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    Standart .. what is the Risale-i Nur?

    Who was Bediuzzaman Said Nursi and what is the Risale-i Nur?

    Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was born in eastern Turkey in 1877 and died in 1960 at the age of eighty-three after a life of exemplary struggle and self-sacrifice in the cause of Islam. He was a scholar of the highest standing having studied not only all the traditional religious sciences but also modern science and had earned the name Bediuzzaman, Wonder of the Age, in his youth as a result of his outstanding ability and learning.

    Bediuzzaman's life-time spanned the final decades of the Caliphate and Ottoman Empire, its collapse and dismemberment after the First World War, and, after its formation in 1923, the first thirty-seven years of the Republic, of which the years up to 1950 are famous for the government's repressive anti-Islamic and anti-religious policies.

    Until the years following the First World War, Bediuzzaman's struggles in the cause of Islam had been active and in the public domain. He had not only taught many students and had engaged in debate and discussion with leading scholars from all over the Islamic world, but he had also commanded and led in person a volunteer regiment against the invading Russians in eastern Turkey in 1914 for nearly two years until taken prisoner. Furthermore, up to that time he had sought to further the interests of Islam by actively engaging in public life. However, the years that saw the transition from empire to republic also saw the transition from the 'Old Said' to the 'New Said'. The 'New Said' was characterized by his withdrawal from public life and concentration on study, prayer and thought, for what was required now was a struggle of a different sort.

    Although he had paid no part in it, and in fact had strongly advised its leaders to abandon their uprising against the government, during the events in eastern Turkey of 1925, Bediuzzaman was sent into exile in western Anatolia. Following this, for the next twenty-five years, and to a lesser extent for the last ten years of his life, he suffered nothing but exile, imprisonment, harassment and persecution by the authorities. But these years of exile and isolation saw the writing of the Risale-i Nur, the Treatise of Light, and its dissemination throughout Turkey. To quote Bediuzzaman himself, "Now I see clearly that most of my life has been directed in such a way, outside my own free-will, ability, comprehension and foresight, that it might produce these treatises to serve the cause of the Qur'an. It is as if all my life as a scholar has been spent in preliminaries to these writings, which demonstrate the miraculousness of the Qur'an." Bediuzzaman understood an essential cause of the decline of the Islamic world to be the weakening of its very foundations, that is, a weakening of belief in the basic tenets of the Islamic faith. This, together with the unprecedented attacks on those foundations in the 19th and 20th centuries carried out by materialists, atheists and others in the name of science and progress, led him to realize that the urgent and overriding need was to strengthen, and even to save, belief. What was needed was to expend all efforts to reconstruct the edifice of Islam from its foundations, belief, and to answer at that level those attacks with a 'non-physical jihad ' or ' jihad of the word.'

    Thus, in his exile, Bediuzzaman wrote a body of work, the Risale-i Nur, that would explain and expound the basic tenets of belief, the truths of the Qur'an, to modern man. His method was to analyse both belief and unbelief and to demonstrate through clearly reasoned arguments that not only is it possible, by following the method of the Qur'an, to prove rationally all the truths of belief, such as God's existence and unity, prophethood, and bodily resurrection, but also that these truths are the only rational explanation of existence, man and the universe.

    Bediuzzaman thus demonstrated in the form of easily understood stories, comparisons, explanations, and reasoned proofs that, rather than the truths of religion being incompatible with the findings of modern science, the materialist interpretation of those findings is irrational and absurd. Indeed, Bediuzzaman proved in the Risale-i Nur that science's breathtaking discoveries of the universe's functioning corroborate and reinforce the truths of religion.

    The importance of the Risale-i Nur cannot be over-estimated, for through it Bediuzzaman Said Nursi played a major role in preserving and revitalizing the Islamic faith in Turkey in the very darkest days of her history. And indeed its role has continued to increase in importance to the present day. But further to this, the Risale-i Nur is uniquely fitted to address not only all Muslims but indeed all mankind for several reasons. Firstly it is written in accordance with modern man's mentality, a mentality that, whether Muslim or not, has been deeply imbued by materialist philosophy: it specifically answers all the questions, doubts and confusions that this causes. It answers too all the 'why's' that mark the questioning mind of modern man.

