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Catch ‘em before they’re gone: Legendary Istanbul and 1001 Inventions

September 20, 2010

Many awesome exhibits come through Istanbul. Unfortunately, there are so many that often you (or at least I) only hear about really good ones after they’ve moved on to the next town. Luckily, we’re here to remedy, just barely – two quite well done exhibits are ending in the next two weeks, so consider this your last-minute warning to head out and see them before they, too, disappear.

Ending this Sunday (Sept. 26), after a successful and extended run, is the Sabanci Museum’s Legendary Istanbul: 8,000 years of a capital. The Sabanci Museum can be a little bit of a hassle to get to, especially if you get stuck in Bebek weekend traffic, but it’s well worth the hike: The exhibit presents a view of historical Istanbul that often gets lost among the strictly-Ottoman or strictly-Byzantine narratives. The sheer amount of artifacts the museum was able to pull together into a series of exhibit halls advancing the story of the city is nothing short of impressive. One of my favorite parts was a large dome which shifted between images of various famous domes in the city, from the Hagia Sofia to the Ortakoy Mosque and many, many others. I think the Ottoman battle tent was another highlight, for sheer grandeur, although I was most impressed by the artifacts on display from the Yenikapi excavations – I’ve often seen relics of civilizations that old in museums, but they’re generally from archaeological digs that are amidst farmers’ fields, not down the street from me.

One of my chief criticisms of Turkish museums is a lack of interpretation, a fault Legendary Istanbul definitely does not suffer from. The Turkish-English texts are informative and packed with interesting historical anecdotes that to me emphasized the common people that lived in Istanbul over the years, rather than simply the rulers. I found it very well done, although it left me wanting more interpretation, more content, and more of its comprehensive take on Istanbul history. If you’ve not made it out to Emirgan (take a bus from Besiktas, if it goes to Istinye it’ll go by Emirgan), definitely make room in your schedule for the Legendary Istanbul exhibit. If you’re looking to make a half-day out of it, pair it with a stop by Emirgan Park, one of the better and larger parks in Istanbul, conveniently almost right next to the musem.

Just days behind Legendary Istanbul is 1001 Inventions, which is in a large tent in front of the Hagia Sofia and open in Istanbul through Oct. 5. 1001 Inventions comes to Istanbul via London – It opened at the Science Museum of London and was sponsored by the Foundation for Science, Technology, and Civilisation, a British group. Its perspective, thus, is not so Turk-centered.

I wouldn’t call 1001 Inventions a museum, as it really has very few artifacts on display. It is, however, a wonderful interactive and tech-savvy exhibit that wouldn’t be out of place at any of the US-based Science Museums I’ve visited. It starts out with an introductory video featuring Ben Kingsley as al-Jazari and a handful of other shining lights of the Middle Ages in the Muslim world. The exhibition does get a little excited about ascribing future inventions to people who made important discoveries that were instrumental to the later success. I’m not sure I buy the exhibit’s positioning of Abbas ibn Firnas as the father of modern flight, for example, but I did enjoy the reproduction of his glider. And, as a travel nerd, I appreciated the attention paid to Ibn Battuta and to Muslim maps (I love a good old map).

1001 Inventions, like Legendary Istanbul, has very well done interpretation in both English and Turkish. All the videos, originally in English, have been dubbed into Turkish but there are English subtitles.

In addition to just being a fascinating, well-assembled, visually interesting exhibit, 1001 Inventions makes you walk away wanting to explore so many things it gave just a glimpse of. For me, it was astrolabes and the Ulugh Beg observatory. You have a little bit more time to make it over to 1001 Inventions and learn about the Islamic world’s contributions to science and discoveries; luckily the tourist season’s dying down so Sultanahmet isn’t quite as teeming as it has been recently.

Both these exhibitions add uniquely to one’s understanding of Istanbul, as well as to the Ottoman, Byzantine, and Roman empires and the ancient Islamic world. If you enjoy exploring history and appreciate well-designed exhibits, hie over to Sultanahmet and Emirgan in the next week and change before they leave town and you’re left hearing about how awesome they were all Fall while mentally kicking yourself for not going to see them.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Noreen Qureshi permalink
    October 11, 2010 12:13 pm

    The 1001 inventions project seems like a great way to remember the often overlooked contributions of science and technology during the Golden Age period. It is unfortunate that Muslim-majority countries now lag in scientific progress. I first heard about this from a review of the exhibition from The Observer: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2010/jan/24/science-museum-1001-inventions-islam. They should bring this to the US!

    • October 11, 2010 5:54 pm

      I believe it’s off to New York after Istanbul! It was really enjoyable, and aside from the bit of hyperbole was indeed a great depiction of Middle-Age Muslim developments that many folks might gloss over or miss entirely. I found it encouraged exploration, which I always appreciate.

