Said Nursi and his work


SAID NURSI (1877-1960) WAS BORN IN NURS, EASTERN ANATOLIA1, and educated by the district’s best scholars. He soon surpassed them in debates and earned the name Bediüzzaman (Wonder of the Age). Believing that modern science and logic was the way of the future, he advocated teaching religious sciences in secular schools and modern sciences in religious schools.

During the unrest of March 31, 1909, he was arrested and court-martialed for inciting the uproar. However, as he managed to restore some calm, he was acquitted. Returning to eastern Anatolia, he taught that Islam allowed freedom in government and rejected dictatorship. He later collected these speeches in The Discussions.2

In 1911, while preaching in Damascus’ Umayyad mosque, he stated that the Muslims were being defeated due to the growth of despair, the loss of truthfulness in social and political life, love of belligerency, ignoring bonds among believers, pervasive despotism, and egocentricity. He then offered his cure: hope, truthfulness, trustworthiness, mutual love, consultation, solidarity, and freedom in accordance with Islam. Building on these, he asserted that the true civilization contained in Islam would dominate the modern world.3

Returning to Istanbul to seek the new sultan’s support for a university in Van, eastern Anatolia, he finally secured sufficient funds—19,000 gold liras. Unfortunately, World War I broke out before it could be completed.


1 At this time, this area belonged to the Ottoman State. Turkey only emerged as an independent nation in 1923. (Ed.)

2 Said Nursi, Münazarat (The Discussions), new ed. (Istanbul: 1977).

3 Said Nursi, Hutbe-i Samiye (The Damascus Sermon), new ed. (Istanbul: n.d.). One hundred famous scholars were among the audience.