C H A P T E R S I X
E M I R D A G
Bediuzzaman had been a month a half in the Shehir Hotel in Denizli when the order came from Ankara that he was to reside in the province of Afyon, still in western Anatolia, to the north-east of Denizli. A letter written by the Denizli businessman, Hafiz Mustafa Kocayaka to Sadik Demirelli, who had sent Bediuzzaman some Kastamonu rice, dated 31 July, 1944, states that Bediuzzaman had left that day in the company of a police inspector. He was in good health and content at the prospect of the move. The Government had ordered that he be given the generous travelling allowance of four hundred liras.1 Bediuzzaman was put up in the Ankara Hotel in Afyon for two to three weeks and then ordered to settle in Emirdag. Thus, Bediuzzaman arrived in this small provincial town set in high rolling hills towards the end of August 1944. It was to be his place of residence for the next seven years, till October 1951, with the break of twenty months in Afyon Prison from January 1948 to September 1949. Since it was in the month of Sha’ban that he arrived in Emirdag, it was before the 21 August, on which the month of Ramazan began that year.
The first three and a half years of Bediuzzaman’s stay in Emirdag saw an intensification of his struggle with the forces of irreligion, which up to this time had felt themselves to be in an unassailable position in Turkey. The acquittal in Denizli had taken them entirely by surprise, in the the words of one writer, exploding like a bomb-shell so that they did not know what had hit them. It was a clear victory for the Risale-i Nur and religion, and a forerunner of its future victories. The fruits of Bediuzzaman’s twenty years of silent struggle with the forces of irreligion were starting to show.
Quite contrary to the intentions of those who had instigated the case, the widespread publicity of the Denizli trials and imprisonment of Bediuzzaman and the Risale-i Nur Students led directly to a considerable expansion in activities connected with the Risale-i Nur. While up to this time, activity had been mainly concentrated in two or three areas, now many thousands of people in different areas of Turkey became its students and began to serve it and the cause of the Qur'an in various ways. In addition to this, in 1946 or '47 two of the first duplicating machines to come to Turkey were bought by Students and one set up in Isparta and the other in Inebolu, with the result that copies of the Risale-i Nur were now available on a far wider scale than previously. This greatly increased spread of the Risale-i Nur following on after the acquittals further infuriated the enemies of religion and drove them to embark on a series of plots and plans in their attempts to stop it. The basic aim of these was to make both the local government and Ankara feel sufficiently apprehensive about Bediuzzaman and the Risale-i Nur movement to act against them once again. One result of this was that all the attention was focussed on Bediuzzaman himself and constraints on him increased. Thus, despite the fact that he had been acquitted by Denizli Court and the Risale-i Nur had been cleared, the surveillance under which he was held was even stricter than previously, and the illegal harassment and ill-treatment more severe. However, Bediuzzaman wrote to his students that he accepted this “with pride” as it meant it was his person that was concentrated on and harassed rather than the Risale-i Nur or its other students; it allowed them to continue their service of it relatively unmolested.2
A further reason of this intensification of the ideological battle between belief and unbelief at this time, culminating in Bediuzzaman’s and a number of his students’s arrest and detention in Afyon Prison, was related to the changing conditions in Turkey, and may be attributed to the fact that, with increased American influence after the end of the Second World War and moves towards democracy and more religious freedom, those working for the cause of irreligion increased their attacks somewhat in desperation as they felt the ground slipping away from under their feet, which up to that time had felt so firm.
Thus, on the one hand, the struggle with irreligion was pursued with greatly increased publication and dissemination of the Risale-i Nur, and in addition, Bediuzzaman followed up the advantage he had gained by the Denizli acquittals, also benefiting from the favourable impressions made in official circles by the copies of the Risale-i Nur sent from Denizli, by sending ‘petitions’ to various high officials and members of the Government informing them of the real nature of this struggle and the vital role the Risale-i Nur had to play in saving the country from the anarchy into which it was being pushed by forces working for the causes of communism, freemasonry, and zionism, and also informing them of the illegal treatment he was suffering at the hands of some officials.
