PROPHETIC COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES: RISALE-I NUR’S PERSPECTIVE[i]

By Andi Faisal Bakti,Professor,

State Islamic University;

Universitas Pancasila Jakarta

Abstract

In Islamic communication, four strategies are most effective in order to improve the understanding of Islam: tabligh (information), taghyir (change), amar ma’ruf nahy munkar (forbidding the bad and joining the good), and al-akhlaq al-karimah (noble ethics). This paper is an attempt to see how the Prophet used these four specific strategies according to Badiuzzaman Said Nursi. This research shows that Risale-i Nur emphasizes the importance of balaghah (eloquence) as in The Words 25, first Light, The Flashes 17, note 13. It also underlines the role of taghyir (social change) in iman (faith) and jihad ma’nawy (meaningful struggles), as in The Words 19, points 7 and 8. In order for Muslims to progress, Nursi suggests the ummah (the Muslim community) to encourage alms giving, to engage exclusively in lawful transactions and to stay away from riba (usury), as in The Words 19, 25, and The Letters 22. The final strategy centers on mujtama’ al-madani (civil society) centers on akhlaq (ethics/moral), as depicted in The Rays 11 and The Words 19, where he advises to adopt the ethics of the Prophet, based on the Qur’an.

Keywords: tabligh, taghyir, amar ma’ruf nahyi munkar, ummah, and akhlaq.

 

Introduction

Studies of human communication widely discuss how to communicate with fellow human beings. In particular, communication is believed to be helpful on how to develop a country in terms of human development. Communication scholars have been struggling to find a way for the less and under-developed countries to develop significantly in the steps taken by Western countries, former colonial powers.

Scholar such as Daniel Lerner (1958) suggests that a country should be totally modernized, i.e. that local values and traditions should be replaced with modern values. The old traditions should be totally set aside in order to develop a country, as occurred in the West. A modern approach to development, he suggests, is necessary to change mentalities among one’s fellow countrymen. Thus, local beliefs, including superstitions, syncretism, and heresies have to be put aside, as these are considered to hinder, in fact, to be detrimental to the idea of progress. The strategy used to implement this idea is the adoption of a top-down model. Thus, leaders have to be co-opted by educating them and render them willingly to adopt this approach. Some measure of authoritarianism needs to be involved in order to ensure the proper implementation of the idea among the population. While the formers are expected to be actively sending the messages of development, the population is believed to be made up of passive recipients, who are subject to be modified and reoriented according to the wishes of their leaders.

The main goal of this model is economic development. Politics and other factors are to be set aside. Fellow countrymen have to trust their leaders. Once the leaders, who are an elite group in the country, are successful in reaching the goals of economic development plans, welfare will trickle down to the rest of the population. Thus, the steps of development include growth, improvement, and distribution. The Rostow theory of development steps soon reinforced the previous theory. According to Rostow (1960), the traditional, pre-modern, modern, and developed steps are to be included in the five-year development plans.

The adoption of diffusion of innovations from the West was suggested by Everett Rogers. Thus, the less developed countries should purchase these inventions. In addition, the developed countries are competing among themselves in sending and selling their technologies to Southern countries where the populations are believed to be in need of these tools. However, those products are extremely expensive and cannot be purchased by many countries in the south. As the case may be, they merely manage to buy the most crucial ones, the ones which enable them to defend themselves, weapons. In particular, when internal conflicts arise among these newly independent countries, they feel they are more in need of military technologies, as opposed to agricultural, health, and educational tools. As a result, the economic and social conditions of these developing countries are exacerbated.

A new approach to development was eventually introduced. Social marketing emerged as the solution to the high cost of Western products. The so-called ‘’small is beautiful’’ accompanied this strategy of marketing socially to the countries in need. Japan was quite fast in grasping this strategy, not so much in producing for its domestic use, but in particular in creating small and inexpensive products, yet products which are attractive and practical, which are affordable to less developed countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Japan became increasingly richer as a result of this strategy.

The mass media of course was used in the socializing of Western technology. Various features and gadgets in telecommunications, automotive, everyday domestic item have in fact influenced human lifestyles such as the four F’s: fashion, food, fun, and fantasies (drugs). Consequently, those who produced these products became far more affluent than those who bought them. In fact, as inventions are always renewed, made more and more attractive, people who purchase them, including in the South, become more even consumptive. As a result, the latters’ natural resources have been highly exploited with little restrain, in order to get the means to purchase such inventions.

Then, a new strategy was identified in communication studies, called the participatory approach to development. The protagonists of this model believe that people should be involved in the process of creating their own facilities. They have to be encouraged to produce what they need. This idea has been quite popular during the 1970’s, and as a result, non-governmental organizations mushroomed, and fiercely encouraged the participation of local populations in development. However, 25 years later, communication specialists realized that the strategy also had shortcomings, as local populations still need consultants and, in fact, funding from affluent counties. Thus, the beneficiaries remain under the control of the ones funding the projects. It is then understandable that such projects failed to the expense of the local populations.

The less developed countries throughout the world, however, two decades down the line, have not been changed or transformed into developed countries. They remain poor and far behind, because, it is believed, developed countries do not share their information and science, invented in the west. On the contrary, natural resources exported from third world countries were purchased at low prices. This approach has been put forward by the protagonists of the dependency theory. The latter’s have been very critical of the modernization approach to development of the West, the latter being believed to be basically enriching itself at the expense of poor countries. Information has to be shared and sciences have to be taught to less developed nations. However, retrospectively, this dependency model seems to have been the extension of the modernization approach to human development, as both suggest that a sound strategy of development is based on economic development. Other aspects of life, such as socio-cultural and political considerations have been ignored. Consequently, a new approach was introduced by communication scholars, who believe that the multiplicity model should be emphasized. Thus, politics, economics, culture, defense, security, education, and information have to be treated equally. Thus, equal distribution should be the first concern, instead of growth, in order to reach national development goals, and bring about a truly well-off country.

The above models (modernization, dependency, and multiplicity), however, have eventually failed to increase the standard of living of the populations they were applied. The richer have been increasingly better off, whereas the poor remain destitute. In fact, the latter does continue to suffer from malnutrition, unemployment, and diseases. Internal conflicts have even been unavoidable. As a result, scholars of communication strived to find a more recent strategy to alleviate this poverty. The so-called active reception model has been introduced. The concepts of uses and gratifications have been believed to be the way to uplift the life conditions among the general population. Accordingly, beneficiaries of development have to be asked, whether they find certain development issues and aspects useful to them. Moreover, they have to be satisfied with what has been implemented. The best way to ensure their satisfaction is to encourage them to help themselves. Thus, a self-help strategy is emphasized among the population. Only then will they be able to support themselves. Eventually, they will reach self-sufficiency. In sum, the idea and support of development should not come from the top, but from the bottom, from grass roots.

Now, let us see what development-communication strategies are encouraged by Ustadz Said Nursi. In other words, how are populations to be developed in the eyes of Nursi?

  1. Tabligh

It is widely debated as to whether information should come from above or outside in order to make people knowledgeable or well-informed. A first model believes that the word information came from “inform-ation,” meaning that someone who is considered knowledgeable is responsible for sending message or a know-how to other people who are believed to be not-knowledgeable. A second model believes however, that the word information in fact comes from “in-formation,” meaning that receivers are supposed to be active in looking for knowledge. The latter should be able to select which information is more suitable therefore useful for them, the one which is necessary for development.