  2. March 13, 2011 2:54 am

    The Fifteenth Word

    In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

    And We have adorned the lowest heaven with lamps, and We have made them missiles to drive away the evil ones.1

    Oh, modern-educated Sir whose brain has shrunk through studying the soulless matters of astronomy, whose mind can see no further than the tip of his nose, and who cannot squeeze the mighty mystery of the above verse into his constricted brain! The heaven of the verse may be reached by a stairway of Seven Steps. Come, let us climb them together!

    FIRST STEP: Truth and wisdom require that the heavens have inhabitants appropriate to them as the earth has. According to the Shari’a, those various beings are called angels and spirit beings. Reality requires it to be thus, for despite its small size and insignificance, the earth being filled with living and conscious beings, then emptied from time to time and once again repopulated suggests, rather makes it clear, that the heavens, too, which possess magnificent constellations and are like adorned palaces, should be filled with conscious and percipient creatures. Like men and jinn, those creatures also are the spectators of the palace of the universe, the observers of the book of creation, and the heralds of the sovereignty of Dominicality. For the universe is arrayed and embellished with innumerable adornments, decorations, and ornaments, and self-evidently requires the thoughtful gazes of those who will appreciate it and wonder at it. Indeed, beauty requires a lover, and sustenance is given to the hungry. However, man and jinn are able to perform only a millionth of this endless duty, this grand viewing, this extensive worship. That is to say, endless sorts of angels and spirit beings are necessary to perform these endless duties and diverse worship.

    According to the indications of certain narrations, and the wisdom in the order of the universe, it may be said that some kinds of travelling bodies, from planets to drops of water, are the mounts of one kind of angel. They mount them with God’s permission and tour and gaze upon the manifest world. And it also may be said that one type of animal bodies, from the birds of Paradise called “The Green Birds” in a Hadith, to flies, are the aircraft for a sort of spirit being. They enter them at God’s command, travel around the physical universe, and observe the miracles of creation through the windows of the senses of their bodies.

    For sure, the Creator Who continuously creates subtle life and luminous percipient beings from dense earth and turbid water also creates types of conscious beings suitable for spirit and life, from those seas of light and even from the the oceans of darkness. And He creates them in great abundance. The existence of angels and spirit beings has been proved with the certainty of two plus two equals four in my treatise entitled Nokta (Point), and in the Twenty-Ninth Word. If you wish, you may refer to them.

    q SECOND STEP: The earth and the heavens are connected to one another like two countries under one government. There are important relations and transactions between them. Things necessary for the earth like light, heat, blessings, and mercy in the form of rain come from the sky, that is, they are sent. And according to the consensus of the revealed religions, which are founded on revelation, and the agreement of all those who uncover the mysteries of the universe, relying on what they have witnessed, the angels and spirit beings descend to the earth from the skies. From this it may be understood through a surmise so certain it can almost be felt that for the inhabitants of the earth there is a way to ascend to the heavens.

    Indeed, everyone’s mind, imagination, and perpetually rises to the skies, and so also having left behind all heaviness do the spirits of the prophets and saints rise there with God’s permission, and having stripped off their bodies, the spirits of the dead. So since those who become light and subtle rise there, for sure, one sort of the inhabitants of the earth and the air who are clothed in what resembles a body and are light and subtle like spirits may rise to the heavens.

    q THIRD STEP: The silence and tranquillity of the heavens, and their order and regularity, and vastness and luminosity, show that their inhabitants are not like those of the earth; they are obedient, they do whatever they are commanded. There is nothing to cause overcrowding and disputes, because the country is vast. Their natures are pure, they are innocent, their stations are fixed.

    On the earth, opposites come together, evils are mixed with good, and disputes start between them. For this reason, conflict and suffering are born. And from them examination and competition are set. And from them progress and retrogression occur. The wisdom in these facts is as follows:

    Man is the fruit of the tree of creation, its furthest part. It is well-known that the fruit of something is its most distant, most comprehensive, most delicate, and most important part. Therefore, since man, who is the fruit of the universe, is a most comprehensive, most wonderful, most powerless, most weak, and a most subtle miracle of power, the earth, which is his cradle and dwelling-place, is the heart and centre of the whole universe as regards meaning and art, despite being physically small and insignificant in relation to the heavens; it is the exposition and exhibition-place of all the miracles of art; and the display and point of focus of all the manifestations of the Divine Names; the place of assembly and reflection of unending Dominical activity; the means and market of boundless Divine creativity, whose liberality is especially evident in the numerous small species of plants and animals; the place, in a small measure, of samples of the artefacts to be found in the truly vast worlds of the hereafter; the speedily operating workshop for eternal textiles; the fast-changing place of imitation of everlasting panoramas; the narrow, temporary field and tillage rapidly raising the seeds for never-ending gardens.

    Thus, it is because of this immaterial greatness of the earth,2 and its importance in regard to art, that the All-Wise Qur’an puts it on a par with the heavens, although it is like a tiny fruit of a huge tree. It places it in one pan of a pair of scales and the whole of the rest of the universe in the other. It repeatedly says,

    Sustainer of the Heavens and the Earth.

