SEPTEMBER • OCTOBER 2009
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A MAGAZINE OF SCIENTIFIC AND SPIRITUAL THOUGHT
Real beauty belongs to God. He necessitates perfection, which is unique to Him alone. All of existence is a different mirror of God, reflecting His beauty as much as its potential allows.
Cries of Silence
The Amazing Story of Hearing
Can I Be Your Baggage?
NEED FOR A BIT MORE QUIET LAMENT
n the face of so many things happening around us, we have two options: either to ignore them, or to take action. Nevertheless, taking action does not always entail outward mobilization. A prophetic tradition narrates that believers should change with their hands whatever wrong they come across; if they cannot change it, then they should speak up against it; if that is not possible either, then they should assume an internal feeling in reaction to that wrong, and this last one, the hadith reports, is the lowest of faith. The lead article in this issue is a lyrical portrayal of a figure who buries his cries inside and pronounces his feelings “with silent woes.” But this figure is not the believer with the lowest level of faith in the hadith; the silence of people like this “arises from their subtle refinement and vast compassion which would not disdain even an ant, from their philosophy of security and trust, respect for human values, mercy toward everyone, and from relying on God in all matters.” Perhaps they are not given the opportunity, they are gagged by tyrants by all the means possible. The author thinks “a blissful hour” will come “in which the All-Powerful will speak.” For him, “there is still need for more quiet lament, after which perhaps the spring will rise.” For many, math is the most difficult class. Is it because of our own laziness, or is much math too abstract to comprehend? Ali Unver says, “educators who see the beauty at the center of mathematics and can make their students see it that way, are more likely to be able to get their students’ attention and teach them more effectively.” He explains in “Mathematics and the Universe” that mathematics is not only for keeping track of our checkbooks. Mary and Jesus, peace be upon them, are the subject of a considerable amount of Islamic literature. Ahmet Cetinkaya contributes with a thesis on the question of whether Jesus had any brothers and sisters. Drawing on sources of Islamic tradition and the Bible, Cetinkaya lays out interesting information on the topic, which is also a matter of debate between some Christian denominations. “Romania – Dar-ul Sulk” discusses how historical truths are sometimes forsaken for the sake of political interests. Victor Nitelea presents an exemplary account of the mutually beneficial centuries-long relationship between the Ottomans and Romania and how the positive image of Turks as a tolerant society was replaced by an image of barbarians. This account also explains how the school curriculum can be manipulated according to political trends at the expense of causing intolerance and conflict between East and West. “Can I Be Your Baggage?” Barney Zwartz, a journalist from Melbourne asks Abdullah Aymaz, who spoke about the emergence of the Gülen Movement in an international conference organized by the Australian Catholic University back in July. Whose baggage did he want to be? Zwartz was referring to the educational movement started in the 1960s among a small circle of young people like Mr. Aymaz who were inspired by Fethullah Gülen. In this issue, Aymaz shares with us his observations of the conference with some flashbacks to his first encounters with Mr. Gülen and how the movement started to take shape.
Cover image: Courtesy of Crissy Watkins www.fountainmagazine.com
SEPTEMBER • OCTOBER 2009 ISSUE 71 A MAGAZINE OF SCIENTIFIC AND SPIRITUAL THOUGHT
Emerald Hills Of The Heart
Arts & Culture
Cries of Silence
M. Fethullah Gülen
Mathematics and the Universe Ali Kemal Unver
Coping with Life’s Problems: Western and Islamic Perspectives Psychology /
Mohammad Taufik bin Mohammad
Need a Third Eye?
Did Jesus Have Brothers or Sisters?
J. D. McClatchy
A Climate of Tolerance in Rwanda after Genocide
The Abyss of Modern Thought
The Amazing Story of Hearing Hamdi Sener
Romania: A Land of Peace Victor Nitelea
Can I Be Your Baggage? Abdullah Aymaz
How Lungfish Are Protected from the Sun
The Tale of a Photon
Kaptan Murat Celebi
Connection – Always and Everywhere
Action and Coincidence
It’s me Peter, your Tongue!
EMERALD HILLS OF THE HEART /
‘Ibada, ‘Ubudiya, and ‘Ubuda
M. Fethullah Gülen
Who Are Deaf, Dumb, and Blind?
M. Fethullah Gülen
or many years now, cries of silence have clamored above my voice. So many times have I been frustrated to the point that I was going to condemn the tyranny, spit in the face of the tyrant, answer back the slanderer, and choke silent the assailant. “Enough!” comes to the tip of my tongue to shout at the conspirator; the walls of my nature are strained by their attacks, but I cannot or do not say a word to anyone. I console myself, for God sees and knows everything; I submit to the absolute justice of destiny. Gulping down all my anger and fury into my heart that always beats with love, I surrender to “There is no power except in God” in due respect for and in compliance with my character, understanding, and conduct while so many others indiscriminately raise their voices ... and I am satisfied with “So be it.” SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
This attitude usually adds to the tyrant’s courage, makes the slanderer even more impudent and the assailant more outrageous. Still, I say to myself, “They are human too, and one day they will realize it and they will give up such impertinence.” This is perhaps wishful thinking or a misapprehension, but I prefer waiting for a blissful hour when everyone will come to reason and mercy. Filled with some bizarre supernatural expectations, I endeavor to soothe my exasperation and stand firm against the storms that challenge my lenience. I sometimes dive into a deep, silent introspection to escape my own realm of feelings. There are times when I feel sorry for myself in the face of some agonizing events, and I am troubled with a passing sensation that I am perhaps disrespecting myself while trying to be
NOWADAYS, I AM OBSERVING ALL THESE HORRORS AND CALAMITIES THROUGH MY NARROW VISION, AND I MUMBLE, “O LORD, HOW FORBEARING YOU ARE! YOU CONTINUE TO GRANT RESPITE TO THE PERPETRATORS WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL THIS VIOLENCE, OPPRESSION, AND DEGRADATION OF RIGHTS, FREEDOM, AND DEMOCRACY. ABSOLUTE MIGHT AND POWER BELONG TO GOD.” AND THEN I BURY MYSELF IN A SILENCE OF ASTONISHMENT AND AMAZEMENT (DAHSHA AND HAYRA), WHICH I FEEL HAS BECOME PART OF MY NATURE.
respectful to everyone else. But still, in spite of so many lies, fabrications, and devilish schemes, I turn to myself and say, “You have assumed trouble as your healing from the beginning; then what is this protest for? The one with teeth will certainly bite, and the one with claws will rip through; no one can change this as long as those who consider the truth to be with the powerful continue to exist. Be tolerant to everyone.” I bury my cries inside and pronounce my feelings with silent woes. Indeed, it is impossible for people in my circumstances who share this way of thinking with me to act otherwise. First of all, we do not submit to the wicked ones, but “to the decree of fate we wholeheartedly submit our souls” (Bâkî). Secondly, we live in a time in which people in great numbers are locked onto hostility; today’s revenge-thirsty figures overshadow in ruthlessness the abominable tyrants of the past—so, tempering the atrocities in my heart does not change the reality. Many billow with the rage of pharaohs when they speak; their hatred and violence never abate and their hunger for blaze, destruction, slaughter, and extrajudicial execution is never satisfied. They raise their swords to the heavens like He-Man and scream, “I have the power!” The world all over echoes with the chorus of “Justice, freedom, democracy, civil rights,” but justice is desperate in the hands of crude power, freedom is leashed with the straps of slavery one over another, democracy is a freak in the hands of enforcers who interpret it capriciously. There is no one left who does not understand this, but those who have conducted decades-long abuses continue singing the same tune, as if they are unaware, with no sense of self-respect, and debasing their own social status. With no other occupation, sitting in sloth, they speak on behalf of rights, freedom, and democracy, while others who violate these values in broad day light utter the same words. These are words of magic invoked to earn status and esteem, and then circumvented to legitimize corruption and fraud. Oppressors rely on them when they oppress some people while favoring whoever they favor. These are the words offered as legitimate governments around the world are interfered with and countries are invaded. “Bringing prosperity” is a pretext for shedding blood and dishonoring others. With the same excuse, murders are committed, killings are left unsolved, people are tyrannized, free speech is censored, privacy is violated, religious persuasions are 5
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harassed, unthinkable profanity and what is forbidden are replete and promoted; civil rights and justice are frequently pointed to, but are trodden down at the same time. Nowadays, I am observing all these horrors and calamities through my narrow vision, and I mumble, â€œO Lord, how forbearing you are! You continue to grant respite to the perpetrators who are responsible for all this violence, oppression, and degradation of rights, freedom, and democracy. Absolute might and power belong to God.â€? And then I bury myself in a silence of astonishment and amazement (dahsha and hayra), which I feel has become part of my nature. Absolute silence in the face of injustice, tyranny, and violation of rights is no different than glorifying Satan and is condemned in a Prophetic tradition. Indeed, believers never remain in absolute silence; if their hands are tied, they speak out; if they are gagged, they reveal their fervor with overflowing gestures; if they are ostracized completely from society, they expand with palpitations as if they had a volcano heaving inside. If their internal explosions could be unveiled, we would witness bolts of lightning issuing from their hearts and chill from their claps of thunder. Their quiet stance arises from their subtle refinement and vast compassion which would not disdain even an ant, from their philosophy of security and trust, respect for human values, mercy toward everyone, and from relying on God in all matters. First and foremost, they are people of fine balance. Even when the most horrific waves of unrest beat the shores of their hearts, they behave with the utmost moderation and prudence. They never act unwisely like a child whose imagination outweighs his reason and comprehension, who blabs everything that crosses his mind without a momentâ€™s thought, who is concerned with accountability only after destroying everything with his words and actions and seeks excuses for the destruction he has caused. They are always aware of their position, of what they do and say, and act with discretion in the balance between their hearts and minds. When they are granted the opportunity, they pronounce universal human values; when they have to remain silent, they act out these values with fervor, keep up their prayers and invocations, observe with compassion, and smile on everyone. They are never upset by their fate, nor do they complain to others as if dissatisfied with God Almighty. On the contrary, they question their own selves and seek their own faults. They bury their sorrows in their chests and do SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
TRUE BELIEVERS ARE MEN AND WOMEN OF TRUST AND SECURITY WHO SHOW THE UTMOST CARE IN PERFORMING WHAT THEIR TRUE CHARACTER NECESSITATES. THEY NEVER HURT OTHERS, EVEN THOUGH THEY MAY BE HURT; NOR DO THEY CAUSE PAIN, EVEN IF THEY ARE TORTURED.
not mention them to those who are unable to comprehend; not a word of discomfort can be released from their mouths even though they may burn like an oven on the inside. They die and come back to life, but never do they disclose this to anyone. No one can know completely what a burning mass of white-hot embers they actually are; others consider these special people no different than themselves. Yet, if their belief, demeanor, and selfless spirits that are devoted to making others live were to allow them to roar out their internal fervor, all the crows would immediately hush and look for a hidden corner to take refuge in, while all the bats would retreat back into their dark caves and descend into silent introspection. True believers are men and women of trust and security who show the utmost care in performing what their true character necessitates. They never hurt others, even though they may be hurt; nor do they cause pain, even if they are tortured. In fact, their spiritual realm is replete with portraits of sorrow, each more horrifying than the last, that exist side by side with their feverish passion to relieve society of its ailments. Their palpitations and pains last forever with constant brainstorming and attempts at revival. The eternal verses of their hearts or, more truly, their silent cries, are a call to the light with a commitment to illumination as opposed to darkness. One line of the poem drops from their lips in grief, while the next inspires revivification. Their indignation and enthusiasm reveal signs of all this incessant internal turmoil. Indeed, this has been the kind of life we have always sought, or perhaps we have been forced to live in this way. Fervor and sorrow have been our fate and in fact what we have also demanded. We have considered living for our own sake as selfishness, an attitude we have always abhorred. The motto “So others may live” and wishing eternal happiness for all have been our passion. This passion is so intense that if it were at all possible to come back to this life after death and we were given the right to choose, we would still prefer others’ lives to our own. The true horizons of humanity we would fix our direction towards; thoughts of revival we would breathe with; degradations we would close our eyes to; fuss about fundamentalism we would not be deceived by; those who come forward with slanders, calumnies, and accusations we would not be upset by or despair at; unrelenting violations and attacks of the severest kind we would bury in our chests; when it hurts inside, we would still manage to smile; when the magma inside erupts, we would suppress our exasperation so that no one is hurt or disturbed; and we would always display the privilege of being human. I feel that those who think we remain in total passive silence and those who think we are involved in some kind of “activism” are all wrong. We are never absolutely still—anguish and hope, enduring everything, and striving for survival, all coexist in the depths of our souls. We may sometimes lose spirit, but never to a level of termination for good. Even if only with half of a voice or a breath, a quarter of a pain or palpitation, our hearts are like a brazier with embers always burning inside. Our faith con7
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stantly whispers new sentiments to us, and our conscience plays tunes of all kinds. Nevertheless, those who are of not the same persuasion or ideals as us cannot hear any of these melodies nor can they comprehend any of these sentiments. Personally, every time I think of this agitation and fervor, I tremble as I visualize innocent people who have been victims of deadly imprisonment, maddening persecution, and merciless hounding, and whose words were stuck in their throats, words they wanted to utter but could not, so they were choked almost to the point of death. Who knows what beautiful things they would have said. The ignorant who did not know, even worse, those who did not know that they did not know, and the worst of all, who thought they knew even though they did not, used all available means to prevent those innocent people from expressing themselves; they would never allow them to do so, for if they did, people would understand how bereft of ideas and knowledge are those persecutors. In the words of Akif, the miserable oppressors “do not look to the East, nor are aware of the West, nor have any share of good conduct / All they have as capital is a face that cannot blush and eyes that cannot water!” If they did allow the innocent to speak up, those who can reason would comprehend all these matters and discover the true identities of some of these ignorant ones who tie justice to power and resort to despotism, whose assets are no more than yelling, and who try to catch fish in muddy water. Then, all the wretched souls who fight against common sense with dialectic and demagogy would topple one by one, their false candles would blow out, and those who have been deceived would not be tricked any more. All this would end in the collapse of those who want to rule the world with crude power, and I do not think they would ever acquiesce to that. In any case, we end up with the fact that today some people are gagged, while many others remain indifferent. Those who cannot express themselves today in one way or another, will certainly voice their internal vibrations and pain, be it merely in their comportment; in return for their gulping down their words with palpitations today, they will recite the best poems of silence when the day comes. Who knows, perhaps then many rude and cruel characters who have forgotten true humane values like compassion, mercy, and justice for several centuries now, will unexpectedly melt down and turn into whatever being truly human demands. So, let tyranny enjoy itself for a bit longer; let civil rights and justice be trodden on; let the innocent moan with pain; let the wronged strive to voice their grievance; and let hearts breathe with grief and fervor, hoping for a blissful hour in which the All-Powerful will speak. For us, if it is a matter of time serving our time of trial and lamentation, then, as in the words of Faik Ali, “There are songs yet unfinished / Anticipation moans in their silence,” there is still need for more quiet lament, after which perhaps the spring will rise. SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
EVERY TIME I THINK OF THIS AGITATION AND FERVOR, I TREMBLE AS I VISUALIZE INNOCENT PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN VICTIMS OF DEADLY IMPRISONMENT, MADDENING PERSECUTION, AND MERCILESS HOUNDING, AND WHOSE WORDS WERE STUCK IN THEIR THROATS, WORDS THEY WANTED TO UTTER BUT COULD NOT, SO THEY WERE CHOKED ALMOST TO THE POINT OF DEATH.
Ali Kemal Unver
Mathematics and the
"IF YOU WANT TO LEARN ABOUT NATURE, TO APPRECIATE NATURE, IT IS NECESSARY TO UNDERSTAND THE LANGUAGE THAT SHE SPEAKS IN.”
eople have very different attitudes to mathematics. While some love it, some find it very difficult and some even hate it. Even though it is true that mathematics is built on an axiomatic foundation, a strong case can be made for the ultimate foundation of mathematics being its beauty. Richard Feynman, an American physicist known for expanding the theory of quantum electrodynamics, says, “To those who do not know mathematics it is difficult to get across a real feeling as to the beauty, the deepest beauty, of nature... If you want to learn about nature, to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks in.” Educators who see the beauty at the center of mathematics and can make their students see it that way, are more likely to be able to get their students’ attention and teach them more effectively. Also, as well as facilitating the study of sophisticated mathematics, this puts mathematics in its proper place so as better to understand the value of what it has to say to human beings. To see the beauty and the pleasure in mathematics can change the negative attitudes of some students and help educators in teaching mathematics. Often it seems that we pursue mathematics education from either a structural or an applications point of view. From a structural point of view, we insist on building up all of the tools one may need in a sequential, logical order, because an educator will need the students to know all of the smaller pieces before they can build any of the larger ideas. An analogy for this would be if we forced somebody to study all of the nails, screws, bolts, and tools to build a house before we let them even see the plans for the house. This is one of the main reasons that most people who study mathematics in their school years think that it is a pointless exercise in playing with formulas and has no significance in real life. For these people, mathematics might be helpful only in keeping track of their checkbooks after graduation. Some students think that they can calculate whatever they need using computers, but 9
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sometimes this is not very effective because students may not understand the logic behind the problems and the results do not mean anything to them or they are unable to detect errors. The applications point of view leads to making up “word problems” that appear to be about the real world, but everyone knows that they are highly artificial. It also leads to focusing at higher levels on only the applications. Hence, for instance, in calculus we spend a lot of time plodding through various physical applications, without letting students see the bigger picture. Or we spend time in liberal arts mathematics talking about things such as modeling and linear programming, which yield great applications, but are generally tedious and do not give most students much appreciation for mathematics. If we see the beauty at the center of mathematics, as well as introducing ideas that may have application or may build some tools, we can bring students to have a much bigger picture of mathematics at a much earlier stage in their mathematical development. Educators can include some fun topics in courses that they teach. For instance, they can encourage students to discover the amazing number patterns in nature, such as the Fibonacci sequence in pine cone spirals, pineapples, and cauliflowers, in which the number of pieces increases in the following manner: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89 ... (add the last two numbers to get the next). Another example is the “golden ratio.” In mathematics and the arts, two quantities are in the golden ratio if the ratio between the sum of those quantities and the larger one is the same as the ratio between the larger one and the smaller. The golden ratio is a mathematical constant, approximately equal to 1.6180339887* and recent research shows that people think that the shapes and figures in this ratio are more interesting and aesthetically pleasing to the human eye. Sometimes, even a small algebra trick can miraculously bring students to love mathematics and be more focused, and then more interested in the deeper aspects later on. Take a look at this symmetry: 1x1=1 11 x 11 = 121 111 x 111 = 12321 1111 x 1111 = 1234321 11111 x 11111 = 123454321 SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
111111 x 111111 = 12345654321 1111111 x 1111111 = 1234567654321 11111111 x 11111111 = 123456787654321 111111111 x 111111111 = 12345678987654321.
