(In remembrance of 100 years of Damascus Sermon by Ustaz Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, 1911-2011)
Ahmad Azam Abdul Rahman
Vice President, Society for the Enlightenment of the
Ummah Malaysia (WADAH)
Social problems are abound and have become the order of the day everywhere in the world, whether at the local, national, regional or international levels. Undesirable social conditions, cultural shocks, political turmoils, environmental problems, and economic uncertainties are affecting individuals, families, communities, and societies at large, whether Muslims or non-Muslims worldwide. People in general are trying to make sense of the radical changes in the global environment and grappling with the many socio-cultural, technological, political and economic challenges of the 21st century. Even the most basic concept of “family” which has been traditionally understood, is being challenged by so-called human rights activists lobbying at the level of the United Nations for the concept of ‘family’ to include homosexual couples as well as men and women living together and having children out of wedlock. The family institution is further weakened by domestic violence, mental and physical abuses, incest, juvenile social problems, poverty, and social crimes among the neglected and attention-deprived children of poor and/or broken families.
Explanations offered for the seemingly irreversible crises faced by the ummah in the present millennium vary depending on the perspectives used for the analyses. Muzaffar Iqbal (2008) gave two broad categories: Firstly, that Islam is responsible for the dismal state of affairs. Secondly, abandonment of Islam by Muslims is the root cause of the malaise of the ummah. This paper focuses primarily on the diagnosis and the solutions of the problems as provided by the Holy al-Quran, and specifically on the Quranic remedies as expounded by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi 100 years ago.
In 2004, Jessica Williams identified 50 types of alarming problems plaguing the world in the 21st century, referring to them as “50 facts that should change the world”. Here are some of her statistics:
· Teen pregnancy
· Domestic violence
More than 12,000 women have been killed each year in
· Drug addiction and drug trafficking
The world’s trade in illegal drugs is estimated to be worth around US$400 billion, almost the same as the world’s legal pharmaceutical industry. Almost half of
Some 300 million people in
More people die each year from suicide than in all the world’s armed conflicts; that suicide rates have grown by 60 percent worldwide between 1959-2004. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates a million suicide cases in 2000 with 10-20 times more attempted suicides. It is now the third biggest cause of death among people aged 15-34 worldwide. The former Soviet states of
Seventy percent of adult movies are made in
· Military spending
Every hour of the day, the world spends more than US$90 million on the military with
Other identified“facts” include homosexualism and same-sex marriages, abortions, divorces, irreligion, crimes and social problems, poverty and malnutrition, depleting natural resources, and wars. Similar problems, dilemmas and crises were also identified by paper presenters from various non-governmental organisations of the Islamic world at the recent International Conference on Family organised by The Commission of Women, Family and Youth, UNIW, in
· High risk of HIV/AIDS among homosexuals who repeatedly and pathologically continue to indulge in such practices
· Homosexuals represent the highest number of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) cases
· More than one-third of homosexual men and women are substance abusers
· Forty percent of homosexual adolescents report suicidal histories
· Homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to have mental health concerns
· Homosexual relations are more violent than heterosexual relationships
· Societal bias and discrimination do not, in and of themselves, contribute to the majority of increased health risks for homosexuals
Discussing the dismal state of affairs, a prominent Islamic scholar, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, expressed the following in his book “A Young Muslim’s Guide to the Modern World” in 1994:
It is especially during the last few decades with the generation that grew up after the Second World War, that the sense of the meaninglessness of life and nihilism set in along with distrust of the older generation, opposition to the many hypocrisies which the youth saw in the generation of their parents, the breakup of the family, the loss of the traditional roles of men and women, and their relation with each other and the loss of authority of any kind, not only ethical and spiritual, buteven to some extent political.
Another well known Muslim scholar and sociologist, Akbar S.Ahmed, described quite vividly the common problems facing humanity today in his book, “Islam under siege” (2003, 158):
The common problems in this shrinking world . . .: drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, teenage violence and crime, ethnic and racial prejudice, the problems of the aged and the poor; the challenge of the growing sense of anarchy and rampant materialism; the sexual debasement of women and children; the depletion of our natural resources and ecological concerns.
Why are these abuses occurring? What is wrong with the world? What is wrong with humanity? Are there ways to mend these human sufferings and man-made calamities? Are there ways to come out of these black pits?
