• Said Nursi

    All about Bediuzzaman
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Bediuzzaman Said Nursi emerges from these pages as a unique figure whose service to the Qur'an and belief this century is without equal. The child prodigy from Nurs who at the age of fourteen silenced in debate all the ulema of the area and from an even earlier age displayed an instinctive dissatisfaction with the existing educational system went on in his maturity as the New Said to open up a new way of relating the Qur'anic truths which would be the means of reinvigorating the belief of millions of Muslims within the framework of Orthodox Sunni Islam.

Bediuzzaman was born at a time when the fortunes of the Islamic world were at their lowest ebb, yet it was his unwavering conviction that the Qur'an and Islamic civilization would dominate the future and be the means of mankind’s salvation, as the lines quoted above foretelling the year of his death illustrate. Forgoing every sort of comfort and personal benefit and undertaking every difficulty, he sacrificed himself to this end, chiefly serving it through his learning, but also as the Old Said through energetic participation in social and political life and in the wars and movements of that time. Realizing at an early age that science also would dominate the future, contrary to other religious scholars, and indeed he received opposition because of it, Bediuzzaman studied and mastered most of the modern physical and mathematical sciences. He also took up the study of philosophy in the belief that it could be made to serve Islam. And while his wide knowledge of both these was reflected in his Qur'anic commentary and “fruit” of his life, the Risale-i Nur, it was his inner struggle to free himself from philosophy which made way for the emergence of the New Said, who took the Holy Qur'an as his “sole guide.”

Bediuzzaman’s study of science and involvement with philosophy should be seen in the context of the increasing Western influence in the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries and the attacks which were being made on the Qur'an and Islam in the name of science and materialism, and Positivist philosophy in particular; it was in order to answer these attacks. When the leadership of Turkey came into the hands of the new leaders on the founding of the Republic, the drive for Westernization received a strong impetus, and philosophy was progressively inculcated into the Turkish people at the expense of Islam. In keeping with the extraordinary perspicacity and farsightedness that he displayed at every stage of his life, Bediuzzaman had perceived these designs of the new regime at the outset and understanding that it was not to be combatted in the realm of politics, had withdrawn from social and political life. Within a short time he was proved right, both concerning the secular republic they set up, and in how it was to be combatted. For as he himself later wrote, in modern states, where freedom of conscience is accepted as a fundamental principle, internal jihad has to be on the level of ideas and learning. Struggle with weapons and the sword in the way of religion has made way for “religious striving of an immaterial nature with the sword of true and certain belief.” Thus, when he was sent into exile in western Anatolia by the new leaders, with his learning in both science and philosophy as well as the religious sciences he was uniquely well-fitted to counter their inauspicious plans.

In his exile which was little better than captivity, Bediuzzaman started writing treatises which demonstrate all the truths of belief by means of powerful proofs. Using logical proofs and reasoned argument and frequently comparing Qur'anic teaching and civilization with those of philosophy, they specifically answer the questions and doubts raised by philosophy and the scepticism it causes. This method, which shows clearly and simply these truths in an unprecedented way, as well as solving and explaining with convincing proofs many ‘mysteries’ of religion, indeed resulted in large numbers of people attaining ‘certain’ belief, and had unparalleled success in the repressive conditions of those times, spreading throughout Turkey. Furthermore, since Westernization is a universal phenomenon and Western materialist philosophy has permeated the Islamic world, the success of these writings, the Risale-i Nur, in saving and strengthening belief has continued to grow, and is now to be witnessed throughout the Islamic world.

Other aspects of the Risale-i Nur have been described, so suffice it to say here that through the inspiration of the Qur'an, with the Risale-i Nur, Bediuzzaman opened up a “direct way to the truth” whereby firm belief in the truths of religion may be gained in a short period of time. The essential teachings of theology and a knowledge of God that formerly took many years to master and acquire are presented to “the fast-travelling sons of this age” in a manner appropriate to their mentality and which answers their their needs.

Bediuzzaman saw this century and its events and the rise of materialism and communism in the context of the end of time and insisted above all else that what took precedence in the struggle against these was the saving and strengthening of belief. It is also in this context that Bediuzzaman’s insistence on the way of ‘positive action’ and ‘peaceful jihad’ or ‘jihad of the word’ (mânevî jihad) for the Risale-i Nur Students should be seen. Another of the unique features of the Risale-i Nur movement, it may be seen as an important factor in both its survival and growth during the twenty-five years of Republican People’s Party rule, and continued growth ever since.