    Also, it explains the most profound matters of belief, which formerly only advanced scholars studied in detail, in such a way that everyone, even those to whom the subject is new, may understand and gain something without it causing any difficulties or harm.

    A further reason is that in explaining the true nature and purpose of man and the universe, the Risale-i Nur shows that true happiness is only to be found in belief and knowledge of God, both in this world and the hereafter. And it also points out the grievous pain and unhappiness that unbelief causes man's spirit and conscience, which generally the misguided attempt to block out through heedlessness and escapism, so that anyone with any sense may take refuge in belief.

    TO CONCLUDE:
    The Holy Qur'an addresses the intellect as well as man's other inner faculties. It directs man to consider the universe and its functioning in order to learn its true nature and purposes as the creation and thus to learn the attributes of its Single Creator and his own duties as a creature. This, then, is the method that Bediuzzaman employed in the Risale-i Nur. He explained the true nature of the universe as signs of its Creator and demonstrated through clear arguments that when it is read as such all the fundamentals of belief may be proved rationally.

    When this method is followed, a person attains a true belief that will be sound and firm enough to withstand any doubts that may arise in the face of the subtle attacks of Materialism, Naturalism and atheism, or the materialist approach to scientific advances. For all scientific and technological advances are merely the uncovering of the workings of the cosmos. When the cosmos is seen to be a vast and infinitely complex and meaningful unified book describing its Single Author, rather than causing doubt and bewilderment, all these discoveries and advances reinforce belief, they deepen and expand it.

    Man's most fundamental need is the need for religion, the need to recognize and worship Almighty God with all His Most Beautiful Names and attributes, and to obey His laws; those manifest in the universe and those revealed through His prophets. In explaining the message of the Qur'an, Almighty God's final Revealed Book, brought and perfectly expounded by His final Prophet, Muhammad (Upon whom be blessings and peace), and Islam, the complete and perfected religion for mankind, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi demonstrated in the Risale-i Nur that there is no contradiction or dichotomy between science and religion; rather, true progress and happiness for mankind can, and will, only be achieved in this way, the way of the Qur'an.

    Sözler Publications


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    A Brief Look at the Life of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, the Risale-i Nur, and The Flashes Collection

    The Flashes Collection forms the third volume of the Risale-i Nur Collection, a Qur'anic commentary written in Turkish by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi and inspiration of a movement for the strengthening and renewal of belief that has continued to gain momentum from the time it was written to the present. Like the first two volumes, this Collection consists of thirty-three treatises or parts, set in order by the author. On various subjects, the main purpose of the pieces is similar to that of the Risale-i Nur as a whole; that is, the expounding of various Qur'anic verses and its teachings concerning the fundamentals of belief in a way that addresses modern man's understanding and is relevant to his needs. In order to assist readers in understanding better the nature of The Flashes Collection, included here is an outline of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi's life and the writing of the Risale-i Nur.

    Bediuzzaman's Life
    Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was born in 1877 in eastern Turkey and died in 1960 in Urfa in Turkey. Readers may refer to his biography for details of his long and exemplary life, which spanned the last decades of the Ottoman Empire, its collapse after the First World War and the setting up of the Republic, then the twenty-five years of Republican Peoples' Party rule, well-known for the measures taken against Islam, followed by the ten years of Democrat rule, when conditions eased a little for Bediuzzaman.

    Bediuzzaman displayed an extraordinary intelligence and ability to learn from an early age, completing the normal course of medrese (religious school) education at the early age of fourteen, when he obtained his diploma. He became famous for both his prodigious memory and his unbeaten record in debating with other religious scholars. Another characteristic Bediuzzaman displayed from an early age was an instinctive dissatisfaction with the existing education system, which when older he formulated into comprehensive proposals for its reform. The heart of these proposals was the bringing together and joint teaching of the traditional religious sciences and the modern sciences, together with the founding of a university in the Eastern Provinces of the Empire, the Medresetü'z-Zehra, where this and his other proposals would be put into practice. In 1907 his endeavours in this field took him to Istanbul and an audience with Sultan Abdulhamid. 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 and the vicissitudes of the times.

