How can we reach Faith through imagination?

In last weeks' "Living With the Qur'an" seminar hosted at the IFSC, Prof Dr. Halim Ulaş gave a talk about Bediuzzaman Said Nursi's usage of imagination and figurative speech.


In last weeks' "Living With the Qur'an" seminar hosted at the IFSC, Prof Dr. Halim Ulaş  gave a talk about Bediuzzaman Said Nursi's usage of imagination and figurative speech. In particular, he stated how such uses of the imagination can be regarded as the first step towards knowledge and insight and as a means of contemplation and reflection upon life and the Creation. Prof. Ulaş also spoke of how we can make use of such insights and imaginative reflections that Bediuzzaman made throughout his life and in his treatises.

Prof. Ulaş drew attention to how Bediuzzaman's powers of imagination are vastly stronger than ours, stating one example from his writings: "When Nursi was a small child he used to imagine in his head the following two questions: 'Do you want me to make you a Sultan of this entire world and give you a million years of life but which ends in death and annihilation of your existence? Or else, do you want me to give you a lowly and troublesome life that is permanent and eternal?'". Ulaş described how Nursi used the metaphor of travelling and voyages with the following quote from Ustadh:

"Let those who have the sharpest of imaginative powers enter the Mosque of Creation and draw close to the Circle of Divine Remembrance conducted by all the things in the Universe. Let them then listen to the reverberating noise issuing from such a gathering".

"This is the aim of those human beings who engage with their imagination and the means of reaching the right destination", added Prof. Ulaş who explained that the powers of imagination should be connected with the Straight Path of Islam. 

He also said that the imagination can also be a source of doubt, delusion and misgivings as well as being a grounds and means of intellectual power. Because of this, we should focus our thoughts on the basis of assuming goodness in them, rather than in the assumption of suspicion. With respect to this, he recalled the words of Bediuzzaman: "One who sees good things, thinks in a good way. One who thinks of the good, obtains contentment from life".

Prof Ulas gave an example of a patient who has good thoughts and a hopeful attitude that he will get better whilst visiting the doctor's surgery. Such a person will heal faster and recover quicker in comparison to a patient who does not carry such good thoughts. Thus he explained that whatever human beings spend time imagining and thinking about do eventually manifest in reality, and thus Prof.  Ulaş spent much of his talk on elaborating how this happens.

At the end of the seminar, the Professor gave an example in response to a question relating to the issue of children. He stated that when a person is in sole need of one thing, the following words can come to the imagination: "There is need for anything that lies beyond the immediate grasp and reach of one's hand. The sphere of a persons' needs extend as far as the imagination can stretch". He also talked about children who have amassed lots of toys in front of them and who are prevented from having free time away from the distractions of sensory entertainment. Such children do not feel or sense the need to establish an active imagination. He gave the following account: "In previous times, our grandmothers told us stories and we used to feed our imaginations from that. But now our children do not feel like they have a need for imagination. This is because their senses are fed in an immediate fashion via the images of cartoons. So what should children then imagine?"

Finally, Prof. Ulaş made a suggestion in order to address the problem of lack of imagination that affects many of our children in these modern times, "Our children are not educated about the powers of imagination in our schools", he said, adding that "There needs to be a change in our education system so as to assist the strengthening and cultivation of the powers of imagination in our children".