Nursi in the Writings of Scholars
We include here brief extracts from some of the papers presented at the International Symposiums on Risale-i Nur.
Fred A. REED
Journalist, writer – CANADA
“I found in Bediuzzaman Said Nursi the life of someone who with his life and works implicitly challenged this modernist dogma. Not because he turned his back on the world, but because he had submitted himself to a higher discipline and because he subsisted through an order outside of man. This discipline and order are found in the Qur’an, whose eternal truths have been verified by science.”
Balıkesir University – TURKEY
“Said Nursi invites us to recognize the clashing forces here so that we may understand the formations in the universe. For him, the universe is an arena in which the forces of good and evil clash. These clashes are the basic dynamics causing the processes of change … Just as the clashes occur in the macrocosm, so in man the microcosm good and evil forces clash. Man’s self is the field of struggle of these two opposing forces.”
Dr. Mustafa ULUSOY
Psychiatrist – TURKEY
“The subjective experience of emptiness was a feeling Said Nursi was familiar with. The Sixth Letter is a good example of this. He experiences several sorts of exile or separation one within the other. Separation from his friends and relations, separation from the place he was born, separation from the beings who abandoned him and departed, separation from all beings lost in the darkness of the night, and finally the separation of beings on their deaths.”
Prof. Dr. Oliver LEAMAN
Kentucky University – U.S.A.
“Said Nursi does a lot more that just note the differences between what he sees as the materialist point of view, and that of belief. He spends a great deal of time arguing against materialism, and his arguments take two forms. One is to suggest that materialism is rationally flawed because it interprets the world incorrectly. These are interesting arguments and they run right throughout the writings of the New Said.”
Prof. Dr. Thomas MICHEL S.J.
Gerogetown University – USA
“Said Nursi does not respond to this critique of religion by hurling condemnations. Rather, he admits that some of the diagnosis is correct. Religious communities are themselves to blame for the malaise that afflicts them. He notes six dire illnesses that must be confronted if religious believers are to make a positive contribution to human progress in the coming decades. While noting the failures of believers, he also rejects the godless and materialist solutions proposed by the critics, which he foresees will lead to disaster, a claim which the subsequent history of the century proved to be only too accurate.”
Prof. Dr. ‘Abd al-Qadir Muhammad
Khartoum University – SUDAN
“The above characteristics of the Risale-i Nur show that it has a true share of the Qur’an, and explains it suitably to the understanding of the age. … In this paper we have discussed the dictionary definitions of compassion and mercy, and attempted to describe their various sorts as put forward in the Risale-i Nur. We saw that Almighty God’s mercy encompasses all beings, even the unbelievers. We saw next the mercy of God’s Messenger (PBUH) for his community, and how it is reflected in worldly life and will be shown on the Day of Resurrection. We discussed then the importance of the kind treatment of parents, especially when elderly.”
Prof. Dr. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz CHAHBAR
Tatwan University – MOROCCO
“Said Nursi demonstrates that as a rational being who can comprehend the world and universe, man’s true nature can be understood only through belief. Only through belief can man traverse the stages of creation, undertake the vicegerency of the earth, ascend the steps of perfection, and reach high rank by studying and pondering over all the bounties of his Sustainer and Lord, Moreover, on attaining to perfection, all the secrets of the creation are unfolded to him.”
Prof. Dr. Alparslan AÇIKGENÇ
Fatih University – TURKEY
“The concept of science (fann or ilm) is among the key terms used in the writings of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, known as the Risale-i Nur Collection. There are some reasons why he pays close attention to sciences and scientific advancement especially in our age. … Nursi tried to modify the concept of science as used in his time. This modification was developed through his understanding of the Qur’anic term ilm. In this way he tried to show that the Islamic conception of science is not only invested with an ethical dimension which lays a religious responsibility on the scientist, but also it has an inner meaning in the sense that science is conceived to reveal the way of God’s acts in the universe as we perceive them.”