This model of information is not without a basis in science. Communication studies after the WW II recognized the model of SMCR, where Sender, Message, Channel, and Receiver where linear relationship. As a result, the E (effect) model was introduced, arguing that the result, or what is received, is more important than what is said by a sender using mass media. However, this model remains impotent, as a receiver is seen as being passive (Bakti, 2000).

Then communication specialists came with the use of the active recipient model, in an attempt to correct the SMCR and E models. While those who introduced these models believed that, using a good channel, a sender will bring the message directly to a receiver, and the latter will automatically comprehend what the sender intended him to understand. The active recipient model argues that so long as the receiver remains treated as passive, no message can be delivered. According to this theory however, no recipient is passive. In fact, more often than not, the receivers understand beyond what is meant by the sender. Furthermore, a person can make something meaningful, even if no one sends that things to that person (Lasswell, 1960, Thayer, 1968, 1987).

However, even if the perspective or paradigm of communication has changed, the educational or dakwah system in knowledge transfer has remained unchanged, as witnessed in the field. Teachers are still considered today as the most powerful in ‘giving’ knowledge, and students are not given enough opportunity to find for themselves the knowledge necessary for sustainable development, including on issues such as peace. However, it is possible to format classes based on research, to engage in discussions, to share ideas democratically, resulting in a form of student enlightenment; together will the enrichment of teachers provided by repeated new experiences (Bakti, 2010).

In Islam, recipients of a message are encouraged to do tabligh (give information) about Islam. In one of the Hadiths, it is said: Ballighuu ‘anni wa law ayah (inform other people about my message, even if it is only one verse). But it is also emphasized in the Qur’an that you are only a balagh (an informer). The Qur’an tells its readers to give a lesson, although only in the role of reminders: Fadzakkir innama anta mudzakkir, lasta ‘alayhim bimusaytir, illa man tawalla wa kafar (remind them, as you are just a reminder; in this role, one is surely unable to influence people, unless these individuals are active in making sense, either accepting or rejecting your meaning). Other verse is: Fadzakkir innafa’ati al-dzikra, saya al-dzakkaru man yakhsha (remind, if the reminder is useful, those who fear will remind) (2010).

Ustadz Said Nursi advises a da‘i (preacher) should remain active even if the dakwah is not well responded. He said, “Indeed, in his voluntary actions, man should not think of the result which pertains to Almighty God. For example, for a number of our brothers, the people joining the Risale-i Nur fires their enthusiasm and makes them increase their efforts. And when the people do not listen, the weak ones among them become demoralized and their enthusiasm wanes to extent.” For Said Nursi, this attitude is not good. He suggests that preacher follow the way of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH. He said, “whereas the Noble Prophet (upon whom be blessings and peace), who was the Absolute Master, Universal Leader, and Perfect Guide, took as his absolute guide the Devine decree: ‘No more is the Prophet bound to do than deliver the message’ (Q.S. 5: 99), and when people held back and did not listen, conveyed the message with greater effort, endeavour, and seriousness.”  For Said Nursi, this is also in accordance with the verse of the Qur’an (Q.S. 28: 56): “It is true you will not be able to guide everyone whom you love, but God guides those whom He will,” he understood that making people listen and guiding them was Almighty God’s concern. And he did not interfere in God’s concerns?” Furthermore, Said Nursi concludes: “And so, my brothers! You too do not interfere by basing your actions on what is not your business, and do not take up a position testing your Creator” (The Flashes Collection, the 17th Flash, 13th Note, p. 179).

In order to reach peace, Islam also encourages the receivers to actively check the precision and correctness of the information/news which they received. A Qur’anic verse says: Idza ja’akaum fasiqun bi-nabain, fatabayyanu antusibuu qawman bi-jahalatin fatusbihuu ‘ala ma fa‘altum nadimin (If you receive a piece of news/information possibly from the bad person, you need to clarify and check whether it is true or false, in order for you to avoid being foolish and regret it later on). This checking process is of course indispensable when one is embarked on a peace process.

In addition, Islam also teaches, for the sake of making peace, the importance of recognizing each other’s capabilities. In the Qur’an, a verse says: Inna khalaqnakum min dzakarin wa untha, waja ‘alnakum shu‘uban wa qaba’ila lita‘arafu, inna akramakum ‘inda Allah atqakum (Indeed, we have created you in two sexes: male and female; and we have created you in different ethnic groups/tribes and nations, in order for you to recognize each other’s capacity and entity) (Bakti, 2010).

With regards to this recognizing each other’s capacity in dakwah, the Flashes, 13th Note, p. 178-184 explain that “five matters which have been the cause of confusion: The first: those who strive in the way of truth should think only of their own duties and not meddle in God’s concerns. The second: worship and servitude of God should look only to the Divine command and Divine pleasure. The third: on the meaning of ‘Happy is the man who knows his limits and does not exceed them.’ The fourth: explains that it is not permissible to accept bounties not given in a True Bestower’s name—what confuses people is cause and effect coming together—and shows clearly the true nature of apparent causes. The fifth: the achievements of a community should not be ascribed to its leader or master.”

Thus, from this Islamic communication perspective, it is clearly expressed that Muslims should be active in the knowledge transfer process, including when addressing the issue of peace. This idea/knowledge should be experienced and searched by students coordinated by their teachers. For this purpose, the seminar approach in learning should be the rule of conduct.

In addition, Ustadz Said Nursi suggests us that eloquence (balaghah) in preaching is important once someone gives information, as the case of the Qur’an eloquence. He said:

“This is the eloquence of the Qur’an, which is at the degree of miraculousness. Its eloquence is a wonderful eloquence born of the beauty of its word-order, the perfection of its conciseness, the marvels of its style, its singularity and pleasantness, the excellence of its expression, its superiority and clarity, the power and truth of its meanings, and from the purity and fluency of its language, which for one thousand three hundred years has challenged the most brilliant men of letters of mankind, their most celebrated orators, and the most profoundly learned of them, and invited them to dispute it. It has provoked them intensely. And although it has invited them to dispute it, those geniuses, whose heads touch the skies in their pride and conceit, have been unable to so much as open their mouths to do so, and have bowed their heads utterly humiliated.”

