Issue 100 / July - August 2014
One Man, Equal to a Species
Ali Fethi Toprak
It was an interesting dream. In ancient times, creatures that were destined for destruction questioned why they were given this sentence. What was the wisdom behind such a decision? How could it be just?
The answer was interesting and had deep meanings, but still left questions in my mind. The creatures were told: a new species will be created and arrive soon, and each member of this species will be equivalent and worthy of a whole species.
Those who asked the question were silent, suggesting they were satisfied with the answer. But I wondered how a single member of a species can be worth an entire species â€“ and whether destroying a whole species for a new one can really be just.
Here, it was obvious to me that the new species that would be created is humans, and those condemned were the species who went extinct in ancient times, before humanity appeared on earth. This dream vaguely reminded me something that I read in the "Risale-i Nur Collection" by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi.
Bediuzzaman remarkably states that, "A human being is equivalent to a species of other creatures" (Zuhra - 4th point, Isharat al-I'jaz, and Mathnawi al-Nuriya). This line hadn't really struck me until I had the dream about older creatures questioning this wisdom.
In this dream, those creatures were dinosaurs. I was not scared; they weren't threatening with their question. They were fighting for their rights and trying to understand the glorious plan, and beyond.
It seemed to me a lovely coincidence that I had a visit to Washington coming up soon and had a chance to visit the National Museum of Natural History, where you can see well preserved remnants of various dinosaurs.
All of the dinosaurs went extinct long before the first human showed up. Dinos first walked on earth over 200 million years ago and dominated the earth until 66 million years ago. Their dominion on earth ended with the Cretaceousâ€“Paleogene extinction. According to fossil records, there were more than 1000 dinosaur species. Dinosaurs had different habits of eating, as some were herbivorous (plant-eating) and others were carnivorous (meat-eating), including fish-eaters and insectivores, and omnivores (including both animals and plants in their diets). We should be thankful that we never knew many of the carnivores like T-Rex, which measured up to 12m (40ft)! It's obvious that we could not live on earth if T-Rex were still running around. For our arrival, their departure was necessary.
There is no doubt that the human species is very valuable from various aspects, but what puts each person on the same level with another species?
One of humanity's great merits is our collective understanding. This collective consciousness can be more fully realized through the glasses of faith in God. With the window of faith, humans not only comprehend His speech, but are better attuned to their fellow living beings â€“ and maybe even non-living creatures. Humans are like one who is that all-inclusive and hears all other things. Hence, we can grasp proofs of the most beautiful names of the Creator from the speeches of all creatures.
The light of such understanding in humans leads to an expansion and improvement in our soul. This makes our value high, our sight universal, and our ability to achieve to perfection limitless. On the other hand, many other species are limited in many aspects by their nature, sights, and capacity of perfection. According to religious texts, though humans and other species are valued differently on earth, the divide grows larger in the hereafter. While every human being is re-created with their names, features, matter, and manner, other species return back to the soil.
When you visit nature museum next time, try to listen what the fossils of extinct species tell you about their complaint. They were created for a purpose; they have finished their job and gone. They have done a fantastic job and flourished, while leaving us many petrol reservoirs. Though countless species have gone extinct, more than 1.6 million other species are still living on earth. Death is not an end; nowadays, they are trying to reach out to us and tell us their secrets. We're expected to become the best fruit of this universe.
This dream made me think about how the ways that Allah could teach us is not limited to what we do when we are awake. Would you ever think that ancient extinct species would also need the lights of the everlasting speech of the All-Wise and All-Powerful, as explained by why a man could be equivalent and worthy of a species of another creature by Bediuzzaman?
Another lesson is that as we live in an oil dependent-century, we are counting on reservoirs that formed millions years ago by the remnants of ancient living beings; but just as we depend on them, ancient extinct species are also counting on us and expecting us to contemplate our purpose for being here, and to show that we're worthy of being the most glorious fruit in the universe. As the All-wise make things with infinite wisdom, he sends oil to people of this century to help in technology and he also sends further mercy in the form of knowledgeable scholars to answer our questions.