The Meaning and Purposes of Life and Existence in the view of Said Nursi.
by : B.Com Ebu Aydin
Said Nursi, in the Eleventh Word of the Risale-i Nur, elucidates the nature and purposes of life and the universe via a comparison. He imagines a King who has unbounded wealth. He possesses elevated wisdom in all branches of science and learning, and furthermore, is skilled in countless forms of beautiful art. In fact, the King exemplifies beauty and perfection in all of his attributes.
Nursi then applies the truth that “every possessor of beauty and perfection wishes to see and display his own beauty and perfection”. Therefore, the King builds a palace in which to display his riches and artistry, and the marvels of his knowledge. He does this so that he can behold his beauty and perfection in his own view, but also so that he can see it through the view of others. To draw an analogy, just as a musician wishes to hear and appreciate his own music, he also wishes for others to hear and appreciate it. Moreover, he wishes for those who can properly appreciate it.
Moving from the comparison to reality, Nursi points out that Allah (God) possesses Absolute Beauty and Perfection (Jamal and Kamal) in all His attributes. Allah wishes to display and manifest His Absolute Beauty and Perfection so that He may behold it Himself. This is the purpose of the Universe and all the other realms of His creation. Allah further wishes to see His Beauty and Perfection through the view of others. This requires conscious observers, such as mankind.
So one of the purposes in the creation of mankind, and one of our duties, is to be conscious and appreciative observers of the universe. It is for this reason that God, in the very first words revealed to Muhammad (sas), commands us to, “Read: In the name of thy Lord, who createth” (Quran, 96:1). We are required to read what Nursi calls the Book of the Universe.
Not only is man a conscious observer of Allah’s Beauty and Perfection, but he is also a comprehensive place of manifestation – and a mirror that reflects – Allah’s attributes (and Names). For example, as Allah possesses the Name of The Loving (al-Wadud) – so too man possesses, to an infinitely lesser degree, the ability to love. As Allah possesses limitless free-will – so too man has been endowed with a small measure of free-will.
Free-will therefore, is an integral part of being human. We have the free-will to make decisions, to choose to do or not to do, to believe or not believe, to love or not to love, to utilize the capital of our lives wisely, or to waste it on the fulfillment of base desires. If humans did not possess this small sample of free-will, they could not be considered a ‘comprehensive mirror’ to Allah’s attributes, and would not be freely discerning observers of Allah’s art. It is partly for this reason that Allah does not fully manifest Himself in this world in a manner that would force us to believe.
Allah making Himself Known and Loved
Allah, being the possessor of Absolute Beauty and Perfection, wishes to see and display to conscious observers, His own Beauty and Perfection. This is so that He can make Himself Known and therefore Loved. Allah also possesses Divine Love. In a manner befitting His Glory and Holiness, Allah loves His own art. And He wishes for His art to be loved. Therefore, He has created mankind, a conscious lover of beauty, who is a work of art and whom He loves. God has shown His elevated Love for us in countless ways. Firstly, he has brought us into existence. He has bestowed upon us the ability to be the most comprehensive mirror to His Names. He has displayed His beautiful art to us. He has given us the senses, tools and faculties to appreciate and gain pleasure from this art. Among these tools and faculties, He has given us limited free-will. With this free-will, not only can we freely choose to discern and weigh up the multifarious types and degrees of Allah’s Beauty, we can choose right over wrong. By choosing right over wrong, and truth over falsehood, we truly reflect Allah’s attributes and receive a fitting reward.
In response to all this bestowal, Allah wants and truly deserves thanks (Shukur). He also deserves to be exalted. And He also deserves to be glorified and declared free of all fault. These are the marks of Knowing Him and Loving Him. Acts of worship, which are all forms of Thanks, display these marks. Therefore, we should firstly believe in and strive to know Allah by observing and reflecting upon the universe (and particularly living beings). Having begun to Know Him, we come to Love Him and come to acknowledge His Glory and His Exaltedness. We then express this knowledge and love through the Thanks, Glorification and Exaltation that is Worship. In other words, we say Alhamdulillah (All Praise be to Allah), Subhanallah (Glory to Allah) and Allahu Akbar (God is Most Great).