From the Risale-i Nur Collection
On the Nature and Purposes of Man, Life and All Things
by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
Translated from the Turkish by Şükran Vahide
IN THE NAME OF GOD,
THE MERCIFUL, THE COMPASSIONATE
And from Him do we seek help.
All praise be to God, the Sustainer of All the Worlds,
and blessings and peace be upon our master Muhammad,
and on all his Family and Companions.
[Brother! You wanted a few words of advice from me, so listen to a few truths included in eight short stories, which since you are a soldier, are in the form of comparisons of a military nature. I consider my own soul to need advice more than anyone, and at one time I addressed my soul at some length with Eight Words inspired by eight verses of the Qur’an from which I had benefited. Now I shall address my soul with these same Words, but briefly and in the language of ordinary people. Whoever wishes may listen together with me.]
The First Word
Bismillah, “In the Name of God,” is the start of all things good. We too shall start with it. Know, O my soul! Just as this blessed phrase is a mark of Islam, so too it is constantly recited by all beings through their tongues of disposition. If you want to know what an inexhaustible strength, what an unending source of bounty is Bismillah, listen to the following story which is in the form of a comparison. It goes like this:
Someone who makes a journey through the deserts of Arabia has to travel in the name of a tribal chief and enter under his protection, for in this way he may be saved from the assaults of bandits and secure his needs. On his own
he will perish in the face of innumerable enemies and needs. And so, two men went on such a journey and entered the desert. One of them was modest and humble, the other proud and conceited. The humble man assumed the name of a tribal chief, while the proud man did not. The first travelled safely wherever he went. If he encountered bandits, he said: “I am travelling in the name of such-and-such tribal leader,” and they did not molest him. If he came to some tents, he was treated respectfully due to the name. But the proud man suffered indescribable calamities throughout his journey. He both trembled before everything and begged from everything. He was abased and became an object of scorn.
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Said Nursi’s Approach to Justice and Its Role for Political Reforms in the Muslim World
Prof. Dr. Leonid Sykiainen State University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, RUSSIA
The significance of any prominent thinker’s ideas is determined not only by their intellectual content, their orientation to fundamental sources and convincing quality of argument, but primarily by the role those ideas play at the moment when a society is undergoing a crisis or confronting problems which need to be solved in order to secure its future. Outstanding thinkers can only be described as great if their views affect not only the consciousness and behavior of some limited groups or even nations, but also if they influence the mode of thinking of the entire mankind or at least a numerous religious community such as Muslims in our World.
Among those thinkers Said Nursi occupies an honorable place for
Said Nursi’s thoughts are directly linked with the present situation in the Muslim countries as well as with the role Islam plays there. Said Nursi is not a political thinker in proper sense but the political future of the above mentioned nations can be predicted more profoundly if his ideas are taken into account because he contributed a lot into understanding of Islam and its role in nowadays World. But in any case when discussing this issue it is necessary to start with the analysis of Said Nursi’s approach to Islam and Shari’a in general.
Islam as belief and Righteuos Action
As a Muslim thinker he considers Islam and the Qur’an to be a comprehensive universal system of Allah’s provisions which concern every side of human life and embrace the past, the present and the future of the entire mankind. Stressing on this point Said Nursi underlines that the Qur’an caused a transformation in social life in this world in so luminous, happy, and truthful a fashion, and brought about such a revolution in both men’s souls, and hearts, and spirits, and minds, and in their personal lives, social lives, and political lives, and continued and directed that revolution. Also, the Qur’an is a founder; it is the basis of the Clear Religion, and the foundation of the world of Islam. It changed human social life, and is the answer to the repeated questions of its various classes.
The thinker believes that in expounding secondary matters of the Shari‘a and laws of social life, the Qur’an at once raises the views of those it addresses to elevated, universal points, and transforming a simple style into an elevated one and instruction in the Shari‘a to instruction in Divine unity, it shows it is both a book of law and commands and wisdom, and a book of the tenets of faith and belief. But for Said Nursi the main feature of Islam consists in indissoluble combining the ideas and religious values together with their implementation in practice. In this regard he not accidentally points out that Islam as a religion does not consist only of belief; its second half is righteous action.
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A BRIEF LOOK AT BEDIUZZAMAN SAID NURSI'S LIFE AND THE RISALE-I NUR
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was born in 1877 in eastern Turkey and died in 1960 in Urfa in Turkey. Readers may refer to his biography for details of his long and exemplary life, which spanned the last decades of the Ottoman Empire, its collapse after the First World War and the setting up of the Republic, then the twenty-five years of Republican Peoples' Party rule, well-known for the measures taken against Islam, followed by the ten years of Democrat rule, when conditions eased a little for Bediuzzaman.
Bediuzzaman displayed an extraordinary intelligence and ability to learn from an early age, completing the normal course of medrese (religious school) education at the early age of fourteen, when he obtained his diploma. He became famous for both his prodigious memory and his unbeaten record in debating with other religious scholars. Another characteristic Bediuzzaman displayed from an early age was an instinctive dissatisfaction with the existing education system, which when older he formulated into comprehensive proposals for its reform. The heart of these proposals was the bringing together and joint teaching of the traditional religious sciences and the modern sciences, together with the founding of a university in the Eastern Provinces of the Empire, the Medresetü'z-Zehra, where this and his other proposals would be put into practice. In 1907 his endeavours in this field took him to Istanbul and an audience with Sultan Abdulhamid. Although subsequently he twice received funds for the construction of his university, and its foundations were laid in 1913, it was never completed due to war and the vicissitudes of the times.
