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Said Nursî

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Said-i Nursi
Üstad • Bediüzzaman
Said Nursi
Died23 March 1960 (aged 82–83)[7]
  • Sofi Mirza (father)
  • Nuriye Hanım (mother)
Era19th–20th century[4]
Main interest(s)Theology,[8] Tafsir,[8] Revival of Faith[9] Kalam, Eloquence
Muslim leader
SuccessorAhmet Husrev Altınbaşak[10]

Said Nursi (Ottoman Turkish: سعيد نورسی, Kurdish: سەعید نوورسی, romanized: Seîdê Nursî‎; 1877[1] – 23 March 1960), also spelled Said-i Nursî or Said-i Kurdî,[13][14] and commonly known with the honorifics Bediüzzaman (meaning "wonder of the age") and Üstad (meaning "master")[15] among his followers, was a Kurdish Sunni Muslim theologian who wrote the Risale-i Nur Collection, a body of Qur'anic commentary exceeding six thousand pages.[16][17] 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.[16][17][18]

Nursi inspired a religious movement[19][20] that has played a vital role in the revival of Islam in Turkey and now numbers several millions of followers worldwide.[21][22] His followers, often known as the "Nurcu movement" or the "Nur cemaati".[23] In a 2008 publication Nurcu worldwide adherents were estimated at 5 to 6 millions with numbers going up to 9 millions, with around 5500 dershanes or study halls where adherents would read Nursi’s writings collectively.[24]

Nursi categorizes his life as 3 periods: The first period he calls as "Old Said" which he describes as the period when he was actively involved in politics and believed he could serve Islam through politics. This period is from his birth until early 1920's coinciding with the aftermath of World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire. This period of upheaval caused Nursi to undergo a deep personal transformation. In the "New Said" period he entirely abstained from politics, and focused on writing Risale-i Nur collection using reasoning to demonstrate truth of Islam. Most of this period he spent in jail and exile. This period ended when he was released from Afyon prison in 1949. From 1949 till his death in 1960 he considers as "3rd Said" period when he experienced relative freedom which coincides with the first democratic elections in Turkey.[25]

"Old Said" Period


Early life


Said Nursi was born in the Kurdish village of Nurs near Hizan in the Bitlis Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire.[5] His father Mirza and his mother Nuriye both were Ahl al-Bayt (lineage of the Islamic prophet Muhammad).[26]

After staying with his brother for some time Said came back to Siirt. He went to the madrasa of Mullah Fathullah. Mullah Fathullah mentioned to Said that he[Said] was reading "Süyûtî" last year and asked whether he is reading "Mullah Jâmî" this year. Said responded that he finished Mullah Jami and many other books. Said was able to answer all questions from whatever book Mullah Fathullah asked. Mullah Fathullah was amazed by his intelligence.

Said was able to recite many books from memory. For instance: "So then he [Molla Fathullah] decided to test his memory and handed him a copy of the work by Al-Hariri of Basra (1054–1122) — also famous for his intelligence and power of memory — called Maqamat al-Hariri. Said read one page once, memorized it, then repeated it by heart. Molla Fathullah expressed his amazement."[27]

This news spread throughout Siirt. Mullah Fathullah said to the scholars, "A young student came to my school and answered every question I asked him. I am amazed by the wisdom and knowledge he has attained at such a young age!". After this, scholars of Siirt gave him the title "Bediuzzaman" meaning "Wonder of the Age".[28]

When he was 13–14 years old he completed the entire madrasa curriculum in 3 months, (there were more than a hundred books in the madrasa curriculum), which normally takes 10–15 years to complete. Said’s approach was to rely on the teacher , only to understand the key ideas of each book then to master whatever remained in the book with self-study.[28]

