Imam Bediuzzaman Said Nursi gave tremendous service to the people of Turkey by protecting their faith under the harsh conditions of the former autocratic nationalist secular Republic of Turkey, handing down the Risale-i Nur collection and raising a generation with verified faith as a legacy to the community of Islam.
I intend to devote my article to ‘the service of Imam Bediuzzaman Said Nursi to the faith’ due to the fact that this year is the 52nd anniversary of his departure from this earthly life. Imam Rabbani, the mujaddid of the second millennium, reported the arrival of a great man within the Islamic disciplines thus, “a man will appear among the scholars of Kalam and he will demonstrate the truths of Islam and faith with the logical evidences of clear certainty”. Ahmed Husrev Efendi, Imam Nursi’s successor, was addressing him in his poem as, “Now, here is the genius that all centuries are waiting for”. (The Rays, p. 162) Before focusing on the service to the faith which this chevalier of guidance made, let us take a brief look at his early life, which was the preparation phase and foundation of this service.
Imam Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was born in 1877 (AH 1293) in Bitlis, a province in eastern Turkey. He had the mind and memory of a genius as a grace from Allah (SWT). He started his academic life when he was nine and he completed it at an extremely young age, as a fourteen year-old boy. Because of the swift and correct answers that he gave to the questions of the scholars, he was nicknamed ‘Bediuzzaman’ (‘the wonder of the age’). Meanwhile he learned the natural sciences on his own. Along with that high degree of knowledge that he had, he was loved and appreciated because of his life based on taqwa (piety), zuhd (distance from worldly pleasures) and the Sunnah (the prophet’s good morals). For fifteen years he had been a teaching scholar in a madrasa in Van, and then in 1908 when he was thirty, he went to Istanbul, the capital of the Ottomans. He submitted his project, which was called Madrasatu’z-Zahra, in which the religious disciplines and the natural sciences were taught together, to the palace. He stayed for three years in Istanbul. During this time he wrote books, as well as articles for daily newspapers, and organized conferences. Because of these activities he was held in high regard by scholars, statesmen and the general public.
He went to Damascus in 1911 and gave a sermon to an audience which included more than one hundred scholars. His sermon, in which he diagnosed the social and spiritual illnesses that the Islamic world was suffering from, was admired greatly and it was subsequently published under the name “The Damascus Sermon”.
He took part in World War I with his students fighting against the Russian armies which were occupying the eastern parts of Turkey. After fighting for two years, he was taken prisoner during occupation of Bitlis. He was kept prisoner in Kosturma, a region north-east of Moscow, for two years, and then he escaped in the summer of 1918 to Istanbul. He became a member of Dar’ul Hikmat’ul Islamiya, then a newly-founded unit within Religious Affairs. The purpose of the foundation of this unit, which was comprised of distinguished scholars of the time, was to offer spiritual solutions to the crisis that the state had recently got into. However, in these years the Ottomans had lost World War I, and the country had been occupied by the British, French, Italian and Greeks. The British were in Istanbul and Bediuzzaman wrote a pamphlet against occupation entitled The Six Steps. By distributing this pamphlet, he was trying to ruin the plots of the British who were working to get the occupation recognized by the people, and so it was decreed by the occupation authority that he should be shot dead on sight. Meanwhile, the independence war launched all throughout Turkey proved to be successful, yet a different kind of atmosphere began to form in the whole country. The materialistic ideas which had been getting more powerful in the latter years of the Ottoman times now found the opportunity of spreading even more. Imam Bediuzzaman, who had returned to Van by the end of the occupation, was stricken, since the spiritual life of the people was getting worse and worse. Upon his friends’ questioning him about the reasons for his sorrow, he responded: “I put up with my own personal griefs; yet the griefs that have been inflicted upon the Muslims have crushed me. I feel the blows that fall upon the Islamic world first in my own heart.” However, Imam Nursi never lost hope and continued seeking solutions from the Qur’an for the atheistic views that were becoming current.