Arrival in Emirdag
Bediuzzaman arrived in Emirdag on a hot August evening, shortly before sunset. A small group of people were sitting drinking tea in front of the Government Building when a bus arrived in a cloud of dust from the direction of Afyon. Among them was the Government Doctor, who also acted as District Settlement Officer, Dr. Tahir Barçin. He saw the unusual sight of someone wearing turban and gown alight, escorted by two gendarmes. And even stranger, this elderly person in his seventies set about looking for a suitable spot, and on learning the direction of the Qibla, spread out the prayer-mat he was carrying, and performed the afternoon prayers, an unusual sight at that time of religious persecution. It was a happy moment for the doctor, who as a young medrese student in Istanbul in 1922, had seen Bediuzzaman in Fatih Mosque, for he became a close student of Bediuzzaman’s in Emirdag, and when posted to Bitlis in eastern Turkey in 1945 for a year, played an important role in introducing the Risale-i Nur to Bediuzzaman’s native region, where many people thought he had not survived his exile.3
As in each place he was sent, Bediuzzaman attracted students who served him loyally, unhesitatingly sacrificing themselves and their property and position for him and the Risale-i Nur. In Emirdag it was the Çaliskan family who took it on themselves to see to his needs and assist him. One of these six brothers, Hasan, was Bediuzzaman’s first visitor in Emirdag. Thereafter, they and their families attended to all his personal needs, such as sending his food, for which he always paid, as well as doing everything necessary for the work of the Risale-i Nur to continue. In 1945, Bediuzzaman adopted as his ‘spiritual son’, Ceylan, the exceptionally intelligent twelve-year-old son of Mehmed Çaliskan. He remained with Bediuzzaman, and in future years became one of the leading students of the Risale-i Nur.4
The house that was found for Bediuzzaman was in the centre of the town, in a busy street near the police station and Municipal Buildings. With the guards posted permanently at his door and windows, it was extremely difficult to visit him. At one point when even the boy Ceylan was forbidden to assist him, the Çaliskan’s made a hole into Bediuzzaman’s house from the neighbouring shop, in order to reach him. One of the immediate reasons for the renewed vigour of the repressive measures taken against him, was that he refused the offers of a pension that the Government now made him. On the acquittals, initially they had planned to follow a new line in order to silence Bediuzzaman; they planned to buy him off by offering him a regular pension, to build him a house according to his own specifications and also sent him the travelling allowance mentioned above. After due consideration, Bediuzzaman wrote by way of consulting his students, that in order not to break his life-long rule, and also to preserve sincerity, he had refused these offers. The authorities were annoyed at his, and stepped up their harassment as a result.5 Life became so hard for him that he also wrote that he suffered in one day in Emirdag what he had suffered in a month a Denizli Prison.
As far as he was able, Ceylan attended to Bediuzzaman’s needs in the house, such as making his tea and writing out his letters. As ever Bediuzzaman like to spend as much time as possible in the countryside, particularly in the spring and summer, and would walk out into the open stone-wall country around Emirdag taking copies of the Risale-i Nur to be corrected with him. He was always followed and watched by a number of gendarmes. Later when the burden of work became too heavy, the Çaliskan’s eventually found a light horse-drawn carriage for him, called a phaeton, which Bediuzzaman then travelled in, usually taking just one student with him as driver. It became a familiar sight in the area. Despite his preoccupation and the efforts to isolate him, Bediuzzaman always concerned himself with all those he encountered. The children of Emirdag and surrounding villages would flock round him and run after the phaeton whenever they saw it, shouting: “Hoja Dede!” “Grandpa Hoja!”6 Bediuzzaman always acted very kindly towards them, saying that they were the Risale-i Nur Students of the future. And just as he captivated them, so too he drew the people from every class that he met while driving round the country. He would tell the shepherds, workers, farmers, or whomever he met: “This work you do is of great service to others; so long as you perform the prescribed prayers five times a day, all of it will be like worship and benefit you in the hereafter.”7
The guidance and close concern Bediuzzaman offered these people had considerable effect, for large numbers of those children did become Students of the Risale-i Nur in the future and serve the cause of religion and the Qur'an, and so also in addition to the people in the countryside who benefited, in Emirdag itself the honesty and uprightness of the shopkeepers, traders, and craftsmen became well-known. A plainclothes policeman sent to spy on Bediuzzaman in 1947, even, remarked on this, when, while buying some butter, he saw the shopkeeper weigh the paper separately. In his words, “It was Bediuzzaman that made Emirdag like this!”8
The Risale-i Nur
If Hafiz Mustafa had written to Sadik Bey from Denizli that Bediuzzaman had left in good health, Bediuzzaman described himself as being extremely ill, weak and wretched when a short time later he was settled in his house in Emirdag in the month of Ramazan. It was poison that caused him to write to his students in Isparta, which he so loved, his first letter from Emirdag, that it was only their prayers that had saved him from “the severe illness” he had suffered.9 Notwithstanding his wretched state – indeed perhaps because of it, since many parts of the Risale-i Nur were written when Bediuzzaman was suffering severe illness or distress – Bediuzzaman wrote the ‘Tenth Matter’ of the Fruits of Belief, the first nine of which had been written in Denizli Prison. “An extremely powerful reply to objections raised about repetition in the Qur'an”, he wrote that he reckoned he had been inspired to write it because of “dissemblers, who, like silly children trying to extinguish the sun of the Qur'an by blowing at it”, were attempting to have the Qur'an translated in order to discredit it, having “taken lessons” from “a most dreadful and obdurate atheist.”10 Bediuzzaman wrote also in the above-mentioned letter that he was sending them this Tenth Matter.