FIBONACCI SEQUENCE IN PINE CONE SPIRALS, PINEAPPLES, AND CAULIFLOWERS, IN WHICH THE NUMBER OF PIECES INCREASES IN THE FOLLOWING MANNER: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89 ... (ADD THE LAST TWO NUMBERS TO GET THE NEXT).
Here are a few more examples showing the beauty of mathematics visually with numbers: 1 x 9 + 2 = 11 12 x 9 + 3 = 111 123 x 9 + 4 = 1111 1234 x 9 + 5 = 11111 12345 x 9 + 6 = 111111 123456 x 9 + 7 = 1111111 1234567 x 9 + 8 = 11111111 12345678 x 9 + 9 = 111111111 123456789 x 9 +10 = 1111111111
9 x 9 + 7 = 88 98 x 9 + 6 = 888 987 x 9 + 5 = 8888 9876 x 9 + 4 = 88888 98765 x 9 + 3 = 888888 987654 x 9 + 2 = 8888888 9876543 x 9 + 1 = 88888888 98765432 x 9 + 0 = 888888888. Studentsâ€™ minds can be broadened by seeing the surprising differences that arise when we move to non-Euclidean geometry. Fractal shape examples in nature, such as snow crystals, and things like the Mandelbrot set, which is a set of points in the complex plane the boundary of which forms a fractal, can be introduced with a background and give rise to amazingly beautiful images and ideas. Even such deep and thought-provoking ideas as these can be understood by students when they have curiosity, creativity, and an open mind. All these examples and others like them can inspire people to see the beauty of mathematics and give them a better understanding and a sense of the expanse of mathematics. With a little more discovery of and exposure to the more beautiful aspects of mathematics, students are much less likely to feel any hatred for mathematics and may develop a much greater appreciation for the creation of the universe. Ali Kemal Unver is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The golden ratio can be derived by the quadratic formula, by starting with the first number as 1, then solving for the 2nd number x, where the ratio [x+1]/x = x/1 or (multiplying by x) yields: x+1 = x2, or a quadratic equation: x2-x1=0. Then, by the quadratic formula, for positive x = [-b + sqrt(b2-4ac)]/2a with a=1, b=-1, c=-1, the solution for x is: [-(-1) + sqrt([-1]2 -4*1*-1)]/2*1 or [1 + sqrt(5) ]/2. See the second reference for details.
References 1. http://users.forthnet.gr/ath/kimon/ 2. Green, Thomas M. â€œThe Pentagram and the Golden Ratio." http://www.contracosta.cc.ca.us/math/pentagrm.htm.
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He has granted you from all that you ask Him. Were you to attempt to count God’s blessings, you could not compute them. But for sure, humankind is much prone to wrongdoing (sins and errors of judgment) and to ingratitude. (Ibrahim 14:34)
oday a large part of modern science focuses on understanding the human body. Researchers working on life sciences hope that one day the secrets of every single detail that make us human will be revealed. Every year billions of dollars are spent by scientific institutions on learning more about us. Actually this fact by itself is enough to suggest how little control we have over things happening in our bodies, and we know even less about the mechanisms of moving, touching, speaking, seeing, or hearing, and so on. As a scientist, I really cannot guess whether life scientists will ever be able to learn enough to solve the puzzles of the human body, but I feel a lack of satisfaction when the knowledge we have gained from scientific discoveries is compared with what is unknown. In my opinion this is why one of the most intelligent physicists in history, the Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, once said, “I was born not knowing, and have only had a little time to change that here and there” . My understanding is that such a conclusion must be inevitable if the primitive knowledge given to us by modern sciences is not interpreted in the light of a far superior logic that is meant to
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THIS ARTICLE IS AN ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN AN AMAZING MECHANISM IN OUR EARS THAT ENABLES US TO HEAR THE FAINTEST WHISPERS. A MECHANISM THAT IS SWITCHED OFF AT LOUD CRIES TO PROTECT US FROM DISTURBING NOISES, YET AMPLIFIED TO MAKE THE SOFTEST SOUNDS AUDIBLE.
Stapes Basilar membrane
A. and B. Basilar membrane and cochlea shown in a straightened out way. Different sound frequencies excite different locations in the cochlea: High frequencies (20 kHz) towards the round window, lower frequencies (0.1 kHz) towards the end (from 10 and 9 respectively).
explain the whole creation. In that sense, I believe that we have to consider every single detail in creation as a vital part of the whole in order not to feel lost before the grand picture of this masterpiece. Last year, in a seminar at Osaka University Graduate School for Frontier BioSciences, I was thrilled to hear Professor Keichi Namba say, “Japan’s fastest supercomputer dissipates more than billion times the power dissipated by a fly’s brain, yet it is not able to simulate the brain of such a tiny animal.” This worked as a wakening call or a reminder for me to think again about the magnificent arts of the Creator. In particular, I wanted to revise my research on a hearing-related protein from a new perspective, rather than using the mechanical attitude that is followed most of the time. This article is an attempt to explain an amazing mechanism in our ears that enables us to hear the faintest whispers. A mechanism that is switched off at loud cries to protect us from disturbing noises, yet amplified to make the softest sounds audible. Before starting to explain the basic anatomy of the human ear, I should mention that today the ear’s active amplification mecha13
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Ca2+ Ion channel Cochlea
Cu hairtor cell
nism is still being investigated in research centers by biologists and physicists together. How do we hear? What is happening in the inner ear? Findings from the last century have shown that our ears are not just simple receivers as we had imagined. In 1979, David Kemp of University College, London discovered that mammalian ears can also emit sound vibrations. By placing a very sensitive microphone close to the eardrum he could detect whistles, implying that there is a source of vibration within the ear . However, before trying to explain the cause of vibrations in the ears, we have to go over the mechanism of hearing briefly: The delicate design of the outer ear, the tympanic membrane (eardrum), and the tiny bones (malleus, incus and stapes) enables to collect sound waves traveling in the medium and transfer them to the inner ear. In the inner ear the sound waves are sorted according to their frequency and amplitudes and then converted into electrical signals which can be transported to the brain via nerves. At the onset of this process the sound waves are transformed into standing waves on the basilar membrane which is laid along the organ resembling a snail, the cochlea (Figure 1a). The frequency of the incoming sound wave determines the positions of the distortions along the cochlea: High pitches create vibrations at the basal end of the cochlea (i.e. adjacent to the middle ear) whereas low frequencies vibrate closer to the apical end (Figure 1b) where the cochlea gets narrower. This geometry helps our ears to act as a frequency analyzer. The efferent and afferent nerves that connect the ear to the central nervous system are attached to the organ of Corti, which is situated right next to the basilar membrane, extending over the cochlea. In other words, Corti is the sense organ of hearing, converting the motion of the basilar membrane into electrical signals that are conducted to the brain via neuronal cells . The organ of Corti is also lined with multiple rows of sensory hair cells. The hair cells of the organ of Corti Corti is decorated with two different sets of sensory cells: single row of inner hair cells (IHCs) accompanied with 3â€“4 rows of outer hair cells (OHCs), both spanning the whole cochlear tube (Figure 2a). They are called â€œhair cellsâ€? because both IHCs and OHCs have typical bundles of stereocilia that con-
Figure 2. Hair cell rows. Inner hair cells (sensors) and outer hair cells (amplifiers) of corti (modified from 7).
tain mechanosensitive ion channels (Figure 2b). The major function of IHCs is to detect the sound waves and then convert them into equivalent electrical signals that are to be interpreted by the brain. When the basilar membrane is perturbed by the incoming sound waves, the IHCs found in that region sense this activity by the movement of their hair bundles (bundles of stereocilia). The hair bundles of IHCs deflect and re-align as the basilar membrane moves up and down (Figure 3).
EVEN THOUGH IT TOOK DECADES OF RESEARCH FOR SCIENTISTS TO DISCOVER AND DEFINE THE ACTIVE NATURE OF THE MAMMALIAN EAR, THIS EXPLANATION HIGHLIGHTS ONLY A MINUSCULE PART OF THE WHOLE PICTURE. THAT IS WHY WE ARE STILL INCAPABLE OF CURING MOST HEARING PROBLEMS. We should note that this is an amazingly sensitive process such that deflections of the stereocilia on the order of a few nanometers (one millionth of a millimeter) can be detected and converted into nerve signals by the IHCs . However, this by itself is not sufficient for hearing; no matter how effective IHCs work, the fluid that fills the cochlear tube is a threat to the sound waves traveling in the inner ear. In 1948, a young astrophysicist named Thomas Gold was the first person who has pointed out that the fluidic nature of the cochlea would dampen the sound vibrations and make them too weak to be detected by IHCs. He has concluded that an inherent vibration
amplification mechanism is necessary in order to overcome such a problem . Unfortunately, Gold’s statements were overlooked by the physiologists of his time who had performed their hearing related experiments on dead cochleas. Gold’s predictions were justified around ten years later by William Rhode, a physiologist from University of Wisconsin, who has shown that the vibrations of the basilar membrane in live tissue samples are stronger than anticipated . In the present day the existence of an amplification mechanism within a live cochlea is a well accepted fact. The only disagreement among scientists is about how the mechanism of the amplification works. Several scientific laboratories have reported different experiments performed on the organ of Corti and they have proposed different models. At the center of one of these models is prestin, a membrane protein which is not found in any cell but OHCs in the human body. Electro-motile outer hair cells and prestin In 1985, the distinctive properties of OHCs were first discovered by William Brownell, a University of Geneva neuroscientist, who has shown that these cells can convert electrical signals into motion: A phenomenon called electromotility. Electromotile OHCs can elongate or shrink in response to electrical charge density changes in their membranes. About a decade ago Peter Dallos and co-workers from Northwestern University in Chicago discovered a membrane protein, unique to OHCs, that can respond to electrical signals . The Dallos group coined the name “prestin” for this protein in an analogy with the musical term “presto” (quickly) due to its rapid response to electrical signals. Various kinds of mammalian cells genetically engineered to produce prestin at their membranes displayed the electromotile responses that are very similar to OHCs. According to Peter Dallos prestin protein works as a tiny machine which is a crucial element for cochlear amplification . His theory is verified by recent studies which show that cochlear sensitivity in mice decreases hundredfold when prestin activity is disrupted by genetic means . As the sound waves reach the inner ear, prestin-driven electromotility enables the OHCs to move like pistons. The piston movement in phase with the basilar membrane 15
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motion amplifies the vibrations and makes them stronger for IHC detection (Figure 4a,b). The prestin-driven vibrations were what Thomas Gold proposed and David Kemp had detected so many years ago. However, scientists are still searching and learning new things about this nanometer scale machine. One of the discoveries showed that prestin can adjust itself according to the amplitude of the incoming sound waves: Basically, the amplification is stronger when the sound waves are hard to hear but gets weaker as the volume increases. Up to this point, we have briefly explained how the amplification mechanism of hearing in mammals works. Unfortunately, even though it took decades of research for scientists to discover and define the active nature of the mammalian ear, this explanation highlights only a minuscule part of the whole picture. That is why we are still incapable of curing most hearing problems. For example, hearing loss due to slightly disturbed hair cells with damaged stereocilia turns out to be chronic. The medical treatments we have to hand are too primitive to mend such delicate structures. Moreover, hearing aids made by todayâ€™s technology are not nearly as effective and functional as needed. On the other hand, the delicacy of the hair cells and the limited control scientists have over them are not the only lessons we have learned from research on the inner ear. We cannot overlook the other messages atSEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
Figure 3. Basilar membrane disturbances initiates interaction of OHC stereocilia with the tectorial membrane (from 9).
Figure 4. A. Piston movement. Prestins get in to the short state when the membrane is depolarized (as the hair bundle is deflected). Conformation changes of prestin induce the piston movement of OHCs. B. Basilar membrane feedback of piston movement (modified from 9).
tached to the research on the grounds that the time given to us is just too short to comprehend. It is an undeniable fact that the sense of hearing is designed in the best way to serve human beings. The different characteristics of hearing amplification at different sound levels make life much easier for us: Prestin-driven hearing is most effective when the sound waves are weak and harder to hear. This way the incoming sound waves are amplified enabling us to hear the faintest whispers. However, as the sound strength increases, the prestin-driven amplification gradually gets weaker and finally diminishes after a point to make sure that loud noises are less disturbing and hazardous for us. In my opinion, this amazing quality of a tiny protein found in our ears is one of the pieces of evidence that remind us of the necessity of pondering the favors of our Creator. Qur’anic verses such as Ibrahim 34 at the beginning of this article give us clues about how to interpret scientific findings that reveal the amazing qualities of our bodily organs. May the Creator of our ears allow us to reflect more on His favors and live accordingly. Hamdi Sener is a biophysicist living in Boston. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
References 1. Gleick, J., Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman. Reprint ed. 1993: Vintage. 560. 2. Kemp, D.T., "The evoked cochlear mechanical response and the auditory microstructure- evidence for a new element in cochlear mechanics." Scand Audiol Suppl., 1979. 9: p. 35–47. 3. Zheng, J., et al., "Prestin is the motor protein of cochlear outer hair cells." Nature, 2000. 405(6783): p. 149–55. 4. Robles, L. and M.A. Ruggero, "Mechanics of the mammalian cochlea." Physiol Rev., 2001. 81(3): p. 1305–52. 5. Gold, T., "Hearing II. The physical basis of the action of the cochlea." Proc. Roy. Soc. B., 1948. 135: p. 492– 498. 6. Rhode, W.S., Observations of the vibration of the basilar membrane in squirrel monkeys using the Mossbauer technique. J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 1971. 49: p. 1218–1231. 7. Cho, A., "What’s Shakin’ In the Ear?" Science, 2000. 288: p. 1954-1955. 8. Liberman, M.C., et al., "Prestin is required for electromotility of the outer hair cell and for the cochlear amplifier." Nature, 2003. 419: p. 300-304. 9. Fettiplace, R. and C.M. Hackney, "The sensory and motor roles of auditory hair cells." Nat Rev Neurosci., 2006. 7(1): p. 19-29. 10. Dallos, P. and B. Fakler, Prestin, a new type of motor protein. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol, 2002. 3(2): p. 104-11. 17
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HOW LUNGFISH ARE PROTECTED FROM THE SUN ater means purity, beauty, and life; it would be unrealistic to talk about life if water did not exist. Though it is widely known that water is a colorless and odorless substance with no taste, the existence of water as one of the outward reasons for life is undervalued. Water has a vital role in maintaining the life of the cell. For example, 70% of the human body consists of water; also, approximately 70% of the earth is formed of water. Chemical reactions happening inside cells take place in liquid environments; in other words, life activities have been made to depend on water. While water has such a vital importance for creatures, is there any living being that can live without water? The answer to this question is yes. For example, the African Lungfish (Protopterus), which is created with this special quality, can live without water for four years in hard times.
SUMMER HIBERNATION IS A MARVELOUS QUALITY THAT ENABLES SOME ANIMALS TO BE ABLE TO LIVE IN HOT AND DRY CLIMATES. IT IS A STATE BETWEEN SLEEP AND LETHARGY IN ORDER TO HANDLE HARD CIRCUMSTANCES.
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QUITE A LOT IS KNOWN ABOUT THE SUMMER SLEEP OF THE LUNGFISH IN AFRICA (DIPNOI). WHEN THE RIVER WATER WHICH FLOWS FROM THE TREASURES OF GOD’S MERCY IS WITHDRAWN DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS, THE LUNGFISH, WHICH SINK INTO WET CLAY BY GOD-GIVEN INSTICT, WAIT FOR A DRAWN BACK OF WATER IN A STATE OF LETHARGY WITH HAVING VERY LOW METABOLISMS.
