C H A P T E R O N E
V A N
On arriving in Van, Bediuzzaman stayed with his younger brother, Abdülmecid, a teacher of Arabic, in the Toprakkale district of the town. But we learn from Abdülmecid’s wife, Rabia, that his well-wishers and visitors were so numerous that he was obliged to move to Nurshin Mosque. This then became Bediuzzaman’s base in Van in place of his medrese, the Horhor, which had been razed in the general destruction of the city wrought by the Armenians and occupying Russians during the War. Nurshin Mosque became a centre of learning, with large numbers of religious scholars and shaykhs coming to visit Bediuzzaman to pay him their respects and seek his advice. Bediuzzaman again attracted many students and began to teach them, in addition to speaking with his many visitors. This busy life however weighed on Bediuzzaman and impinged on his inner life. So as soon as the weather became sufficiently warm, taking a small number of his students with him, he withdrew from Van to Mount Erek, a mountain among jagged peaks to the east of the town. Here he was able to devote himself entirely to prayer and contemplation.
That he was the New Said was clear to everyone in Van. Most of those who have recorded their memories of him at this time have mentioned some aspect of the changes that had come about in him. The most apparent of these was that he had abandoned the colourful local dress of the area for clothes of a more sober nature.1 Indeed, on first seeing his destroyed medrese and the sacked and burnt city of Van, he was to relive the harrowing events of war and the deaths of so many of his students that had been instrumental in bringing about the New Said. Then too they saw that he had altogether turned his back on politics and the world, and those who heard him speak learnt of the way of the New Said, that of saving belief, which would form the basis of renewal and reconstruction.
For the next two years Bediuzzaman stayed on the mountain, inhabiting a cave near the source of the river Zernabad and returning to Van only for the coldest months of the winter. It was also his practice to go down to the town on Fridays, to give the sermon in Nurshin Mosque. From what has been recorded of these sermons and what he taught his students, they too were entirely in accordance with the way of the New Said. That is to say, Bediuzzaman concentrated on explaining and teaching the fundamentals of belief, the basic tenets of faith. Such subjects as Divine Unity and the resurrection of the dead and the hereafter. He told one of his students on this being questioned, for his treatment of these subjects was new and different in addition to his congregations being unaccustomed to hearing these basic matters:
“My aim is to construct firmly the foundations of belief. If the foundations are sound, they cannot be destroyed by any upheavals.”2
The same student, Molla Hamid, has also quoted Bediuzzaman as saying in relation to this:
“Honoured sirs, the Old Said is dead; you still think of me as the Old Said. This is the New Said you see before you. Almighty God has granted limitless blessings to the New Said... Ten months of the New Said’s teaching may be the equivalent of what the Old Said taught in ten years, and sufficient.”3
The New Said was to find total manifestation in the Risale-i Nur and the three years till the spring of 1926 when he was inspired to write the first parts may be seen as a time of preparation and waiting for Divine Guidance, but it may also be noted that just as, as was described in a previous chapter, the first writings of the New Said, the Mesnevi-i Nuriye, were “seed-bed” of the Risale-i Nur, so too at this time in Van, some of the ‘ders’s Bediuzzaman gave or subjects he taught were later included in the Risale-i Nur. Another student, Ismail Perihanoglu, has recorded two instances of this, which we include here:
“...Another day, Molla Resul, Kopanisli Molla Yusuf and I went together with Ustad to Zeve, the people of which had been entirely wiped out in the Armenian massacres. Ustad paused standing, and said:
“‘This is the resting-place of martyrs. My brother Molla Ahmad-i Cano lies here also.’ And unable to hold back his tears, he wept with great sorrow.
“Molla Ahmad-i Cano had studied with Ustad.