    Furthermore, the speedy and constant change and transformation of the earth, which arises from the instances of wisdom mentioned above, requires that its inhabitants undergo change in accordance with it. And, it is because this limited earth manifests unlimited miracles of power that according to their creation and unlike other animate beings, no natural limit or restriction has been placed on the faculties and powers of man and jinn, who are its most important inhabitants. As a result of this they have manifested endless progress and endless retrogression. A great field of trial and examination has opened, from the prophets and the saints to the nimrods and the devils. Since this is so, of course, with their boundless evil, the pharaoh-like devils will throw stones at the heavens and its inhabitants.

    q FOURTH STEP: The All-Glorious One, Who is the Sustainer, Controller, and Creator of all the worlds, has numerous principles and rules, and very many appellations, titles, and most Beautiful Names, which are all different. Whichever Name and title necessitated sending angels to the ranks of the Prophet (PBUH)’s Companions in order to do battle against unbelievers also required that there should be battle between angels and devils, and contest between the good inhabitants of the heavens and the evil inhabitants of the earth. Indeed the All-Powerful One of Glory, Who holds within the grasp of His power the breathing-in and breathing-out of the unbelievers, does not wipe them out with a single command, a single trumpet-blast. With His title of universal Dominicality and Names of All-Wise and Controller, He opens a field of examination and contest.

    If the comparison is not mistaken, we see that a king has numerous different titles and names in respect of the different areas of his rule. For example, in the judicature he is known by the name of Wise Judge, in the army as Commander-in-Chief, in the office of the Shaykhu’l-Islam as Khalifa, and in the civil service as Sultan. His obedient subjects call him Gracious Sovereign, while the rebellious call him All-Compelling Ruler. You may think of further examples.

    Thus, it sometimes happens that an exalted king such as that, whose subjects are all within his power, does not issue the command to execute an impotent and contemptible rebel, rather, he sends him to court under his name of Wise Judge. Also, he knows a both capable and honest official who is worthy of being favoured. However, he does not favour him with his particular knowledge by private telephone. Instead, under his titles relating to the majesty of sovereignty and expedients of government, he opens a field of competition in order to make public how deserving the official is of reward, and he gives the command to his minister and invites the people to watch. He has organized a welcoming ceremony, and, as a result of a grand, elevated trial and examination, favours him in a distinguished assembly; he proclaims his worthiness. And you can think of further examples in the same way.

    Thus, and God’s is the highest similitude, the Monarch of Pre-Eternity and Post-Eternity has numerous Most Beautiful Names. Through the manifestations of His Glory and the manifestations of His Beauty, He has many attributes and titles. And the Name, title, and attribute which necessitate the existence of light and darkness, summer and winter, and Paradise and Hell, require also numerous general laws like the law of generation, those of competition and mutual assistance, and the making general to a degree also of the law of contest. From the contest of inspirations and satanic whisperings around the heart to the contest between angels and devils on the bounds of the heavens, they require that law to be all-embracing.

    q FIFTH STEP: Since there is coming and going from the earth to the heavens, and there is descent and ascent from the heavens to the earth and important necessities for the earth are sent from there; and since good spirits rise to the heavens, for sure, imitating the good spirits, evil spirits too will attempt to go to the realm of the heavens. For they are light and subtle in regard to their beings. Furthermore, they will doubtless be repulsed and expelled, for by nature they are evil and inauspicious. Also, without doubt, there will be a sign, an indication, in the Manifest World of this important exchange, this contest outside the realm of materiality. For the wisdom of the Sovereignty of Dominicality requires that it should place a sign and leave an indication for man in particular, whose most important duty is observation, witnessing, supervision, and acting as a herald, to these significant disposals in the Unseen. Just as it has placed the indication of rain to the endless miracles of spring, and made apparent causes the sign to the wonders of Divine art, so that it might call the people of the Manifest Realm to witness them, indeed, attract the attentive gazes of all the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth to that wondrous exhibition. That is, it displays the vast heavens as a castle or city arrayed with towers on which sentries are posted, so that they may reflect on the majesty of Dominicality.

    Since wisdom requires that there should be an announcement for this elevated contest, there is surely an indication to it. But – other than shooting stars – no event appropriate to this announcement is apparent among the events of the atmosphere and heavens; there is nothing more appropriate than this. For it may be understood clearly how suitable for the repulsion of devils are these stellar events, which resemble missiles and signal rockets fired from the sturdy bastions of towering castles. Whereas, apart from this purpose, wisdom, and aim, no other purpose appropriate to these occurrences is known. Other occurrences are not like this. Furthermore, this purpose and wisdom is famous since the time of Adam, and has been witnessed by those who know the reality of things.

