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,
Said Nursi, one of the greatest saints, scholars, and heroes of late Islamic history, was very plausibly the mujaddid, or ‘renewer of the faith’, of the 14th Islamic century. Born in Nurs, in eastern Anatolia into a Kurdish family, his prolific memory earned him the appellation Badi’uzzaman, or ‘wonder of the age’, and enabled him to memorise all the basic textbooks of the Ottoman curriculum. Active during the late Ottoman Caliphate as an educational reformer and advocate of the unity of the peoples of the Caliphate, Bediüzzaman was a worrying enough influence for the incipient leader of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, to deem it necessary to seek to control him by offering him the position of ‘Minister of Religious Affairs’ for the eastern provinces of Turkey, a post that Nursi famously refused.
Bediüzzaman‘s vast magnum opus Risale-e-Nur, is an encyclopaedic treatment of theological questions relating to the Qur’an, rich in poetic narrative and sometimes startling philosophical perspicacity. It became the single most famous Islamic work of the twentieth century in Turkey, and was, without doubt, one of the foremost reasons for the dramatic failure of Ataturk’s plan to destroy the spirit of Islamic orthodoxy in Turkey after the fall of the Caliphate.
He died in 1960.