Peace to all who follow guidance (Quran 20.47).
I would like to start with the words of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1878-1960) uttered in the mosque of Damascus, "I am like a child before this gathering, among whom are close on a hundred religious scholars, who goes to school in the morning and learns his lesson, then in the evening returns and repeats it to his father. His father sees whether or not what the child has learnt is correct, and the child awaits either approval or guidance from him."
Today's topic "Bringing faith meaning and peace to life in a multi-cultural world: The Risala-i-Nur's perspective" is of great significance in contemporary world. The word culture has a wider meaning and scope; it does not denote only the way of dressing, eating, living, taste in fine arts, language, education but its circle is wider than that. Moreover, bringing faith signifies to enlighten the vision of a person, increasing the foresightedness, developing optimist approach and inculcating tolerance not only to decipher the social, political, economic, religious issues emerging from a multi-cultural world but also to benefit from the richness of thoughts, methods, technologies, researches by enjoying access to others. A culture cannot be at ease with differences outside it unless it is at ease with its own internal differences. A dialogue between cultures requires that each should be willing to open itself up to the influence of and learn from others, and this presupposes that it is self-critical and willing and able to engage in a dialogue with itself.
Diversity of culture existed in the times of all Prophets Adam, Noah, Ibrahim, Musa, Isa, till Muhammad (Peace be upon all of them) and to deal with the issues of all the times emerging from such diversity; the river of guidance continued to flow from Allah, in the form of revelations in accordance with the needs and demands of the respective times. In nut shell the panacea for all the illnesses of the present people and the people to come can be summarized in one single command of the All-Wise Lord, "then when guidance comes to you from Me, anyone who follows My guidance will have no fear, nor will they grieve" (Quran 2:38). Now it depends upon the bearers of the "Trust" (Amanah) i.e., the children of Adam that how will they benefit themselves from this Guidance to perform their duty entrusted to them that is to acknowledge "Oneness of Allah" and spread this Truth to those who are heedless towards this. In other words revival of faith was the message of every Messenger of Allah in one single creed, "there is no god but Allah". Man, in his prior state of existence acknowledged God as his Lord but had since, upon assuming his current physical form, forgotten that acknowledgement. For indeed, the term for man in the Qur'an, that is, "insan", is etymologically related to the root "to forget". This is as if to say that life on this earth is a journey towards remembrance of that first testimony which man has forgotten.
"We made a covenant with Adam before you, but he forgot, and We found him lacking in constancy" (Quran 20:115).
"One who believes in Allah has grasped the strong handhold that will never break" (Quran 2:256) and belief in the messengership of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) breaks the bonds and walls of enmity towards the People (Ummah) of former Prophets. Because one who believes in the Final Messenger his faith is not complete unless and until he believes in all the Messengers who came before him thus cultivating in them love, unity, tolerance and foresightedness.
"The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and [so do] believers. They all believe in Allah and His angels, His scriptures, and His messengers. They say, 'We do not differentiate between any of His messengers. We hear and obey. Grant us Your forgiveness, Lord, to You we shall all return!" (Quran 2:285).
There are a number of verses in the Quran addressing mankind as a whole in the words like, "Ya Ayyuhan nas, Ya Ayyuhal Insan, Ya bani Adam, etc" which gives us the concept of unity of mankind". (Sahih al Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2,Hadith Number 12)
The Prophet said, "None of you will have faith till he wishes for his brother what he likes for himself."
Furthermore, among innumerous examples from the Prophet Muhammad's life, stretching from "hilf-ul-fudhul to Khutbat-ul-Widda", the well known example of living in peace in a multicultural society is that of the Prophet's "pact of Hudaibiyah" and "the Constitution of Medina" (Mithaq-e Medina). One important aspect of the model of Islam (Peace be upon him) is the successful effort to construct a peaceful multi-cultural society on the basis of the constitution.
For the revival of faith, Allah not only raised the prophets but a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) affirms that, "Allah will raise for this community at the end of every century the one who will renovate its religion for it" (Sunan abu Dawood, Kitab-ul-Malahim, Book 31, Chapter 1).
