An Introduction to Said Nursi
Life, Thought and Writings
By The Very Rev Ian Markham, Suendam Birinci
This book introduces to the English-speaking world the leading modern Islamic thinker Said Nursi (1878-1960) - who has some nine million followers in modern day Turkey and around the world. After an opening chapter that provides an overview of his life, the next four chapters outline the theology of Nursi on God, the Qur'an, the West and Politics. The final section provides an invaluable resource of readings from Nursi's most important writings.
Providing an introduction to a major form of Islam which is committed to non-violence, dialogue and constructive relationships with the West, this is the first student textbook to introduce a contemporary Islamic theologian in a systematic way.
- Life and times of Said Nursi (1878–1960);
- The concepts of God and the Qur'an; Said Nursi and spirituality;
- Nursi's approach to disagreement and pluralism;
Extracts from the Writings of Said Nursi:
Part 1 Belief:
- Differences between the believer and the non-believer;
- The four channels; The universe as a book;
- The supreme sign; God's unity;
- God has no partner;
- Divine oneness and works;
- There is no god but God.
Part 2 Prophethood:
- The need for prophets;
- Foundations of prophethood;
- Muhammad the Prophet;
- Revelation and philosophy;
- Humanity, particles and the divine
Part 3 Life after Death and Resurrection: The 10th word;
- Benefits of resurrection;
- The concept of bodily resurrection;
- Creation and resurrection;
- Divine name of ever-living;
- Death as 'bounty' and the timing of the Last Judgment;
- Divine unity and humanity
Part 4 Justice and Worship: Centrality of the divine name;
- Human tendencies that need justice;
- The nature and purpose of the worship of God;
- The importance of daily prayer;
- The Damascus sermon;
- Further readings;
About the Authors:
The Very Rev Ian Markham is Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary and Professor of Theology and Ethics. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including: Understanding Christian Doctrine, (Blackwell 2007), A World Religions Reader, 2nd edition (Blackwell, 2000), Do Morals Matter? (Blackwell, 2006), Globalization, Ethics and Islam (2005), A Theology of Engagement (Blackwell, 2004), September 11: Religious Perspectives and Consequences (2002), Theological Liberalism (2002), Encountering Religion (Blackwell, 1998), and Truth and the Reality of God (1998). He is a priest in the Episcopal Church.
Suendam Birinci Pirim is a PhD candidate through Hartford Seminary's joint doctoral program with the University of Exeter in England. Her area of study is comparative theologies with a focus on Christianity and Islam. She is the book review editor of the Muslim World (published by Wiley-Blackwell) and has published in Reviews in Religion and Theology. She was involved in the Wabash Center's grant to Hartford Seminary on 'Pedagogies of Interfaith Dialogue'. She has taught graduate courses on different aspects of Islam and interfaith dialogue and worked with various organizations in the US orchestrating and participating in dialogue projects. She is a Muslim.
'This invaluable and important book should increase Western understanding of Islam considerably, and enable readers to study a modern Muslim theologian at first hand.'
Keith Ward, University of Oxford, UK
'Birinci and Markham have provided an invaluable service in this collection of primary texts and a commentary on Said Nursi, one of the greatest Muslim theologians of the modern period. This book will serve interfaith scholarship as well as those studying Islam. Most importantly, this book details a face of Islam that fails to hit the headlines: non-violent and socially-engaged.'
Gavin D'Costa, University of Bristol, UK
'…a fascinating rendition of the life and thought of this important 20th century Muslim theologian. They present Nursi's perspectives on God and scripture, spirituality and pluralism, with sensitivity, appreciation and a keen persuasion of the importance of his original contributions to Islamic perceptions of the world of nature and the realm of the divine.'
Jane Smith, Harvard Divinity School, USA
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An Introduction to Said Nursi, Life, Thought and Writings
Prof. Dr. Ian Markham
Collaborating on this book has been important and precious work. In an age when Islam is so frequently misunderstood, it is essential that the insights of distinguished Islamic scholars are made accessible. We appreciate very much our time together at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. This is an institution that has pioneered the importance of the Christian-Muslim dialogue for decades. To our friends, colleagues (both on the Faculty and on the Staff), we are deeply grateful.
We are grateful to Sarah Lloyd, the Commissioning Editor for Ashgate. She has recognized the importance of this moment—the need for accessible texts that explain in a systematic way the insights of Islamic scholars. Her care with this project is much appreciated. As the book moved into production, Nick Wain provided an outstanding service to the authors.
We are grateful to those who helped us with the glossary, especially Lynn Campbell, Whitney Kirby, and Audrey O'Brien. Christine Faulstich did a wonderful job on the index and Christine Peel read the proofs carefully. Katie Glover and Catric Whaley helped organize the project.
We are grateful to our respective life partners—Harun and Lesley. For your love and support, we are forever grateful.
