DO NOT UNDERRATE ANIMALS
Animals are one of the most important elements of ecological balance with their diversities and vitality. Unfortunately, many species of animals, which are indispensable to the continuation of the ecosystem with thousands of species on the earth, are facing a great threat today.
When we look at the Quran from this point of view, the importance given to animals, which are important members of the ecosystem, is immediately noticed. For example, some chapters of the Quran have the names of animals: Baqara (cow), Nahl (bee), Ankabut (spider) and Naml (ant). In addition, various animals are mentioned in the Quran: Sheep, Camel, Ox, Cow, Horse, Mule, Donkey, Dog, Monkey, Pig, Snake, Wolf, Bee, Ant, Spider, Mosquito and Fly.
A remarkable statement of the Quran about the animals is that animals are regarded as an ummah. It is really striking that ummah, which is a special and important concept in Islamic tradition and literature, is also used for animals:
"There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end." (al-An'am, 38)
The verse draws our attention to the animal kingdom, tells us that they have classes like humans, and that every species of walking and crawling animals is an ummah, a class:
"And cattle He has created for you (men): from them ye derive warmth, and numerous benefits, and of their (meat) ye eat. And ye have a sense of pride and beauty in them as ye drive them home in the evening, and as ye lead them forth to pasture in the morning. And they carry your heavy loads to lands that ye could not (otherwise) reach except with souls distressed: for your Lord is indeed Most Kind, Most Merciful." (an-Nahl, 5-7)
In the verses above, our Lord emphasizes the aspects of the animals that meet the need of human beings while describing animals, draws attention to the fact that we benefit from animals’ skins, hairs, flesh and milk and states that they have an important place in economy. It is also stated in the verses that animals are symbols of happiness displaying beauty for humans, nature and the environment and that animals are the most beautiful and enormous manifestations of the creative power of Allah Almighty on earth.
There are surely many lessons to learn from animals allocated to humans to serve them by performing certain duties with the power and wisdom of Allah. Unfortunately, human beings realized it very late that life could not exist without animals and that life without them would be very weak and meaningless. The divine art has manifested itself in animals. For this reason, one of the vows Allah makes in the Quran to attract the attention of humans is on animals. (al-Adiyat, 1-5)
The wisdom behind Allah’s creation of so many animals and the laws they are subject to is definitely to ensure the continuity and beauty of human life and make the world a living, lovable, and exemplary place.
The Quran states that animals and creatures of all kinds are scattered all over the world so that they will make a contribution to the beauty of life and nature, and that some of them crawl, some of them walk on two feet and others on four feet; thus, the importance of animals that people meet the most is pointed out:
"And Allah has created every animal from water: of them there are some that creep on their bellies; some that walk on two legs; and some that walk on four. Allah creates what He wills for verily Allah has power over all things." (an-Nur, 45)
In parallel with the importance given to animals by the Quran, Badiuzzaman Said Nursi also gave importance to animals in his books and life. Some of the animal names mentioned in Risale-i Nur Collection are as follows: bee, scorpion, lion, horse, hawk, fish, insect, nightingale, buffalo, gazelle, locust, camel, ostrich, elephant, rhinoceros, pigeon, rooster, hoopoe, silkworm, tiger, ant, eagle, goat, cat, lizard, dog, sheep, turtledove, wolf, bird, monkey, ox, spider, parrot, flea, sparrow, fly, mosquito, starling, chicken, peacock, fox, bat, snake and firefly.
Badiuzzaman states insistently that animals are Allah’s officials, that they act as His mirrors (show His names and attributes) and that they glorify Him and mention His names; he prohibits men from killing animals unnecessarily and harming them and reminds them that they commit a big murder when they kill an animal.
We will analyze the importance Badiuzzaman gives to animals under some headings:
1. Animals are Allah’s officials; they act as His mirrors; they mention His names.
"…It is known that the universe as a whole is a meaningful book of the Eternally Besought One; and all beings from the ground to the Divine Throne are a miraculous collection of Divine missives; and all the realms of creatures are a magnificent regular dominical army; and all sorts of beings from microbes and ants to rhinoceroses, eagles, and planets are diligent officials of the Pre-Eternal Sovereign; and since they act as mirrors to and have a relation with that Sovereign, the value of all things infinitely surpasses their individual value..."
"Yes, every flower, every fruit, every grass, even every animal and every tree shows that they are seals of Divine oneness and stamps of Eternal Besoughtedness; the place they are located in becomes like a signature by being transformed into a letter and shows the writer of that place..."