It is well-known that bears go into hibernation as a result of a God-given instinct during the winter cold. Storing necessary energy as fat in their bodies in order not to freeze, decreasing their body metabolism to the minimum rate, and being guided to choose a place to be protected from the cold during winter hibernation are important features bestowed on these living beings. Another special feature bestowed on some animals is the capacity for summer hibernation. This sleep is a marvelous quality that enables some animals to be able to live in hot and dry climates. Summer hibernation is the process of spending very hot summer days between sleep and lethargy in order to handle hard circumstances. A kind of silence is felt in the whole of nature during the extremely hot months of summer. This silence is because animals are in their summer sleep. Lungfish is one of those animals. There are various types of lungfish around the world: Queensland Lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri), which is as long as 6 feet and which lives in the Burnett and Mary rivers in Australia; African Lungfish living Central Africa; 6 feet long Protopterus aethiopicus; 4 feet long P.dolloi; P. amphibious, which is written to be longer than 13 feet in some records; and Lepidosiren paradoxa living in South America. Quite a lot is known about the summer sleep of the lungfish in Africa (Dipnoi). When the river water which flows from the treasures of God’s mercy is withdrawn during the summer months, the lungfish, which sink into wet clay by God-given instict, wait for a drawn back of water in a state of lethargy with having very low metabolisms. The fishes open a hole for themselves on the mud (down rivers and lakes) when rivers and lakes start to dry. When the mud goes into a drying process, specially featured mucous membrane that are put onto fishes’ skins start to work fast and fishes’ bodies are covered by a secreted mucus-like adhesive substance like a water-resistant cocoon. Fishes can stay alive by sleeping about 7-8 months during deadly summer hots with the amount of accumulated water inside cocoons. Although many fishes obtain the necessary oxygen through their gills, lungfish are created with an interesting special feature. The thin membrane bladders (gas bladders) that are responsible for regulating water level in other fishes are organized into a kind of breathing organ in the lungfishes by equipping with large amount of blood vessels in order to perform like lungs. God the Almighty can make different organs (analog organ) perform similar tasks as He does make similar organs (homolog organ) perform different tasks. None of these organs, which are created as the manifestation of God’s eternal knowledge and omnipotence, are characterized as being developed by their own through coincidental mutations. In contrast, every organ is created in the most appropriate character and capability to ensure maintenance of animals’ lives in the best way. Otherwise, we had to imagine those fishes that could know dry season with every aspects and that have the capacity and knowledge to change their organs as they want. How do the fishes living in a water-resistant and durable cocoon obtain the necessary oxygen for themselves? The hole kept inside mud is used to get oxygen when oxygen inside cocoon reduced. The cocoon’s membrane made from mucus protects the little amount of water around the fish in mud but does not block the oxygen transition. While the dried mud works like a turbot against sun lights, the hole on the wall is kept. The lungfishes shrink around 1 inch during the summer sleep, since they use (burn) some of their fat and muscle tissue. When rains start and water fills lakes and rivers, the mud turbot that keeps lungfish dissolves; and the lungfish starts to continue its normal life in water. 19
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Mohammad Taufik bin Mohammad
God burdens no soul except within its capacity… he verse given above (Al-Baqarah, 2:286) is not strange to any Muslim. God has promised that He will never burden a person with difficulties beyond his or her capacity. This is supported by other verses in Surah AlInshirah (94:5–6), where it is said that with every hardship, comes relief and this divine statement is repeated twice in the same chapter. This clearly shows how God knows the limits of the human being’s capacity to endure challenges in life. However, despite these beautiful statements God has made in the Qur’an, we still hear many people complaining about how tough life is, about how they cannot bear their problems anymore and asking why God gives them certain challenges other people do not have to bear. The worst thing is when suicide is contemplated as a reaction to what God has given to His servant. These complaints, at first glance, appear to contradict these verses, since surely the people so afflicted should know their own capacity to endure tough problems. At
AVOIDANCE COPING SKILLS ARE BASICALLY UNHEALTHY WAYS OF DEALING WITH PROBLEMS. THESE COPING SKILLS DELAY THE PROCESS OF RECOVERY AND EMOTIONAL STABILITY. AN EXAMPLE OF A COPING SKILL OF THIS TYPE IS SUBSTANCE ABUSE, WHERE MANY PEOPLE TURN TO DRUGS. SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
second glance, however, it becomes clear that this is not so. Does God really test someone beyond his capacity? In talking about the endurance of an individual, we cannot avoid the subject of coping skills. Generally, coping skills are divided into two categories, namely avoidance coping skills and approach coping skills (Soderstorm, et.al., 2000). Avoidance coping skills are basically unhealthy ways of dealing with problems. These coping skills delay the process of recovery and emotional stability. An example of a coping skill of this type is substance abuse, where many people turn to coffee, drugs, cigarettes and other substances when they are in distress. Another avoidance coping skill is denial, where the person refuses to believe what has happened. In some really bad cases, people go on with their lives, refusing to believe the problem they face and allowing the situation to deteriorate. Some other examples are self-harming, minimization and cognitive avoidance. These mechanisms of coping do not just delay the process of recovery, but also exacerbate the situation. On the other hand, approach coping mechanisms promote the mental and physical well being of an individual. These mechanisms foster positive thinking and motivate problem-solving behaviors. One of the skills in this category is action taking. Rather than sitting and waiting for something to happen, a person who adopts approach coping mechanisms will plan the strategies and actions required to solve or ease the problem. Another approach coping skill is acceptance. However, acceptance here means to admit that there is a problem and not resent to the occurrence of the problem. Acceptance which means giving up is not the same as acceptance as an approach coping skills. Positive acceptance is the opposite of denial. Therefore, acceptance is an important beginning of acting to solve or ease a problem. Humor can also be an approach coping mechanism. By making appropriate fun of the problem, distress can be reduced, and thus more mental stability can be achieved. For example, a mother who has just experienced the loss of her child might say to herself, “At least he is enjoying as much candy as he wants in paradise.” By using appropriate humor like this, the mother can broaden her perspective, allowing her to see the brighter side of the loss she has experienced. Religious coping is another strategy among approach coping skills. In psychological research, more and more studies suggest ways that spirituality and religiosity help in dealing with life’s problems. One of these studies (Meisenhelder and Chandler 2002) stressed that faith as the concept of spirituality was more applicable than religiosity. One of the variables investigated by these researchers, which was religious coping, correlated positively with mental health. This study is only one out of
RELLIGIOU US COP PING IS ANOTHER R ST TRA ATEG GY AMON NG APP PRO OAC CH COPIN NG SKILLS S. IN N PSY YCH HOLLOGIC CAL RES SEARCH H, MORE AND MORE STU UDIES SUGG GES ST WAYS THA AT SPIR RITU UALLITY Y AND RELIG GIO OSIT TY HELLP IN DEA ALIN NG WITH LIF FE’S S PRO OBLLEM MS. 21
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many to show a strong relation between spirituality and mental and physical well being. Soderstorm et.al (2000) also suggested some gender differences in coping strategies. They asserted that men tend to adopt task-oriented coping strategies or approach type and women tend to use the contrary, avoidance coping strategies. However, some other studies have suggested that women are more likely to use task-oriented coping strategies or that there are no gender differences (Holahan & Moos, 1985 as cited in Soderstorm, et.al., 2000). Nevertheless, more and more researchers have found a tendency for men to focus on a problem and start taking action to overcome it. The relation between the verse in Surah al-Baqarah at the beginning of this discussion and coping skills is clear. The question then arises: if it is true that God would never burden a soul beyond its capacity, why do some people complain of being unable to deal with a certain problem they face? If they think that God is unfair, or that they are now unable to cope, or are thinking of committing suicide, it is simply that they have adopted the wrong kind of coping strategy for their individual circumstances, or they may have adopted unhealthy avoidance coping strategies in dealing with problems. Abi-Hashem (2007) describes how unhealthy coping skills can have negative impacts on people who live in a country with ongoing war, as in the Middle East. Such circumstances, where violence, cruelty, and harshness are an unavoidable part of life make things seem hopeless, and nothing can be done to break away from the situation. The author suggests that at this point, the best coping strategy to be employed is action taking, because worsening mental paralysis can happen to an individual in a country with war who takes no positive action. So, if a person feels as if the challenge God has given them is beyond what they can bear, they should ponder any action they have taken to adjust to the problem. They may have missed some points where, if action is taken, a great deal of worry and stress can be reduced or allayed. Another way of looking at this is that religious coping skill correlates with mental well being. But sadly not many people realize the importance of SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
religious coping skills in managing life’s problems. In many verses in the Qur’an (e.g. Al-An’am, 6:102; Hud 11:123), God reminds us to depend on Him in all affairs, to put our trust in Him and make Him the basis of our decision making. This reflects all research findings, which tell us repeatedly of the advantages and positive outcomes of religious coping. Perhaps this is because we know that there is something we can rely on in hard times, which makes it easier for us to deal with life’s problems. Some practical ways to cope religiously are the performance of greater numbers of recommended prayers, more frequent remembrance of God, and contemplating the creation of the universe. Sometimes we believe too much in the power of our own selves, feeling too confident that it is we who make the changes, who solve the problems. But we all know the power of togetherness. Support from other people can significantly increase the effectiveness of our coping style. We can reduce our stress by sharing what is bothering us and perhaps getting wiser advice from another person on handling the problems we are facing. It is important to reflect on ourselves in times of stress. Do we just listen to ourselves? Do we turn to substances when we are distressed by something? Are we brave enough to accept the problem which is afflicting us? Most importantly, do we trust God enough to help us with our problems? These questions can only be answered by each individual for himself or herself. Mohammad Taufik bin Mohammad graduated from International Islamic University, Malaysia. He would like to pursue for a Master’s degree in psychology.
References Abi-Hashem, N. (2007). The agony, silent grief, and deep frustration of many communities in the Middle East: Challenges for coping and survival. In P. T. P. Wong and C. J. Wong (Eds.), Handbook of Multicultural Perspectives on Stress and Coping, US: Springer US, pp. 457–486. Meisenhelder, J. B. & Chandler, E. N. (2002). Spirituality and health outcomes in the elderly. Journal of Religion and Health, 41, 243–252. Soderstrom, M., Dolbier, C., Leiferman, J. & Seinhardt, M. (2000). The relationship of hardiness, coping strategies, and perceived stress to symptoms of illness. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 23, 321–328.
“For he who has but one tool, the hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.”
ince the time of Copernicus, natural philosophers have commonly assumed there is a real, physical world that exists prior to and independent of the human mind, and they have set themselves the task of penetrating “beyond the veil” of subjective impressions to that external “objective” world. Thus, the real world is viewed as something devoid of subjective experience.1 On the other hand, though the causes of experiences are thought to be objective and available to everyone, the experiences themselves are only available to the person experiencing them. This makes it almost impossible to draw a clear boundary between what constitutes objective or subjective experience. Paulson, in his article “The Nearing Death Process and Pastoral Counseling,” proposes the acknowledgement of multiple domains for humans. He argues that reducing everything into one domain, either into the objective or subjective domain, causes problems: “This situation was illustrated by Viktor Frank2 through the aid of a three-dimensional model. In three-dimensional space, a cylinder is a cylinder, containing both rectangular and spherical components. But, when presented in two-dimensional space, the cylinder provides two conflicting views: it is either a sphere or a rectangle. One Fig. 1 must be right and the other wrong (Fig. 1). In life, when a subject is reduced to
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the objective domain, consciousness, thoughts, feelings, and perceptions are viewed merely as biochemical reactions. That is, under the laws of science (e.g. physics, biology, and biochemistry), conscious thoughts, feelings, and perceptions cannot exist, whereas they do. Conversely, many postmodern philosophers reduce both subjective and objective domains into the cultural domain of shared meaning. In this view, the world we live in is completely relative.”3 Attaining empirical knowledge through one’s sense-based experiences, one frames an individual view of the colorful face of creation. The constant flow of views and perceptions maps the external world in the human mind on two axes, one subjective and the other objective. This mapping process causes every individual living under the same sky to have a world of their own. For example, a despairing, lamenting, weeping person sees beings as weeping and in despair, while a cheerful, optimistic, merry person sees the universe as joyful and smiling. This brings subjectivity to our attention. One can use this subjective point of view with the aim of strengthening faith in God’s existence and regarding every creature as part of the great fellowship of this faith, worshipping God. For a reflective person who is engaged in solemn worship and glorification discovers and sees to a degree the certain, truly existent and worship and glorification performed by all beings, while a person who abandons worship through neglect or denial sees beings in a state of idleness, as playthings in the hands of coincidence and mere accidents. One should sometimes take the side of subjectivity to be able to feel joy and happiness in this worldly life. Although there is seemingly a dark and ugly face of existence, everything, stemming from Divine beauty, will eventually return to the same source. Although not everyone can fully understand this reality, everybody should always look at the brightest side of existence. As the famous scholar, Said Nursi, points out, “Those who attend to the good side of everything contemplate the good. Those who contemplate the good enjoy life.”4 There is no doubt that all of us should view the created with an educated look. Eyes are the windows through which the soul sees outer space. One should be selective when it comes to where one opens those windows to. The thinking mechanism generates outputs depending on the inputs it receives. Everything is beautiful in itself or in its outcomes, thus the explorer of the universe should always beam his censors towards this beautiful side of the existence. One should support this subjective perception of the universe by every possible means, tolerating his ignorance and shortcomings in seeing the objective beauty of the universe. As we all are human beings, we all have our own weaknesses in our personal realms. We can categorize the weaknesses embedded in our natures as follows: worldly ambition (that can result in forgetting about the Creator), greed, fear (which can make us sacrifice even our honor and integrity), racism and negative nationalism (which can mean one only feels satisfied at swallowing the rights of other nations), and selfishness.5 The main source feeding these weaknesses is thinking that one will live forever in this worldly life. This thought or feeling is completely subjective. None of us applies SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
ONE SHOULD SOMETIMES TAKE THE SIDE OF SUBJECTIVITY TO BE ABLE TO FEEL JOY AND HAPPINESS IN THIS WORLDLY LIFE. ALTHOUGH THERE IS SEEMINGLY A DARK AND UGLY FACE OF EXISTENCE, EVERYTHING, STEMMING FROM DIVINE BEAUTY, WILL EVENTUALLY RETURN TO THE SAME SOURCE.
the concept of “death” to ourselves; everyone thinks it only applies to others. We see the mountains as stable, our surroundings as unchanging, and this observation leads us to think we will also remain unchanged. This deceptive subjectivity paralyzes sincerity and opens ways to the corruption and moral suicide of society. Explorers of the universe should spoil the poisonous sweetness of this subjectivity with the bitter taste of the contemplation of death itself. The reality of death is so vivid that it cannot be denied. The example of a man in a small room of which four walls are mirrors can demonstrate this fact further. The man thinks that the small room is an infinitely large space, looking at its reflections in the mirrors. When the man stretches out his hand, touches the surface of the mirror and breaks it, he understands the inevitable reality. There is death, an end to unlimited wants and wishes for eternity on the earth. This objective fact exists regardless of what human minds think about it. Human beings exist in impotence on this earth. It is as foolish to say that nature obeys our will or command as to say that a baby’s parents serve him due to his own power. Whenever delusions cause humans to think that they have a godly existence, they should remember Pharaoh’s fate and never forget that even a tiny microbe can defeat and force them to lie down for weeks. Hospitals, prisons and graveyards tear off this subjective mask of power and show the objective pure face of human beings’ underlying impotence. Another important drawback of subjectivity is “familiarity.” Our lack of information and knowledge about a particular topic is our ignorance on that topic. However, if we do not even know that we lack that knowledge, this is called “compound ignorance.” For example, the rising and setting of the sun every day and spring’s appearing with bouquets of flowers at our doorsteps every year are not understood or appreciated by most people, as these natural events happen continuously without any interruption. People become blinded by a veil of “subjective familiarity.” They do not see the true value of events which appear to be usual and ordinary but in fact are extraordinary. Another misuse of subjectivity is seen in the ways that people put a distance between each other and build a solid wall of enmity that blocks the way to peace and harmony in society. The reasons for putting up these barriers are far from being objective; they are only the
dark shadows of our subjective caprices. Let us say that there is a ship carrying ten people out of whom nine are murderers and one is innocent. No one with right thinking would try to sink that ship in order to get rid of the nine murderers at the expense of the life of the one innocent. A judge looking at the incident through the lens of objectivity would demand the securing of the rights of the innocent.6 Similarly, every human being on this earth is a spectacular ship built by the Creator. Everybody has good and bad sides. Nobody has the right to hate another person just because that person has some bad qualities. Hatred means sinking that hated ship of the individual in the eyes of the one committing the deed of hatred. Most of the arguments people use to support turning their backs on one another are as small as a pebble compared to arguments that are as great as mountains and that would bring apparently opposing sides together. All of us were created by the same God. This is a reason for fellowship stronger by far than the relation between the children of the same father. All of us are sharing the same slice of time out of thousands of years, a very small probability if one thinks of the millions of years since the beginning of creation. We all have a longing for love, tenderness, warmth, openness, honesty, and integrity. We are all afraid of clashes, tears, fears, the unpredictability of darkness, and sorrows. We, as fellow human beings, have so much in common. The human being’s objective and subjective view of the universe should be a perspective illuminating both the soul and body. That perspective adds a third dimension to the two-dimensional picture in most of our minds. It highlights the wonders of this universe and the depth and richness hidden under the flat, quiet, calm ocean of creation. Yasin Ceran is a teacher in Dallas, Texas.