When writing to his students in Isparta at the end of March the following year, Bediuzzaman told them that he was sending them “a further part of ‘The Fruit’ concerning the Angels.” This was the Eleventh and final part of the the Eleventh Ray, the Fruits of Belief.11 The Risale-i Nur was approaching its completion at this time. With the exception of Elhüccetü’z-Zehra, written in Afyon Prison, The Fruits of Belief was the last main piece to be written, and subsequent to this the Risale-i Nur was largely published in the form of collections.
At this time, the battle against atheism and unbelief was for the main part carried out with two collections, the Staff of Moses (Asâ-yi Mûsa) and Zülfikar. The first part of the Staff of Moses consisted of the eleven parts of the Fruits of Belief, and second, of eleven pieces from various parts of the Risale-i Nur, including the First Station of the Supreme Sign and the Treatise on Nature. Zülfikar consisted of the Nineteenth Letter, the Miracles of Muhammad, and the Twenty-Fifth Word, the Miraculousness of the Qur'an. Also, printed in 1947 in Eskishehir was A Guide for Youth, the collection mentioned in a previous chapter made up largely of pieces written originally for the schoolboys who became Bediuzzaman’s students in Kastamonu.
The case of Bediuzzaman and his students at Denizli had been sent to the Appeal Court in Ankara on the Prosecutor’s demanding the acquittals be quashed. The Appeal Court however had upheld the just decision of the Denizli judges, reaching their unanimous decision on 30 December, 1944. This decision was announced on 15 February, 1945. Thus, with all these legal delays it was not till 29 June, 1945, that the Denizli lawyer acting for Bediuzzaman, Ziya Sönmez, was able to collect Bediuzzaman’s books and copies of the Risale-i Nur. Hafiz Mustafa then brought them to Emirdag to hand over to Bediuzzaman.12
Legally there was no obstacle now for the publication and free distribution of the Risale-i Nur. In addition, since the Denizli trials, the demand for it had greatly increased. All over Turkey people were seeking the Risale-i Nur. It was at this point while Students in the Isparta and Kastamonu areas, Denizli and other places were working flat out writing out by hand copies of the Staff of Moses and Zülfikar, and other parts of the Risale-i Nur, that in 1946 or '47 the Çelebi’s and other Risale-i Nur Students in Inebolu bought one of the first duplicating machines to come to Turkey. When it was seen that this was successful, Tahiri Mutlu came from Isparta to see it and then returned there via Istanbul, where he bought a second one. These two machines greatly facilitated the spread of the Risale-i Nur. The machines were bought and run by the Students, who with considerable sacrifice, pooled their resources, and were later financed from the sale of the books produced. They were used for the one and a half to two years till the arrests preceding the Afyon trials and imprisonment at the start of 1948.
The main parts of the Risale-i Nur to be duplicated on these machines by the Students were, The Staff of Moses, Zülfikar, The Illuminating Lamp, The Ratifying Stamp of the Unseen, A Guide for Youth, and The Short Words. In addition to these collections were thousands of copies of other parts of the Risale-i Nur and the numerous letters Bediuzzaman wrote his students at this time directing these activities and on various subjects. At the same time, the writing out by hand both of these collections, others parts of the Risale-i Nur and Bediuzzaman’s letters continued at full pace. Certain collections, mainly A Guide for Youth and The Staff of Moses were now reproduced for the first time in the new Latin alphabet in order to make them immediately available to the younger generation. However, “Since an important function of the Risale-i Nur” was “the preservation of the Arabic script, that of the vast majority of the Islamic world”,13 for the greater part it continued to be reproduced in that alphabet.
