Said Nursî

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Said-i Nursi
Said Nursi.jpg
Said Nursi in 1918
Born 1877[1]
Nurs,[2][3] Bitlis Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
Died 23 March 1960 (aged 82–83)[4]
Urfa, Turkey
Era 19th–20th century[5]
Region Anatolia
Creed Sunnite (Shafi'ite)
Main interest(s) Theology,[6] theosophy, tafsir,[6] Islamic fundamentalist revival[7]
Notable work(s) Risale-i Nur[8]

Said Nursî (Ottoman Turkish: بديع الزّمان سعيد النُّورسی‎; 1877[1] – 23 March 1960), commonly known as Bediüzzaman (Badi' al-Zaman),[12] was a Sunni Muslim theologian. He wrote the Risale-i Nur, a body of Qur'anic commentary exceeding six thousand pages.[13][14] He advocated teaching religion in secular schools and modern sciences in religious schools.[13][14][15]

Nursi inspired an Islamic movement[16][17] that has played a vital role in the revival of Islam in Turkey and now numbers several million followers worldwide.[18][19] His followers, often known as the "Nurcu" movement or the "Nur cemaat", often call him by the venerating mononymic Üstad ("the Master"). The most prominent off-shoot of this movement is the Gülen movement, led by the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen.[20]

Early life[edit]

Said Nursi was born in Nurs, a Kurdish village in the Bitlis Vilayet (province) of the Ottoman Empire, in eastern Anatolia.[21] He received his early education from scholars of his hometown, where he showed mastery in theological debates. After developing a reputation for Islamic knowledge, he was nicknamed "Bediuzzaman", meaning "The most unique and superior person of the time". He was invited by the governor of the Vilayet of Van to stay within his residency.[citation needed] In the governor's library, Nursî gained access to an archive of scientific knowledge he had not had access to previously. Said Nursi also learned the Ottoman Turkish language there. During this time, he developed a plan for university education for the Eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire.[citation needed] By combining scientific and religious (Islamic) education, the university was expected to advance the philosophical thoughts of these regions. However, he was put on trial in 1909 for his apparent involvement in the Ottoman countercoup of 1909 against the progressive Committee of Union and Progress, but he was later acquitted and released.[22] He was active during the late Ottoman Caliphate as an educational reformer and advocate of the unity of the Ottoman peoples under the Caliphate. He proposed educational reforms to Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, saying that he wanted to put the traditional Madrasah (seminary) training, Sufism (tasawwuf) and the modern sciences in dialogue with each other.[6][23]

During World War I, he was a member of the Special Organization of the Ottoman Empire.[24] Said Nursi was taken to Russia as a prisoner of war, where he spent over 2 years. He escaped from a Russian camp in the spring of 1918 and made his way to Istanbul.[25] His return welcomed in Istanbul[by whom?] and he was chosen to be a member of Dar-al Hikmat al-Islamiye, an Islamic academy seeking solution for growing problems of ummah.[16]

The modernizing leader of the newly-founded Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, offered Said Nursi the position of "general preacher" for the eastern provinces of Turkey, but Nursi did not accept.[26][27] This was the beginning of his split from Atatürk's ideology and reforms, although Said Nursi had a relatively friendly relationship with fellow ethnic Kurd Abdullah Cevdet, despite the vast difference between Said Nursi's fundamentalist religiosity and Avdullah Cevdet's distaste for institutionalized religion and advocacy for secularism.[28]

After arriving in Istanbul, Said Nursi declared: "I shall prove and demonstrate to the world that the Quran is an undying, inexhaustible Sun!", setting out to write his comprehensive Risale-i Nur, a collection of Said Nursi's own commentaries and interpretations of the Quran, as well as writings about his own life. In Risale-i Nur, Said Nursi claimed a personal level of closeness to God.

Distribution of works and movement[edit]

Said Nursi wearing traditional Kurdish clothes

Said Nursi was exiled to the conservative Isparta Province for his public denouncements of the modernization reforms in Turkey.[29] After his teachings attracted some people in the area, the governor of Isparta sent him to a village named Barla.[30] These manuscripts were sent to Sav, another village in the region, where people duplicated them in Arabic script (which was officially replaced by the modern Turkish alphabet in 1928).[29] After being finished, these books were sent to Nursi's disciples all over Turkey via the "Nurcu postal system".[citation needed] Said Nursi's activities were intended to provide an "Islamic answer" to the "attacks" of Westernization and secularization on the Ottoman Empire and Turkey. When the leadership of Turkey came into the hands of Mustafa Kemal and his supporters at the founding of the Republic in 1923, however, the drive for Westernization received a strong impetus, to the dismay of Said Nursi.