“Later Ustad taught us concerning the levels of life as described in the First Letter.4 And we afterwards wrote out this ‘ders’ and duplicated it.”5
On another occasion they climbed to the top of the citadel in Van, and as was Bediuzzaman’s practice, he climbed to the very highest point and spread out his prayer-rug there. Looking down on the ruins of his medrese at the foot of the citadel, he spoke of the signs of the end of the world. Then shifting his gaze to Lake Van, he explained the story of Jonah and the whale. He made a comparison of Jonah’s situation and that of modern man, and explained how his moral and spiritual state resembles that of Jonah in the belly of the whale. Bediuzzaman later incorporated this into the Risale-i Nur as the First Flash.6,7
Bediuzzaman’s absorption in worship has also been commented on by many of those connected with him at this time. His sister-in-law, Rabia, notes that he never slept at night while staying with them, from his room came the continuous sound of prayer and supplication.8 Ismail Perihanoglu notes how Bediuzzaman preferred to perform his worship, an important element of which was contemplation [tefekkür], in high places and elevated spots. Besides describing him climbing to the highest point in the citadel of Van, mentioned above, he tells of another occasion when he found Bediuzzaman on the roof of the mosque plunged in thought.9 While Molla Hamid, who spent the most time with him on Mount Erek, states that Bediuzzaman was never for a moment idle, but always occupied, mostly in prayer and supplication. He spent hours on his knees, so that his toes became raw. When one of his students suggested he sat in a more comfortable position like themselves, he replied:
“We have to win eternal life in this brief life and fleeting world. Both sit comfortably and claim Paradise – that’s not possible! I’m not so bold as to sit comfortably!”10
Bediuzzaman and his students transformed a ruined monastery on the mountain into a mosque, and in a thicket of trees by the source of the Zernabad, they built a small platform on the interwoven branches for Bediuzzaman, which he found conducive to study, prayer, and contemplation. These tree-houses became a mark of the New Said and after he had been exiled to western Anatolia, he had a number made in spots favourable for ‘reading the book of the universe’.
Molla Hamid also relates many anecdotes illustrating Bediuzzaman’s great kindness towards animals and his respect for them as creatures, and his affinity with them and power over them. The following is an example showing this last, that is, illustrating Bediuzzaman’s keramet, or spiritual powers.
A number of people arrived one day on the mountain to visit Bediuzzaman, and when it became apparent they were to stay overnight, Molla Hamid was sent down to a neighbouring village to get some quilts. He was frightened of meeting wolves, dogs, or other wild animals, of which there were many, and cut himself a stout stick. But Bediuzzaman would not allow this. “The dogs won’t harm you”, he told him.
Molla Hamid set off and on approaching the village, he encountered a flock of sheep or goats guarded by dogs. He saw that a great brute of a dog lay across the path, blocking it. Remembering Bediuzzaman’s words, he approached the animal; it rose to its feet and moved off making way for him. On reaching the village, the villagers expressed their astonishment, saying that they could not approach the herd even as a group armed with clubs, for the dogs were fed on sheep’s milk to make them sufficiently ferocious to ward off the wolves. Whereupon Molla Hamid told them he had been sent by Bediuzzaman. “Ah,” they said. “We can accept it then!”
Molla Hamid took the quilts and retraced his steps. He was met by Bediuzzaman when he arrived, who asked him if he had been attacked by dogs on the way. On hearing that he had not, he told him:
“Have courage! Don’t be scared!”