    SIXTH STEP: Since man and jinn are capable of infinite evil and exertion, they are infinitely obdurate and rebellious. It is because of this that the Holy Qur’an restrains them from rebellion and insubordination with an eloquence so miraculous, styles so elevated and clear, comparisons and stories so exalted and evident that they cause the universe to tremble. For example, observe carefully the awesome warning, fearsome threat, and severe restraining in the verses:

    O you assembly of jinn and men! If you can pass beyond the regions of the heavens and the earth, pass beyond them! [But] you cannot pass beyond them, save by [God’s] authority. * Then which of the favours of your Sustainer will you deny? * On you will be sent a flame of fire, and smoke; no succour will you have,3

    which indicates the meaning, “O man and jinn! If you are not going to obey my commands, come on, pass beyond the bounds of My realms if you are able!” With a most miraculous eloquence, it smashes the most conceited obstinacy of man and jinn. It proclaims their impotence, and shows just how powerless and wretched they are in relation to the vast grandeur of the Sovereignty of Dominicality. It is as though it says with that verse, and the verse,

    And We have made them missiles to drive away the evil ones:4

    “O man and jinn, proud and obstinate within your baseness, and obdurate and refractory within your weakness and poverty! How are you so bold as to oppose with your rebellion the commands of a Monarch so Glorious that the stars, moons, and suns obey His commands like soldiers under orders? Through your defiance you contest an All-Wise One of Glory Who has obedient soldiers so awesome that, if to suppose the impossible your devils could withstand them, they would drive them off with cannon-balls the size of mountains. And with your ingratitude, you revolt in the realm of a Lord of Glory Who has servants and troops so fearsome, it is not insignificant little impotent creatures like you, if you were each infidel enemies the size of mountains or the earth, they would be able to hurl stars, flaming projectiles, and molten metal the size of mountains or the earth at you, and rout you. And you break a law that is such that those bound by it could if necessary strike your earth in your face, and rain down on you stars like cannon-balls the size of your globe.”

    Yes, in the Qur’an are certain important ‘concentrations of forces’ which arise not from the enemies being strong, but from reasons like the displaying of majesty and the exhibiting of the enemy’s wickedness. And sometimes it mobilizes against the littlest and weakest thing, the largest and most powerful causes, in order to show its perfect order, infinite justice, vast knowledge, and power of wisdom, and holds them above it; but does not make them fall upon it or aggress against it. For example, look at this verse,

    But if you uphold each other against him, truly God is his Protector, and Gabriel, and all the righteous among the believers, and furthermore, the angels, will back him up.5

    How respectful it is concerning the Prophet, and how compassionate towards the rights of his wives! This important concentration of forces is only to express compassionately the greatness of its respect for the Prophet and the importance of the complaints of two weak beings and the observance of their rights.

    SEVENTH STEP: Like angels and fish, there are also numerous different varieties of stars. Some are extremely small, and some are extremely large. Everything that shines in the sky even is called a star. Thus, one sort of star the Glorious Creator and Beauteous Maker created like the embossed decorations on the face of the delicate heavens, and the shining fruits of that tree, and the praising and extolling fishes of those seas. And He made some the places of excursion and thousands of dwelling-places for the angels. And He made one sort of small star the means for driving off devils. Thus, these shooting stars fired to repulse satans may have three meanings:

    The First: They are a sign and indication that the law of contest is in force also in the vastest sphere.

    The Second: There are vigilant guards, obedient inhabitants in the heavens. The shooting stars are a proclamation and indication that there are Divine forces found there who are displeased at the rebellion of evil dwellers on the earth, and their eavesdropping on them.

    The Third: It is the rejection and repulsion with shooting stars like missiles and signal rockets of spying satans, which are the execrable representatives of the filth of the earth, from the portals of the heavens, so that they do not soil the pure and clean and the dwelling-place of the pure, the skies; to prevent them spying on account of evil spirits, and to scare off mannerless spies.

    And so, Astronomer Sir, who relies on the torch in his head like a fire-fly and shuts his eyes to the sun of the Qur’an! Open your eyes, put aside the torch in your head, and see within the light of miraculousness as bright as daylight the meaning of the verse at the beginning! Take one star of truth from the heavens of that verse, cast it at the satan in your head, and drive away your own satan! And we must do the same. Together we should say,

    O my Sustainer! I seek refuge with you from the suggestions of the Evil Ones.

    And God’s is the eloquent proof and the decisive wisdom.

    All glory be unto You! We have no knowledge save that which You have taught us; indeed, You are All-Knowing, All-Wise.6

    The Addendum to the Fifteenth Word

    [The First Topic of the Twenty-Sixth Letter]

    In His Name be He Glorified.

    And there is nothing but glorifies Him with praise.

    In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

    And if a suggestion from Satan assails your mind, seek refuge with God; for He is All-Hearing and All-Knowing.7

    A Proof of the Qur’an against Satan and His Party

    This First Topic defeats in argument the Devil, silences the rebellious, and strikes them dumb by refuting in the most clear manner a fearsome and cunning stratagem of the Devil, which is to be ‘unbiased’. It concerns an event part of which I described in summary form ten years ago in my work entitled Leme’at. It is as follows:

    Eleven years before this treatise was written in the month of Ramadan, I was listening to the Qur’an being recited in Beyazit Mosque in Istanbul. Suddenly, although I could not see anyone, I seemed to hear an unearthly voice which captured all my attention. I listened with my imagination, and realized that it was saying to me:

    “You consider the Qur’an to be extremely elevated and brilliant. Be unbiased for a minute and consider it again. That is, suppose it to be man’s word. I wonder whether you would still see the same qualities and beauty in it?”

