• Said Nursi

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Said Nursi and the Risale-i Nur



Said Nursi’s (1877–1960) achievements, personality, character, and continuing influence make him an important twentieth century Muslim figure. A most effective and profound representative of Islam’s intellectual, moral, and spiritual strengths, he spent his life overflowing with love and ardor for Islam, pursuing a wise and measured activism based on sound reasoning, and following the Qur’an and the Prophetic example. Much has already been said and written about the lofty ideal he pursued and his deep familiarity with the world and his times, as well as his simplicity, austerity, tenderness, loyalty, chastity, modesty, and contentedness.

Said Nursi lived during a global crisis. Materialism was triumphant, communism was widespread, and Muslims were being urged to reject Islam. Shocked by the West’s scientific and military victories and influenced by modern thought, Muslims were facing a challenge of losing connection with their roots and sometimes their belief. Said Nursi, however, pointed people to the source of belief and inculcated in them a strong hope for an overall revival. His writings showed Islam’s truth and opposed the growing deviation. Relying on God and his firm conviction in Islam’s truth, and driven by his powerful hope about the future of the Muslim world, he defended Islam and sought to raise a new generation that would represent Islam correctly.

Voicing the sighs and laments of the whole Muslim world, as well as its belief, hopes, and aspirations, he said:

I can bear my own sorrows, but the sorrows arising from the calamities visiting Islam and Muslims have crushed me. I feel each blow delivered to the Muslim world as delivered first to my own heart. That is why I have been so shaken.... During my life of over eighty years, I have tasted no worldly pleasure. My life has passed on battlefields, in prisons or other places of suffering. They have treated me like a criminal, banishing me from one town to another, keeping me under constant surveillance. There has been no persecution I have not tasted, no oppression I have not suffered. I neither care for Paradise nor fear Hell. If I see my nation’s belief secured, I will not even care about burning in Hell, for while my body is burning my heart will be as if in a rose garden. (Tarihçe-i Hayat [Biography], Nesil, Istanbul: 1996, vol 2, p. 2206)


At a time when science and philosophy were used to produce young atheists and nihilism was widespread; when such things were done in the name of civilization, modernization, and contemporary thinking; and when resisters were persecuted, Said Nursi worked for a people’s revival, infusing them with modern and traditional education as well as spiritual training.

Many contemporaries explicitly or tacitly acknowledged him as the most important thinker and writer of twentieth-century Turkey, or even of the Muslim world. Despite this and his leadership of a new Islamic religious and intellectual revival, he remained a humble servant of God. His life exemplified his understanding of humility: “Desire for fame is the same as show and ostentation, a ‘poisonous honey’ extinguishing the heart’s spiritual liveliness.

Said Nursi diagnosed the Muslim world’s long-standing “diseases” and offered the most effective cures. Basing his activity on the Qur’an and Sunna (the Prophet’s way or traditions), as well as the Islamic tradition and natural phenomena (considered signs of Divine Existence and Unity), he concentrated, respectively, on proving the pillars of Islam; the necessity of belief, worship, morality, and good conduct; and certain socio-economic issues facing contemporary Muslims.