This much expanded activity was to have far-reaching results, for at this time, the Risale-i Nur found new students among the younger generation who were to be important figures in the Nur movement in later years. That the Risale-i Nur answers in particular the needs of those whose ideas have been influenced by materialist philosophy was proved by the fact that it now began to draw people from among university students and teachers, and from among those who had been through the educational system of the Republic. Among these was the teacher in a Village Institute, Mustafa Sungur, who became one of Bediuzzaman’s closest and most important students, and his “spiritual son”. Also was Mustafa Ramazanoglu, a university student, and Zübeyir Gündüzalp, who was a Post Office official and first visited Bediuzzaman in 1946. Although Bediuzzaman appointed no successor, since, as he said, the true ‘üstad’ of the Risale-i Nur movement was its ‘collective personality’, Zübeyir Gündüzalp was to emerge as one of its leaders after 1960.
In addition, at this time the Risale-i Nur began slowly to spread to the Islamic world. This was assisted when after 1947 it became possible to go on the Hajj. Copies of some of the collections were sent to al-Azhar in Egypt, to Damascus, and Medina,14 and some were given to a Kashmiri religious scholar who agreed to convey them to the Indian ‘ulama.15
So also Salahaddin Çelebi in Inebolu – Bediuzzaman called him Abdurrahman Salahaddin – struck up relations with some American missionaries and over a period of months read them The Staff of Moses and Zülfikar Collections, and gave them copies.16
In connection with this, in the face of the growing threat of communism described in the following section, with his extraordinarily clear-sighted view of the future, in accordance with certain Hadith, Bediuzzaman advocated co-operation between truly religious Christians against this threat. He wrote: “In connection with Selahaddin giving the American The Staff of Moses, we say this:
“It is essential that missionaries and Christian clergy as well as Nurcus are extremely careful, for certainly, with the idea of defending itself against the attacks of the religions of Islam and Christianity, the current from the North will try to destroy the accord of Islam and the missionaries...”17,18
The writing of the Risale-i Nur, then, was virtually complete within a few months of Bediuzzaman’s coming to Emirdag, and a large part of his time here was spent in correcting the copies sent to him of the Risale-i Nur, both handwritten and duplicated – this work even sometimes taking part of the time he set apart each day for worship and contemplation. In many of his letters directing his students’ activities, together with encouraging them and insisting on the continued importance of the handwritten copies, he urged them to pay attention to writing out the pieces accurately, so as to assist him in this laborious and time-consuming task. So too he constantly urged caution on them, and to act circumspectly, aware that their enemies were always seeking ways of halting their work.
Bediuzzaman’s three and a years in Emirdag were truly tortuous for him. This is also clear from his letters. So also the people of Emirdag and his students testified to the entirely unlawful and vindictive treatment and harassment he received. He was approaching seventy years of age when he arrived and suffered perpetual ill-health, largely due to his periods in prison, the frequent times he had been poisoned, and his long years of exile and deprivation.
The aim on the one hand was to keep him under a cloud of suspicion and guilt so as to destroy his influence over the people. The isolation in which he was held and constant and oppressive surveillance were to this end, in addition to numerous incidents intended to belittle him in the eyes of the people. And when after Bediuzzaman had been in Emirdag a short time, he started to draw the people to him like in Denizli – in his words: “With the same situation starting here as in Denizli where on account of the Risale-i Nur, the people showed me regard far greater than was my due”19 – they increased the pressure on him and used official influence to conduct a propaganda campaign against him, so as to frighten the people off and keep them away from him.
Secondly, “the dissemblers” employed various plans and stratagems in order to provoke “an incident”, so that Bediuzzaman could be accused of “causing a disturbance and harming public order” and the authorities could be made to come down on him with excessive force. The constant pressure under which he was held, the assaults on his person, in particular on the pretext of his dress, and the raids on his house were to this end. In essence, these methods were no different to previously, just they again failed, what was different in Emirdag was their frequency and severity.
The underlying reasons for the intensification of Bediuzzaman’s struggle against irreligion and the increase in the attempts to silence him and halt the spread of the Risale-i Nur may be found again in Bediuzzaman’s letters, and from looking at his life.
In 1945, probably after the acquittals had been ratified and the confiscated copies of the Risale-i Nur returned, and before the duplicating machines were obtained, efforts were made to have printed, like The Supreme Sign, further parts of the Risale-i Nur. The debate was now over the alphabet to be used, the old or the new. In consultation with his students in Isparta, Bediuzzaman decided to send Tahiri Mutlu to Istanbul, to have printed in the new letters, the Staff of Moses, and in the old, Zülfikar.20 However, their enemies got wind of this important step and prompted various authorities to move against them and seize copies of the Risale-i Nur. For this reason, these two collections were not printed at that time. In a further letter, Bediuzzaman explained “an important reason” for their decision to print part of the Risale-i Nur in the new letters, although, contrary to their intention, to do so “as though put the Risale-i Nur in an offensive position.”
