Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Badi' al-Zaman Sa'id Nursi

Assalaamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah

I had long ago read about this figure. He was Muslim theologian from Turkey but of Kurdish descent and his school of jurisprudence is the school of Shafi'ie. He was born around 18th century in Ottoman empire part of Kurdistan. I have a huge respect to this man too though I cannot speak Turkish. I try to learn Persian myself because these people also speak in Persian language other than Kurdish. 


He was born in a Kurdish village in Ottoman empire, known as Nurs in eastern Anatolia. His early education was in his hometown where he is talented in theological debates. He has profound knowledge of religious and positive sciences which he learned since early with scholars of his time. He has a sharp memory and he memorized the Arabic dictionary until the letter, "sin".

There was once where he was invited by the governor of Wilayet of Van to stay in the residency. He gained access of scientific knowledge in the library there. He also learned proper Turkish language there. At that time, he developed a plan for university education for Eastern provinces of the Ottoman empire. Through the combination of Islamic education and scientific knowledge, the planned university was expected to advance the philosophical thoughts of these regions. 

Nevertheless, he was put on trial around 1909 because of his obvious involvement in 1909 events on the side opposing the Committee of Union and Progress. However, he was acquitted and released. He was very active during Ottoman caliphate as an educational reformer and he advocates unity of the peoples in the Empire.

Badi' al-Zaman was quite a worry to the leader of Turkish Republic, Mr. Kamal Ataturk, and he see that it is necessary to control this scholar by offering him the position of "Minister of Religious Affairs" for the eastern provinces of Turkey. He refused the post and he even split himself from the ideology held by Kamal supporters. Now, people could see why "pious" scholars were afraid of position in the government. Because they will be controlled and have to prostrate to worldly needs which will eventually make them far from the God the Highest. Thus, their life is taken by people around as miserable and poor. This is what I had been experiencing and being looked down upon though I am not even close to a scholar like this pious man or any other scholars of the past. During the WWI, he was a member of the Special Organization of the Ottoman Empire. 

Badi' al-Zaman heard that a British Secretary for the colonies, Mr. Gladstone, had even said in the newspaper, "So long as the Muslims have the Quran with them, nobody shall be able to dominate them. Thus, we must take it away from them or make them losing their love to the scripture". And because of this irresponsible statement, he declared, "I shall prove and demonstrate to the world that the Glorious Quran is an undying, inexhaustible Sun!" He later wrote his masterpiece known as the Risale-i-Nur.

The "New Sa'id"

Finally, he was expelled to the village Barla in Isparta Province. His teachings attracted many people in the area. These manuscripts of Risale-i-Nur were sent to Sav, another village in the region where dozens of people duplicated them in Arabic script. 

The finished manuscript were sent to his disciples all over Turkey through postal system. His studies on science and his involvement with philosophy is seen in the context of increasing Western influence in Ottoman Empire at the end of 19th century and early 20th centuries and also the attacks which were being made on the Glorious Quran and Islam in the name of science, materialism, and Positivist philosophy in particular. His activity was intended to provide Islamic answer to those attacks. When Mustafa Kamal and his supporters founded the Turkish Republic in 1923, the drive of Westernization received a strong support. 

The method of his movement was summarized in two phrases which is manawi jihad referring to non-physical struggle and positive actions. It is almost comparable to the ahimsa concept of ancient Indian and satyagraha of Mr. Gandhi from Mata Bharat (India). He considered the true enemies of this age of science, reason, and civilization to be materialism and atheism. And their source is materialist philosophy. Materialist philosophy is not a new thing at all. There was a variety of Carvaka philosophy in ancient Indian subcontinent since thousands of years ago which is more or less having the same feature with the "modern materialism and atheism". Most of all I agree with Sa'id Nursi, but I am also familiar with this philosophy. I found that those who hold this philosophy as their principle of life are heartless, inhuman and cruel.    

He wrote the Risale-i-Nur to strengthen Muslim from within and raising it to the highest value besides to counter the corrupt society caused by these enemies. He taught his students to avoid any use of force and never act in disruptive ways in their struggle. He believes in the positive action and maintenance of public order and security, and we Muslim should repair the supposed damage caused by the forces of unbelief through the "healing" truths and facts of the Quran. He was arrested because of his position in this issue around 1930 and 1950.

Later Life

In 1949, he was released. He stayed in the city of Isparta. After the introduction of the multi-party system, he advised his disciples to vote for the Democratic Party of Adnan Menderes which gained the support of rural and conservative populations. He considered communism as the greatest threat of the time, and he also supported the pro-Western orientation Democrats, leading to his support of NATO, CENTO and Turkey's participation in Korean war as peace keeper. He also tried hard to unite Muslims and Christians in the struggle against materialism and communism and therefore he corresponded with the Papal of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Turkey. In 1956, his writings receive permission for publication. His books are compiled under the name of Letters of Light.

He passed away after traveling to Urfa and buried on the premises of prophet Abraham's nativity. After military coup d'etat in Turkey around 1960, a group of soldiers led by the later extreme right-wing politician Mr. Alp Arslan Turkesh opened his grave and buried his body at an unknown place near Isparta during July 1960 to prevent popular veneration and movements from gathering and forming new forces which is believed could threaten the government.

His followers reported to have found his grave after years of searching, and took his remains to a secret place in an effort to protect the body from being disturbed further. Interesting point here is that, he also wrote in his treaty that no one should know where his tomb is. 



Said Nursi’s pathway was impose to community religious beliefs and practices supported by a strong logical implications and explanations. For example, referring to the five daily prayers (Namaz), emphasizes that how necessary it is for humanitarian and for religious duty, but ignores that prayers shape, quantity, how much and how long assumed, as well as details and discussions on it. The same approach may be seen on many religious issues such as tithe, Islamic veiling, fasting, and others.

According to some theologians, he was in efforts of renovation and restoration of the religion without any debugging of baseless innovations and superstitions, or he was one of the sources of superstitions himself.


From evaluations of the natural wear of rural women as openness by Nursi,  may be reached to the conclusion of the understanding of the Islamic veiling by him, as an "absolute veil and covers" with no exceptions.

In Risale-i Nur, women are handled in issues of Islamic veiling, sharia's inheritance law and in such bets; "Also, seven out of ten women are either old or ugly and they do not want to show their age or unsightliness to everyone. Or they are jealous, and they do not want to appear ugly in relation to others who are more beautiful. Or they are frightened of assault or aspersions, and want by nature to cover themselves so as not to suffer assault, nor to be accused of unfaithfulness by their husbands. While only two or three out of ten women are both young and beautiful and do not feel uncomfortable at displaying themselves. "However, women from provincial and cold hometown may be excluded from this imperative provision because they do not excite men". According to Nursi, giving women the half share of men of sharia inheritance law, is righteous and appropriate justice.

In Nur community, besides other features, women, who shows their beauties to the other guys (except her husband), are seen as sources of evils, strifes and troubles, and refuged in Allah from them, three times in the morning and evening every day.


So these are among the things that I could collect from public encyclopedia, wikipedia about this great man. He had also discussed many things with a Jew noble man in Turkey and his imprisonment in Russia but I cannot remember the detail from the working paper brought home by my father when I was a young boy. Yet the working paper was written in Arabic and English and my language skill at that time was not so much better as compared to today's skill.

Allahumma salli 'alaa Muhammad wa 'alaa ali Muhammad....

Sealed with prayers for mercy, peace and love, amin!

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