Said Nursi with his nephew and student Abdurrahman

Later on, he was invited by the governor of the Vilayet of Van to stay within his residency.[29] In the library of the governor, Nursi gained access to an archive of scientific knowledge he had not had access to previously. He studied the principles of history, geography, mathematics, geology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, and philosophy during his stay, besides Islamic sciences. He also memorized the books he studied, these are 90 books.[30][citation needed] Said Nursi also learned the Ottoman Turkish language there.[citation needed] During this time, he developed a plan to establish a university in the Eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire,[31] which he named as "Madrasat-uz Zahra" which would combine scientific and religious (Islamic) education, and expected to advance overall education of these regions. He was able to secure 19 000 golds as funding for this project from the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V and the construction started in 1913, but after the World War I started the project became void.[32]

Enraged by a newspaper report claiming that William Gladstone, the British Secretary for Colonies, stated in the parliament: "so long as the Muslims have the Qur’an we shall be unable to dominate them. We must either take it from them or make them lose their love of it." Said allegedly declared: "I shall prove and demonstrate to the world that the Quran is an undying, inexhaustible Sun!",[33] and set out to write his comprehensive Risale-i Nur, a collection of Said Nursi's own commentaries and interpretations of the Quran and Islam, as well as writings about his own life.[34]

Nursî and World War I


After World War I started, Russia attacked the Eastern part of Turkey. Nursî with his students established a volunteer brigade to resist the invasion.[35] In the First World War, he would enter the trenches himself despite heavy shelling which earned him the admiration of the troops he commanded. It was during these experiences that he allegedly wrote his Quranic commentary, Isharatul Icaz dictating to a scribe while on horseback or when he was back in trenches.[36] During a combat day, he broke his leg and was forced to surrender to Russian forces. He was taken prisoner by the Russian forces and spent 2.5 years in the Kostroma prisoner camp in the North-East of Moscow. During his imprisonment, one day the Russian Commander-in-Chief Nicolai Nicolaevich came to inspect the camp. He walked in front of him but Nursî didn't stand up, unlike the other prisoners. He walked again but Nursî didn't pay any attention to Nicolaevich. Nicolaevich asked him whether he knew who he was. Nursî said that he knew who he was, but because he is a Muslim scholar and a person with faith is superior to a person without, he couldn't stand up, that would be disrespecting his own faith. Russian martial court ordered his execution. He asked to do his last prayer before the execution. After a couple of minutes, they took him and tried to blindfold him, which he refused, claiming that he wants to look at paradise. Nicolaevich admired the brave attitude of him and understood that his intention was not to insult him, his behavior was just self respect. Nicolaevich immediately ordered to stop the execution and asked for forgiveness from him. Later on, he was allowed to stay in a Tatar mosque nearby. [37] After some time he found a way to escape from the Russian camp. He traveled to Istanbul via Warsaw, Berlin, Vienna, and Sofia. He was welcomed as a hero in Istanbul.[38]

Nursi's Opposition of British Invasion of Istanbul


In the aftermath of WWI, with Istanbul under foreign occupation, Nursi became a vocal critic. He exposed foreign powers manipulating religious leaders to undermine the nascent National Independence Movement in Anatolia. The Ottoman government, pressured by the British, even issued a fatwa opposing the movement. Undeterred, Nursi publicly challenged this fatwa and called it invalid.[39]

"New Said" Period


Teachings and movement


Humanity faced the greatest corruption of this period and the danger of unbelief, which was the greatest threat to humanity.[citation needed] Therefore, according to him, the greatest service in this period was the service of saving people's faith, and Risale-i Nur, who did this duty properly.[40] His commentary argues that the Quran encompasses the knowledge which allows for modern science.[41]

Risale-i Nur addresses the fundamental questions of human existence, such as the existence of God, the nature of the soul, and the purpose of life. It does so in a way that is both intellectually stimulating and spiritually uplifting. Risale-i Nur does not rely on blind faith or mysticism. Instead, it uses reason and logic to demonstrate the truths of belief. This makes it accessible to people of all backgrounds and beliefs.[41]