    In truth, I was deceived by the voice; I thought of the Qur’an as being written by man. And just as Beyazit Mosque is plunged into darkness when the electric switch is turned off, I observed that with that thought the brilliant lights of the Qur’an began to be extinguished. At that point I understood that it was the Devil who was speaking to me. He was drawing me towards the abyss.

    I sought help from the Qur’an and a light was at once imparted to my heart giving me firm strength for the defence. I began to argue back at the Devil, saying:

    “O Satan! Unbiased thinking is to take a position between two sides. Whereas what both you and your disciples from among men call unbiased thinking is to take the part of the opposing side; it is not impartiality, it is temporary unbelief. Because, to consider the Qur’an to be man’s word and to judge it as such is to take the part of the opposing side; it is to favour something baseless and invalid. It is not being unbiased, it is being biased towards falsehood.”

    The Devil replied: “Well, in that case, say it is neither God’s Word nor man’s word. Think of it as between the two.” To which I rejoined:

    “That is not possible either. For if there is a disputed property for which there are two claimants, and the claimants are close both to one another and to the property, the property will then either be given to someone other than them, or will be put somewhere accessible so that whoever proves ownership can take it. If the two claimants are far apart with one in the East and one in the West, then according to the rule, it will remain with the one who has possession of it, as it is not possible for it to be left mid-way between them.

    “Thus, the Qur’an is a valuable property, and however distant man’s word is from God’s, the two sides in question are that far apart; indeed, they are infinitely far from one another. It is not possible for the Qur’an to be left between the two sides, which are as far apart as the Pleiades and the ground. For they are opposites like existence and non-existence or the two magnetic poles; there can be no point between them. In which case, for the Qur’an, the one who possesses it is God’s side. It will be accepted as being in His possession, and the proofs of ownership will be regarded in that way. Should the opposing side refute all the arguments proving it to be God’s Word, it may claim ownership of it, otherwise it may not. God forbid! What hand can pull out the nails fastening that vast jewel to the Sublime Throne of God, riveted as it is with thousands of certain proofs, and break its supporting pillars, causing it to fall?”

    “And so, inspite of you, O Satan!, the just and the fair-minded reason in this equitable and rightful manner. They increase their belief in the Qur’an through even the slightest evidences. While according to the way shown by you and your disciples, if just once it is supposed to be man’s word and that mighty jewel fastened to the Divine Throne is cast to the ground, a proof with the strength of all the nails and the firmness of many proofs becomes necessary in order to raise it from the ground and fasten it once more to the Throne, and so be saved from the darkness of unbelief and reach the lights of belief. But because it is extremely difficult to do this, due to your wiles, many people are losing their faith at this time by imagining themselves to be making unbiased judgements.”

    The Devil turned and said: “The Qur’an resembles man’s word. It is similar to the way men converse. That means it is man’s word. If it was God’s Word, it would be appropriate to Him and would be altogether out of the ordinary. Just as His art does not resemble man’s art, so also should His Word not resemble man’s word.” I replied:

    “It may be understood as follows: apart from his miracles and special attributes, the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) was a human being in all his actions, conduct, and behaviour. He submitted to and complied with the Divine laws and commands manifested in creation. He too suffered from the cold, experienced pain, and so on. His deeds and attributes were not all made out of the ordinary so that he could be the leader of his community through his actions, its guide through his conduct, and instruct it through all his behaviour. If he had been out of the ordinary in all his conduct, he could not himself have been the leader in every respect, the total guide of everyone, the ‘Mercy to All the Worlds’ through all his attributes.

    “In just the same way, the All-Wise Qur’an is the leader to the aware and the conscious, the guide of jinn and men, the teacher of those attaining to perfection, and instructor of those seeking reality. It is of necessity and of a certainty, therefore, in the same form as man’s conversation and style. For men and jinn take their supplications from it and learn their prayers from it; they express their concerns in its language, and learn from it the rules of social behaviour, and so on. Everyone has recourse to it. If, therefore, it had been in the form of the Divine speech which the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) heard on Mount Sinai, man could not have borne listening to it and hearing it, nor made it the point of reference and recourse. Moses (peace be upon him), one of the five greatest prophets, could only endure to hear a few words. He said:

    “‘Is Your speech thus?’ God replied: ‘I have the power of all tongues.'”

    Next, the Devil said: “Many people speak of matters similar to those in the Qur’an in the name of religion. Is it not possible, therefore, that a human being did such a thing and made up the Qur’an in the name of religion?”

    Through the light of the Qur’an I replied as follows:

    “Firstly: Out of love of religion, someone who is religious may say, ‘The truth is thus, the reality of the matter is this. Almighty God commands that.’ But he would not make God speak to suit himself. Trembling at the verse,

    Who, then does more wrong than one who utters a lie concerning God?,8

    he would not overstep his mark to an infinite degree, imitate God, and speak on His behalf.