It had been a lesson in courage for Molla Hamid.11
Molla Hamid also related this ‘lesson’ which Bediuzzaman gave him. In answer to an unasked question about looking at what is forbidden, Bediuzzaman struck himself angrily on the knee, and said:
“I am not satisfied with the Old Said, I’m only happy at three things about him.” Then he added: “At a glittering time in Istanbul, I used to change my dress once a week, splendid clothes. I used to go to the most brilliant places in Istanbul. Then my Hoja friends appointed one of themselves as observer and got him to follow me, to see where I went and what I did. Three days later while talking with these friends they said to me: ‘Said, whatever you do is right. Where you are going is right, and you will be successful in it.’ When I asked them why they said this, they told me: ‘We have had you followed for three days to see if you did anything contrary to Islam, and we saw that you are not concerned with anything apart from your own business. Therefore you will achieve your aims.’ Just as a small flame thrown into a forest will by degrees destroy the whole forest, a believer who lowers himself to look at what is forbidden will day by day eat up his actions and destroy them. I am frightened of such a person’s end being grievous...” Then he added:
“The Old Said stayed in Istanbul for ten years during his youth, and he did not look at a woman once.”12
The Shaykh Said Revolt
Although it was known by everyone that Bediuzzaman had given up all political concerns and gone into retreat, the tribal leaders and those with power still wished to benefit from his enormous influence in the eastern provinces. Thus among his visitors were chiefs and tribal leaders, besides those who came to him purely as a man of religion. For the problems of the area had found no solution. Among the Kurds were many who favoured independence or autonomy, especially since the abolition of the Sultanate and Caliphate and the establishment of what many of them saw as the godless Republic. It provided too a fertile ground for the British to pursue their ambitions in the area. By early 1925 unrest was widespread, and the tribal chiefs tried to gain Bediuzzaman’s support for a full-scale uprising against the Government. As before, Bediuzzaman did all he could to persuade them against such a move. A number complied with his wishes. Thus many thousands of lives were saved when what was to be known as the Shaykh Said Revolt finally broke out on 13 February, 1925, so called as it was lead by a Naqshbandi shaykh called Shaykh Said of Palu. He too had tried to gain Bediuzzaman’s support in a letter Bediuzzaman’s reply to which is still extant and is given below. The Revolt, which was only put down after two months or so, was to have far-reaching results, for Bediuzzaman, who was sent into exile entirely unjustly as a consequence along with many hundreds of others, for the area, and not least for the future of the country as a whole. It set the course for the new regime. For the Government in Ankara used the revolt as a pretext for rushing through the Law for the Maintenance of Order, passed 4 March, 1925, which empowered them to set up the notorious ‘Independence Tribunals’ and gave them dictatorial powers to pursue their policies without opposition.13
Among the tribal leaders who visited Bediuzzaman was Kör Hüseyin Pasha, it would seem on several occasions. One time he was accompanied by Abdülbaki, the son of the Mufti of Van, Shaykh Masum, a close friend of Bediuzzaman. This visit Abdülbaki describes in some detail, telling of the extremely ascetic conditions under which Bediuzzaman lived on Mount Erek. He also records that during the visit Bediuzzaman foretold the great difficulties they would undergo in the future, but that they should not be unduly dismayed for Allah would send someone to protect and revive His religion of Islam.14 Interestingly, there is another record of his foretelling the difficulties of the future. On this occasion he told his students to “seek refuge with Almighty God....dire things are going to happen...” When they asked for an explanation of this, he merely told them that he was not permitted to say anything further at present.15
During the same visit, Kör Hüseyin Pasha tried to give Bediuzzaman money, something he never accepted under any circumstances. Molla Hamid describes a similar occasion, noting Bediuzzaman’s anger at the offer and his refusal. Their exchange continued with Hüseyin Pasha saying:
“I want to consult you. My soldiers, horses, weapons and ammunition are all ready. We only await your command.”
“What do you mean? Whom do you want to fight?”
“And who are Mustafa Kemal’s soldiers?”
“I don’t know... soldiers.”
So Bediuzzaman told him: “Those soldiers are the sons of this land. They are my kith and kin and your kith and kin. Whom will you kill? And whom will they kill? Think! Use your head! Are you going to make Ahmad kill Mehmed, and Hasan kill Hüseyin?”16
Kör Hüseyin Pasha also approached Bediuzzaman on the question on a further occasion, this time in Nurshin Mosque after the Friday Prayers and in the company of several other tribal leaders and notables. Ali Çavus describes how together with the Deputy for Çaldiran, Hasan Bey, and three others he again tried to obtain Bediuzzaman’s support. The Governor of Van was alarmed by the visit of these chiefs and on the pretext of a burial service also attended the prayers at the mosque. But his alarm turned out to be needless, for on them admitting to their intention of joining the revolt, Bediuzzaman told them:
“Where has the idea of serving this cause come from, I wonder? I ask you. Is it the Shari’a you want? But such an action is absolutely opposed to the Shari’a. There is very great likelihood of its being the tool to the foreigners’ provocations. The Shari’a can’t be contravened by making it a tool and saying: ‘We want the Shari’a.’ The Shari’a can’t be demanded like that. The key to the Shari’a is with me. Now, all of you return to your own homes and places!..”