ROOT CAUSES ACCORDING TO AL-QURAN & HADITH
The causes and effects of human frailties and many social ills have long been addressed directly and indirectly in the Al-Quran and Hadith. Among the causes include the following external and internal factors:
1. External Factors – Domination by Jews and Christians
Since the fall of the Uthmaniyyah Empire in 1924, it was the external factors that contribute largely to the malaise of the Ummah. The Quran highlighted this phenomena QS Al-Baqarah 2: 120):
Never will the Jews nor the Christians be pleased with you (O Muhammad Peace be upon him) till you follow their religion. Say: "Verily, the Guidance of Allah (i.e. Islamic Monotheism) that is the (only) Guidance. And if you (O Muhammad Peace be upon him) were to follow their (Jews and Christians) desires after what you have received of Knowledge (i.e. the Qur'an), then you would have against Allah neither any Wali (protector or guardian) nor any helper.
2. Internal Factors – Muslims’ Blind Imitation of the West
As the result of years of subjugation and colonisation, there are Muslims who are inflicted by what Malik Bennabi termed as ‘colonisibilite’, which refers to Muslims who are colonised by the West and wholeheartedly accept the Western way of life without any reservation. They proudly discard all Islamic values and teachings, dismissing them as irrelevant and out of date with modernity. They unashamedly follow the West blindly without even thinking of its relevance to the Muslim society. This phenomena is aptly mentioned in a Hadith (Sahih Muslim,Chapter 3,Book 34,No.6448), as follows:
Narrated by Abu Said al-Khudri: The Prophet s.a.w. said, “You will follow the ways of those nations who were before you, span by span and inch by inch so much so that even if they entered a lizard hole, you would follow them.” We said, “O Allah’s Messenger! (Do you mean) the Jews and the Christians ?” He said, “Who else?”
Ibn Khaldun, a well-known Muslim historian and sociologist, rightly observed the behaviour of the conquered in his book “Al-Mukaddimah”, p.147:
The subjugated person is always infatuated, and imitates the conqueror in his motto, his clothes, his religion and all his conditions and habits as well. The reason is that the human personality always thinks that the power, the priority and the excellence are always with the one who conquered it, so it glorifies him in imitation.
All these social problems reflect mankind’s increasing irreligiosity and spiritual weaknesses, but it would not help change things merely by wringing our hands in despair and being blind to the Truth.
Allah has given the ummah the Al-Quran more than 1430 years ago through our Prophet Muhammad the Elect of God (Upon whom blessings and peace). There are verses in the Quran that refer man to his reason, saying: Use your intelligence! Think! Consult your mind and your heart! Confer with them so that you may know this fact!” The Al-Quran has all the remedies, but since we have been looking elsewhere for the cure, the crises and dilemmas of the world have escalated. Despite our blindness, we are kept reminded by Allah, our Creator, “Do not despair of God’s Mercy” (QS 39: 53).
SOLUTIONS FOR HUMANITY FROM BADIUZZAMAN SAID NURSI’S “
Ustaz Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1877-1960) lived to witness the decline of the Islamic world and the weakening of the Islamic faith as a result of colonialization and the ensuing interest in materialism as well as atheistic agnosticism, using science as the material yardstick. He was gravely concerned about the social ills that were destroying mankind, in particular the Ummah, of his time. In the Risale-I Nur, he re-emphasised the fact that true happiness can only be found in the belief and knowledge of God, both in this world and the hereafter. On the contrary, the act of unbelief would cause grievous pain and unhappiness, often reflected in heedlessness and escapism.
When Ustaz Said Nursi was invited by the religious authorities in Damascus, Syria, to give a sermon in the Umayyad Mosque in 1911, he not only addressed a gathering of close to 10,000 people (including 100 religious scholars of the time) but he also left behind a valuable legacy, a prophetic sermon that transcended geographical boundaries and time.
At the Damascus Sermon, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi diagnosed some of the fundamentals ills afflicting the Islamic world and gave the remedies from the everlasting “pharmacy of the Quran”. He addressed six “dire sicknesses” and described the medicine to cure each one of the sicknesses in what he termed as a lesson in mankind’s social life (See Table 1). He reached out to Muslims to pay heed to the the truths of the Al-Quran and to rebuild society based on the foundations of the Islamic faith, in order for man’s civilization to become a true civilization.
Table 1: A lesson in mankind’s social life
Quotes from the
The future shall be Islam’s and Islam’s alone. And its ruler shall be the truths of the Quran and belief. . . . Islam and its truths possess the perfect capacity to progress, both materially and in moral and non-material matters.
Salvation is only to be found through truthfulness and honesty. The “support most unfailing” (QS 2: 256) is honesty. . . . Indeed, everything you say must be true, but it is not right to say everything true. If on occasion it is damaging, then be silent.
