Manifestations of God’s Names

The Second Station of the Fourteenth Flash (Part 1)

NOTE: The quoted passages are from Ustadh Bediuzzaman’s book and the commentaries below them are my own

First Mystery: I saw a manifestation of بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ “In the name of Allah the Merciful the Compassionate” in the following way

“The All-Merciful” (الرَّحْمٰنِ/Ar-Rahman) and “The All-Compassionate” (الرَّحِيمِ/Ar-Raheem) are two of the many Beautiful Names of Allah (SWT), and understanding the difference between them is essential to understanding the Second Station of the Fourteenth Flash. The name Ar-Rahman (The All-Merciful) is the One who is kind and benevolent to all of His living creation, including the humans (both the believers and the nonbelievers) and the animals. The name Ar-Raheem (The All-Compassionate), on the other hand, is the One who is benevolent to specifically the believers. These definitions will be elaborated in the next post.

on the face of the universe, the face of the earth, and the face of the human being are three stamps of Godhead (rububiyyah); each contained within one another and displaying a sample of the others.

The word translated as “Godhead” is actually the word “rububiyyah” (ربوبية), which is a form of the word “Rabb” (رب). The word “Rabb” in Arabic has such meanings as “the owner”, “the nourisher”, and “The One who is worshipped”. Throughout this chapter, I will use the word “rububiyyah” in the place of “Godhead”, since “rububiyyah” is the original word used in the Turkish text.

The author states that there are three stamps of rububiyyah, as we will see in the following passages. The fact that these stamps are “one within the other” and “each showing samples of the others” will be discussed and elaborated after the following analysis is made.

One is the great stamp of divinity (uluhiyya) appearing in the cooperation, support, embrace, [and] response [among the beings in] the entirety of the universe; بِسْمِ اللهِ [“In the name of Allah”] looks to this.

The works of any individual reveal that individual’s personality, character, and capabilities. If an author, for instance, writes a lot about horses and ponies; we understand that she has a fascination with them.

By examining the books of an author, we learn more about that author. By examining the paintings of a painter, we learn more about that painter.

Similarly, by examining this universe, we learn more about its Creator. The universe reveals or manifests His names and attributes.

First, let us define/explain what “manifestation” means in the Risale-i Nur collection in general. Allah (SWT) has many names and this universe is a setting for the manifestation of these names. In other words, the names of God are being displayed in many different forms in every aspect of this universe. By displaying these before our eyes, God allows us to understand these attributes and to know Him better.

To illustrate this, let us consider the following scenarios and examine some of the names being manifested or displayed:

  1. God teaches us, through His messengers and prophets (peace be upon them), that He is Ar-Raheem (The Compassionate). In order for us to comprehend this name, He manifests/displays it in different ways, one of which is the compassion given to mothers. Her compassion towards her child teaches us the concept of compassion, which in turn allows us to understand the name Ar-Raheem (The All-Compassionate).
  2. Similarly, God teaches us through His prophets (عليهم السلام) that He is Al-Aleem (The all-Knowing). By looking at a scholar, we understand the concept of being knowledgeable, and therefore understand to some extent what it means for God to be  Al-Alim (The All-Knowing).

In both examples, these people possess manifestations of God’s names. Of course these are nothing compared to God’s compassion or God’s knowledge. Nonetheless, however small or insignificant they may be, they do serve an important role in allowing us to understand these names. If we did not see compassionate or knowledgeable people, we would not be able to understand the names The Compassionate (ar-Raheem) and The all-Knowing (al-Aleem). Thus God places manifestations of His names in various beings to teach us about Himself.

Now, an essential part of learning a concept is to observe its opposite. To understand the meaning of day, we must understand the meaning of night. Similarly, to understand the concept of strength, we must know what it means to be weak, and so on.

Thus, God not only places manifestations of His names in His creatures; he also places the opposites of those names to clarify these concepts for us. In other words, God allows us to understand certain concepts by presenting both these concepts themselves and also their opposites.

For instance, poor people who lack self-sufficiency indirectly manifest the name al-Ghani (The Self-Sufficient). How so?

Money and wealth provide us with autonomy and self-sufficiency. They allow us to live without asking others for financial help. In other words, they allow us to understand the concept of self-sufficiency, which in turn allows us to comprehend what it means for God to be Al-Ghani (The Self-Sufficient). By this reasoning, the self-sufficiency of a wealthy person is a manifestation of the name Al-Ghani (The Self-Sufficient).  However, it is crucial to note that the concept of wealth and self-sufficiency is only understandable with the existence of poverty. In other words, if poverty did not exist (if all humans had the same degree of wealth), we would not be able to understand the concept of wealth/poverty. So poverty is an indirect manifestation of the name Al-Ghani (The Self-Sufficient), because poverty allows us to understand this particular name of God.

So the names of God are being manifested in many different ways in this universe. These names are manifested either directly or through their opposites. In the given examples, the mercy of a mother, the knowledge of a scholar, and the self-sufficiency of an individual are all manifestations of the names Ar-Raheem (The Compassionate), Al-Alim (The All-Knowing), and Al-Ghani (The Self-Sufficient), respectively. The existence of sharks[4] (since sharks are known to have no compassion to their offspring), uneducated individuals, and poverty are also manifestations of these names but in an indirect way. When the manifestations are direct, we call them a “direct manifestation”. When the manifestations are the opposites of these names, we call them an “indirect manifestation.”