When he had finished speaking, Bediuzzaman rose to his feet and returned to Mount Erek. As for Kör Hüseyin Pasha and the tribal leaders, they heeded his warnings and did not join the revolt, which meant too that Van and its people were not forced to join it and thousands of lives were thus saved.17 Many others testify to this fact.18
As was mentioned above, Shaykh Said wrote in person to Bediuzzaman requesting him to join the movement, for if he did so they would be “victorious”. Bediuzzaman replied as follows:
“The Turkish nation has acted as the standard-bearer of Islam for centuries. It has produced many saints and given many martyrs. The sword may not be drawn against the sons of such a nation. We are Muslims, we are their brothers, we may not make brother fight brother. It is not permissible according to the Shari’a. The sword is to be drawn against external enemies, it may not be used internally. Our only salvation at this time is to offer illumination and guidance through the truths of the Qur'an and belief; it is to get rid of our greatest enemy, ignorance. Give up this attempt of yours, for it will be fruitless. Thousands of innocent men and women may perish on account of a few bandits.”19
The Journey to Exile
Towards the end of the revolt, the authorities started to round up all the influential religious and tribal leaders in the province of Van, although they had not taken part in the revolt, and send them into exile in western Anatolia. Rumours began to circulate that Bediuzzaman also was going to be exiled. There were moves to persuade him to leave the area for Iran or Arabia. But Bediuzzaman declined the offers, saying that should he go to Anatolia, it would be of his own consent. First Shaykh Masum, the Mufti of Van, was arrested, then a squad of three gendarmes and a captain were seen climbing the lower slopes of Mount Erek; they were going towards the source of the Zernabad and Bediuzzaman’s cave.
Bediuzzaman was uninformed of this squad and its orders, and on being surprised in his retreat and curtly ordered by the captain to accompany them in a most peremptory and overbearing fashion, he responded with the boldness that had always marked his response to arbitrary and tyrannical behaviour. A tense and electric situation was suddenly created. In the meanwhile, Bediuzzaman’s students and a number of people from the nearest villages had gathered. They awaited his orders to act; it would have been simple for them to get him away from the area and out of the country. However, Bediuzzaman prevented them attempting action of any sort and permitted the gendarmes to take him to Van.20
Those arrested and awaiting exile were held in a secondary school in Van. Besides Bediuzzaman and Shaykh Masum were Kör Hüseyin Pasha, the Mufti of Gevash, Hasan Efendi, Küfecizade Shaykh Abdülbaki Efendi, and Abdullah Efendi, the son of Shaykh Hami Pasha, in addition to hundreds of others including the elderly, women, and children. It was the month of Ramazan when they started their long trek, just as it had been in Ramazan that Bediuzzaman had returned to Van almost exactly two years previously. That year, 1925, it began on 25 March. It was still bitterly cold and the whole land covered in snow. They set off from Van, some seventy to eighty sledges drawn by oxen or horses, with many also on foot or on horseback. The whole caravan stretched for about a kilometre. To start with Bediuzzaman was handcuffed to Shaykh Masum. According to Haydar Süphandagli, Kör Hüseyin Pasha’s son, unlike all the others being exiled, who were leaving their homes and native land amid tears and in trepidation like a retreating army, Bediuzzaman was entirely calm and resigned at the turn of events. He also stated that the caravan stopped for three to four days in Patnos, one night in Agri, and a week in Erzurum, from where they continued in horse-drawn carts. At Trabzon, where they stayed some twenty days, they boarded a ship for the week-long journey to Istanbul. Here Bediuzzaman stayed some twenty to twenty-five days before travelling on with other exiles to Izmir and Antalya in the same boat. From there he was sent on to Burdur in south-western Anatolia, his destination.21
Kinyas Kartal, who as a young man of twenty-five or so was sent into exile in the same group, related that when they were leaving Van, villagers, the rich, many people from the surrounding area collected together a considerable sum of money and gold in order to give to Bediuzzaman. But he would not even look at it. He would accept presents, charity, or money from no one.22 Among his own memories of Bediuzzaman on the journey he tells also how ‘Seyda’ did not sleep at night in their first stopping-place, spending it in prayer. After this he requested a room to himself, so as not to disturb the others.23 That Bediuzzaman received special treatment on the journey is attested to by the gendarme assigned to guard him, Mustafa Agrali. He gives a detailed description of Bediuzzaman, the caravan, and some of the villages in which they stayed. He said:
“... Despite the other sledges all being loaded up with people and belongings, there was nothing on Bediuzzaman’s at all. He was all alone. He was being given special treatment. Wound round his head was a long, twisted turban of white printed muslin material. He had thick black moustaches, and no beard...”