In Risale-i Nur he explains that if you see a painting you should assume the painter. A painting cannot exist without a painter. Nature is art and not the Artist. There is a hidden hand in every creation. The extraordinary abilities of animals (like cows producing fundamental nutrients for humans from converting raw grass, trees doing photosynthesis to produce sugar and carrying water to 200 feet high leaves, trees growing from a tiny seed) cannot be attributed to them but to their Creator. He uses analogies, reasoning and logic to prove God's existence.[42] According to Nursî all systems in the universe are interrelated. The designer of the Galaxies must be the designer of the Earth, human beings and all other creation. According to him "the One who created the eye of the mosquito must be the One who created the Sun"[43]

According to him, the Muslim World had 3 enemies: Ignorance, Poverty, and Division. To defeat these 3 enemies Muslims should use 3 weapons: Education, Art, and Unity.[44]

Besides the Risale-i Nur, a major factor in the success of the movement may be attributed to the very method Nursi had chosen, which may be summarized with two phrases: 'mânevî jihad,' that is, 'spiritual jihad' or 'non-physical jihad', and 'positive action.'[45][46] Nursi considered materialism and atheism and their source materialist philosophy to be his true enemies in this age of science, reason, and civilization.[47][48] He combated them with reasoned proofs in the Risale-i Nur, considering the Risale-i Nur as the most effective barrier against the corruption of society caused by these enemies. In order to be able to pursue this 'spiritual jihad' Nursi 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 (over 20 years), persecuted by the secularist state for having invested in religious revival.[49] He advised his students to focus on spreading Risale-i Nur books and teaching people about them even when they were in jail. And most of the Risale-i Nur collection were written when he was in exile or jail.[50]

In 1911 when he was asked what he thinks about the idea of appointing Armenians as Governors in Ottoman States, he responded that there is no harm of doing this as there is no harm of Armenians being engineers, watchmakers [51]

Nursi's influence concerned the incipient leader of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,[52] which lead to Atatürk offering Nursi the post ‘Minister of Religious Affairs" for the eastern provinces of Turkey in attempt to make sure Nursi would not oppose Atatürk's regime, a post that Nursi famously refused.[53][54] Said Nursi was exiled to the Isparta Province for, amongst other things, performing the call to prayer in the Arabic language.[55] After his teachings attracted people in the area, the governor of Isparta sent him to a village named Barla[56] where he wrote two-thirds of his Risale-i Nur.[57] 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).[55][57] After being finished, these books were sent to Nursi's disciples all over Turkey via the "Nurcu postal system".[58] 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.[57]

The period believed to be the "golden age of Mahdi" will come in the future, and after this period that will last 30–40 years, irreligion will prevail again. According to him, the Doomsday may fall on the heads of the atheists in the Hijri calendar between 1530 and 1540.[59]

Later life ("3rd Said " Period)


Alarmed by the growing popularity of Nursi's teachings, which had spread even among the intellectuals and the military officers, the government arrested him for allegedly violating laws mandating secularism and sent him to exile.[citation needed] He was acquitted of all these charges in 1956.[57]

In the last decade of his life, Said Nursi settled in the city of Isparta.[citation needed] 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.[57] Said Nursi 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.[60] He was buried in a tomb opposite the cave where prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) is widely believed to have been born.[61][62] After the military coup d'état in Turkey in 1960, a group of soldiers led by the later 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.[63][64]


Published in 1999, Fred Reed's travelogue describes a journey around Turkey in the footsteps of Said Nursi.[65]

A Turkish film Free Man based on Nursi's biography was made in 2011.[66]