Bediuzzaman stated that the aim of those working to impose materialist philosophy, the atheists who were trying to uproot Islam, was destruction of a moral, immaterial nature. Thus, the prime duty of the Risale-i Nur Students was “the service to belief which resulted in the preservation of public order and security.” Their service had to be of a constructive nature, repairing the damage, and acting as a barrier against it. It was in the cause of this ‘positive action’ that Bediuzzaman, who had bowed before no one as the Old Said, as the New Said bore with patience all the insults, injustice, and torments meted out to him. Moreover, despite the fact that they were utilized against him, he accepted the law and state institutions rather than challenging them; his battle was with the small number who, concealing their true faces, were the moving force behind the ‘destruction’ that was being wrought. It was a covert battle, and it was due to Bediuzzaman and his students responding positively to the provocation, subversion of the law, and other illegal attempts of this “5%” to silence and eliminate them, that they prevailed over them. Although the RPP fell from power, the struggle between those working to establish materialist philosophy of some form under the guise of Westernization or modernization and those striving in the way of Islam and religion continued in essentially the same form. Thus, the last time Bediuzzaman addressed his students before his death, the point he stressed above all others was this question of ‘positive action’ and ‘peaceful jihad.’ And this is the way the movement had adhered to.

Due to the policies followed, Turkey had been virtually broken off from the Islamic world during the years of RPP rule. On the Democrats gaining power in 1950, one of Bediuzzaman’s endeavours was to have the Risale-i Nur translated into Arabic, so that it could show the effectiveness in the strengthening and renewal of belief it had demonstrated in Turkey on a much wider scale. As many Islamic countries were gaining their independence at that time, Bediuzzaman saw this as the means to Islamic Unity; unity based on the “brotherhood of belief” from which would spring co-operation in many fields. Indeed, it was at this time that he translated (from Arabic into Turkish) the text of his Damascus Sermon of 1911, and had it published with alterations, which deals with this question, and foresees the supremacy of Islam that Bediuzzaman once again started to speak of at this time.

Also connected with the Islamic world was Bediuzzaman’s Eastern University, the Medresetü’z-Zehra, concerning which he addressed the President and Prime Minister in 1955 in connection with the setting up of the Baghdad Pact. He saw an educational establishment which combined the religious and modern sciences and was of sufficient stature to attract students from the eastern Islamic world to be both the means to unity among the Muslims of those countries, and, besides being a means to unity and reconciliation in that troubled part of Turkey, to be also the way to combat communist influence and its depradations. The forces whose aim it was to divide the Islamic world, and the moral decay, dissension, and disunity they caused had to be combatted through the ‘positive’ means of learning, knowledge and religion. Such a university, he stated, would be “the foundation-stone and chief citadel” of peace in that area and the Middle East.

As time passes, Bediuzzaman’s statements and predictions concerning the future become realized, his judgements as to which course of action should be taken are proved correct, and his greatness and importance become clearer. At a time the Islamic world was apparently crushed beneath the heel of Europe, he foretold its rise and saw the Qur'an holding sway over the future, the age of science and reason. While the part he played through the Risale-i Nur in this rise is now indisputable, in the future it will undoubtedly be universally accepted. For in his refuting Naturalism and the other materialist philosophies which are the mainstays of atheism and unbelief and chief means of attacking religion in modern times, and in demonstrating in pure form in the Risale-i Nur the Qur'anic message in a way that addresses modern man’s mentality, that is, in expounding and explaining the face of the Qur'an that looks to this age, Bediuzzaman performed a service to Islam which is without equal. Just as the Risale-i Nur continues to save and strengthen the belief of increasing numbers of Muslims throughout the Islamic world, so too is it the means of increasing numbers of non-Muslims entering Islam. That he and the Risale-i Nur are the Regenerators of Religion promised each century in the Hadiths of the Prophet (Blessings and peace be upon him) cannot be doubted. Indeed, in this age of tumult and upheaval when the darkness has threatened to engulf mankind, the Light which Muhammad (Blessings and peace be upon him) brought, the Light of Divine Revelation and true knowledge, has found a worthy vessel in the Risale-i Nur, through which it is reflected into the hearts and minds of millions of believers, and through which, God willing, it will illuminate the future.