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July 2013 Issue 1

To be present in more than one place at the same time.

Myth of the Islamic City

No place or space can be more sacred than any other.


Dr. Murat Besnek Editor Mr. Arif Yavuz Designer

Welcome to the first issue of Reflect. The magazine will be published annually and its purpose is to present articles written by academics to assist with the understanding of some concept in the Risale-i Nur. The magazine will also feature a news and events section that will summarise recent activity in the Risale-i Nur sphere and another section that will contain an interview from a prominent figure. I would personally like to thank Turhan Yolcu for helping me edit the magazine, the organisations that financially supported the magazine and the academics either writing or being interviewed for the magazine. ActualEvidence is the sole publisher of Reflect. ActualEvidence is a research group in Australia that explores issues relating to God, existence, science and more. For more information please visit I hope you enjoy and benefit from reading this magazine. Dr. Murat Besnek

In the first article of this issue, Professor Colin Turner challenges some of our preconceptions about sacrality. He argues convincingly that since each nonprohibited (or halal) place, thing and act reflects the Divine names and attributes of God, no place or thing can be considered more sacred than another. Views to the contrary, he argues, are based merely on the subjective perceptions of the individual.

Next, in our second article, we benefit from the unique insights of Professor Yunus Cengel, an authority in the field of thermodynamics. Professor Cengel posits that incorporating the concept pair subtlety versus density into our understanding of the phenomenal world, can address some hitherto unresolved issues in quantum mechanics. His article also provides an important insight into Gods name of Nur through the subatomic world and its properties like spacelessness and timelessness.

In our third article, Associate Professor Yamina Mermer explores answers to questions that arise from the Quranic notion that men and jinn were created only to know and worship God. Associate Professor Mermer ponders, together with Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, What does it mean to worship? Why is worship so central to our telos? What are the consequences of neglecting it? It is striking to learn from this article, that our everyday choices can have such momentous implications for our spiritual lives.

Finally, in our fourth article, Doctor Umeyye Isra Yazicioglu takes us on an excursion of self-discovery, where the aim is apprehension of the One. To guide us on this journey, she relies on Bediuzzamans insights into our unbounded needs and particularly our need for beauty and eternity. Doctor Yazicioglu clearly demonstrates that without eternity, the human capacity to think and connect with the world brings about nothing but pain.

Here, we present the latest news and events regarding the Risale-i Nur. This includes conferences, seminars, publications and books. In this issue, we review a book from a renowned Australian journalist about Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. We also summarise the latest updates in the academic scene with conferences and symposiums in England, India, Egypt and Singapore.


In this section, we interview Professor Sener Dilek during his trip to Australia. Professor Dilek is a gifted individual who has dedicated his life to research and attaining knowledge. He is famous for his lectures that are technical and precise, while being motivational and inspiring at the same time. We should also add that his funny side is second to none. It is very common to see the audience in tears of laughter when he lectures. During the 20 minute interview, we were able to acquire answers to important questions like, Is there strong evidence in this universe for the existence of God?

Prof. Colin Turner
My aims in this article are twofold. As the title suggests, the first aim is to explore the contention that the traditional notion of the Islamic city is a myth a fiction fuelled by a reductive and essentialist approach to Islam in general and Muslim cultures in particular. The second aim will, as I hope to show, follow on from the first, and involves a rethinking of the notion of sacred space, particularly insofar as it pertains to Muslim perceptions. My objectives are also twofold. The first is to argue that the same misconceptions which divide cities into Islamic and other than Islamic are the same misconceptions which lead faith communities to confer a greater sacrality on some places than they do on others. The second objective is to argue that it is these self-same misconceptions about the tiered sacrality of place and space which are also at the heart of the erroneous compartmentalisation of culture into the religious and the worldly, leading to a secularisation not only of space but also of approach and behaviour. With the advent of the so-called Islamic revival in the second half of the 20th century, the question of the Islamic city was once again brought to the fore. In many Muslim-majority countries, urban planners have looked, and still look, to past achievements in order to replicate patterns of building traditionally identified as Islamic. This notion that there is a traditional mode of urban planning identifiable as Islamic in other words the notion that there is such a thing as an Islamic city is one that has its roots largely in French Orientalist scholarship. However, the idea has also found favour among Muslim writers, and particularly those who deal with urban morphology and town planning. And naturally in the popular Muslim psyche, the notion that space and place may be seen as Islamic cannot be underestimated. As Andre Raymond points out, the classical Orientalist approach to the Muslim city and Muslim urban development fits naturally into what he calls the fundamental concept of Orientalism, according to which any phenomenon which emerges in the civilisation of a predominantly Muslim area or country is seen as being conditioned in its entirety by Islam. Given this, it is hardly surprising that the religion of Islam is referred to time and time again when discussion takes place about the institutions, the organisation of political life, the socioeconomic activities and even the architecture and morphology of the city all things which, it should be clear, one can really only describe as Muslim. The contemporary scholar Janet AbuLughod has dealt albeit not entirely convincingly with the whole idea of the Islamic city a creation, she believes, of largely French Orientalist scholars writing at the turn of the 20th century. Focusing in particular on the work of the brothers William and George Marcais, she shows how the defining characteristics

For a city, like a theology or a philosophy or a mystical system, is a work in progress, and a work in progress neither warrants, nor is in need of being validated by, the adjective Islamic.

Prof. Colin Turner University of Durham, UK

of what was believed to be the Islamic city were codified. The Marcais brothers, and scholars after them such as Von Grunebraum and Brunschvig, set forth the characteristics of the Islamic city primarily as they had been observed in North Africa, and in particular the city of Fez in Morocco. Identifying the existence of a mosque, a bazaar and the hamam as the key ingredients of the Islamic city, most of these Orientalist studies focus on a single case and attempt to generalise, without any attempt to answer the question of why would one expect Muslim-majority cities to be similar and in what ways? That there is a similarity in many cities which have been developed by Muslims is not in question here. What is in question is the extent to which Islam is responsible for influencing any of the different forces which actually went into the shaping of those prototypical Islamic cities described by the Orientalist scholars in question. Terrain, for example, cannot be Islamic; nor can technology. All that is left is the socio-political and legal characteristics of Islam, which may have shaped, but certainly did not determine, the processes whereby Muslim cities were formed and developed. As Janet Abu-Lughod concludes, religion cannot be the determining factor. Even the characteristics of Muslim-majority cities that she identifies as being distinctive such as the division of cities into ethnic quarters; the segregation of men and women cannot, because of the highly contentious nature of the precepts which drive them be seen as Islamic as such. Thus, she contends, the idea of

the Islamic city is one that is founded on too few cases, and on a model of outcomes rather than one of processes. Consequently, the aim was to generalise about a specific form of city at one moment in time without deconstructing the various causes of that outcome. That particular form was then equated with the Islamic city, regardless of whether or not there was anything particularly Islamic about the causes. To prefix anything with the adjective Islamic is not only dysfunctional to our understanding of the thing so described, but it is also, I contend, misleading with regard to our understanding of Islam itself. To understand why this should be so does not demand any huge intellectual effort. Those who work in the field of Islamic Studies another largely meaningless and ultimately unhelpful term will be aware of a number of academic disciplines which are illustrative of the problem at hand. Islamic theology is one such discipline; Islamic law is another, as is Islamic philosophy, Islamic mysticism and, possibly the most meaningless of all, Islamic history. The names of these fields of study and research are used almost universally, but little thought is actually given to how fundamentally flawed and, indeed, suspect, the reasoning behind their nomenclature actually is. For example, to prefix theology with the modifier Islamic and then to talk in terms of Islamic theology is to disregard the fact that the history of Muslim theological discourse is a history of multiple theologies with multiple sources of influence. To use the adjective Islamic is to set an orthodox seal of approval on

something which then sets in stone and essentialises that which can never be set in stone and can never be essentialised. The same applies to law, to philosophy, to history and to all other disciplines in the Muslim world of learning, all of which, as humanly constructed processes, are on paper at least evolving and therefore fallible. The term Islamic city is unlikely to be cast aside any time soon, as are the terms Islamic theology, Islamic law and Islamic history. This is unfortunate, because not only does the adjective Islamic tell us little that is meaningful about the essence of these phenomena, it also serves to draw erroneous dividing lines between physical and conceptual domains which strictly speaking have no right to be there. If Cairo, for example, is seen as an Islamic city by whichever criteria we wish to apply then how does one view London, Birmingham or Manchester, all that meet many of the criteria drawn up by Orientalists and Muslims alike, but which by virtue of the fact that they are located in non-Muslim domains, would most likely not register as particularly Islamic in the minds of most Muslims. And this despite having Muslim minorities as large as, if not larger than, the Coptic Christian minority in Cairo. Thus despite the extent to which the planning, the morphology and the functions of a city may be infused by the precepts of Islam, a city can never be Islamic in the true sense of the word, for the very same reason that the theologies, philosophies and mystical systems formulated by Muslims can never be truly Islamic. For a city, like a theology or a philosophy or a mystical system, is a work in progress, and a work in progress neither warrants, nor is in need of being validated by, the adjective Islamic. Yet the outdated notion of the Islamic city and, indeed, the ideal Islamic city of the future is an enduring one, not least among Muslim