Bediuzzaman wrote that the time had come or would shortly come to print the Risale-i Nur, that is, publish it on a large scale, “in order to repulse two fearsome calamities which were threatening the country, of which it was “a sort of saviour”.
One of these calamities was communism, against the racing tide of which the Risale-i Nur “could perform the function of a Qur'anic barrier”, while the second was “the severe objections” levelled at the Turkish people by the Islamic world, from which since the founding of the Republic, it had drawn away; The Risale-i Nur was “a miracle of the Qur'an” that could be the means of restoring former love and brotherhood.21
Bediuzzaman considered the threat to the Turkish nation of these “calamities” to be so real that not only did he consider that rather than trying to suppress the Risale-i Nur, “patriotic politicians” should have it published officially in order to counter the threat, but also, unlike the previous twenty yeas of his exile and captivity, he wrote letters and petitions to high government officials describing their nature and severity, and possible dire consequences, and urging them to counter them by returning to Islam and publishing the Risale-i Nur.
In essence this was a continuation of the same struggle he had been pursuing since his youth, for Islam and the Qur'an to be accepted by the country’s rulers as the source of true progress and civilization, rather than the West and its philosophy. After the War of Independence, the path of Westernization was adopted, which had already been followed to some degree for over a century. Only, the aim was total Westernization, and demanded the eradication of Islam, as we have seen. What emerged was a battle between belief and unbelief. Up to this time during his years of exile, Bediuzzaman’s role in this battle had been ‘defensive’; he had written numbers of treatises explaining and proving the basic truths of belief which were then subject to fierce attacks in the name of science, philosophy, and atheism. He had sought to defend Islam and belief against these orchestrated onslaughts which had been conducted on many fronts: the press, and publications of all sorts, education in schools, adult education programmes, and so on. In a very low key and unobtrusive manner, Bediuzzaman’s treatises, the Risale-i Nur, had been passed from hand to hand among the ordinary people, had been copied out by hand, and by degrees, had spread till by 1945 he and the Risale-i Nur had many thousands of followers all over Turkey.
Now, in 1945, as a consequence of the path that had been taken, Bediuzzaman saw that the Turkish nation was in great danger: having been broken off from its natural support of the Islamic world in addition to being divorced and alienated from its own true identity of Islam, it would be unable to withstand and counter the devious plans of the forces of unbelief, which step by step were being put into practice and would finally destroy it. The Turkish nation could only withstand these designs on it through the strength of the Qur'an. Thus, it was at this point that Bediuzzaman took on a role that could be interpreted as “offensive”, by attempting to publish the Risale-i Nur in the new alphabet and on a large scale.
At the same time Bediuzzaman was not working against the Government and established order. On the contrary, it was stability and social order that he was aiming to preserve in the face of the two outside currents or “calamities” mentioned above and those working for them within the country that were seeking to destroy public order, destabilize the country and create anarchy. And he wrote a number of ‘open letters’ and petitions to various members of the Government and government departments in order to alert them to the dangers.
One such letter was to Hilmi Uran, Interior Minister until October, 1946, then General Secretary of the Republican People’s Party. In it Bediuzzaman described the two currents, pointing out the inseparable nature of Islam and the Turkish nation and the grave error in trying to replace Islam by “civilization”, that is, uprooting religion and imposing philosophy and irreligion. The second of these currents was composed of the forces seeking to split up and divide the Islamic world which here are represented by Britain, who “in order to bind its colonies in the Islamic world to itself, is working to corrupt the powerful Islamic centre of this country by accusing it of being irreligious.” It was following “a plan of severing [this country’s] relations with the Islamic world and turning its brotherhood into enmity.” Through what in other places Bediuzzaman describes as “atheistic committees”, (zindika komitesi), “secret organizations”, and “the forces of corruption”, it was seeking to establish “absolute unbelief” in order to create enmity towards the Turkish nation, “the heroic brother and commander of the Islamic world”, and for relations to be cut between them.
Communism, the other current, formed a real threat at that time. Having overrun all eastern Europe, its overwhelming presence to the North and aggressive stance towards Turkey pushed Turkey to join the West. So too within Turkey, since the establishment of the Republic, Moscow and its agents and sympathizers had been working for its spread. This other “destructive” current of unbelief was also trying to create anarchy.