    Contrary to the practice of religious scholars at that time, Bediuzzaman himself studied and mastered almost all the physical and mathematical sciences, and later studied philosophy, for he believed that it was only in this way that Islamic theology (kalâm) could be renewed and successfully answer the attacks to which the Qur'an and Islam were then subject.

    In the course of time, the physical sciences had been dropped from medrese education, which had contributed directly to the Ottoman decline relative to the advance of the West. Now, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Europe had gained dominance over the Islamic world, and in efforts to extend its dominance, was attacking the Qur'an and Islam in the name of science and progress in particular, falsely claiming them to be incompatible. Within the Empire too was a small minority which favoured adopting Western philosophy and civilization. Thus, all Bediuzzaman's endeavour was to prove and demonstrate the falseness of these accusations, and that far from being incompatible with science and progress, the Qur'an was the source of true progress and civilization, and in addition, since this was the case, Islam would dominate the future, despite its relative decline and regression at that time.

    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 Bediuzzaman, the period of the 'Old Said'. In additions to his endeavours in the field of learning, he served the cause of the Empire and Islam through 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. To maintain the morale of his men he himself disdained to enter the trenches inspite of the constant shelling, and it was while withstanding the overwhelming assaults of the enemy that he wrote his celebrated Qur'anic commentary, Signs of Miraculousness, dictating to a scribe while on horseback. Stating that the Qur'an encompasses the sciences which make known the physical world, the commentary is an original and important work which in Bediuzzaman's words forms a sort model for commentaries he hoped would be written in the future which would bring together the religious and modern sciences in the way he proposed. Bediuzzaman 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.

    The defeat of the Ottomans saw the end of the Empire and its dismemberment, and the occupation of Istanbul and parts of Turkey by foreign forces. These bitter years saw also the transformation of the Old Said into the New Said, the second main period of Bediuzzaman's life. Despite the acclaim he received and services he performed as a member of the Darü'l-Hikmeti'l-Islâmiye, a learned body attached to the Shaykhu'l-Islam's Office, and combatting the British, Bediuzzaman underwent a profound mental and spiritual change in the process of which he turned his back on the world. Realizing the inadequacy of the "human" science and philosophy he had studied as a means of reaching the truth, he took the revealed Qur'an as his "sole guide." In recognition of his services to the Independence Struggle, Bediuzzaman was invited to Ankara by Mustafa Kemal, but on arrival there, found that at the very time of the victory of the Turks and Islam, atheistic ideas were being propagated among the Deputies and officials, and many were lax in performing their religious duties. He published various works which successfully countered this.

    Remaining some eight months in Ankara, Bediuzzaman understood the way Mustafa Kemal and the new leaders were going to take, and on the one hand that he could not work alongside them, and on the other that they were not to be combatted in the realm of politics. And so, when offered various posts and benefits by Mustafa Kemal, he declined them and left Ankara for Van, where he withdrew into a life of worship and contemplation; he was seeking the best way to proceed.

    Within a short time, Bediuzzaman's fears about the new regime began to be realized: the first steps were taken towards secularization and reducing the power of Islam within the state, and even its eradication from Turkish life. In early 1925 there was a rebellion in the east in which Bediuzzaman played no part, but as a consequence of which was sent into exile in western Anatolia along with many hundreds of others. Thus unjustly began twenty-five years of exile, imprisonment, and unlawful oppression for Bediuzzaman. He was sent to Barla, a tiny village in the mountains of Isparta Province. However, the attempt to entirely isolate and silence him had the reverse effect, for Bediuzzaman was both prepared and uniquely qualified to face the new challenge: these years saw the writing of the Risale-i Nur, which silently spread and took root, combatting in the most constructive way the attempt to uproot Islam, and the unbelief and materialist philosophy it was hoped to instil in the Muslim people of Turkey.

    The Risale-i Nur
    As the New Said, Bediuzzaman had immersed himself in the Qur'an, searching for a way to relate its truths to modern man. In Barla in his isolation he began to write treatises explaining and proving these truths, for now the Qur'an itself and its truths were under direct attack. The first of these was on the Resurrection of the Dead, which in a unique style, proves bodily Resurrection rationally, where even the greatest scholars previously had confessed their impotence. He described the method employed in this as consisting of three stages: first God's existence is proved, and His Names and attributes, then the Resurrection of the Dead is "constructed" on these and proved.