architects and urban planners. According to Spahic Omer, a scholar who focuses on architecture and environmental design, central to the criteria by which a city may be categorised as Islamic are: The sanctity and purity of its philosophy, vision by and functions, accompanied security, convenience, efficiency,

in accordance with the philosophy and vision of Islam. Indeed, to consider it to be such is to overlook the efforts and achievements not only of the non-Muslims who have contributed to the development of the city in the past, but also of those nonMuslims today who call Istanbul their home. It should in any case be clear that we cannot rely on demographics to provide us with criteria for the Islamicity of space: just because a city boasts a Muslim majority can never by default make that city Islamic. The same applies to larger geographical entities. Between 10% and 15% of the Egyptian population is made up of Coptic Christians and thus it would be misleading in the extreme to describe Egypt as an Islamic country, although that is clearly how most Muslims perceive and describe it. If we consider Spahic Omers other desiderata convenience, efficiency, security, sustainable development and, as he puts it, anything else that Islam reckons as indispensable for living a decent, honourable and accountable life, we see that in many respects, Istanbul, like any other metropolis, is found wanting. Cleanliness, for example, is a virtue extolled by the Quran and enshrined in the myriad laws of purification and ablution, yet walking through many big cities in the so-called Muslim world can often be like walking through a rubbish dump; similarly, the traffic in these large Islamic cities is understandably heavy, but is made considerably worse by the fact that many people often drive with absolutely no thought or respect for others. Other such examples are too numerous to list here. Thus if convenience and efficiency are hallmarks of an Islamic city, one might be tempted to say that many cities in the non-Muslim West, for example, bear more resemblance to Islamic cities than, say, Cairo, Karachi or Tehran. This division of the world into the Islamic

sustainable development and anything else that Islam reckons as indispensable for living a decent, honourable and accountable life. This line of reasoning, upon which the author fails to elaborate convincingly, is as problematic as it is vague. There are few, if any cities, in existence today which can be said to have been conceived in accordance with the philosophy and vision of Islam itself a heavily contested term although that is not to say that individual Muslim believers have not tried to embody precepts they believe to be Islamic in their city-building endeavours. For example, the redoubtable Mimar Sinan, whose numerous stunning works of architecture make Istanbul one of the jewels in the crown of what has come to be known as the Muslim world and Muslim world is itself a problematic term, but I think everyone is clear as to what is meant by it. But are the endeavours of individual Muslims enough to render a city Islamic? If we stay for a moment with the example of Istanbul, we may see how patently lacking in credibility those standards mentioned earlier are. Despite its natural beauty and its architectural wonders, by no stretch of the imagination does Istanbul qualify as an Islamic city, particularly by the dubious criteria formulated by Spahic Omer. Historically, Istanbul has served as either a major city or the official capital of four empires: the Roman; the Byzantine; the Latin; and the Ottoman. In its conception and evolution, therefore, there is no way that it can be construed that it was conceived, or has evolved,

and the other is of course nothing new in the history of Muslim thought. Indeed, it found embodiment early on in the spurious division that medieval jihadists drew between the dar al-Islam and the dar al-harb a division which still resonates with many contemporary Muslims and Muslim thinkers. More pertinently,

evenly exalted, adhered to, implemented, and made supreme in each and every department of human existence. Yet he goes on to say that the Islamic city is a multifaceted entity which is made up of both religious and secular buildings, such as mosques, government buildings, numerous other religious structures

which any reference to religion or to God does not impinge or is not related, then to what extent is it meaningful from the Islamic perspective to describe a city as a mix of the religious and the other-thanreligious, or, and this is what I suspect he really means, the religious and the worldly. This division between the religious and the secular or the religious and the worldly is not one that is made by Spahic Omer alone; indeed, it pervades Muslim popular consciousness to the point of ubiquity. From numerous semistructured interviews with Muslim undergraduate and doctoral students in

The feeling that one place is somehow more redolent of the sacred than another comes, I contend, not from the place itself but from the mental and emotional associations that go with it.

the United Kingdom it has become clear to me in my own research that there is a pervasive conceptual split between that which is deemed religious and that which is considered to be secular or worldly. One illustrative example is taken from a compare and contrast exercise involving various daily functions such as the performance of canonical prayer (namaz); driving to the supermarket; however, this division finds expression in a division drawn between the religious and the non-religious, or, to put it in other words, the religious and the worldly or the religious and the secular. Spahic Omer himself admits that Islam draws no distinction between the religious and secular realms along ideological lines. Allahs words of guidance are bidden to be and establishments, private dwellings, markets, hospitals, recreational facilities, gardens, street networks, open spaces and so on. Religious and secular functions, he says, are not separable in Islam. But if this is the case, why does Spahic Omer draw even a conceptual distinction between that which is religious and that which is secular? If by secular he means that upon giving zakat; going to the bathroom; eating dinner; visiting someone in hospital, and so on. From the results of the exercise it was clear that there is still a marked conceptual distinction drawn between the religious and the worldly. The performance of the canonical prayer was unanimously seen as a religious act, while actions such as driving to the local

supermarket or visiting the bathroom were mostly seen either as worldly or, even more intriguing, as neutral. The dividing lines were drawn even more deeply when it came to perceptions of place and space. The mosque was, unsurprisingly, seen unanimously as a religious building, while places such as the bus station, the supermarket and the town hall were seen invariably as secular, worldly or neutral places. There seems to be an entrenched position in the popular Muslim psyche which accords sacrality to places in accordance with their orthopractic functionality. A number of respondents did offer more nuanced responses, with a minority averring that sacrality pervaded all things, albeit in a hierarchical manner, with some places and spaces deemed more sacred than others. The notion of tiered sacrality namely that some places are more sacred than others allows us to segue here to the discourse of Said Nursi, whose concept-pair of mana-i ismi and mana-i harfi may help us shed some light on the issues at hand. In the Nursian scheme, the visible realm (lam al-shahda) is akin to a full-length mirror in which the hidden treasure, that is, God, manifests himself in order to contemplate His own perfection. While on the level of Divine essence, this act of contemplation is self-reflexive, on the level of divine acts, contemplation is mediated through creation, at the pinnacle of which stands man. For Nursi, all created beings manifest Gods names to some degree: the whole of the cosmos becomes a hierophany, with each created being hymning the praises of God through its innate disposition. However, unlike Mircea Eliades perception of the hierophanic, which posits each of the constituent beings in the cosmos as potentially indicative of the sacred, Nursis vision is one in which all things actually and actively reflect the Other, yet

without compromising their own distinct otherness. The Nursian position, then, posits the whole of the created realm as a manifestation of the Divine and thus, from the creational perspective, a realm which is wholly imbued with the sacred. One may be reminded here of the Quranic verse which claims that not only is God manifesting Himself at each moment (kull yawm huwa fi shan), but also that Wherever you may turn, there is the face of God. Nursis corroboration of this foundational Quranic position would tend, therefore, to suggest that all places and spaces partake of the sacrality which comes from being a reflection of the Divine names and attributes. A mosque, then, as a structure in space and time, cannot be deemed inherently more sacred on the creational level than, say, a shopping mall or a government building. Indeed, according to the tradition, kull alard masjidullah the whole of the world is a place of prostration, a masjid, before God. As far as our discussion of cities is concerned, the idea that people and spaces are divisible into the Islamic and the other than Islamic is thus contested by Nursi and by the Islamic revelation itself. It is also contested by the Prophet, who, upon his arrival in Medina, declared in the so-called Constitution of Medina that the whole of that city was now a haram or sacred territory, despite the fact that only a minority of its inhabitants were Muslim. Sacrality in Muslim spiritual parlance can be expressed by the notion of living at the very interface of mulk and malakut. And ultimately, I contend, this is an issue of perception. There is no denying that in popular Muslim consciousness, some places are deemed by default to be more sacred than others. Nevertheless, perceptions of the sacred, and of the more sacred, can never be truly intersubjective. The feeling that one

place is somehow more redolent of the sacred than another comes, I contend, not from the place itself but from the mental and emotional associations that go with it. This may be illustrated with an example not of space, but of time. The canonical prayer times, in and of themselves, cannot rationally speaking be any more or indeed any less sacred than any other times. This is not to say, of course, that there is no intrinsic wisdom in these times being set in the way that they are. There may well be a Divine wisdom pertaining to the prayer times that demands the prayers being said then and at no other times. However, wisdom and sacrality need to be distinguished one from the other. While one particular time allotted for prayer may partake of a certain wisdom which another time lacks, it can never be said to enjoy greater sacrality in and of itself, outside the context of prayer. Indeed, nor can prayer in and of itself be said to be more sacred than any other action that meets the criteria of righteous. The canonical prayer is an aide-memoire: a means of remembering. But it is not only an aide-memoire that reminds the individual of God; it is an aide-memoire that reminds the individual of the need for constant awareness, and that devotion is something which should spill over from the canonical prayer, infusing and permeating all moments, and not just the moment in which the canonical worship is offered. In fact, not only is the canonical prayer no more sacred than any other moment of righteous awareness, but in and of itself the canonical prayer is only as sacred in practice as the intention of the one performing it. In other words, on the level of praxis, the canonical prayer, like any other permitted or recommended act, may be either sacred or profane. The level of sacrality or profanity depends solely on what is brought to that act by the one who performs it.