    “Secondly: It is in no way possible for a human being to be successful in doing such a thing on his own, in fact, it is completely impossible. Individuals who resemble one another may imitate one another, those of the same kind may take on one another’s forms, those who are close to one another in rank or status may imitate one another and temporarily deceive people, but they cannot do so for ever. For in any event, the falseness and artificiality in their behaviour will show up their imposture to the observant, and their deception will not last. If the one who is attempting to imitate another under false pretences is quite unlike them, for example, if an uneducated man wants to imitate in learning a genius like Ibn-i Sina, or a shepherd assume the position of a king, of course, they will not deceive anyone at all, they will only make fools of themselves. Everything they do will proclaim, ‘This is an impostor’.

    “Thus, to suppose – God forbid!, a hundred thousand times – the Qur’an to be man’s word is utterly impossible, no rational being can accept it as possible, to do so is a delirium like imagining to be possible something that is self-evidently impossible like a firefly being seen by astronomers as a real star for a thousand years; or a fly appearing to observers in the true form of a peacock for a year; or a bogus common private posing as a famous lofty field marshal, taking over his position and remaining in it for a long period without giving away his deception; or like a slandering, unbelieving liar affecting the manner and position of the most truthful, trustworthy, upright believer throughout his life and being completely unruffled before even the most observant while concealing his fraud from them.

    “In just the same way, if the Qur’an is supposed to be man’s word, then it has to be supposed, God forbid, that that Perspicuous Book, which is considered to be clearly a most brilliant star, rather, a sun of perfections perpetually scattering the lights of truth in the heavens of the world of Islam, is like a firefly, a spurious sham made up by a counterfeiting human. And those who are closest to it and study it most carefully do not realize this, and consider it to be a perpetual, exalted star and source of truth. Together with this being impossible a hundred times over, even if you went a hundred times further in your diabolical machinations, O Satan, you could not make such an assertion, you could not deceive anyone of sound reason! Only sometimes you trick people by making them look from a great distance, thus making the star appear as small as a firefly.

    “Thirdly: Also, if the Qur’an is imagined to be man’s word, it necessitates that the hidden reality of a criterion of truth and falsehood, which is miraculous in its exposition, and through the testimony of its fruits, results, and effects, is gilded with the most spiritual and life-giving, the most truthful and happiness-bringing, the most comprehensive and exalted qualities in the world of mankind, is, God forbid, the fabrication of a single unaided and unlearned man’s mind. And that the great geniuses and brilliant scholars who observed that being closely and studied him meticulously at no time saw any trace of counterfeit or pretence in him and always found him serious, genuine, and sincere.

    “This is completely impossible, an idea so nonsensical as to shame the Devil himself, like dreaming up an utterly impossible situation. For it entails supposing one who throughout his life demonstrated and taught trust, belief, confidence, sincerity, seriousness, and integrity through all his conduct, words, and actions, and raised eminently truthful and sincere followers, and was accepted to possess the highest and most brilliant and elevated virtues to be the most untrustworthy, insincere, and unbelieving. Because in this question there is no point between the two.

    “If, to suppose the impossible, the Qur’an was not the Word of God, it would fall as though from the Divine Throne to the ground, it would not remain somewhere between. While being the meeting-point of truths, it would become the source of superstition and myth. And if, God forbid, the one who proclaimed that wonderful decree was not God’s Messenger, it would necessitate his descending from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low, and from the degree of being the source of accomplishments and perfections to the level of being a mine of trickery and intrigue; he could not remain between the two. For one who lies and fabricates in God’s name falls to the very lowest of degrees.

    “However impossible it is to permanently see a fly as a peacock, and to all the time see the peacocks’s attributes in the fly, this matter is that impossible. Only someone lacking all intelligence could imagine it to be possible.

    “Fourthly: Also, if the Qur’an is imagined to be man’s word, it necessitates fancying that the Qur’an, which is a sacred commander of the community of Muhammed, mankind’s largest and most powerful army, is -God forbid- a powerless, valueless, baseless forgery. Whereas, self-evidently, through its powerful laws, sound principles, and penetrating commands, it has equipped that huge army both materially, and morally and spiritually, has given it an order and regularity and imposed a discipline on it that are such as to conquer both this world and the next, and has instructed the minds, trained the hearts, conquered the spirits, purified the consciences, and employed and utilized the limbs and members of individuals according to the degree of each. To imagine it to be a counterfeit necessitates accepting a hundredfold impossibility.

