What Does It Mean To Say “As Time Grows Older Holy Book Gets Younger”?
The Holy Book has come to us from the eternity before time began and will go on to the eternity beyond time. It has come from the knowledge of God who knows past, present and future, fully and in every detail. It is but one of the Holy Book’s miracles that, though it was revealed fourteen centuries ago, it enlightened mankind on questions which we now face, just as it will enlighten us in the future on questions which we cannot yet foresee. This is because the Holy Book is a portion of the all-encompassing knowledge of God who hears the very beating of our hearts and, without effort, at the same time, governs the whole universe.
As a person ages, so memory weakens somewhat, but the capacity for composure and synthesis strengthens: the person thinks more soundly, decides with better deliberation. Collectively also, people make progress in understanding and knowledge about the world. Thus, as a result of man’s endeavors, sciences such as physics or chemistry or biology, astronomy or astrophysics, have become established and can convincingly explain matters that used to be merely accepted or that were left alone as mysteries. Just as, in the life of an individual, the passage of time brings some improvement in understanding and wisdom, so in the progress of human knowledge as a whole, our knowledge of the world seems to be more secure, our understanding of it maturer.
How, you ask, alongside this progress of time and knowledge, does the Holy Book get younger? It does so in this sense, that its meanings become clearer, fresher, more vigorous. For the advances in scientific knowledge, the discovery of new insights into the natural world, clarify particular verses in the Holy Book. We have already given examples of some of those: the ascent into the sky, events in the atmosphere, the fact of fertilizing winds, how the rains are formed, that there are stores of water under the ground, that all things are in pairs, that the universe is expanding, the rotation and the precise shape of the earth, the gradual transformation of its land masses, the movement of sun and moon, the possibility of traveling to the moon, the centripetal and centrifugal forces that, like invisible pillars, hold up the heavens, the order and unity of creation and its genesis, the destiny of stars and the sun and the moon, how an embryo forms and develops in the uterus, how milk is produced in mammals; and, besides these, historical facts about past nations and states, and particular prophecies that have been fulfilled since the revelation of the Holy Book. The list can be expanded, can always be expanded, since we lag behind the Holy Book, striving towards its wisdom as climbers strive and yearn to reach a summit that remains above their reach. Perhaps, if scientific knowledge continues to grow we shall one day be able to see into distances trillions of light-years from where we look. Shall we not then gasp in awe at the glory and splendor of the One who created so great a universe and made it, in His infinite Mercy, intelligible to us?
As well as wisdom about the natural world, the Holy Book contains guidance on the best norms and rules for mankind to live by, so that their lives may be secure and civilized, their relationships sound and wholesome. In this respect we have failed to catch up with the Holy Book’s teaching. Unlike the sciences, in this area, mankind and Muslims most especially (since they are believers in the Holy Book) have turned away from the Creator’s guidance, and followed paths that lead to misery and barbarism. Muslims have not set forth this portion of the wisdom of the Holy Book -as against the ideologies such as communism or capitalism, fascism or liberalism. And yet, mankind is in a most dire situation: we have not even solved the most basic questions that face us. We hear people confidently announce: ‘such-and-such system will bring about economic development and security’. However, when that system is established we see a development only in injustice and evil, we see a growth only in selfishness, exploitation, opportunism, cheating and a hardening of hearts.
Not only in their economic and political relationships, but also in their personal and family affairs, people have left the way of the Holy Book. Instead, they have allowed themselves to be attracted towards systems of education and upbringing developed according to passing fashions in psychology or sociology. What has been the result of these non-Islamic fashions in social life-alcoholism and addiction of all kinds; an extraordinary rise in crimes of the most depraved kinds; men and women, young and old, drifting from anxiety to depression, not knowing how to love and care for another, frightened, alone, despairing. Order will not return to our communities, warmth and love will not return to our families, until we return to the guidance of the Holy Book. When we introduce people to the Holy Book, and they approach it with fresh, unprejudiced minds, they hear a message that corresponds with their innermost nature, that fits with the needs and possibilities implanted therein by the One who created them. How could it be otherwise, since the Holy Book is from Him also, as we ourselves are?
As time grows older, we approach, it may be, the ‘last days’, the ending of time. And so, as we find ourselves seemingly trapped in a world full of misery, injustice and cruelty, the Holy Book calls us, its meaning vigorous, young, clear. It calls us awake, gives us life, returns to us a power of will and action, to know and do that which is right. Yet this Quran has long been with us; we have been lacking in our duty to honor it. Are we not like thirsty men and women so far lost to themselves that they do not recognize the cool, clear water beside them which will quench their thirst and give them ease?
By Bediuzzaman Said Nursi