To see a phenomenon through the prism of the Other-indicative (mana-i harfi), however, is to realise that it possess meaning only insofar as it is an indicator of the Other, i.e. of God.

From a Nursian perspective, the sacred/ profane dichotomy is expressed through his exposition of the concept-pair of mana-i ismi and mana-i harfi. A detailed explanation of this is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice here to say that to see a phenomenon through the prism of the self-referential (mana-i ismi) is to see that phenomenon as having meaning in and of itself alone. In other words, its existence points to nothing else except itself. To see

a phenomenon through the prism of the Other-indicative (mana-i harfi), however, is to realise that it possesses meaning only insofar as it is an indicator of the Other, i.e. of God. In the Nursian schema, then, sacrality and profanity inhere not in phenomena themselves but in mans approach to them: sacrality and profanity are thus attitudinal and not existential. From a Nursian perspective, therefore, it is clear that no place or space can,

from a purely creational viewpoint, be inherently more sacred than any other: all places and spaces are sacred because they are held to be the creation and locus of manifestation of the Divine attributes. Of course, one may argue that this does not account for the fact that some places feel more sacred than others. However, exactly why the numinous is appreciated more in some places than in others is a different issue for a different time.

Luminosity and the Quantum Realm

Prof. Yunus Cengel
The word nur is described as brightness, luminescence, radiance, light and gleam. It is also expressed as the opposite of all kinds of darkness. Nur is one of the 99 names of Allah. It refers to Allah as the source, creator and giver of all lights. Nur is used to describe the Quran, belief and prophets, all of which cause spiritual illumination. The things that have nur or that are created out of nur like angels are called luminous and the state of having nur is called luminosity. There is no physical equivalent of nur, and its true nature is not fully understood. Despite the nuances among them, the words light and nur are often mistakenly used synonymously. Light represents the material or physical being that comes from the sun and lamps, that can be seen by the eye, that can be measured by instruments, and that appears bright. Whereas nur represents the non-material or metaphysical being like knowledge and belief. It cannot be measured by instruments; its existence is perceived as luminousness. Thus, light is related to material illumination, while nur is related to spiritual illumination. However, due to the common connection with illumination, nur is also defined as light metaphorically and it is thus materialised in a sense. A simple example may help us understand the concept of nur being related to knowledge. Physical light enables us to see the outer appearance of beings and events through the biological eye. Knowledge is a non-material light, that is, nur, which illuminates the inner appearance of beings and events, displaying them to the eye of the mind. The biological eye sees the present time with physical light. But the eye of the mind sees the present, past and future through the luminous light of knowledge; it makes man a timeless being. The biological eye cannot see in a dark environment; if there was no light, the existence of the eye would be meaningless. Similarly, the eye of the mind cannot see in an environment of ignorance; if there was no knowledge, the existence of the mind would be purposeless. Knowledge is a non-material light that has been present pre-eternally; it is beyond time and place. In the enlightenment of communities, the non-material light of knowledge that radiates from intellectuals is no less important than the physical light given by the sun. The source of physical sciences is observation. Scientific research is carried out by observing beings and events, since everything, from atoms to galaxies, has a non-material knowledge structure; knowledge (information content) is interwoven through all things. Scientific study involves discovering and presenting the knowledge body of beings fully and correctly. It is carried out by observing the glitters of knowledge in the structure of beings, by seeing and showing the source of these glitters through the eye of the mind. Knowledge existed before man, since - as scientists have discovered through careful research - everything in the universe is built with knowledge.


Prof. Yunus Cengel Adnan Menderes University, Turkey

John Doe Vincent Leader Pro Charles Manester Writer

Light represents the material or physical being that comes from the sun and lamps, that can be seen by the eye, that can be measured by instruments, and that appears bright. Whereas nur represents the non-material or metaphysical being like knowledge and belief.

The fact that everything in the universe is built with knowledge, and that knowledge virtually glitters from all beings, shows the existence of a widespread, luminous knowledge light that penetrates into everything. However, there is no material element called knowledge in the fundamental building blocks of beings; therefore, knowledge - without doubt - is not matter; it is non-material. This non-material light of knowledge can be perceived by the spiritual eye of the mind, in contrast to physical light that is perceived by the material eye. Similar things can be said about beauty and the nur of art. In life, there are certain things which are mysterious, but which are nonetheless recognised whenever they are perceived. Beauty can be defined as a non-material light that originates from moderation and harmony. That is, matter and movement can be turned to such a state that they can reflect beauty just as carbon atoms reflect physical

light glitteringly when they are arranged to form a crystal. To see the rose is one thing, but to see the beauty in the rose is something else. The biological eye sees the former, while only conscious beings that have an understanding of beauty see the latter, and do so with the spiritual eye of the heart. What makes the rose beautiful is not beauty in its atoms, because the hydrogen or nitrogen atoms in a living rose are the same as the hydrogen or nitrogen atoms in a crushed and muddy rose. Since something that does not exist in any of the constituents of an object cannot exist in its whole, the beauty of the rose does not originate from itself, that is, from its substance, but from outside just as the dazzling glitter of the diamond comes from a source of light outside itself. The property of the rose and other beautiful things is their ability to reflect beauty, not the ownership of beauty.


Matter, Energy and Nur

The physical world that we perceive with our senses consists of energy. On the received Big Bang model of cosmology, the universe was comprised only of energy in its first phase. In this phase, everything was inside everything, and nothing took up volume. During the first fractions of a second after the Big Bang, elementary particles like quarks and gluons formed as a result of the sharp fall in temperature and the condensation of energy; then, protons and neutrons formed as a result of their combination. Matter consists of molecules; molecules consist of atoms; and atoms consist of subatomic particles like electrons, protons and neutrons. Matter is a condensed form of energy; and matter and energy can be transformed into each other as it is stated by the famous formula of Einstein: E=mc. It can even be said that matter is a form of energy that has lost its subtleties. Two basic properties of matter are as follows: it has mass and it takes up space. Therefore, matter is defined as anything that has mass and takes up space. Matter and energy are physical beings; both are subject to the laws of physics; both can be observed and measured. However, unlike matter, energy does not take up space and it has no fixed mass. Thus, unlike condensed matter, energy is a subtle being that has no mass and that does not take up space on its own. However, as a physical being, it is subject to some limitations for instance, the speed of electromagnetic radiation cannot exceed the speed of light. Matter and energy are two components of the same whole and they are virtually sources of each other. In the sun, matter constantly turns to energy and the solar energy travels to the world in the form of heat and light at a speed of 300,000 kilometres per second. That is, matter turns to something that has no mass and that does not take up space (antimatter)

and travels at a speed that matter can never reach. Then, it can be said that matter and energy are not the same kind of beings. One of them is condensed and the other is subtle. Subtle things are beyond time and space to a certain extent; subtle things are also called halfluminous things. If there exists the state of subtlety or half-luminosity, which is a state of being partly conditional, then, there exists the state of full luminosity, which is an extension of that state, and is a state of being completely free from the limitations of time and space. Thus, it is necessary to classify beings in a table of subtlety and density, beginning with full luminosity and ending with full density, and to regard beings as a combination of luminosity and matter. It is certain through observation that luminosity is dominant at the subatomic level and density is dominant at the supraatomic level. For instance, both the place and speed of a tennis ball, which is supraatomic, can be measured with precision. However, the speed and place of the electron, which is a subatomic, cannot be determined. If its speed is certain, its place is not certain. That is, it is either nowhere or it can be anywhere. It can even be in two different places at once. However, the probability of the electron being in some places is higher; and this probability distribution is expressed in the form of a wave function. This phenomenon is known as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in physics. Quantum theory is dominant in the subatomic world and Einsteins theory of relativity is dominant in the supra-atomic world; and a theory to combine those two theories has not been successful yet despite all efforts. We imagine the electron to be a particle but it is also a wave just like electromagnetic waves. The wave property of the electron is seen clearly in interference experiments. That is why the dilemma of particle-wave duality

in the subatomic world is one of the cornerstones of quantum mechanics. That is, electrons and other subatomic particles sometimes act like a particle and sometimes like a wave. Thus, it can be said that subatomic particles are neither particles nor waves because both of these have different properties. For instance, sound spreads in the air as a wave; while the bullet from a gun moves as a piece of mass. Similarly, a fruit cannot be an apple and a pear at the same time. If it can be, then, that fruit is neither an apple nor a pear. Therefore, subatomic particles must be a sort of thing that is able to manifest two opposite characteristics that of both waves and particles. Unlike dense beings like tables and chairs that are made of matter, subtle beings made of energy (such as light) have no mass and they do not take up space. They settle where there are other things. As a matter of fact, there are hundreds of broadcasts in the same point in the form of electromagnetic energy in the air, but there is never a jam. All of them travel through one another at a speed of 300,000 kilometres per second. They can travel around the world a few times in seconds and as such, they can virtually be everywhere at the same time. Similarly, a lamp is something that has mass and that takes up space; therefore, it is dense. However, the light coming from the lamp has no mass; it does not take up space and it has no certain place it is virtually everywhere. However, the intensity of the light decreases as it moves away from the lamp. Therefore, light is a semi-luminous being as it has a dimension of density to it. The luminousness of light is seen more clearly if its colors are taken into consideration. Black surfaces absorb almost all of the light that reaches them; therefore, they are seen as black. White surfaces reflect all of the light, that is, all colors that fall on them and are seen as white by the eye. As anyone may recall