    “This impossibility entails the further complete impossibility of supposing that one who, through his deliberate conduct throughout his life taught mankind Almighty God’s laws, and through his honest behaviour instructed man in the principles of truth, and through his sincere and reasonable words showed and established the straight way of moderation and happiness, and as all his life testifies, felt great fear of Divine punishment and knew God better than anyone else and made Him known, and in splendid fashion has for one thousand three hundred and fifty years commanded a fifth of mankind and half the globe, and through his qualities of renown is in truth the means of pride of mankind, indeed, of the universe, God forbid a hundred thousand times, neither feared God, nor knew Him, nor held back from lying, nor had any self-respect. Because in this matter there is no point between the two. For if, to suppose the impossible, the Qur’an is not the Word of God, if it falls from the Divine Throne to the ground, it cannot remain somewhere in between the two. Indeed, it then has to be accepted as the property of the very worst of liars. And as for this, O Satan, even if you were a hundred times more satanic, you could not deceive any mind that was not unsound, nor persuade any heart that was not corrupted.”

    The Devil retorted: “How should I not deceive them? I have deceived most of mankind and their foremost thinkers into denying the Qur’an and Muhammed.” I replied:

    “Firstly: When seen from a great distance, the greatest thing appears the same as the smallest. A star may even appear as a candle.

    “Secondly: Also, when seen both as secondary and superficially, something which is completely impossible may appear to be possible.

    “One time an old man as watching the sky in order to see the new moon of Ramadan when a white hair fell on his eye. Imagining it to be the moon, he announced: ‘I have seen the new moon.’ Now, it is impossible that the white hair should have been the moon, but because his intention was to look for just the moon and the hair was by the way and secondary, he paid it no attention and thought that impossibility was possible.

    “Thirdly: Also, non-acceptance is one thing and denial is something quite different. Non-acceptance is indifference, a closing of the eyes to something, an ignorant absence of judgement. Many completely impossible things may be concealed within it, and the mind does not concern itself with them. As for denial, it is not non-acceptance, but an acceptance of non-existence; it is a judgement. The mind is compelled to work. So a devil like you takes hold of the mind of a person, then leads it to denial. And, showing the false as truth and the impossible as possible through satanic wiles like heedlessness, misguidance, fallacious reasoning, obstinacy, false arguments, pride, deception, and habit, you make those unfortunate creatures in human form swallow unbelief and denial, although they comprise innumerable impossibilities.

    “Fourthly: Also, if the Qur’an is supposed to be the word of man, it necessitates imagining to be its opposite a book which has self-evidently guided the purified, veracious saints and spiritual poles, who shine like stars in the heavens of the world of mankind, has continuously instructed every level of the people of perfection in truth and justice, veracity and fidelity, faith and trustworthiness, and has ensured the happiness of the two worlds through the truths of the pillars of belief and the principles of the pillars of Islam, and through the testimony of these achievements is of necessity veracious, and pure, genuine truth, and absolutely right, and most serious – it necessitates imagining, God forbid, that this Book comprises the opposites of these qualities, effects, and lights. And that, regarding it as a collection of fabrications and lies, it is a frenzy of unbelief that would shame even the Sophists and the devils, and cause them to tremble.

    “And this impossibility necessitates the further most ugly and abhorrent impossibility that One who, according to the testimony of the religion and Shari’a of Islam which he proclaimed, and the unanimous indications to the extraordinary fear of God and pure and sincere worship which he demonstrated throughout his life, and as necessitated by the good moral qualities unanimously witnessed in him, and according to the affirmation of the people of truth and perfection whom he reared, was the most believing, the most steadfast, the most trustworthy, and the most truthful, was – God forbid, and again, God forbid – without belief, that he was most untrustworthy, did not fear God, nor shrink from lying. To imagine this necessitates imagining the most loathsome form of impossibility and perpetrating the most iniquitous and vicious sort of misguidance.

    “In Short: As is stated in the Eighteenth Sign of the Nineteenth Letter, the common people, whose understanding of the Qur’an is gained by listening to it, say, ‘Were the Qur’an to be compared with all the books I have listened to and the other books in the world, it would not resemble any of them; it is not of the same sort as them nor or the same degree.’ The Qur’an, then, is of a degree either above all of them or below all of them. To be below them is impossible, and no enemy nor the Devil even could accept it. In which case, the Qur’an is above all other books, and is therefore a miracle. And in just the same way, we say according to the categorical proof called ‘residue’, taken from the sciences of method and logic:

    “O Satan and O disciples of Satan! The Qur’an is either the Word of God come from the Supreme Throne of God and His Greatest Name, or, God forbid, and again, God forbid, it is a human forgery fabricated on earth by someone without belief who neither feared God nor knew Him. In the face of the above proofs, O Satan, you can neither say that, nor could you have said it, nor will you be able to say it in the future. Therefore, the Qur’an is the Word of the Creator of the universe. Because there is no point between the two; it is impossible and precluded that there should be. Just as we have proved in the most clear and decisive manner; and you have seen it and heard it.

