Birth: 1876, Hizan, Nurs village, Bitlis / Ottoman Empire (Turkey)
Death: March 23rd 1960, Şanlıurfa, Turkey
Imam Bediüzzaman Said Nursi devides his life into two periods:
“The period of Old Said” is from his first visit to Istanbul until the First World War, and “the period of New Said” is from his exile to Barla where he started to compile “the Treatise of Light” until his death.
The term in between the two periods is a period of self-accounting and self-struggle.
The Period of “Old Said” (1876-1914)
– First education under his elder brother Mullah Abdullah.
– A rapid secondary and advanced level education in the theology schools of Eastern Anatolia.
– Became noted for his strong memory, intellect, and courage.
– His superiority in knowledge was recognized upon the exams and debates.
– Given the title “Bediüzzaman – the unequaled of the time” by his teacher Mullah Fethullah, and this was well accepted by all the colleagues of the Eastern Anatolia.
– Visited many cities, lecturing the folk, debating and discussing with scholars, and teaching the students gathered around him.
– Would not accept anybody’s alms-tax, charity, or gift
– Never hesitated to declare the right way (emri bilmaruf) and condemn the wrong way (nehyi anil munker) against the unjust and iniquitous tribe leaders and governors
– Thus, his purity, taqwa (God-consciousness, fear of God, avoidance of sins), and courage became famous
– Because of his virtues and actions at such a young age, received the love and admiration of the people of all levels and the scholars of all circles in the Eastern Provinces
– People mentioned of him as “the famous scholar (Mullah) Said” in those years
– Once went to Van (an Eastern City) upon the invitation of the governor, and stayed at governor’s house
– During the 15 years at Van, gave lectures and educated people from among many different tribes. Explored physical sciences and even silenced the scientists that he argued.
– One day, read in the newspaper that the British Minister of Colonies had said to the British Parliament as he held the Quran, “We cannot rule over the Muslims as long as this Quran remains in their hands. We should do everything possible to remove this Quran away from their hands, or alienate Muslims against the Quran.”
– Being so much distressed, decided to show and prove to the whole world that the Quran is a never-fading, inextinguishable spiritual sun.
– This decision was a turning point in his life to which he devoted his life. (1907)
– Thought that the best solution to combat Europe’s plot to destroy Ottomans –in effect Islam, was to educate Muslims so strongly that they surpass the West both intellectually and scientifically, answering the needs of the present era.
– Advocated for the establishment of an Islamic university in Eastern Anatolia, which he named “Medresetü’z-Zehrâ.”
– This university were to serve three goals:
1. Eradicate the conflict between the so-called scientific thought and the religion by teaching the Islamic sciences together with physical sciences.
2. Eradicate the conflict between the regular school (mektep), the theology school (madrasa), and the dervish lodge (tekke).
3. Attract students from the entire Islamic world to promote the unity and solidarity between Muslims.
– In pursuit of this, went to Istanbul and posted a sign on the building entrance door that read, “Here all difficulties are solved, all questions are answered, but no question is asked.” This was meant to show the value of the Islamic sciences taught at Eastern Provinces, not to show his personal knowledge.
– There, answered the questions of the people as well as of the scholars visiting him in groups.
– Being so young, answering all the questions convincingly and impressively, his manners and attitude attracted the learned men and the people.
– Quickly, he became famous among the scholars of Istanbul, ratifying his title as “Bediüzzaman.”
– His application to meet with Sultan Abdülhamid was accepted, however, he was sent to mental hospital because of the suspicions that he raised by challenging all questions, dressing in the Eastern Anatolian style, and talking with no fear.
– The psychiatrist, who talked to him, wrote in his report, “If this man is mad, then there is no sound man in the world.”
– Then, Sultan Abdülhamid offered him stipend in return for his returning back to East; but being a man who even refuses gifts, he rejected this offer.
– Instead, stayed in Istanbul and struggled thru politics. Wrote articles in newspapers, warned important politicians. Calmed insurgent meetings.
