Nursi and Iqbal on Mi‘rāj
The Metaphysical Dimension of the Prophet’s Ascension
Said Nursi (1877-1960) and Muḥammad Iqbal (1877-1938) constructed their prophetologies in light of ‘aql (reason), but they also considered the mystical and metaphysical sides of prophethood and Prophet Muḥammad as a major component of their prophetologies. Nursi’s and Iqbal’s approaches depict a thought-provoking modus towards nubuwwa (prophethood) in a highly rationalised climate. This paper critically examines Nursi’s and Iqbal’s discussions of the metaphysical dimension of Prophet Muḥammad’s ascension, known as the mi‘rāj. Nursi and Iqbal respond to the rationalists using ‘aql and kashf (spiritual unveiling) without compromising spirituality. Their choice of genre, methods and arguments in defending the spiritual dimensions of mi‘rāj, as a second aspect, of nubuwwa will be examined. This paper highlights the creative use and interplay of rational and metaphysics in Nursi’s and Iqbal’s works (particularly Ayat al-Kubra and Javidnama) as a way to respond to a rationalised climate, but also to retain the spiritual aspects of their faith and mi‘rāj in their writings. Both saw the limitations of ‘aql and therefore relied on the kashf of the literature and poetry to communicate their thoughts. Nursi’s and Iqbal’s discussions on the mi‘rāj not only depict their contribution to the metaphysical aspects of prophethood, but also illustrate the variance of Muslim scholars’ responses to rationalism and prophethood in the 20th century. The effect of Nursi’s and Iqbal’s contributions to the continuation of a belief and tradition of Islamic faith is staggering proof of their intellectual and spiritual capacity to defend an aspect of faith with ‘aql and kashf, and appeal to the heart and spirit.
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