Notes 1. Wallace, B. Alan, “The Intersubjective Worlds of Science and Religion,” from Science, Religion and Human Experience, Oxford University Press, 2005. 2. Frankl, V. E. (1959). The will to meaning, New York: New American Library 3. Paulson, Daryl S, “The Nearing Death Process and Pastoral Counseling,” Pastoral Psychology, Vol. 52, No. 4, March 2004. 4. Nursi, Said, The Letters, NJ: Tughra Books, 2007, p. 450. 5. For more discussion on human weakness see Nursi, 2007, pp. 399–413. 6. See Nursi, 2007, p. 282. 25
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he pregnancy of Mary, the greatest example of purity, was a miracle of God and a wonder of divine creation, and the birth of Jesus, peace be upon him, was the result of this miraculous command. The Qurâ€™an stresses the fact that Mary protected her dignity and chastity and that she had never been in contact with any male:
And (mention) that blessed woman who set the best example in guarding her chastity. We breathed into her out of Our Spirit, and We made her and her son a miraculous sign (of Our Power and matchless way of doing things) for all the worlds (Anbiya 21:91). And also Mary, the daughter of Imran who kept herself chaste (body and soul), so We breathed into it out of Our Spirit, and who affirmed the truth of the words of her Lord (His Revelations â€“ commandments, SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
THE WORD USED FOR “OFFSPRING” (DHURRIYYA) IN THE QUR’AN HAS A WIDE RANGE OF MEANING IN THE ARABIC LANGUAGE; IT IS USED TO REFER TO THE CHILDREN AND LINEAGE OF A PERSON, A GENERATION OF HUMANS AND JINNS, A HOUSEHOLD MADE UP OF A FATHER, MOTHER AND CHILD, AND ALSO SOMETIMES USED SOLELY FOR WOMEN OR FATHERS AND GRANDFATHERS.
promises and warnings – to His Messengers), and His Books; and she was of those devoutly obedient to God (Tahrim 66:12). Her expression of astonishment when she was given the tidings that she was to give birth to a son is clear evidence of her chastity: How shall I have a son seeing no mortal has ever touched me, and I have never been unchaste? (Mary 19:20). It is also revealed in the Qur’an that whoever spoke against or slandered Mary would be subjected to grievous punishment and destruction, for their hearts are sealed from belief (Nisa 4:156). While the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches believe in accordance with the Qur’an that Mary remained chaste throughout her life, some other Christian churches believe that Mary was only a virgin until the birth of Jesus. The main justification for their view is in the New Testament, which uses in various chapters the phrases “brothers of Jesus” and “sister of Jesus,” sometimes even referring to them by their names. So for this reason we must look deeper into the meaning of the word “brother” in both the Old and New Testaments and understand the sense in which the word was used. Here I would like to point out that there have been various studies of the Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, aimed at understanding this matter, so I think it is appropriate firstly to explore the possibility Jesus having brothers within the boundaries what is said in the Qur’an and hadith, and then continue by examining the sources in the Old and New Testaments. A. In the Qur’an and hadith When Hannah, Imran’s wife and Jesus’ grandmother gave birth to Mary she prayed, “I commend her and her offspring to You for protection from Satan eternally rejected (from God’s Mercy)” (Al Imran 3:36). There have been some who claim that there is a possibility of Jesus having brothers or sisters because the word “off-
spring” (dhurriyya) refers to a plurality, but a majority of the interpreters of the Qur’an have understood the words “her and her offspring” as referring in particular to “Mary and Jesus.” Most scholars refer to the following hadith as a reason for their interpretations: “It was reported by Abu Huraira that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, ‘There is no newborn except that (at the moment of birth) Satan disturbs him, so he begins to cry from Satan’s disturbance, with the exception of the son of Mary and his mother,’” and the scholars say that this was the result of Hannah’s prayer (Bukhari, Muslim). The word used for “offspring” (dhurriyya) in the Qur’an has a wide range of meaning in the Arabic language; it is used to refer to the children and lineage of a person, a generation of humans and jinns, a household made up of a father, mother and child, and also sometimes used solely for women or fathers and grandfathers. Though most scholars say that the Arabic word for “offspring” has a singular referent, there are some who argue the word to be plural. Raghib alIsfahani argues that this is a word used in both the plural and the singular sense, but in this case it refers to plurality and Said ibn Mansur states that the word for “offspring” can refer to both the male and female sexes. Other interpreters of the Qur’an like Al-Baghawi and Qurtubi also state that this word can be used for males and females and at the same time singular and plural. The Arabic word for “offspring” is mentioned in various verses of the Qur’an mostly in the singular (e.g. Baqara, 2:124, 128, 266; Al-Imran, 3:34, 36, 38; Nisa, 4:9; An’am, 6:84, 133) sense but with a plural meaning in a few of the verses (An’am, 6:87; Ra’d, 13:23; Furqan, 25:74) and in one verse it is used to describe a group of people (Yunus, 10:83). If we accept the word in the plural sense and agree that this word 27
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means at least “three persons from a person’s lineage” it is still impossible to say that the Qur’an’s revelations in any way prove that Mary gave birth to a child other than Jesus. When Mary’s mother made the supplication to her Lord there was no indication of plurality or of the number of Mary’s children, or for that matter if she was to have children at all, for it goes without saying that Mary herself was just a newborn baby at the time. If we take a brief look at the supplication itself, we see that it refers to the likelihood of her having children; so the use of the word “offspring” does not provide foundation for a possibility that Jesus may have had brothers or sisters. We also see in the Qur’an that the whole incident was a miraculous event, that the pregnancy and birth were on the Divine command, a miracle of the Almighty. A hadith of the noble Prophet refers to Mary as “Al-Batul” and “‘Al-Adhra,” both meaning “virgin” or untouched and in the hadith it gives clearer explanations of these words saying, “She was untouched by man,” and goes on, “She bore no child other than Jesus.” The term aladhra means a virgin woman while al-batul has a more extensive meaning—“the virgin, the woman who withdraws from worldly pleasures, one who devotes herself to worship.” The conclusion of the examination of both the Qur’an and hadith shows that there is no evidence supporting the claim that Jesus had brothers or sisters, and Ibn Hajar specifically stresses that Mary only gave birth to Jesus and she had no other children.1 B. “Brother” and “sister” in the Bible The word “brother” in the Old Testament has a very broad meaning; it refers to the immediate descendants of the father, the son and the male relatives as a whole, cousins, in-laws and those with blood ties and even includes friends and those with whom a person has political dealings.2 The words “brother” and “sister” were sometimes used to portray the main family members as we see in the example of the forty two “brethren” of King Uzziah.3 Another interesting example is in the Song of Solomon, where two lovers are serenading one another, and the young man says in some verses of the song, “How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride.”4 Maurice Bucaille, commenting on the word “brother” in the New Testament states that the words “adelphoi” and “adelphai” in Greek refer to biological brother and sister, and he said that these words, had been defectively translated from Semitic languages, where they had been used to denote “kin” in the general sense and the people SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
in question were probably cousins.5 As the word “cousin” did not exist in Hebrew and Aramaic, the languages spoken by both Jesus and his disciples, they probably had no other option; they could either use the word “brother” or would have to define a person by calling them “my father’s sister’s son” and so on, which is neither easy nor appropriate, and this was the likely reason for Jesus using “brother” for his close acquaintances. In the New Testament, the equivalent of brother in Aramaic was given as the word “adelphos,” which in the general sense means “brother” or “brotherly friend,” a kind of sign of closeness to someone. Unlike in Hebrew or Aramaic, the word “anepsios” in ancient Greek gave a distinct meaning to the word “cousin,” but those who wrote the scriptures used “adelphos” or “friend” to correspond “cousin.” So we understand from this that the writers of the New Testament used the same word “adelphos” from ancient Greek to convey the meaning of “friend” and for the meaning of “two sons of the same family” or “biological brothers.” This is very confusing when the text is translated into English or any other language. C. According to the New Testament One of the reasons for opinions that Jesus had brothers or sisters several verses in the New Testament which say that Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they had come together Joseph realized that she was carrying a child and had decided to leave Mary. But an angel came to Joseph in his dream and told him the truth of the miraculous conception, and Joseph decided to take Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:18–20; Luke 1:27; 2:5). There is no mention in the Qur’an or hadith of Joseph, the person said to be betrothed to Mary in the Bible, and there is certainly no report of the Biblical scriptures found in the Qur’an and hadith stating that Mary married this man called Joseph. However, there are a few weak reports of some historical sources that say that there was a carpenter of the same name who was a member of Mary’s family6 and both of them were serving at the Temple during the same period.7 Another matter which leads the Protestant churches to believe that Jesus may have had brothers and sisters is the verse in the Gospel of Luke saying that Jesus was Mary’s “firstborn son” (2:7). However, this declaration is no reason to believe that Jesus had brothers and sisters, this statement being rather a declaration that her first child would be a holy servant of his Lord (Luke 2:23) a declaration invoking a legislation in the scriptures.
As further evidence, the Gospel of Luke (2:41–52) tells how Jesus attended the Temple in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover with his parents, that he went missing, and that his parents were searching for him. We see there is no mention at all of any other children except Jesus. To the contrary, the context leads us to believe that there was only one child present. Another special detail is that according to the Gospel of John (19:26–27), Jesus entrusted his mother to one of the disciples when he was being placed on the crucifix, so immediately the question arises: if Jesus had brothers and sisters, then why did he entrust his mother to someone else? Even if we assume that Joseph, who was claimed to have married Mary was not alive at the time, there being no mention whatsoever of the existence of Jesus’ brothers or sisters at this point is another aspect which seems to invalidate the allegation. D. The use of the word “brother” in reference to Jesus It is apparent that when the word “brother” was mentioned in reference to Jesus, in most cases it was actually used as a figure of speech and there is no indication to the contrary. For instance in the verses of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, where Jesus’ mother and brother ask to speak to Jesus while he is talking to his disciples, and he replies, “Here are my mother and my brother! For whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew, 12:46–50; Mark, 3:31–35; Luke, 8:19–21) Again, the
Gospel of John (20:10–18) claims that following the crucifixion of Jesus, he was resurrected and appeared before Mary Magdalene, telling her “Go to my brothers and say to them I am ascending to my Father and your Father and my God and your God.” This is clear evidence that “brothers” was a figurative expression, for it goes on to say, “Mary went and said to his disciples.” Another statement which only appears in the Gospel of John (7:3–10) says that the “brothers” of Jesus invited him to leave Galilee and set out for Judea as the Jewish festival of Passover was approaching, but Jesus refused the invitation and told his “brothers” to attend the feast, following on in secret later. Again, an event only recorded in the Gospel of John (2:12) states that following the miracle of the wine, Jesus, along with his mother, brothers and disciples went to Capernaum and stayed there for a few days. It is almost impossible to prove that from these narrations in the Gospels that Jesus had any biological brothers or sisters. In Antiquities of the Jews, a book written by the famous Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, it is claimed that Jesus had at least one brother, Jacob. But a narration of Simon bar Cleopas, who is known to have been a cousin of Jesus, and who is said to have died when he was 120 years old, claims that the man Jacob, the socalled brother of Jesus, was stoned to death in 62 CE at the age of 96.8 According to this statement Jacob must have been born in 34 BC, which proves that it was im29
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possible for him to be Jesus’ biological brother since this date would make Jacob older than Mary, his supposed mother. It is interesting that when Luke’s gospel portrays the same event as the Gospels of Matthew and Mark the word “brother” is not used at all (4:14–30). When we compare the names mentioned with those of the disciples, we see an interesting connection with the names of the supposed brothers: the names given as the four brothers of Jesus, with the exception of Joseph, are among those on the list of the chosen disciples. In the lists given in the Synoptic gospels, the gospel of Barnabas and in commentaries by Al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir respectively, the names Simon and Jacob are both mentioned twice. Another interesting fact is that Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, is the one name mentioned by all of them.9 The word “brother” is similarly mentioned in two verses of the Qur’an, one of them being To the ‘Ad people (we sent) Hud, one of their own brethren (Hud 11:50), in which it is clear there is no indication of any blood tie, and the other is when the sons of Israel address Mary as “O sister of Aaron!”(Mary 19:28). Scholars have stressed the fact that this is not a reference to a biological sister10; as the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, explained in one of the hadith, “The Israelites used to name their children after their prophets and pious persons who had gone before them” (Muslim, Tirmidhi, Hanbal). Another present-day example supporting this theory is nuns who refer to each other as “sister,” which is, of course, used in the spiritual sense. So it is probable that those who were referred to as Jesus’ brothers were actually his spiritual brothers or brothers in religion. Ahmet Cetinkaya is managing editor at Nil Yayınları, Istanbul. He is a Ph.D. candidate in theology and his dissertation is on narrations about Jesus in the hadith literature.
Notes 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
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Fath Al-Bari, VI: 470. II. Samuel, 1:26; Amos, 1:11 Deuteronomy, 23:7; Nehemiah, 5:7; Jeremiah, 34:9; Kings 2, 10:13–14. Song of Solomon 4:9–12; 5:1. Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, the Qur’an, and Science, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 2003, p. 96. Some say, “maternal uncle’s son” (Ibn Kathir, History II, 68) and “paternal uncle’s son” (Al-Alusi, Tafsir, xvi, 80). See at-Tabari, Tafsir XVI, 64-5; Tarih I, 350; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir III, 113. Eisenman, Robert H.; James the Brother of Jesus, Penguin books, Paperback edition, 1998, p. 320. Barnabas mentions his own name instead of Simon’s. The gospels of Luke and Barnabas mention another person apart from Judas Iscariot. See: Matthew, 10:1–4; Mark, 3:13–19; Luke, 6:12–16; Gospel of Barnabas, 14; At-Tabari, Tafsir, vi, 14 onward. At-Tabari, Tafsir xvi, 77–78; Fahruddin ar-Razi, Tafsir, xv, 327–328.
J. D. McClatchy J. D. McClatchy is the editor of The Yale Review. He is the author of six collections of poems.
Everything revolves: the dreams of the body, the blood, the earth itself, a man’s coming from it and his return. In their tombstone caps and flaring shroud skirts, the dervishes spin toward that moment when monotony and ecstasy, knowing and unknowing are the same, planets wheeled around some spindle disguised as the five-petalled rose on a tile underfoot in a weightless self-regard meant to worship the power that keeps them in motion. From a corbelled balcony the choir’s melisma twists on a lost soul: oud and heartbeat, the drummed air lifting. This one—so close he brushes against the fanatic’s prayer— arms open to anything, right hand pointing up, eyes caught by his left hand, which he’s turned downward as if toward the rapture of, at last, submission . . . here is our world. It is time now to come back to the work of creation. High over the planets a golden whiplash script around the inmost rim of today’s great dome calls down: God is the light of the heavens, a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in glass. The glass is a high, brightening, constant star.
LEAD ARTICLE LEAD BELIEF ARTICLE
M. Fethullah Gülen ‘IBADA, ‘UBUDIYA, AND ‘UBUDA (WORSHIP, SERVANTHOOD, AND DEEP DEVOTION)
'IBADA MEANS ALWAYS BEING CONSCIOUS OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE CREATOR AND CREATED, THE WORSHIPPED ONE AND THE WORSHIPPER, THE OVERSEEING AND THE OVERSEEN, THE SUSTAINING AND THE SUSTAINED, AND THINKING, FEELING, AND ACTING IN THE MOST PROFOUND AWARENESS OF THESE RELATIONSHIPS.
lthough some view worship, servanthood, and devotion as synonymous, most Sufi scholars and masters say that these words have different meanings and connotations. ‘Ibada (worship) means fulfilling God’s commands in one’s daily life and fulfilling the obligations of being His servant, while ‘ubuda (servanthood) is interpreted as living in the consciousness of being a servant. Thus, one who observes his or her religious duties is called ‘abid (worshipper), while one who lives in consciousness of being a servant of God is usually called ‘abd (servant). There is another, more subtle difference between worship and servanthood. Acts of worship consist of all financial and physical duties: those requiring sufficient financial resources and physical ability, and that are accomplished with difficulty, in fear and hope, and with the intention of pleasing God (e.g., the five daily prayers, fasting, alms-giving, pilgrimage to Mecca, offering a sacrifice, and mentioning or reciting God’s Names). A servant of God, however, understands these responsibilities or acts of worship in a different manner: each fulfillment of such a duty has a deeper (inner) dimension that requires a certain degree of consciousness and awareness on the part of the servant. The deepest dimension of religious duties and demands is devotion, which requires total care and awareness. Ibn al-Farid states: “The acts of worship and duties of servanthood required by every station or rank that I have reached during my spiritual journey have been fulfilled by my devotion.” Some Sufis have defined worship as the servanthood of ordinary people, servanthood as the duty required by being a servant of God and carried out by individuals possessing insight and awareness, and devotion as the responsibility of those distinguished by their nearness to God. The first group contains those striving to advance on the path of God; the second group contains those whose mental and spiritual attitudes allow them to overcome all seemingly insurmountable obstacles and difficulties they encounter; the third group contains those whose mental and spiritual states cause them to turn to God wholeheartedly and with a profound feeling of being in His company.
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Other Sufis have summed up the above explanations in two terms: worship of the Absolute Divine Essence, and worship of the Restricted Divine Attributes. The first term means always being conscious of the relationship between the Creator and created, the Worshipped One and the worshipper, the Overseeing and the overseen, the Sustaining and the sustained, and thinking, feeling, and acting in the most profound awareness of these relationships. The second term means fulfilling one’s daily duties as required by this awareness, which causes one’s awareness to increase. Those performing these duties can be categorized by their intention, resolution, determination, and sincerity as follows: those who desire to enter Paradise, those who hope to be rescued from Hellfire, those who love and stand in awe of God, and those who feel that they must do so as a requirement of the relationship between God as the Creator (Who alone deserves worship) and human beings (created beings who must worship their Creator).
