
What about Islam’s relations with
In the paper he sent to the World Religions Platform held
in South Africa in 1999, Fethullah Gülen,
a renowned Turkish scholar, writes:
Islam reconciles opposites that seem to be mutually
exclusive: religion–science, this world–the next world, nature– Divine Books,
the material–the spiritual, and spirit–body. Religion can erect a defense
against the destruction caused by scientific materialism, put science in its
proper place, and end long-standing conflicts among nations and peoples. The
natural sciences, which should act as steps of light leading people to God,
have become a cause of unbelief on a previously unknown scale. As the West
has become the main base for this unbelief, and because Christianity has been
the religion most influenced by it, dialogue between Muslims and Christians
appears to be indispensable.
As Muslims, we accept all Prophets and Books sent to
different peoples throughout history, and regard belief in them as an essential
principle of being Muslim. A Muslim is a true follower of Abraham, Moses,
David, Jesus, and all other Prophets, upon them be peace. Not believing in
one Prophet or Book means that one is not a Muslim. Thus we acknowledge the
oneness and basic unity of religion, which is a symphony of God’s blessings
and mercy, and the universality of belief in religion. So, religion is a system
of belief that embraces all races and all beliefs, a road that brings everyone
together in brotherhood.
Regardless of how their adherents implement their faith
in their daily lives, such generally accepted values as love, respect, tolerance,
forgiveness, mercy, human rights, peace, brotherhood, and freedom are all
values exalted by religion. Most of these values are accorded the highest
precedence in the messages brought by Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, upon them
In the West, some changes are observed in the attitudes
of some intellectuals and clerics toward Islam. I must particularly mention
the late Massignon, who referred to Islam by the expression: “The faith of
Abraham revived with Muhammad.” He believed that Islam has a positive, almost
prophetic mission in the post-Christian world, for: “Islam is the religion
of faith. It is not a religion of natural faith in the God of the philosophers,
but faith in the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Ishmael, faith in our God.
Islam is a great mystery of Divine Will.” Together with Christian clerics
and men of religion, many Western thinkers besides Massignon, like Charles
J. Ledit, Y. Moubarac, Irene-M. Dalmais, L. Gardet, Norman Daniel, Michel
Lelong, H. Maurier, Olivier Lacombe, and Thomas Merton express warmth for
both Islam and for our Prophet.
Also, expressions regarding Islam in the final declaration
of the Second Vatican Council, which began the process of dialogue, cannot
be ignored. Another important point is that Pope John Paul II, admits in his
book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, that (in spite of Muslim neglect and
carelessness) it is still the Muslims who worship in the best and most careful
manner. The Pope reminds his readers that, on this point, Christians should
take Muslims as their example.
Muslims and the West have struggled with each other
for almost fourteen centuries. From the Western perspective, Islam has threatened
Western doors and opened many of them, facts that have not been forgotten.
While from the Muslim perspective, as Graham Fuller and Ian O. Lesser acknowledge,
(Kusatilanlar-Islam ve Bati’nin Jeopolitigi (trans.), Istanbul: 1996, p. 41-2),
in the last century alone, far more Muslims have been killed by Western powers
than all of the Christians killed by Muslims throughout history. Many Muslims
tend to produce more comprehensive results from this. They believe that Western
policies are intentionally designed to weaken Muslim power. Christendom’s
historical portrayal of Islam also contributes to this. For centuries, Christians
were told that Islam was a crude and distorted version of Judaism and Christianity.
For a very long time the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, was considered
an imposter. This historical experience leads even educated and conscious
Muslims to believe that the West is continuing its thousand-year-old systematic
aggression against Islam and, even worse, that it is doing so now with much
more subtle and sophisticated methods. They approach the Church’s call for
dialogue from the same perspective.
This leads Muslims to oppose and resent the West. However,
modern modes of transportation and mass communication have turned the world
into a global village in which every relationship is interactive. The West
cannot wipe out Islam or its territory, and Muslim armies can no longer march
on the West. Moreover, as this world is becoming even more global, both sides
feel the need for a give-and-take relationship. Islam, as represented by the
Holy Book and the Sunna of the Prophet, has retained the freshness of its
beliefs, spiritual essence, good works, and morality as it has unfolded over
the last fourteen centuries. In addition, it has the potential to blow spirit
and life into Muslims who have been numbed for centuries, as well as into
many other peoples drowned in the swamp of materialism. Just as religion has
not yet escaped the onslaught of unbelief based on science and philosophy,
no one can guarantee that this storm will not blow even stronger in the future.