– After the Constitutional Reforms (meşrutiyet), founded “the Movement of Mohammedan (a.s.m.) Unity” together with his colleagues. The movements grew rapidly. Impressed by one of his articles, 50 thousand people around Adapazarı and İzmit districts entered the movement.
– The famous event of March the 31st occurred. Was arrested and tried in the military court due to a surmise that he was among the insurgents. He strongly and fearlessly defended himself, and won acquittal. His defense was published as a book entitled, “The Testimony of the Two Schools of Tribulation.”
– Thereafter, he went to Batum, then Tiflis, then Van. He visited the tribes, and raised consciousness among them through lectures on civilized society, social relations, and religious studies. His lectures were then published as a book entitled, “The Debate.”
– Then he went to Damascus where upon insistence of the scholars, he gave a Friday sermon in the Emevite Mosque to a congregation of around 10,000 people amongst whom were near 100 scholars. His sermon was greatly well-accepted and received great admiration. Later on, it was published by the name “The Damascus Sermon.”
– From Damascus, returned to Istanbul via Beirut. Joined Sultan Reshad during the trip to Rumelia as the representative of Eastern Provinces. Informed the Sultan about his university and received approval. The ground-level construction began near the Lake Van, but could not continue once the World War I started.
– During the war, fought against the Russians and Armenians, leading a militia force he formed of his students. During the combat, he dictated his extraordinary commentary on the Quran called “The Signs of Miraculousness.”
– Were wounded and sent to Siberia as a POW after Russians took Bitlis. In Siberia, spent two and a half years in prison, educating the prisoners around him.
– On June 25th 1918, escaped and returned to Istanbul via the route Petersburg, Warsaw and Vienna. Was visited by the masses of people, army and government officials.
– In 1918, “The Institution of Islamic Wisdom” is founded as the “Academy of Sciences,” gathering great scholars. Without his knowledge, Bediüzzaman was appointed as a member. Spent his salary from the institution for printing and free distribution of his books.
– Ottomans lost the war. The British, French, Italian, and Greek armies invaded many Ottoman cities, including Istanbul. The resistance movement (called “Kuvva-yı Milliye”) grew in Anatolia.
– Took action against the British in Istanbul, and secretly circulated a brochure called “Hutuvat-ı Sitte” by which he was humiliating and demoralizing the British whereas strengthening Muslims’ trust and hope. Supported “the movement of Kuvva-yı Milliye.”
– The newly founded Turkish Government in Ankara admired his actions in Istanbul and invited him to Ankara. Ankara welcomed him with great enthusiasm, respect, and joy. The Great Assembly welcomed him with an official ceremony.
– However, he was displeased at what he saw in Ankara. Most of the assembly members were ignorant of Islam and not observing the prayers. He issued a declaration to explain the importance of performing the prayers, upon which many resumed the prayers.
– The Independence War was won. However, the European style of thinking and living was spreading whereas attachment to Islam and faith was weakening.
– Being saddened by this fact, he went to Van after refusing many worldly offers to keep him in line with Ankara.
– Lived alone in the mountain of Erek of Van, fulfilling his earlier decision to seclude himself and devote his time to worship after escaping from Siberia. His self-accounting was driving him away from social life, because of his getting old and because of his fruitless political endeavors.
– Nevertheless, continued to give lectures, talks, and lessons. Was distressed by the anti-Islamic developments in the society.
– In the meantime, the insurgence of Sheikh Said Al-Kurdi was suppressed with too much blood.
– Although he had no relation with the insurgence other than name similarity, he was exiled to Istanbul, then to Burdur, then to Isparta, and finally to Barla, a small village of Isparta by the Lake Eğirdir. (1926)
The Period of “New Said” (1926-1960)
– During the 8 years in Barla, compiled the books named “Words,” “Letters,” and “Flashes,” which make up the 75% of the Risale-i Nur (Treatise of Light) Collection.
– These 3 books expounded on the tenets of faith, contrasting how life is viewed with faith and without.
– These treatises were distributed throughout Anatolia by an extraordinary method. Those willing to become his students were required to preserve the use of Quranic letters, to hand copy the treatises, and recruit new students.