Bochum University – GERMANY
“Looking at the contemporary discourse of Turkish Muslims in general and the followers of Said Nursi in particular, it is obvious that science and especially natural sciences take a considerable role in their religious discourse. … In this understanding of science man is studying science as a kind of religious duty, i.e. for the sake of God. Science explains the nature surrounding man, which, from a religious point of view, means the creation. By getting knowledge of the creation man can get knowledge of the Creator himself, an activity which is seen as the religious duty of man. This understanding of science was formed and formulated by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi and had a great impact on the positions that pious Muslims take in the structure of Turkish society today.”
Dr. Cecilia MOREIRA
Psychologist – BRAZIL
“Then a deep questioning came up in my heart: Why do we suffer? Why do we have emotional, mental, and material problems when we have in front of us the Qur’an and the Risale-i Nur, that have all the answers we need to make our lives (and consequently, our society) full of harmony, health and peace? … Because the Risale is perfect and complete, but the reader is the object of transformation, the flower to burst into blossom by the exercise of his own transformation towards a higher level of his own being.”
Dr. Farid al-ANSARI
Sidi Muhammad University – MOROCCO
“Bediuzzaman Said Nursi accords the highest importance to the term the relationship of belief or the relations resulting from belief, in which is included the concept of belief in the sense of its pertaining to the emotions, with its aims of reform an renewal. For wide horizons are opened up for a person by this relationship; it connect him to the absolute; through his particular experiential perception of it he traverses the way of servant hood; it becomes for him a way of ever-fresh meanings and pleasures.”
Prof. Dr. Fikret KARCIC
International Islamic University – MALAYSIA
“The Qur’anic discourse on time is characterized by the use of very diversified terminology which indicates the existence of two different kinds of time metaphysical and physical. The Qur’an emphasizes the importance of physical or this-worldly time for man. Said Nursi in the Risale-i Nur discussed both dimensions of time. In metaphysical realm, he has related time to Divine Knowledge, Power, Determining and Creation. In physical realm, he has specifically discussed the influence of time on man and the world and the importance of present time, which if lost cannot be recaptured.”
Prof. Dr. George GRIGORE
Bucharest University – ROMANIA
“Nursi considers that one of the aspects of the trust or the responsibility undertaking by the man, through I the manifestation of individuality of each man is the key to the Most Beautiful Names which represent the quintessence of divinity characteristics, and finally, to the understanding of Divine Creation.”
Prof. Dr. Ibrahim CANAN
Marmara University – TURKEY
“Love held a special place in Bediuzzaman’s life, in both his reflective thought and in his application of it and his actions. It is also one of the chief principles in the struggle and method of service he instilled in those who follow the way he inaugurated for serving the Qur’an. … Love of God has an exceptional place in Nursi’s anthropology. For here, man is bondsman. The primary condition of being God’s bondsman is to love Him and to make this love greater than all other loves.”
Dr. Imtiyaz YUSUF
Prince of Songkla University – THAILAND
“This paper illustrates the tajdidi links between two illustrious Muslim personalities of the last and their responses on behalf of Islam of the Qur’an and Sunnah to the question, what is the relationship between God and human being. Especially, when the question came under pressure of transformation due to the emergence of new interpretations rising from both within the fold of Islam as in the case of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi and through the emergence of modern scientific and technical age in the case of Said Nursi.”
Prof. Dr. Jane I. SMITH
Hartford Seminary – U.S.A.
“Bediuzzaman Said Nursi wrote with his heart and his imagination as well as with his head and his intellect. One of the reasons that he has endured through the 20th century and into the 21st as a highly revered interpreter of Islam and the Qur’an is his ability to speak, through his writing, in words that are straightforward yet rich in interpretive symbolism.”
Dr. Musa al-BASIT
al-Quds University – PALESTINE
“Nursi depicts brilliantly the aims of human and explains that the effort to achieve these aims causes the model human being to reflect the manifestations of the divine names and attributes; indeed, it makes him the point of focus of dominical light. The believer who truly proceeds from the affirmation of divine unity attains eternal life and happiness in this world, employing in the best way the faculties for acquiring knowledge with which God has armed him, and the ways of guidance.”
