GUIDANCE AND TEBLIG IN THE RISALE-I NUR
"If I had heads to the number of hairs on my head and every day one was cut off, I would not surrender to atheism and misguidance, and betray this country and nation, and Islam. I would not bow this head, which is dedicated to the reality of the Qur'an, before tyrants."1
"Do they suppose I am some selfish person who thinks only of saving himself? I have sacrificed my life in this world to save the belief of society, and my life in the hereafter."
"I have only one aim; it is this: at this time as I approach the grave, I hear the hooting of the Bolshevik owls in this country, which is a Muslim land. The sound is damaging the fundamentals of belief of the Islamic world. Making them lose their belief, it binds the people, and particularly the youth, to itself. Struggling against it with all my strength, I am calling the youth and all Muslims to believe. I am struggling against these unbelieving masses. I want to enter the Divine presence with this struggle of mine. This is all I do. And those who prevent me from doing this; I am frightened that they are communists! For me it is a sacred aim to co-operate with the forces of religion who have embraced the struggle against these enemies of belief. Release me! Let me work to the reform of the youth, poisoned by communism, and for this country's faith! Let me serve Divine unity!"2
Ladies and gentlemen! We may look briefly at the place of 'teblig' and guidance in Islam before discussing the main subject:
'Teblig' means to communicate or deliver a message or information. While its technical meaning is "to make known everything considered to be good; to communicate the goodness and purity of good things and that they are good to other countries and nations, and to invite them to accept them."3 Briefly, 'teblig' means to convey and explain the truths of Islam, or to "enjoin what is approved and restrain from what is unlawful."
Conveying the message is the purpose of the existence of prophets. If there had been no conveying of the message, the sending of prophets would have been meaningless and futile. God manifested His grace and munificence to men through the prophets, and manifested His mercifulness and compassionateness through their lives. These are conveyed to other human beings only by means of the delivery of the message.
Numerous verses in the Holy Qur'an define the word and its meaning, repeating that the duty of the Prophet (PBUH) is to convey the message (teblig).4 So much space has been allotted to the conveying of the message in the Qur'an and authentic Sunna that even to give one or two examples of each would be inappropriate for this paper, in regard both to length and content.
The Islamic community and particularly the 'ulama& are the heirs of the Prophet in this question. Changes in time, conditions, and place form no obstacle to communicating religion. Nevertheless, the particularities of the time and place should be taken into consideration in conveying the message. For all the prophets did this. All peoples and nations are equal in regard to the conveying of the message, and have the same rights. It is obligatory for all Muslims to communicate Islam to others, regardless of race, colour, sex, geographical situation, time, or place, or other differences.
This is because calling to Islam and conveying its message is not particular to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his Companions. Furthermore, it is certain that he was the final prophet and no more prophets will come. So what is incumbent today on members of a religion that is to continue till the end of the world? The shortest answer is this: "It is to follow the way of God's Messenger and his Companions, and to carry out the duties they carried out in their age suitably to the requirements and means of the present day." In the Noble Qur'an, it says: "Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong...",5 stating that there always should be a community to perform this function.
Bediuzzaman's chief characteristics concerning guidance and conveying the message, and those distinguishing him from others, were as follows:
i. Bediuzzaman's devoting himself entirely to this work
Bediuzzaman responded to this Divine command, and enjoined what was good and restrained from what was unlawful, that is, he performed the duties of gguidance and conveying the message. But his response was such that he did not merely do it 'part-time;' he dedicated his whole life to this work. Because of their familial obligations, some people like imams, muezzins, preachers, and muftis, perform the duty in return for a salary; but like the prophets, Bediuzzaman said: "My recompense is from God alone," and seeking no wage, dedicated his entire life to the duties of guidance and conveying the message. He devoted his life to this. His altruism was such that he said he was ready to sacrifice his life in the hereafter as well.
Guidance and conveying the message was the aim of Bediuzzaman's life, who was the author of the Risale-i Nur. That great person lived only for this. Anyone who studies his life and works will see it easily. This being the purpose of his life, Bediuzzaman feared nothing and no one. Because of it he faced every danger. He even said that on condition the religious belief of his people was firm as a result of his guidance and the message he had conveyed, he was ready to sacrifice his life in the hereafter in the same way that he had sacrificed his life here.