In 1926, he was taken from his cave in which he secluded himself in Van and was exiled to Isparta by the political authority. Thus, a life of exile, prison and torture started which would last for 34 years. However, this life in exile was also the beginning of the great fight of faith, as during this period, he wrote and disseminated the Risale-i Nur collection, comprising 130 treatises, which are devoted to proving all the truths of faith and laying the foundations for a powerful belief,.
The service of Bediuzzaman to the Faith
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) warns the Muslims in the face of the great threat that will confront them in the End Times by saying: “Hasten to commit good deeds before the evil plots which are like the darknesses of night come to you. When these evil plots come, somebody may wake up as a Muslim, but becomes a nonbeliever by night-time. Someone who is a Muslim at nightfall may become a nonbeliever by morning; man will exchange his religion in return for some simple worldly interest.” (Muslim, Faith, 186; Tirmizi, Fitan, 30)
Imam Bediuzzaman concluded that the intense evils of the End Times had already started and he launched a spiritual fight against materialist atheistic views in order to defend and strengthen the faith. He had understood that the main reason for all social illnesses that we were experiencing in modern times was weakness of faith. Therefore, he devoted all his time to the struggle for faith and worked to encourage a true faith to spread in the society. Imam Nursi stressed in his books that it is difficult to hold onto an imitative faith which has just been inherited from parents in the face of such widespread doubts and aberrations, and thus it is vital for every Muslim to get their own verified faith, namely, one that comes through learning the truths of faith with their proofs. Thus, to strengthen the faith of people Imam Nursi offered many logical proofs in his works and published a lot of treatises which prove the existence and oneness of Allah, that the life of the hereafter is true, that Muhammad (PBUH) is a true Messenger of Allah, that the Qur’an is the Word of Allah, the existence of the angels, and that the Decree is true. He not only proved the truths of faith, but also refuted the principles of materialism and positivism with powerful logical proofs. The common characteristic of the proofs in the treatises is that they were originally taken from the Qur’an. The problem is out there and the solution is from the Qur’an, Bediuzzaman pointed out this fact. These Qur’anic proofs, which have a strong logical basis, were able to satisfy the hearts and feelings of people as well convincing their minds.
The Examples of Proofs of Faith
Now, let us try to present a bouquet of examples from the proofs of faith dealt with in Risale-i Nur. Two proofs of the creation of everything by Allah are as follows: Let us imagine that there are chemical ingredients in hundreds of phials in a medicine factory. Is it ever possible that the medicines in factories of this kind, which are comprised of precise amounts of ingredients, are formed by knocking over of the phials and spilling and coming together of the ingredients coincidentally? This clearly cannot be possible. In the same way, the variety of the chemical elements in the air, water and soil in the larger world laboratory cannot form the millions of living and non-living creatures by coming together purely by chance. Just as the formation of the medicines in the factory needs a specialist pharmacologist who has the right information and the ability to make medicines, in the same way the creation of a human being, a butterfly, or a flower, things which are much more complex than the medicine, is possible only through the limitless power and knowledge of Allah. (The Flashes, Treatise on Nature, p. 187)
To make another analogy;
Every village must have a headman, every needle, a manufacturer and craftsperson, and every letter, a writer. How could such a perfectly well-ordered land have no ruler? If a village must have a headman, of course, this universe also must have an eternal owner. If a needle and a letter must have a manufacturer, then the palace of this world, which is decorated with so many different kinds of beautiful things, must have a creator. (Zulfiqar, Treatise on Resurrection, p. 262)
The Prophet Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah
You know that a seemingly insignificant but harmful habit like cigarette smoking could only be removed permanently from a people by a powerful ruler and with great effort. But look! the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) removed numerous ingrained habits from intractable, fanatical peoples, habits such as drinking alcohol, committing adultery and burying their daughters alive, with only little outward power and in a short period of time, and in their place he so established exalted qualities such as a powerful faith, integrity, compassion, honesty and solidarity that these qualities became as firm as if they had mingled with their very blood. Those people whose hearts were so stifled that they were burying their own children alive turned into people who could not even cause damage to ants. He achieved many extraordinary feats like this. Thus we present the Arabian Peninsula as a challenge to those who refuse to see the testimony of the blessed age of the Prophet. Let them each take a hundred philosophers, go there, and strive for a hundred years, I wonder if they would be able to carry out in that time one hundredth of what he achieved in one year? Of course, one who was able to achieve such great social change with very limited power in a very short period of time could only be the Messenger of Allah.