Said Nursi considered the "true enemies" of civilization to be "materialism and atheism". He described atheism as "corrupt" and said that Sufism was beneficial in that it advocated a mystical, rather than rational, belief in religion.[16] Because mystical belief could not falsified or refuted by modern science or rational argument, one's belief in religion could not be "shaken" by what Said Nursi said were "attacks on Islam" by the modern and secular philosophies of Western powers.[16]

In order to be able to pursue this "jihad of the word", Said Nursi insisted that his students avoid any use of force and disruptive action. Through "positive action", and the maintenance of public order and security, the supposed damage caused by the "forces of unbelief" could be repaired by the "healing" truths of the Quran.[31]

Later life[edit]

In the last decade of his life, Said Nursi settled in the city of Isparta. After the introduction of the multi-party system, he advised his followers to vote for the Democratic Party of Adnan Menderes, which gained the support of the rural and conservative populations. Said Nursî was a staunch anti-Communist, denouncing Communism as the greatest danger of the time. In 1956, he was allowed to have his writings printed. His books are collected under the name Risale-i Nur ("Letters of Divine Light").

He died of exhaustion after travelling to Urfa.[32] He was buried in a tomb, which according to some Muslims was the shrine of the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham).[33][34] After the military coup d'état in Turkey in 1960, a group of soldiers led by the later far right-wing politician Alparslan Türkeş opened his grave and buried him at an unknown place near Isparta during July 1960.[35] His followers are reported to have found his grave after years of searching in the area, and supposedly took his remains to a secret place in an effort to protect his body.[citation needed]

n order to be able to pursue this "jihad of the word", Said Nursi insisted that his students avoid any use of force and disruptive action. Through "positive action", and the maintenance of public order and security, the supposed damage caused by the "forces of unbelief" could be repaired by the "healing" truths of the Quran.[31]

Criticism[edit]

Said Nursî's teachings have been criticized by various people from different parts of society. The Quranist writer Edip Yüksel has accused Nursî of preaching on scientific subjects despite lacking any scientific education.[36][37][38] Additionally, the writer İhsan Eliaçık has criticized Nursî for describing the Islamic prophet Muhammad in an exaggerated light while preaching to the masses.[39]