Each group has another name: merchants, slaves, lovers, and the devoted or faithful. These words of Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiya, a female Muslim saint who lived during the second century of Islam, are quite appropriate: O Lord. I swear by the beauty of nearness to You that I have not worshipped You either for fear of Hell or out of the desire for Paradise. I have worshipped You because of You. Servanthood is a source of honor and dignity for men and women. Nothing is more esteemed or valuable than being honored with servanthood and devotion to God. Although other, more valuable ranks may be conferred for a limited time, servanthood is constant and continuous, and therefore the most valuable rank. This is why God Almighty described the best of creation, upon him be peace and blessings, as His servant in the most beautiful words: There is no deity but God,
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NO OTHER RANK OR HONOR IS AS GREAT AS OR GREATER THAN SERVANTHOOD. IF ANY RANK OR HONOR MAY BE CONSIDERED AS SUCH, IT MAY BE FREEDOM, BUT ONLY IN THE MEANING OF NOT SETTING ONE’S HEART ON ANYTHING OTHER THAN GOD AND RENOUNCING WHATEVER IS OTHER THAN HIM.
and Muhammad is His servant and Messenger, and He crowned his servanthood and these blessed words with his Messengership. Also, when inviting the Prophet, the glory of humanity and the peerless, unique one of time and creation, to honor the heavens by the Ascension,1 He began His invitation with the complimentary phrase: He carried His servant by night (17:1), thereby referring to the matchless greatness of his servanthood. This is even more meaningful, as on this occasion when space and time were almost transcended and the allpervasive light of Divine Grace and Beauty welcomed him, God Almighty again stressed his servanthood and declared: He revealed to His servant what He revealed (53:10). Rumi does not present himself as a saint or an individual of profound spiritual depth, but as a servant:
withholding of all spiritual gifts and radiances. Be aware of the honor and dignity of being attached to Him, and never imagine being honored with other kinds of ranks.
I have become a servant, become a servant, become a servant; / I have bowed and doubled myself up with serving You. / Servants or slaves rejoice when they are emancipated; / Whereas I rejoice when I become Your servant.
O son! Unchain yourself and become free! How much longer will you remain a slave of silver and gold?
According to some, the following should also be considered when discussing worship and servanthood. A servant should: Be aware of his or her faults and worry about them even if he or she thinks that the acts of worship have been per-formed perfectly. Endeavor to worship perfectly, and then attribute to God whatever is achieved in the name of servanthood. Each moment of life should be spent in the awareness of his or her being a servant to the eternal Lordship of God. Regard all facets of existence as shadows of the Light of His existence, and never attribute to oneself the existence of anything or any accomplishment. There should be no self-pride concerning the blessings conferred, or despair concerning the SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
No other rank or honor is as great as or greater than servanthood. If any rank or honor may be considered as such, it may be freedom, but only in the meaning of not setting one’s heart on anything other than God and renouncing whatever is other than Him. Those who have not made great progress on the path to God can only feel freedom, while those who have reached the destination experience it fully. I think that the true freedom to which one must aspire, one that will be appropriate for his or her grade and dignity, is this one. A friend of God draws attention to this fact:
Junayd al-Baghdadi warns that unless one is freed from slavery to others, one cannot attain true servanthood to God.2 Another friend of God expresses the meaning of servanthood and freedom by advising that a servant of God should never consider any other than God in all of his or her thoughts, imaginings, feelings, and manners: If you would like to beat the drum of honor, go beyond the wheel of stars; / As this circle filled with rings is a drum of humiliation. O God! Enable us to attain to what is loved by and pleasing to You. Notes: 1. The Ascension (mi‘raj) was a miraculous event during which the Prophet journeyed throughout the realms of existence to God. 2. Al-Qushayri, Al-Risala, 201.
Kaptan Murat Celebi
IF WE LEFT THE CENTER OF THE SUN WITHOUT ANY COLLISIONS, THE EARTH WOULD BE BLASTED TO PIECES IN A MOMENT WHEN WE HIT IT. AS A RESULT OF THE COLLISIONS, WE, WHO HAVE A HIGH ENERGY LEVEL IN THE BEGINNING, ARE CONVERTED INTO LOW ENERGY LEVEL LIGHT PARTICLES.
do not know where I should start to explain my life story. Perhaps the best way is to start from the time I was brought to this life. I am a particle of light, a photon. The place I was created was extremely hot—approximately 15 million degrees C by your measure. My present place is the center of the sun. I was created from the energy stored in hydrogen nuclei during the creation of the universe. We photons are the envoys of the sun. Our duty is to carry the energy that was stored in the sun during the creation of the universe to the earth. In the sun’s center, during the nuclear reaction called fusion, four hydrogen nuclei form one helium nucleus. The mass of four hydrogen nuclei is 4 x 1,6726 x 10 − 24 grams (i.e. 6,6904 x 10 − 24 grams); the mass of one helium nucleus is 6,6447 x 10 − 24 grams. It is clear that the mass of one helium nucleus is a little smaller than the mass of four hydrogen nuclei. If we calculate the difference: 6,6904 x 10 − 24 g – 6,6447 x 10 − 24 g = 0,0457 x 10 − 24 g. This small mass difference is transformed into great energy by order of the Creator, and in this way we and our relatives, neutrinos, are created.
Our Lord has created us as the fastest particles in the universe. We cover 300,000 kilometers in a second. Although we move so fast, the sun’s center is very dense. The density is about 150 times greater than the density of water (1 g/cm3). Thus, as soon as we move, we crash into the hydrogen and helium nucleuses around us. They swallow us, but then they immediately set us free; then yet another strike waits for us immediately. In every collision, our energy is reduced a little, and we divide into several light particles with lower energy levels. Most of our lives—perhaps 100 thousand years—is spent in these collisions.
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If we left the center of the sun without any collisions, the earth would be blasted to pieces in a moment when we hit it. As a result of the collisions, we, who have a high energy level in the beginning, are converted into low energy level light particles. So many of us are created in the sun that at every second a four-million-ton mass is converted into energy. In the sun, which is 5 billion years old, approximately a hundred times the mass of the earth has been converted into energy up to today. While we are created in the center of the sun, we reach the outer layer of the sun, the photosphere, by
passing slowly through the layers from the center to the surface of the sun. On leaving the surface, our energy decreases, our number increases, and our temperature goes down to 5,800 degrees C. You may consider this temperature very high, but you should not forget that our temperature in the beginning was 15 million degrees C. We pass the 700,000 kilometers from the center of the sun to the photosphere layer in 100,000 years. The photosphere’s density is so low that it is only one percent of the atmosphere’s density at sea level. We leave this layer fast without any collisions. To reach the earth, there is 150 million kilometers of space ahead of us. Here we show our speed, which we did not have a chance to display earlier because of the collisions we have inside the sun. We travel the 150-million-kiloSEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
meter distance in 8.5 minutes and reach the earth. There are some of us with extremely high energy levels who can cause damage on earth. The ozone layer is responsible for picking them off. The non-dangerous ones among us reach the face of the earth by traveling through the 100-kilometerdeep atmosphere in 1/10000 of a second. Finally, it is time to deliver the energy we have carried to you. Every photon has a duty. Some of us heat the earth; some of us vaporize the water in the seas to bring the merciful rains. We have many other duties as well as these. Perhaps our most important duty is to be swallowed by the chlorophyll in plant leaves, so as to provide the energy in the food you eat and in the oxygen you breathe. Possibly the energy that you have used while reading this essay was obtained from a bean you ate in your lunch. Do not forget that we brought from the sun’s center both the energy in the bean you ate and the energy in any plant that was food for any animal whose meat you have eaten. We also carried the energy that was in the gas of the truck that brought these pages to you. If our brothers that came to the earth a million years ago had not brought energy to the plants at that time, could those plants have been transformed into oil or coal by decaying underground? Our Lord gave us light particles a mission to carry the energy that is stored in substances so that the energy will be a source of life for you. We fulfill our duties without any error so that you might think and learn a lesson from these facts. In your next meal, consider looking at the blessings on your plate from the following perspective: “I am about to eat energy that was heated approximately 100,000 years ago at 15 million degrees C in an oven in the sun’s center and later cooled and made appropriate for the bodies of human beings.”
hile undertaking a larger study on the biases and commonplaces in Romanian popular history, we encountered several deep-rooted preconceived ideas of the image of the Turk amidst the largest section of the Romanian people. We must point out clearly that ours was not a study of history, but rather a study of what we have called “third-form [third-grade] history”—the elementary teachings on history all nations present to their youngest pupils, often mixed with mythology and legend, often historically inaccurate, often anecdotal and literary rather than fact-based. With all its shortcomings as to precision and method, “third-form history” has by far more practical importance and more force than real, serious, factual history because it reaches the souls of all the citizens in a nation, and it is there to stay as it has reached those souls at an early stage and shapes later, more mature opinions. It is our observation that the popular image in Romania of the Turk as an enemy is a late, nineteenth-century acquisition, triggered by the political motives of contending
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Romanian groups at the time, and it has rolled on ever since with no real justification in “third-form History,” including in school textbooks. For the first four hundred years or so of common, close ties in Romanian–Turkish history there is no serious indication leading us to think that the Turk’s image was the image of the “enemy” for Romanians as a whole. The Turk’s image, as it emerges from the chronicles of the time, is essentially based on religious difference—he is “the Pagan,” the believer in a “wrong belief,” just like the Catholic (“the Papist”) or the Mosaic (“the Jew”). The difference in religion does not necessarily entail hostility or enmity. Things change in the nineteenth century when Moldova and Walachia are disputed by the Russian and the Ottoman empires, to the point that legends of the Moldovan capital of Iaşi say that the local princes had a huge double-sided painting with a portrait on one side of the Sultan and on the other side of the Tsar: according to which empire’s troops entered the capital, they would display one side of the painting or the other. This is probably a legend or an exaggeration, but it is illustrative of the political atmosphere in the extraSEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
Carpathian Romanian Principalities, an atmosphere proper for the development of pro-Russian and proOttoman partisan groups—political parties, in all but name. Later, there would also emerge a pro-Western “party.” It was in order to accomplish their immediate and local goals that the anti-Ottoman “parties” forged the image of the Turk as an enemy. This image was forged against a rather favorable popular image the Turk had gained after centuries of rather tolerant suzerainty. A popular rhyme of the time— still quoted by the national poet Mihai Eminescu late in the second half of the nineteenth century—claimed that “Our affairs would have been prosperous if the Turk was not as he is; a master warrior, but a poor diplomat.” (“Bine ne-ar fi fost în toate, dacă turcul n-ar fi fost / Meşter numai la războaie, da-n diplomatică, prost!”). The evaluation, while notably precise—the Ottomans fought bravely and successfully the Tsarist troops in the 1806– 1812 war, but made a disadvantageous peace, handing over the eastern part of Moldova to Russia, on account of the betrayal of their grand dragoman, the Greek Nicolae Moruzi—does not lack sympathy and understan-
ding for the Turk. But instead of this Romanian frustration taking an anti-Russian or even anti-Greek form, it took, thanks to “third-form history,” an anti-Turkish form. Like all biases, this one too proved to be selfentertaining, and rolled through the centuries with nothing to fuel it after the 1877 Romanian Independence war, a war of doubtful utility for Romania, in Mihai Eminescu’s opinion (as well as, modestly, in ours), since after the 1829 Adrianopolis peace, the advantages of Turkish suzerainty far outweighed the disadvantages. But the change for the worse of the Turk’s image as a result of local political interests in the nineteenth century is frustrating to the truth-seeking researcher for reasons lying deeper in history, namely, the fact that the Romanian people owes to a degree the free conservation and development of its identity throughout the late Middle Ages to the full observation by the Turks of the original treaties between the two nations. We shall further develop this subject. The original peace treaties between the Ottoman Empire and the principalities of Walachia and Moldova—the so-called “old capitulations”—were agreed by the Turks with the greatest princes in the history of these countries: with Mircea the Old for Walachia at the beginning of the fifteenth century, and with Ştefan the Great for Moldova, at the end of the same century. Both these treaties were agreed after the Romanians had obtained brilliant military victories against the Turks. Therefore, their accepting Turkish suzerainty was considered, according to Islamic principles, as willing surrender, not as surrender obtained by force. Walachia and later Moldova were thus considered “Dar-ul-Sulh,” Lands of Peace. According to the Qur’anic recommendations, such countries received much better treatment than countries conquered by the sword—“Dar-ul-Harb,” or Lands of War. This treatment was inferior only to that received by Muslim countries—“Dar-ul-Islam,” or lands of Islam. While the neighboring peoples—Bulgarians, Serbians, for a short time Hungarians—received the “Dar-ul-Harb” treatment and lost their autonomy, being ruled by Turkish generals, the Romanian principalities of Walachia, Moldova and for a short time Transylvania enjoyed the “Dar-ul-Sulh” treatment. Practically, this meant three main provisions in the “old capitulations”: a). the interdiction of Turks’ ownership of land north
of the Danube (with the exception of four bridgehead cities—“raia”). b). the interdiction of religious proselytism by Turks north of the Danube. c). the political autonomy of the principalities, which were to be ruled by Christian princes. Later, the “old capitulations” were repeatedly transgressed by the Moldovan and Walachian princes, allowing in principle the Turks to transgress in their turn the three above-mentioned main provisions. However, they felt Qur’an-bound and Islam-bound to continue treating the two principalities as “Dar-ul-Sulh.” It is our opinion that this constancy of the Turks in observing the treaties, namely the three provisions, allowed the Romanians to maintain and develop their national and religious identity during the late Middle Ages in much better conditions than the neighboring peoples. And it is a pity that this merit of the Turks, and of Islam, does not find its way into “third-form History” textbooks in Romania for presentation to the young. Died on January 8, 2009, Victor Nitelea was a former expert, Romanian Commission for UNESCO and a leading Romanian journalist. In memory of a dear friend Victor Nitelea (April 8th 1952 – January 8th 2009) was my best friend in Romania. He was a unique person in many ways—an intellectual with a vast ability to incorporate sound knowledge and wisdom in politics and history as well as in mathematics and engineering. When he told me that he had written a dissertation on table tennis, I told him that it would not be a surprise if he came out with another thesis on spacecraft. The Great Stefan told his child with his dying breath, “You can always trust Turks as they never betray you.” Victor had a deep trust in me as his Turkish friend. We had long, delightful discussions. He was a good listener, while his knowledge was enough to be the only speaker in any conversation. He wrote fourteen books, was columnist on several journals, and appeared regularly on TV shows. He had a beautiful mind and was a popular face in the community. It was very sad hearing the news that he had lung cancer. I could not imagine the coming days without his company. Romania was not only losing an intellectual but also a good believer. Victor was a monotheist, saying that God cannot be associated with partners. He had deep respect for the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Before he died, he gave me this article about the relationship between Turks and Romanians. For him, it was because of Turks that Romania still exists as a nation and as a country. Sharing this essay with The Fountain readers is, I hope, a fair treatment of his legacy. Dr. Ahmet Ecirli University of Bucharest, Department of Sociology 39
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“… there is a stable order in the world as well as a well-established connection, constant norms and fundamental laws. In this sense, the world is analogous to a clock or a well-designed machine. Every single wheel, every single screw, every single nail not only has a role in order of a machine and an impact in its final benefit but also positive consequences for all living beings, especially for humans.” (from Nursi, Signs of Miraculousness, Seven Heavens)
here is a strong parallel between the general principles to be observed for a healthy social structure in a society and the necessary conditions that enable cells to make up a healthy tissue. The laws prevalent in the universe present amazing parallels since they derive from the same divine source. In order to have healthy development in societies, it is necessary to have healthy connections, reciprocal understanding, and correct information transfer between people. Similarly, having healthy cells, which can be considered as micro-societies, also depends on the cells’ continual use of complex signal connection networks and their maintenance of connections with their environments. In order to maintain a harmonious and healthy life in the cell, there must be dense information transfer (through chemical molecules) at all levels with neighbor cells. Thanks to the connection networks that start at their membranes, cells can recognize warnings coming to them and produce responses. Through such information networks, a continuous connection is established in living organisms, starting from their lowest level mechanisms (i.e. molecules in SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
CELLS ARE DESIGNED TO CONTROL THEIR BEHAVIOR THROUGH SPECIAL SIGNAL MOLECULES THAT CAN THEMSELVES FUNCTION AS STIMULATORY. FOR INSTANCE, USING SIGNAL MOLECULES, CELLS CAN ESTABLISH COLONIES OR BIOFILMS. MOREOVER, PLANT CELLS, THROUGH CHANNELS KNOWN AS PLASMODESMATA, MAINTAIN THEIR CONNECTION WITH NEIGHBORING CELLS AND TRADE CERTAIN MATERIALS.