These and other factors do not allow Muslims to view and present Islam purely
as a political ideology or an economic system.
The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, defined
a true Muslim as one who harms no one with his/her words and actions, and
who is the most trustworthy representative of universal peace. Muslims travel
everywhere with this sublime feeling that they nourish deep in their spirits.
Contrary to giving torment and suffering, they are remembered everywhere as
symbols of safety and security. In their eyes, there is no difference between
a physical violation and a verbal violation, such as backbiting, false accusation,
insult, and ridicule.
A Muslim’s beginning point must have an Islamic basis.
In the present situation, Muslims cannot act out of ideological or political
partisanship and then dress this partisanship in Islamic garb. If we can overcome
this tendency, Islam’s true image will become known. The present, distorted
image of Islam that has resulted from its misuse by both Muslims and non-Muslims
for their own goals scares both Muslims and non-Muslims. How the West sees
Islam is illustrated by the fact that in American universities it is not taught
as a religion in theological schools, but as a political system in the political
science or international relations departments. Such a perception also is
found among Westernized segments of the Islamic world and non-Muslims in Asia
and Africa. Strangely enough, many groups that have put themselves forward
under the banner of Islam export this image and actually strengthen it.
In the Qur’an God says: “This is the Book wherein there
is no doubt; a guidance to those who fear God” (2:2). Then it is explained
that these pious ones are those: “Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast
in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them; and who believe
in what is sent to you and what was sent before you, and (in their hearts)
have the reassurance of the Hereafter” (2:3-4). At the very outset, using
a very soft and slightly oblique style, the Qur’an calls people to accept
the former Prophets and their Books. Having such a condition at the very beginning
of the Qur’an seems very important to me when it comes to getting into contact
with the followers of other religions.
In another verse God commands: “And discuss not
with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation)”
(29:46). In this verse, the Qur’an describes what method, approach, and manner
should be used.
Elsewhere, in Sura Mumtahana, it is stated: “God forbids
you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive
you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loves
those who are just” (60:8).
Some Qur’anic verses level, according to some, certain
degree of harsh criticisms against the People of the Book. However, such criticism
is directed against wrong behavior, incorrect thought, resistance to truth,
the creation of hostility, and undesirable characteristics. The Old and New
Testaments contain even stronger expressions against the same attributes.
However, immediately after these apparently sharp criticisms and threats directed
at those who engage in such behavior, very gentle words are used to awaken
hearts to the truth and to plant hope.
God-revealed religions strongly oppose disorder, treachery,
conflict, and oppression. Islam literally means “peace,” “security,” and “well-being.”
Naturally based on peace, security, and world harmony, it sees war and conflict
as aberrations to be brought under control. Islam has always breathed peace
and goodness. It considers war an accident, and has established rules to balance
and limit it. For example, it takes justice and world peace as a basis, as
in the verse: “Let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong
and depart from Justice” (5:8). Islam developed a line of defense based on
certain principles that protect religion, life, property, the mind, and reproduction.
The modern legal system also has done this.
Islam teaches that those who want to reform the world
must first reform themselves. In order to bring others to the path of traveling
to a better world, they must purify their inner worlds of hatred, rancor,
and jealousy, and adorn their outer worlds with all kinds of virtues. Those
who are far removed from self-control and self-discipline, who have failed
to refine their feelings, may seem attractive and insightful at first. However,
they will not be able to inspire others in any permanent way, and the sentiments
they arouse will soon disappear.
Goodness, beauty, truthfulness, and virtue are
the essence of the world and humanity. Whatever happens, the world will one
day find this essence. No one can prevent this.
What is the Islamic view of humanity
and its relationship with religion?
Immediately after our birth, we have no conscious knowledge
of ourselves or our surrounding environment. And yet we are not aliens, but
rather beings who are fitted to survive here. For example, each person’s body
is made up of the same elements that exist in nature. The building blocks
making up Earth’s mineral, vegetable, and animal elements also constitute
the sperm and the egg that, when joined, initiate our earthly life. And yet
no one knows how this inanimate matter is transformed into living forms. We
can say only that it is a direct gift of the Creator. Thus we are children
of nature and aware of ourselves as creatures made by the Creator. Such awareness
makes us aware of the second aspect of our being: our heavenly aspect.
Typically, children are born into a welcoming environment
and know the embrace of parents and a wider family of relatives. Moreover,
they are immediately provided with the most perfect nourishment: a mother’s
milk. As they grow, children experience the world as a fully ordered environment
of sight and sounds, heat and light and rainfall, and an infinite diversity
of plants, fruits, and animals. All of these enable children to exercise and
enlarge the senses, feelings, and intellect implanted within them by the Creator.