However, these two types of appearances of God’s names in this universe are not the only types. The field of mathematics, for instance, is an appearance of the name “Al-Alim” (The All-Knowing). In other words, the difficulty and complexity of math allows us to understand (to some degree) the extent of God’s knowledge. However, it would be unreasonable to say that mathematics itself possesses a manifestation of the name Al-Alim (The All-Knowing), as it is not conscious and does not possess intelligence in the first place. In other words, we cannot claim that mathematics itself is smart.

To understand the difference between a direct or indirect manifestation of God’s names and a regular appearance of God’s names (as it appears in math for example), let’s take a step back and observe an example.

Suppose we hold a mirror towards the sun; the sun’s appearance/reflection will be seen in the mirror. As a result of the reflection/appearance of the sun in the mirror, the mirror will begin to possess some characteristics of the sun such as heat and light.

In other words, just as the sun is able to illuminate and heat its surroundings, the mirror will be able to illuminate and heat its surroundings as well to some extent. This is similar to a direct manifestation.

Also, by looking at the mirror, we will see the sun’s shape. However, unlike heat and light, the shape of the sun is not a property which is passed onto the mirror through reflection. The mirrors shape does not change. This is like a regular appearance.

Finally, let’s look at the Qur’an and sunnah for an example to clarify this difference.

وعن عمر بن الخطاب، رضي الله عنه ، قال‏: ‏ قدم رسول الله ، صلى الله عليه وسلم، بسبي، فإذا امرأة من السبي تسعى، إذ وجدت صبياً في السبي أخذته، فألزقته ببطنها، فأرضعته، فقال رسول الله، صلى الله عليه وسلم‏: ‏ “أترون هذه المرأة طارحة ولدها في النار‏؟‏” قلنا لا والله ‏.‏ قال‏: ‏ ‏ “‏لله أرحم بعباده من هذه الأم بولدها‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏متفق عليه‏)‏‏)‏

‘Umar bin Al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Some prisoners were brought to Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) amongst whom there was a woman who was running (searching for her child). When she saw a child among the captives, she took hold of it, pressed it against her belly and gave it a suck. Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Do you think this woman would ever throw her child in fire?” We said, “By Allah, she would never throw the child in fire.” Thereupon Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Allah is more kind to his slave than this woman is to her child”. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Riyad as-Salihin 418
Chapter 51: Hope in Allah’s Mercy, Book: The Book of Miscellany

Here, The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) encourages us to look at the compassion of a mother to get an idea of the true compassion of God. This kind of an appearance is a direct manifestation. In a sense the compassion of a mother is a reflection of God’s compassion similar to the reflection of light and heat in the mirror (of course in an infinitely lesser degree).

We also see the verse in the Qur’an,

وَهُوَ ٱلَّذِى جَعَلَ ٱلَّيْلَ وَٱلنَّهَارَ خِلْفَةًۭ لِّمَنْ أَرَادَ أَن يَذَّكَّرَ أَوْ أَرَادَ شُكُورًۭا

it is He who made the night and day follow each other- so anyone who wishes may be mindful or show gratitude. (Surah Furqan 25, verse 62)

Here, Allah (swt) shows us His mercy in creating the day and night which bring many benefits to the humankind. This appearance of God’s mercy is a regular appearance since the day and night themselves do not possess mercy. This is similar to the reflection of the sun’s shape in the mirror, since this quality of the sun is not passed on to the mirror itself. 

To conclude, there are three different appearances of God’s names in this universe: direct manifestation (as in a mother’s compassion), indirect manifestation (as in the poverty of a poor person), and regular appearance (as in math).

Of course, The Creator is very different from its creation. There is an inconceivable difference between direct manifestations such as the compassion of a mother or the knowledge of a scholar and the true compassion and knowledge of our Creator. God placed these manifestations only to teach us about Himself by giving us a subtle clue as to what His names actually mean.

Notice that in this particular passage, the author draws our attention to the manifestations of God’s names through the “mutual assistance, co-operation, and embracing and corresponding to one another of beings”. In other words, he is looking at the totality of the universe and observing the manifestations through its interconnectedness. We see that every being in this universe is dependent on the rest of it: in order for the earth to exist as it is, for instance, it has to be at a certain distance from the sun, there has to be an intricate connection between the atoms, and so on. The beauty of a flower (which is a manifestation of the name Al-Jameel (The Beautiful)), on the other hand, is dependent on the atoms, water, and the light coming from the sun, and so on.

As mentioned in the First Word, “Allah” is the personal name of God which encompasses the rest of all His other names. What does this tell us? It means that every manifestation of every single name of God is also a manifestation of the name “Allah”. This is the reason why the word “Allah” (in a sense) corresponds to the totality of this universe.

[1] In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate

[2] She (the queen) said (to her officials after receiving the letter), O chieftains, there has been delivered to me an esteemed letter. It is from Sulaiman, and it is (in the following words: ) With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful. (An-Naml, verse 29,30)

[3] A scholar’s knowledge is (obviously) nothing compared to that of God. Nonetheless, the existence of scholars allows us to understand the concept of being knowledgeable.

[4] Sharks are a manifestation (in the opposite way) of the name Ar-Raheem (The All-Compassionate) since sharks have no compassion to their offspring. In fact, baby sharks are forced to hide from their mothers so as to protect themselves from being eaten. Given the crucial role that sharks play in the ecosystem (“cleaning” the ocean due to their predatory instinct), it should be noted that the lack of mercy in sharks is a necessity for the ecosystem in general.

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