What is the meaning and real nature of life and the wisdom behind its creation? How is the perfection of life attained?

Details of the Question

- What is the meaning of life? Some philosophers say life is to reveal the potential in man. It cannot be only that but it does not seem wrong. The following things exist in some Islamic resources: "To be a slave of Allah, to obtain His consent and to attain His names".

- What is your opinion?
- What is the use of it if man attains Allah’s names?
- This aspect seems to be the aspect related to Allah Almighty. Are things like having a good job, a good spouse, a happy life and having a good position not the things that make life meaningful?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Life: 

- It is a list of the peculiar and wonderful embroideries of the beings on which Allah’s beautiful names become manifest.  

- It is a window showing Allah’s attributes.

- It is a measure ensuring the balance of the beings in the universe.

- It is a list, map and summary of the beings in the universe.

- It is a bunch of keys with which to open the hidden treasuries of Divine power.

- It is a most excellent pattern of the perfections scattered over beings and attached to time. (see Nursi, Sözler, p. 128)

The wisdom behind the creation of life: 

It is acting as a mirror to the manifestation of Divine oneness and the manifestation of the Eternally Besought One. That is to say, through a comprehensiveness as though being the point of focus for all the Divine Names manifested in the world, it is its being a mirror to the Single and Eternally Besought One.

As for the perfection of human life in happiness, it is to perceive the lights of the Pre-Eternal Sun which are depicted in the mirror of your life, and to love them. It is to display ardor for Him as a conscious being. It is to pass beyond yourself with love of Him. It is to establish the reflection of His light in the center of your heart.  (see Sözler, p. 129)

What is the purpose of our life?

As the verse puts it, "the purpose of the creation of jinn and men is to worship Allah". (adh-Dhariyat, 51/56) It is not to forget the hereafter and worshipping by being caught by the ornament and charm of the worldly life. Since Allah created man for the life of the hereafter and for worshipping, He equipped man with organs, faculties and feelings suitable for this purpose.

If man uses these organs, faculties and feelings given for the hereafter and worshipping in the ephemeral and ugly deeds of the world, he will not be satisfied in terms of rewards and will be reckoned in the hereafter. What bores and depresses man is that he uses the organs and faculties given to him for eternity in the ephemeral world.

Coal is not weighed with the accurate balance of the jeweler; if it is weighed, it will be broken and upset because it is used outside its purpose. Likewise, if we use the heart given to love Allah for mortal lovers, the heart will be bored and distressed because it is used outside its purpose.

If the mind, which was given to man to find what is right and the truth and to meditate the arts of Allah, is used in the service of the soul and desires, it will get bored and depressed just like the heart. If we allow the spirit, which is satisfied with the Quran and luminous things, to pursue mean fantasies of the world, it will fall into depression.

If man uses all his material and spiritual feelings for the purpose of creation, he will be both satisfied and happy. If he uses them in the mean and bad things of the world with the deception of the soul and Satan, he will be subject to both the trouble of depression in the world and the penalty of betrayal in the hereafter.

To sum up, the emptiness of the soul and the heart can be filled only with the knowledge and love of Allah.

What is the wisdom behind the feelings given to us? 

First comes tasting and evaluating the boons and then meditation on the Divine names manifested in all beings.

Accordingly, the evaluation in the first one takes place with feelings; after that, it is necessary to taste and evaluate with realization and meditation by thanking generally.

Man evaluates the sizes, shapes, colors, distance and closeness of things with his eyes. By looking at the mountains, he says, "That mountain is bigger than that hill." He evaluates colors and decides that this color is blue, that is green and that is dark green. 

He evaluates the realm of flavors with his tongue; the tongue gives people a lot of information, from distinguishing bitter and sweet to the subtle differences between flavors.

One part of this sacred duty of man, who was created for worshipping and knowing Allah, is meditation and another part is thanking. Man knows and evaluates many realms only through his feelings; thus, he meditates them and thanks Allah for the benefits he receives from them. 

How should thanking’s being general be understood?

Instead of thinking of a boon as a single thing, it is regarded general meditation to think of all boons together; it will lead man to “general thanking”.  

When man thinks that “every organ in his body” and “every faculty and feeling attached to his spirit” are such great boons and thanks Allah for them, he will have “thanked generally”

On the other hand, when man thinks of this general thanking for these inner boons about all the external boons that surround him together, he will also have thanked generally. 

Another one is that when man thanks for a boon that he receives, he can think of all of the people he loves and even all living beings and generalize his thanking.

The tongue is a weighing machine; all tastes are weighed in that machine.