cells and organelles) to their highest level mechanisms (i.e. organs, systems, organisms, populations, ecosystems), in order to ensure a healthy and harmonious processes of development, reproduction, differentiation and aging. Organized as a tissue (micro-society), one of the most amazing features of cells is the way they behave in accord with the society they live in, rather than acting as individualistic beings. Cells behave in a way to make micro-societies possible. In cytology (study of cells), this feature is known as “contact inhibition” (i.e. maintenance of healthy and harmonious operation and development that is based on connection), and its damage may lead to cancer. Every cell is sensitively programmed to receive all signals, coming from inside and outside, and to manage the proper responses to them. Here, the question arises whether a lack or disorder of connection is caused by pathological conditions in cells or whether the emergence of pathological conditions is caused by connection problems. It is generally assumed that, molecular changes in the cell occur first (i.e. mutation) and then this mutation leads to abnormalities and connection problems at the levels of tissue, organ, and even organism. Damage to communication or connection and disorders in this system are a very important reason for the appearance of some pathological conditions (such as an abnormal increase of cells, cancer and death). Thus, diagnosis and treatment of many diseases today depend on knowledge of how biological communication and connection are harmoniously established. Cells are designed to control their behavior through special signal molecules that can themselves function as stimulatory. For instance, using signal molecules, cells can establish colonies or biofilms. Moreover, plant cells, through channels known as plasmodesmata, maintain their connection with neighboring cells and trade certain materials. In the state of illness, the density (among cells) of signal molecules that are transferred in the plasmodesmata changes. Hormones, reproduction factors and neurotransmitters are charged with ensuring transportation and communication at different levels. Cell and tissue elasticity and their adaptability are increased by this diversity in signal operations. Different ways are used to transmit signals into the cell depending upon the characteristics of the signals. For example, hydrophobic (water-avoiding) molecules like steroid hormone pass directly through the cell membrane and connect to their receptors in the cell. The receptors that are responsible for decoding genes stimulate the decoding of related genes. If a problem (mutation) occurs in the molecules that are responsible for transportation and communication, the transportation and communication breaks down and the cancer process is triggered. The existence of continuously reproducing cells in inappropriate times and places is an important symptom of cancer initiation. For example, in colon and rectum cancer, if a mutation occurs on the Ras protein, which is one of the signal proteins that takes the “Reproduce!” message from the cell membrane, the cutting off of the GTP molecule, which is responsible for turning the signal molecule on and off, is blocked, and since the molecule stays permanently active a signal like “Reproduce!” is permanently sent inside the cell. Thus, the benefits of the medicines that are used in cancer treatment and that show their effects by hindering signals on the cell membrane level are observed in the non-existence of this mutation on Ras proteins. If the mutation happens the medicines mentioned above cannot be effective. Today, the presence of the mutation can be determined by a biopsy taken from the patient, thus, it has become possible to choose the type of therapy that will be most helpful to that person. 41
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Communication inside the cell can be carried out through ion channels (such as sodium, potassium, and calcium). These channels in membrane behave selectively for every different ion. For example, while voltage-gated channels open and close according to electric charge ligand, (key)-gated (receptor) channels let ions transfer when ligands are tied up. Sodium and potassium ions and the molecular channels that these two passes are responsible for organizing the changes that effect the communication of nerves in the membrane potential. The calcium channel, on the other hand, plays an important role in muscle contraction, and biological incidents like the formation and deformation of bone. In recent years, the proteins (matrix) that fill the vacancies among cells have been shown to be the main actor in the general control of communication between cells and in the integration of signals coming from their surroundings by hundreds of proofs. It has been pointed out that CCN proteins, which are one of the adaptors, as well as proteins with multiple modules that are responsible for the connection between cell membranes and matrix proteins have a regulatory role at different levels in the control of signal transfers in ion channels, cell differentiation, adherence of cells to each other, cell collapse, programmed cell-death, cartilage formation and the synthesis of new veins. The multi-dimensional and dynamic communication and connections mentioned above related to cells also apply to people. When individuals develop a healthy connection between their inner world and other people, a healthy society emerges. Every individual is granted these potential connection points, which make the existence of an individual possible. The development of a healthy person depends upon activating these connections, organizing them dynamically and keeping them active. If we place human beings at the center of creation, the first connection that the individuals should make between their Creator and their ego (nafs) is called worship. The ego is both a help and a hindrance to the construction of this connection. The second connection, which is between individuals and their friends, is ensured by good morals, good conduct, and personal virtue. The construction of a healthy social life depends on how many people have good morals, good conduct and virtuous character in a society. If virtue is not accompanied by knowledge, it is highly unlikely that knowledge will raise an individual to a standard of human perfection. The third essential, the individual’s healthy connection with their surroundings is established through the “ecological dimension of ego,” SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
which is sensitive to the external world. It is very difficult for people whose dimension of ego, which is sensitive to ecological problems and the environment, has not developed to keep the environment clean and take precautions against pollution. The fourth connection that individuals should establish is the connection with their internal world (heart-consciousness, transcendental ego, real self). “O Man! Know yourself first!” and, “The one that knows himself knows his God,” are expressions pointing out the importance of this connection. For individuals, groups, and societies to have a healthy life as well as to maintain their health at all levels depends on activating these four connections, in other words, establishing coordination and harmony among them and then maintaining this state. When one ignores one of the connections or some of them, or when the coordination between these connections is defective, troubles and illnesses at various levels emerge. Hence, the links that a healthy individual establishes may include those in civil society organizations, and through these further networked and reciprocal communications. Like our cells, which maintain their connection with their environment and neighboring cells via the “contact inhibition” mechanism so that we feel healthy, for people to become healthy at personal and societal level, individuals should actively join civil society organizations and service-centered communities that can enable activation of these four connections and ensure harmony and coordination among them. The Islamic scholar, Bediüzzaman Said Nursi paid special attention to connection in the letters he wrote to his students (the Kastamonu letters) and highlighted it as a point of progress that should be reached: Since, in today’s world, saving people’s belief for the sake of God is a very important mission that is above everything; since quantity is not very significant compared to quality; since transient and changing political worlds are trivial compared to everlasting, constant, stable services in the name of God—they should not be even compared; they can never be objectives; therefore, we should be satisfied with valuable positions that are granted in the circle of Risale-i Nur. Instead of having extremely well-thoughts about other people or seeing them at high positions superfluously, we need to have extreme loyalty and steadfastness, and utmost connection and sincerity. We should have progress on these points. Hamza Aydin has a PhD in bio-medicine. He is a freelance writer from Izmir, Turkey.
from the memoirs of an inventor that lived long, long ago especially love when the spider webs shine with the sunrise. The little water beads on them make an extraordinary scene in the early morning. Talking about spiders, how they make their webs is also another beauty. It still blows my mind that they can make such long arches despite their tiny bodies. With the colorful designs on their bodies, spiders are the manifestation of beauty that penetrates even into the smallest holes of the earth. As I am talking about spiders, I would like to tell you a lovely memory of mine about how my admiration of them led me to the discovery of my life. At the time, there was not much to do other than hunting and picking leaves and fruit. I wanted to do something else. For example, the skins that animals had on them were so fitting, flexible, and nice. We used to take them to put on ourselves; but they did not fit us. They did not cover our bodies totally, and they were stinky. I had a desire to come up with a new way of covering our bodies. I used to sit by the spiders and reflect on this idea a lot while watching them make their webs. Unfortunately, not everyone was appreciative of the spiders and my interest in them. Whenever my father caught me watching the spiders, he used to mock me and reprimand me for being lazy. He always told me that we needed to get going to hunt something edible, in order not to sleep with empty bellies. You can imagine what torture it was for me to hunt. Killing something of beauty is not beautifulâ€Ś I knew we had to eat to survive. But maybe I was not the right person to do the killing part. I could cook, I could pick fruitâ€Ś
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TALKING ABOUT SPIDERS, HOW THEY MAKE THEIR WEBS IS ALSO ANOTHER BEAUTY. IT STILL BLOWS MY MIND THAT THEY CAN MAKE SUCH LONG ARCHES DESPITE THEIR TINY BODIES. WITH THE COLORFUL DESIGNS ON THEIR BODIES, SPIDERS ARE THE MANIFESTATION OF BEAUTY THAT PENETRATES EVEN INTO THE SMALLEST HOLES OF THE EARTH. One day, when I was watching a spider, I saw a cocoon hanging down from the tree. That was it! The cocoon’s cover was what I was looking for: a large spider web woven densely enough to cover us up. You should have seen me when the idea first came. I couldn’t help but smile so broadly. It had been a long time since I had smiled such a joyous smile. I started running and climbed the hills. To get some rest, I watched the valleys below. Then, once again I took off, and soared down from the hill running; my arms wide open like a bird’s wings. When I came home, empty-handed to be sure, my mother was not happy at all. “If you don’t want your dad to ruin your night, go and find something before he comes,” she said. Fortunately, I knew some trees that were in fruit just then. I rushed to gather from them to make everybody happy. Later that night, I had a very scary dream. I was running, and then I suddenly fell into a pit where there was a long snake. The snake started to wind itself around me so that I was totally covered. Then I saw that there was a scorpion in the pit, but it could not approach me because of the snake. Frightened, I woke up screaming. My parents came in to check on me. After a second’s silence, my father said, “I told you not to watch those spiders too much.” Although I was not really bothered, my parents were getting more and more concerned about me. I was growing to the age of marriage, and they wanted me to have sound spiritual health. The next day, we went to the respected man of God in the village for him to interpret my dream and to get some advice. He said, “The snake in your dream did not harm you. So, it is to be hoped that God will bless you with a cover that is going to protect you from worldly and heavenly harms.” This interpretation was definitely unexpected both by me and by my parents. Soon after that dream, I talked about my inspiration to my mother, and she told me something invaluable. She said that our great great-grandparents had had beautiful things to wear before they came to this world. When they were sent down here, their beautiful clothes were ripped off. Now that I was thinking about SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
making beautiful garments, maybe this was a heavenly message. Mom wanted me to keep this secret. I did keep my hopes and inspirations secret, but I did not stop working on them. I was finally inspired by another creature: birds. They made their nests by weaving plants and branches together. That observation brought me to the brim of the discovery of my life, but I was not aware of it at the time. One day, mom wanted to have a private conversation with me. She said that now I was not a girl anymore but a young woman it was time that I united my life with someone else’s. She said that the guests that had come a few days earlier had come to talk about that issue. They asked my parents for me. At first, I was perplexed to hear all this. I wanted to have some time to prepare myself for the idea. Not long after, the preparations for the wedding were underway, and I was very willing because of the person asking for me. My groom was the man of God that had interpreted my dream. To suit his status, I wanted to wear something special on the day of the wedding, something never seen before. The days were running by too fast, and bothered by my inability to come up with that special thing, I started spending more time with the spider webs by myself. Mom thought that a gloomy state had befallen on me due to my prospective wedding. She tried to reassure me, calm me, but that was not the case at all. As my state persisted, my parents’ worries grew too. They did not want any trouble in this wedding. Then one day, I received the first gift for my wedding, before the wedding actually happened. I was inspired to weave the leaves and stems of plants to cover myself just like the winding of that snake in my dream and the cocoon of the spider. With the joy of this heavenly gift, I quickly finished making my garment. This discovery was certainly a heavenly beauty that was sent to celebrate my wedding. With the new garment on me, I was so beautiful, and with the man of my life, I was so happy. Sermed Ogretim has a PhD in Aerospace Engineering and is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at West Virginia University. He has a special interest in psychological fiction.
HAVE ALL ACTIONS AND INCIDENTS IN THE UNIVERSE AND THE VALUES CORRESPONDING TO THEM BEEN DETERMINED IN ADVANCE? IS THERE A CERTAIN LOGIC BEHIND THE BEHAVIOR OF MATERIALS WITHOUT INTELLECT OR CONSCIOUSNESS?
t is not easy for people living today to believe that every object, every law and every incident in the universe is planned in a very detailed way. However, it is a fact that there is a seen and unseen algebraic reality to everything moving in the universe. This situation amazes the distinguished scholars roaming on the lace of science. Physicists study on the biggest and smallest physical measures, on the strongest and weakest forces, and they have calculated the ratio between some of them and attained results close to 1040 several times. For example, it has been proven that “strong nuclear force,” which keeps protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus together, is 1040 times stronger than the force of gravity. Although some consider this situation a result of coincidence, there are also some people who have shown the courage to question the accuracy of this result and open it to discussion. Since then, obtaining the same number several times has inevitably led to the belief that the number was determined and calculated before. This situation resembles the situation of a chess player who hears somebody telling him the opponent’s next move, or the situation of a composer who hears a melody from upstairs that perfectly fits his lyrics while he is trying to write the melody for his lyrics. Is it not amazing when somebody says what is going to be especially at a time when you least expect such a vision? Questions emerge: Have all actions and incidents in the universe and the values corresponding to them been determined in advance? Is there a certain logic behind the behavior of materials without intellect or consciousness? 45
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Perhaps when Comte de Buffon (1707–1788) started to do research into probability calculations concerning falling matches and needles three centuries ago, he did not think that he would make such an astonishing discovery. According to his calculations, the probability of dropped needles hitting a pair of parallel lines that are drawn a certain distance apart is proportional to the number pi (π) (Figure 1–2). When the distance between the parallel lines are drawn the length of a match, this probability becomes exactly 2/π. This was a theoretical result that was calculated on paper, but trying it out would raise interesting results. In other words, when a certain number of tests were conducted, it could be expected that a number of matches equal to the number that was found through the theoretical calculations would hit the lines; and, indeed, that was what happened. In addition, mathematicians found another way to calculate pi by using this method since the ratio of the number of matches or needles that hits the lines to the total number of matches or needles should give a pi-proportioned number. In 1901, Mario Lazzarini threw one needle 3,408 times and, as a result, got the ratio 355/133 or 3.1415929; the difference between this value and the real value is only 0.0000003. The experimental proof of this fact is not difficult. When the experiment, which has been conducted thousands of times up to today, was first tried by a group of mathematicians dropping 3,000 needles, the number of the needles that touched the lines was close to 1,900, which was the desired result, and the result was amazingly found to be proportionate to pi. Figure 3
Although the real relation is like the equation given in Figure 3, when the length of the needles and the distance between the lines are equalized, the desired ratio becomes 2/π. What does this mean? Does the number pi, which SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
DOES THE NUMBER PI, WHICH WAS CREATED WITH THE UNIVERSE AND WHICH WE MEET IN DIFFERENT FIELDS, PLAY A ROLE IN SHOWING THE MANIFESTATION OF THE MAJESTIC WILL ABOUT WHERE AN OBJECT WILL FALL— THROUGH HAVING A RESULT THAT CAN NOT BE EXPLAINED BY COINCIDENCE? IS FALLING NOT AN ORDINARY INCIDENT?
was created with the universe and which we meet in different fields, play a role in showing the manifestation of the Majestic Will about where an object will fall—through having a result that can not be explained by coincidence? Is falling not an ordinary incident? While this reality makes even falling an extraordinary incident, it opens a perspective on understanding the reality behind the verse: “…it was not you (O Messenger) who threw but God threw,”1 which was revealed about the Battle of Badr in the Qur’an. Actually, it is impossible even for a leaf to fall2 without the knowledge and the calculation of Our Lord, who is closer to us than our jugular vein. Let us think about a group of creatures that lives with different physical laws in a different universe. Assume that they live on a flat, circular world (Figure 4) and their steps get longer when they come close to the center. For this kind of creature, the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line as it is for us (A–B). Since their steps get longer as they get closer to the center, they travel close to the center. Yet, since they make the way a little longer in this way, the shortest distance would be an oblique line that takes these two variables into account and that passes by partially approaching the center. So, what would we think if we saw these creatures walking in this way all the time? Or if we knew that the creatures acting in this way were inanimate beings? In these circumstances, we might wonder whether these beings are very intelligent or whether One who knows and sees everything, and is present in every place at every time, directs them. For a soccer forward to find the best time to attack when he is facing the goal keeper or for a tennis player to choose the best timing and position to hit the ball requires a fine calculation. In tennis, the player sometimes approaches very close to the net to meet the ball. In this way, the player gains great advantage Figure 4 since, by his or her positioning, the player reduces the area into which the ball can fall to the minimum, and increases his or her own chances of returning the ball (Figure 5). Nevertheless, since the ball reaches the player faster and harder, there is also a raised probability of the player’s failing to return the ball. Therefore, advancing right up to the net may not always be advantageous. Thus, the best position for the player may lie at any point between the net and the baseline when area and speed variables are considered. Similarly, the most advantageous point for the goal keeper lies between the attacking forward and the goal line, at a point which depends upon the variables of the speed of the ball and the area. Naturally, we do not find tennis and soccer players’ positionings as described above strange since we expect them, as reasonable people, to play in this way. Yet, how would we interpret and explain it if we saw inanimate things acting in the same way? There is a phenomenon that applies this 47
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Every atom contains two truthful testimonies to the Necessarily Existent Being’s Existence and Unity. Despite being powerless and insentient, it bears decisive witness to the Necessarily Existent Being’s Existence by carrying out important duties and functions as though it were conscious. It also testifies to the Unity of the same Being, Who owns all material and immaterial dominions, by conforming to the universal order in general, and to the rules of each place it enters in particular. It settles in every place as if it were its homeland. All of this shows that the One Who owns the atom owns all the places it enters. By carrying out very heavy duties incompatible with its size and weakness, the atom shows that it acts at the command and in the name of One with absolute power. The Thirtieth Word, Second Point, Risale-i Nur Collection
logic consciously but itself does not have consciousness. A phenomenon that astonishes people: light. Let us think of a rectangular racetrack with points A, B, C, D. While the shortest distance for a horse that will run from one end of this racetrack to the other is the AC diagonal when the ground is homogenous, there will be a reroute if the ground is not homogenous. Assume the length of the racetrack is 80 meters and its width is 60 meters. Half of it is grass and the other half is sand (Figure 5). Also, assume the horse’s speed on the sand is half of its speed on the grass (it runs 10 meters in 1 unit of time on the grass). Under these circumstances, the horse will run the AC diagonal in 15 units of time while it will run AEC route in 14.5 units of time. The ABC route is much longer. Thus, any route which passes between these two routes will be shorter than these two. The point O, which the shortest route (AOC) passes, will be between the points M and E. When we look carefully, we understand that this is the route light follows as it enters environments of different densities; for example, the route it follows when passing from air to water (see a spoon’s broken image in a water-filled glass). As you see, light finds that specific mysterious point and follows that particular path. In other words, while entering different environments of varying densities, it finds the shortest way and follows it in an amazing way. All these detailed calculations and functioning with great wisdom show that even inanimate beings and atoms are in the hands of a Majestic Will. Notes
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1. See Al-Anfal 8:17. 2. “… And He knows whatever is on land and in the sea; and not a leaf falls but He knows it” (Al-An’am 6:59).