Likewise, their bodies function without their conscious
effort or decision. Each person receives a minutely arranged and coordinated
physical body as a gift from the Creator when He bestows life, so that his
or her life may be supported and mature. Very little of what we have can be
said to be our own doing. In fact, without the Creator’s help, we could not
even manage our own bodies and therefore would die.
The One Who created the universe and subjected it to
our stewardship is also the One Who created us. Given this, it makes perfect
sense to consider what our responsibility is and, considering all that we
have been given, to reflect on how we will answer for ourselves and for what
has been placed in our care. Human responsibility before the Creator is voluntary,
whereas all non-human creatures perform their duties without reflection but
also without defect.
The apparent efficiency of modern technology obscures
our relative impotence and vulnerability. We cannot create even a leaf or
a fly, although we are free to tamper with God’s creation to the extent He
wills. We have no dominion over our body’s operations, such as its hunger
or thirst, or the world. We cannot determine our parents, our time and place
of birth and death, or our physique or physical structure. We have to use
the natural world to sustain and enlarge our lives. The One Who subjected
nature to us also implanted within us the necessary intellectual faculties
by which we can use nature. Our intellect is capable of obtaining some knowledge
of nature’s orderly operations and then formulating laws based upon the observed
uniformity and reliability. These laws are our imperfect, human intimations
of the supreme laws created and used by the Supreme Being to create the universe.
The quality of being human comes from our immaterial
and spiritual aspects, not from our natural and material aspects. The spirit
and intellect do not originate in the physical body, for the spirit’s departure
from a dead body reduces that body to something that will decompose into the
soil. The body remains for a while, but all of its former senses are now absent.
This means that the spirit uses the body, and that only life gives the body
This body–spirit relation can be understood somewhat
by the following analogy: A factory, no matter how complex, sophisticated,
and excellent, has no more value than a pile of mechanical junk if there is
no electricity to operate it. This does not mean that the spirit is everything
in and of itself and that the body is junk; rather, the spirit needs matter
or a corporeal form to express its powers and functions.
A fruit tree’s future life is encapsulated in its seed,
and a tree is worth only as much as the value of the fruit it yields. In the
same way, each person’s life-history is recorded and is of value only in proportion
to the number of good deeds done and the level of virtue attained. Again,
just as a tree increases by means of the seeds in its fruit, we prosper by
our good deeds, the weight and consequence of which one day will be revealed
We scatter our deeds in this world and harvest the results
in the next world. Given this, the All-Majestic, All-Powerful, All-Wise Creator,
Who brings us into existence from non-existence and Who brings us to life
by breathing the “spirit” into our bodies fashioned from nature’s clay, will
resurrect us after we decompose into the ground. For Him, doing so is as easy
as bringing day after night, spring after winter, and making what appears
to be dry wood at the end of autumn yield grapes the following summer.
In addition to all of this, we have three principal
drives: desire, anger, and intellect. We desire or lust after the opposite
sex, and love our children and worldly possessions. We direct our anger at
what stands in our way, and by using it can defend ourselves. Our intellect
enables us to make right decisions. The Creator does not restrain these drives,
but rather requires us to seek perfection through self-discipline so that
we do not misuse them. It is this struggle that determines our humanity, for
without it we would have no purpose and would be the same as all other non-human
Only people mature spiritually and intellectually, for
no other part of creation has the necessary ingredient for this process: free
will. All of them live lives that are wholly determined within nature, for
without free will they have no way to keep themselves within the correct limits.
If we ignore these limits, we may usurp the property of others or seek illicit
sexual relations, or use our intellect to deceive others.
This is why our powers must be held in check. Our intellect
was given to us to be used with wisdom, and our desire and anger to be used
lawfully and in moderation. Moreover, since we are social beings we must restrain
ourselves, or else wrongdoing, injustice, exploitation, disorder, and revolution
But what is lawful and right, moderate and wise? Who
decides the criteria, and how will they be accepted by people? Who am I? Where
do I come from? What is my final destination? What does death demand from
me? Who is my guide on this journey, beginning from clay and passing through
the stages of a sperm-drop, a blood-clot, and a lump of flesh, another creation
where the spirit is breathed into my body, and finally reaching the grave
and through there to the Hereafter? In all of these questions lie the essential
problem of human life.