See also



  1. ^ a b Şükran Vahide, Islam in Modern Turkey: An Intellectual Biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p 3. ISBN 0791482979
  2. ^ "Bediüzzaman Said Nursi'nin köyü Nurs, TRT'de" – via vimeo.com.
  3. ^ Ian Markham, Globalization, Ethics and Islam: The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Introduction, xvii
  4. ^ Islam in Modern Turkey, Şükran Vahide (Suny Press, 2005)
  5. ^ a b 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.
  6. ^ Ozgur, Koca. Said Nursi's Synthesis of Ash'arite Occasionalism and Ibn 'Arabi's Metaphysical Cosmology: "Diagonal Occasionalism," Modern Science", and "Free Will". UMI Dissertations Publishing. p. 217. ISBN 9781303619793.
  7. ^ Ian Markham, Engaging with Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: A Model of Interfaith Dialogue, p 4. ISBN 0754669319
  8. ^ a b Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone, Mahan Mirza, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, p482
  9. ^ Robert W. Hefner, Shari?a Politics: Islamic Law and Society in the Modern World, p 170. ISBN 0253223105
  10. ^ https://oku.risale.online/sualar/ondorduncu-sua#533
  11. ^ a b c David Livingstone, Black Terror White Soldiers: Islam, Fascism and the New Age, p. 568. ISBN 1481226509
  12. ^ M. Hakan Yavuz, John L. Esposito, Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gülen Movement, p. 6
  13. ^ Janet Klein (2011). The Margins of Empire: Kurdish Militias in the Ottoman Tribal Zone. pp. 106 & 116.
  14. ^ Şükran Vahide (2019). Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: Author of the Risale-i Nur. The Other Press. p. 195.
  15. ^ "nur.org". www.nur.org.
  16. ^ a b Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone, Mahan Mirza, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, p. 482. ISBN 0691134847
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ 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."
  19. ^ Omer Taspinar, Kurdish Nationalism and Political Islam in Turkey: Kemalist Identity in Transition (Middle East Studies: History, Politics & Law), p. 228. ISBN 041594998X
  20. ^ Serif Mardin, Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey: The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. 23. ISBN 0887069967
  21. ^ Şükran Vahide, Islam in Modern Turkey: An Intellectual Biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. 425. ISBN 0791482979
  22. ^ Akyol, Mustafa (March 2007). "Render Unto Atatürk". First Things. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  23. ^ Balci, Bayram (June 2003). "Fethullah Gu¨len's Missionary Schools in Central Asia and their Role in the Spreading of Turkism and Islam". Religion, State and Society. 31 (2): 153. doi:10.1080/09637490308283. S2CID 145455130.
  24. ^ Banchoff, Thomas (2008). Religious Pluralism, Globalization, and World Politics. Oxford University Press. p. 237.
  25. ^ Balcı, Ramazan (2011). Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: "wonder of the age". Clifton, NJ: Tughra Books. p. 177. ISBN 978-1-59784-260-0.
  26. ^ "The Great Islamic Scholar". 17 September 2010.
  27. ^ Şükran Vahide. (2005). Islam in Modern Turkey. State University of New York Press, ISBN 0-7914-6515-2
  28. ^ a b Balcı, Ramazan (2011). Bediüzzaman Said Nursi "Wonder of the Age". Tughra Books. pp. 28–30. ISBN 978-1-59784-260-0.
  29. ^ Vahide, Şükran (2011). Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. Islamic Book Trust. p. 28. ISBN 978-967-5062-86-5.
  30. ^ "Books Bediuzzaman memorized".
  31. ^ İbrahim M. Abu-Rabi, ed. (2003). Islam at the crossroads: On the life and thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. SUNY Press. pp. xvii, 6. ISBN 978-0-7914-5700-9.
  32. ^ "Medresetu'z Zehra".
  33. ^ Vahide, Şükran (2005). Islam in modern Turkey: an intellectual biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. SUNY Press.
  34. ^ "Said Nursi'nin Yeşilay'ın kurucusu olduğu doğru mudur? Bu teşkilatın Kurtuluş Savaşı ile hiçbir ilgisinin olmadığı söylenmektedir. Buna ne dersiniz?" [Is it true that Said Nursi was the founder of the Green Crescent? It is said that this organization has nothing to do with the War of Independence. How about that?]. Sorularla Risale (in Turkish). 25 February 2012.