Can I Be Your Baggage? A
THE CONFERENCE, “FROM DIALOGUE TO COLLABORATION: THE VISION OF GÜLEN” WAS HOSTED BY THE AUSTRALIAN CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY AND COORGANIZED WITH MONASH UNIVERSITY, ACU NATIONAL AND THE AUSTRALIAN INTERCULTURAL SOCIETY.
significant international conference was held in Melbourne, Australia on the 15th and 16th of July 2009. The conference, “From Dialogue to Collaboration: the Vision of Gülen” was hosted by the Australian Catholic University and coorganized with Monash University, ACU National and the Australian Intercultural Society. I was one of the fortunate participants asked to say a few words regarding the Gülen Movement. The keynote speakers who delivered noteworthy papers consisted of renowned academics, government officials and faith leaders. The opening speech was delivered by Sir James Gobbo, former Governor of Victoria and Advisor to the Queen on Multicultural Affairs. George Lekakis, who is the current Chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, also attended the prestigious event. As I gave my ears to the speakers, my mind took me all the way back to 1966. I realized that throughout the years I had witnessed many different developments without understanding what they really meant. A historical incident came to my mind: following the discovery of electricity, an exhibition was set up to present it to the public. At the exhibition, a guest asked Benjamin Franklin, “What is this new energy good for?” He replied with a question: “What is a newborn child good for?” It was obvious that human beings could not appreciate innovation very quickly. Yet, today we realize the importance and potential of this wonderful energy source. Similarly, I had no idea that meeting Fethullah Gülen forty-three years ago would be the turning point of my life. He was a unique teacher who 49
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Barney Zwartz (left) and Abdullah Aymaz
constantly astonished us with his extraordinary ideas. He was a person who did not limit his ideals to suggestions but acted upon them; hence, he was practicing what he taught. Gradually, I realized that his teachings, manners and unique behavior were no different to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the Messenger of God. In actual fact it seemed as they were a carbon copy of the Qur’anic doctrines. Although we were aware of such Prophetic traditions as fasting on Mondays and Thursdays and also staying vigil at night, we had never witnessed anyone practicing these until we met Gülen. He would observe this Prophetic fast even in the tremendous heat of the summer in Izmir. Inspired by his total commitment to Prophetic tradition, we would hand him a list of the names of those of us who also wished to practice their faith as he did. Like an affectionate father, he would wake us up in the night so that we could perform the voluntary prayers (tahajjud) and join him at Suhoor (the pre-dawn meal to sustain us through the all-day fast). It was not easy to control the carnal self but the self-discipline and the feeling of tranquility that originated from this Prophetic tradition made it a unique experience. During our stay at the boarding facility in Izmir, we also received additional lessons in our dorms. We were supported with supplementary classes which helped our education at local state schools. Our teachers were also experts on Islamic studies. They would work additional hours to help us with our studies, and even during lunch they would sit with us in the canteen to eat. Of course, they were all paid something for their efforts. However, Gülen was different. Salary meant nothing to him because he would spend most of it on students who were so poor that they did not even have pocket money. He refused to take any money for the additional work he did. There were times when he had given ten lessons in a day and then he took on the duty of staying at the dorm throughout the night. We were shocked to find out that he even paid for the food, electricity and water during his stay there. Talking about the notion of self-sacrifice is one thing, but witnessing SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
it with your own eyes was an extraordinary experience which planted many new seeds in our souls. We were amazed by the way he explained incidents that had occurred over one thousand four hundred years ago. He would explain stories about the Companions of the noble Prophet as if he had been among them at that very moment. His sermons were all about the practical interpretation of the Holy Qur’an. Everything we experienced felt like an original event. It was as if we were hearing the revelations from the Holy Qur’an for the first time in our lives. He was encouraging us to follow the example of the Prophet and his beloved Companions, and we were making the effort to do so. With every effort we made, a new door opened before us. It was as if we were entering into an entirely different realm as we tried to emulate the actions of the Companions. Eventually, there was no room for indolence or lassitude in our lives. As the famous Sufi poet Yunus Emre said, we enjoyed the gratification of being reborn with each new day. Then came the day when we were encouraged to engage in educational activities that would benefit the whole of humanity. In all of us there was a unique sense that persuaded us to open a new era in the field of education. People who observed our dedication from outside were fascinated by our enthusiasm. One after another they came running to lend a helping hand. Students, teachers, merchants, shop owners and businessmen were all united in the goal of establishing educational facilities. Before long, private schools were established all over Turkey, followed by hundreds of schools all over the world. At the same time we started publishing educational materials, beginning with a bulletin titled Zuhur (Emergence). Eventually, this led to the establishment of magazines, journals, newspapers, radio and TV stations. These efforts, encouraged by Gülen, became so popular that a new horizon had opened before us of a global dialogue between cultures and faiths. As dedicated volunteers of education and dialogue carried the welcoming smile of Anatolia around the globe, many sincere souls were attracted by its warmth.
They began to visit Turkey, the home country of these selfsacrificing educators. Their visits were not like those of tourists. They had come to observe and understand the source of the enormous sincerity and the unique hospitality of the Anatolian people. On returning to their homelands, they explained what they had witnessed. You could see the excitement on their faces even after many months had gone by since their visit. This was another fruit of global dialogue. As the conference continued at the Catholic University in Melbourne, my memories confirmed the significance of the work that had begun in Izmir many years before. Speakers constantly emphasized the praiseworthy efforts of these extraordinary educators and champions of dialogue. Silently, I said to myself, “What a great distance has been covered.” One of the speakers was Orhan Cicek, Executive Advisor of the Australian Intercultural Society. He stressed that this conference was a great opportunity to strengthen Muslim–Christian relations. He said that this event, in which prominent academics from Australia and overseas were explaining their views and suggestions in relation to the vision of Gülen, was also paving the way to strengthen the multicultural structure and harmony of Australian society. He concluded with a wish that the event would become an important step towards cooperation that would attend to the common problems of humanity. It was a wonderful event that gathered academics from Australia, Turkey, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria and Indonesia. The conference dealt with the different aspects of the Gülen Movement and its practical approach to intercultural and interfaith dialogue. During my visit to Australia, I also had the pleasure of meeting Barney Zwartz, a renown columnist from one of Australia’s biggest newspapers.1 In our conversation, he asked me about the future of this education and dialogue movement. He wondered how far it would go. I explained that we wished to reach every human being in the world and become true friends with them. He smiled and asked if such a dream was possible. I replied with an analogy. I said there is a story about an ant that decided to make the holy pilgrimage to Mecca. When they asked him, “How do you plan to reach Mecca with those tiny feet of yours?” the ant answered, “I am aware of the fact that I will never get there, but the least I can do is to die on the way.” On hearing this, Barney asked me, “Can I be your baggage?” Abdullah Aymaz is an author of numerous books in Turkish. He is also a columnist at Zaman, a leading newspaper in Turkey.
Note 1. On 21 July 2009, Barney Zwartz article analyzing the Gülen movement appeared in The Age newspaper. 51
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ince the beginning of civilization, humankind has engaged in various conflicts all over the world.
History offers many examples of internal conflict in countries as well as wars between them. Sometimes
a conflict has occurred between practicing and non-practicing believers of a particular religion,
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while at other times differences between two religious or ethnic groups have been the reason for a conflict; a nation can be polarized because of two political parties. Populations have been divided into opposing camps and some of these conflicts have seemed like endless struggles with no solution in sight, while others are followed by a peaceful period with only memories of the painful conflict. Rwanda is a country that has passed through a disastrous conflict and genocide with devastating effects. But the lessons learned in the aftermath of the genocide have changed the country forever. Rwanda, a small country located in central Africa, has been home to nine million people from two tribes known as the Hutu and the Tutsi which have lived side by side in peace for centuries. There was no known ethnic conflict or major conflict between Hutus and Tutsis until the last fifty years. Rwanda was first colonized by Germany in 1899. Belgium took control of the country in 1919. In 1961, Rwandaâ€™s monarchical government was removed by a referendum and the first parliamentary elections were held but at the expense of a number of massacres. In the following year, the country gained its independence. Although the country became independent in 1962, the effects of colonialism lingered until recently. An example of this is the ethnic division between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. During the colonial period, the Belgian colonizers and the Church significantly favored the Tutsis over the Hutus. The colonizers had followed a divide and rule strategy and used the Tutsis in power instead of controlling the country directly; this widened ethnic differences. The colonizers had made membership of the Tutsi tribe a means of getting better education or obtaining a government or administrative position. Since both tribes speak the same language and have the same skin color, it was virtually impossible to tell them apart, so the colonizers had issued ethnic identity cards based on the measurement of peopleâ€™s nose length. Until World War II, the Tutsis were masters of the country with a proven long record. However, the strategies of outsiders including the Church had changed in the mid-twentieth century so that Hutus gained more access to positions of power. In the 1950s, the Hutus took power and controlled the country. Considerable numbers of Tutsis were exiled to neighboring countries on many occasions. Until the 1990s, Hutu power was largely unchallenged in Rwanda. However, Tutsi exiles were organizing in neighboring countries and this was perceived as a grave threat to Hutu rule. Political conflict over the control of power and resources resulted in an exponential increase in ethnic violence. The Hutu government conceived Tutsi empowerment as a threat to their own interests and launched a media campaign calling for genocide. After a chain of events, including the death of the Rwandan president in a plane crash, a terrifying genocide commenced. For a while, Hutu people were strongly encouraged to kill their Tutsi neighbors, and those who did so were rewarded for their actions. As a result, the genocide exploded quickly between April and June 1994. The world did not attempt to prevent the massacres. Men and women, children and the elderly, all were identified by their ethnicity and executed wherever they were found. Hatred was at its peak so that even relatives turned against each other. While a Hutu husband was among the survivors, his Tutsi wife was killed, and their children were kept alive as they were seen as sharing their fatherâ€™s Hutu ethnicity. More than 800,000 people (Tutsis and moderate Hutus), according to official records, were massacred by the army and the extremists. 53
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At last, without any international help, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), a Tutsi-led rebel movement, overthrew the regime in June 1994 and the genocide was stopped. The country has been at peace ever since; however, Rwandans continue to struggle with the legacy of genocide. After the Rwandan Genocide, one of the biggest challenges for the new RPF government was handling the detention and prosecution of more than 100,000 people who were accused of genocide-related crimes. Pointing to the seriousness of the situation one of the RPF government ministers said, “When we captured Kigali, we thought we would face criminals in the state; instead, we faced a criminal population.” The genocide orders were given by executives of the state but the crimes were carried out by hundreds of thousands of ordinary people. The pink uniform of prisoners is well known in Rwanda today since the transfer of prisoners from one place in the country to another is common. By 2000, approximately 120,000 people accused of genocidal acts were being held in the prisons, which were populated far beyond their capacity. In ten years, the courts have only managed to prosecute about 10,000 suspects. In other words, it would require at least another 110 years to prosecute all prisoners accused of genocide-related crimes. Although almost half of the prisoners have been released to ease the system at various times, the courts still need to work faster. To overcome the backlog in the legal system the Rwandan government introduced the Gacaca (pronounced “gachacha”) courts, a community justice system inspired by traditional procedures for cultural communal law enforcement. Gacaca means “justice on the grass” and the court is launched in an open grassy area or village green, near the main street. The main advantages of these courts are the ease of assembling the court in public, and the way they provide the opportunity for everyone to exercise their right to speak through an interactive court. Gacaca is the latest means used by the Rwandan government to realize truth, justice, and more importantly the reconciliation and healing of the community much sooner than would otherwise have been possible. Rwandans have welcomed the Gacaca. One man who lost his brother in his twenties and another who abandoned his wife since she belonged to the socalled hostile tribe have found the Gacaca court in their local area a valuable place to express their feelings and seek justice in the shadow of ineradicable memories. Yet SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
other people, who participated in the genocide, have found the opportunity and encouragement to admit their wrong-doing and relieve the pain of their remorse. Gacaca has its pros and cons, which I will not go into here; however, the genocide carries important lessons both for Rwanda and the world. It showed how lack of tolerance and understanding of negligible differences can indeed turn into cruelty and brutality, resulting in one of the biggest genocides in history. Rwandans, who were previously divided as Hutus and Tutsis, now do not even pronounce the words Hutu and Tutsi in public in their daily life. Rwanda today exemplifies a good example of living together with differences despite the fact that those differences were recently the cause of a tragic conflict. Indeed the Rwandan people, who once killed each other without mercy, can tolerate with no discomfort a diversity that in other nations is a great source of potential conflict, an area of interaction that other countries have been struggling with for a long time. Rwandans welcome all religious traditions in their cultural richness. Saturdays and Sundays are like a festival time; Christians all dress in their best clothes and walk to church. (Many Christians observe and practice Saturday Sabbath in Rwanda.) Although Muslims are in a minority, the adhan (call to prayer) is recited from mosque loudspeakers; the shifting Islamic holidays are accepted as national holidays. If religious differences were a cause of fighting, then Rwanda would still be one of the most problematic countries in the world today. In contrast, Rwanda is a good example of how the establishment of accountability combined with tolerance and understanding can help to transform and strengthen a country even when it has fresh memories of one of the biggest genocides in history. Mehmet Sen is an engineer in San Francisco Bay Area. He visited Rwanda many times for business purposes.
References Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda, Princeton University Press, 2001. Reyntjens, Filip and Stef Vandeginste. 2005. “Rwanda: An Atypical Transition.” In Roads to Reconciliation, edited by Elin Skaar, et al. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Stover, Eric and Weinstein, Harvey (2004). My Neighbor, My Enemy: Justice and Community in the Aftermath of Mass Atrocity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Susanne Buckley-Zistel (2006): “The Truth Heals?” In Gacaca Jurisdictions and the Consolidation of Peace in Rwanda. Die Friedens-Warte Heft 1–2, pp. 113–130.
W MODERN SCIENCE, WHICH DOES NOT ACCEPT THE METAPHYSICAL DIMENSION OF BEING, DOES NOT SEEK WISDOM IN THE CREATION; RATHER, IT ONLY SEARCHES FOR A CAUSE–EFFECT MECHANISM THAT IS BASED ON SELF-INTEREST.
ithout attributing any value to previous eras, modern thought claims that the only true knowledge is its own, that is, knowledge that is based on rationalism and positivism. According to this view, physics and metaphysics should be separated; the only sphere which human beings can measure and contemplate is physical space. Metaphysics is left to the church. According to this mechanical view of the universe, all events in the universe can be understood through the cause–effect mechanism, and therefore knowledge of the physical universe can be reached in this way. For Bacon’s “scientific method,” it is only possible to reach the truth through experiment. In this understanding, there is only a single path to knowledge: to employ the mind to observe the cause–effect mechanism in the physical world through investigation and experiment. This thought, which is the basis of modernism, abandoned the metaphysical dimension of being. Everything that is beneficial to the individual is highly prized and all means to a desired end can be acceptable. Two mechanisms of the mind According to science, everything is bound to a cause. Without understanding a single cause or a set of causes, one cannot reach the knowledge of existence. Modern science, which does not accept the metaphysical dimension of being, does not seek wisdom in the creation; rather, it only searches for a cause–effect mechanism that is based on self-interest. For modern thought, all individuals are the lords of their selves and they interpret life according to their own reasoning. In reality, however, the mind works in two ways: it is either a toy 55
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in hands of the nafs (the evil-commanding self) or it functions as a department of the heart. Thus, one can either think with one’s evil-commanding self or with one’s heart. In the former case, since everybody thinks according to their wishes, there is no doubt that an environment of chaos will emerge in social life. Modern philosophy, however, relying upon a wrong perspective, generalizes this idea to the entire existence and imagines the universe as an environment of chaos. For this reason, Frederic Nietzsche argued that the good is to acquire power, and he divided people into two groups, the aristocrats (or powerful) and the ordinary. In this view, those who are materially deprived seek to escape material realities and try to find a source of empowerment somewhere else in order to satisfy them. Hence, searching for metaphysical truth has its roots in lack of power. In reality, however, is impotence a result of non-recognition of religion, or is it a reason to search for metaphysical truth or religion? The impotence of human beings Indeed, human beings, who are in the best form among all living creatures, do not own themselves. To give an analogy, consider that a soldier has some money. If the money is granted to the soldier to be employed in the service of the government, he can only use it in certain ways. In other words, the soldier does not have absolute ownership of the money. Similarly, human beings do not absolutely own themselves or their bodies since they cannot always use their bodies as they wish. Sometimes, they become sick; they even cannot raise an arm when they want to. The very fact that they die against their wishes shows that they do not have absolute ownership of themselves or their bodies. Human beings, if they do not lose their mind and awareness, see the world as a place of mourning since they feel pity at the sorrows of others. However, in the eyes of modern man, who assigns every self (nafs) absolute ownership, this world is a place where brute force triumphs because, as Sartre asserted, humans are left to themselves as they do not know what they should do. According to this view, what is heard everywhere is the voices of tyrants and the mourning of the oppressed. The contradictions of this modern view, which overlooks religion, have loaded humans’ hearts and souls with burdens of grief and have granted them impotence. Here, what I mean by “impotence” is that condition of spiritual weakness of the one who learns SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
the outside world while having no point of reliance within the self. The understanding that “conflict is always essential in the world” is based on a totally wrong perspective as well. The help and assistance of the sun and the moon to plants and animals; animals (and plants) being put at the service of humans; food materials being found in nurturing fruits; atomic sustenance nourishing body cells are some examples that show how helping one another is an obvious truth in the world. This fact is so critical that even an absence of one cause in the universe could lead to enormous negative consequences. For instance, let us imagine nitrate bacteria were to be absent in the circulation of nitrogen. In that case, plants would not be able to use nitrogen, their metabolisms would be greatly weakened, photosynthesis would stop, oxygen in the air would decrease as carbon dioxide increased, and the earth would turn into a place which would not support human life. Likewise, small or big, all kinds of balances in the universe indicate a law of reciprocal help and assistance. The place and nature of causes Additionally, assigning all events to certain results and regarding causes as the absolute power in the universe is a result of modern philosophy’s being deprived of transcendental truth. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi summa-
IF HUMAN BEINGS, WHO CAN BE CONSIDERED AS THE MOST DEVELOPED CAUSE, CANNOT CREATE THE TINIEST THING FROM NOTHING, THEN NO OTHER CAUSE CAN POSSIBLY BE THE REAL ARCHITECT.