Mustafa Agrali described also the hospitality they received from the Kurdish villagers in the places where they stopped for the night. He notes however that in the first place Bediuzzaman refused all offers of food pleading illness. And after spending the night in prayer and performing together with him the morning prayers, he got out a kettle from the small basket which contained his belongings, then proceeded to boil himself an egg on the stove. It was the first food he had eaten since leaving Van.24
Of the details given about Bediuzzaman by Münir Bakan when the caravan stayed two or three days in his village of Koruçuk near Erzurum is the fact that there were officers assigned to write down whatever he said. As he told Necmeddin Sahiner, “Of course, they weren’t writing down these notes out of ‘sincerity’, but for ‘capital’.” One of the things Bediuzzaman said to Münir Bakan was:
“Don’t be afraid, my brother, these disasters that are being visited on us are temporary. Only there is one point you should take careful note of and be afraid of: make your children study, otherwise this religion will be lost to you in no time at all.”25
By the time the exiles boarded the ship for Istanbul in Trabzon, it was spring and approaching summer in the warmer western climate. Two independent witnesses have told of how Bediuzzaman insisted on remaining on deck in the ship, defying the captain when he tried to force him to go below to join the other exiles.26
In Istanbul, Bediuzzaman stayed in the ‘Barley Sellers’ Mosque in Sirkeci, in the Hidayet Mosque, and with his student Tevfik Demiroglu. His fears about the future course of events in Turkey had begun to be realized, and here he saw evidence of this. He described the event as follows:
“When I was brought to Istanbul on my way to exile, I asked what had happened to the Shaykhü’l-Islam’s Office, for I was connected with it having worked and served the Qur'an in the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye, which was attached to it. Alas! I received such an answer that my spirit, heart, and mind trembled and wept. The man I asked said: ‘That Office, which for hundreds of years shone with the lights of the Shari’a, is now an older girls’ lycée and playground.’ I was seized by such a mental state that it was as though the world had collapsed on my head. I had no power, no strength. Uttering sighs of anguish in sheer despair, I turned towards the Divine Court. And the feverish sighs of many others whose hearts were burning like mine combined with my sighs. I cannot remember whether or not I sought the assistance of Shaykh Geylani’s prayers and saintly power for our supplications; I do not know. But in any event it was his prayers and influence that set fire to the sighs of those like me in order to save from darkness a place which for so long had been a place of light. For that night the Shaykhü’l-Islam’s Office was in part burnt down. Everyone said, what a pity. But I, and those who were burning like me, said, All praise and thanks be to God!”27
According to Tahsin Tandogan, who was a Chief Superintendent of Police in Istanbul in 1925, Bediuzzaman also stayed in Süleymaniye near the old Shaykhü’l-Islam’s Office. His recollections of Bediuzzaman have been recorded by Necmeddin Sahiner and provide both added proof of Bediuzzaman’s innocence and further interesting details of his stay in Istanbul. Tahsin Bey himself arrested those ring-leaders of the Shaykh Said Revolt who were in Istanbul and took their statements. Namely, Palulu Sadi, Seyyid ‘Abd al-Qadir, his son Mehmed Bey, and Nazif Bey. He was also ordered by his Chief, Ziya Bey, to go to Süleymaniye to the Shaykhü’l-Islam’s Office, in order to fetch Bediuzzaman to the Police Headquarters and take his statement. The Police Chief told Chief Superintendent Tahsin Bey: “It is the famous Said-i Kürdi, but he is not in touch with these here involved in the Revolt. We could not establish any connection between them at all.” Tahsin Bey continued in his conversation with Necmeddin Sahiner:
“They had recently brought him [Bediuzzaman] from the East. He was staying in Süleymaniye. He had one of his students with him called Bitlisli Kürt Hakki, who attended to his needs. I myself went to Süleymaniye to get him and bring him to the Special Branch. I had his file. It was me who took the file to the Police Chief and to the Governor [of Istanbul] to have it signed. I myself took his statements. Said Nursi said:
“‘I have no connection with this revolt whatsoever. I would have nothing to do with a negative movement such as that and know nothing of it. I would not have my brothers’ blood on my hands. Movements such as that are the cause of the blood of brothers being spilt.’”
