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When Does Human Life Begin?
Jan 1, 2005

Life” incites our feeling of awe. We are unable to expound or arrive at a comprehensive interpretation of the cosmos in which we come across this phenomenon of “life.” Every new thing that we meet and all the details that enwrap us inculcate thousands of questions within our minds. We are filled with opposing feelings surrounded by a life that has been enabled by the cosmos; it generates systematic and meaningful outcomes with certain causes; joy and sorrow come hand in hand, and we accept both as blessings from the Divine. Yes, even sorrow is a blessing, as it usually acts like a sieve, isolating the unwelcome pieces of stone that foul the pure blend of our souls. Yet, what are we to think if this sorrow comes from the ocean in the form of a giant wave that swallows up everything into a dank darkness?

South-east Asia was hit by such a giant wave just before the New Year. A calamity that was fatal; an earthquake followed by a tsunami that abated only after leaving behind a death toll of 300,000. Like all past calamities, this tsunami also brought to doubting minds suspicions that lead to a denial of the existence of All-Merciful God. “A Nursi Reader” provides insights for us on how to approach disasters and events that are apparently “evil,” basing the argument on a critical question: is the creation of evil evil?

Perhaps in a disaster in which people can do nothing but surrender to their imminent destiny; but at other troubled times there is only one bosom upon which we can rest our heads-that of our mother. A man came to Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and said, “O the Messenger of God! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man said. “Who is next?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man further said, “Who is next?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man asked for the fourth time, “Who is next?” The Prophet said, “Your father.”

In another tradition the Prophet is reported to have said, “God has forbidden you to be undutiful to your mothers, to withhold (what you should give) or demand (what you do not deserve), and to bury your daughters alive. And God has disliked that you talk too much about others, ask too many questions (in religion), or waste your property.” As clearly seen in the tradition the Prophet lists improper manners to our mothers along with such atrocities as “burying daughters alive.” The lead article in this issue is a reference for us to frequently turn to in order to appreciate and re-appreciate the value of our mothers.

Full of mysteries, joys, and sorrows, life for humanity starts in the wombs of our mothers (this alone should suffice for the lifetime of thanks that we need to offer to them). But when exactly does life start for a yet unborn baby? Olgun Hasgul presents a comprehensive embryological study, guided by Qur’anic teaching in “Ensoulment: When Does Human Life Begin?”