– He had 6 immediate students in Barla: Şamlı Hafız Tevfik, Sıddık Süleyman, Hoca Halit, Santral Sabri, Tığlı Hakkı, and Hulusi.
– Tevfik had listened to the Sermon of Damascus, and the Will of Allah has brought him as an expert transcriber to Bediuzzaman in Barla!
– Soon, the students that were initially few in numbers reached thousands, hand publishing the Treatises by tens of thousands, and secretly distributing them throughout Anatolia.
– He said, “Man does cruelty, but destiny does justice.” The enemies of Islam tried to isolate him in Barla, but destiny of Allah sent him in midst of excellent students who are also fast transcribers.
– In 1931, Husrev Efendi joined the immediate circle of his students. He established a system of copying the treatises and sending them to some 100 distribution centers in Anatolia. This was the first use of unofficial cargo services. The system was named as “Husrev’s system” by Bediüzzaman. The continued growth of the movement was made possible by this system at times of imprisonments and exiles.
– Such rapid spread and impact of the Treatises of Light disturbed some people. In 1934, was brought to Isparta.
– In 1935, was arrested together with his 120 students, charged of founding a secret organization to destroy the regime.
– Major Asım was one of the students arrested. At the interrogation, he abstained lying and abstained talking the truth, so he prayed for his death. Bediüzzaman named him as the “martyr of truth.” He was the first of four martyrs. Nobody washed his body to avoid identification; his wife did.
– Others were tried at the Court of Heavy Crimes in Eskişehir, and he was sentenced to 11 months in prison, 15 students to 6 months, and the rest were acquitted. No proofs against them were submitted to the court. Bediüzzaman made his own defense and refuted all the claims.
– Even in prison, the dictation of the treatises did not stop, on the contrary 460 new pages were written. Due to “Husrev’s system” their reproduction and distribution continued effectively.
– After the Eskişehir imprisonment, exiled to Kastamonu. There, after a long captivity in a police station, he was forced to stay at a house across the station.
– His exile in Kastamonu lasted eight years. There as well, many students gathered around him.
– As the old treatises were circulating among the students, new ones were being published. The ring of students was getting larger and larger.
– He was communicating with the students in Isparta. The new treatises were first sent to Isparta, from where they were distributed everywhere including the villages.
– The immediate circle of 6 students in Isparta were Husrev Efendi, Hafız Ali, Hafız Mustafa, Küçük Ali, Tahiri, and Refet. Bediüzzaman said of them, “We are like one spirit, six bodies.” They were in charge of the affairs of the movement.
– Husrev Efendi was also responsible of maintaining the communication with Bediüzzaman, upbringing of the students, and the distribution of the treatises.
– In the meantime, the group whom Bediüzzaman called “covert enemies of Islam” poisoned him and busted his home many times. Each time, he was relieved from the poison by the leave of Allah.
– They could not stop the Noor movement. He was arrested again with the charges that he founded a secret organization, antagonized the people against the government, and nullified the revolutions.
– In 1943, he and 126 students from many districts were tried at the Court of Heavy Crimes of Denizli.
– At first, the Court ruled the inspection of the Treatises by a committee of unqualified officials. Bediüzzaman rejected this committee and insisted that the highly educated experts should form the committee.
– His proposal was accepted, and a committee of professors and experts inspected the entire collection of the treatises. The committee reported that no political or sectarian motives existed in them, and they only expounded the meanings of the Quran and the tenets of faith.
– Upon such a favorable report and a strong defense by Bediüzzaman himself, they were acquitted of all charges, and relieved after 9 months of captivity.
– During these 9 months, Bediüzzaman was banned from seeing his students, poisoned once more, and given all sorts of hardships. He persevered patiently and was relieved both of imprisonment and of poison, by the leave of Allah.
– Husrev Efendi and Hafiz Ali were also poisoned. They both prayed that they would die instead of Bediüzzaman, but Hafiz Ali becomes the second martyr.
– After two months of rest in Denizli, he was exiled again to Emirdağ where he was kept under constant surveillance.