Said Nursî has also been criticized for claiming personal witness of supernatural events, such as personally claiming to be the reincarnated form of previous versions of himself.[40][41]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Sukran Vahide, Islam in Modern Turkey: An Intellectual Biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p 3. ISBN 0791482979
  2. ^ A documentary about his village Nurs (in Turkish)
  3. ^ Ian Markham, Globalization, Ethics and Islam: The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Introduction, xvii
  4. ^ Ian Markham, Engaging with Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: A Model of Interfaith Dialogue, p 4. ISBN 0754669319
  5. ^ Islam in Modern Turkey, Sukran Vahide (Suny Press, 2005)
  6. ^ a b c d Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone, Mahan Mirza, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, p482
  7. ^ Robert W. Hefner, Sharia Politics: Islamic Law and Society in the Modern World, p 170. ISBN 0253223105
  8. ^ Al-Mathnawi Al-Nuri, Introduction
  9. ^ a b c David Livingstone, Black Terror White Soldiers: Islam, Fascism and the New Age, p. 568. ISBN 1481226509
  10. ^ M. Hakan Yavuz, John L. Esposito, Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gülen Movement, p 6
  11. ^ Juan Eduardo Campo, Encyclopedia of Islam, p 268. ISBN 1438126964
  12. ^ From Said Nursi's Life: Birth and Early Childhood
  13. ^ a b Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone, Mahan Mirza, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, p. 482. ISBN 0691134847
  14. ^ a b Ian S. Markham; Suendam Birinci; Suendam Birinci Pirim (2011). An Introduction to Said Nursi: Life, Thought and Writings. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, p 194. ISBN 978-1-4094-0770-6.
  15. ^ Said Nursi, Munazarat, p. 86 “The religious sciences are the light of the conscience; the modern sciences are the light of the mind; only on the combining of the two does the truth emerge. The students’ aspiration will take flight with those two wings. When they are parted, it gives rise to bigotry in the one, and skepticism and trickery in the other.”
  16. ^ a b c d Ian S. Markham; Suendam Birinci; Suendam Birinci Pirim (2011). An Introduction to Said Nursi: Life, Thought and Writings. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-4094-0770-6. 
  17. ^ Emma Tarlo; Annelies Moors (15 August 2013). Islamic Fashion and Anti-Fashion: New Perspectives from Europe and North America. A&C Black. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-85785-336-3. 
  18. ^ Sukran Vahide, Islam in Modern Turkey: An Intellectual Biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. 425. ISBN 0791482979
  19. ^ An article from First Things
  20. ^ Omer Aslan (9 January 2014). "Politics behind Turkey graft probe". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 20 January 2014. "To make things worse for the Gulen movement, the rest of the Nurcu community, with which the Gulen movement is related, took a stance against them as well. A cursory skim of discussions on social media demonstrates the widening rift within the Nurcus now, so much so that many Nurcu groups including Said Nursi's students accuse Gulen betraying the true, non-political ideals of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi." 
  21. ^ Vahide, Şükran (2005). Islam in modern Turkey: an intellectual biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. SUNY Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-7914-6515-8. "They [Said Nursî's parents] were among the settled Kurdish population of the geographical region the Ottomans called Kurdistan." 
  22. ^ David Livingstone, Black Terror White Soldiers: Islam, Fascism and the New Age, p. 568-569. ISBN 1481226509
  23. ^ David Tittensor, The House of Service: The Gulen Movement and Islam's Third Way, p 35. ISBN 0199336415
  24. ^ Hakan Özoğlu, Osmanlı Devleti ve Kürt Milliyetçiliği, Kitap Yayinevi Ltd., 2005, ISBN 978-975-6051-02-3, p. 146.
  25. ^ Andrew Rippin and Zeki Saritoprak, The Islamic World, Chapter 33, p. 398
  26. ^ David Livingstone, Black Terror White Soldiers: Islam, Fascism and the New Age, p. 569. ISBN 1481226509
  27. ^ Vahide, Şükran (2005). Islam in modern Turkey: an intellectual biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-6515-8. "He offered Nursi Shaikh Sanusi’s post as ‘general preacher’ in the Eastern Provinces with a salary of 300 liras, a deputyship in the Assembly, and a post equivalent to that he had held in the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye, together with various perks such as a residence. Part 1;Childhood and Early Life,chapter 8" 
  28. ^ Martin van Bruinessen Vom Osmanismus zum Separatismus: Religiöse und ethnische Hintergründe der Rebellion des Scheich Said (PDF; 260 kB), S. 18
  29. ^ a b David McDowall (14 May 2004). A Modern History of the Kurds: Third Edition. I.B.Tauris. pp. 210–211. ISBN 978-1-85043-416-0. 
  30. ^ Şükran Vahide, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. 230. ISBN 967506286X
  31. ^ a b Ian Markham; İbrahim Özdemir (1 January 2005). Globalization, Ethics and Islam: The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-7546-5015-7. 
  32. ^ Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi, Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and Thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. xxiv. ISBN 0791457001
  33. ^ Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi, Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and Thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. xxiii. ISBN 0791457001
  34. ^ Ian S. Markham; Suendam Birinci; Suendam Birinci Pirim (2011). An Introduction to Said Nursi: Life, Thought and Writings. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, p 17. ISBN 978-1-4094-0770-6.
  35. ^ Nursi's Letters Found in Yassiada Archives, Zaman
  36. ^ http://19.org/tr/2245/nurcular/
  37. ^ http://19.org/tr/3785/said-nursi-2/
  38. ^ http://19.org/tr/4150/tokat/
  39. ^ http://www.ihsaneliacik.com/2010/03/soylesi-haberaleminet.html
  40. ^ http://www.islamkutuphanesi.com/turkcekitap/online/saidinursi_gercegi/
  41. ^ Prof. Abdülaziz Bayındır (9 July 2008). "Kur’an Işığında Cemaatçilik 7". Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Muslim scholars of Islam at Wikimedia Commons
  • SaidNur.com A comprehensive page about Said Nursi and Risale-i Nur Collection in many languages
  • Suffa Vakfi Said Nursi-based Organization.
  • Risale-i Nur
  • [2] A web page including Risale-i Nur Collection in various languages
  • [3] A web page including Risale-i Nur Collection in English
  • NursiStudies Academic Researches on Said Nursi
  • [4] A letter about ban of Risale-i Nur Collection to President of Russia Medvedev