Bediuzzaman told Hilmi Uran that “if in place of the propaganda of civilization to the detriment of religion, you do not work to spread directly the truths of belief and the Qur'an”, the Turkish nation would fall prey to the anarchy underlying that absolute unbelief; it would fall apart and disintegrate, and would be “overwhelmed by the fearsome monster that has emerged in the North.” Bediuzzaman pointed out in the above letter that it would only be halted by the Qur'an and the Turkish nation which was “fused with Islam and was one with it.”22
It was with these covert forces working on behalf of the first current above, “the secret committees” and “atheistic organization whose roots are abroad”, that Bediuzzaman had been struggling with since before the setting up of the Republic, even since the days of the Constitutional Revolution. Seeing Bediuzzaman as their greatest obstacle to spreading irreligion in Turkey and degenerating its people, they had employed every device and stratagem to have him silenced. Some of these had resulted in the trials and imprisonment. Others were the attempts to poison him. Now in Emirdag, their plans included mobilizing government influence against Bediuzzaman by means of certain officials.23
With regard to communism, in addition to the external threat, it had gained considerable strength within the country since Inönü came to power in 1938. The policies he followed favoured its spread, and through such means as the setting up in 1940 of ‘village institutes’ for the training of teachers, foresaw its eventual establishment. He had ties with Soviet Russia and in addition appointed communist sympathiers to high office, such as Shükrü Saraçoglu, Prime Minister from 9 July, 1943 to 5 August, 1946, and Hasan Ali Yücel, the Education Minister. These two were personally involved in Bediuzzaman’s and his students’ arrest prior to the Denizli trials. The Kaymakam, Abdülkadir Uraz, especially appointed to Emirdag by the Interior Minister in 1945 in order to exert pressure on Bediuzzaman was a socialist. When forced by the threat of Russian aggression to turn to the West, Inönü was obliged to take the path of democracy, liberalization, leading to greater religious freedom; this also drove those secretly working for this cause to increase their efforts to silence Bediuzzaman and halt the spread of the Risale-i Nur.
Together with the problems and moral decline these two currents had already caused in Turkey, Bediuzzaman saw the real dangers to lie in the future. Just as twenty years previously his foreseeing the present situation had made him withdraw entirely from politics in order to find a solution to this “calamity” that he saw would occur. He described this in a letter to “the Minister of Justice and Judges of the Courts concerned with the Risale-i Nur”, urging them “to protect the Risale-i Nur and its Students” instead of striving against them, as the solution lay there. He pointed out to them that just as the results of “the libertarians” of some thirty years previously advocating a loosening of the constraints of religion and its morality were now apparent, so too that present situation would result in fifty years’ time in a fearful moral degeneration and dissolution of society. For, “Muslims do not resemble others; a Muslim who abandons religion and departs from the high moral character of Islam falls into absolute unbelief, becomes an anarchist and can no longer be governed.”24
Bediuzzaman argued that the “moral and spiritual” (mânevî) destruction of these forces could only be halted and countered by the truths of the Qur'an and belief. Issuing from the Qur'an, the Risale-i Nur was “a repairer of the strength of an atom bomb” and “a Qur'anic barrier” before those forces. The law and processes of justice could not arrest them with their “material” penalties.25 Neither could politics or diplomacy. Thus, in his letters both to his students and departments of government, Bediuzzaman stressed the importance of “politicians and patriots embracing the Risale-i Nur.” Similarly, he frequently pointed out that it was these forces, who were themselves attempting to destroy order and create anarchy and thus were conspiring against the country, that continuously endeavoured to create incidents and have Bediuzzaman and his students accused of the same thing. Whereas as had been established by courts of law, the Risale-i Nur and its Students protected the bases of public order, preserved security and prevented subversion and sedition.26 And he wrote to the Afyon Police Headquarters: “In the near future, this country and its Government will have intense need of works like the Risale-i Nur.”27
Increased Harassment and Prelude to Afyon
The swift spread of the Risale-i Nur over the three and a half years from 1944 to the beginning of 1948 and Bediuzzaman intensifying his struggle against the forces of unbelief by putting the case of the Risale-i Nur directly to the authorities and urging them to consider the seriousness of the situation drove the enemies of religion to increase their pressure on him and the other Risale-i Nur Students as part of a wider plan to halt their activities. This culminated in the third and worst imprisonment on a large scale of Bediuzzaman and his students.