    With these writings, Bediuzzaman opened up a new, direct way to reality (haqiqat) and knowledge of God which he described as the highway of the Qur'an and way of the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) through the "legacy of Prophethood," which gains for those who follow it "true and certain belief." He did not ascribe the writings to himself, but said they proceeded from the Qur'an itself, were "rays shining out of from [its] truths."

    Thus, rather than being a Qur'anic commentary which expounds all its verses giving the immediate reasons for their revelation and the apparent meanings of the words and sentences, the Risale-i Nur is what is known as a mânevî tefsir, or commentary which expounds the meaning of the Qur'anic truths. For there are various sorts of commentaries. The verses mostly expounded in the Risale-i Nur are those concerned with the truths of belief, such as the Divine Names and attributes and the Divine activity in the universe, the Divine existence and Unity, resurrection, prophethood, Divine Determining or destiny, and man's duties of worship. Bediuzzaman explains how the Qur'an addresses all men in every age in accordance with the degree of their understanding and development; it has a face that looks to each age. The Risale-i Nur, then, explains that face of the Qur'an which looks to this age. We shall now look at further aspects of the Risale-i Nur related to this point.

    In numerous of its verses, the Holy Qur'an invites man to observe the universe and reflect on the Divine activity within it; following just this method, Bediuzzaman provides proofs and explanations for the truths of belief. He likens the universe to a book, and looking at it in the way shown by the Qur'an, that is, 'reading' it for its meaning, learns of the Divine Names and attributes and other truths of belief. The book's purpose is to describe its Author and Maker; beings become evidences and signs to their Creator. Thus, an important element in the way of the Risale-i Nur is reflection or contemplation (tefekkür), "reading" the Book of the Universe in order to increase in knowledge of God and to obtain "true and certain belief" in all the truths of belief.

    Bediuzzaman demonstrates that the irrefutable truths, such as Divine Unity, arrived at in this way are the only rational and logical explanation of the universe, and making comparisons with Naturalist and Materialist philosophy-which have used science's findings about the universe to deny those truths, show the concepts on which they are based, such as causality and Nature, to be irrational and logically absurd.

    Indeed, far from contradicting them, in uncovering the order and working of the universe, science broadens and deepens knowledge of the truths of belief. In the Risale-i Nur many descriptions of the Divine activity in the universe are looked at through the eyes of science, and reflect Bediuzzaman's knowledge of it. The Risale-i Nur shows that there is no contradiction or conflict between religion and science.

    In addition, all these matters discussed in the Risale-i Nur are set out as reasoned arguments and proved according to logic. All the most important of the truths of belief are proved so clearly that even unbelievers can see their necessity. And so too, inspired by the Qur'an, even the most profound and inaccessible truths are made accessible by means of comparisons, which bring them close to the understanding like telescopes, so that they are readily understandable by ordinary people and those with no previous knowledge of these questions.

    Another aspect of the Risale-i Nur related to the face of the Qur'an which looks to this age, is that it explains everything from the point of view of wisdom; that is, as is mentioned again below, it explains the purpose of everything. It considers things from the point of view of the Divine Name of All-Wise.

    Also, following this method, in the Risale-i Nur Bediuzzaman solved many mysteries of religion, such as bodily resurrection and Divine Determining and man's will, and the riddle of the constant activity in the universe and the motion of particles, before which man relying on his own intellect and philosophy had been impotent.

    While in Barla, Bediuzzaman put the treatise on Resurrection and the pieces that followed it together in the form of a collection and gave it the name of Sözler (The Words). The Words was followed by Mektûbat (Letters), a collection of thirty-three letters of varying lengths from Bediuzzaman to his students. And this was followed by Lem'alar, the present work, and Sualar, The Rays Collection, which was completed in 1949. Together with these are the three collections of Additional Letters, for each of Bediuzzaman's main places of exile, Barla Lahikasi, Kastamonu Lahikasi, and Emirdag Lahikasi.

