• Said Nursi

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The Risale-i Nur



The problems of Muslims from Said Nursi’s viewpoint


In the Risale-i Nur Said Nursi identifies the cause of the Muslim world’s decline as the weakening of belief’s foundations. Together with the unceasing attacks of scientific materialism and atheism, this weakening was seen by Said Nursi as a great cloud of denial and doubt hovering over the Muslim world. To neutralize it, having decided that when the freedom of conscience or belief and thought was accepted in the world under the principle of secularism, Islam no longer demanded physical “jihad,” he undertook a “jihad of the word with the diamond principles of the Qur’an” designed to strengthen belief by reconstructing Islam from its foundations of pure belief.

During his time and our own, ignorance of God and the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, heedlessness of religious commands, indifference to the Islamic dynamics of prosperity in both worlds, and ignorance of modern scientific knowledge were leading causes of Muslim backwardness. He stated that Muslims could escape this backwardness only through modern scientific and religious knowledge as well as systematic thought, and could protect themselves against deviation only by acquiring true knowledge.

Ignorance was a source of Muslim poverty, internal conflict, and other problems. Ignorance of Islam’s truth, when added to ignorance of science and technology, resulted in vast uncultivated plains and the Muslims’ poverty.

Said Nursi explained the Ottoman collapse in the following terms in his Sunuhat (“Inspirations”) and the Treatise of Lemeat (“The Treatise of Gleams”) at the end of Sözler (“The Words”):


Destiny allowed this calamity because we did not adhere to Islam’s commandments. The Almighty Creator wanted us to perform the daily prescribed Prayers, which would occupy us for only one hour out of every twenty-four-hour day. But we neglected to do so. In return, by subjecting us to four years of training, troubles, and continuous mobilization, He forced us to a kind of Prayer. He wanted us to force our carnal souls to fast one month a year, but we pitied them. In return, He made us fast for four years. He wanted us to allocate one-fortieth of the wealth He bestowed on us to the needy and poor, but we were stingy. In return, He took from us the accumulated zakah of many years. He wanted us to go on Hajj once during our lives but we did not do so. In return, He caused us to run from front to front for four years.


At the same time, those Muslim intellectuals to whom the masses looked for guidance and salvation were attracted by the violent storm of denial based on scientific materialism and materialist philosophy. Emerging in the previous century from a human-centered worldview rooted in scientism, rationalism, and positivism, as well as from the contradictions between modern science and an anti-science Church, this storm gradually robbed Europe of most of its belief in Christianity.

This process, unparalleled in history, shook the “building” of an Islam that was already old and decayed in many hearts and minds (individual and communal). Said Nursi believed that this “building” could be protected by presenting Islam’s essentials to all the faculties of modern people. Also, Muslims’ actions had to display the perfection of Islamic moral qualities and the truths of belief.