rized the influence of causes thus: “For physical causes only gather and join together. It is confirmed by people of reason that they cannot create out of nothing what is not present in them.”1 When an ordinary result is looked at, a deep consciousness, a transcendental knowledge and supremacy and similar attributes are seen. Causes do not own these attributes and therefore cannot be the real architect of the result. Besides, every cause is contingent (almumkinat, plural of mumkin, or “possible”), its presence and absence has equal consequences. Therefore, every cause depends on another cause, which depends on a further third cause, in the same way as the feet of chairs lean against one another for support. At the end, however, for this chain to stand, there is still a need for One who is not contingent, whose presence is essential and of Himself (Wajib al-Wujud), and who is the Causer of causes (Musabbib al-Asbab). If human beings, who can be considered as the most developed cause, cannot create the tiniest thing from nothing, then no other cause can possibly be the real architect. Thus, a human being who thinks according to modern science of trying to get knowledge of the physical world through pure reason and experimental method will assign everything (from the smallest sphere to the largest one) to causes. Since the “modern” scientist
regards the perfect balances that he or she discovers, from those in one small cell to those in the universe as a whole as a gift of causes, he or she thinks that any cause can also destroy the perfect stability; for destruction is much easier than construction. Therefore, modern scientists load an enormous burden on their backs. All the discoveries that they make and everything they assign to causes in the path of science will soon become a source of fear for them. Now, knowledge grants them impotence. Under the pressure of this subjection, they seek a source of empowerment. It might sometimes be their own self (or ego), sometimes technology, and at other times nature. As can be seen, contrary to the arguments of the mechanical worldview that separates metaphysics from physics and regards causes as sources of everything; and as opposed to the “modern” understanding that assigns absolute authority to every self, assumes chaos in the world, and considers force the only way to win a conflict; turning to belief is not because of impotence. On the contrary, it is one’s not turning to belief that results in impotence and helplessness. Note 1. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, Asa-yı Musa (“The Staff of Moses”), Istanbul: Yeni Asya Yayıncılık, 2005, p. 273. 57
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MY MAIN BODY CONSISTS OF SEVENTEEN MUSCLES, EIGHT OF WHICH ARE IN PAIRS. THEY EXTEND IN ALL DIRECTIONS. AMONG THOSE MUSCLES ARE THE LIPID MEMBRANE AND SOME SALIVARY GLANDS.
eter, until now I have been speaking on your behalf, telling people of your wishes, happiness, likes, and dislikes. I have been expressing the feelings in your heart and the thoughts in your mind. Now, let me speak about myself this time. Do not think that I am jealous of my fellow organs. On the contrary, we work in cooperation with each other, we help any organ that gets weak, and we do our duties as God wants us to do. Since each of us is given the perfect shape and qualities appropriate to our duties, none of us is more or less important than the others. You will not find anything useless in us. I just want you to see that I am as good as the other organs and think of all of us with gratitude. Some people might see me as a rough piece of flesh that wiggles in the mouth. Of course I am not that simple! By looking at my color, some experienced doctors can even diagnose an illness. For example, some wellknown symptoms that I show are whitening due to fever, becoming dark brown when you have typhoid, blackening because of a yeast infection, or having a smooth surface because of anemia or lack of niacin (a B-group vitamin). If you are wondering what my primary duties are, I can say that the first is to help to produce speech, an ability which distinguishes you human beings from animals. For sure this speech production is not only mine. First
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of all the brain, which is the coordinator of all the organs including me, regulates all my movements in speaking. The other organs that help me form sounds to make words are your teeth, lips, palate, the vocal cords in your throat, and your lungs, which work like an air pump and vibrate those cords. As you see, so many of us work together just to produce your speech. Other than the speech function, my second major duty is to work as an inspector to taste and process the countless fruits and delicious foods that are given by God. That is how you get an idea about an animal- or plant-based substance that you want to eat. If I did not exist, you might die because of a poisonous plant that you ate out of hunger. Many poisonous substances have a bitter taste. Indeed, I can sense their bad taste the moment I touch them and warn you to spit out the thing in your mouth immediately. When you eat sweet and delicious things, however, I make you remember and thank God, who has given them to you. However, you should be careful about my fondness for taste and control yourself since that is part of a God-given test. My Creator has made a relation between my love of taste and the evil-commanding side of your soul. He has also made me a step for your spiritual development. If you eat and drink too much, which means you are misled by your evilcommanding side and abuse my sense of taste, it will be you who lose. I do what my duty requires and get the taste of everything. But it is your job to use your will power and not to be defeated by your evil-commanding self (nafs). I will never stop you, whether you eat one piece of baklava or ten; I will get the taste of every piece. Do not ever blame me for that! I have another function that many people are not aware of. My movement causes a negative pressure in the cavity of the mouth. Are you wondering what this negative pressure does? This pressure is needed especially for babies to nurse on their mothersâ€™ breast easily; I help them in the sucking movement. In addition to that, as everybody knows, I have very important functions in chewing and swallowing food. I manipulate
the food in your mouth; I soften and moisten it with saliva so that it can be easily swallowed. Also, during swallowing, I move the food back toward the pharynx. I have to be very careful while doing all this, since at my smallest mistake, your teeth might bite and hurt me. Of course, I can do all this only with the help of my Creator, who has built my anatomy of delicate tissues and cells. Since He never does anything absurd or useless, He has given every organ qualities that are both esthetic and functional. My main body consists of seventeen muscles, eight of which are in pairs. They extend in all directions. Among those muscles are the lipid membrane and some salivary glands. I am the most flexible organ in your body. My many strong muscles enable me to move in lots of directions easily. Those muscles are covered by an epithelial lining which is called the mucous membrane. The small projections on my upper surface are called papillae. These papillae are of several types. They contain receptors which allow you to sense taste and the salivary glands that help me stay wet all the time. The papillae cover as far as an A-shaped line towards my back which makes up a third of my length. Here at my back, there are plenty of salivary glands and the lymphoid tissue, also known as the lingual tonsil. Many germs that enter through your mouth get trapped here. The papillae are named according to their shapes. The filiform papillae (which are long and thin) do not contain taste buds. They only provide a rough surface to move the food easily. The food is moistened by your saliva and crushed by your teeth. Then, with the help of these papillae, I help to shape the food into smaller pieces to make it easier to swallow. The fungiform papillae are 59
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MY MOVEMENT CAUSES A NEGATIVE PRESSURE IN THE CAVITY OF THE MOUTH. THIS PRESSURE IS NEEDED ESPECIALLY FOR BABIES TO NURSE ON THEIR MOTHERS’ BREAST EASILY; I HELP THEM IN THE SUCKING MOVEMENT. mushroom-shaped and scattered among the filiform papillae. They are located at the center of my top surface and they contain taste buds. The circumvallate papillae lie along the A-shaped line which makes up the border of my back. These papillae are larger in size and smaller in number; there are around thirteen of them. Each taste bud on the fungiform papillae has 50 to 75 receptor cells which live for only seven to ten days. When cells die because of hot or acidic foods, new ones are created to make new nerves for the taste buds. Only substances that are dissolved in water can reach the taste receptors. That is why I cannot taste a dry substance that you have taken into your mouth right away; it has to be moistened and softened first. Tasting occurs in the receptor cells of taste, where some analyses are undertaken much more delicately than in a chemistry laboratory. My receptor cells change this chemical stimulus into an electrical stimulus and send it to your brain. This electrical stimulus allows the sense of taste to be perceived. Among the many kinds of taste, there are four major groups. The taste buds for sweetness are located near my front; the taste buds for saltiness are scattered widely on my surface; the taste buds for bitterness are found at my back; and the taste buds for sourness are on my sides. My under surface extends between my tip and the floor of your mouth. The mucous membrane that covers this surface is smooth and does not contain papillae. It is purple in color because of the many blood vessels that are inside me and nourish me. By the way, the famous saying that “the tongue does not have a bone” is wrong, since I do have a bone. However, this bone is not located in my front body, which is why I am very flexible and I can say whatever you command SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2009
me to say. But by my muscles and ligaments I am firmly bound to a U-shaped bone (the hyoid bone) at my root. I am connected to your lower jaw by this bone. I can have disorders, like every other organ. In fact, many disorders in me are an indication of disorders in the other organs or of a metabolic illness. For example, mouth ulcers can often be seen on me. Some types of mouth ulcer are caused by stress, lack of sleep, or lack of vitamins. Others occur as a result of absorption disorders and as a symptom of Behcet’s syndrome. Some ulcers can last for weeks and they can be very painful. You might suffer from this pain especially when you speak and eat. Diseases such as syphilis and herpes also show themselves as ulcers on me. I might even become cancerous in people who smoke or in those who eat and drink things that are too hot. I sometimes show the symptoms of some metabolic disorders like Down’s Syndrome, the blockage of lymph vessels, glycogenosis and amiloidosis. In these disorders, my muscle mass shows excessive growth due to abnormally deposited glycogen and amyloid. Dear Peter, until now, your “speechless organs” have talked about themselves in their own tongue. I have always talked, but I have always talked on your behalf, expressing your thoughts and feelings. It is you who are responsible for what I have said, good or bad, since I am bound to your will power. However, today I spoke in my own tongue, and on behalf of our Creator. As is well known, I am an organ that has great potential for both evil and good. It is your duty to control me and use me well. Do not ever forget that I am not a simple mass of muscle, epithelium and nerves. Rather, I am a tool that can be used for both debasing and elevating you. From now on, when you eat an apple, do not swallow it before chewing well; wait till I get the flavor of it very well. In that way, you will have an opportunity to thank God for the food you are given. He is the One who not only gave you that apple, but also me, the organ that can taste it. This is just another amazing thing that makes your life beautiful! By thanking God, you will deepen your worship of Him. Irfan Yilmaz is a professor of biology at Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey.
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THE BIGGEST PROBLEM OF THE HYPOCRITES IS
Who are the people the Qur’anic verses 2:18 and 2:171 refer to?
THE QUR’AN USES THE EXPRESSION, “LA YARJIUN”—“THEY CANNOT RETURN TO THE TRUTH AND THE PURITY THAT THEY ORIGINALLY HAD”—FOR THE HYPOCRITES AS A CHARACTERISTIC.
A: “They are utterly deaf, dumb, and blind; they can no longer recover.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:18) “They are deaf, dumb and blind, and so they have no understanding of (what is said to them).” (Al-Baqarah, 2:171) One of the above verses is about hypocrites; and the other is about unbelievers. As clearly expressed in these verses, the state of hypocrites and unbelievers are considered as equal to being deaf, dumb, and blind in their difficulty to digest the truth, in the way they view events, and in their injustice. However, the two verses differ in their essence: one of them implies for these groups
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inability to find their original disposition (fitrat al-asliya) and former state of being, while in the other verse there is an emphasis on failure in using their reason. What joins these groups in their common deafness, dumbness, and blindness is the fact that both cannot evaluate truly the “book of the universe,” a book laid out before their very eyes in the form of an exhibition so that they can find out about the Almighty Creator; they cannot analyze the cosmos comprehensively, nor can they interpret events by reading between the lines. They do not give the slightest importance to the books, nor do they lend a listening ear to their conscience. If they had made good use of the books and their conscience, then they would have been able to testify to the truth—as the believers do—by using their intelligence. This way they would also have returned to their original innate nature; as a result, they would have lived their lives according to God’s commands and prohibitions. Truly, they are deaf because, while every creature in the universe announces the existence of God in its unique tongue, they are incapable of hearing that. They are dumb because they are incapable of acknowledging what they feel in their inner consciousness. They are
blind because they cannot see the ways which lead humans to the truth of God’s existence and His oneness. To consider more deeply these verses, “La ya’qilun” is used for the unbelievers, meaning that they do not use their intelligence and they do not actually think. As a matter of fact, if they had taken time to think, then they could have found the ways leading to faith easily. Indeed, the obstinate unbelievers of the city of Mecca had persecuted the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and his companions for long years. Yet, when they truly recognized how Muslims were and how they lived in an environment of peace after the Hudaybiya Treaty, the unbelievers turned their heads towards the right path saying, “We have been in great error!” For such a level of realization to be possible for unbelievers is largely dependent on their endeavor to think and to make a rational assessment of the situation; thus, the Qur’an concludes the verse about unbelievers with the expression “La ya’qilun.” The Qur’an describes the hypocrites as follows: “Vacillating between (the believers) and (the unbelievers), neither with these, nor with those”(An-Nisa 4:143). In other words, they frequently go from one place to the other; they represent being deprived of light both in their vision and in their conscience. In addition, as they limit their lives to this world, they have been living in indifference and recklessness in this world. Belief and unbelief do not make any difference to them; they desire to live in a place where the living standards are high and where they become comfortable. Hence,
they even go to the masjid and pray when necessary; nevertheless, they pray ostentatiously and lazily, as the Qur’an says: “When they rise to do the Prayer, they rise lazily, and to be seen by people (to show them that they are Muslims); and they do not remember God (within or outside the Prayer) save a little”(An-Nisa 4:142). This demonstrates that the hypocrites, in one sense, keep living in an Islamic way and they even follow the Prophet; nonetheless, they are still far from seeing the truth because their hearts are veiled and their thoughts are far from faith and sincerity. Therefore, the biggest problem of the hypocrites is their insincerity. Accordingly, the Qur’an uses the expression, “La yarjiun”—“they cannot return to the truth and the purity that they originally had”—for the hypocrites as a characteristic. Also, the verses in chapter Al-Munafiqun (The Hypocrites) are concluded either as “La ya’lamun”—“They do not know”— or “La yafqahun”—“They do not understand.” Expressions like “La a’qilun, la yatafaqqarun”—“They do not consider, they do not think”—are not used for hypocrites because those expressions are the attributes of unbelievers.
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A MAGAZINE OF SCIENTIFIC AND SPIRITUAL THOUGHT PUBLISHER: The Fountain is published bimonthly by THE LIGHT, INC. 345 Clifton Ave., Clifton, NJ, 07011, USA Tel: (973) 777 2704 - Fax: (973) 777 2714 E-mail: email@example.com Web: www.thelightpublishing.com EDITING: Copy Editors: Jane Louise Kandur, Ruth Woodhall Art Director: Engin Ciftci Design: Sinan Ozdemir CONTACT: The Fountain Magazine, 345 Clifton Ave., Clifton, NJ, 07011, USA Tel: (973) 777 2704 Fax: (973) 777 2714 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org To submit articles: Correspondence should be addressed to the main office. For electronic submissions please log on www.fountainmagazine.com/fmps SUBSCRIPTIONS: US and Canada: Individual subscriptions (6 issues): $33.00, Institutional subscriptions: $45.00 International subscriptions: Europe, Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa: €25.00 Far East, Americas, South Africa and Pasific: $41.00 Australia, New Zealand: $46.00 Turkey: 36 TL (VAT included) Outside U.S.: Please contact the representative closest to your country. REPRESENTATIVES * United Kingdom: Bekir Cinar / 30 Drayton Park, London N 5 1 PB FAX: +442076190467 email@example.com * Europe: Ismail Kucuk / World Media Group AG, Sprendlinger Landstr. 107-109, 63069 Offenbach am Main Customer services +49 69 300 34 111-112 Distribution 69 300 34 103 firstname.lastname@example.org * Australia: Suleyman Unal / Tel: +61 2 9649 6006 / 415 436 485 email@example.com * Turkey: Isik Yayinlari, Kısıklı Mh. Meltem Sk. No:5 Buyuk Camlica 34666 Uskudar/ Istanbul Customer line +90 216 444 0361 Tel.: +90 216 318 6011 Fax: +90 216 318 6858 firstname.lastname@example.org * Indonesia: Sezai Gokce / Ghalia Indonesia Printing JI. Rancamaya KM 1/47 Bogor Tel.: +62 251 24 1905 / 811 91 2362 email@example.com * Pakistan: Yakup On / House No:9 Main Double Road F-10/2 ISLAMABAD Tel.: +92 321 549 99 91 firstname.lastname@example.org * South Africa: Halil Yurtsever / Turquoise Harmony Institute, 17 Lyndale Road Sybrandpark, Cape Town. Tel: +27 825 53 9835 email@example.com Canada Mailing Publications Mail Agreement No. 41607065. Return undeliverable items to The Fountain, 345 Clifton Ave., Clifton, NJ, 07011, USA US Mailing The Fountain ( ISSN 0967-9928) THE FOUNTAIN USPS # 025-001. Periodicals postage paid at Somerset, NJ, and at additional mailing office. POST MASTER: Please send address changes to: The Fountain Magazine, 345 Clifton Ave., Clifton, NJ, 07011, USA. Printed by Cummings Printing Company, New Hampshire, USA / August 2009 ©2009 The Fountain. All rights reserved. Authors are responsible for all statements made in their work.
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Come, let us speak to one another through our hearts. Let us speak secretly, without ears and eyes. Let us laugh like the roses without lips or sound. Like thoughts, let us see each other without any words or sound. We are all the same, let us call each other from our hearts, without lips or tongue. Our hands are clasped together, let us talk about it.
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