Contrary to the practice of religious scholars at that time, Bediuzzaman himself studied and mastered almost all the physical and mathematical sciences, and later studied philosophy, for he believed that it was only in this way that Islamic theology (kalâm) could be renewed and successfully answer the attacks to which the Qur'an and Islam were then subject.
In the course of time, the physical sciences had been dropped from medrese education, which had contributed directly to the Ottoman decline relative to the advance of the West. Now, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Europe had gained dominance over the Islamic world, and in efforts to extend its dominance, was attacking the Qur'an and Islam in the name of science and progress in particular, falsely claiming them to be incompatible.
Within the Empire too was a small minority which favoured adopting Western philosophy and civilization. Thus, all Bediuzzaman's endeavour was to prove and demonstrate the falseness of these accusations, and that far from being incompatible with science and progress, the Qur'an was the source of true progress and civilization, and in addition, since this was the case, Islam would dominate the future, despite its relative decline and regression at that time.
The years up to the end of the First World War were the final decades of the Ottoman Empire and were, in the words of Bediuzzaman, the period of the 'Old Said'. In additions to his endeavours in the field of learning, he served the cause of the Empire and Islam through active involvement in social life and the public domain. In the War, he commanded the militia forces on the Caucasian Front against the invading Russians, for which he as later awarded a War Medal. To maintain the morale of his men he himself disdained to enter the trenches inspite of the constant shelling, and it was while withstanding the overwhelming assaults of the enemy that he wrote his celebrated Qur'anic commentary, Signs of Miraculousness, dictating to a scribe while on horseback. Stating that the Qur'an encompasses the sciences which make known the physical world, the commentary is an original and important work which in Bediuzzaman's words, forms a sort model for commentaries he hoped would be written in the future, which would bring together the religious and modern sciences in the way he proposed. Bediuzzaman was taken prisoner in March 1916 and held in Russia for two years before escaping in early 1918, and returning to Istanbul via Warsaw, Berlin, and Vienna.
The defeat of the Ottomans saw the end of the Empire and its dismemberment, and the occupation of Istanbul and parts of Turkey by foreign forces. These bitter years saw also the transformation of the Old Said into the New Said, the second main period of Bediuzzaman's life. Despite the acclaim he received and services he performed as a member of the Darü'l-Hikmeti'l-Islamiye, a learned body attached to the Shaykhu'l-Islam's Office, and combatting the British, Bediuzzaman underwent a profound mental and spiritual change in the process of which he turned his back on the world. Realizing the inadequacy of the 'human' science and philosophy he had studied as a means of reaching the truth, he took the revealed Qur'an as his 'sole guide.' In recognition of his services to the Independence Struggle, Bediuzzaman was invited to Ankara by Mustafa Kemal, but on arrival there, found that at the very time of the victory of the Turks and Islam, atheistic ideas were being propagated among the Deputies and officials, and many were lax in performing their religious duties. He published various works which successfully countered this.
Remaining some eight months in Ankara, Bediuzzaman understood the way Mustafa Kemal and the new leaders were going to take, and on the one hand that he could not work alongside them, and on the other that they were not to be combatted in the realm of politics. When offered various posts and benefits by Mustafa Kemal, he declined them and left Ankara for Van, where he withdrew into a life of worship and contemplation; he was seeking the best way to proceed.
Within a short time, Bediuzzaman's fears about the new regime began to be realized: the first steps were taken towards secularization and reducing the power of Islam within the state, and even its eradication from Turkish life. In early 1925 there was a rebellion in the east in which Bediuzzaman played no part, but as a consequence of which was sent into exile in western Anatolia along with many hundreds of others. Thus unjustly began twenty-five years of exile, imprisonment, and unlawful oppression for Bediuzzaman. He was sent to Barla, a tiny village in the mountains of Isparta Province. However, the attempt to entirely isolate and silence him had the reverse effect, for Bediuzzaman was both prepared and uniquely qualified to face the new challenge: these years saw the writing of the Risale-i Nur, which silently spread and took root, combatting in the most constructive way the attempt to uproot Islam, and the unbelief and materialist philosophy it was hoped to instil in the Muslim people of Turkey.
The Risale-i Nur
As the New Said, Bediuzzaman had immersed himself in the Qur'an, searching for a way to relate its truths to modern man. In Barla in his isolation he began to write treatises explaining and proving these truths, for now the Qur'an itself and its truths were under direct attack. The first of these was on the Resurrection of the Dead, which in a unique style, proves bodily Resurrection rationally, where even the greatest scholars previously had confessed their impotence. He described the method employed in this as consisting of three stages: first God's existence is proved, and His Names and attributes, then the Resurrection of the Dead is 'constructed' on these and proved.
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Together we sadaqah صدقة the recitation reward ثواب
of this Al Fatihah to the ruh of Sheikh Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
Bersama-sama kita sedekah pahala bacaan Al Fatihah ini
kepada ruh Sheikh Bediuzzaman Said Nursi