According to Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, cats glorify Allah and mention His names. He narrates one of his observations as follows:
"... These instances of plenty were either bestowal to the sincere friends who have visited me, or a bestowal on account of service of the Quran, or an abundance and benefit resulting from frugality, or they have been sustenance for the four cats I have which recite the divine names “O Most Compassionate One! O Most Compassionate One!”, which comes in the form of plenty and from which I benefit too Yes, if you listen carefully to their mournful miaowings, you will understand that they are saying, “O Most Compassionate One! O Most Compassionate One!”..."
2. Some animals are public health officials of the earth and seas.
According to Badiuzzaman, animals called carnivore like eagles, wolves and ants clean the dirt on the earth and in the sea every day. They are public health officials appointed by Allah. If they did not cleanse the earth and the seas, they would be full of dirt and be uninhabitable:
"Indeed, Almighty Allah has created an orderly group of carnivorous beings as public health officials of a sort; they cleanse the seas by gathering up the corpses of other sea-creatures1 that die every day in their millions and prevent the sea from becoming polluted and disgusting with their corpses. If those public health officials of the sea did not carry out their extremely regular duties, the sea would not sparkle like a mirror; it would rather display a sad and touching turbidity.
Also, Almighty Allah has created carnivorous and carrion-eating birds, and wild animals to be like cleansing and public health officials which collect the corpses of the wild animals and birds that die every day in their millions, cleanse the face of the earth of those putrid remains, and save other animate beings from such sad, discomforting sights. Some, like eagles for example, through a divine impulse, wonderfully perceive the location of a corpse from a distance of five or six hours, though hidden and distant, and hasten to remove it. If those health officials of the land were not extremely efficient and orderly in carrying out their official duties, the face of the earth would become such so as to make all weep...
Furthermore, ants are employed as cleansing officials to collect the corpses of tiny creatures and small particles and fragments of bounty. They are given duties as public health officials to preserve tiny particles of divine bounty from waste, from being trodden underfoot, contempt and futility, and to gather up the corpses of other small creatures."
3. Carnivorous animals cannot hunt and eat any animals they wish.
According to Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, carrion-eating animals are public health officials but they cannot eat any animals they meet. According to him, their legitimate sustenance is dead animals. Living animals are haram for them:
"The licit food of carnivorous animals is the flesh of dead animals. The flesh of living animals is unlawful for them. If they eat it, they receive punishment. The Hadith which states: “Retaliation shall be made for the hornless sheep on the horned on Resurrection Day”1 points out that although the bodies of animals with immortal spirits perish, they will receive reward and punishment in a manner appropriate for them in an eternal realm. In consequence, it may be said that the flesh of live animals is unlawful for wild animals."
4. Flies must not be killed.
Badiuzzaman Said Nursi is definitely against killing animals. He does not even approve of killing flies, which are among the smallest animals and which are regarded as harmful. The incident in which Badiuzzaman prohibited his students from disturbing flies, let alone killing them, is enough to show that he is a great environmentalist and that he loves animals so much. For, flies, which disturb men all the time, especially on hot summer days, and which are killed through various methods and pesticides by people thinking that they carry microbes, are public health officials according to him. They teach man cleanliness; they remove the microbes and toxic substances that cannot be seen by man from their hands and faces; they prevent several infectious diseases; mosquitos and fleas remove the dirty blood from people.
5. Flies are very useful
In addition to the benefits of flies, which many people kill thinking that they are harmful, mentioned above, they are useful in some other ways too according to Badiuzzaman. Yes, according to him, some types of flies eat various rotten substances; they excrete droplets of sweet syrup like bees instead of dirt all the time. Thus, flies are like tiny transformation and purification machines. Another type of fly is used in the pollination of the flowers o plants and some trees like fig:
"Fly excretion is not harmful medically; in fact, sometimes it is a sweet syrup. For it is not distant from dominical wisdom, it is indeed a function of that wisdom, that while flies contain thousands of harmful substances, microbes, and poisons from what they have eaten, they are like tiny transformation and purification machines. Apart from bees, there are other species of flying insects that eat various putrid substances and then continuously excrete droplets of syrup in place of the filth. By transforming those rotten, poisonous substances into a sweet and healing syrup, a confection of divine power, that rains onto the leaves of trees, they prove that they are machines for transmuting one substance into another. They demonstrate before one’s eyes what a mighty nation and group these tiny individuals form. Through the tongues of their beings they say: “Don’t look at our smallness, consider the vastness of our species, and declare, ‘All Glory be to Allah.’"
6. The wisdoms behind the creation of the nightingale
Badiuzzaman states that the nightingale was not created in vain, like the other animals, that it was created due to various wisdoms and that the Creator uses it for five purposes:
"Firstly: It is the official employed to proclaim in the name of the animal species the intense relationship that exists between them and the plant species.
Secondly: It is a dominical orator from among the animals, who are like guests of the All-Merciful One needy for sustenance, employed to acclaim the gifts sent by the All-Generous Provider, and to announce their joy.