Thus, according to Said Nursi, we should emphasize the miraculousness in the Qur’an eloquence in two aspects. First aspect, “it possesses miraculousness and its miraculousness exists for the following reasons. The great majority of the people of the Arabian Peninsula at that time were illiterate. Due to this, rather than in writing, they preserved the sources of their pride, historical events and stories encouraging good morality, by means of poetry and eloquence. Due to the attraction of poetry and eloquence, meaningful sayings would remain in people’s memories and be passed down the generations. In consequence of this innate need, therefore, the goods most in demand in the immaterial market of that people were eloquence and fine speech. A tribe’s poet or orator was like its greatest national hero. It was he who was their greatest source of pride. Thus, among the peoples of the world, the eloquence and rhetoric of that intelligent people, who due to their intelligence ruled the world after the establishment of Islam, was at the highest and most advanced degree. It was the thing most highly prized among them that they felt greatest need of, and was their cause of pride. They attached such value to eloquence that two tribes would do battle at the word of a poet or orator, and they would make peace at his word. They even wrote in gold on the walls of the Ka’ba the seven qasidas of seven poets called the al-Mu’allaqat al-Sab’a, and took great pride in them. It was at such a time when eloquence was thus most sought after that the Qur’an was revealed. Just as at the time of Moses (Peace be upon him) it was magic that was most sought after and at the time of Jesus (Peace be upon him), it was medicine. The most important of their miracles were in those fields. The Qur’an, therefore, invited the Arabian orators of that time to reply to even one of the shortest of the Suras. It challenged them with the decree of: And if you are in doubt about what We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a Sura resembling it. It also said: “If you do not believe, you shall be damned and shall go to Hell.” It provoked them intensely. It smashed their pride in fearsome manner. It was contemptuous of their arrogant minds. It condemned them firstly to eternal extinction and then to eternal extinction in Hell, as well as to worldly extinction. It said: “Either dispute me, or you and your property shall perish.” If it had been possible to dispute the Qur’an, is it at all possible that while there was an easy solution like disputing it with one or two lines and nullifying the claim, they should have chosen the most dangerous and most difficult, the way of war? Yes, is it at all possible that that clever people, that politically-minded nation, who at one time were to govern the world through politics, should have abandoned the shortest, easiest, and most light way, and chosen the most dangerous, which was going to cast their lives and all their property into peril? For, if their literary figures had been able to dispute it with a few words, the Qur’an would have given up its claim, and they would have been saved from material and moral disaster. Whereas they chose a perilous, lengthy road like war. That means it was not possible to dispute in by word; it was impossible, so they were compelled to fight it with the sword. Furthermore, there are two compelling reasons for the Qur’an being imitated. The first is its enemies’ ambition to dispute it, the other, its friends’ pleasure at imitating it. Impelled by these, millions of books in Arabic have been written, but not one of them resembles the Qur’an. Whether learned or ignorant, whoever looks at it and at them is bound to say: “The Qur’an does not resemble these. Not one of them has been able to imitate it.” The Qur’an is therefore either inferior to all of them, and according to the consensus of friend and foe alike, this is completely non-valid and impossible, or the Qur’an is superior to all of them” (25th Word, first Light, p. 379-380).

The second aspect, according to Said Nursi, is “five points the wisdom of the Qur’an’s miraculous contained in its eloquence:”

“First Point: There is a wonderful eloquence and purity of style in the Qur’an’s word-order. From beginning to end, Isharat al-I‘jaz (Signs of Miraculousness) demonstrates this eloquence and conciseness in the word-order. The way the second, minute, and hour hands of a clock each complete the order of the others, that is the way all the sentences of the All-Wise Qur’an, and its words, and the order in the relationships between the sentences and words, have been expounded in Isharat al-I‘jaz, from it first page to its last. Whoever wishes may look at that and see this wonderful eloquence in the word-order. Here, we shall mention one or two examples in order to demonstrate the word-order in the parts of a sentence.”

He then continues with the “Second Point: This is the wonderful eloquence in its meaning. Consider this example, which is explained in the Thirteenth Word. For example, if you want to understand the eloquence of the verse, All that is in the heavens and on the earth extols and glorifies God, for He is the Tremendous, the Wise, imagine yourself in the Age of Ignorance in the deserts of barbarism before the Light of the Qur’an. Then, at a time everything is swathed in the darkness of ignorance and heedlessness and enveloped in the lifeless veils of nature, you hear verses from the heavenly tongue of the Qur’an like: All that is in the heavens and on the earth extols and glorifies God, or, The heavens and the earth and all within them extol and glorify Him.”

The next Point, according to Said Nursi is: “This is the wonderful uniqueness of its style. Indeed, the Qur’an’s style is both strange, and original, and wonderful, and convincing. It has imitated nothing and no one. And no one has been able to imitate it. Its style has always preserved the freshness, youth, and singularity it possessed when it was first revealed and continues to preserve it. For instance, the unique style of the cipher-like muqatta‘at, the ‘disjointed letters,’ are clear, like, Alif, Lam, Mim, Alif, Lam, Ra, Ta, Ha, Ya, Sin, Ha, Mim, ‘Ayn, Sin, Qaf, at the beginning of some of the Suras. We have described five or six of the flashes of miraculousness they comprise in Isharat al-I‘jaz.”

In addition, Said Nursi believes that the Fourth Point is: “his is the wonderful eloquence in its wording; that is, in the words employed. Yes, just as the Qur’an is extraordinarily eloquent in regard to its style and manner of exposition, so is there a truly fluent eloquence in its wording. Clear evidence of the existence of this eloquence is the fact that it does not bore or cause weariness; while the testimony of the brilliant scholars of the sciences of rhetoric forms a decisive proof of the wisdom of the eloquence.”

The last Point is:“This is the excellence in its manner of exposition; that is to say, the superiority, conciseness, and grandeur. Just as there is eloquence in the word-order, the wording, and the meaning, and a uniqueness in its style, so in its manner of exposition is there a superiority and excellence. Indeed, all the categories and levels of speech and address, like encouragement and deterring, praise and censure, demonstration and guidance, explanation and silencing in argument, are at the highest degree in the Qur’an’s exposition.”

Thus, it is important to the sender to be clear what s/he says, and also to be eloquent in saying things, by using eloquence (balaghah) so that the receivers (mad‘u) will be willingly to understand, accept, follow, and implement what is said and explained by the da‘i.

  1. Taghyir

It is also commonly believed that, in authoritarian communities, as with some Muslim community in the world, change, including new ideas, only occurs through community leader or leaders. Thus change is always a top-down process. This understanding was also part of an earlier theory of communication, with modernization, following the path of the Western world, was believed to be crucial in order for third world countries to become developed. All traditional values were to be replaced with so-called modern ones. Some people in the Muslim world, in particular groups calling themselves ‘modern,’ learning from the West, were quite interested with using this approach. They are for example Jamaluddin al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Rasyid Ridha, among others. Following modern ideas, which reject superstitions, heresy, and syncretism (takhayul, bid’ah, and churafat, commonly referred to TBC by modernist Muslims, such as Muhammadiyah in Indonesia), modern schools and organizations in Indonesia also rejected those beliefs, thus creating a conflict with local leaders who did not reject these three elements (TBC), considered part of their culture and traditions. While the Western trained groups, and sometimes the Wahhabi groups, believed that TBC are dangerous to the Muslim community, just like the TBC disease (i.e. tuberculosis) is dangerous for the body; the local groups find these traditional beliefs useful in their approach to Islamic propagation and sometimes for social status. Indeed, traditional leaders are often invited to give their blessing during certain holidays which are part of these Islamic traditions, and which are usually followed by activities which might be referred to as superstitions or heresy. In the Indonesian communities, these invitations are both a source of status for the guests and hosts, and provide traditional leaders with both sustenance and money. Because of the important function of events surrounding traditional, if superstitious, activities, in the Indonesian communities, local leaders sometimes dislike Western-influenced education, as the values brought by this education often challenge the past order of things, including their privileged status in society as sources of knowledge. From here, peace becomes a difficult objective to reach, and modernization does not bring peace when examined in this particular context (Bakti, 2010).

Later on, a dependency model was introduced to correct the negative potential of the above modernization approach to communication with less developed countries, including in the Malay world. This model acknowledged that less developed countries remained unchanged or undeveloped simply because science and know-how has been dominated by the Western world. It was believed that people in the less developed world such as the Muslim world had been ignored and isolated from these sciences. As a result, change remained impossible, as cultural colonialism and imperialism had been strengthened (Bakti, 2000).

Belief in this dependency model was also widespread amongst Muslim leaders in the Muslim world in the 1970s, who adopted a ‘liberation theology’ introduced initially by Latin American theologians including Paulo Freire (1970). In the Malay world and in Indonesia in particular, this idea was also linked with Ali Shari’ati’s proposition, once popular in Iran, an idea believed to have brought on the stepping down of Shah Pahlevi, as a result of the Iranian revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini (Bakti, 2000).