"They ask me: why have you provoked so-and-so? I wasn't aware of it. There is a great conflagration before me; the flames are touching the skies. My children are burning it in; my belief too has caught fire and is burning. I am racing to put out the fire, to save my belief. If someone wants to hinder me on the way and I trip on him, what importance has it? Does such a petty incident have importance in the face of that terrible fire? Narrow minds, narrow views... I have sacrificed even my life in the hereafter to save the community's religious belief. I neither long for Paradise, nor fear Hell. Let not one Said but a thousand be sacrificed for the sake of the Turkish community of twenty-five million. I would not want Paradise even, if the Qur'an has no listeners on the earth; it would be a prison for me. I am happy to burn in the fires of Hell if I see this nation's belief to be safe, for while my body was burning, my heart would be in bliss."
ii. The period in which Bediuzzaman lived
It was a period in which every sort of religious enterprise was labelled "a reactionary movement;" religiously minded people who performed worship even privately were disturbed; when both reading and teaching the Qur'an were forbidden; blameless religious scholars were sent to the scaffold due to unfounded suspicions; and severe penalties were inflicted for the teaching of religion. Yes, it was a time when the religious schools and sufi meeting-places were closed down, which for hundreds of years had been the watchmen of this nation's spiritual life, honour, and all they hold sacred; when anywhere thought to be a place of religious learning was extinguished; when all religious instruction was prohibited; and when some shaykhs and religious scholars were intimidated into "selling themselves" and accepting various positions - at such a time, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi had no aim other than guiding others and conveying the message of the Qur'an. In such an environment, at such a time when let alone serving religion, even to profess religion demanded great courage, he fearlessly threw himself into the arena and lived for this work alone. Those who study his life and works can see this easily.
iii. The diversity and breadth of Bediuzzaman's field of service
Guidance and conveying the message as Bediuzzaman practised them are not confined to any particular time and place. His way embraced every facet of life, like teaching students; offering advice and guidance; fighting tooth and nail against the enemy when necessary; resisting the enemy commander-in-chief when a prisoner-of-war, and causing him to come to his senses, even while facing the firing squad. On the one hand, he travelled among the tribes of eastern Anatolia instructing them in belief and morality, and on the other, he outlined for the leading scholars of Damascus the most apt solutions for Islamic politics. During the Second Constitutional period, he proclaimed the Qur'an's sacred truths to the Parliament, and through speeches and articles in the press; and he fearlessly related these same truths to the Court Martial. He persuaded both the Sultan and the Ankara government of the necessity of a university in the east. He was involved in politics, if only for a short time, with the idea of making them serve religion. He courageously told what was right to the Deputies in the National Assembly; he transformed prison into a 'Medrese-i Yusufiye,' offering guidance to his students outside by letter. And most importantly, under the very hardest conditions, he wrote the Risale-i Nur, and during his lifetime, sent its treatises to various places abroad. In short, guidance and conveying the message encompassed all Bediuzzaman's life.
Bediuzzaman offered guidance both to the masses, and to the educated classes; without favouring one class over another, he addressed every group in a way they could understand. He neglected no one in the works he wrote. Everyone from the least educated to the most highly educated may benefit from them, each according to his level. For example, Muh?kemat was written for the 'elite,' the Twenty-Fifth and Twenty-Sixth Flashes for the sick and the elderly respectively, the Guide For Youth for the young, and the Guide For Women, for women.
iv. Harmony of the tongues of speech and disposition
One of the most important of Bediuzzaman's characteristics in conveying the message was his relating the truth with a harmony of the tongues of speech and disposition; his attaching the greatest importance to sincerity, asceticism, and taqwa; awaiting any recompense for this duty from God alone, which is a principle of the Prophet (PBUH) and the Qur'an; and his independence in the face of others.
v. Bediuzzaman's following the Qur'an and Prophet (PBUH) in guidance and conveying the message
Besides being a man of profound feelings, Bediuzzaman lived all his life in the shadow of the Qur'an and Sunna, and acted in accordance with them in all the matters connected with his mission. Yes, one of the most prominent characteristics of his guidance and conveying of the message was its being in conformity with the method of the Qur'an and Prophet (PBUH), as well as its conforming to the conditions of the century in which he lived. That is, he performed his service in the way the Qur'an commanded the Prophet (PBUH) and those who call to religion, conforming to the Prophet's method.
vi. Bediuzzaman's diagnosing correctly the sicknesses of the age
Bediuzzaman diagnosed our age-old sicknesses and the calamities caused by these wounds, and in order to cure them and save Muslims from being annihilated, from his earliest years to his death alway sincerely said the same things, tackled our problems to the same degree, and offered the same remedies.
