The life of Master Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
His Highness Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, the mujaddid (reviver) of the year Hijri 1300, who devoted his entire life to communicate the message of Islam and call people to live by the morality of the Qur’an and worked, with all his might and main, to establish the Unity of Islam, was born in the village of Nurs , Hizan Province of Bitlis on March 12, 1878.
His Highness Said Nursi was exemplary in giving a sincere struggle on the path of Allah at every moment of his life. His profound knowledge in religious and positive sciences he learned at an early age was acclaimed by the scholars of his time, and due to his sharp intelligence, strong memory and superior abilities, he was called by the name “Bediuzzaman”, meaning “The most unique, superior person of the time.”
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi arrived at Istanbul in 1907 in order to get permission for a university he was planning to found which he called Madrasah al-Zahra, which would provide education both in religious and educational sciences in order to resolve the problems of education in the East, something he considered to be the most urgent need of the region. With his profound knowledge he was also accepted in a very short time by the scientific community of Istanbul. His various articles were published in newspapers and magazines, and he also lent support to the government by participating in arguments about freedom and constitutional monarchy. Despite this however, the government of the time felt unease about the interest scholars, pupils, madrasa instructors and politicians in Istanbul showed to him. For this reason, he was first sent to a mental hospital and then to prison.
Although he played a unifying role with his articles and speeches following his release, he was unjustly accused and arrested in 1909 on claims that he had participated in the March 31st Incident. He was put on trial for his life but subsequently acquitted.
Following this incident, Bediuzzaman returned to the East. During the First World War, he established a militia force, together with his followers, and played an active role in the defense of the country. During this war he showed great success as the voluntary regiment commander;, ultimately he was taken as a prisoner of war by the Russians. At the end of three years of captivity, he, by Allah’s will, managed to escape from captivity, and secretly returned to Istanbul.
Statesmen and scholarly circles in Istanbul met Bediuzzaman with great interest. He was assigned to the membership of Dar al-Hiqmad al-Islamiyya, the Academy of Islam. With the salary he received, he started to publish and distribute his books for free. Then Said Nursi prepared a cautionary booklet titled, The Six Wiles of satan that revealed invading forces’ real intentions, which, upon an order issued by the commander of the invading forces, caused him to be wanted dead or alive.
He ardently advocated and supported the National Struggle. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk personally invited him to Ankara, where he was welcomed by a state ceremony on his arrival. He was offered the posts of deputyship, the Public Ministry of the Eastern Provinces, and Directorate of Religious Affairs but, as a person who was aware of the transitory nature of worldly posts. and only desired the life of the Hereafter, he rejected them outright and always remained distant to politics.
When the Sheikh Said rebellion erupted in 1925, although he had no connection with the incident, Said Nursi was taken from Van province where he secluded himself and was exiled to Burdur, and then to the Barla district of Isparta. Bediuzzaman wrote a great part of his work the Risale-i Nur Collection in this period of exile.
In 1934, some circles, who realized that the Risale-i Nur Collection was the toughest barrier against the Darwinist-materialist mindset, wanted him to be brought to the center of Isparta in order to have stricter control over him. Sukru Kaya, the Interior Minister of the time, made a statement in the Cumhuriyet daily on May 10, 1935, which groundlessly accused him of irrational slanders such as declaring his prophecy, deceiving naive young people and taking their money, and obscurantism. Upon this, a search was carried out in Said Nursi’s home, and all of his books were confiscated, although there was nothing unlawful in them. He was taken into custody and questioned but, seeing that his works had constituted no element of crime, he was released. A few days later, the acting Interior Minister and General Commander of the Gendarmerie arrived at Isparta together with a fully equipped squadron, deployed soldiers all along the Isparta-Afyon highway, and took Isparta and its vicinity under control. Then in the morning, Bediuzzaman, who had no intention other than serving in Allah’s way, was taken out of his home, handcuffed, and, together with his followers, transported to Eskisehir by military trucks. All through his trial he was kept in custody. Then, upon the verdict of Eskisehir High Criminal Court’s decision, he was sentenced to 11 months imprisonment, together with compulsory residence in Kastamonu. Each of his fifteen followers were also sentenced to six months imprisonment.
Bediuzzaman was brought to Kastamonu for compulsory residence, and forced to reside in the upper floor of the security headquarters. Then he was relocated to another apartment just a few meters away from the security headquarters. He was not even allowed to close his curtains. The exile in Kastamonu continued for eight years.