Thirdly: It is to announce to everyone the welcome offered to plants, which are sent for the assistance of his fellow animals.
Fourthly: It is to announce, over the blessed heads and to the beautiful faces of plants, the intense need of the animal species for them, which reaches the degree of love and passion.
Fifthly: It is to present with acute yearning at the Court of Mercy of the All-Glorious and Beauteous and Munificent Lord of All Dominion a most graceful glorification inspired by the truly delicate face of the rose.
There are further meanings similar to these five aims, and they are the purpose of the deeds the nightingale performs for the sake of Truth (All glory be unto Him and may He be exalted). The nightingale speaks in his own tongue, but we understand these meanings from his plaintive words. If he himself does not altogether know the meaning of his own song like the angels do, it does not impair our understanding. The saying, “One who listens understands better than the one who speaks” is well-known. Also, the nightingale does not show that he does not know these aims in detail, but this does not mean that they do not exist. At least he informs you of them like a clock informs you of the time.
Compare the bee, the spider, the ant, creeping insects, the male animals that are the means of reproduction, and the nightingales of all small creatures, with the nightingale..."
7. It is possible to benefit from animals through different ways
Dealing with the interpretation of the verses, "And the birds gathered (in assemblies)…" (Sa'd, 19) and "And Solomon was David´s heir” and "O ye people! We have been taught the speech of birds" (an-Naml, 16), Badiuzzaman states that humans can benefit from animals through different ways. According to him, it is possible to make use of animals like honeybees, silkworms, pigeons and parrots; it is also possible to make use of birds and other animals if their languages are known. If the language of starlings, which destroy locusts without eating them, is known and if they can be operated, they can be employed free of charge against the invasion of locusts.
8. It is necessary to treat animals compassionately
Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, who was very compassionate toward animals, gave the grains in the meal brought to him to animals to show clearly his affection and love to them:
"... Then, he went to the town of Tillo in Siirt. When he retired into seclusion in a famous tomb, his younger brother, Mehmet, brought him dinner. He gave the grains in the meal to the ants around the tomb and he found it enough to dip his bread into the gravy of the food and eat it.”
When he was asked, "Why do you give the grains to the ants?", he said, "I want to help them in return for their republicanism since they have a social life, they love their duties and work hard."
Bediuzzaman gave the cats and pigeons that came to him from his own food because of his love of animals and that he attained abundance because of it:
"...In fact, it is not only the sustenance of elderly relations that comes in the form of plenty; the sustenance of creatures like cats who are friendly to man also comes in the form of plenty, sent together with the food of the human beings. An example supporting this, which I myself observed, is as follows: my close friends know that for two to three years my appointed lot every day was half a loaf of bread, the loaves in that village were small, and very often this was insufficient for me. Then four cats came and stayed with me as my guests, and that same portion was sufficient both for myself and for them. There was frequently some left over even.
This has recurred so often that it has made me certain that I was benefiting from the plenty resulting from the cats. I declare most definitely that they were not a load on me. It was not they who were obliged to me, but I to them."
"... While I was editing Âsâ-yı Mûsâ just before Night of Barat, a pigeon came to the window and looked at me. I said, "Did you bring good news?" It came in and it was not afraid as if we were old friends that knew each other. It perched on Âsâ-yı Mûsa and sat there for three hours. I gave bread and rice to it but it did not eat. It stayed with me until the evening and went away. Then, it returned. It stayed with me on the night of Barat until the morning. When I went to bed, it approached me, patted my head as if saying goodbye and left. On the second day, while I was feeling sorry, it came again and stayed with me the whole night."
Now let us quote from Necmeddin Şahiner's book called "Son Şahitler Bediüzzaman Said Nursî'yi Anlatıyor" about the observations of the people related to Badiuzzaman’s compassion toward animals:
"...Badiuzzaman Said Nursi's house was made of wood. Sometimes, a mouse came to the entrance of a hole. He said, "Look, it wants to eat." Then, he would put a piece of his food next to the hole, and the mouse would eat it. He would offer to the mouse whatever he was eating.
"... When he sometimes saw ants, or if we picked a stone and if ants came out of it, he would tell us to put the stone back. He would say, "Do not disturb the animals."
"... He would put some pieces of bread in various places for the mice, and also for the birds and cats on the roof of the neighboring shop. Both the cats and mice would eat from his food."
"Badiuzzaman Said Nursi had two cats. When it was time to eat, he would give them food first and he himself would eat later. He would also put some food in the cupboards for the mice."
9. Animals should not be hunted unnecessarily
Badiuzzaman Said Nursi did not regard it appropriate to hunt animals; he advised people to eat the flesh of domestic animals. Let us quote from "Son Şahitler Bdiüzzaman Said Nursî'yi Anlatıyor":
"... When he saw hunters in the countryside, he would say to them, 'Do not shoot rabbits and partridges.' And he would say, 'Do not hurt other animals' and he would give them advice. He prohibited many people from hunting."