Bediuzzaman stated that the source of all disasters were ignorance, poverty, and conflict, at that time as they are today. As a thinker who understood thoroughly the age in which he lived, he wanted to instil the spirit of learning into the masses, who were wretched at that time. He pondered long over our poverty and economic problems, seeking solutions for them, always working for our unity and togetherness.
Yes, the chief reason for our social troubles and for our poverty is ignorance. Without doubt the main calamity afflicting us both then and now is ignorance, in the sense of not recognizing God or knowing the Prophet (PBUH), being indifferent towards religion, and not being aware of the dynamics of our history, both material and spiritual. Bediuzzaman dedicated his life to combatting this fatal sickness. He stated that it is futile to hope for this nation's salvation so long as the masses are not illuminated with knowledge and learning, society is not accustomed to systematic thought, and a stop is not put to currents of false, deviant ideas.
Bediuzzaman succeeded with the Risale-i Nur Collection in founding a powerful movement for renewal and an Islamic school established on knowledge and wisdom. He instituted a new movement of guidance and conveying the message in the Islamic world this age when thought and consciences have been eclipsed. He was a regenerator in the world of guidance.
In this paper, I want to list matter by matter the methods Bediuzzaman himself followed throughout his life in performing this duty, and that he recommended and ordered his students to follow, and advised preachers and spiritual guides and the Muslims of this age to practise.
1. The guide should practise what he preaches
The most important reason for the tremendous effect on people's hearts and minds of Bediuzzaman's works and their brilliant explanations is the fact that he himself practised these truths to perfection. That is to say, in order not receive a slap from the verses "O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do?"6 and "Do you enjoin right conduct on the people, and forget [to practise it] yourselves. And yet you study the Scripture?",7 he said nothing that he did not do. On the contrary, he first of all addressed himself and himself practised them himself, and then explained them to others.
In the Risale-i Nur he frequently addressed himself or his soul, sometimes by name; teaching others by attributing certain faults to himself, admonishing them and as demanded by the humility of the truly great, conveying his message without upsetting those he was addressing. Using expressions like "O my bewildered soul!", "O my selfish soul!", "O my lazy soul!", "O my wretched soul!", he addressed others as well as himself, but mostly himself.
• We must first of all practise things ourselves
"If we were to display through our actions the perfections of the morality of Islam and the truths of belief, without doubt the followers of other religions would enter Islam in whole communities; some entire regions and states, even, would take refuge in Islam."8
• The Risale-i Nur first of all tries to convince its 'interpreter's' soul
"Also, the Risale-i Nur first of all tries to convince its interpreter's soul; then it looks to others. Certainly, a teaching which persuades his evil-commanding soul, dispelling all its doubts, must be extremely powerful and pure so that single-handed it confronts and conquers the awesome collective personality of misguidance at this time, which has taken the form of a collectivity."9
2. Sincerity in conveying the message and offering guidance
Those who serve religion should show exemplary sincerity in their beliefs, ideas, words, and behaviour. That is, they should have a pure intention. Their only purpose in conveying the message and offering guidance should be to gain God's pleasure. They should have no desire to further personal interests, nor hypocrisy, ostentation, jealousy, ambition, greed, or wish to be applauded and praised by the people. The opposite of sincerity is hypocrisy and reputation-seeking. According to a Hadith, hypocrisy is to set up partners besides God.10
Sincerity is the way of the Risale-i Nur. Salvation is to be had only through sincerity. The key to success in service of the Qur'an and its acceptability, is sincerity. Bediuzzaman said that the Risale-i Nur's strength lay in sincerity. He wrote a treatise on the subject. His writing at the head of it "This should be read at least once a fortnight" shows the importance he attached to sincerity.