The nose is a weighing machine; all smells are weighed in that machine.

The eye is a weighing machine; all colors and descriptions are weighed and read in that machine.

The sense of touching is a weighing machine; the softness and hardness, the dryness and wetness of all things are weighed in that machine.

The ear is a weighing machine; all sounds are weighed in that machine.

The heart is a weighing machine; love and beauty are weighed in that machine.

The conscience perceives and weighs all truths like the accurate jewelry scale.

The mind is a weighing machine; all meanings become meaningful in that machine…

All these scales of feelings in man are like windows opening into a realm of boons. Man opens into this realm of boons through those windows and weighs and tastes those blessings with these scales; this opens the door into general thanking. These scales of feeling listed above are the scales that we can know and see; however, there are, in human nature, thousands of feelings and realms of boons corresponding to them whose qualities we do not know.

What do the manifestations of Divine Names mean? 

The manifestation of Allah’s beautiful names are His works and arts seen on the universe. That is, all of the works and arts that exist in the universe are manifestations of Allah’s beautiful names.

For instance, the description and drawing on a flower are a manifestation of Allah’s name Musawwir (Shaper of Beauty). The pretty and nice adornments of the flower are a manifestation of Allah’s name Muzayyin (Adorner). The order in the structure of the flower is a manifestation of Allah’s name Nazim (Arranger). The supplies necessary for the life of the flower coming and settling in the flower are a manifestation of Allah’s name Razzaq (Sustainer)

Man is the most comprehensive work and perfect art in terms of becoming a manifestation of and a mirror for Allah’s names. Some names of Allah might not be manifest on a flower but all names of Allah are manifest on man. From this point of view, man is the greatest being in terms of being a place of manifestation of all names and attributes of Allah.

For instance, the eye on the face of man is a manifestation of Allah’s attribute Basar (seeing/sight). The ear is the reflection of His attribute Sami’ (hearing). The tongue, which is the place of speaking, is a manifestation of His attribute Kalam; the description and drawing on the face are a manifestation of His name Musawwir; the sustenance necessary for life being sent to the body and the feeding of the body and the body cells are a manifestation of Allah’s name Razzaq. Just like those names, all names of Allah are manifest in the nature of man in the form of adornments. All of those adornments and manifestations are like windows opening into the names that are their sources. People reach Allah’s names and attributes through those windows.

Man is responsible for reading and understanding Allah’s names through the adornments and for showing and declaring the decrees and requirements of those names in his life.

For instance, Allah acts justly due to the decree and requirement of His name Adil (Just) in the universe and He practices and shows this decree in all places of the universe. We are responsible for practicing and declaring the same manifestation and decree, that is, acting justly, in life.

We can compare the other names to it.

What is the real nature of life?

Man has a very wide and comprehensive nature in terms of content and ability. The nature of man was created in a form to measure and understand all names of Allah. The nature of man is like a summary to see and understand Allah’s names. 

For instance, when man becomes ill and then is cured, he understands Allah’s name Shafi (Healer); when he is hungry and is fed, he understands Allah’s name Razzaq and so on.

The same nature was created with an ability to measure all deeds and names of Allah with comparison. For instance, I understand His universal knowledge by comparing my partial knowledge to His knowledge. I can observe His attributes like sacred pleasure, gladness, enthusiasm and wrath with the attributes like pleasure, gladness, enthusiasm and fury in me. I compare what is known to the absolute unknown and make it known. 

Man’s being a balance of the worlds within the universe, a list of the mighty world, a map of the cosmos and a summary of the vast book of the universe have a small model and scale of all of the created realms in the universe. Man can understand and watch that realm with that model and scale. The general and great realms in the universe exist as feelings and faculties in the form of small models in man. Therefore, man is like a small universe in terms of its nature. If you minimized the universe, it would be man; if you maximized man, it would be the universe.    

For instance, man’s potential of imagination is like a model and scale of the realm of similitude; man looks at that realm with his potential of imagination. The spirit is like a model and scale of the realm of spirits. The mind is a key and window to the spiritual realm. The eye is a doorway to the visible realm. The ear is a channel opening into the realm of sound.  

