Said Nursi in 1918
Nurs, Bitlis Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
|Died||23 March 1960 (aged 82–83)
|Main interest(s)||Theology, Theosophy, Tafsir, Revival of Faith|
|Notable work(s)||Risale-i Nur|
Said Nursî (Ottoman Turkish: سعيد النُّورسی; 1877 – 23 March 1960), also spelled Said-i Nursî, officially Said Okur and commonly known with the honorific Bediüzzaman (بديع الزّمان, Badī' al-Zamān), was a Kurdish Sunni Muslim theologian. He wrote the Risale-i Nur Collection, a body of Qur'anic commentary exceeding six thousand pages. 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.
Nursi inspired a faith movement that has played a vital role in the revival of Islam in Turkey and now numbers several millions of followers world wide. His followers, often known as the "Nurcu" movement or the "Nur cemaat", often call him by the venerating mononymic Üstad ("the Master").
Said Nursi was born in Nurs, a Kurdish village in the Bitlis Vilayet (province) of the Ottoman Empire, in eastern Anatolia. 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. 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. 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 liberal reform movement named the Committee of Union and Progress, but he was acquitted and released. He was active during the late Ottoman Caliphate as an educational reformer and advocate of the unity of the peoples of the Caliphate. He proposed educational reforms to the Ottoman Sultan AbdulHamid aiming to put the traditional Madrasah (seminary) training, Sufism (tasawwuf) and the modern sciences in dialogue with each other.
During World War I, he was a member of the Special Organization of the Ottoman Empire. 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. His return welcomed in Istanbul and he was chosen to be a member of Dar-al Hikmat al-Islamiye, an Islamic academy seeking solution for growing problems of ummah
Bediüzzaman was a worrying-enough influence for the incipient leader of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, to deem it necessary to seek to control him by offering him the position of ‘Minister of Religious Affairs’ for the eastern provinces of Turkey, a post that Nursi famously refused. This was the beginning of his split from the Kemalist Ideology, although Said Nursi had a relatively friendly relationship with fellow ethnic Kurd Abdullah Cevdet, despite the vast difference between Said Nursi's religiosity and Avdullah Cevdet's distaste for institutionalized religion and advocacy for secularism.
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
Said Nursi was exiled to the Isparta Province for, amongst other things, performing the call to prayer in the Arabic language. After his teachings attracted people in the area, the governor of Isparta sent him to a village named Barla where he wrote two-thirds of his Risale-i Nur. 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). After being finished, these books were sent to Nursi's disciples all over Turkey via the "Nurcu postal system". Nursi repeatedly stated that all the persecutions and hardships inflicted on him by the secularist regime were God's blessings and that having destroyed the formal religious establishment, they had unwittingly left popular Islam as the only authentic faith of the Turks.
Besides these powerful writings themselves, a major factor in the success of the movement may be attributed to the very method Bediuzzaman had chosen, which may be summarized with two phrases: 'mânevî jihad,' that is, 'jihad of the word' or 'non-physical jihad', and 'positive action.' For Bediuzzaman considered the true enemies in this age of science, reason, and civilization to be materialism and atheism, and their source, materialist philosophy. Thus just as he combated and 'utterly defeated' these with the reasoned proofs of the Risale-i Nur, so through strengthening the belief of Muslims and raising it to the level of 'true, verified belief,' the Risale-i Nur was the most effective barrier against the corruption of society caused by these enemies. In order to be able to pursue this 'jihad of the word,' Bediuzzaman insisted that his students avoided 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. Said Nursi lived much of his life in prison and in exile, persecuted by the secularist state for having invested in religious revival.
Alarmed by the growing popularity of Nursi's teachings, which had spread even among the intellectuals and the military officers, the government wrongly arrested him for allegedly violating laws mandating secularism and sent him to exile. He was acquitted of all these charges in 1956.
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 had restored some religious freedom. 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. He was buried in a tomb which according to some Muslims is the shrine of prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). After the military coup d'état in Turkey in 1960, a group of soldiers led by the later extreme right-wing politician Alparslan Türkeş opened his grave and buried him at an unknown place near Isparta during July 1960 in order to prevent popular veneration. His followers are reported to have found his grave after years of searching in the area, and took his remains to a secret place in an effort to protect his body from further disturbance.
- Sukran Vahide, Islam in Modern Turkey: An Intellectual Biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p 3. ISBN 0791482979
- A documentary about his village Nurs (in Turkish)
- Ian Markham, Globalization, Ethics and Islam: The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Introduction, xvii
- Ian Markham, Engaging with Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: A Model of Interfaith Dialogue, p 4. ISBN 0754669319
- Islam in Modern Turkey, Sukran Vahide (Suny Press, 2005)
- Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone, Mahan Mirza, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, p482
- Robert W. Hefner, Shari?a Politics: Islamic Law and Society in the Modern World, p 170. ISBN 0253223105
- Al-Mathnawi Al-Nuri, Introduction
- David Livingstone, Black Terror White Soldiers: Islam, Fascism and the New Age, p. 568. ISBN 1481226509
- M. Hakan Yavuz, John L. Esposito, Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gülen Movement, p 6
- Juan Eduardo Campo, Encyclopedia of Islam, p 268. ISBN 1438126964
- Bediüzzaman ve Risale-i Nur Hizmeti
- From Said Nursi's Life: Birth and Early Childhood
- Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone, Mahan Mirza, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, p. 482. ISBN 0691134847
- 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.