Thus, it is necessary to classify beings in a table of subtlety and density, beginning with full luminosity and ending with full density, and to regard beings as a combination of luminosity and matter.

from prism experiments, the white light coming from the sun or an incandescent lamp goes through the prism; it is then separated into colors from violet to orange, such that various colored light beams come out of the prism. When those various colors pass through another prism, the opposite takes place and the colors unite, coming out of the prism as white. When this event, which is seen as an ordinary event, is investigated carefully, we see a phenomenon that is not usually seen in the realm of physics: in the separating prism, colors come into existence out of the white light; and in the uniting prism, the colors disappear and become white light. Since, in the realm of physics, nothing can be brought into existence out of nothing and nothing can be sent into non-existence, colors must be non-physical, luminous beings, that

become manifest at a certain wavelength and at a certain form in the physical realm. To understand it better, let us consider the example of paints, which are dense beings: Is it possible to take a bucket of just white paint and to then obtain paints with various other colors from it? Or more interestingly, is it possible to mix various colors of paint and to obtain white paint? It is not. The difference between dense white paint and subtle white light is luminosity; it is impossible to explain these simple observations without using the concept of luminosity.

and that there is a small slit in the front wall. If a tennis ball shooting machine shoots out tennis balls toward the front wall, the balls that come to the slit will pass through to the rear wall, and the marks that the balls make will form a band on this rear wall. If the walls are flooded with water up to the slit, and if waves are formed one after the other on the surface of the water, the waves that reach the slit will move through and hit the rear wall. When there is only one slit, there will be no interference. However, if there are two slits in the front wall, the waves that pass through them will undergo interference,

Quantum Mechanics and Nur

The most famous experiment that characterises the strange actions of particles in the quantum world and that shows things being present in more than one place at the same time is the doubleslit experiment. Imagine that there are two parallel walls, one behind the other,

and in the places where two wave crests clash, the height of the wave will double. In the places where a wave trough clashes with a wave crest, the two waves will eliminate each other. In the end, in the places where strengthened wave crests hit, a single series of interference bands


will form on the rear wall. This series of bands will be dark at the middle of the wall and lighter toward the sides of the wall. Importantly, when waves pass through to the rear wall, a single series of bands will form instead of two distinct bands. When the above experiment is repeated with an electron gun, in the case of just one slit, the electron marks that form on the rear wall form a single band right behind the slit, just like the tennis balls. Thus, electrons act like small balls. However, when there are two slits in the

two slits on the front wall, they act like waves. More interestingly, when a measuring device is placed at the back of the slits in order to see which electrons pass through which slit, electrons pass through only one or the other slit, acting as particles. Here, the electrons form two trace bands on the back wall, as though they somehow know that they are being observed. The observation of the electron literally seems to cause it to act as a particle rather than a wave. The electrons

weird results are obtained. Thus, the characteristic of luminosity, which entails being in more than one place at the same time, can become manifest even in the dimension of atoms. However, when the experiment is done with bullets from an automatic gun, the bullets act like particles no matter how small the bullets are. That is, when matter exceeds the dimensions of atoms, it loses the characteristic of luminosity. One theory that is put forward to explain this fact that subatomic particles can be in more than one place at the same time, is the theory of parallel universes. According to this theory, particles are present not only in the universe that we know, but also in numerous ghostly universes that are intertwined with our universe. According to this theory, particles shuttle among these multiple universes. When they disappear in one, they appear in others. This interpretation of quantum mechanics illustrates that very unparsimonious ideas need to be proposed, if the notion of luminosity is ignored. Subatomic particles like electrons and neutrinos, which are the building blocks of matter, act more like waves (although they are referred to as particles). As such, they are in no given place, but are in fact in a distribution of many places. Therefore, in the subatomic world, subtlety is dominant rather than density. If one takes into consideration

That is, in the subatomic world, the concepts of both space and time lose their meanings; the property of timelessness and spacelessness comes to the forefront.

front wall, a single series of interference bands will form on the rear wall, just as was the case with the waves of water. Thus, electrons pass through the same hole at the same time when there are two slits, just like waves. When the experiment is repeated with only one electron, a band of interference forms on the back wall and this confirms that the electron passes through the same slit at the same time, just like a wave. Thus, electrons start their action as particles, but when they see

seem to feel the intention or will to situate them in a certain position - or to become condensed and matter-like - and they become subject to that will as if they have been enchanted. When light is used in the experiment instead of the electron, the same things are observed. That is, the light sometimes acts like a particle and sometimes like a wave. When the experiments are done with atoms, whose masses are quite large compared to electrons, the same

Said Nursis view that the source of the existence of matter is the vibration of a luminous Divine power, it is not at all surprising that luminosity is essential in that micro-universe. The problem is not in the clearly observed subtlety of the particles but in the density of minds. It is significant that the Higgs particle, which is claimed to be the essential building block of the universe, is dubbed the God particle. A luminous mind is necessary in order to be able to see and to understand


such a semi-luminous particle that comes from luminosity and goes toward density. As particles move away from the luminous source, which is their field, and as particles unite and form larger objects, density occurs and the rules of the visible realm start to become dominant. The double-slit experiment explained above shows that the concept of place has collapsed in the subatomic or quantum world. Another famous experiment in quantum mechanics is the entanglement experiment, which shows that the concept of time has also collapsed. Subatomic particles produced at the same time are always in contact with one another, no matter how far away they are from one another. For instance, if one of two electrons that are in the state of entanglement is exposed to something, its twin reacts immediately even if they are light years away from each other. That is, time virtually stops and a timeless communication takes place. Einstein opposed the idea of entanglement because it was always thought impossible to exceed the speed of light (which is certainly true for supra-atomic, dense beings). But the phenomenon of entanglement, which has become one of the basic concepts of quantum mechanics, was tested at distances of more than 10 kilometres and it was confirmed to be true. That is, in the subatomic world, the concepts of both space and time lose their meanings; the property of timelessness and spacelessness comes to the forefront. People often restrict their thinking to that which accords with their own knowledge and experience. They have difficulty accepting things that they have not personally experienced with their own senses. When human knowledge is validated through numerous observations and experiments, it is expressed as laws. For instance, what precludes the existence of perpetual motion machines

is the law of the conservation of energy, which is a law of physics. However, these universal laws and principles can hide some subtleties, and there may be more pervasive laws hidden in the depths of the subtleties that are overlooked. For instance, according to Newtons laws, which form the foundation of classical physics, time and space are independent: the watch of a person on the ground and the watch of a person flying on a plane at a speed of a 1000 km per hour, show the same time. However, when the speed of light is approached, time starts to slow down. In a satellite that orbits the earth at a speed of 30,000 km per hour, the time difference caused by this speed has to be taken into consideration. That is, in situations where very high speeds are involved, we need to refer to the principles of Einsteins modern theory of relativity, rather than Newtons classical physics rules. It is certain from experience that an apple can only be in one place at a given time. If it is in the fridge, it cannot be on the table; if it is on the table, it means it is no longer in the fridge. However, as has been explained above, at the level of subatomic particles, this fundamental fact starts to become invalid. In one of the classical experiments in particle physics, there is a piece of paper with two holes in it; an electron passes through the two holes in the paper at the same time. Here, the one thing is in more than one place at the same time. This phenomenon of being in more than one place at once, which our minds have difficulty in understanding, is one of the basic principles of quantum mechanics. However, it is really difficult to understand this when beings are regarded as purely material. The materialistic approach, which limits beings to things that can be measured and observed in laboratories, is stuck, due to its paradoxes. However, the honest acceptance of the existence of luminosity

will free physics of these paradoxes, since luminosity can accommodate timelessness and spacelessness. It is interesting that the laws of physics, such as the law of gravity, are luminous; they are everywhere, though they are nowhere. As long as the rigid materialistic approach accepts the existence of laws of physics, the concept of luminosity is accepted implicitly. Claiming otherwise betrays sciences claim to objectivity.

