Biography:Said Nursî

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Short description: Kurdish Sunni Muslim theologian (1877–1960)

Said-i Nursi

Üstad • Bediüzzaman
Said Nursi 1956.jpg
Said Nursi
Nurs,[2][3] Bitlis Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
Died23 March 1960 (aged 82–83)[7]
Urfa, Turkey
Era19th–20th century[4]
Main interest(s)Theology,[8] Tafsir,[8] Revival of Faith[9] Kalam, Eloquence
Muslim leader

Said Nursi (Ottoman Turkish: سعيد نورسی‎, Kurdish: Seîdê Nursî ,سەعید نوورسی[12][13]‎; 1877[1] – 23 March 1960), also spelled Said-i Nursî or Said-i Kurdî,[14][15] and commonly known with the honorifics Bediüzzaman (meaning "wonder of the age") and Üstad (meaning "master")[16] 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.[17][18] 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.[17][18][19]

Nursi inspired a religious movement[20][21] that has played a vital role in the revival of Islam in Turkey and now numbers several millions of followers worldwide.[22][23] His followers, often known as the "Nurcu movement" or the "Nur cemaati".[24] 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.[25]

He was able to recite many books from memory. For instance: "So then he [Molla Fethullah] 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 Fethullah expressed his amazement."[26]

Early life

Said Nursi was born in the Kurdish village of Nurs near Hizan in the Bitlis Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire.[5] He received his early education from scholars of his hometown, where he showed mastery in theological debates. After developing a reputation for Islamic knowledge, he was nicknamed "Bediüzzaman", meaning "The most unique and superior person of the time". He was invited by the governor of the Vilayet of Van to stay within his residency.[27] In the library of the governor, Nursi gained access to an archive of scientific knowledge he had not had access to previously. Said Nursi also learned the Ottoman Turkish language there. During this time, he developed a plan for university education for the Eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire.[28] By combining scientific and religious (Islamic) education, the university was expected to advance the philosophical thoughts of these regions. 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.

Contrary to the practice of religious scholars at that time, Nursi himself studied and mastered almost all the physical and mathematical sciences, and later studied philosophy. In the course of time, modern sciences had been dropped from the religious schools curriculum, which had contributed directly to the Ottoman decline relative to the advance of the West. Nursi’s endeavor was to prove and demonstrate that Islam is compatible with modern sciences and progress, the Holy Book Quran was the source of true progress and civilization.

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 Nursi, the period of the ‘Old Said’. In additions to his endeavors in the field of learning, he has had 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. He would enter the trenches himself despite heavy shelling which earned him the admiration of the troops he commanded. It was during these expereinces that he allegedly wrote his Koranic commentary, Signs of Miraculousness dictating to a scribe while on horseback. His commentary argues that the Koran encompasses the knowledge which allows for modern science. The commentary, in Nursi’s words, forms a sort model for commentaries he hoped would be written in the future fusing Islam and modern science. Nursi 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.

Nursi's influence concerned the incipient leader of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,[29] which lead to Ataturk offering Nursi the post ‘Minister of Religious Affairs" for the eastern provinces of Turkey in attempt to make sure Nursi would not oppose Ataturk's regime, a post that Nursi famously refused.[30][31] This was the beginning of his split from the Kemalist circle. Conversely to the authority offered to Kursi, the secular government in the Republic of Turkey would later stigmatize his attempts to renew traditional faith. Modernization of intellectual culture in Anatolia thusly bifurcated along two approaches; assimilation of occidental understanding; and functionalization of extant liturgics. Nursi was the major contributor to the latter approach, and his early life as a memorization savant enabled him to use scripture for teaching with mnemonic metaphor. Friction between the two spheres of thought led to breakdowns of civility and the eventual reclusion of Nursi.

After arriving in Istanbul, Nursi allegedly declared: "I shall prove and demonstrate to the world that the Quran is an undying, inexhaustible Sun!",[32] 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.[33]

Teachings and movement

Humanity faced the greatest corruption of this period and the danger of unbelief, which was the greatest threat to humanity. Therefore, according to him, the greatest service in this period was the service of faith rescue, and Risale-i Nur, who did this duty properly, represented the great Mahdism of the End Times.[36] However, he was carrying out the first and most important steps of this task, which he called "the service of faith and the Quran" with his books called "Risale-i nur", and was preparing the ground and program for another person to come after him.[36]

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 would fall on the heads of the atheists in the Hijri calendar between 1530 and 1540.[37]

Said Nursi was exiled to the Isparta Province for, amongst other things, performing the call to prayer in the Arabic language.[38] After his teachings attracted people in the area, the governor of Isparta sent him to a village named Barla[39] where he wrote two-thirds of his Risale-i Nur.[40] 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).[38][40] After being finished, these books were sent to Nursi's disciples all over Turkey via the "Nurcu postal system".[41] 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.[40]

Besides these writings themselves, 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, 'jihad of the word' or 'non-physical jihad', and 'positive action.'[42][43] Nursi considered materialism and atheism and their source materialist philosophy to be his true enemies in this age of science, reason, and civilization.[44][45] 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 'jihad of the word,' 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, persecuted by the secularist state for having invested in religious revival.[46]