    “In the same way, Muhammed (Upon whom be blessings and peace) is either God’s Messenger and the highest of the prophets and the most superior of creatures, or, God forbid, he has to be imagined to be someone without belief having fallen to the lowest of the low because he lied concerning God, and did not know God, and did not believe in His punishment.9 And as for this, O Devil, neither you nor the philosophers of Europe and hypocrites of Asia on whom you rely could say it, nor could you say it in the past, neither shall you be able to say it in the future, for there is no one in the world who would listen to it and accept it. It is because of this that the most corrupting of those philosophers and the most lacking in conscience of the hypocrites, even, admit that ‘Muhammed the Arabian (PBUH) was very clever, and was most moral and upright.’

    “Since this matter is restricted to these two sides, and the second one is impossible and no one at all claims it to be true, and since we have proved with decisive arguments that there is no point between them, for sure and of necessity, in spite of you and your party, Muhammed the Arabian (Upon whom be blessings and peace) is the Prophet of God, and the highest of the prophets and the best of all creatures.”

    Upon him be blessings and peace to the number of angels and jinn and men.

    * * *

    A SECOND, SMALL OBJECTION

    OF SATAN

    Not a word does he utter but there is a sentinel by him, ready [to note it]. * And the stupor of death will bring the truth [before his eyes]: “This was the thing you were trying to escape!” * And the Trumpet shall be blown: that will be the Day whereof Warning [had been given]. * And there will come forth every soul: with each will be [an angel] to drive, and [an angel] to bear witness. * “You were heedless of this; now have We removed your veil. And sharp is your sight this Day!|” * And his companion will say: “Here is [his record] ready with me!” * “Throw, throw into Hell every contumacious rejecter!”10

    One time while reading these verses from Sura Qaf, the Devil said to me: “You consider the most important aspects of the Qur’an’s eloquence to lie in its clarity and fluency of style. But in this verse it jumps from one subject to another. It jumps from death agonies to the Resurrection of the Dead, from the blowing of the Trumpet to the Last Judgement, and from that to the entry into Hell of the unbelievers. What fluency of style remains with this extraordinary switching about? In most places in the Qur’an, it brings together subjects that bear little relation to each other like this. Where is its eloquence and smoothness with such discontinuity?”

    I answered as follows:

    “After its eloquence, one of the most important elements of the miraculousness of the Qur’an of Miraculous Exposition is its conciseness. Conciseness is one of the strongest and most important elements of the Qur’an’s miraculousness. Instances of this miraculous conciseness of the Qur’an are so numerous and beautiful that exacting scholars are left in wonder at it. For example:

    Then the word went forth: “O earth! swallow up your water, and O sky! withhold [your rain]!” And the water abated, and matter was ended. The ark rested on Mount Judi, and the word went forth: “Away with those who do wrong!” 11

    “It describes the Great Flood and its consequences so concisely and miraculously in a few short sentences that it has caused many scholars of rhetoric to prostrate before its eloquence. And, for example:

    The Thamud rejected [their prophet] through their inordinate wrongdoing. * Behold, the most wicked man among them was deputed [for impiety]. * But the apostle of God said to them: “It is a she-camel of God. And [bar her not from] having her drink!” * Then they rejected him, and they hamstrung her. So their Lord, on account of their crime, obliterated their traces and made them equal [in destruction, high and low]! * And for Him is no fear of its consequences.12

    “In these few short sentences and with a miraculousness within the conciseness, fluency, and clarity, and in a way that does not spoil the understanding, the Qur’an relates the strange and momentous events concerning the Thamud people, together with the consequences and their calamitous end. And for example:

    And remember Zun-Nun, when he departed in wrath: he imagined that We had no power over him. But he cried through the depths of darkness: “There is no god but You; glory be unto You; I was indeed among the wrongdoers.” 13

    “Here, many sentences have be ‘rolled up’ between the words “that We had no power over him” and “but he cried out in the depths of the darkness,” but these omitted sentences neither spoil the understanding, nor mar the fluency of the style. It mentions the most important elements in the story of Jonah (upon whom be peace), and refers the rest to the intelligence.

    “And for example, in Sura Yusuf, the seven or eight sentences between the words “Send me” and “Joseph, O man of truth!” 14 have been skipped in conciseness. And it neither impairs the understanding, nor mars the smoothness of the style. There are a great many instances of this sort of miraculous conciseness in the Qur’an, and they are very beautiful indeed.

    “However, the conciseness of the verses from Sura Qaf are particularly wonderful and miraculous. For they each point out the truly dreadful future of the unbelievers when each endless day will last fifty thousand years, and to the grievous, dire things that will happen to them in the awesome revolutions of the future. It conveys the mind over them like lightening, presenting that long, long period of time to the mind’s eye as a single present page. Referring the events which are not mentioned to the imagination, it describes them with a most elevated fluency and smoothness of style.

    When the Qur’an is read, listen to it with attention, and hold your peace: that you may receive mercy.15

    “And now if you have anything to say, O Satan, say it!”

    Satan replied: “I cannot oppose what you say, nor defend myself. But there are many foolish people who listen to me; and many devils in human form who assist me; and many pharaohs among philosophers who learn things from me which flatter their egos, and prevent the publication of works like yours. Therefore I shall not lay down my arms before you.”

    * * *

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