Quantum theory abolished the sovereignty of Newtonian mechanics in the subatomic world, and invalidated much of what we thought we knew about matter. The first victim of quantum mechanics was the understanding that everything consisted of matter and that everything could be explained by deterministic laws of physics. The discovery that subatomic particles can be in more than one place at the same time, and that they can communicate faster than the speed of light, has left physicists confounded. These prominent physicists, who were thought to understand everything, turned out to understand nothing. Efforts to explain these new phenomena through ideas like the existence of parallel universes, have satisfied few. In summary, matter becomes subtle in the subatomic world it begins to take on luminous properties like spacelessness and timelessness. The most objective approach that needs to be taken is the confession and declaration by science that luminosity is a real phenomenon, and that beings can be both material and luminous, not solely material. The property of luminosity is dominant in every level of the subatomic world. Luminosity can easily settle many of the issues that have so far baffled minds conditioned by deterministic philosophy, and it should therefore take its rightful place as an indispensable concept in science.


Assoc. Prof. Yamina Mermer


And I have not created the Jinns and human beings to any end other than that they may [know and] worship Me. (Quran, 51:56)
Why are we here on earth? To worship God, says the Quran. This is a profound response that is worthy of exploring. What is meant by worship? Are we supposed to live in the mosque, or a monastery? Who is God really and how come my purpose and fulfillment is tied to worshipping and adoring God? What if I decline this purpose, what are the consequences? In this essay, we shall explore these key questions with the help of a wonderful Muslim scholar, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. Said Nursi, like many Muslim teachers before him, engaged with the Quran with an open heart and intellect. As an interpretation of this key verse, what Nursi offers is really a journey of the spirit, the heart, the intellect and other faculties. He shows how knowing and worshipping God is a journey that leads to joy and fulfillment in this world and in the next. He also insightfully talks about the consequences of not worshipping God; human life without it is miserable and loses all meaning and peace. In what follows, lets look at how this is so: how worship of God fulfills a human being, and how the alternative paths lead to dead ends. As it turns out, we have two basic choices before us at every turn.


A Choice with Implications

From the outset, Nursi explains that there are two ways of being in the world. The first is being aware of ones vulnerable self (ajz and faqr), embracing this vulnerability and acknowledging with gratitude ones dependence on the Sustainer. The second way of being is to be in denial of ones vulnerability and struggle with its reality and attempt to become self-sufficient. Note that in both cases our reality is the same: we are vulnerable. In other words, we do not choose to be vulnerable, it is a given; we just choose how to respond to it. The first way is the hearts mode of being while the second is the nafs or egos mode of being. As the ego is purified from its illusions of self-sufficiency and the faculties entrusted to it are employed in the name of the Creator, they start to display a variety of worship, thanks and praise. Then, the seeker of God gradually transforms and enters a new mode of being and knowing under the leadership of the heart. This transformation affects all human senses. Nursi reminds us that all senses and subtle faculties (laif), like the intellect (aql), the spirit (ruh), mystery (sirr), and the ego (nafs) have their calling for worship.


Assoc. Prof. Yamina Mermer Carthage College, USA

Note that in both cases our reality is the same: we are vulnerable. In other words, we do not choose to be vulnerable, it is a given; we just choose how to respond to it.

Hence the intellect, to which the faculty of reasoning is ascribed, operates either in the modality of the ego or that of the heart. Under the spell of the ego, we mistakenly believe that we exist separately and independently of our creator. We rely on our own extremely limited power and strength to live our life and as a consequence, we bear the burden of constant fears of the unknown, of the uncontrollable, and of death. In contrast, in the heart mode, we free our faculty of reasoning from the illusions of the ego and put it at the service of the heart. We are saved from the troubles of an intellect that is stuck with unreasoning. Indeed, as Nursi explains, Know that ideas cannot

be enlightened without the light of the heart. Now, how is it that following the heart yields light and insight, and following the ego yields darkness and illusion? Let us open this up further through another verse that Nursi insightfully interprets. When commenting on the following verse, Indeed, God has purchased from the believers their lives (anfusahum) and their properties for that they will have paradise. Nursi explains that the possessions of ones life and what they include such as the eye, the tongue and the intellect are a trust from the Creator. If they are not sold back to the Compassionate and Omnipotent Creator, i.e. used in His name,


they will be employed for the sake of the ego and thereby will be ruined. For instance, if the intellect functions for the sake of the ego, it will become only a troublemaker. Indeed, when it turns away from the heart modality, the human intellect only multiplies suffering. After all, only when we use our mind, we sense in one separation that we experience the news of all future separations. Thus, Nursi notes, the intellect becomes an illomened, noxious and debilitating tool that will burden your weak person with all the sad sorrows of the past and the terrifying fears of the future; it will descend to the rank of an inauspicious and destructive tool. In contrast, if the intellect is employed in Gods name it will unlock the infinite treasures of compassion and the meanings of wisdom in the universe. It will become a precious key helping uncover the indications to infinite beauty and majesty throughout the universe. Thus, instead of

being a nuisance tool that we constantly try to avoid, the intellect will rise to the station of Divine guide (murshid rabban) preparing its owner for eternal bliss. Likewise, if the eye, which is a window through which the spirit looks out on this world, is employed on behalf of the ego, it will gaze on transient and impermanent beauties and sceneries and sink to the level of being a servant of the nafs. In contrast, if it is employed in the name of the Creator, our capacity to see will rise to the rank of contemplator of the cosmos, a witness to the miracles of Divine art. Nursi also gives the example of the tongue. When employed on behalf of the ego, its function simply becomes shoveling stuff into the stomach, after a very brief enjoyment. But if it is sold to the Generous Provider, the sense of taste will rise to the rank of a skilled and grateful overseer of the treasuries of Divine compassion. That is, even though ones enjoyment of delicious food will be still brief and

passing, it will enable the person to get a glimpse of an eternal delight: namely, the undying mercy and power of the Generous One. The two modes of human attitude to life, namely embracing ones dependence on God versus resisting the fact that we are utterly dependent, are also connected to the two faces of the universe. According to Nursi, every thing has two aspects (wajh), each of which corresponds to each of the two modes of being in the world. One looks to the malakt, which is like a mirror reflecting the beautiful qualities of God, the other is the transient side of the world, i.e. its mulk side, and it is like the dark side of a mirror. The former is beautiful; it is an arable field of the hereafter as mentioned in a hadith, a saying of the Prophet. To love this aspect of things is the means to attain knowledge of God and worship Him. Note how worship is much broader than we might have imagined: it encompasses all the


This default mode of the ego is interrupted by the heart. Under the thrust of the hearts existential questions such as, Who am I? Where am I coming from? And where am I going? we are invited to look for answers.

experiences and actions through which we get to know our Creator, who is the Artist behind all beauty in life. These two aspects of things, the mulk and malakut, are the result of two ways of being and perceiving the world: the socalled harfi (indicative) vision and the ism (nominal) one. Nursi explains that the ego modality of being sees only the transient aspect of the world and its logic is ism; it is unaware that every thing with all its qualities exists only through God and hence points to Him. It looks at things not on account of their Maker and Sustainer, i.e. not as signs (ayt) of God. For instance, in looking at the phenomena in the world, instead of saying, How beautifully they have been made, this ism perspective says, How beautiful they are. This ism perspective of the ego modality is the default perspective, so to speak; the one we find ourselves in the beginning. This default mode of the ego is then interrupted by the heart. Under the thrust of the hearts existential questions such as, Who am I? Where am I coming from? And where am I going? we are invited to look for answers. As we cannot reach satisfactory answers through our own resources, like Prophet Abraham (upon him be peace), we feel the need for seeking out answers beyond ourselves and we become receptive to Divine revelation. In other words, Nursi is clear

that the answers are revealed or gifted to us through the scripture given to the prophets. And the intellect commands that this revelation be followed, because everything it says is reasonable. In other words, once the revelation reveals the answers, the intellect can indeed understand and confirm them. Thus, it is the Quranic verses that point to the beautiful malakut aspect of things behind the mirror of the mulk or apparent aspect. The Quran instructs us with a new way of looking at the world and events, as signs that carry messages from the Divine. This is what Nursi terms the harf vision. In order for the harfi vision to unfold within us, we need to gradually purify the soul or ego of its false claims of independence from its Maker. That is, we need to let go of our appropriation of what God has given us as trust. As we are awakened, we realise that our egos dogmatic baggage and fancies fall apart upon questioning. Through this questioning the intellect transforms into a faculty of the heart, which unlike the ego, is sensitive to beauty and to the pain of its transience. At this point, it is clear that intending to question our assumptions about our existence and what we take for granted is crucial. Intending itself entails that awareness. This is why Nursi gives great importance to cultivating awareness through reflection (tafakkur), as well as

remembrance (ikr), reminding that acts of worship without awareness become mere habit. And, through awareness of the One who sustains our existence, mundane acts become acts of worshipa notion that further enriches the concept of worship mentioned in the Quranic verse, which describes the purpose of human existence. Indeed, reflection plays a vital role in knowing God. Nursi asserts that the reasoning heart has to reflect by means of the signs or verses of God. That is, as the reasoning heart grasps the very logic of the Quranic verses, it will see through them and reflect under their guidance. When we give up the ism mode of being, and surrender to the Creator through the teachings of the Quranic verses, they become like buraq or a heavenly mount, for our heart and spirit to gaze upon the reality of the universe, which is the Divine attributes of perfection. There starts an ongoing process, where we gradually leave our prejudices and preconceived ideas aside and listen to the Quranic verses. In turn, the ayt will start speaking to us and revealing themselves to our heart. At each stage of this process, the ego will be purified with the help of the ayt. As we attain to a higher level of self-purification, we further increase our receptivity to the disclosure of Gods selfdisclosure, and so on ad infinitum.