Bediuzzaman, who was brought to Kastamonu for compulsory residence under police custody, was arrested once again upon the order issued by the Isparta prosecutor in 1943. Despite his severe illness, he was taken to Ankara, and then by train to Isparta. Upon merger of the files of the cases related to the Risale-i Nur Collection with the case in Denizli, he was sent to Denizli. The imprisonment in Denizli again started under isolation. During the imprisonment and trial stages that took place under very hard conditions, Bediuzzaman continued to write the Risale-i Nur. Despite his acquittal and release in 1944, the government of the time ordered Said Nursi to be subjected to compulsory residence in the Emirdağ district of Afyon.
Bediuzzaman was placed in a room across from the government building and kept under constant surveillance. He was disallowed to even go to mosque in order to prevent him from talking to people. The exile in Denizli, where he was continuously kept under custody, took place under more severe conditions than his imprisonment in Denizli. During this period his opponents, who were unable to render him ineffective by resorting to lawful methods, tried to martyr him by poisoning. Throughout his life, Said Nursi survived 23 attempts of poisoning ,and three of these attempts were made during his exile in Emirdag.
While all this oppression was taking place, the Risale-i Nur Collection was copied by Bediuzzaman’s followers with great zeal, and thus the message of the Qur’an was communicated to masses. Especially with the use of mimeographs, these works were carried out more rapidly.
With the Supreme Court’s approval of the acquittal verdict given by the High Criminal Court of Denizli in 1944, Bediuzzaman was released. However, the Risale-i Nur Collection’s becoming widespread started to make certain circles feel uneasy. In January 1948, Said Nursi and fifteen of his followers were taken from their houses and workplaces to the prison in Afyon; despite all these hard conditions, Bediuzzaman did not cease to write his works.
In December 1948, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, but it was appealed and decided in favor of him. However, despite this verdict of the Supreme Court, the High Criminal Court of Afyon extended the trial and ensured that he spent 20 months in prison. Said Nursi spent this duration of the penalty he did not deserve as a prisoner, and then he was released in September 1949. But upon an order issued by the authorities in Ankara, he was subjected to compulsory residence in Afyon, and he could only return to Emirdag in December.
In 1951 a case in Emirdağ, and just a year later another case in Istanbul, was opened against Bediuzzaman due to his book titled, “The Guide for the Youth.” In the trial made in Istanbul, the court made a decision in favor of him, and closed the case.
He was subject to scores of incomprehensible slanders including allegedly being insane, taking women to his house, drinking raki (an anise-flavored liquor), and exploiting religion for his personal interests, but he was acquitted of all these accusations.
In January 1960, because his entrance to Ankara was prevented by the police, he went to Isparta. His Highness Said Nursi, who was very sick and now 83 years old , went to Urfa together with his followers. His sickness made him unable to walk, but still the police tried to take him back to Isparta upon the order of the Interior Minister. While this oppression persisted, Bediuzzaman passed away.
Bediuzzaman, who spent 30 years of his life in prisons and exile, spent all his life under these harsh conditions to advocate the Unity of Islam. As result of the works Bediuzzaman and his loyal followers, carried out with great sacrifice and suffering, the morality of Islam founded on love, and represented by the Risale-i Nur Collection took root in Anatolia, by the leave of Allah. In the words of Bediuzzaman, it is impossible “for anyone to eradicate it from the heart of Anatolia.”
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi who said; “Do not be afraid! I broke the back of irreligion. It can no longer reign in this country!” spent his life, which lasted almost a century, in exile or prison under great oppression and challenges. Despite these harsh conditions, he never once swerved from his faith, determination and resolution. In his work titled, Booklet of Fruits, he stated that he considered prison as a madrasa thusly:
"...Although I cannot bear the slightest betrayal and domination from of old; I oathfully reassure you that, the light and strength of my faith in the Hereafter has granted me such patience, perseverance, consolation and resolution, and it has granted me such a zeal to earn a greater reward in this profitable trial that, as I said earlier in this booklet, I see myself in a fine and good madrasa (school) deserving the title of Madrasa al-Yusufiya.” (Risale-i Nur Collection, 11th Beam of Light, Booklet of Fruit, p.226)
I take refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan
Those who do good will have the best and more! Neither dust nor debasement will darken their faces. They are the Companions of the Garden, remaining in it timelessly, for ever. (SurahYunus, 26)