Basic characteristics of human life:

a) The index of the wonders pertaining to the divine names: 

All names of Allah are beautiful and all of their manifestations are wonderful. They are as if listed in the form of an index in man. To create, to give shape, to give life, to equip with feelings, to create bodies in compliance with those spirits, to give organs,… are all divine deeds. The creation of all of them belongs to Allah and they appear with the manifestations of Allah’s names. A sample was created from all of those manifestations spread to the realm of beings in man. He was also created, given life and sustenance; his spirit was equipped with feelings and his body with organs, and so on….

b) The criterion for divine deeds and attributes 

Criterion means “a tool of comparison”. Man can evaluate the attributes given to him like knowledge, will and power as units and can know Allah’s attributes through them; similarly, he can know to a certain extent the deeds of Allah through his deeds like “mercy, wrath, seeing his beauty and perfection and wanting to show them”. We say to a certain extent because mans’ spirit is a created being; so are the attributes and deeds given to him. Allah’s essence does not resemble any of His creatures; nor do His attributes and deeds. Man can know his Creator with His attributes and deeds by evaluating his own being truly unless he forgets that important point.   

c) The scale of the realms in the universe: 

Man measures the realm of colors and shapes with his eyes and knows which one is bigger or brighter than which one and which has which colors. Similarly, he measures the realm of tastes with his tongue and the realm of scents with his nose. On the other hand, human mind is like a scale that weighs all wise reasons in all those realms.

d) The list of the great realm: 

The following sentence of Said Nursi explains it: “Whatever is in the realm exists in the nature of man.” It is stated in Risale-i Nur Collection that man’s bones evoke stones, his flesh evokes soil and his various circulations evoke rivers. The elements in this great realm exist in human body in a small scale; a small sample of the Preserved Tablet (Lawh al-Mahfuz) in the great realm is the memory of man and a sample of the realm of similitude is the imagination of man. A small sample of the great realm’s swarming with angels is the spirit, which is a guest in the human body, intermingling with thousands of feelings.   

e) The map of the universe and f) the summary of the great book: 

In those two items, the relationship between man and the universe is shown with two different similes. In one of them, the universe is likened to a country and the nature of man is likened to the map of that country. The map is the minimized form of the country. Everything in that country is represented in the map in a small scale. In the second simile, the universe is likened to a great book and man is likened to its summary. 

g) The bunch of keys with which to open the hidden treasuries of Divine power: 

In this item, scientific branches weigh heavier. This universe is likened “to a book written with the pen of divine power”. The hidden meanings borne by the writings in that book are revealed by exact sciences. Man has revealed so many hidden treasures from underground resources to electricity and to the realm of rays by using properly the ability granted to him. Thus, he virtually became “a bunch of keys” and opened a separate treasure with each key. The different keys in this simile show the different characteristics in man’s nature but they also indicate various sciences related to the universe. 

h) The best of molds of the perfections scattered over beings and attached to time:

What is meant by “perfections” here is the signs, creatures showing Allah’s perfection. By saying “There is nothing better possible in terms of possibilities”, Imam Ghazali states that everything was created perfectly in accordance with their abilities and the duties they are to fulfill and that it is impossible to think of anything better. One of the things included in “everything” is man. He was created perfectly and was given an ability to understand the perfections in the other beings.

The phrase “scattered over beings and attached to time” aims to state that the reality of “the best and perfect creation” is valid in all creatures and at all times.

To sum up:

They say, “The great statements belong to great people.” Similarly, the perfect life is the life of perfect people. In fact, those people are described here in essence and we are shown the way of resembling them. The first step of walking on that way is man’s seeing himself as “a being created in the best of molds and bearing the manifestations of all divine names”

The second step after this knowledge is to feel those manifestations. Despite its power making all planets rotate, the sun does not feel the meaning of divine power.  Man knows and feels to some extent with his power what divine power is. Similarly, man does not only know what “will, sight and hearing” are but he also feels them. 

If man feels that he is a work of Allah as he feels those attributes, a separate love and pleasure will occur in his heart for every name that becomes manifest in him. They will lead him to attain degrees in divine love. 

A very high rank of it is “to be overwhelmed by that love”, to think of Allah, not his own self, and to seek perfection in belief in Allah and knowing Him, not in his rank and wealth.   

This state will lead this person to the highest rank of taqwa, which is “taqwa from masiwa (keeping everything except for Allah away from the heart)”; it elevates him to the rank of worrying that any love except the love of Allah and any fear except the fear of Allah will enter his heart. The meaning of the following verse becomes dominant over that person: “…For without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction”; the light of belief in Allah shines in the pupil of his heart and this light surpasses all worldly lights.   

It is necessary to emphasize an issue: Since Allah’s essence does not resemble the essences of creatures and His attributes do not resemble the attributes of creatures, the love toward Him does not resemble other loves. The criterion here is to follow the Messenger of Allah. That is, a person loves Allah to the extent that he follows the Messenger of Allah.

To sum up, the criterion for love of Allah is “righteous deed”, and the criterion for fear of Allah is “taqwa”.

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