In the Republic of Turkey
After the collapse of the multi-ethnic, multi-religious Ottoman State and the Turkish War of Independence, the new Republic of Turkey was founded (1923). Following the founding of the republic a large number of cultural, social and political reforms were enacted in the period up to the end of the 1930s. Eventually, the principles of republicanism, nationalism, populism, statism, secularism, and revolution (meaning continuing change in the state and society) were “officially” accepted as the essential principles to guide the new Turkey.
When a revolt broke out in southeastern Turkey in 1925, Said Nursi rejected the rebels’ call to support them, saying that Muslims should not fight each other and that many innocent people would die for the benefit of a few criminals. However, because of his influence on people, the government exiled him to Burdur, south-western Anatolia, where he was kept under surveillance. Then he was sent to Barla, an out-of-the-way village surrounded by mountains within the borders of Isparta, situated to the north-west of Burdur. However, he found true consolation in the Omnipresence of God and in complete submission to Him. The basic works of the Risale-i Nur Collection (Epistles of Light), The Words and The Letters, were written in Barla. Handmade copies soon circulated throughout Turkey.
In 1935 he was arrested and remained in prison for eleven months with 125 of his students throughout the period of their trial at Eskisehir Criminal Court. Although he always opposed revolt and breaches of public peace and order, and stressed that one person’s rights could not be violated even for society’s sake, he was accused of working to destroy public order. When asked his opinion of the Republic, he replied: “My biography, which you have in your hands, proves that I was a religious republican before any of you were born.” After eleven months’ detention, he was acquitted.
Following his release, from 1936–1943, he endured seven years of exile in Kastamonu (a small town in the Black Sea region near the north coast of Turkey). During these years, he wrote a major part of the Risale-i Nur. In 1943 he was tried with 126 of his students at the Denizli Criminal Court trials for having had a treatise on God’s existence printed secretly in Istanbul. Said Nursi was accused of forming a Sufi order and organizing a political society. Once again he was remanded in custody until 1944, during which time he taught the other prisoners and produced some parts of the Risale-i Nur. He was eventually acquitted but he was once more subjected to internal exile, this time in Emirdağ in Afyon, central Turkey.
In 1948 a new case was opened against him and 53 students in Afyon Criminal Court, and he was jailed for 20 months in Afyon Prison. However, in 1956, he and his students were declared innocent by the Supreme Court.
After his release, he stayed for brief periods in Emirdağ, Isparta, Afyon, Istanbul, and elsewhere. In 1950, the multiparty system was introduced and restrictions on the Religion were relaxed. Said Nursi was arrested only once after this in 1952, when he was tried for his publication of Guide for Youth. He was acquitted by unanimous decision.
On Bediüzzaman’s death in Urfa on March 23, 1960, the coroner fixed his estate as a simple garment, and 20 lira. He left this world with complete honor, dignity and victory. His works, the real legacy of this hero of Islam and humanity, the 6,000-page Risale-i Nur Collection, remain highly influential and a lighthouse guiding us on our way back to God.