M. Fethullah Gulen
Since man’s sensory powers are limited, it is not wise to deny outright the existence of realms beyond our senses. Also, we know very little with respect to existence; what we know is considerably less than what we do not. Our sciences are still in their ‘childhood’; the future will witness dazzling discoveries and development in scientific fields.
Sciences ‘walk’ on the feet of theories and develop through ‘trial and error’ to investigate those theories. There are numerous established facts which sciences once regarded as false, just as what were once believed to be established facts are now known as fallacies. Also, there are many other things whose existence we accept unquestionably but cannot establish scientifically. The existence of the spirit angels, jinn and Satan are something the majority of mankind have always believed since the beginning of man’s life on earth. So, it would seem to be more scientific to allow their existence in theory and then to investigate it. Denial of their existence is unscientific insofar as such a denial is a judgement or conclusion which must be based on concrete proof. No one can prove and therefore scientifically claim the nonexistence of the invisible realm of existence.
There are many physical qualities such as heat and cold, and abstract qualities such as beauty and charm, and feelings like joy, sorrow and love, all of which can be directly experienced and/or measured to some degree. Materialists attribute these to some bio-chemical processes in the brain and some scientists (like psychologists and psychiatrists) still try to explain them by natural or physical laws. However, the non-physical side of man - his feelings, beliefs, potentialities, desires etc., which vary enormously from individual to individual, although everyone is made up of the some material elements - is too profound to be explained within the terms of physics, chemistry or biology. A fact which believers can and do observe is that, the stronger one’s belief, the deeper and more regular one’s worship and the higher one’s morality, the more radiant and loveable one’s face appears to be. Is it at all possible to explain this fact in merely physical terms?
After these preliminary remarks to remove some of the so-called scientific objections to believing in the existence of the spirit, angels, jinn and Satan, we can go on with positive arguments to convince the reader of their existence,
1. Matter serves life in the universe, not the other way round. Sciences are unable to explain life. How inorganic matter grows into life is a mystery for the sciences. Although matter manifestly forms the basis for life or serves as a receiver of life, it is evidently not its originator. So, life is sent from immaterial dimensions of existence: God infuses it into matter or inorganic substance through something immaterial and invisible, which we call spirit. It is because of the particular features of each spirit that human beings, although formed of the some physical elements, are different from each other in character countenance, potential, desire and fate.
2. Life does not depend on matter; on the contrary, life makes a tiny body greater than a huge one. For example, it is through life that a fly or a bird is ‘greater’ than a mountain. Life enables a honey-bee to claim that the whole earth is its garden and to establish relations with all flowers and enter into transactions with them. Again, the more refined matter is, the more developed and active life is. The development and activity of life are also not in relation with the size of the body. A fly or a flea is more active and has sharper senses than a camel or rhinoceros.
3. This world is the arena where God manifests His Will from behind the veil of what we experience and describe as ‘natural causes’, but life is the result of the direct manifestation of His Name, the Ever-Living. So, as long as science insists on its positivistic, even materialistic, viewpoint, it will never penetrate the mystery of what life is.
Scientists restrict the concept of life to the conditions that obtain on or beneath the outer surface of our planet. Therefore when they have looked for extra-terrestrial life what they have looked for is conditions which are the same as or similar or closely correspondent to the conditions in which life is evident on the surface of earth. But surely, if they had retained a sufficient sense of the absolute wonder of life (and that absolute wonder is an aspect of life’s being a direct manifestation of the Ever-Living) they should not have ruled out forms and conditions of life which are at present beyond their understanding. In their view, the arguments put forward by Said Nursi (a Muslim scholar from Turkey who wrote mostly in the first half of this century) for the existence of angels and other spirit beings may not be worthy of consideration. However, the latest discoveries in deep sea biology may persuade them to review Nursi’s arguments. Said Nursi wrote at the beginning of the 1930s:
Reality and the wisdom in the existence of the universe require that the heavens should have conscious inhabitants of their own as does the earth. These inhabitants of many different kinds are called angels and spirit beings in the language of religion.
It is true that reality requires the existence of angels and other spirit beings because the earth, although insignificant in size compared with the heavens, is continually being filled with and emptied of conscious beings. This clearly indicates that the heavens… are filled with living beings who are the perfect class of living creatures. These beings are conscious and have perception, and they are the light of existence; they are the angels, who, like the jinn and mankind, are the observers of the universal palace of creation and students of this book of the universe and heralds of their Lord’s kingdom.
The perfection of existence is through life. Moreover, life is the real basis and the light of existence, and consciousness, in turn, is the light of life. Since life and consciousness are so important and a perfect harmony evidently prevails over the whole creation, and again since the universe displays a firm cohesion, and as this small ever-rotating sphere of ours is full of countless living and intelligent beings, so it is equally certain that those heavenly [realms] should have conscious, living beings particular to themselves. Just as the fish live in water, so those spirit beings may exist in the heat of the sun. Fire does not consume light; rather, light becomes brighter because of fire. We observe that the Eternal Power creates countless living beings from inert, solid substances and transforms the densest matter into subtle living compounds by life. Thus it radiates the light of life everywhere in great abundance and furnishes most things with the light of consciousness.