• Guidance and conveying the message should be considered more important than anything
"True students of the Risale-i Nur consider serving religious belief to be superior to everything. Even if they were to be offered the position of 'spiritual pole,' out of sincerity they prefer that service."11
• Sincerity, our aim, and avoiding hypocrisy
"My dear and careful brother! By reason of our way, I earnestly flee from the respect and honour of people, and their admiration and gifts and favourable opinions about my person. Especially the desire for fame, which is an extraordinary hypocrisy, and to appear good to people and pass into the histories, which is a conceit, such things are the opposite of and opposed to sincerity, the way of the Risale-i Nur and its basis. It is not desiring them, on the contrary, as regards myself, I shy away from them. I only want the spread of the Risale-i Nur, which proceeds from the Qur'an's effulgence, consists of flashes of its miraculousness and expounds its truths and solves its talismans; I want everyone to feel their need of it and to appreciate its high value; to show its extremely clear wonders, and that from the point of view of belief, it has defeated all the atheists and irreligious, and will do so; and I await this from Divine mercy..."12
• Sincerity in conveying the message and offering guidance, and their being the tool of nothing
"... I have perhaps a hundred times wounded the feelings of Risale-i Nur students who think excessively well of my person. I have told them that I possess nothing. I am the wretched salesman of the jeweller's shop of the Qur'an. As my close brothers will confirm for they have seen the signs of it, it is not winning worldly rank and fame for myself, even to suppose I was given exalted spiritual rank, fearing the possibility that my soul would want its share and harm my purity of intention, I have decided to sacrifice those ranks for my service and that is how I have acted in fact...."13
3. The duty of the person conveying the message is merely to convey it; to have it accepted it God's concern
Almighty God says that the only duty that falls to the prophets is to convey the message, while to have it accepted or not accepted is up to Him: "The Messenger's duty is but to proclaim [the Message]."14 Addressing the Prophet (PBUH), He says: "It is true you will not be able to guide every one whom you love; but God guides those whom He will."15 "Therefore give admonition for you are one to admonish. * You are not one to manage [men's] affairs."16 The duty of the person offering guidance and conveying the message is to relate these to those he addresses; to bestow the guidance is something only God can do. The person calling to God's way does not possess the power to force people to believe, he is also not responsible for doing this.
• One should not interfere in God's concerns
"...[those on] the way of the Risale-i Nur do their own duty and do not interfere God's concerns. Their duty is to convey the message. To make others accept it is God's concern. Also, no importance should be given to quantity..."17
4. Being disinterested
Being disinterested means carrying out the service expecting nothing in return. It is different to sincerity; the opposite of sincerity is hypocrisy, while the opposite of being disinterested is doing something in self-interest or in the expectation of receiving something in return. Many of the prophets said: "I ask you for no wealth in return; my reward is from none but God."18 It is understood from this that no benefit should be expected in return for conveying the message, either material or moral. All that should be sought is God's pleasure. Bediuzzaman followed the prophets in disseminating the truth, seeking no recompense for his service. He said that this world is the place of service, not of reward.
• Receiving no recompense in return for conveying the message and offering guidance
"...And without demanding or inwardly desiring any material reward for religious service, one should know one's act to be purely God's grace and not impose a sense of obligation on men. Nothing worldly should be sought in return for religious service, otherwise sincerity will be lost... When one receives something, it cannot be said that 'This is the reward for my service.' Rather in perfect contentment one should always prefer to oneself others who are more deserving..."19
• Working for the government should not be for the salary, but to serve
"I say seriously that I want to give a practical warning to my fellow-countrymen that forming a connection with the government is in order to serve it; it is not in order to grab a salary. And someone like me serves the nation and government through advising and admonishing. And that is through making a good impression. And that is through expecting nothing in return. And that is through being unprejudiced, which is through being without ulterior motives, which is through renouncing all personal benefits. As a consequence, I am excused from not accepting a salary."20
5. Maintaining brotherhood and unity among those who convey the message
God commands believers to preserve their unity and togetherness and to co-operate in performing good works. "And hold fast, all together, by the rope which God [stretches out for you], and be not divided among yourselves."21 "Help one another in righteousness and piety."22 Bediuzzaman also wanted individuals and communities who are engaged in conveying the message to assist one another, and to carry out their service without criticizing or pulling down others engaged in similar work.
a. Preserving unity among brothers engaged in conveying the message
Relations between students of the Risale-i Nur consist of disinterested, sincere, true brotherhood. They are brothers, together receiving instruction from the Qur'an. In the Risale-i Nur, this principle is called "annihilation in the brothers" (taf?nî). "That is to say, to forget the feelings of one's own carnal soul, and live in one's mind with one's brothers' virtues and feelings." Belief and love of Islam necessitate brotherhood. There are ties establishing unity and accord to the number of Divine Names.