Ashgate Publishing, 2011
Language : English
Country: United Kingdom
Publishing House Tel: +44 125 233 15 51
Publishing House Fax: +44 125 234 44 05
There are very few books on Islamic thinkers. With Christian theologians, there are companions, encyclopedias, dictionaries, introductions, textbooks, and surveys. There are accessible introductions to the thought of such theologians as Karl Barth and Paul Tillich. But when it comes to Islam, there is virtually nothing. With the exception of some good work on classical thinkers (for example, Al-Ghazali), contemporary Islamic thinkers are treated sociologically rather than as theologians. A book on Muhammad Iqbal is more likely to focus on his contribution to the emergence of Pakistan than his highly innovative account of God. This needs to change; we need to start engaging at the level of ideas with the rich depths of contemporary Islamic theology.
This book is written for the student in the academy. We are interested in the student in “Introduction to Islam” course that wants to understand the worldview of a distinguished and hugely influential Islamic thinker. We want to see courses emerge that compare and contrast Muslim and Christian theologians.
This is a book that is intended to be accessible and, at the same time, demanding. It is accessible because the opening chapters ease the reader into the context of our thinker and provide an accessible overview of the theology. It is demanding because then the reader is invited into the primary text. To look closely at the challenge of interpretation and to enjoy exploring the nuance and detail embedded in the extracts. At moments when the text is difficult, the reader is invited to turn to the end of the book and use the glossary. And at the end of every chapter, there are study questions to orientate and reflect on the material.
This book is an exploration of the thought of Bediuzzaman (this means “Wonder of the Age”) Said Nursi (1878–1960). His thought has birthed a major worldwide Islamic movement of approximately 6 million followers. While the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (a group committed to the realization of a Muslim State, which observes sharia) is numerically small yet has spawned a vast literature, the Nur community (the community formed out of Nursi’s thought) has produced a vast movement, which has had virtually no attention. We list under the further reading sections all the books that have been written on Nursi available in English. One of our tasks in this book is to start correcting the imbalance: instead of focusing on small Muslim movements, let us start taking more interest in the mainstream ones.
While the need to understand the inspiration behind a major Muslim movement may be our place to start, there are many other reasons for this book on Said Nursi. The first is that he is a remarkably compelling thinker and writer. The underlying project is renewal. At a time when a modern Turkey is emerging that can compete effectively in twentieth century Europe, Nursi sees the danger. Islam is being associated with the “old” and “irrelevant”. He is determined to illustrate that this is not the case. He illustrates that Islam, properly understood, is compatible with the best that modernity brings. One can be a Muslim and an advocate for technology and science; one can be a Muslim and operate effectively in a secular state; and one can be a Muslim and commit to peaceful co-existence with those who disagree with Islam. Furthermore the arguments for these positions are all found in the Qur’an. The embrace of science, pluralism, and dialogue are not, for Nursi, a betrayal of the teaching of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad. Instead this constructive attitude to modernity is directly derived from these Muslim sources. The second reason is that Nursi is a writer who wants to reconnect human life with God and eternity. There is a deep piety in his writing. Any person of faith coming to his major work the Risale-i Nur (the Treatise of Light) cannot help admire the passion and manifest love for God pulsating through the text. Nursi writes movingly about seeing God in the creation; he is a spiritually sensitive thinker.
This is an invitation to those interested in interfaith dialogue to move beyond the “sociology” of dialogue to a real engagement with the other. The dialogue movement tends to avoid doctrinal differences. Instead we are told that the task of dialogue is simply to listen not to judge. This is an invitation to think of dialogue differently: let us “cross over” and seek to understand the thought of the other from the inside. Let us read the primary sources and understand the worldview. To make this possible, a Christian priest and professor has teamed up with a doctoral candidate and member of the Nur community to write this book. We wanted to model what we are after. Every sentence of this book is shared. We wanted to offer a compelling, accurate, portrait of this remarkable mind. This is our shared goal. Having done the exercise, we then have our own positions, which naturally are different from each other. However, we are both deeply committed to the exercise. We need to enter into each other’s worlds much more effectively. We need to be able to give an account of what each other thinks, which is fair, accurate, and respectful. This approach to interfaith dialogue is both more interesting and more productive.
We are now at the point where the journey should begin. We start by placing Said Nursi in context. We start with his remarkable life — a soldier, prisoner, political commentator, scholar of the Qur’an, and leader. It is to his life that we turn next.
An Introduction to Said Nursi (Repost)
Contemporary Islamic thinkers are often studied sociologically rather than as theologians. There are many accessible introductions to Christian theologians, but very few such studies of Islamic thinkers. This book, and this series, seeks to change this situation: offering new introductions to influential Islamic thinkers and engaging, at the level of ideas, with the rich depths of contemporary Islamic theology. This book introduces to the English-speaking world the leading modern Islamic thinker Said Nursi (1878-1960) - who has some nine million followers in modern day Turkey and around the world. After an opening chapter that provides an overview of his life, the next four chapters outline the theology of Nursi on God, the Qur'an, the West and Politics. The final section provides an invaluable resource of readings from Nursi's most important writings. Providing an introduction to a major form of Islam which is committed to non-violence, dialogue and constructive relationships with the West, this is the first student textbook to introduce a contemporary Islamic theologian in a systematic way.