Later life

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. He was acquitted of all these charges in 1956.[40]

In the last decade of his life, Said Nursi settled in the city of Isparta. 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.[40] 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.[47] He was buried in a tomb opposite the cave where prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) is widely believed to have been born.[48][49] 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.[50][51]

In popular culture

A Turkish film Free Man based on Nursi's biography was made in 2011.[52]

See also

Note: This topic belongs to "Islam" portal

  • God's Faithful Servant: Barla
  • Muhammad Emin Er (1914-2013), one of Said Nursi's students
  • Bediüzzaman Museum, a museum inside the Rüstem Pasha Medrese at Fatih, Istanbul
  • Mustafa Sabri
  • Fethullah Gülen
  • Adnan Oktar


  1. 1.0 1.1 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". 
  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. 5.0 5.1 Vahide, Sükran (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. 8.0 8.1 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. 10.0 10.1 10.2 David Livingstone, Black Terror White Soldiers: Islam, Fascism and the New Age, p. 568. ISBN:1481226509
  11. M. Hakan Yavuz, John L. Esposito, Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gülen Movement, p. 6
  12. (in ku) پەیامی حەشر سەعید نوورسی. Retrieved 21 December 2019. 
  13. "Seîdê Kurdî ji ber piştgiriya Şêx Seîd hatiye sirgunkirin". Rûdaw. 
  14. Janet Klein (2011). The Margins of Empire: Kurdish Militias in the Ottoman Tribal Zone. pp. 106 & 116. 
  15. Şükran Vahide (2019). Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: Author of the Risale-i Nur. The Other Press. p. 195. 
  16. "". 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone, Mahan Mirza, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, p. 482. ISBN:0691134847
  18. 18.0 18.1 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.
  19. 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."
  20. Omer Taspinar, Kurdish Nationalism and Political Islam in Turkey: Kemalist Identity in Transition (Middle East Studies: History, Politics & Law), p. 228. ISBN:041594998X
  21. Serif Mardin, Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey: The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. 23. ISBN:0887069967
  22. Şükran Vahide, Islam in Modern Turkey: An Intellectual Biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. 425. ISBN:0791482979
  23. Akyol, Mustafa (March 2007). "Render Unto Atatürk". 
  24. 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. 
  25. Banchoff, Thomas (2008). Religious Pluralism, Globalization, and World Politics. Oxford University Press. pp. 237. 
  26. Şükran Vahide. (2005). Islam in Modern Turkey. State University of New York Press, ISBN:0-7914-6515-2
  27. Vahide, Şükran (2011). Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. Islamic Book Trust. p. 28. ISBN 978-967-5062-86-5. 
  28. 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. 
  29. David Tittensor, The House of Service: The Gulen Movement and Islam's Third Way, p 37. ISBN:0199336415
  30. David Livingstone, Black Terror White Soldiers: Islam, Fascism and the New Age, p. 569. ISBN:1481226509
  31. Vahide, Sükran (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" 
  32. Vahide, Sükran (2005). Islam in modern Turkey: an intellectual biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. SUNY Press. 
  33. "Said Nursi'nin Yeşilay'ın kurucusu olduğu doğru mudur? Bu teşkilatın Kurtuluş Savaşı ile hiçbir ilgisinin olmadığı söylenmektedir. Buna ne dersiniz?" (in tr). 25 February 2012. 
  34. The Words, The First Word, p. 18-19
  35. Said Nursi, The Words, The Seventeenth Word, p. 229-230
  36. 36.0 36.1 "SORU VE CEVAPLARLA RİSALE-İ NUR'DA MEHDİYET » Sorularla Risale". 13 October 2010. 
  37. Kastamonu Lahikası, s.26
  38. 38.0 38.1 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. 
  39. Sükran Vahide, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. 230. ISBN:967506286X
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 40.3 40.4 Bosworth, C.E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W.P.; Lecomte, G. (1995). Encyclopaedia of Islam. VIII (Ned-Sam) (New ed.). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill. p. 144. ISBN 978-9004098343. 
  41. 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. 
  42. 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
  43. Arvind Sharma, The World's Religions After September 11. p 92. ISBN:0275996212
  44. Ian S. Markham, Suendam Birinci, Suendam Birinci Pirim, An Introduction to Said Nursi: Life, Thought and Writings. p 46. ISBN:1409407713
  45. Ziaulhaq, Mochamad; Sen, Hasbi (2021-07-31). "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. 
  46. Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone, Mahan Mirza, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, p. 482.
  47. Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi, Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and Thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. xxiv. ISBN:0791457001
  48. Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi, Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and Thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. xxiii. ISBN:0791457001
  49. 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.
  50. Nursi's Letters Found in Yassiada Archives , Zaman
  51. Yes to 27 May No to 28th (in Turkish), Turkish Newspaper Yeni Şafak, 16 August 2003, last accessed 17 June 2014
  52. "Free Man (2011) - IMDb". 


Further reading

External links