- 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.”
- Omer Taspinar, Kurdish Nationalism and Political Islam in Turkey: Kemalist Identity in Transition (Middle East Studies: History, Politics & Law), p. 228. ISBN 041594998X
- Serif Mardin, Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey: The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. 23. ISBN 0887069967
- Sukran Vahide, Islam in Modern Turkey: An Intellectual Biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. 425. ISBN 0791482979
- An article from First Things
- Vahide, Sükran (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.
- David Livingstone, Black Terror White Soldiers: Islam, Fascism and the New Age, p. 568-569. ISBN 1481226509
- David Tittensor, The House of Service: The Gulen Movement and Islam's Third Way, p 35. ISBN 0199336415
- Hakan Özoglu, Osmanli Devleti ve Kürt Milliyetçiligi, Kitap Yayinevi Ltd., 2005, ISBN 978-975-6051-02-3, p. 146.
- Andrew Rippin and Zeki Saritoprak, The Islamic World, Chapter 33, p. 398
- Ian S. Markham; Suendam Birinci; Suendam Birinci Pirim (2011). An Introduction to Said Nursi: Life, Thought and Writings. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-4094-0770-6.
- David Tittensor, The House of Service: The Gulen Movement and Islam's Third Way, p 37. ISBN 0199336415
- David Livingstone, Black Terror White Soldiers: Islam, Fascism and the New Age, p. 569. ISBN 1481226509
- Vahide, Sükran (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
- Martin van Bruinessen Vom Osmanismus zum Separatismus: Religiöse und ethnische Hintergründe der Rebellion des Scheich Said (PDF; 260 kB), S. 18
- 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.
- Sükran Vahide, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. 230. ISBN 967506286X
- Bosworth, C.E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W.P.; Lecomte, G. (1995). Encyclopaedia of Islam (New Edition). Volume VIII (Ned-Sam). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill. p. 144. ISBN 9004098348.
- Ian S. Markham, Engaging with Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: A Model of Interfaith Dialogue, p 15 [Quoting Sukrane Vahide, The Biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: the author of the Risale-i Nur (Istanbul, Sozler Publications 1992), p. 352]. ISBN 0754669319
- Arvind Sharma, The World's Religions After September 11. p 92. ISBN 0275996212
- Ian S. Markham, Suendam Birinci, Suendam Birinci Pirim, An Introduction to Said Nursi: Life, Thought and Writings. p 46. ISBN 1409407713
- Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone, Mahan Mirza, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, p482.
- Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi, Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and Thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. xxiv. ISBN 0791457001
- Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi, Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and Thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. xxiii. ISBN 0791457001
- 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.
- Nursi's Letters Found in Yassiada Archives, Zaman
- Yes to 27th May No to 28th (in Turkish), Turkish Newspaper Yeni Şafak, 16th August 2003, last accessed 17th June 2014
- Camilla T. Nereid (1997). In the Light of Said Nursi: Turkish Nationalism and the Religious Alternative. Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, University of Bergen. ISBN 978-1-85065-309-7.
- Sahiner, Necmettin, Son Sahitler 3, Nesil Yayinlari, 2004.
- Sukran Vahide (16 February 2012). Islam in Modern Turkey: An Intellectual Biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-8297-1.
- Ian S. Markham; Suendam Birinci; Suendam Birinci Pirim (2011). An Introduction to Said Nursi: Life, Thought and Writings. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 978-1-4094-0770-6.
- Angel Rabasa; F. Stephen Larrabee (17 June 2008). The Rise of Political Islam in Turkey. Rand Corporation. ISBN 978-0-8330-4531-7.
- Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi‘ (9 April 2003). Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and Thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-5700-9.
- Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi‘ (24 July 2008). Spiritual Dimensions of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi's Risale-I Nur: The Supreme Court of Israel and the Occupied Territories. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-7815-8.
- Fred A. Reed (1 January 1999). Anatolia Junction: A Journey Into Hidden Turkey. Talonbooks, Limited. ISBN 978-0-88922-426-1.
- Thomas F. Michel (2003). Reflections on Said Nursî's Views on Muslim-Christian Understanding. Söz Basim Yayin. ISBN 978-975-6438-02-2.
- Thomas F. Michel (2013). Insights from the Risale-i Nur: Said Nursi's Advice for Modern Believers Clifton, NJ: Tughra Books ISBN 978-1597846783
- Serif Mardin (1989). Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey: The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-88706-996-3.
- Ibrahim Kalin; Oxford University Press (1 May 2010). Islam in Turkey: Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guide. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-980651-5.
- Sahin, Mustafa Gökhan, Said Nursi and the Nur Movement in Turkey: An Atomistic Approach 
- Colin Turner; Hasan Horkuc (15 June 2009). Said Nursi: Makers of Islamic Civilization. I. B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-774-0.
- 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
-  A web page including Risale-i Nur Collection in various languages
-  A web page including Risale-i Nur Collection in English
- NursiStudies Academic Researches on Said Nursi
-  A letter about ban of Risale-i Nur Collection to President of Russia Medvedev