The Option of the Heart

Each human being has thus a momentous choice before him: harkening to the heart and being open to infinity, or being stuck with the ego and its illusionary finite vision. Let us reemphasise that it is the Divine messages revealed through the prophetsthe final one being the Quranthat actually awakens us to the alternative to the egos vision. For Nursi, Quranic verses reveal and display the reality (haqqa) as it is. They teach how to see the malakt aspect within mulk. They teach the meaning of the universe, and all beings and events; they instruct in true wisdom and knowledge. A human being with his restricted capacity cannot comprehend the truth. However, from the vantage point that the universal view of the Quranic verses provides, he can look at universal truth through the verses to the extent they unfold to him. And, they unfold unto him to the extent he purifies himself of his false beliefs and opens his heart to listen and remember. The Quran, Nursi writes, is Divine speech in regard to Absolute Sovereignty (rubbiy) and it comes from the greatest name of God and from the greatest level of every one of His beautiful names. It is a source of genuine knowledge. This means that the Quran reveals how it is to be understood and used. If one tries to understand the Quran with his own ism logic, he will only project his own understanding onto the Quran. Once one becomes aware of this fact and starts the process of purification, he begins to listen in the name of the Bestower of Knowledge. Then, the meanings of the Quran start unfolding to him as it is alluded to in the verse, None but the pure (of heart) can touch it. Hence to be a student of the Quran requires an active posture; merely reading the words on the page does not guarantee understanding. What is worth noting in Nursis work is that it embodies the harf approach

that the author expounds. That is, Nursi does not merely talk about the Quranic approach but demonstrates it in his exposition of the Quranic verses. He does not interpret them in the classical meaning of the word; rather he carefully listens to their wisdom, interacts with them and follows their guidance. Indeed, in his writings, he very often talks about his encounter with Quranic verses. For instance, he says that the verse Every living creature shall taste death entered his ear, penetrated to the depths of his heart and established itself there. In that

text, he also explains the meaning that unfolded in his heart from the indications of that verse. It is Nursis commitment to open himself up to the Quranic verses that is expressed in his statements such as, It is not I who speaks in any of the Words (another name for his Risale-i Nur). Indeed, Nursi says that the Risale-i Nur was bestowed to him as a result of need; his share in it is only his intense need and his seeking (talab), and his extreme weakness and his beseeching (taaru). As he put it, The ill is mine, the cure is the Qurans.


The seeker of God will then realise that the seemingly meaningless and horrifying flux of life is a purposeful, worthwhile and satisfying experience.

Thus, in the Risale-i Nur, Nursi describes in detail the journeying of the nafs, the intellect, the heart and other faculties towards truth. The journey for all faculties consists in detaching themselves from the nafs and entering the service of the heart. The latter will then mount the verses of the Quran like buraqs and reach heights that are otherwise unattainable. From there, the spirit and heart will soar to the realm of the beautiful names and attributes of God. The seeker of

God will then realise that the seemingly meaningless and horrifying flux of life is a purposeful, worthwhile and satisfying experience. He will know and love God as the sole Sustainer, as the Compassionate Provider, as the Merciful and Forgiving Guide. He will thank God and praise Him with all His beautiful names. Thus, the seeker worships God alone and asks God alone for help. In sum, the aim of human life as worshipping God fulfills human needs and brings much needed peace to the

human spirit. This purpose of life is the state of finding our true freedom and fulfillment by submitting to and being a conscious mirror to Gods beautiful namesthose beautiful attributes of God that constitutes the ground of existence. Hence, the Quranic notion that we have been created for worship means that we have been created to revel in and enjoy Gods beauty. It also means to gratefully and appreciatively reflect Gods beauty in our way of being in the world, and in our way of dealing with others.



Dr. Ummeye Isra Yazicioglu

[Abraham] said: I do not love those that set. (Quran, 6:76)

Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord, Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said. In this essay, we intend to undertake a journey of self-discovery, which will lead us to the exciting destination of encountering the One. As our main tour guide in this journey, we shall take Bediuzzaman Said Nursis insightful reflections on the Quran. Who are we? In answering this question, the starting point is our needs. Nursi repeatedly observes that human beings have needs that are spread all over the world. For instance, if we were to jot down our physical needs, the grocery list would be so long, and would require us to go for shopping to all corners of the universe. Even if the vegetables and fruits we are looking for come from a farm nearby, we need much more than a farm. We need the bees who pollinate the plants we eat, the bacteria who work for the recovery of necessary nutrients in the soil, and the solar system and seasons that bring in the sunshine and the rain as well as the air. It is not an exaggeration at all to say that when a human being breathes, eats, drinks and walks, the entire universe, with various species, ecological systems and laws of nature are implicated in the background. Moreover, we are not only physically but also emotionally connected to the rest of the world. Human beings have immense capacity to relate to, care about, and love so many beings, from our close friends to the beautiful fish deep in the ocean, from the sunrise and to the rings of Saturn. Unlike other creatures, the capacities of human beings have no natural limit. Our capacity for love and attachment, for instance, is boundless. The list of what we can desire, love or appreciate has no limit. In fact, even in terms of physical enjoyment human beings have the most intense connection to the world. Our taste buds, for instance, have the widest spectrum among all animals. Unlike other animals, we dont just consume certain foods; we are able to enjoy an incredible variety of foods. And, with our immense capacity to love and connect, we easily get attached to any creature that displays beauty and perfection, and anything that offers kindness and benefit to us. Did you ever feel like you could not love another cool thing or one more nice person because your love capacity was exceeded or saturated? Unlikely! Our human heart can absorb an infinite variety of loves. Moreover, the human heart has a deeply rooted longing for eternity. This strong love for eternity lies under all of our loves: when we love anyone or anything, we always bracket out our beloveds finitude. Could you genuinely get attached to someone if you saw him as someone destined to leave you sooner or later? Nay, the human heart cannot truly love but the eternal or the semblance of eternity. In sum, our journey of knowing who we are first takes us to the realisation that what makes us human and connects us to the rest of the universe is our profound neediness and yearning for eternityfor endurance of fulfillment and happiness. As Nursi repeatedly notes, it is this comprehensive neediness that enables us to appreciate all the beings around us that meet our needs, and make it possible for us to fall in love with so many things around us. Each human being is thus a microcosm, a small being that contains the entire universe in itself. Now, in the second step of our journey into who we are, we encounter a deep sadness. It seems like our endless needs yield endless suffering. We have so many physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs, and the world tantalisingly gives us a taste without satisfying us. Moreover, given the continuous flux in the world, all our beloveds depart without a farewell: aging, degeneration, separation and death prove to be the end of all beauty and love. Consequently, our boundless neediness and yearning brings us boundless pain.


Nursi never loses sight of the fact that our sorrows come precisely from being human: only a human being fully connected with the rest of the universe can feel short when he cannot have all. Only a human being who feels connected to others can be hurt by the sadness of others or injustice done to others. And, only a human being who can yearn for eternity will be hurt by finitude. As long as we do not attempt to suppress our humanity by being blind to our needs and vulnerability, this sadness is incredibly meaningful. Our heart cries out, like Abraham in the Quran: I do not love those that set. Thus, in the second step of our journey, we see how our hearts capacity to love and connect becomes a source of pain. Even our great intellect, which enables us to think and remember, becomes a painful tool. After all, only a thinking being can see on the face of one separation that other separations are imminent, and that someones death announces everyone elses death. As Nursi notes, the intellect in this second step of the journey can turn into an ill-omened, noxious and

debilitating tool that will burden your weak person with all the sad sorrows of the past and the terrifying fears of the future; it will descend to the rank of an inauspicious and destructive tool. Moreover, the intense human connection to the world, and the love for beauty, perfection and pleasure becomes unbearable because the beauty seems fleeting, the perfection seems unattainable and all the pleasures of life are tainted with temporariness or fana. Indeed, since deep down we long for eternity, all our pleasures as well as our virtues are dependent on it. When we realise that the world is finite, our human ability to care and appreciate fades. Why care about a world that treacherously leaves you, why worry about the happiness of others if there is nothing you can do for them, and why be committed to our loved ones if all is to vanish soon? In fact, human love for beauty can even metamorphose into hatred. In order to console ourselves in the face of impending separation, as the lovers of beauty, we can start cursing it and feeling miserable about life, which had excited Dr. Ummeye Isra Yazicioglu Saint Josephs University, USA