However, a new model, the multiplicity model emerged, challenging the two previous models, and accusing the protagonists of both models to promote top-down approaches to development, influenced by social control theories. Dependency in particular was criticized for failing to bring a solution to the world’s problems, in fact creating instability and a divided world. Thus peace became an expensive enterprise. The multiplicity model then acknowledged the role of other factors, such as culture, politics, religions, and then economy per se. Its protagonists introduced the two-way approach to communication. Thus ‘teachers,’ in this case national leaders who had been closely working with Western leaders, needed to also listen to the voice of the people as beneficiaries, in order to make the changes necessary for development communication (Bakti, 2004).

This multiplicity model was also widely adopted in the Malay world, in particular in the 1980s, as a useful way to teach people about change. In particular, the economic approach to change was highly criticized. Its protagonists believed that the development of the economy alone cannot change the condition of the people, let alone contribute to making peace with foreigners (Bakti, 2010).

However, this model was later corrected by the ‘uses and gratification’ model, which believes that it is not the adoption of multiple ways that matters, but rather the extent to which the approach to change is providing benefits and satisfaction. An approach has to be able to bring about useful changes in life, not only beneficial changes, but also satisfactory changes. In addition, change, according to this model, should emerge from the people themselves. The holders of this belief reason that peace can only be achieved through this model (Bakti, 2010).

In the Islamic communication perspective, this type of transition is called taghyir (change). However, according to a Qur’anic verse, change can only occur if the recipients or beneficiaries want and try full-heartedly to change themselves: Inna Allah la yughayyiru ma biqawmin, hatta yughayyiru maa bi anfusihim (God will not change the condition of the community, unless this community changes itself or unless people of this community change themselves (Bakti, 2010).

When using this approach in teaching, students should be encouraged to gain new knowledge, but a knowledge which is beneficial and satisfactory for them. As the nafs/anfus/qalb (state of the mind or psyche or heart) is the key to change according to Islam, with freedom of choice as central for students.  In the course of their studies, students are encouraged to choose by themselves topics of paper or discussion or seminar, say for example in relation to peace. Teachers’ role rests in providing guidance on how to conduct research and develop arguments. They need to guide them in making academically and logically sound proposals, develop appropriate research questions to bring about results and to answer their enquiry. It is thus crucial for each student to master a methodological framework. Instructor need to provide them with the tools necessary to find materials on peace, and to teach them how to identify categories emerging from collected data. In other words, the analytical approach plays a central role in peace initiatives. Thus, students can be directed for example to explain tawhid (the concept of Creator-Creature unity with God as well as the ideas of qawm and ummah (community) in the heart of sustainable development for peace. Islamic communication scholars now call this approach the ummatic (communitarian) approach to change. Thus, the goal is really to establish a community, which is strong yet open to others, far remote from being sectarian communitarian (Bakti, 2010).

Regarding change of human quality, in the eyes of Ustadz Said Nursi, everything is centered in the so-called nafs (soul). He quotes the verse of the Qur’an: Inna al-nafsa la ammaratun bissu’ (The human soul is certainly prone to evil, and the hadith of the Pophet that: Your worst enemy is your soul. For Said Nursi, “One who loves himself—if his evil-commanding soul has not been purified—will love no one else. Even if he apparently loves someone, he does not do sincerely, but only for the pleasure of it and for the benefits he receives. He always tries to make himself liked. Also, he does not ascribe faults to himself; he defends and exonerates himself like a lawyer. He praises himself, exaggerating and even lying, showing himself to be free of fault, as though sanctifying himself, and according to his degree receives a slap from the verse: Who takes as his god his desire” (Q.S. 25: 43; 45: 23). According to Said Nursi, this kind of man’s “self-praise and efforts to make himself liked have the reverse effect, for he attracts contempt and is treated coldly. He also loses sincerity in his actions which look to the Hereafter and they become mixed with hypocrisy. He is defeated by the emotions and desires of the soul, which are blind to the consequences, do not think of results, and are obsessed with present pleasure; he serves a year’s prison sentence because of one hour‘s pleasure demanded by his emotions which have lost their way. He pays ten year’s penalty on account of one minute’s pride or revenge. Quite simply like a sully child who sells the portion of the Qur’an he s learning to buy a single sweet, in order to flatter his emotions, gratify his senses, and satisfy his appetites, he makes his good deeds, which have the value of diamonds, the means to egotistical pleasures as insignificant as fragments of glass, and he loses out in profitable works” (The Flashes, Light 28, p. 373 and Cf. The Letters 29, Addendum).

But there is also nafs al-lawwamah and al-mutmainna (the souls of peace) which encourage people to do good deeds. These kinds of soul should be maintained by human beings.

Said Nursi also emphasizes in his collection the importance of building a strong ummah (community), qawm (nation) which are based on tawhid  (the oneness of God). In fact, the main content of the Risale-i Nur Collection deals with these issues.

 

Regarding the ability to change others, Ustaz Said Nursi proposes the following, which are mentioned in The Words, 19, p. 246-247, Seven droplet and Eighth Droplet:

Nursi says: “Now, consider how, eradicating in no time at all their evil, savage customs and habits to which they were fanatically attached, he decked out the various wild, unyielding peoples of that broad peninsula with all the finest virtues, and made them teachers of all the world and masters to the civilized nations. See, it was not an outward domination, he conquered and subjugated their minds, spirits, hearts, and souls. He became the beloved of hearts, the teacher of minds, the trainer of souls, the ruler of spirits” (The Words: 19: p. 245).

Said Nursi furthermore explains, how difficult for someone to change others, and how powerful message of the Prophet is:“You know that a small habit like cigarette smoking among a small nation cannot be removed permanently only by a powerful ruler with great effort. But look! This Being removed numerous ingrained habits from intractable, fanatical large nations with slight outward power and little effort in a short period of time, and in their place he so established exalted qualities that they became as firm as if they had mingled with their very blood.” He (The Prophet)“achieved very many extraordinary feats like this. Thus, we present the Arabian Peninsula as a challenge to those who refuse to see the testimony of the blessed age of the Prophet. Let them each take a hundred philosophers, go there, and strive for a hundred years; would they be able to carry out in that time one hundredth of what he achieved in a year?” (The Words: 19: p. 246).

 Thus, the power of leadership of the Prophet Muhammad is undeniable, due to his quality: shiddiq (transparent), istiqamah (consistent), fathanah (intelligent), amanah (accountable), and tabligh (communicative) (see Bakti, 2005).

  1. Khairu Ummah: Amar ma’ruf/nahy munkar

 The third theory of communication to be elaborated is that of development itself. This theory has preoccupied many leaders in the less developed countries, as a result of the challenge of the advanced countries. The issue focused upon is to identify the way to develop these countries using the process followed by developed countries. This usually promotes: ‘communication for development’ or ‘development support communication’ (Bakti, 2000).

Among the answers of protagonists of the theory is that the only way to reach development is to engage in a transfer of new technology and new innovations to less developed countries. Thus, the model of ‘diffusion of innovation’ was introduced as an approach to development (Rogers, 1962). It was believed that Western countries are developed because they made an extensive use of innovative technologies. Therefore, less developed countries will reach a similar development provided they adopt these innovations and technology. Leaders of third world countries, including in the Malay world, were excited with and wanted to adopt these new inventions, as these indeed provided rapid and numerous improvements, for example, in the fields of agricultural and health (Bakti, 2000).