Tahsin Bey went on to describe how he took the other four to Diyarbakir to the Independence Tribunal, where three were condemned to death and executed, and one, Nazif Bey, was acquitted. He then went on to say that the enquiries continued for fifteen days, after which they let Bediuzzaman go. Both Seyyid ‘Abd al-Qadir and Palulu Sadi testified that Said Nursi had no connection with them at all. Tahsin Bey described his impressions of Bediuzzaman like this:
“Bediuzzaman was an extremely intelligent person. I have never seen such an intelligent person. Thousands of guilty people have passed though my hands, and I understand what they are from their faces. What eyes he had! Like a motor, sparking, turning. I have never in my life seen such eyes. They sent him to Isparta as a precautionary measure, he was ordered to reside there. I am of the opinion that he was not the sort of man to be involved in simple revolts such as that; he was a most intelligent person.”28
After some three weeks, the greater part of which thus passed in ‘helping the police with their enquiries’, Bediuzzaman again boarded the ship, which set sail for Antalya having called at Izmir to disembark a number of the other exiles. A considerable crowd of friends and well-wishers gathered on the Galata Bridge to make known their sorrow at his leaving them and bid him farewell. From Antalya he was taken inland to the small town of Burdur.
Thus unjustly began twenty-five years of exile for Bediuzzaman. And the injustice was to continue. For rather than merely ‘compulsory residence’, he was to be held under the most oppressive conditions, constantly under supervision and subject to arbitrary and unlawful treatment by government officials. He arrived in Burdur in the mulberry season, that is, June, and stayed in the Haji Abdullah Mosque in the Degirmenler district of the town. We learn from another neighbour that he used to hold ‘ders’, or teach, every day in the mosque after the afternoon prayers, and that this attracted many people.29 It is probable that as material for these ‘derses’ he used what was later entitled ‘The First Door of the Risale-i Nur’ (Nur’un Ilk Kapisi). This was a collection of thirteen short sections, called ‘Derses’, which he wrote while in Burdur and had put together secretly into book form. This was then duplicated by hand by people who felt the need for the basic truths of belief that it teaches. Bediuzzaman described it as “an index, list, and seed of the Risale-i Nur” and as “the Qur'an’s first lesson to the New Said.”30
Of those who came to visit Bediuzzaman in Burdur was A. Hamdi Kasaboglu, a member of the Consultative Council of the Department of Religious Affairs. He related the following to Necmeddin Sahiner:
“One day, I went to visit Bediuzzaman in Burdur. I took a page of Arabic with me wondering if he knew Arabic. During the visit, I said to him, ‘Would you read this for me, please?’, and I handed it to him. He took it, cast an eye over it, and handed it back to me. And saying, ‘Now let’s see if I can remember it’, he read by heart the whole page...”31
Field Marshal Fevzi Çakmak, the Head of General Staff, came to Burdur while Bediuzzaman was there. He knew Bediuzzaman of old, and when the Governor complained to him about Bediuzzaman, saying that he, and a number of his students, declined to report to the Police Station every evening as was required of them, and that he was giving religious instruction to those who came to him, Fevzi Pasha told him: “No harm will come from Bediuzzaman. Treat him with respect and don’t bother him.”32
However, Bediuzzaman’s activities were contrary to what those inimical to religion had expected when he had been exiled to this small Anatolian town, and they began to raise anxieties among the authorities concerning him. And so in January 1926, Bediuzzaman was taken from Burdur and sent to the centre of Isparta. There he stayed in the Müftü Tahsin Efendi Medrese and at once again began to teach and attract many students. The Governor of the town felt consternation at this. According to one eye witness who visited the medrese, when he went there, it was full to overflowing and he was only able to sit in the doorway.33 So the authorities determined to send Bediuzzaman away to some tiny and remote place where he would not attract attention, and where deprived of all company and civilization, he would just fade away and be forgotten. The place they chose was the village of Barla, a tiny hamlet in the mountains near the north-western shore of Lake Egridir. After some twenty days in Isparta, Bediuzzaman was taken there.