"In order to strengthen the Risale-i Nur and work for its spread, and encourage its students, they make the ice-blocks of their 'I's into a pool; casting them into the pool of that water of life, dissolving them. For to open up another way would both cause damage, and unknowingly harm this firm, straight highway of the Qur'an. Without realizing it, it might even assist the cause of atheism in some sort of way."23
"In the face of such a situation, the 'non-material' strivings of the Risale-i Nur students will, God willing, be the means to great good deeds and rewards through few actions, like in the time of the Companions. My dear brothers! After sincerity, our greatest strength at such a time in the face of these fearsome events, is, in accordance with the principle of 'sharing the works of the hereafter,' for each of us to write good deeds into 'the righteous-act books' of the others with our pens, and with our tongues to send reinforcements and assistance to the 'forts' of the others' taqwa..."24
b. Attitudes towards followers of other ways who are engaged in conveying the message
In my opinion, the solutions Bediuzzaman proposed for this question too are still relevant today. Before everything, he considered the existence of different communities to be necessary and beneficial, but he wished for their aim to be the same. Certainly, the aim had to be positive and constructive, and to serve religion and the nation. So long as this was the case, their methods and ways did not have to be the same. If they had been the same, it would have been harmful rather than beneficial, leading people to say: "What is to me? Let others do the thinking." Bediuzzaman insists that the Risale-i Nur students and those who convey the message should not be critical of one another.
"To act positively, that is, out of love for one's own outlook, avoiding enmity for other outlooks, not criticizing them, interfering in their beliefs and sciences, or in any way concerning oneself with them. To unite within the fold of Islam, irrespective of particular outlook, remembering those numerous ties of unity that evoke love, brotherhood and concord.
"To adopt the just rule of conduct that the follower of any right outlook has the right to say, 'My outlook is true, or the best,' but not that 'My outlook alone is true,' or that 'My outlook alone is good,' thus implying the falsity or repugnance of all other outlooks. To consider that union with the people of truth is a cause of Divine succour and the high dignity of religion.
"To realize that the individual resistance of the most powerful person against the attacks through its genius of the mighty collective force of the people of misguidance and falsehood, which arises from their solidarity, will inevitably be defeated, and through the union of the people of truth, to create a joint and collective force also, in order to preserve justice and right in the face of that fearsome collective force of misguidance. To cease from all insignificant feelings aroused by rivalry."25
c. Attitude towards 'hojas', shaykhs, and other religious figures
• Not to argue with hojas and shaykhs
"Perhaps they have made some hojas and shaykhs oppose us, as well as apparently pious people who are deceived or have been deceived. We have to preserve our unity and solidarity in the face of them, and not concern ourselves with them or dispute with them."26
• Send my greetings to the learned preacher...
"Send my greetings to that learned preacher. I readily accept his criticisms and objections about my person. And you too, do not incite him or those like him to dispute and argue. Even if you are attacked, do not respond with ill words. Whoever they are, so long as they believe, they are our brothers. Even if they are hostile towards us, we cannot retaliate according to our way, for there are enemies and serpents more deadly than they. We have light in our hands, not clubs. Light does not aggravate, it carresses with its rays. And when it comes to the learned in particular, if they possess the egotism that arises from knowledge, do not provoke it. As far as is possible, take the principle 'When they pass by error, they pass by it with honourable avoidance.'27 as your guide. Also that person had earlier joined the Risale-i Nur and participated with his writing, so he is within its sphere. If he has some wrong ideas, forgive him. Not only Muslims who are men of religion and members of sufi orders like them, both these extraordinary times, and our way, and our sacred service necessitate that we do not concern ourselves with those who believe, even if they hold deviant ideas, nor argue over points of dispute with Christians even who recognize God and believe in the hereafter."28
6. Starting from basics
The basic principle of Islamic da'wa is "starting from basics and gradually going into detail." Those who call to Islam, therefore, should first of all remove any confusion Muslims and others have, and then establish the principle of the affirmation of Divine unity. Islam can only be constructed on firm tenets of belief. There is no benefit when calling to Islam in getting caught up on secondary matters when the basics have not yet been established. The fact that the first verses revealed in Mecca were about belief demonstrates its paramount importance.