However, this theory was later on found weak, as these new technologies are expensive. Also maintenance became another issue, both for its high cost and the expertise required from poorly trained personnel. Lack of spare parts also contributed to the problem. As a result, a new approach to development was introduced, ‘social marketing,’ in order to make products more easily accessible and yet affordable to developing countries. In this model, spare parts were provided along with the initial technology. People in the less developed countries, including the Muslim world, were initially enthusiastic after adopting small but beautiful facilities, and less costly. However, rich countries continue to enrich themselves, while less developed countries became poorer and poorer. The latter spend tremendously their money for these beautiful facilities. It becomes very consumptive. Natural resources in (under)developing countries diminished significantly, while their people remain poor (Bakti, 2000).

Hence, another theory was introduced. The participatory approach was seen as the way to improve the mistakes generated by previous approaches to development. According to this theory, in order to become developed, like the West, a population has to be involved in the process. Indeed, people have to participate in the negotiation and determine what kind of innovation to be applied in their own community. In other words, what types of facilities or qualities do they wish to be improved? As a result, a number NGOs emerged and mushroomed, trying to identify ways to engage populations, in development projects for example. Thus, peace project, for example, were determined by NGOs, which served as agents of change. However, this approach also failed to grasp the true wishes and needs of the people (Bakti, 2000).

The main strategy of the next ‘self-help’ approach was to emphasize the quality of life of community members.  Thus, the focus was no longer on technology alone, on agents of change, or on the marketing of new products, but on how people could enjoy a good quality of life. Tenants of this approach encouraged the importance and the availability of facilities to support their basic needs. In developing countries, people need clean water, electricity, irrigation, as well as health and educational facilities, as a starting point to achieving peace (Bakti, 2000).

To use this approach for education in higher learning, Islamic communication suggests that human beings apply the concepts of amar ma’ruf/nahy munkar, which are centered on the community. In order to promote peace, for example, the Qur’an encourages people to perform good deeds (al-ma’ruf, al-birr, al-ihsan, or hasanah) and it discourages them to engage in bad deeds (zhalim, fasiq, or fasad). To reach these goals, one has to have a strong belief (iman) in the power of supreme God who created human beings with rational faculties, with both a mind and a heart. This belief also draws on the concept of Islam and its objective of creating a peaceful world. Furthermore, individuals are required to be creative and innovative, in order to be able to create what they need, their own products, in view of their own values. Finally, people’s lives and struggle have to be based on universal truth (alhaq) and to remain patient and committed (alsabr) to the work they have chosen for themselves (Bakti, 2010).

Regarding this amar ma’ruf,  Ustadz Said Nursi relates this with worship. He said, “Worship and servitude of God look to the Devine command and Divine pleasure. The reason for worship is Divine command and its result is Devine pleasure. Its fruits and benefits look to the Hereafter. But so long as they are not the ultimate reason and not intentionally sought, benefits looking to this world and fruits which come about themselves and are given are not contrary to worship. They are rather as though to encourage the weak and make them choose worship.” For him, “If those fruits and benefits are the reason for the invocation or recitation, or a part of the reason, it in part invalidates the worship. Indeed, it renders the meritorious invocation fruitless, and produces no results” (The Flashes Collection, the 17th Flash, 13th Note, p. 179-180).

Regarding nahyi ‘an al-munkar, Said Nursi relates it with fighting against the influence of Satan. For him, “the wisdom and purpose is that most of the part, misguidance and evil are negative, destructive, and pertain to non-existence. While in the great majority of cases, guidance and good are positive, constructive, repairing and pertain to existence. Everyone knows that one man can destroy in one day a building made by twenty men in twenty days. Yes, although human life continues through the existence of all the basic members and conditions of life, and is particular to the All Glorious Creator’s power, through severing a member, a tyrant may make the person manifest death, which in non-being in relation to life. The saying “Destruction is easy” has for this reason become proverbial” (The Flashes Collection, the 13th Flash, First Indication, p. 103-4).

According to Said Nursi, “it is because of this the people of misguidance sometime triumph over the people of truth, who are very powerful with what is in reality a weak force. But the people of truth possess a stronghold so unassailable that when they take refuge in it, those fearsome enemies cannot draw close; they can do nothing. If they cause some temporary harm, according to the verse: And the end is [best] for the righteous (wal ‘aqibatu lilmuttaqin), everlasting reward and profit make up for the damage. And that impregnable stronghold, that fortified citadel, is the Shari‘a of Muhammad (PBUH) and Practices” (The Flashes, p. 104).

For Nursi, taqwa (righteousness) is avoiding and forbidding the evil deeds (nahy ‘an al-munkar), and iman (piety) is instruction of performing good deeds (‘amal shalih) which is based on sabr (patience) and haq (truth) (See al-Malahik).

In order for the Muslim to progress, Nursi suggests that the ummah (the Muslim community) encourages its members to emphasize alms giving, and lawful transaction and to stay away from riba (usury), as in The Words, 19, 25, and The Letters, 22.

In The Words: 25: p. 421-422, for example, Said Nursi says:

Of thousands of matters, we shall point out only three or four by way of example. Since the Qur’an’s principles and laws have come from pre-eternity, they shall go to post-eternity. They are not condemned to grow old and die like civilization’s laws. They are always young and strong. For example, despite all its societies for good works, all its establishments for the teaching of ethics, all its severe discipline and regulations, civilization has been unable to contest the All-Wise Qur’an on two of its matters, and has been defeated by them. These two matters are: Be steadfast in performing the prayers, and give zakat, and, God has permitted trade and forbidden usury. We shall describe them, this miraculous victory, by means of an introduction. It is like this: As is proved in Isharat al-I‘jaz, just as the source of mankind’s revolutions is one phrase, so another phrase is the origin of all immorality.

First Phrase: “So long as I’m full, what is it to me if others die of hunger.”Second Phrase: “You work so that I can eat.” As the result of the struggle between capital and labour, it has been the cause of the momentous events of Europe well-known by all. Thus, together with all its societies for good works, all its establishments for the teaching of ethics, all its severe discipline and regulations, it could not reconcile these two classes of mankind, nor could it heal the two fearsome wounds in human life. The Qur’an, however, eradicates the first phrase with its injunction to pay zakat, and heals it. While it uproots the second phrase with its prohibition on usury and interest, and cures that. Indeed, the Qur’anic verse stands at the door of the world and declares usury and interest to be forbidden. It reads out its decree to mankind, saying: “In order to close the door of strife, close the door of usury and interest!” It forbids its students to enter it.”

The same thing for The Letters: 22: p. 324-325), Said Nursi says:“I then awoke, and upon reflection realized that an extremely important truth was contained in that dream. As proven and explained in the Twenty-Fifth Word, when comparing modern civilization with the principles of the Qur’an, all immorality and instability in the social life of man proceeds from two sources: The First: “Once my stomach is full, what do I care if others die of hunger?”The Second: “You work, and I’ll eat.”That which perpetuates these two is the prevalence of usury and interest on the one hand, and the abandonment of zakat on the other. The only remedy able to cure these two awesome social diseases lies in implementing zakat as a universal principle and in forbidding usury. Zakat is a most essential support of happiness not merely for individuals and particular societies, but for all of humanity. There are two classes of men: the upper classes and the common people. It is only zakat that will induce compassion and generosity in the upper classes toward the common people, and respect and obedience in the common people toward the upper classes. In the absence of zakat, the upper classes will descend on the common people with cruelty and oppression, and the common people will rise up against the upper classes in rancour and rebellion. There will be a constant struggle, a persistent opposition between the two classes of men. It will finally result in the confrontation of capital and labour, as happened in Russia.”