Someone who visited him narrated the following: he asked me, "... 'What do you do?' I said, "Hunting, sir!" He said, "What kind of animals live where you hunt?" I said, 'There are gazelles, rabbits, ducks and partridges, sir.' He asked, 'How much money do you spend when you go hunting?' I said, 'Sometimes it costs 50 liras.' He said, 'Would it not be better if you bought meat of a domestic animal with that money?' I said, 'Yes, sir. It definitely would be better."
In conclusion, that Badiuzzaman Said Nursi feeds ants, takes care of and loves animals like cats and birds, adopts a lifestyle involved with nature, goes to the countryside frequently shows that he has an environmentalist attitude, loves animals very much and shows it in his deeds.
A person who thoroughly understands and reads the Quran and the Risâle-i Nur Collection, which is a contemporary interpretation of the Quran, will attain the consciousness that the beings in the universe are meaningful and that each of them has a duty; thus, he will avoid deeds that will harm those beings. This is an expected behavior from the individuals who have reached the environmental consciousness. It can easily be said that the Quran, the religion of Islam and the Risale-i Nûr Collection give people a lesson for environmental education, and a lesson of love and compassion for animals. If animal lovers can appreciate this compassion of Badiuzzaman's toward animals, they will probably declare him best animal lover.
1. M. Kemal Atik, Kur'ân ve Çevre, Kayseri 1992, p.96.
2. İbrahim Özdemir, Münir Yükselmiş, Çevre Sorunları ve İslâm, Ankara 1995, p.114-116.
3. R.N.K., İkinci Şua (Second Ray), I, 851. (We cite the name of the book and the chapter from the Risâle-i Nur Collection in this essay as reference since it is difficult to find the exact place due to the existence of various editions of Risâle-i Nur Collection. In addition, we cited the page number of the two-volume Risâle-i Nur Collection. Kaynaklı-İndeksli-Lügatli Risâle-i Nûr Külliyatı (R.N.K.), Nesil yay. İstanbul, 1996)
4. RN.K., 30. Lem'a (30th Flash), 4. Nükte (4th Point), 3. İşaret (3rd Sign), I, 807. For the universe being a magnificent book of Allah and an embodied divine Quran, and declaring Allah’s power, see R.N.K., Şuâlar (Rays), Yedinci Şuâ (Seventh Ray) I, 914 and 917; On Birinci Şuâ (Eleventh Ray), I, 955. In fact, the Seventh Ray, ‘The Great Sign is the observations of a traveler who asks the universe about its Creator’, deals with this issue in general.
5. R.N.K., On Altıncı Mektup, Dördüncü Nokta (Sixteenth Letter, Fourth Point), I, 377. For other examples, see R.N.K. Yirmi Dördüncü Söz, Dördüncü Dal (Twenty-Fourth Word, Fourth Branch), I, 153, 155.
6. R.N.K., Yirmi Sekizinci Lem'a (Twenty-Eighth Flash), I, 727-728.
7. Ahmed b. Hanbal, Musnad, II, 235.
8. R.N.K., Yirmi Sekizinci Lem'a (Twenty-Eighth Flash), I, 727-728.
9. R.N.K., Yirmi Sekizinci Lem'a (Twenty-Eighth Flash), I, 727-728. Badiuzzaman expresses his views on flies in a separate booklet called the Booklet of Flies; we advise our readers to read all of this booklet.
10. R.N.K., Yirmi Sekizinci Lem'a (Twenty-Eighth Flash), I, 728; For another example, see Yirmi Sekizinci Lem'a (Twenty-Eighth Flash), I, 728, hâşiye (footnote).
11. R.N.K., Yirmi Dördüncü Söz, Dördüncü Dal(Twenty-Fourth Word, Fourth Branch), I,154-155.
12. R.N.K., Yirminci Söz, İkinci Makam Mukaddime (Twentieth Word, Second Station, Introduction), I, 105.
13. See, R.N.K., Tarihçe-i Hayat I, 2126.
14. R.N.K., 21. Mektup (21st Letter), I, 468.
15. R.N.K., Emirdağ Lâhikası-I, II, 1749.
16. Necmeddin Şahiner, Son Şahitler Bediüzzaman Said Nursî'yi Anlatıyor, İstanbul 1993, II, 150.
17. Şahiner, Son Şahitler, III, 59.
18. Şahiner, Son Şahitler, III, 141.
19. Şahiner, Son Şahitler, III, 126.
20. Şahiner, Son Şahitler, III, 59.
21. Şahiner, Son Şahitler, IV, 174.