"In the fourteenth Islamic century, the Risale-i Nur appear all around and serve to the very same purpose. With the meaning fortified by the clear expression of the hadith, says Harun Yahya in his book "Jesus will return", it is our conviction that, in terms of reviving the religion, the Risale-i Nur is in the position of a mujadid".1
"Bediuzzaman"2 (wonder of the age) understood an essential cause of the decline of the Islamic world to be the weakening of its very foundations, that is, a weakening of belief in the basic tenets of the Islamic faith. This, together with the unprecedented attacks on those foundations in the 19th and 20th centuries carried out in the name of science and progress, led him to realize that the urgent and overriding need was to strengthen, and even to save, belief. What was needed was to expend all efforts to reconstruct the edifice of Islam from its foundations, belief, and to answer at that level those attacks with a 'non-physical jihad' or 'jihad of the word.' As for external jihad, he refer it to the decisive proofs of the Illustrious Shari'a. For conquering the civilized is through persuasion, not through force as though they were savages who understand nothing.
His message to the world is that "we are devotees of love; we do not have time for enmity. Our way is to adopt the morality of Muhammad (Upon whom be blessings and peace) and revive his practices. Our guide is the illustrious Shari'a, our sword its decisive proofs, and our aim to uphold the Word of God. The way of this Union is love; its enmity is only for ignorance, poverty, and strife. Non-Muslims should feel sure that this Union attacks only those three facts. Our actions towards non-Muslims consist only of persuasion, for we know them to be civilized. And we suppose them to be fair-minded, so we should demonstrate that Islam is lovable and elevated" 3.
Said Nursi explains the communal harmony in a beautiful way, "the person who does not understand the true meaning of co-operation is more lifeless than a stone. For some stones arch themselves to co-operate with their brothers. Such a stone, despite being a stone, leans towards his brother in the dome when he leaves the builder's hand and bows his head so it touches his brother's head, and so they keep from falling. That is, the stones of domes stand shoulder to shoulder so as not to fall" 4.
In the form of "Six Words," Bediuzzaman describes a number of those positive truths of Islam, which form the cure for the grievous sicknesses besetting the Muslim community, viz. hope; honesty; love and brotherhood; self-sacrifice; awareness of the luminous bonds uniting the believers; mutual consultation. These are not the qualities that may be dispensed within the face of the difficulties or threats; on the contrary, they form the very foundation of Muslim society 5.
Answering the question about the "İttihad-i Muhammed", Nursi responded that "what is meant when we say the İttihad-i Muhammed (Muhammadan Union), which is Islamic Unity, is the unity between all believers, whether potential or actual. It does not refer to the society in Istanbul and Anatolia. A single drop of water is still water. The word cannot be thought of as specific. Its true definition is as follows: Its foundations stretch from east to west and from north to south; its centre are the holy places of Mecca and Medina; its point of unity is Divine Unity; its oath and pledge is belief; its code of regulations, the practices of the Prophet (PBUH); its code of laws, the commands and prohibitions of the Shari'a; its clubs and councils, all the religious schools, mosques, and Sufi meeting-houses; the society's eternal press organ are all Islamic books, and its constant one is foremost the Qur'an and all Qur'anic commentaries (and at this time, the Risale-i Nur, which is a Qur'anic commentary), as well as all moderate religious papers and journals whose aim is to uphold the Word of God; its membership consists of all believers; and its leader is the Glory of the World (PBUH)" .
His focus was not only to bridge but to wipe out the gaps between man and his Omniscient Creator by putting the stamp of transitoriness on the beauty and loveliness of all the objects except the Ever-Existing One from whom the spring of love, peace, unity, brotherhood, equality, justice, solidarity, hope, and subsistence gushes forth. "Mobilize all your strength for this present hour, and think of Divine Mercy, reward in the Hereafter, and how your brief and transient life is being transformed into a long and eternal form. Instead of complaining bitterly, give joyful thanks". In "Tabiat Risalesi" [Nature, Cause or Effect], Bediuzzaman demonstrates that all beings on all levels, are interrelated, interconnected and interdependent, like concentric or intersecting circles. And beyond doubts Bediuzzaman proved his challenge that "I will demonstrate to the world that the Qur'an is a spiritual sun that shall never set and shall never be extinguished" through his teachings comprising in Risale-i Nur.
1. Harun Yahya, Jesus will Return, http://www.jesuswillreturn.com/s1_6a.html, accessed on 31-01-2012
2. Said Nursi, (1877-1960) born in Eastern Turkey author of Risale-i Nur.
3. Excerpt from "The Damascus Sermons".
4. Said al-Nursi, An Allusion of Surah-al-Ikhlas.
5. The Damascus Sermon by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, tr from Turkish "Hute-I Samiye" by Sukran Vahide, 1996, accessed on January 30, 2012
Abida Quansar is a Junior Research Fellow, Department of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
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