us so much in the beginning. Nursi tells of a symbolic story to clarify how we may end up here. One time a famous beautiful woman expelled from her presence a man who was deeply in love with her. The man, who was hurt by this separation, consoled himself by denying his infatuation with her beauty and insulted her as ugly. His insult on his former love is not shocking. For human beings easily become hostile to that which they cannot reach, and hate the beauty that is unattainable. Hence, as Nursi perceptively notes, A human being would only be able to cure the deep wounds caused by eternal separation from an Absolute Beauty that he loves and whose value he appreciates through enmity towards it, being vexed with, and denying it. Now, at the end of this second step, we realise that we end up with contradictions. Our precious human capacities, including our comprehensive connection with the world and our capacity to think, seem to bring us nothing but suffering. Moreover, we end up equating the beauty in the world with ugliness. Fortunately, we have very good reasons to question these contradictions. First, the abundant wisdom reflected in nature challenges the contradictory conclusion that all our human capacities are useless. Moreover, the world displays too much beauty to be, in reality, thinly veiled ugliness. The pain and disillusionment that we experience as human beings must mean something else, and indeed it does. At this second step of the journey of knowing the self, we have encountered the dark night of the soul. As we pursue further this darkness, authentic to our reality and taking into account the heavenly guidancethe last version of which is the Quranwe get glimpses of a wonderful dawn. The paradox and the pain we ended up with at the second step of the journey is a sign that we made a mistake along the way. As we review our steps in the journey, we

note that the first step of recognising our intense neediness, and our capacity to be curious about, to relate to and to love the world was fine. There is no mistake about that and there is no way to do away with our intense neediness and capacities as humans. We swerved only in the second step, in interpreting our comprehensive needs and connections. For we thought we were to try to fulfill our needs on our own, and to fall in love with things that seemed to display beauty and benefit. Instead, the light of the Quran shows us that our needs and loves are actually signs, pointing beyond this world to the Eternal One. They are our mounts in a journey into genuine happiness and joy through connection to the One. Indeed, our endless needs overwhelm us only when we surmise that we depend on our tiny will and the rest of the creatures to fulfill them. Such an interpretation is very stressful: how can we ensure that the world works in a way that meets our needs, and that this passing world somehow satisfies our endless desires? It is a scary and painful thought. Yet, hunger is terrifying only when we think that resources are limited and we are constantly haunted with the perception of scarcity and the possibility of merciless starvation. In contrast, when we realise we are seated at a great feast, our hunger becomes a privilege, an opportunity to truly enjoy the banquet! Similarly, our needs become a liability only when we think we are just randomly thrown into a world of scarcity to struggle on our own. Our needs and human weaknesses become our painful enemies only when we forget that they are given to us for some lofty purpose, by someone Merciful, Powerful and Wise. In fact, this pain is an invitation for us to heed the voice of the revelation, and take a moment to reflect Why do we crave for so many things beyond our control? Why do we yearn for eternity if we are merely

finite beings? These questions take us to our key transportation, so to speak, in our journey. Our needs and yearnings actually connect us to the source of our existence, the Generous Provider. Indeed, our comprehensive needs become our travel pass into so many ways of experiencing the beautiful attributes of the Eternal One. With hunger we get to enjoy Gods generosity manifested in food, through weakness we enjoy being taken care of, through fears we rejoice in safety, and through our need for love we enjoy the Loving Ones gifts of family and friends. Indeed, our worries regarding our past and future and about the world around us, our yearning for eternity, and our diverse and infinite needs all become tools to enjoy the Divine gifts. Nursi gives the metaphor of an organism producing joy and gratitude to explain the wisdom behind intense human neediness and vulnerability: The human being is an organism who is grieved with thousands of different sorrows and receives pleasure in thousands of different ways. Despite his utter weakness, he has innumerable enemies, physical and spiritual, and despite his infinite poverty, he has countless needs, external and inner, and is a wretched creature continuously suffering the blows of death and separation. Yet, through belief and worship, he at once becomes connected to such a Glorious King that he finds a point of support against all his enemies and a source of help for all his needs, and takes pride at the honour and rank of the Lord to whom he is attached. Just as with the increase of hunger the pleasure we get from eating increases, by recognising our inherent weakness and poverty, we can enjoy seeking refuge in and trusting the Merciful and Powerful One. Our different needs are like different stomachs, enabling us to enjoy an incredible variety of pleasures. Thus, our needs become windows to the bounties


of the Creator. The human being then becomes filled with gratitude. If it were not for his need for food, for health, for friends, and so on, the human being would not be able to appreciate the Divine gifts and recognise the Divine names those gifts point to, such as the Sustainer, the Helper, the Generous, the Powerful, and the Wise. Thus, the world is full of signs pointing to the One, both in their glitter and in their passing away. From this new perspective, the human beings experiences in the world, including seemingly harsh experiences, become meaningful and peaceful. After all, if it were not for sickness, we would not appreciate the beauty of healing and get a glimpse of the name of the Healer. And, if it were not for heartbreak, we would not be able to be conscious of the beauty of being loved and thus connect to the Eternal Loving One. Moreover, our endless connections with others, which initially seemed to be a source of immense grief, become a gift. Because of our capacity to care about others, we are able to pray for others, and their joy becomes our joy, enabling us to enjoy the power of the Creator more.

Moreover, when the person is aware that his relations with others are not limited to this temporary world, his ability to care about and commit to his loved ones will be enhanced. Furthermore, in this new picture, each of the human faculties has a higher function. The intellect, for instance, becomes a key for unlocking the Divine wisdom in the universe, while the eyes become a beholder of the Divine art all over the world. Indeed, human are beings special needs gifts and that vulnerability

use another metaphor by Nursi, the world is like a river running under the bright sun: each creature comes to this world, shines with the manifestations of the beautiful names of God in differing levels, becomes a sign of Gods mercy, power, knowledge and love, and then leaves, declaring that it is just a mirror, and not the Sun itself. Since the source of all these shadows, the Pre-Eternal Sun of the universe, is eternal, one need not be overwhelmed by the temporariness of the light of bubbles flowing in the river. When we realise that the source of all beauty is enduring, we will stop being devastated by separation. Instead of spoiling the pleasure, the flux in the world will increase our pleasure, for it reveals different manifestations of the Eternal One. We need to conclude our brief essay here, but the journey goes on and is open to us all. As we thread our unique journeys, lets keep in mind that the journey to everlasting happiness starts here and now. As Nursi has noted in the light of the Quran, in being authentic to ourselves we discover keys to the One who has wired us for connecting with Him, the source of all power, beauty and love.

distinguish them from angels. For, even the angels cannot know [these Divine bounties] in this manner. After all, the angels dont get hungry nor do they fall sick or experience separation as we do. Indeed, Nursi notes that it is this comprehensiveness of human nature that made Adam (upon him be peace) the representative (khalifa) of God on earth and earned the prostration of angels before him, as the Quran narrates. Similarly, with the light of faith, our yearning for eternity before a world in flux becomes an asset. We see that with all its continuous flux the whole flow of life highlights the Eternal One, who can and will fulfill our need for eternal beauty. To



Some highlights from the readership and research of the Risale-i Nur from various parts of the world. Please feel free to send us any updates regarding activities or events in the Risale-i Nur sphere.

International Book Fair

Singapore hosted the 27th International Book Fair at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre between 26th May and 3rd June 2012. The Malaysia-Turkey Cultural Association based in Kuala Lumpur participated with its volunteers to promote and exhibit the collection of treatises from the Risale-i Nur. People from all around the region attended: Singapore, Bosnia, India and Philippines. The 10 daybook fair was a great experience in introducing the Risale-i Nur. For instance, Rico, a Filipino attendee, appreciated being introduced to the treatises and said, From now on, I will definitely read Risale-i Nur.

International Conference
In February 2013, Al-Azhar University of Egypt and Istanbul Foundation for Science and Culture jointly organised an international conference titled, Muslim Unity in the Light of Thoughts of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. The Opening Ceremony was held in the Al-Azhar Universitys Main Congress Hall followed by papers being presented in two different rooms. A total of 56 academics from Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Ethiopia and Turkey attended the conference. The symposium was open to the public. During the two-day conference, an exhibition of documents and monuments attributed to the life of the author of the Risale-i Nur collection, Said Nursi, and his close students, was also on display. The visitors found original hand written pieces of his works and other original materials, letters to his students and official documents regarding his mission between 1927 and 1960.


Symposiums in Kerala
In January 2012, two separate Risale-i Nur symposiums were held in India. Academics from Turkey, USA, UAE, England, Canada and India attended and presented papers. The first symposium, Risale-i Nur and Islam in Modern Turkey, was held at the Darul Huda Islamic University. More than 1,000 Masters and Ph.D. students attended. The second conference, Living in Faith and Peace in a Multi-Cultural World: Risale-i Nur, was held at the Jamia Markazu Ssaquafathi Ssunniyya. The attendance at this second conference was close to 10,000 people.