– The growth of the movement continued in Emirdağ, albeit with many difficulties. Many people became students of him, many more visited him.
– At this point, Husrev Efendi was given the authority to edit the treatises.
– Bediuzzaman’s strategy was to attract the attention while relieving the students elsewhere.
– He used to correct the hand written copies of the treatises that his students brought to him. He often took walks in the fields. The secret police would watch him everywhere and annoy him in all possible ways. Once again, they poisoned him.
– In this case, Husrev Efendi writes a letter to Bediüzzaman to tell his willingness to die instead of him. Bediüzzaman replies him saying that his life is more important for the spread of the treatises as is his pen. Out of this communication, Hasan Feyzi deduces that the death of Ustad is imminent, and he vows for his life in exchange of Bediüzzaman’s. As Bediüzzaman recovers from the poison, Hasan Feyzi becomes the third martyr.
– In 1948, he and his 69 students from different districts were taken to Afyon, arrested, and tried at the Court of Heavy Crimes of Afyon, with the same false charges. After 20 months captivity in Afyon, they were acquitted of all charges.
– In the winter of 1949, Hafız Mustafa visits many mountainous villages of Isparta to distribute the treatises. But before he reaches home, his blood freezes and he becomes the fourth martyr.
– In 1950, more than one political part entered the elections, and the Democrat Party won and formed the government alone.
– During the Democrat Party term, Bediüzzaman and the Students of Noor were at some degree relieved, though arrests and hardships still continued. He stayed some times in Emirdağ and some times in Isparta. Sometimes, he visited various cities to meet with his students and talk to his visitors. Often, he fell ill due to old age, and could not rise from bed rest.
– In 1952, he was sued because of the book “The Guide of the Youth” published in Latin letters. He had to visit Istanbul after 27 years. His hotel was flooded with his friends and students. The trial lasted 3 months and he was acquitted. Later he returned to Emirdağ.
– One day in 1953, while he was walking in the countryside of Emirdağ, the gendarme took him to court because he was not wearing a hat. He sent a petition to the Ministries of Justice and Interior Affairs. When his petition was published by a local newspaper in Samsun, he was sued by Samsun District Attorney and called to go to Samsun. Even though he submitted an official health report towards his inability to be present at the court, the court insisted. When he arrived at Istanbul en route to Samsun, his disease worsened. He took another health report indicating his inability to travel by any means. Then, the court absolved him of all charges.
– The number of students put to trial all over Turkey was over 1800, all of whom were acquitted.
– Thousands of government officials became acquainted with the Quranic teachings through the inspections and trials of the Risale-i Noor, many of whom strengthened their faith. This clearly shows that all this turmoil was the work destiny, which despite the will of the enemies of Islam Allah willed to spread His religion.
– During his three-month stay in İstanbul, he attended the 500th anniversary of Istanbul’s Conquest, and met and advised orthodox patriarch of Fener. Later, he went to Emirdağ, then to Eskişehir, to Isparta, then finally to Barla.
– Until 1957, Bediüzzaman had his students write the Treatises in Islamic letters in order not to break the ties with Quranic letters. He used to forbid the use of Latin letters to publish the Treatises. In 1957, due to severe insistence of some of his students, he gave permission for printing of the treatises in Latin script for a limited period of time.
– In March 1960, few months before the military coup, he became severely ill in Emirdağ. He went to Isparta, made farewell to his friends and students, and left for Urfa with a few of his students.
– The Interior Ministry got alarmed and ordered all the police stations to seize and take him back to Isparta.
– In defiance, he arrived at Urfa, where his hotel room was flooded with visitors, while the police was forcing him to go back. The people raged against the actions of police and prevented their taking him back.
– After two days, on March 23rd of 1960 or Ramadan 25th of 1379 (AH), Bediüzzaman passed into the realm of eternity.
– The next day, his funeral was carried by masses from the Ulu Mosque to the Mosque of Halilurrahman where he was first buried.
– However, the coup officials continued to bother him. In July 1960, he was moved to somewhere else, possibly to Isparta.