Always severely self-critical and interpreting events according to their inner or true meaning, Bediuzzaman gave the following reasons for his being exiled to the three places we have described:
“...This concerns this unfortunate Said: whenever I have flagged in my duties, and saying ‘what is it to me’, have become preoccupied with own private affairs, I have received a slap....
“For example, so long as this unfortunate Said was busy teaching the truths of the Qur'an in Van at the time of the Shaykh Said events, the suspicious Government did not and could not interfere with me. Then when I said ‘What is it to me?’ and thinking of myself withdrew into a ruined cave on Mount Erek in order to save my life in the hereafter, they took me without cause and exiled me. And I was brought to Burdur.
“There, again so long as I was serving the Qur'an – at that time all the exiles were watched very closely, and although I was supposed to report to the police in person every evening, my sincere students and myself remained as exceptions [we did not comply]. The Governor there complained to Fevzi Pasha when he came. But Fevzi Pasha said: ‘Don't interfere with him; treat him with respect.’ What made him say that was the sacred nature of service to the Qur'an. But whenever I have been overcome by the idea of saving myself and thought only of my life in the hereafter, and there has been a temporary slackening in my serving the Qur'an, I have received a slap contrary to my intentions. That is to say, I was sent from one place of exile to another. I was sent to Isparta.
“In Isparta I began my duties once again. After twenty days, a number of cowardly people said by way of a warning: ‘Perhaps the Government won’t look favourably on this situation. It would be better if you go a bit cautiously.’ Again the idea of thinking only of myself gained strength with me, and I said: ‘Let the people not come!’ And again I was taken from that place of exile and sent to a third, to Barla.
“And in Barla whenever a slackness has come over me and the idea of thinking of myself only has gained strength, one of these serpents and two-faced hypocrites from among those concerned only with this world has been set to pester me....”34
Thus, after his short stay in his second place of exile, Isparta, Bediuzzaman was sent to the village of Barla. At that time the easiest way to travel there through that mountainous country was by way of Lake Egridir. The gendarme who accompanied him from the village of Egridir to Barla, Shevket Demiray, described their journey as follows:
“The morning after market day in Egridir, they called me to the Town Hall. I went, and the head official of the district, the gendarme commander, members of the Town Council, and an imposing-looking man of around forty years35 of age wearing turban and gown were there. The gendarme commander said to me: ‘Look here, son, you’ve got to take this Hoja Efendi to Barla. He is the famous Bediuzzaman Said Efendi. It is a very important task for you. When you hand him over to the police station there, get these documents signed and then report back here.’ I said: ‘Right away, Sir!’, and undertook the duty. I went out from there with the Hoja Efendi, and said to him on the way: ‘You are my superior, forgive me, but what can I do, it is my duty.’ We arrived at the jetty and there agreed on a price with a boatman. He accepted to take us for fifty kurush. Bediuzzaman Efendi got out the money for the boat and paid him. Then he gave a further ten kurush and got them to buy a kilo of seedless raisins. When boarding the boat he had in his hand a basket containing his belongings: a teapot and kettle, a few glasses, and a prayer-rug. In his other hand was a Qur'an. With the two boatmen, a friend of the boatmen’s, and the two of us, we were five in the boat. It was afternoon. The weather was cold. It was round about the time when the first signs of spring were appearing. The lake was iced over in places. The front boatman broke the ice with a long pole he had in his hand opening a way for the sailing boat. Bediuzzaman offered each of us raisins and pieces of dried pressed fruit from the East on the way. I was watching him carefully; he was completely calm and steady. He was looking at the lake and surrounding mountains. His fingers were long and thin. He was shining as though electric was burning inside him. He was wearing a silver ring set with a stone, and on his back was a garment of very high quality cloth.
