Living in the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 19th century where a swirling of ideological clashes and philosophical quarrels of concepts took place, the Kurdish Sunni Imam Badiuzzaman Said Nursi was steadily moving in his enlightenment way in unwavering footsteps based upon two pillars; science and religion.
In the first part of this article we shed some light on the early life of Imam Nursi, how did his thoughts formulate, and how did he deal as an open-minded Sunni Muslim scholar with the surrounding environment and its fast incidents occurring around him.
In this second part we’ll continue shedding more light on the life of Imam Nursi after the establishment of the Kemalist secularist state.
The Letters of Divine Light
Termed the “New Said” period, Badiuzzaman started writing his most famous work, the Risale i Nur, or “Letters of Divine Light,” in Barla.
A comprehensive commentary on the Qur’an exceeding six thousand pages, Imam Nursi wrote it in Arabic and distributed it to his students.
As a condition of acceptance as a student of Badiuzzaman, the Risale i Nur was to be transcribed by each student in Arabic script.
It was at this time that Arabic script was officially replaced by the modern Latin-based Turkish alphabet, but throughout the country students were busy duplicating the Risale i Nur, strengthening their religious faith, and keeping the outlawed script of the Qur’an alive.
And who couldn’t be strengthened in their faith, reading and transcribing Badiuzzaman’s praises to Allah with such exceptional eloquence: “Glory be to the One who made the garden of the earth an exhibition of His art, a gathering of His creatures, a place of manifestation of His power, the means of His wisdom, the flower-bed of His mercy, the tillage of Paradise, a place of passage of creatures, for the flood of beings, a funnel for His artifacts. “The adorned animals, decorative birds, fruit-bearing trees, and flowering plants are miracles of His knowledge, wonders of His art, gifts of His munificence, propitious signs of His grace. The blossoms smiling at the embellished fruits, the birds twittering in the breezes of the early morn, the pattering of the rain on the petals of the flowers, the tender affection of mothers for their infants and young all show to jinn and men, and spirits and living creatures, and angels and spirit beings a Loving One making Himself known, a Merciful One making Himself loved, a Tenderly Kind One bestowing His mercy, a Gracious Bestower manifesting His kindness.”
“I am Struggling Against These Faithless Masses”
Returned to Isparta in 1934, only one year later Imam Nursi was again arrested, this time with 120 of his students. Tried in the Heavy Punishment Court of Eskisehir, they were sentenced and imprisoned.
Under constant surveillance, Badiuzzaman was moved often from one place of exile to another over the course of the next 18 years.
Although his captors moved him often to prevent his followers from building in number, in fact the beloved Badiuzzaman gained more students and was more widely known as a result of being moved regularly to new sources of followers.
The beloved and now aging Imam returned once again to settle in the city of Isparta when his final exile ended in 1953.
In 1956, with a rare breath of independence in the air, his writings were allowed to be commercially published.
A multi-party political system had been adopted in the country, and he encouraged his students to vote for the Democratic Party. Defiantly anti-Communist, Badiuzzaman believed the greatest danger of his time was Communism.
Approaching the end of his life, Imam Nursi declared: “I have just one purpose. That is, as I get nearer to my grave, we hear the sounds of Bolshevik owls (supporters) in this country of Islam. These sounds damage the tenets of faith of the Islamic World. It captivates the public, particularly the youth, by making them faithless. Fighting against them with all my strength, I am inviting the youth and the Muslims to faith. I am struggling against these faithless masses. Allah willing, I wish to enter Allah’s presence through this struggle of mine. This is all I do.”
Becoming severely ill in March of 1960, Badiuzzaman traveled with a few of his students to Urfa in Eastern Turkey.
Politically unwelcome at Urfa, police tried to force him to return, while people massed in the streets, protesting and preventing the police from taking their beloved Imam away.
Exhausted from a life of relentless striving, on March 23, 1960, the 25th day of Ramadan in the Hijri year of 1379, Imam Nursi left this life to enter the presence of Allah.
Joined by a massive crowd of supporters the next day, Badiuzzaman’s funeral took place and his body was buried in the Mosque of HalilurRahman.
Even after death, however, the enemies of Badiuzzaman continued their harassment. Following another military coup four months later in July 1960, Turkish soldiers opened his tomb and moved him to an unknown spot near Isparta, reportedly “to prevent popular veneration.”
It is further reported that his followers spent years searching the area, and once more the body of “the most unique and superior person of the time” was moved to prevent further harassment.
May Allah shower him with reward and gentle mercy, Insha’Allah.
“The All-Powerful One of Majesty, Who preserves seeds and grains as records of last spring’s activities and services and then unfolds and publishes them the following spring in the most dazzling, abundant, and benevolent manner, also preserves the results of your deeds. Thus He will reward your service most abundantly.” [Imam Badiuzzaman Said Nursi – Risale i Nur]
Taken with slight editorial modifications from onislam.net.
Aisha Abdelhamid is a native of Long Beach, California, happily residing in Egypt with her husband, Mohamed. A syndicated writer for Important Media Network, Aisha often represents the Muslim perspective on EdenKeeper.org, an interfaith website exploring the relationship between faith and the natural environment.