Islam and Being Human in the True Sense
Question: You have stated that, “Islam, the All-Mighty Creator’s greatest and universal gift to all, can be actualized through being human in the true sense; the human is the spiritual index of all creation, by that which is made from the intellect, conscience, spirit, body, and the inner subtle faculties.” Could you elucidate this statement please?
Answer: Each of the points mentioned in the question, which constitute the different depths of the human, is a main strand with respect to understanding and explaining Islam.
We should consider reason first. Reason serves a function: to separate right from wrong, and beneficial from harmful. It can achieve these tasks if it is used properly under the guidance of the heart and spirit. However, rationalists regard reason as everything—and the neo-rationalists of our time give it priority even before the Qur’an and Sunnah. Unfortunately, in rejecting their extreme stance, some people denied reason completely. One extremism gave way to the opposite extremism. If we consider the general situation of the Islamic world today, it will be seen how reason is ignored, thus giving way to extremism of all kinds.
God created reason for an important wisdom. First and foremost, it is the basic condition for the responsibility of worship and servitude to God. Had humanity been deprived of the honor of being the object of Divine address, they would not have been endowed with the blessing of reason. God speaks to humans by virtue of possessing reason. In a way, He makes covenants with humans, because they are beings that possess reason. For example, He states in the Qur’an: “So always remember and make mention of Me (when service to Me is due), that I may remember and make mention of you (when judgment and recompense are due)” (al-Baqarah 2:152). “…Fulfill My covenant (which I made with you through your Prophets), so that I fulfill My covenant…” (al-Baqarah 2:40).
Understanding and practicing these commands depends on reason. The issue of whether God will take a person without reason to Paradise is not our subject here. However, it is thanks to reason that humanity is honored with being the object of Divine address and can understand and practice religious commandments; this point is very important in terms of understanding the place and value of reason in religion.
Besides these, the essential component of understanding what we see and hear is reason, too. Despite its incredible importance, there is a certain limit reason can reach. It is always prone to being mistaken. Therefore, it needs to be valued only as much as it merits. On the other hand, dismissing reason before letting it fulfill all of its functions means paralyzing some part of its mechanism or system. For this reason, it will not be possible for such a system to serve the function it is supposed to. A car that has all the parts but the gas pedal will not move. Similarly, the general system possessed by a human being will be paralyzed without the functioning of reason, which is among the significant components of the system.
Conscience is another foundation of this system. In The Damascus Sermon, Bediüzzaman states that conscience has four elements: emotion, willpower, consciousness, and the latifa Rabbaniyya—the spiritual faculty that senses God directly. Latifa Rabbaniyya, or spiritual intellect, has different depths, such as sirr (secret), khafi (hidden), which pertains to the glorified Divine Attributes (God knows the best), and akhfa (the most hidden), which we can define as the horizons of seeking the Divine Essence or God Almighty Himself. The fact that unlettered people like us are unaware of these issues does not serve as evidence for their non-existence; because the people who did journey through those horizons informed us of these attributes with their spiritual experiences.
Coming together all of these components make up the mechanism of the conscience; they result in what is called “hads,” which is a sudden, intuitive grasp of reality, as pointed out by Bediüzzaman. You can also call it the inner sense, inner evaluation, or inner analysis. By means of this, a person sieves through what happens in the outer realm and comprehends it correctly. However, even if one of these components of the conscience is neglected, one will fail to effectuate the conscience thoroughly. Eliminating the mechanism of conscience, which is a very important pillar of the human nature, means paralyzing a person. In such a case, a person will not have a very good skeleton, material structure, or the like.
