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Bediüzzaman’s Insights on Human Nature: Exploring Arrogance and Humility in Social Dynamics

Below, I will share a sentence-long paragraph from Bediüzzaman (Master of his Age) Said Nursi’s Muhakemat. It’s a long sentence, but it contains exquisite observations that extend to centuries past and future. It speaks of the reality of human nature.

As they say about the Qur’an: “The Qur’an tells man about humanity.” That’s true.

This observation conveys a truth visible to everyone who does not view the Qur’an merely as a collection of revelations descended only to the Arabs in the deserts of Mecca and Medina 14 centuries ago, and who ask, “What does the Qur’an want to say to me with these verses?” I’ve shifted from Bediüzzaman to the Qur’an suddenly, but that’s how it goes when you let the pen flow. Let’s get back.

I’ll explain, sentence by sentence, the insights in the paragraph I’ll quote below. These are truths inherent in human nature since the first human, now matters of interest in social psychology, a field concerning both sociologists and psychologists and psychiatrists.

Without further ado, I’ll first present the original paragraph, then try to provide brief explanations sentence by sentence.

At the end of the 11th Introduction, where he concludes with “I only complain to Allah,” and titles it “Warning,” these insights find their place. Now, let’s listen to that warning from a hundred years ago: “To make excuses for oneself with committed opposition and cold fanaticism, and to seek superiority and partisanship, and to justify oneself by reverting to imaginary principles, to see weak things as strong if they align with one’s desires, to demonstrate one’s perfection by criticizing others, to declare one’s truth and integrity by refuting or proving others wrong, are the source of despicable and base commands stemming from self-love, leading to delusions in such positions, finding many excuses.”

Commitment to opposition: The disease of opposing everything. Feeling the need to say something contrary without asking oneself, “Do I have the knowledge and experience to speak on this matter?” and becoming one with this need.

Cold fanaticism: Alienating oneself from humanity, driving everyone away, never having developed a personality or character, and coldly imitating others in every action and word. When asked, “Why did you speak or act like this?” being so ignorant that one cannot even explain it with a single sentence.

I am superior, the most superior! Desire for superiority: Overflowing with the desire to see oneself as superior to others and showing it so blatantly that even the blind can see and the deaf can hear.

Hidden arrogance? Yes, hidden arrogance and pride. A reality noticed by everyone around but ignored due to past friendships, current status and position, fear of turning ideological differences into discord and conflict, and similar reasons.

Recalling Ziya Pasha now: “The least expected person will uncover the secrets of your heart. Do you think everyone is blind, the world foolish?”

Meaning, the most unexpected person will discover your true nature. Do you think everyone is blind, the public foolish?

Partisanship: Blindly attaching oneself with incredible enthusiasm and passion to a doctrine, a person, a political party, a sports club, etc. Being fanatical, partisan, and sycophantic. Believing that their wrong is more right than the right of all humanity. Are there such people? So many!

Justifying oneself with imaginary principles: “Mistaking feelings for thoughts, seeing them in that way,” said Hocaefendi. This is it, or it is this. But there’s more in the Master’s sentence; making oneself excusable. Why? Because that illusion, presumption, or fantasy, which has taken the guise of thought, is as clear as the sun in its falsehood, and the person who has defended it until now, instead of admitting their mistake, rushes to make themselves excusable.

Seeking one’s greatness in belittling others! Seeing weak things as strong if they align with one’s desires: Selectivity. Elevating to the skies a weak piece of evidence supporting one’s own thought, ignoring strong evidence to the contrary, and bringing water from a thousand rivers to prove its weakness. For that person, the fundamental measure, even the absolute truth, is their own feelings and opinions. But what about a verse or hadith, for instance? What about them? Interpretative acrobatics and interpretations come to the rescue. And what gets crushed and disappears in this process? Of course, the truth.

Demonstrating one’s perfection by criticizing others, declaring one’s truth and integrity by refuting or proving others wrong: Seeking one’s greatness in belittling others. Discrediting the people to be belittled with lies, accusations, and slander, committing character assassination, insulting them, playing with their honor and dignity in a manner befitting those devoid of dignity and honor. Yet, I believe a person’s value is measured by their thoughts and actions. That’s what my parents and teachers taught me.

“…with such despicable and base commands stemming from self-love, leading to delusions in such positions, finding many excuses.” Despicable, low, base meaning common, ordinary. So, these common, ordinary, low words and actions originate from manipulating others, presenting false and slanderous information due to one’s love for oneself. Delusion means just that.

The measure of smallness is arrogance! Let’s conclude with Bediüzzaman. In his Seeds of Truth, he has presented a summary of the realities you’ve read so far, saying: “For every person, there is a window in the social body called the level for seeing and being seen. If this window is higher than one’s stature of value, one will elevate with arrogance. If it is lower, one will stoop with humility, bend down to see and be seen at that level. In a person, the measure of greatness is smallness, that is, humility. The measure of smallness is greatness, that is, arrogance.”

Simplified for the new generations: “In social life, there is a window for everyone for seeing and being seen. If a person’s height is below that window, to see outside and be seen from outside, they will either stand on their toes or put a stool, chair, ladder under their feet. Conversely, if a person’s height, i.e., their value and worth, is above the window, they will also have to stoop, bend down, to see outside and be seen. The former is called arrogance and pride, the latter humility.”

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Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.

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