Love, brotherhood and affection are basic to Islam, and are its bond. The people of enmity resemble a spoilt child who wants to cry. He looks for an excuse, and something as insignificant as a fly’s wing becomes the pretext. . . . He ignores ten good deeds due to one bad deed.
The exact time for Islamic unity is beginning. It necessitates not paying attention to one another’s personal faults. . . . your displaying no effort and not getting into the working spirit through Islamic unity and true Islamic brotherhood, have done much damage and are an injustice to you.
Belief necessitates not humiliating others through oppression and despotism and not degrading them, and . . . not abasing oneself before tyrants
Just as individuals should consult one another, so must nations and continents practise consultation. For it is the freedom that is in accordance with the Syari’a . . . and the noblemindedness and compassion of belief that will loosen and remove the fetters and chains of the various forms of tyranny . . . Many historical events inform us that as a result of true sincerity, solidarity, and consultation, ten men may perform the work of a thousand.
Source: Compiled from The Risale-I Nur Collection, The
In the Damascus Sermon, Ustaz Said Nursi expounded on “the veils that had eclipsed the sun of Islam”, preventing it from illuminating mankind in the past. Most impactful of all, he gave Muslims hope with his optimistic convictions that the true dawn of Islam will be witnessed soon because of the following signs:
a. t The virtues of knowledge and civilization have removed three obstacles – the Europeans’ ignorance, their barbarity, and their bigotry in their religion.
b. The idea of freedom and the desire to search for the truth have begun to erase two obstacles -- the domination and arbitrary power of the European clergy and religious leaders.
c. The great upsurge in Islamic zeal have begun to erase two obstacles – despotism and degeneracy that arose from opposing the syari’a.
d. Opposition to Islam by scientists and philosophers have instead highlighted the miracles of the Qur’an, thus setting forth the elevated truths and compelling them to submit to Islam.
Fifty years after the Damascus Sermon, Said Nursi added to the Addendum of the Arabic text of the Damascus Sermon:
Man in this (20th) century has perceived that his greatest need is for moral and spiritual strength, solace, and fortitude. Therefore, for him to abandon Islam and the truths of belief at this time, which are a point of support and secure the moral strength, solace and happiness he needs, and, instead of benefiting from Islamic nationshood, under the pretext of becoming westernized, for him to rely on misguidance, dissipation, and lying politics and diplomacy, which completely destroy and annihilate all moral strength, solace and fortitude, are acts far from allbenefit and profit for mankind. Just how far they are from benefiting mankind, foremost the Islamic world, and all mankind, will realize. They will be awakened to this truth, and, if time has not run for this world, they will adhere to the truths of the Quran.
What Said Nursi prophesied in his
RISE AND FALL OF NATIONS
The rise and fall of nations has followed a set of rules as explained in the Qur’an in various ways, three of which are as follows:
Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns: that Allah may know those that believe, and that He may take martyrs to Himself from among your ranks martyr-witnesses (to Truth). And Allah loveth not those that do wrong (the zalimun)
(QS Ali Imran 3:140).
That those who died might die after a clear Sign (had been given) and those who lived might live after a Clear Sign (had been given). And verily Allah is He who heareth and knoweth (QS 8: 42).
(Such was) the practice (approved) of Allah among those who lived aforetime: No change wilt thou find in the practice (approved) of Allah (QS al-Ahzab 33: 62)
As stated by Muzaffar Iqbal (2005), there is no reason for these rules to be changed in the 21st century merely because one part of humanity has developed spaceships and cruise missiles. Historically, Muslims ascend to Global Leadership when they adhere to Islamic Ideals. There are countless role models in all areas of expertise—medicine, science, engineering, technology, philosophy, military, education etc.
History also shows that Great Muslims came from God-conscious homes. Homes are of primary importance in Islam where remembrance of Allah and the Prophet (Peace be upon him) takes place. Prophet Muhammad (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said that homes where the recitation of the Quran takes place are like shining stars for the angels that reside in the skies. On the contrary, when Muslims forsake and abandoned Islam, the home loses the central function it used to have. Instead of love and nurturing, there is violence, abuse, quarrels and intolerable sufferings. Children are exposed to innumerable risks, including loss of faith in Islam. They become weak and easily dominated by others. In order to produce any change in Muslim societies, a change has to occur in the moral, spiritual and material state of individuals who make up members of the Muslim society (See Muzaffar Iqbal, 2008).