“It was immediately the time for the afternoon prayers since the days were short. He wanted to perform them in the boat. We turned the boat towards the Qibla, then I heard the sound of ‘Allahu Akbar’. The first time I heard the words uttered in this awe-inspiring and solemn way was from him. He declared the words ‘Allahu Akbar’, ‘God is Most Great’, in such a fashion that we all shivered. His manner did not resemble that of any other Hoja. We were trying not to let the boat veer away from the direction of the Qibla. Bediuzzaman offered the words of peace and completed the prayers, then turned to us and said: ‘Yes, brother... that was a bother for you.’ He was a most polite and gentlemanly person. We arrived at the Barla jetty after a voyage of some two hours. The forester Burhan was wandering up and down on the jetty. I called out to him: ‘Hey, son, come here!’ He came immediately. We took the Hoja’s basket and sheepskin from him and put them on the donkey.
“At this point, the boatman Mehmed took the forester’s rifle intending to shoot partridges with it, but Bediuzzaman prevented him saying: ‘The spring is close now and their mating season. It’s a shame, give up the idea if you like.’ He stopped him shooting them. And the partridges took off and started to fly over our heads following us.
“I slung my rifle over my left shoulder and took Hoja Efendi’s left arm. We climbed the hill slowly and after walking for about an hour came to Barla. The partridges which had taken off from the shore remained above us as far as Barla. They kept flying round above us.
“Evening had drawn close. We stopped at the police station beside the Ak Mescid in Barla. The head official of the district, Bahri Baba, and the chief of the police station were there. I handed Bediuzzaman Efendi over to them and got them to sign the papers. After spending the night there I returned to Egridir in the morning.”36
1. Ekinci, Abdullah, in Son Sahitler, i, 192.
2. Ekinci, Hamid, in Son Sahitler, i, 200.
3. Ibid., 198-9.
4. See, Mektûbat, 5-7.
5. Perihanoglu, Ismail, in Son Sahitler, ii, 26-7.
6. See, Lem’alar, 5-7.
7. Perihanoglu, Ismail, in Son Sahitler, ii, 27.
8. Ünlükul, Rabia, in Son Sahitler, i, 63.
9. Perihanoglu, Ismail, in Son Sahitler, ii, 27.
10. Ekinci, Hamid, in Son Sahitler, i, 209.
11. Ekinci, Hamid, in Son Sahitler, i, 205-6.
12. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 252-3.
13. Türkiye Tarihi, iv, Istanbul 1989, 101-2.
14. Arvasi, Abdülbaki, in Son Sahitler, i, 100.
15. Perihanoglu, Ismail, in Son Sahitler, ii, 29.
16. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 253-4.
17. Ibid. 255-7.
18. For example, the one-time Deputy for Van, and President of the Grand National Assembly, Kinyas Kartal. See, Son Sahitler, ii, 17.
19. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 254-5, quoted from the personal notes of Zübeyir Gündüzalp, one of Bediuzzaman’s closest and most influential students in the last ten years of his life.
20. Ibid., 257-9.
21. Süphandagli, Haydar, in Son Sahitler, ii, 95-6.
22. Ekinci, Abdullah, in Son Sahitler, i, 193.
23. Kartal, Kinyas, in Son Sahitler, ii, 17.
24. Agrali, Mustafa, in Son Sahitler, i, 104-7.
25. Bakan, H. Münir, in Son Sahitler, iv, 371-2.
26. Alpaslan, Ahmet, in Son Sahitler, i, 98, and, Samil, Said, in Sahiner, N. Nurs Yolu, 133-5.
27. Sikke-i Tasdik-i Gaybî, 130; Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 259-60.
28. Tandogan, Tahsin, in N. Sahiner, Aydinlar Konusuyor, 165-7.
29. Nasuhizade Shaykh Mehmed Balkir, in Son Sahitler, iv, 212-3.
30. Nur’un Ilk Kapisi, 6-7.
31. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 261.
32. Lem’alar, 40; Tarihçe, 135-6; Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 260-1.
33. Sözer, Mehmed, in Son Sahitler, ii, 211-2.
34. Lem’alar, 40.
35. Bediuzzaman was actually nearly fifty years old.
36. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 262-4.