Bediüzzaman Said Nursi’s Views On The Spirit

In several of his treatises, Bediüzzaman Said Nursi emphasizes the meaning and importance of life, and expresses what should be expressed concerning the spirit according to the Qur’an and the Sunna. He also deals with the matter of the spirit together with the existence of angels and other spirit beings, and voices the Sunni line of thought and belief by explaining the future of the spirit after death with the reality of revival after death (the Resurrection). He discusses the satisfaction of the perennial aspirations of humanity, which has been created for eternity and therefore passionately aspires to eternal happiness—but not searching for that satisfaction in the consolations sought in theories of a drop’s returning to the sea from which it has departed, nor in difficult journeys offered by the false assumption of reincarnation or transmigrations of the soul. He breathes relief into hearts provided by the Divine promise of both bodily and spiritual eternal happiness, and shows those who are in hopeful expectation to the eternal happiness that shines on the horizon of the Qur’an and the Sunna.

soulBediüzzaman makes frequent references to life. According to him, just as life is a gift of God Almighty as a direct operation of His Names the All-Living and the Giver of Life, so too does the human spirit, which is something that has been “breathed” by God, originate in the same source. Let me summarize his considerations:

Life is the most important aim pursued in the creation of the universe, and its greatest result, it is its most radiant light, its most delicate essence, its distilled extract, its most perfect fruit, its most sublime perfection, its finest beauty and its most brilliant adornment. In addition, life is the axis of the unity of existence, the source of its perfection—and in regard to art and nature, it is its most wonderful aspect endowed with spirit and its miraculous reality which makes the minutest creature like the universe itself. Also, life is a miracle of the Divine Power, which makes each living being an index or sample of the whole universe in relationship with most other creatures. Again, life is a work of Divine Art, which makes a tiny part as great or comprehensive as the huge whole, and an individual living entity as encompassing as the universal one which contains it. With regard to the Lordship of God, life demonstrates that the universe is an indivisible and inseparable whole. Moreover, it is the most decisive and perfect of the proofs in the universe for the absolutely necessary existence of the All-Living, Self-Subsisting Being; it is the most subtle and yet the most apparent of the Divine artifacts, the most valuable yet the most abundant and the purest, most radiant, and most meaningful of them.[1]

After these definitions of life, Bediüzzaman explains life’s relationship with the six pillars of belief, and he concludes his remarks with a discussion of servanthood to God. His explanations about the spirit, which he regards as the pure essence of life, or even as life itself, are original. He says:

The spirit is a law with consciousness and has a real, sensible existence. Like the enduring laws of creation, the spirit also issues from the World of (the Initial Manifestation of) Divine Commands and the Divine Attribute of Will. Divine Power clothes it in an energetic envelope within a body of sensory organs. This spirit, which exists in each human being, is a counterpart of the laws of nature. Both are unchanging and permanent, and come from the World of (the Initial Manifestation of) Divine Commands. If Eternal Power had clothed laws with external existence, each would have been a spirit; if the human spirit were stripped of consciousness, it would become an immaterial law.[2]

In another work where he discusses the spirit and life together, Bediüzzaman writes as follows:

The perfection of existence is through life. Life is the real basis and light of existence. Consciousness, in turn, is the light of life. Life constitutes the foundation of everything and appropriates everything for each living thing. Only through life can a living creature claim that everything belongs to it, that the world is its home, and that the universe is its property, conferred by the Owner. Just as light causes (concrete) things to be seen and, according to one theory, is the real cause of color, life unveils creation. Life causes qualities to be realized and archetypes to gain material existence. It makes the particular universal and the universal concentrated in a particular. Life is the manifestation of oneness in multiplicity, the reflection of unity in plurality. See how lonely even a mountain-sized object is without life. Its interactions are restricted to its location, and all that exists in the universe means nothing to it, for it is unconscious of other existents. But as such a minute living being as a honeybee can have close interactions with the universe, particularly with plants and flowers, it can say, “The earth is my garden, my marketplace where I do business.”[3]

Dream Catcher Dreamcatcher Feather Dreams Indian

Dream Catcher

Where he expresses his considerations about the physical and metaphysical dimensions, Bediüzzaman remarks, “The corporeal world is only a lace veil over the World of Spirits and the World (Realm) of the Transcendental Manifestation of Divine Commands.”[4] Further, he makes the following explanations about the spirit and life:

Matter is not the essence of existence, so that existence should be restricted to it. Rather, matter exists and subsists through something immaterial, which is life and the spirit. Matter is also not something served so that everything should depend on it; rather, it serves the perfection of something substantial, which is life. And the spirit is the essence of life. Again, matter is not something dominating, so that things should be referred to it; rather, it is something dominated, subject to the decree of something which has a fundamental place in existence. That thing is life, the spirit, and consciousness.[5]

Elsewhere, after offering many rational and reported proofs—those based on the Qur’an and the Sunna—concerning the existence of angels and other spirit beings, Bediüzzaman draws the following conclusion:

Since the people of wisdom and religion and philosophers and religious scholars are agreed that existence is not restricted to the witnessed, corporeal realm, and since this apparent, corporeal realm has been inhabited by innumerable beings that possess spirit, although it is material and not suitable for the origination of spirits, for sure, existence cannot be restricted to it. Rather, there should be many other realms of existence in relation to which the witnessed, corporeal realm is an embroidered veil.[6]

Bediüzzaman also emphasizes the existence of angels and other kinds of spiritual beings, and whenever occasion appears, he stresses the permanence of the spirit. In “The Treatise of Resurrection” (The Tenth Word) and “The Second Aim” of The Twenty-Ninth Word, he convincingly proves the bodily resurrection based on many reported and rational arguments and by referring to Divine Attributes and Names. Afterwards, Bediüzzaman draws attention to the benefits of belief in the revival after death for human individual and social life. He offers readers highly significant clues in line with Sunni belief and thought about the reality of life, the spirit and its permanence, and the reward and punishment that await us in the other world.


[1] Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, Sözler (“The Words”), “The Twenty-Ninth Word”, p., 527; Lemalar (“The Gleams”), “The Thirtieth Gleam.” (Tr.)
[2] Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, Mektubat (“The Letters”), “Hakikat Çekirdekleri (The Epigrams or Seeds of Truth),” p. 447. (Tr.)
[3] Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, Sözler (“The Words”), “The Twenty-Ninth Word,” pp. 526–527. (Tr.)
[4] Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, Sözler (“The Words”), “The Twenty-Ninth Word,” p. 530; Mektubat (“The Letters”), “Hakikat Çekirdekleri (The Epigrams or Seeds of Truth),” p. 446. (Tr.)
[5] Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, Sözler (“The Words”), “The Twenty-Ninth Word,” p. 529. (Tr.)
[6] Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, Sözler (“The Words”), “The Twenty-Ninth Word,” p. 530. (Tr.)

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