The Resurrection and the Hereafter are True
Allah says in the Qur’an: “Then behold (O man!) The tokens of Allah’s Mercy! – how He gives life to the earth after its death: verily the same will give life to the dead: for He has power over all things.” (Rum, 30:50)
This verse is proving the resurrection by indicating the resurrection of plants in the spring. Though millions of species of plants and animals die and disappear in winter, they resurrect and reappear every spring. This pattern of the disappearing and reappearing of animals and plants cannot be just by chance and without an ultimate conscious decision. This is the work of Allah, who has limitless power and knowledge. He who resurrects all these living things every spring will resurrect mankind in the same way after doomsday. He will put those who did good deeds in Paradise and will punish those who disobeyed him with Hell as He has promised.
These analogies are just a few drops from a large sea. There are many more powerful and convincing proofs like these in Risale-i Nur, comprised of one hundred and thirty treatises. Imam Nursi triumphed over the materialism in Turkey, struggling for thirty-four years with these convincing proofs extracted from the Qur’an by the grace of Allah. The most obvious indicator of this fact is presence of millions of people whose faith was strengthened by reading his books. Furthermore, he said that these books destroyed the idea of unbelief coming from materialism in a way that it would never recover and they shattered the very basis of unbelief (The Flashes, Treatise on Nature, p. 185), and in fact not one of the unbelievers has been able to disprove the arguments in these treatises.
Imam Nursi relates the following in his treatise called ‘Windows’ about the efficiency of the methods included in Risale-i Nur, which he calls as a semantic interpretation of the Qur’an, and which was written through inspirations into his heart:
“God willing, this Thirty-Third Letter of Thirty-Three Windows will bring to belief those without belief, strengthen the belief of those whose belief is weak, make certain the belief of those whose belief is strong but imitative, give greater breadth to the belief of those whose belief is certain, lead to progress in knowledge of God – the basis and means of all true perfection – for those whose belief has breadth, and open up more brilliant vistas for them.”
The Consequence of the Service of Faith
Imam Bediuzzaman acted based on the principle ‘The time has come to act as a community,’ and from 1927 onwards, based mainly in Isparta, he was always surrounded by a group of believers who had a consciousness of a strong faith and loyalty to the Sunnah. Those people who acted with the hope, encouragement and excitement that they got from Risale-i Nur turned nearly all corners of the country into a school of Nur. The public prosecutor in the court in Afyon in 1948 claimed in his bill of indictment that Nursi had five hundred thousand followers. These followers were handcopying the treatises and thus spreading them everywhere (and this is now still going on). The service of Risale-i Nur to faith developed more and more after 1950 and it spread quickly to all areas and social strata in the society from the large masses to university students and academicians, from workers to bureaucrats. By the grace of Allah, millions of people have gained a strong faith and an awareness of leading a life within the borders of the Sunnah, and currently people are still benefitting from these treatises. Thanks be to Allah (SWT) that today Risale-i Nur has been translated into many important languages of the world and the translation process is still going on. Lots of people in non-Islamic countries have converted to Islam thanks to Risale-i Nur, because it addresses the logic of modern people and it answers their doubts. By will of Allah, Risale-i Nur will continue to enlighten the world and humanity, for as Imam Nursi said, it is a Qur’anic miracle which will enlighten our time and the future.
Imam Bediuzzaman Said Nursi passed away in 1960 after leading a full life of 83 years, suffering pain, exile and prison in the service of the faith, and he handed down the Risale-i Nur collection and a generation with true faith as a legacy to the community of Islam. May Allah be pleased with him and his service! As he had foretold, by the time of his death, the intention of removing the evil ideas of coincidence, polytheism and materialism from the Islamic world which was decreed by Risale-i Nur had been carried out. (Al Mathnawi Al Nuri, Treatise on Particle, p. 161)