From this we can conclude that the All-Powerful, All-Wise One would certainly not leave without life and consciousness more refined, subtle forms of matter like light and ether, which are close to and fitting for the spirit indeed He creates animate and conscious beings in great number from light darkness, ether, air and even from meanings and words. As He creates numerous species of animals, He also creates from such subtle and higher forms of matter numerous different spirit creatures. One kind ... are the angels, others are the varieties of spirit beings and jinn. (The Words 1, Truestar 1 g93, from pp.113-7)
Half a century after Said Nursi wrote this, nearly 300 animal species, almost all of them previously unknown, have been discovered living around hydrothermal vents which form when sea-water leaking through the ocean floor at spreading ridges is heated by the underlying magma and rushes into the cold ocean. V. Tunniclife writes:
All life requires energy, and nearly all life on earth looks to the sun as the source. But solar energy is not the only kind of energy available on the earth. Consider the energy that drives the movement and eruption of the planet’s crust. When you look at an active volcano, you are witnessing the escape of heat that has been produced by radioactive decay in the earth’s interior and is finally reaching the surface. Why should there not be biological communities associated with the same nuclear energy that moves continents and makes mountains? And why could not whole communities be fuelled by chemical, rather than, solar energy?
Most of us associate the escape of heat from the interior of the earth with violent events and unstable physical conditions, with extreme high temperatures and the release of toxic gasses - circumstances that are hardly conducive to life. The notion that biologic communities might spring up in a geologically active environment once seemed fantastic. And until recently, few organisms were known to survive without a direct or indirect way to tap the sun’s energy. But such communities do exist, and they represent one of the most startling discoveries of 20th century biology. They live in the deep ocean, under conditions that are both severe and variable.
This ‘startling’ discovery of biology contains clues to some other realities, which sciences should consider The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, states that angels are created from light. We read in the Qur’an that God created man from dried earth, from wet clay and, from an extract of clay. According to the Qur’an, man has been made a khalifa on the earth. Khalifa means one who succeeds. Many interpreters of the Qur’an have concluded from this that the jinn once ruled the earth and they were succeeded by men.
Starting from the clues above, it should be possible to do formal studies to determine the worth of propositions such as these:
God first created pure light (nur) and then light. The process of creation followed a gradual, regular accumulation of identities and/or a saltational sequence of abrupt leaps. Fire followed light and then came water and earth. God spread one existence through another, compounding and interweaving. He also created living beings in every phase of creation appropriate for each phase. While the universe was in a state of pure fire or some other high energy, He created the appropriate life- forms. And when the earth became conducive to life, He created plants, animals and man. He adorned every part and phase of the universe with creatures, among them living ones, that are appropriate for that part and phase.
Finally, just as He created innumerable beings from light, ether, air, fire, water and earth, so too, from every word and deed of man, He forms ether his paradise or hell. In other words, as He grows a tree from a tiny seed through particles of earth, air and water, so He will build the other world from the material of this world which He will adapt for the other world during the convulsions of Doomsday. And He will use the words and actions of human beings in preparing the paradise or hell of each.
4. Angels are purely spirit beings. They stand for the purely good aspect in existence, while Satan and his descendants represent the purely evil aspect. God is One and Infinite, He does not have an opposite. Other than God, all beings and existents each have an opposite. Since man has two opposite aspects in his nature, one inclined to good, the other to evils, angels represent his good aspect, while Satan or satans, his evil one. Angels invite him to his purely spiritual or ‘angelic’ aspect, while Satan tries to seduce him by calling him to do evil. This struggle between good and evil in man, and in the universe as a whole, has been continuing since the beginning of existence. Everyone feels a stimulus in himself both to good and evil at the same time. The stimulus calling him to good comes from angels or his unpolluted spirit the stimulus inviting him to evil comes from Satan, collaborating with his carnal self, which represents his animal aspect.
5. The relation between the spirit and the body can be likened to the relation between electrical power and a factory operating by electricity. If there is no electricity to operate the factory, the factory will be reduced to a heap of junk. Likewise, when the spirit leaves the body because of some rupture or disconnection, which we call illness or something like that, despite his matchless value when alive, man is reduced to a mass of tissue and bone to decompose in earth. This means that man’s real existence and his uniqueness among beings depend on his spirit.
6. We unquestionably accept the existence of natural laws and forces and even go so far as to attribute all the phenomena in the universe to them. We ascribe the growing of a tiny seed into a huge, elaborate tree to the law of germination and growth in that seed, or the incredible balance in the universe to the laws of gravitation and repulsion, but we ignore the absolute will, knowledge, power, and wisdom which are necessary for the existence, operation and balance of the universe. The One who has absolute will, knowledge, and power and absolute wisdom, uses powerful beings, invisible like winds or gales and much more powerful than natural forces or laws, behind those forces and laws. It is through those beings that God makes natural laws and forces operative. Those beings are angels.