After the death of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) and the four Rashidin Caliphs, Islam came under the Umayyad Caliphate. The most well-known Umayyad Caliph was Umar ibn Abdel Aziz, a pious and able ruler. The rise of the Abbasid Caliphate represented a true social revolution. It did away with distinctions of aristocracy and the basis was laid for the eclectic and tolerant Muslim society of the golden age of Islam. The apogee of Abbasid power came under the famous Caliph Haroun al-Rashid, when
The Muslims were challenged by the Crusaders who arrived in the
The Uthmaniyyah Turks gathered strength in the Asia Minor and parts of
THE CONCEPT OF CHANGE IN THE AL-QURAN
إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ
“Verily! Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves (by committing sins and by being ungrateful and disobedient to Allah” (QS Ar ra`ad 13:11)
CULTIVATING ISLAMIC LEADERS: THE SULTAN MUHAMMAD AL-FATIH MODEL
When Sultan Mehmet II led the Turks in the conquest of Constantinople in the wee hours of 20 Jamadil Awal 857 Hijrah (May 29, 1453), it was a victory not only for the Ottoman Turks but also for the Muslim ummah in general, a feat that seemed impossible in the years before his reign. Sultan Mehmet II or Muhammad Al-Fatih (1432-1481), was the epitome of a leader with an Ummatic vision and Quranic mission; one who was highly disciplined and solat-centric. His personal qualities did not happen by chance but strategically planned even before he was born.
He was nurtured by an illustrious and visionary father, Sultan Murad II, and personally tutored by two of several murabbi, including Syeikh Muhammad bin Ismail Al-Kurani and Sheikh Ak Samsettin (Syamsuddin). He was taught the Al-Quran, Al-Hadith, Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), Linguistic (Arabic, Persian and Turkish), and other disciplines including Mathematics, Astronomy and War Strategies. He became a multi-linguist who mastered world languages including Turkish, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian and Latin; and also a great knowledge of the state-of-the-art in the technology of the period.
From young, his mentors reinforced the fact that he was the Muslim leader whom Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon Him) mentioned in his Hadith, narrated from Bishr al-Kath’ami or al-Ghanawi by Ahmad, al-Musnad 14:331 #18859 [sahih chain according to Hamza al-Zayn], al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak 4:421-422 [sahih according to him and al-Dhahabi concurred], al-Tabarani, al-Mu`jam al-Kabir 2:38 #1216 [sahih chain according to al-Haythami 6:218-219], al-Bukhari, al-Tarikh al-Kabir 2:81 and al-Saghir 1:306, Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Isti`ab 8:170 [hasan chain according to him], al-Suyuti, al-Jami` al-Saghir [sahih according to him]:
"Verily you shall conquer
When Sultan Muhammad Al-Fatih ascended the throne, hdevoted himself to strengthening the Ottoman Navy and prepared his army of 250,000 mujahid spiritually, mentally and physically for the war. He built a fleet of about 400 ships in preparation for the great onslaught. Finally, he personally led the army into
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi’s words ring loud and clear despite the fact that he had departed over half a century ago. As what Ustaz Said Nursi said:
If you want success, conform to the Divine laws! Otherwise you will be unsuccessful. For the fact that all the known prophets appeared in the lands of Islam and the Ottomans is a sign of the progress of the country’s people is religion.
Religion may not be sacrificed for the sake of this world. . . . This nation’s heart disease is weakness in religion; it will regain its health through strengthening it.
The way of our society is love for love and enmity towards enmity. That is, assisting love between Muslims and routing the soldiers of hostility.
Our way is also to adopt the morality of Muhammad (Upon whom be blessings and peace) and revive his practices. Our guide is the Illustrious Shari’ah, our sword its decisive proofs, and our aim to uphold the Word of God.
Islam has begun making a comeback, true to what Bediuzzaman Said Nursi believed 100 years ago when many were in a mental state of utter despair. He said then that “Our future will be with Islam, and this century will be a century for Islam”. However, we cannot merely dream a world of peace and harmony without working for it. Nurturing our youth with Islamic ideals is the only way to ensure that Islam regains its place in the world. We need more leaders with the vision and mission and qualities of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih to lead Islam back on a high pedestal.
If the world’s crises escalated because of man’s false obsession of science and technology, the world is now witnessing more scientific discoveries and technological advances that have revealed the truths of the al-Quran. Islam is becoming more apparent, and evidence shows that the spread of “the healing light of the Quranic teachings” is being witnessed by mankind. It will be a matter of time before Islam claims its rightful place in the world and the truths of Islam, as revealed in the al-Quran, will be the only means to deliver mankind from the low and debased degree to which man has fallen. We await with hope.
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Muzaffar Iqbal. 2005. The malaise of the ummah: Diagnosis and solutions. http://usa.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/14826
Seyyed Hossein Nasr. 1994. A Young Muslim’s Guide to the Modern World.
Williams, J. 2004. 50 Facts that should change the world.