Said Nursi then calling people by saying: “O people of nobility and good conscience! O people of generosity and liberality! If acts of generosity are not performed in the name of zakat, there are three harmful results. The act may have no effect, for if you do not give in the name of God, you are in effect imposing an obligation, and imprisoning some wretched pauper with a sense of obligation. Then you will be deprived of his prayer, a prayer which would be most acceptable in the sight of God. In reality you are nothing but an official entrusted with the distribution of God Almighty’s bounties among His servants; but if you imagine yourself to be the owner of wealth, this is an act of ingratitude for the bounties you have received. If, on the contrary, you give in the name of zakat, you will be rewarded for having given in the name of God Almighty; you will have offered thanks for bounties received. The needy person too will not be compelled to fawn and cringe in front of you; his self-respect will not be injured, and his prayer on your behalf will be accepted. See how great is the difference between, on the one hand, giving as much as one would in zakat, but earning nothing but the harm of hypocrisy, fame, and the imposition of obligation; and, on the other hand, performing the same good deeds in the name of zakat, and thereby fulfilling a duty, and gaining a reward, the virtue of sincerity, and the prayers of those whom you have benefited? Said Nursi then quoted the following verse:

Glory be unto You; we have no knowledge save that which you have taught us; indeed, you are All-Knowing, All-Wise (Qur’an 2: 32).

O God, grant blessings and peace to our master Muhammad, who said: “The believer is with respect to the believer like a firm building, of which one part supports the other,”19and who said too that “Contentment is a treasure that never perishes,”, and to his Family and his Companions. And praise be to God, the Sustainer of All the Worlds(See Suyuti, al-Fath al-Kabir ii, 309; Ahmad al-Hashimi, Mukhtar al-Ahadith al-Nabawiya, 1967, pp. 99).”

In brief, Said Nursi suggests that in order to be developed, a community needs to follow the suggestion of the Qur’an to pay zakat (alms giving) to the needy and avoid riba (usury).

  1. Madani/Akhlaq

 In the perspective of communication, human interactions in a civil society should be based on ethics and wisdom. The purpose of communicating-to and being communicated-by is to establish a prosperous, productive and qualified sustainable development, in a climate of peace and cooperativeness (ta‘awun), among fellow citizens of the world. One cannot control, suppress or force others to do something against their will. Development and change need to be based on equality, fraternity, and solidarity. Negotiation amongst equals should be the rule of conduct (Bakti, 2010).

 

Indeed, communication cannot be based on the network of coerseduction, a syllogism of ‘coercion’ and ‘seduction.’ Both seduction and coercion are considered arbitrary and one-sided. However, observation shows that these two approaches are commonly practiced in the world. Consequently, the objective of peace is often lost in the community (Bakti, 2004).

Islamic communication, however, suggests employing the principle of shura/mushawarah, which is equal to democracy, as introduced by the West. It also recommends that individuals apply the principles of dakwah which include: hikmah (knowledge/science/philosophy), good maw’izah (advise or prescription), and, in the course of debates or discussions, to use the argument which best supports a thesis statement. Thus data and presentation of data have to be forceful, logical, and rational (ahsan al-mujadalah) (Bakti, 2010).

In the teaching process, classes, seminars, or forums should make it possible to exercise this principle of shura. Students should be given the opportunity to express their ideas, say for example about peace and development. This approach then serves as training in the democratic process, and the basis of engaging in a peace process with others. In particular, students should be trained to make forceful argumentation, which is based on rational prescription and premises. They have to be provided with sufficient science and philosophy in dealing with others. Library or other access to banks of knowledge needs to be prioritized and broad in the types and quality of material they provide. Establishing a bayt al-hikmah, (house/library of all kinds of knowledge), following a much-described model built by Harun al-Rashid/al-Makmun in Baghdad in the 9th century, which produced a great many Muslims scholars and philosophers, open to Western (Hellenic) ideas in a useful and constructive way. Or basically establishing excellent library at least one in each country the same quality and quantity as it found in North American or West European university libraries. Only by using a broad base of knowledge can make a convincing argument, towards the development of a peace process for example (Bakti, 2010).

The respect of others is strongly recommended in Islam. The Qur’an actually encourages human beings not to distinguish between the many prophets (La nufarriqu bayna ahadin min rusulih). Islam acknowledges more than 300 messengers of God, and more than 120 000 prophets. As the Qur’an praises the quality of Abraham and his religion (Hanif) and children (Ismael and Isac); the great children of Abraham are basically followers of the Hanif (Abrahamic) religion, later called Islam. The ten commandments of God remain valid and they emerge from the respect given to all creatures (Rahmatan li al-‘alamin) (Bakti, 2010).

According to Said Nursi, if our behavior and morals (akhlaq) is excellent, other people will join us, and non-believers will turn into believers (Damaskus Sermon). In his hadith, it is said that: Innama bu‘ithtu liutammima makarima al-akhlaq (I was sent down to earth in order to improve the behavior of human being). The characteristics of dakwah of Rasulullah, can be seen further inthe19th Word.

Among other things emphasized by Said Nursi in his collection are: Solidarity, brotherhood, sincerity, loyalty, patience, and rewards (The Flashes, the 20thFlash).

Said Nursi also encourages people to solve people‘s conflict (The Flashes, the 20thFlash, p. 203). For him, for conflict resolution, he suggests that the only remedy for the critical consequences of awesome state consists of Nine Commands:

  1. To act positively, that is out of love for one’s own outlook, avoiding enmity for other outlooks, not criticizing them, interfering in their beliefs and sciences, or in any way concerning oneself within them.
  2. To unite within the fold of Islam, irrespective of particular outlook, remembering those numerous ties of unity that evokes love, brotherhood and concord.
  3. To adopt the just rule of conduct that the follower of any right outlook has the right to say, “My outlook is true, or the best,” but not that “My outlook alone is true,” or that “My outlook alone is good,” thus implying the falsity or repugnance of all other outlooks.
  4. To consider that union with the people of truth is a cause of Divine succour and high dignity of religion.
  5. To realize that individual resistance of the most powerful person against the attack through its genius of the mighty collective force of the people of misguidance and falsehood, which arises from their solidarity, will inevitably be defeated, and though the union of the people of truth, to create a joint and collective force also, in order to preserve justice and right in the face of that fearsome collective force of misguidance.
  6. To preserve truth from the assaults of falsehood.
  7. To abandon the self and its egoism.
  8. And give up the mistaken concept of self-pride.
  9. And cease from all insignificant feelings aroused by rivalry” (The Flashes, The 20thFlash, p. 203), see also Bakti (2007).

On the whole, if this nine-fold rule is adhered to, according to Said Nursi, sincerity will be preserved and its function perfectly performed.

Said Nursi also suggest that “the cure and remedy for this serious disease is to be proud of the company of all those traveling the path of the truth, in accordance with the principle of love for God’s sake; to follow them and defer leadership to them; and to consider whoever is walking on God’s path to be probably better; than one self, thereby breaking the ego and regaining sincerity. Salvation is also to be had from the disease by knowing that on ounce of deeds performed in sincerity is preferable to a ton performed without sincerity, and by preferring the status of a follower to that of a leader, with all the danger and responsibility that it involves. Thus sincerity is to be had, and one’s duties of preparation for the Hereafter may be correctly performed” (The Flashes, p. 206).

Ustadz Said Nursi also the issues of advice (almaw‘izah). In fact the collection s full of advises to the human beings. He also stresses the importance of knowledge (alhikmah), as he believes that it is the key to normal human life. When one is doing a debate with other counterparts, one has to be always using the best arguments (ahsan al-mujadalah) in order to be able to convince his audience about Islam. He encourages his readers to behave according to the way (akhlaq) of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, without making slanders (fitnah), stereotypes, prejudices (su’u alzhan), but helping each other (ta‘awun), encouraging one another to always put forward deliberation (mushawarah/shura) and avoiding conflict.

