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Self-Referential Meaning

  • “Meaning by letter (other-indicative meaning) and meaning by name (self-referential meaning) essentially belong to Arabic grammar. An ism (noun or name) has a meaning on its own (meaning by name). That is, when you say it as a word, the person addressed understands its meaning. The letter (or preposition) itself is incomprehensible (meaning by letter). Because it has no independent meaning. For example, prepositions such as ‘with, from, to, in’ do not give a meaning on their own. In order to understand their meaning, they need to relate with other words. Just as Bediüzzaman attaches special meanings to the phrases juz (part) and kull (whole), here he similarly gives new meanings to the concepts of other-indicative meaning (meaning by letter) and self-referential meaning (meaning by name). Specifically, he uses these as key concepts for interpreting existence. He believes it is a mistaken perspective to view the universe with self-referential meaning, that is, simply seeing things as beings on their own or products of causes. Instead, he states that things in the universe should be viewed with respect to what they point to. Accordingly, blessings should bring to mind the Giver of blessings; the beauty and art in creation should bring to mind the Artist, and causes should bring to mind the True Causer who creates them.”1)
  • “… the wise Qur’an is the most exalted expounder and a most eloquent translator of this universe (a macro-Qur’an). It is the Criterion that instructs jinn and humanity in the truths of creation—Divine laws regarding creation and the universe’s operation—inscribed by the Pen of Power on the sheets of the universe and pages of time. The meaning of another (on account of their Maker) and says: ‘How beautifully they have been made, how meaningfully they point to the Maker’s Beauty and Grace.’ Thus it shows the universe’s real beauty.
  • Philosophy, focused on the design and decorations of creation’s ‘letters,’ has lost its way. While it ought to look upon this macro-book’s letters as bearing the meaning of another (on account of God), it looks upon them as signifying themselves (on account of themselves) and says: ‘How beautiful they are,’ not ‘How beautifully they have been made.’ In doing this they have insulted the universe, and made it complain about them. Indeed, philosophy without religion is a sophistry divorced from reality and an insult to the universe.”2)
  • “… everything, with respect to its own self (with respect to self-referential meaning), is essentially non-existent, contingent, ephemeral, and mortal. But in respect of being like a letter in a word to signify something other than itself, and in respect of being a mirror reflecting the All-Majestic Maker’s Names and entrusted with various duties, it is existent, experiencing and experienced.”3)
  • “It admits that all things consist in the manifestations of Divine Names, devoted to His service, and are charged with being mirrors reflecting them. It saves from heedlessness by allowing us to travel to Him through everything, by making us always aware of His presence. In short, this way considers beings as neither existent nor working on their own behalf; rather, it states that beings function as signs and officials of God, the All-Mighty.”4)
  • “In short, love the world and its creatures not for themselves but in the name of their Creator and the meaning they contain. Do not love anything for its sake (with respect to self-referential meaning). Rather, say: ‘How beautifully they have been made!’ Do not say: ‘How beautiful they are!’ In your heart, do not love that which is not Him. Do not set your heart on that which is not Him, for the heart is the Eternally-Besought-of-All’s mirror and belongs to Him.”5)
  • “As we explained in many chapters, everything is ‘nothing’ in its own aspect, or with self-referential meaning. As nothing can exist by itself, everything’s existence depends on God. Since it exists as a manifestation of the permanent Divine Names, it has a permanent, sublime reality due to its reflecting the Divine Name causing its existence. In respect of other-indicative-meaning, it is not nonexistent; because it bears the shadow of an eternal existence. It has a certain truth, it is immutable and sublime; because it is sort of a constant shadow of an eternal Divine Name.”6)
  • “Due to this, love of God originating in knowledge of God is the most important ‘ferment’ in all steps to sainthood, for it changes initiates, elevates them to higher ranks, and cures all spiritual illnesses. This way does have a risk, however: Lovers may turn from complete modesty and supplicating God to assuming airs and graces and behaving in a way to show themselves as valued and worthy of God’s love. In short, they may not preserve equity. For lovers, such love becomes a poison and increases their spiritual illness when they turn to the things other than God, when they adopt self-referential meaning instead of other-indicative meaning. When they love someone other than God, they may love them for their personal perfections and spiritual grace, not on account of God or their function as His Names’ mirrors. However perfect and great those other people may be, any love that is not in the name of God and His Prophet conceals the love of God. Such a love does not become a means for the love of God, but a veil. But if such a love is cherished on account of or in the Name of God, it leads lovers to the love of God, which then becomes a manifestation of Divine love.”7)

See Also

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M. Fethullah Gülen, Mefkûre Yolculuğu (Kırık Testi-13), İstanbul: Nil Yayınları, 2014, pp. 100–101.
Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, The Words, New Jersey: The Light, 2013, pp. 146–147.
Ibid., pp. 495–496.
Ibid., p. 496.
Ibid., p. 654.
Bediüzzaman Said Nursî, Mektubat, İstanbul: Şahdamar Yayınları, 2010, s. 61–62.
Ibid., p. 507.
self-referential-meaning.txt · Last modified: 2022/10/13 14:30 by Editor