  35. ^ Balcı, Ramazan (2011). Bediüzzaman Said Nursi "Wonder of the Age". Tughra Books. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-59784-260-0.
  36. ^ Balcı, Ramazan (2011). Bediüzzaman Said Nursi "Wonder of the Age". Tughra Books. pp. 60–62. ISBN 978-1-59784-260-0.
  37. ^ Balcı, Ramazan (2011). Bediüzzaman Said Nursi "Wonder of the Age". Tughra Books. pp. 60–62. ISBN 978-1-59784-260-0.
  38. ^ Balci, Ramazan. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi "Wonder of the Age". pp. 67–68. ISBN 978-1-59784-260-0.
  39. ^ Balcı, Ramazan (2011). Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: "wonder of the age". Clifton, NJ: Tughra Books. pp. 67–68. ISBN 978-1-59784-260-0.
  40. ^ "SORU VE CEVAPLARLA RİSALE-İ NUR'DA MEHDİYET » Sorularla Risale". Sorularla Risale. 13 October 2010.
  41. ^ a b Slife (5 August 2012). "Slife". The Spiritual Life.
  42. ^ Nursi, Said. Flashes.
  43. ^ Nursi, Said. Masnawi-i Nuriye.
  44. ^ Tarihce-i Hayat. Sahdamar Yayinlari. p. 64. ISBN 978-605-4038-70-1.
  45. ^ Ian S. Markham, Engaging with Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: A Model of Interfaith Dialogue, p 15 [Quoting Şükran Vahide, The Biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: the author of the Risale-i Nur (Istanbul, Sozler Publications 1992), p. 352]. ISBN 0754669319
  46. ^ Arvind Sharma, The World's Religions After September 11. p 92. ISBN 0275996212
  47. ^ Ian S. Markham, Suendam Birinci, Suendam Birinci Pirim, An Introduction to Said Nursi: Life, Thought and Writings. p 46. ISBN 1409407713
  48. ^ Ziaulhaq, Mochamad; Sen, Hasbi (31 July 2021). "Transforming Hate into Compassion as an Islamic Nonviolent Thought of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi". Wawasan: Jurnal Ilmiah Agama Dan Sosial Budaya. 6 (1): 13–30. doi:10.15575/jw.v6i1.13159. ISSN 2502-3489. S2CID 237460737.
  49. ^ Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone, Mahan Mirza, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, p. 482.
  50. ^ Emirdag Lahikası, s.241
  51. ^ Nursi, Said. Munazarat.
  52. ^ David Tittensor, The House of Service: The Gulen Movement and Islam's Third Way, p 37. ISBN 0199336415
  53. ^ David Livingstone, Black Terror White Soldiers: Islam, Fascism and the New Age, p. 569. ISBN 1481226509
  54. ^ Vahide, Şükran (2005). Islam in modern Turkey: an intellectual biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. SUNY Press. 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
  55. ^ 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.
  56. ^ Şükran Vahide, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. 230. ISBN 967506286X
  57. ^ a b c d e Bosworth, C.E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W.P.; Lecomte, G. (1995). Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. VIII (Ned-Sam) (New ed.). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill. p. 144. ISBN 978-9004098343.
  58. ^ Awang, Ramli; Yusoff, Kamaruzaman; Ebrahimi, Mansoureh; Yilmaz, Omer (2015). "A Challenge from Teaching to Social Movement: Bediüzzaman Said Nursi's Struggles for Modification in Turkey". Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences. 6 (6): 446. doi:10.5901/mjss.2015.v6n6s1p444.
  59. ^ Kastamonu Lahikası, s.26
  60. ^ Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi, Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and Thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. xxiv. ISBN 0791457001
  61. ^ Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi, Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and Thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. xxiii. ISBN 0791457001
  62. ^ 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.
  63. ^ Nursi's Letters Found in Yassiada Archives Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Zaman
  64. ^ Yes to 27 May No to 28th (in Turkish), Yeni Şafak, 16 August 2003, Retrieved 17 June 2014
  65. ^ Reed, Fred (1999). Anatolia Junction: A Journey into Hidden Turkey (1st ed.). Talon Books. ISBN 978-0-88922-426-1.
  66. ^ "Free Man (2011)". IMDb.



Further reading