In addition, Bediuzzaaman Said Nursi says: “The people of truth do not recognize and seek the true strength that is to be found in union; hence they fall into dispute, as an evil and harmful consequence of this failure. By contrast, the people of misguidance and falsehood perceive the strength to be found in union, by virtue of their very weakness, and thus acquire union, that most important means for the attainment of all goals.” Furthermore, Said Nursi adds, “The cure and remedy for this disease of discord among the people of truth is to make one’s rule of conduct the Divine prohibition contained in this verse: Do not fall into dispute, lest you lose heart and your power depart, and the wise Divine command for social life contained in this verse: Work together for the sake of virtue and piety” (The 20thFlash, p. 207).

In addition, for the case of moral teaching, Said Nursi suggests in his collection, The Rays: 11: p. 214-215:

As is explained in the Fourth Word, Said Nursi asserts: “everyday our Creator bestows on us the capital of twenty-four hours of life so that with it we may obtain all the things necessary for our two lives. If we spend twenty-three hours on this fleeting worldly life and neglect to spend the remaining one hour, which is sufficient for the five obligatory prayers, on the very lengthy life of the hereafter, it may be understood what an unreasonable error it is, and what a great loss to suffer distress of the mind and spirit as the penalty for the error, and to behave badly because of the distress, and to fail to rectify one’s conduct due to living in a state of despair, indeed, to do the opposite. We may make the comparison.”

He furthermore elaborates: “We should think of what a profitable ordeal it is -if we spend the one hour on the five obligatory prayers- each hour of this calamitous term of imprisonment sometimes becoming a day’s worship and one of its transient hours becoming many permanent hours, and our despair and distress of the spirit and heart in part disappearing, and its being atonement for the mistakes that led to the imprisonment and the cause of their beingforgiven, and being trained and improved, which is the purpose of imprisonment; we should think of it being instruction and a pleasant and consoling meeting with our companions in disaster.”

As is said in the Fourth Word, said Nursi believes that: “it may be compared how contrary it is to a person’s interests to give five or ten liras out of his twenty-four to a lottery in which a thousand people are taking part in order to win the thousand-lira prize, and not give a single lira out of the twenty-four for a ticket for an everlasting treasury of jewels, and to rush to the former and flee from the latter, -although the chance of winning the thousand liras in the worldly lottery is one in a thousand because there are a thousand people taking part, while in the lottery of man’s destiny which looks to the hereafter the chance of winning for the people of belief, who experience happy deaths, is nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand, as has been stated by one hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets and confirmed by incalculable numbers of truthful informers from among the saints and purified scholars as a result of their illuminations.”

For Said Nursi, “Prison governors and chief warders, and indeed the country’s administrators and the guardians of public order, should be grateful at this lesson of the Risale-i Nur, for the government and disciplining of a thousand believers who constantly have in mind the prison of Hell is far easier than that of ten who have no belief and do not perform the obligatory prayers, only think of worldly prisons, do not know what is licit and what is illicit, and are in part accustomed to living undisciplined lives.”

He asserts that: “The other man was godly, devout, fair-minded, and with fine morals so that the country he came to was most excellent in his view. This good man saw universal rejoicing in the land he had entered. Everywhere was a joyful festival, a place for the remembrance of God overflowing with rapture and happiness; everyone seemed to him a friend and relation. Throughout the country he saw the festive celebrations of a general discharge from duties accompanied by cries of good wishes and thanks. He also heard the sound of a drum and band for the enlistment of soldiers with happy calls of “God is Most Great!” and “There is no god but God!” Rather than being grieved at the suffering of both himself and all the people like the first miserable man, this fortunate man was pleased and happy at both his own joy and that of all the inhabitants. Furthermore, he was able to do some profitable trade. He offered thanks to God” (The Words: 2: p. 27-28).

Said Nursi then calls: “O my lazy soul! That turbulent place of war is this stormy worldly life, and the army divided into regiments, human society. The regiment in the comparison is the community of Islam in this century. One of the two soldiers is a devout Muslim who knows the obligations of his religion and performs them, and struggles with Satan and his own soul in order to give up serious misdoings and not to commit sins. While the other is a degenerate wrongdoer who is so immersed in the struggle for livelihood that he casts aspersions on the True Provider, abandons his religious obligations, and commits any sins that come his way as he makes his living. As for the training and instruction, it is foremost the prescribed prayers and worship. And the war is the struggle against the soul and its desires, and against the satans among jinn and men, to deliver them from sin and bad morals, and save the heart and spirit from eternal perdition. And the first of the two duties is to give life and sustain it, while the other is to worship and beseech the Giver and Sustainer of life. It is to trust in Him and rely on Him” (The Words: 5: p. 35).

For Said Nursi, “This fortunate and intelligent person went on his way, but he suffered no distress like his brother. For, due to his fine morals, he thought of good things and imagined good things. Everything was friendly and familiar to him. And he did not suffer any difficulty and hardship like his brother, for he knew the order and followed it. He found it easy. He went on his way freely and in peace and security. Then he came across a garden in which were both lovely flowers and fruits, and, since it was not looked after, rotting and filthy things. His brother had also entered such a garden, but he had noticed and occupied himself with the filthy things and they had turned his stomach, so he had left it and moved on without being able to rest himself. But this man acted according to the rule, ‘look on the good side of everything,’ and had paid no attention to the rotting things. He had benefited a lot from the good things, and taking a good rest, he had left and gone on his way” (The Words: 8: p. 46).

For his good morals had given him good thoughts, and good thoughts show the good side of everything. So, because of this, he thought as follows:

“These strange happenings are connected to someone. Also it seems that they are acting in accordance with a command. In which case, these matters contain a talisman. Yes, everything is happening at the command of a hidden ruler. Therefore, I am not alone; the hidden ruler is watching me, he is testing me, he is impelling me somewhere for some purpose, and inviting me there. A curiosity arising from this pleasant fear and these agreeable thoughts prompt me to say: I wonder who it is that is testing me, wants to make himself known, and is impelling me for some purpose on this strange road” (The Words: 8: p. 47).

Futhermore, Said Nursi believes that:

“Just as that luminous proof of Divine unity is affirmed by the unanimity and consensus of those two wings, so do hundreds of indications in the revealed scriptures, like the Torah and Bible,1 and the thousands of signs that appeared before the beginning of his mission, and the well-known news given by the voices from the Unseen and the unanimous testimony of the soothsayers, the indications of the thousands of his miracles like the Splitting of the Moon, and the justice of Shari‘a all confirm and corroborate him. So too, in his person, his laudable morals, which were at the summit of perfection; and in his duties, his complete confidence and elevated qualities, which were of the highest excellence, and his extraordinary fear of God, worship, seriousness, and fortitude, which demonstrated the strength of his belief, and his total certainty and his complete steadfastness, – these all show as clearly as the sun how utterly faithful he was to his cause” (The Words: 19: p. 244).