Sometime towards the end of 1947, the President, Ismet Inönü, visited Afyon and gave a speech, following which the pressure and harassment on Bediuzzaman were increased.28 During his visit, he was reported to have said that “it is reckoned a disturbance connected with religion will break out in this province.” Bediuzzaman wrote in a letter that this pointed to the large scale of the conspiracy against them, and that – as previously – the aim of the harassment inflicted on him was “to provoke an incident and disturbance.”29
Following this, the police moved against Risale-i Nur Students in the provinces of Isparta, Kastamonu, Konya, and many other places. Houses were searched, enquiries were made.30
At the same time, Bediuzzaman was subjected to a series of entirely unlawful raids, assaults, and harassment. It is clear by this “making numerous mountains out of one molehill” that it was leading up to further arrests. On the orders of the Interior Minister, the Governor of Afyon and Chief of Police came to Emirdag at night with the intention of searching Bediuzzaman’s house. On the Public Prosecutor not agreeing, they waited till the morning then appointed two men to break the lock on the door and made a forcible entrance.31 These two officials, that is, the Governor and Police Chief came five times over a period of ten days. On searching Bediuzzaman’s house they found nothing, but took his Qur'an and some sheets written in the Arabic script. Two gendarmes were ordered to take Bediuzzaman to the police station. Having failed to anger him by raiding his house, they now tried again to provoke an incident by attempting to make a spectacle of Bediuzzaman by trying forcibly to remove his turban and make him wear a hat in public when taking him to give his statement. They again failed. Bediuzzaman wrote:
“Endless thanks be to Almighty God for He bestowed on me a state of mind by which I would have sacrificed my self-respect and dignity a thousand times for the unfortunate people of this country, and repulsed calamities from them; I decided to endure what they did and the insults and abuse they intended. I am ready to sacrifice my life and dignity a thousand times over for the security of this nation, and the worldly tranquillity and happiness in the next life of particularly innocent children, respected elderly, and the unfortunate ill and poor...”
That day and the following day when Bediuzzaman went out in his phaeton into the country surrounding Emirdag, he was followed by five aircraft.32 It may be imagined how all this intimidated the people of the town.
Now, at the beginning of 1948, Bediuzzaman was repeatedly summoned to the police station and Government Building to give statements and in such a way as to insult and degrade him. On one occasion, although ill and over seventy years old, he was kept standing for four hours while being asked facile and meaningless questions. As during the Denizli episode, that night were four severe earth tremors, the epicentre of which was Emirdag.33,34
As part of the build-up of this plan of the authorities to halt the spread of the Risale-i Nur, three plainclothes police were sent to Emirdag from Afyon to watch Bediuzzaman, establish who his students were, and learn their activities.35 The senior policeman of the group, Abdurrahman Akgül, related his experiences in some detail to Necmeddin Sahiner. A summary is as follows:
The three were briefed carefully, given false identities, and were to go entirely incognito with not even their families knowing where they were. Abdurrahman was warned by the Police Chief not to annoy Bediuzzaman, for if he did, he would meet with trouble. The three arrived in Emirdag on 13 December, 1947. Only the Gendarme Chief there and Kaymakam knew who they were.
Having been shown where Bediuzzaman’s house was, the three sat down in a cafe opposite and started to watch it. A short while later Bediuzzaman appeared at the door and some of his students came out. Abdurrahman commented on their youth. The students then came towards the cafe, spoke with the proprietor, and approached them. They told the three:
“Ustad sends you his greetings and wants to meet you.”
The three police were dumbfounded, and trying to cover it up, pretended ignorance. Eventually Abdurrahman sent one of the other two, Hasan, with them. A while later, he returned and related his experiences.
Bediuzzaman first asked him his name. Hasan replied:
To which Bediuzzaman said: “Look here, Ahmad. Promise me you’ll tell the truth.”
“I promise.” Bediuzzaman continued:
“I received news that three police are being sent in order to investigate me. I have many students and friends. If you are those three police, say so, and I’ll warn them so no harm comes to you.”
Hasan remonstrated, insisting that they were not police.
The following day, the same thing happened. Only this time, Abdurrahman sent both the others. Bediuzzaman spoke to them concerning belief and the Qur'an. Then offered them some lokum, Turkish Delight, and gave them handwritten copies of The Staff of Moses and A Guide for Youth.
Abdurrahman related how the third policeman, Salih, had written out a memo stating that “Said Nursi got one of his students to buy some liquor from the grocer”, but could get no one to sign it.36 Salih received his deserts for this: that night he himself drank too much, got into a fight and was beaten up. He was found unconscious lying in the gutter, with his revolver stolen. As a punishment, his superiors fined him three times the cost of the revolver, demoted him, and sent him elsewhere.