Symposium in New Delhi

The symposiums continued in India with the third one being held at the Jawahurul Nehri University. The symposium was titled Living in Harmony and Peace in a Multi-Cultural World: Risale-i Nur. More than 40 academics made presentations on the ideas of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. Prof M.A. Islahi made the opening speech and said, We are glad to introduce such a figure who appeared 100 years ago with his ideas. It was not useless that he was given the name Bediuzzaman, because he suffered a lot to deserve this title. Nursi taught that Islam is not a religion of violence, but is a religion against violence.

A Full-Day Course
A London based non-profit group, Islamic Circles, organised a fullday course titled An Introduction to Said Nursis Risale-i Nur on the 12th of January 2012. The course, which was announced on the website, was delivered by Durham Universitys Dr Colin Turner, Dr Hasan Horkuc and Editor-in-Chief for the Turkish Review, Dr Kerim Balci. Held at the University of Londons Birkbeck College, it was supported by local organisations like the London Risale-i Nur Research Centre and the Mevlana Rumi Centre.

The Guardian of the Flame

Peter Barnett is the former director of ABCs international broadcaster, Radio Australia. He first joined the ABC as a foreign correspondent in Asia. He later went to the USA where he was the ABC Washington correspondent for thirteen years. After he returned to Australia, he was the director of Radio National. Following his retirement, in 2009, he and three fellow Victorians journeyed 3,000 kilometres through Turkey, visiting areas where Said Nursi lived and meeting key associates to write his latest book, The Guardian of the Flame. He hoped to reach out to those individuals who are yet to be introduced to Said Nursi, and his collection of treatises, the Risale-i Nur.


Prof. Sener Dilek: The essence of all beneficial acts is knowledge.
On his second ever visit to Australia, we were able to interview Professor Sener Dilek after breakfast on the 13th of February, 2013. For those who arent familiar with Prof. Dilek, he is world famous for his lectures on the Risale-i Nur. During his short trip to Melbourne, I witnessed hundreds of people leaving his discussions shaking their heads in amazement. Most of them left the room with lessons that they probably wont forget for the rest of their lives. Hope you enjoy this interview for Reflect, as Prof. Dilek provides answers to some important questions that were left unanswered during the live discussions at ActualEvidence during 2012. Professor can you please introduce yourself, as some of our readers may never have heard of you before? Certainly. My name is Sener Dilek. I was born in Erzurum, Turkey. I completed my undergraduate degree in Economics at Erzurum Business School. I then went on to complete my Ph.D. and became a Professor in the 1980s. My field of interest is Finance. My employment history includes working at Erzurum and Malatya University. I dwell in Istanbul during the winter and I move back to Malatya (my place of birth) during summer. 28

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When did you first learn about the Risale-i Nur? I still have not learned the Risale-i Nur [laughs]. Okay let me pose that question again [could not stop myself from laughing]. When did you first come across the Risale-i Nur? It was during my second year at university. I was either 19 or 20 years of age. A teacher named Fahrettin introduced me to it. Since then I have been reading the Risale-i Nur on a consistent basis. What was it about the Risale-i Nur that made you sacrifice your life in learning and teaching it around the world? It all started with my older brothers friend inviting me to a gathering at his house for dinner. I accepted the invitation on the basis that he was older than me and because I did not want to appear arrogant as I was in the minority who was studying at university. Just before my brothers friend left however, he told me that a teacher would be having a religious discussion at the dinner. I told him that if this teacher did not provide logical or physical proofs for his assertions, that I would disagree with him and not shy away from speaking out. Interestingly, at the discussion, the teacher never spoke and asked me to read the Sixth Word from the Words collection. I really enjoyed the Sixth Word and continued to attend future discussions as a result. The thing that caught my attention about the Risale-i Nur was that it was filled with logical and physical proofs. The first book I started to read was the Letters. I finished reading it in a very short period of time. While still at university, I am not exaggerating, for a few years, I read the Risale-i Nur with a minimal amount of sleep. I cant even recall going to my bedroom during this stage of my life.

In a discussion at Melbourne University, it was mentioned that the proofs in the Risale-i Nur are weak when isolated, but as a whole they are strong. Do you agree with this statement? No! The logic and reasoning in the Risale-i Nur are robust. In a hadith the Prophet states that if he had come in the later centuries, he would have fought against unbelief using knowledge and wisdom, proofs and evidences, logic and reasoning. This is the method the Risale-i Nur follows. It is overflowing with knowledge and wisdom, proofs and evidences, logic and reasoning. In the science of literature there is a particular method which entails using simple sentences to explain complex matters. The Risale-i Nur proves the existence of God more certain than two times two. To the lay person the Risale-i Nur may seem basic; however, it answers many complicated questions regarding faith. Bediuzzaman in the Risale-i Nur says that the purpose of writing is to teach people how to assess and evaluate. For instance, lets assume that at a wedding each person is claiming that they are wearing the most expensive jewellery. We cannot base our decision on each persons claim. We need to visit a jeweller to determine who is wearing the most expensive jewellery. The claim needs to be supported with evidence. For this reason Bediuzzaman says that he never wrote anything that he did not prove. It is not a coincidence that so many academics in Turkey read the Risale-i Nur. It is because Bediuzzaman does not make claims, he proves them.

Prof. Sener Dilek Interviewee Dr. Murat Besnek Writer


Do you think it is important to have a university degree? Would a university student understand the Risale-i Nur better than a person who does not study? Bediuzzaman says that knowledge gives strength to knowledge. Everything has to have a foundation. If there is a problem with the foundation, you will not be able to build skyscrapers. There is a famous quote from a brother in Kastamonu who says that even rest requires exercise. It doesnt matter if you are Pele or Maradona, you will not make the team if you have not been training. Your skills will be rusty and your conditioning will be inadequate. Back in the Ottoman times, there were full-time writers who worked six days a week. They would not work on Fridays to attend the Friday prayers. These writers would produce their best work on Thursdays and their worst work on Saturdays. These writers would not even carry anything that weighed more than 2 kilograms

so that their bodies were in the best condition for writing. The spiritual world is equivalent to the physical world in this regard. For instance, lets assume we have two Risale-i Nur readers: one has completed primary school, the other a university degree. The primary school student may be sincere and dedicated, but unlike a university student, his potential will be limited. For example, its like having two binoculars: one showing the distance of 1 kilometre, the other 100 kilometres. That is why knowledge gives strength to knowledge. Secondly, while Bediuzzaman was in Kastamonu, university students complained to him that their lecturers were not speaking of God. He replied to their criticism by saying that all of the sciences they were studying speak of God. Yes, the essence of all true sciences stem from one or more of Gods names. For instance, the science of medicine is a reflection of Gods name of Healer. To advance in

a particular science at university is like increasing your understanding of one of Gods names. Verification of faith travels through knowledge. As we discussed in the class last night, when Bediuzzaman was explaining the phrase all benefit is in his hand, he mentioned that the essence of all beneficial acts is knowledge. Good can only be performed by someone who is knowledgeable. That is why the basis and continuation of perfection is also knowledge. Without knowledge you cannot build. Without knowledge the structure will not be durable. For instance, the weight this column can carry has been accurately calculated by engineers. This construction was not made from rough estimates. If so, after a few years, especially if an earthquake hit, it would collapse. I shall finish of my answer by saying that perfection cannot be reached without knowledge. And knowledge cannot be attained without study.


This is a law. You first need to obtain before you can provide. You first need to fill up before you can empty. If you are serious about the Risale-i Nur, you must read the whole collection multiple times.

What would you recommend to a person who has recently started reading the Risale-i Nur and is serious about learning? There is a sentence in the Risale-i Nur along the lines of only something luminous can illuminate. In other words, if you want to open a supermarket, you cant have the shelves empty. You need to fill the shelves before the grand opening. Risale-i Nur contains over 6000 pages explaining the existence and oneness of God. Not only that, it also teaches the methods on how to be a productive Muslim. It gives the measurements. Everything is like this. If you try to start an engineering firm and you do not understand planning, you will not be able acquire customers. As a human resource manager, you cannot hire a shepherd to lecture a course in economics at university. This is a law. You first need to obtain before you can provide. You first need to fill up before you can empty. If you are serious about the Risale-i Nur, you must read the whole collection multiple times.

What would you recommend to a person who has been reading the Risale-i Nur for say more than a decade? How one should serve the Risale-i Nur can differ depending on the experience and skill level of the individual. The obvious thing to do would be to teach and spread the truths regarding faith. Also, to use the experience they have gained over the years to guide and help others. Every Risale-i Nur student should have a project they are working on. Even if a person is a farmer, they should think of ways of utilising their land for the sake of God. Look at the current state of the youth. They are happily walking themselves into hell. They are absent of any reasoning, wisdom or logic. They are drunk. Ali (May God be pleased with him) once said that alcohol isnt the only way a person can get drunk. Ignorance, rank, money, fame, sport and many others can intoxicate a person. Our job is to awaken these people.