Said Nursi gives an example concerning a miracle of Jesus (Peace be upon him). “Just as the Qur’an explicitly urges man to follow Jesus’ (Peace be upon him) high morals, so it allusively encourages him towards the elevated art and dominical medicine of which Jesus was the master. The verse indicates the following: “Remedies may be found for even the most chronic ills. In which case, O man!, O calamity-afflicted sons of Adam! Don’t despair! Whatever the ill, its cure is possible. Search for it and you will find it. It is even possible to give a temporary tinge of life to death.” And in meaning Almighty God is saying through the figurative tongue of this verse: “O man! I gave two gifts to one of My servants who abandoned the world for Me. One was the remedy for spiritual ills, and the other the cure for physical sicknesses. Moribund hearts were raised to life through the light of guidance, and sick people who were as though dead found health through his breath and cure. You too may find the cure for every ill in the pharmacy of My wisdom. Work to find it! If you seek, you will certainly find.” Thus, this verse traces the limit which is far ahead of man’s present progress in medicine. It hints at it, and urges him towards it” (The Words: 20: p. 263).

In addition, Said Nursi makes an analogy as follows: “I was entering a large town when I looked and saw it was full of large palaces. At the doors of some of these palaces was merry-making like a brilliant theatre; it captured and held everyone’s attention and was entertaining them. I looked carefully and saw that the lord of such a palace had come to the door; he was playing with a dog and assisting the merry-making. The ladies were indulging in sweet conversation with ill-mannered youths. Grown-up girls were organizing the children’s games. And the doorkeeper had taken the role of directing the others. I then realized that the inside of the huge palace was completely empty. Its refined duties all remained undone. The morals of its inhabitants had declined so that they had taken on these roles at the door” (The Words: 23: p. 332).

Said Nursi then says: “O soul! The first palace is a Muslim and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) is the large electric light in his heart. If he forgets him, or (I seek refuge with God from Satan the Accursed) he expels him from his heart, he will accept none of the other prophets, indeed, no place will remain in his spirit for any perfection. He will not even recognize His Sustainer. All the apartments and subtle faculties in his nature will be plunged into darkness, and there will be a terrible destruction and desolation in his heart. How will he profit in the face of this destruction and desolation, where will he find familiarity? What benefit will he secure which will repair the damage? However, Europeans resemble the second palace; even if they cast out from their hearts the light of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him), lights of a sort may remain, or they suppose they remain. They may continue to have a sort of belief in their Creator and in Moses and Jesus (Peace be upon them), which will allow them to attain good morals and character” (The Words: 24: p. 373).

Said Nursi adds: “Thus, the Companions, who held elevated sentiments and worshipped good morals and were illuminated with the light of the conversation of the Sun of Prophethood, did not stretch out their hands to the buffoonery and filth of the lying in Musaylima’s shop, which was so ugly and the cause of descent, and they shrank from unbelief. So too they shrank from lying, the companion of unbelief, and sought as far as they were able -especially in relating the ordinances of the Shari‘a and propagating them- truth, truthfulness, and right, which are so fine and the cause of pride and glory, ascent and progress, and were the thing most in demand from the elevated treasury of the Glory of Messengership, and which illuminate man’s social life with their beauteous splendour; the Companions acted in conformity with them and were desirous of them; this is certain, definite, and necessary. Whereas at this time, the distance between truth and lying has become so narrow that they are now quite simply shoulder to shoulder. It is extremely easy to pass from truthfulness to lying. Lying is even preferred to truthfulness due to the propaganda of politics and diplomacy. And so, if the most ugly and the finest things are sold in the same shop for the same price, certainly the jewel of truthfulness and right, which is most elevated and penetrates to the essence of reality, will not be obtained blindly, relying on the word and skill of the shopkeeper” (The Words: 27: p. 500).

Said Nursi continues his prayers by saying: “For the beauty of Your inscriptions, the most wonderful praiser of the perfections of Your art; who reflected together in his being the varieties of Your love and Your appreciation for the good morals of your creatures and the subtleties of Your artefacts’ qualities, comprehending all fine conduct and good morality through Your favour and the subtleties of commendable attributes through Your grace; who was the most excellent criterion and measure of everything You mention in Your Criterion of Truth and Falsehood, the Qur’an, those whom You love from among the righteous, the patient, the believers, those who fear You, who turn to You, and who repent, and all the classes of those whom You infuse with life and honour through Your love in Your Criterion of Truth and Falsehood, until they become as the leader of those whom You love; the master of those beloved by You and chief of Your beloveds; and grant blessings and peace to all his Family and Companions and brothers. Amen. Through Your mercy, O Most Merciful of the Merciful!”(The Words: 27: p. 503).

Ustadz Said Nursi gives an example:“According to the rule of: Be moulded by God-given ethics, which is one of the principles of the line of prophet-hood concerning individual life, there is the instruction: “Be distinguished by God-given morals and turn towards God Almighty with humility recognizing your impotence, poverty, and defectiveness, and so be a slave in His presence.” Whereas, the self-seeking rule of philosophy, “Try to imitate the Necessarily Existent One” is mankind’s aim for perfection. No, indeed, the essence of humanity has been kneaded with infinite impotence, weakness, poverty, and need, while the essence of the Necessarily Existent One is infinitely omnipotent, powerful, self-sufficient, and without need” (The Words: 30: p. 564).

On the whole, Said Nursi is in the opinion that in order to exercise a civil society (madani society), an Ummah or a Qawm (country, or society, or a community) is to exemplify the morals and characters of the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). The Prophet says in his Hadith: “Innama bu‘ith tu liutammima makarima al-akhlaq” (I am sent down to earth in order to fulfil the noble morals and characters), and Aisyah RA says: Kana khuluquhu al-Qur’an (The Prophet’s morals and characters were based on the Qur’an).

 III.       Reflection

The Islamic communication (dakwah) in both formal and non-formal systems needs to be developed and Said Nursi ideas of dakwah is in line with the active reception model of communication-development:

  • The duty of da‘i (preachers) is basically to clearly and eloquently inform (balagh, balaghah, tandzir, tadzkir) others about the nature of the benefits of ‘good deeds’(amal salih), and forbidding them from engaging in evil actions (munkar and fasiq). The meaning of piece of information should not come from the sender (da‘i) per se, but it should only emerge from the receivers (mad‘u); change should come from the heart of individuals, and the choice of the community, and development needs to be based on good deeds according to beneficiaries, and development communication need to be based on ethical and moral consideration.
  • Transforming (taghyir) of a community (ummah, qawm, balad) into a tawhidic (God unity) society, in Mowlana’ term (1990, 1996, and 1998) and Tehranian (1979, 1980, 1987, 1988, and 1989), the Islamic principles of recognizing (ta‘arafuu) each other’s strengths and contribution, verification (tabayun), and democracy (mushawarah and shura), and truth (haqq) are indeed relevant to secular communication concepts of human relation (pluralism, democracy, human rights, good governance, and universal truth).
  • The emphasis of dakwah on ‘enjoining goods’ and the ‘forbidding the bad deeds’(amar ma‘ruf/nahy munkar) is crucial to encourage self-sufficiency, self-help development, development from within, endogenous sustainable development, at the same time toencourage the importance of alms giving (zakat, infaq, and shadaqah) for the people to help others. Thus, cooperatives (ta‘awun),and jihad ma’nawi (struggle), should be included in the preaching process.
  • Madani (civil) society can only be put into reality, if the improvement of morals and characters(akhlaq) of community members or citizens is emphasized, based on the Qur’an, as exemplified by the Prophet Muhammad (Pbh). He managed to establish a society which is called Madinah al-Munawwarah (an Enlightened Society), the City-State of Madina, that was built according to a plural society model (Bakti, 2005).

 [i] Paper presented at the 10 International Badiuzzaman Symposium on “The Role and Place of Prophethood in Humanity’s Journey to the Truth: The Perspective of Risale-I Nur,” Wow Hotel, Istanbul September 22-24,  2013.

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