When it came to Bediuzzaman and his students being arrested, Abdurrahman described it like this:
“Whenever Bediuzzaman went out in Emirdag, all the people used to wait for him along his way, and he would greet them smiling. While we were there, the Governor and Public Prosecutor came to Emirdag five or six times, and carried out searches. Finally one evening they gathered up ten people from their homes, and the [five] others from their places of work. They collected Bediuzzaman the following morning, then took them altogether in the police bus to Afyon. And we also returned to Afyon the same day, that is, on 17 January, 1948. They stayed three days in the Emniyet Hotel in Afyon, and their statements were taken. Large crowds gathered in the vicinity during these three days. Then all the police surrounded the hotel and lined the route to the prison. The Chief of Police said that I was to take Bediuzzaman from the hotel. I put my uniform, then I said to him:
“‘How can I? He knows me. It will be terribly impolite.’
“‘So be it. Everything’s out in the open now’, he replied.
“I went to the hotel with a number of police. They went inside and I waited at the door. When Bediuzzaman came out, he saw me at the top of the steps, and smiling, exclaimed: ‘Abdurrahman!’ Then he patted my back, and said:
“‘I still like you, because you do your duty.’
“We took Bediuzzaman by way of empty streets to the prison, and his students by the route where the people were waiting. The court hearings continued for a long time. I too gave my statement, and said I had seen Bediuzzaman do nothing that was harmful at all.”37
Although Abdurrahman Akgül states above that Bediuzzaman and his students remained three days in the hotel, since it was the 23 January when they were officially arrested and entered Afyon Prison, it was a week that the fifteen or so of them stayed there. During this time Students were rounded up in Isparta, Denizli, Afyon, Kastamonu and other places and brought to Afyon, making a total of fifty-four who underwent the preliminary questioning. This coincided with a spell of cold weather rarely experienced even in Afyon,38 which has its own micro-climate and where the temperature frequently drops lower than in other places.
1. Demirelli, Sadik, in Son Sahitler, ii, 143-4.
2. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 93.
3. Barçin, Tahir, in Son Sahitler, ii, 125-7; Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 352-3.
4. See, Emirdag, Çaliskanlar Hanedani ve Ceylan, in Son Sahitler, iv, 41-114.
5. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 23; 36.
6. Çaliskan, Mehmed, in Son Sahitler, iv, 54-5.
7. Tarihçe, 403-6.
8. Akgül, Abdurrahman, in Son Sahitler, i, 13.
9. Emirdag Lahikasi (handwritten original), 6.
10. Sualar, 204; 213.
11. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 24.
12. Sönmez, Ziya, in Son Sahitler, ii, 183.
13. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 81.
14. Ibid., 234-6.
15. Ibid., 269.
16. Ibid., 154; 179.
17. Ibid., 156.
18. Also in connection with this, it is worth noting that in a footnote to the Twentieth Flash, On Sincerity, written in 1934, Bediuzzaman spoke of this co-operation. He wrote: “It is even recorded in authentic traditions of the Prophet that at the end of time the truly pious among the Christians will unite with the People of the Qur'an and fight their common enemy, irreligion. The people of religion and truth will sincerely unite not only with their own brothers and fellow-believers but also with the truly pious clergy of the Christians, refraining from the discussion and debate of points of difference in order to combat their joint enemy – aggressive atheism.” Lem’alar, 146; English trans., Sincerity and Brotherhood, 13.
19. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 36.
20. Ibid., 80-1.
21. Ibid., 101.
22. Ibid., 214-5.
23. Ibid., 189-90.
24. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 20-1.
25. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 71; 164.
26. For example, Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 29; 75-6.
27. Ibid., 77.
28. Bilal, Mustafa, in Son Sahitler, iv, 20.
29. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 156.
30. Tarihçe, 473-4.
31. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 270.
32. Ibid., 29-30; Tarihçe, 460.
33. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 168; 170; 277.
34. This close connection between the Risale-i Nur and the universe and the creatures within it manifested as tevafukat, or ‘coincidings’, has been mentioned in various places in previous chapters, in both ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ contexts. There were numerous examples in Emirdag of both, of which the above earthquakes were just one. Instances of ‘positive’ contexts mostly involved birds of different varieties either acting heralds of good news or entering a room in a manner quite out of the ordinary and remaining over a period of time while the Risale-i Nur or Bediuzzaman’s letters were read, for example. See, Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 46-7; 67; 86, etc.
35. Tarihçe, 437.
36. Bediuzzaman also refers to this in several places, which was part of a campaign of slander that “no devil could in any way deceive anyone with”, which showed that no other weapon remained to them which they could use against the Risale-i Nur. See, Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 257; also, Lem’alar, 246-7.
37. Akgül, Abdurrahman, in Son Sahitler, i, 11-18.
38. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 364-5.