What is truth and where does it
It is rare for even two or three people to agree on
the truth of a matter. If the rich and powerful define truth, their truth
will exclude or disadvantage the poor and vice versa. Truth cannot be decided
by majority vote, for truth is truth regardless of how many people vote for
it. Truth is—and can only be determined by—the Truth, another name for God,
Who created humanity and the universe. Our task is to discover that truth
and abide by it.
Of course there are some universal truths, such as honesty,
generosity, altruism, truthfulness, helpfulness, and compassion. These are
essentially reflections of our true nature. Created by the One, Who is All-Wise,
All-Generous, All-Compassionate, every person has an innate inclination toward
these virtues. Therefore they are confirmed and established by Islam, which
was revealed by God through His Prophets to show humanity how to resolve all
of its psychological and social problems.
While constant change is observed in nature, there is
an underlying aspect of permanence in everything. For instance, a seed germinates
underground and grows into a tree without the laws of germination and growth
changing. Likewise the essential purposes of all people, regardless of any
external material or other changes in their lifestyles, as well as their impact
on our lives and environment have remained unchanged since the creation of
Adam and Eve. All of us share certain general conditions of life and value:
we are born, mature, marry, have children, and die; we have some degree of
will and common desires; we share certain values, such as honesty, kindness,
justice, courage, and so on.
Thus all Prophets sent by God were sent with the same
message concerning God’s Absolute Oneness and Absolute Transcendence: He does
not beget nor is He begotten, for He is Eternally Self-Existent. Each created
being naturally depends on his or her Creator. Only the Creator is Self-Existent,
unique and single, and not composite, subject to change, or contained by time
or space. Belief in such a Divine Being constitutes the primary foundation
of the Divine religion preached by all Prophets. Its other pillars are belief
in the Resurrection, all Prophets without distinction, angels, Divine Scriptures,
and Divine Destiny (including human free will).
Through sincere faith and worship, as well as adherence
to the Prophets’ pristine teachings, we can attain the highest degree of elevation,
even becoming worthy of heaven. There is no other escape from the snares of
worldly life, the oppressive ignorance of false human-made systems, or the
tyranny of self-appointed clerical authority.
Those who do not use their free will to discipline themselves
face the danger of enslavement by their passions. Such lack of self-discipline
causes us to wrong others, for the goal of such behavior is to satisfy our
desires. Since the Divine religion does not allow such wrongdoing, those who
pursue it try to corrupt religion in order to justify their whims and fancies.
This causes disorder, oppression, unending conflict, and destruction. God
wills mercy for His creatures, not oppression or injustice, and that they live
in peace so that justice prevails. However, history relates that the followers
of all earlier Prophets split into opposing factions and tampered with the
religion to serve a given sect’s local cultural preference or interest.
All previous Prophets were sent to restore the Divine
religion to its original purity by purging the innovations and deviations
added by its adherents. This is why Prophet Muhammad was sent after Jesus
to preach the same pillars of faith. God revealed to him the Qur’an, which
contains the eternal principles for our individual and collective life. Since
God decrees that the Qur’an is absolutely and permanently preserved, Prophet
Muhammad is the last Messenger.
Unfortunately, Judaism and Christianity rejected the
Divine Messages and Prophets that came after the ones sent to them: The Jews
rejected Christianity and Jesus, as well as Islam and Muhammad, and the Christians
rejected Islam and Muhammad. So these two religions finally became so exclusive
that Judaism took on the form of a national religion and Christianity presented
itself as the only true religion. However, Islam honors the religious experience
of those who came before its revelation, because Islam confirms and completes
what is true in those religions. Given this, Muslims say that Prophet Abraham
and all other Prophets were Muslim. Such an outlook explains why Islamic civilization,
from its very beginnings, was and remains tolerant, plural, and inclusive.
It has always been this way, except for the rarest of exceptions.
Al-Ghazali, I. H. Muhammad. Ihya-i
Ulumi’d-Din (Reviving the Religious Sciences). Istanbul:
Nasr, S. Hossein.
Sufi Essays. Albany: SUNY Press, c1991.
Nursi, Said. Sozler (The Words,
vols. 1 and 2). Istanbul: 1958.
Nursi, Said. Isaratu’l-I’caz.
Sahin, M. Abdulfettah.
Cag ve Nesil I (The Age and New Generation). Izmir:
Sahin, M. Abdulfettah.
Buhranlar Anaforunda Insan (Man in the Whirl of Depressions).
Yazir, Elmalili Hamdi.
Hak Dini Kur’an Dili (The Language of the Qur’an:
The Language of the True Religion). Istanbul: 1960.