Spirit is also one of the important pillars of human nature. It is a system beyond the spiritual intellect. While describing the course of spiritual journeying, saintly persons said that one advances from the spiritual intellect to the spirit, which is a Divine emanation. In terms of being a Divine breath, it is a fresh bestowal sent to us from the realm of Divinity. We are sensed, known, seen, and protected by means of it. It is a trust that actually belongs to God. Therefore, leaping up from the Spiritual Intellect to the horizons of the spirit is first of all an expression of respect for this Divine breath God entrusted to us. At the same time, this is a matter of a person’s horizons. Only those who ascend to the horizons of the spirit can sense that it is of Divinity. It is an important rank, especially to effectuate the spiritual intellect; however, those who keep toddling in this level and fail to ascend to the horizon of the spirit will not be able to sense much about such a Divine quality.
Here we also add these the body, the material aspect of humanity. As the systems like reason, conscience, heart, and spirit, which constitute the spiritual side of the human are very important, the body, which constitutes the material side, also has separate importance of its own. Above all, being able to observe worship for God, and observing the acts like Prayer, fasting, and Hajj, depend on making these systems work correctly. As we are not really aware of the exact otherworldly returns of observing Prayer, reciting verses from the Qur’an, and other good deeds, we similarly do not know the otherworldly returns of utilizing them for the respective purposes they were created for. As we learn from the noble Prophet’s sayings, the Prayer observed impetuously without giving it its due will be a means of reproach and shame beyond the grave. On the other hand, when the same Prayer is observed in compliance with the proper conditions and requirements, it will be a pleasant companion that will not let the person down during the journey to the next world.
With all acts of worship you observe besides your Prayer, you will be disciplining your body at the same time. Even though acts of worship have certain physical or anatomical benefits, they were not decreed on account of such wisdoms. On the contrary, they were decreed in order to make a person eligible for Paradise so they could gain eternal bliss therein, have the honor of beholding God, and attain a state with which God will be well pleased. Although acts of worship such as Prayer, fasting, and the Zakah alms have certain benefits pertaining to the worldly life and disciplining the self, their true returns will be in the Hereafter.
In terms of being a means for a person’s attaining all of these graces in the Hereafter, the body is one of the most important Divine blessings to human. The emphasis that it is a blessing was first made with Prophet Adam, peace be upon him. God commanded angels to prostrate before Adam, and all of the angels did so, except for Satan, who made a haughty refusal to obey this command by giving in to egotism. Spirit beings and angels saw the immensity in Adam, they acted with insightful obedience to the command, and thus prostrated themselves. This evoked respect in their spirits for the body of Adam. To reiterate a fact I expressed in different talks, had prostration been permissible before anybody else other than God, it would have been for humanity, a wonder of creation with respect to our bodily and spiritual structure.
In terms of their nature, angels have insightful obedience to commands. They also have knowledge of Divine mysteries, have access to the realm of Malakut, and can be present in some thousand different places simultaneously. Still, they cannot properly sense the properties of the material world. It is for this reason that they were surprised at a strange creature like the human and they said, “Will you set therein one who will cause disorder and corruption on it and shed blood?” (al-Baqarah 2:30). The human is a being teeming with feelings such as lust, selfishness, boasting, and rage, and thus is prone to committing evil acts. However, by being able to subordinate all of these to Divine commands, he or she can ascend to the level of being a favorable, beloved, and laudable servant of God. God creates goodness via these relevant evils. The angels could not know this side of humanity. In terms of both his spiritual and bodily structure, and together with the interaction between these two, the human gains meanings that cannot be expressed by books.
In sum, understanding Islam with its true identity, depth, and immensity, as well as practicing it and telling about it, can only be possible by using the human nature properly without neglecting any aspect of it. As humanity’s reason, spirit, and body were created for particular wisdoms, each must be used in accordance with the purpose they were created for; because if a person neglects even one of these, it will not be possible for them to thoroughly fulfill the responsibility he has undertaken. Gülen, M. Fethullah, Ruhumuzun Heykelini Dikerken-1, İstanbul: Nil Yayınları, 2011, p. 27.  Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Damascus Sermon, İstanbul: Sözler Neşriyat, 1996, p. 117.  Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 6/352; Abdurrazzaq, Al-Musannaf, 3/56.  The realm of the transcendental manifestation of Divine commands.