Prof. Dr. Yasien MOHAMED
Western Cape University – SOUTH AFRICA
“Said Nursi was a contemporary of Iqbal, but there is no reason to suggest that they met each other, or influenced each other. It seems that they have both reacted to the intellectual challenges of the twentieth century in essentially different ways. They have both attempted to reconcile the apparent contradiction between human free will and divine predestination. Unlike Iqbal, who derived inspiration from modern philosophy, Nursi seems to have been inspired by the classical tradition and used it as a point of departure for the challenges of secular modernity.”
Prof. Dr. Bilal Kuspinar
McGill University, CANADA
Nursi suggests that man should first adopt a positive attitude towards things around him and look at everything with a penetrative or internal eye (basira) and not just with the physical eyes. Only then he becomes aware of the balance of justice pervasive in all creation. For to such a spiritually powerful eye, all the creatures, he proclaims, will appear as an obvious sign of and hence a visible testimony to God’s wisdom, justice, generosity and mercy.
Prof. Dr. Ian Kaplow
University of Hildesheim, GERMANY
For Said Nursi, Compassion (and Mercy) are seen as concepts which play a large role in his teleological conception of the Good – and hence, in a way which differs from modern Rawlsianism, has direct links to a (teleological) conception of Justice. Nursi writes that in supplication to the Compassion and Mercy of the Almighty, one can become “a true human being and well-accepted guest of the All-Merciful One.”
Prof. Dr. Colin TURNER
University of Durham, UK
Bediuzzaman is not a utopian; he is a realist. While his heart bled for the injustices that he saw in his own society, he knew that the imposition of the shari’a in a social context where belief was lacking, or, indeed, absent, would be counter productive. His way was the way of the perfection of belief on an individual level: the way of evolution rather than revolution; the way of building Muslim society from bottom up rather than top down. Again, his was the way of “Fastaqim kama umirt”, be it on the level of man’s relationship with God or man’s relationship with his fellow men. Bediuzzaman did not make the mistake of reducing Islam to the question of governance, but rather to the question of personal responsibility before God: the responsibility of self-knowledge, God-knowledge and the love and worship of the Creator. Social adala is impossible without adala that is assimilated on a personal level. Across the whole of the Muslim world today, Muslims are ‘dreaming of Medina’, of recreating the so-called golden age of the Prophet. However, they wish to do so without having endured the hardships of Mecca, where the real lessons of adala were taught. In this sense, Bediuzzaman is calling us all back to Mecca, for once Mecca has been experienced, Medina can take care of itself.
Prof. Dr. Ian Markham
Virginia Theological Seminary, The USA
The majority of Christian theologians in the West tend towards universalism (i.e. the belief that ultimately all are saved) and therefore a deep suspicion of hell and judgment.The Risale-i Nur is an interesting challenge to this position. For Nursi, a sense of judgment at the end of the life is the heart of moral accountability. The fact that ‘death’ is a test, when we will be held to account, is vitally important. Justice for Bediuzzaman Said Nursi requires evil to be judged by God. Christians should take this argument more seriously. If we do so, then it will lead Christians to a more nuanced understanding of God’s action after death.
Prof. Dr. Syed Farid Alatas
National University of Singapore, Singapore
We regard Nursi as representing one of the new human types in Muslim society. This was a type that cultivated modern knowledge while rooting it in the value system of Islam. Furthermore, this type was driven by an ideal of excellence. The examples of the ideals of excellence discussed by Alatas are derived from earlier periods of Muslim history. In Nursi, we find an historical case of an ideal of excellence from modern history.
Prof. Dr. Dale F. Eickelman
Dartmouth College, The USA
The teachings of Nursi readily function to explain, “in accordance with the understanding of the age, the truths of the Qur’an” (Nursi 1985). Nursi insisted that books, not people, wage a “battle against unbelief” (Mardin 1989: 4). Nursi’s style is readily accessible to multiple audiences, and women are taking an increasingly active role in promoting the message. For some readers, the specifics of Turkish historical development help explain the nuances of certain passages and the context for which they were originally intended. For others, however, the rich metaphors and imagery offer a point of departure for religious understanding that requires only minimal familiarity with the specifics of the times and places in Turkey where the various elements of the Risale-i Nur first came into existence.