    The way the Risale-i Nur was written and disseminated was unique, like the work itself. Bediuzzaman would dictate at speed to a scribe, who would write down the piece in question with equal speed; the actual writing was very quick. Bediuzzaman had no books for reference and the writing of religious works was of course forbidden. They were all written therefore in the mountains and out in the countryside. Handwritten copies were then made, these were secretly copied out in the houses of the Risale-i Nur 'students,' as they were called, and passed from village to village, and then from town to town, till they spread throughout Turkey. Only in 1946 were Risale-i Nur students able to obtain duplicating machines, while it was not till 1956 that The Words and other collections were printed on modern presses in the new, Latin, script. The figure given for hand-written copies is 600,000.

    It may be seen from the above figure how the Risale-i Nur movement spread within Turkey, despite all efforts to stop it. After 1950, the period of what Bediuzzaman called 'the Third Said,' there was a great increase in the number of students, particularly among the young and those who had been through the secular education system of the Republic. At the same time the number of students outside Turkey increased. It is no exaggeration to say that with its conveying the Qur'anic message in a way that addresses and answers modern man's needs, the Risale-i Nur played a major role in keeping alive the Islamic faith in Turkey in those dark days, and in the resurgence of Islam that has occurred subsequently.

    The Flashes Collection
    To return to The Flashes Collection, a look at its contents shows that in accordance with the Qur'anic way described above, it proves and explains the main truths of belief. At the same time, it answers criticisms of these truths and of Qur'anic verses made by atheists. Examples of this are parts of the Twelfth, Fourteenth, and Sixteenth Flashes, which were written in reply to questions put to Bediuzzaman by his students. Others of the Flashes, particularly the Twenty-Third, the celebrated Treatise on Nature, and in the Sixth Point of the Thirtieth, the discussion on Divine Self-Subsistence, refute in readily understable manner Naturalist and Materialist philosophy.

    It is also in the face of attempts to substitute Islam with such philosophy and the enforced innovations that accompanied these attempts, that Bediuzzaman's stress on adherence to the Practices (Sunna) of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) may be seen. Notably in the Eleventh Flash, and his solving of one of the chief points of conflict between the Sunnis and Shi'a in the Fourth-the question of 'the Imamate.'

    The Flashes Collection is also distinguished from the first two volumes of the Risale-i Nur in so far as it considers social aspects of belief to a greater extent. For example, the Twentieth Flash, On Sincerity, demonstrates that sincerity is the means of healing the divisions in society and achieving union. The Nineteenth encourages the important Islamic principle of frugality, for which Bediuzzaman himself was the finest example. The Twenty-Fourth discusses the wisdom in Islamic dress for women. While the Twenty-Fifth addresses the sick, and the Twenty-Sixth, the elderly.

    One explanation for this may be that Bediuzzaman removed from his place of exile in the isolated village of Barla in the summer of 1934 to the provincial centre of Isparta. The Flashes which include the above were written here, where the needs of the various sections of society may have impressed themselves on Bediuzzaman to a greater degree.

    In addition to this, it may be noted that in the Sixth Section of the Twenty-Ninth Letter, Bediuzzaman points out that of the six main sections of society, irreligion can offer only a superficial and temporary happiness to the youth. For the sick, the elderly, the weak and the poor, the children and the pious it can offer nothing. Thus, on being moved to the more populous centre of Isparta, he wrote the above-mentioned parts of The Flashes, demonstrating how true belief and Islam answer the needs of all sections of society, affording true happiness both in this world and the next.

    In April 1935 Bediuzzaman was arrested together with one hundred and twenty of his students and sent to Eskishehir Prison. Here he wrote the Twenty-Seventh Flash, which comprises his defence speeches in Eskishehir Court, the Twenty-Eighth, short pieces on various topics, some of which throw important light on Qur'anic verses, the Twenty-Ninth, which illustrates the essence of the way of the Risale-i Nur-reflective thought, and the Thirtieth, another treatise of the greatest importance, which expounds the Six Divine Names of the Greatest Name. The first two parts of The Rays, the fourth volume of the Risale-i Nur, were also brilliant fruits of this harsh twelve months of imprisonment.

    Despite being written under particular constraints and in particular conditions, the Risale-i Nur and the present work expound a universal Qur'anic way and deal with universal problems in a manner that addresses the needs of contemporary man. This may be seen as the reason for its continued spread and acceptance both within Turkey and throughout the world.



    The Flashes


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