Like all the great thinkers of Islam, Bediuzzaman stated that the greatest truth in the world is that of Divine unity and belief in it. He therefore gave priority to the questions of belief when performing his duty of conveying the message, and r repeatedly said that this was also the primary function of the Risale-i Nur. For according to him, the greatest problem this age is unbelief. He struggled throughout his life to remove the things hindering the unfolding of the lights of reality.
• The Risale-i Nur teaches the fundamental truths of belief
"The Risale-i Nur teaches in the clearest and most decisive fashion the sacred truths of belief in 'I believe in God, and His angels, and His Books, and His prophets, and in the Last Day,' silencing the most obdurate atheists and philosophers. So to give it up, or put a stop to its activities, or being dissatisfied with it to frequent the closed sufi meeting-places, seeking the sufi way and without receiving permission from the Risale-i Nur, is a great error and shows how much we deserved this 'compassionate slap.'"29
• So long as the nation's belief is firm
"They say to me: 'Why do you fight against this and that?' I am not aware of it. There is a terrible conflagration before me the flames of which are reaching the skies. My sons are burning in it, my faith has caught fire and is burning. I am racing to extinguish the fire, to save belief. If someone wants to hold me up on the way and I trip on him, what importance has it? Is a petty incident such as that of any importance? Narrow ideas, narrow views! I have sacrificed even my life in the hereafter to save the community's religious belief. I have no longing for Paradise nor fear of Hell. Let not one but a thousand Said's be sacrificed for the sake of the twenty-five million [Turkey's population at that time] strong Turkish community. I would not want Paradise if the Qur'an remained without listeners on the earth. It would be a prison for me. I am happy to burn in the flames of Hell if I see my nation's belief to be firm. For while my body was burning, my heart would be happy."
• Our duty is to save Muslims from the eternal extinction of death
"If it had been a question of accepting no insults at all in order to preserve the dignity of learning like in my former life; and if its true duty had not looked purely to the hereafter and been to save Muslims from the eternal extinction of death; and if it had been a question of working for this world alone and for negative politics like those who pester me; those working in the cause of anarchy would have caused ten Menemen incidents and ten Shaykh Said revolts..."30
7. Matters to be noted with respect to the manner of conveying the message
The Qur'an rejects da'wa carried out in the form of an uninformed contest, without putting forward any reasonable proofs. It requires that da'wa should be carried out wisely, based on sound advice, and that even stubborn and harsh people should be argued with pleasantly and sensibly. "And argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious."31 "And dispute not with the People of the Book except with means better [than mere disputation]."32 "But speak to him mildly pperchance he may take warning or fear [God]."33
It is difficult to obtain good results from arguing. Moreover, so long as one does not act in a pleasant and conciliatory manner, the opposing side will not be won over however fine and acceptable the ideas. Bediuzzaman therefore advised that arguments were avoided and the message conveyed pleasantly. For there is no place when conveying the message for ill-temper, fights, arguments, and anger. Bediuzzaman never himself started off any argument, nor became involved in angry disputes, but he did sometimes find himself in the midst of them. Sometimes too he was the centre of arguments outside his own wish. But he then played a pacifying role.34
• The importance of beauty of expression when conveying the message
"At the end of time, eloquence and beauty of expression, the most brilliant of the sciences and branches of knowledge, will be most sought after in all their varieties. Even, in order to make one another accept their ideas and impose their word, men will find their most effective weapon in eloquent expression, and their most irresistible force in fine oratory."35
• The civilized are to be conquered through persuasion
"Prevailing over the civilized from the point of view of religion is through persuasion, and demonstrating by act the elevated and lovable character of religion; it is not through compulsion and enmity as though they were savages who understand nothing."36
• Not proposing something impossible when conveying the message
"And so, my guess is that one reason the advice and admonitions given at this time have been ineffective is that those giving them say: 'Don't be ambitious! Don't display greed! Don't hate! Don't be obstinate! Don't love the world!' That is, they propose something that is apparently impossible for those they address like changing their inborn natures. If only they would say: 'Turn these emotions towards beneficial things; change their direction, their channel,' their advice would be both effective, and they would be proposing something within the bounds of their wills."37
8. Not becoming bored, and giving up trivia
Like the prophets and their assistants, those who serve God's religion should not become wearied and dispirited while performing their duties. "How many of the prophets fought [in God's way], and with them large bands of goodly men? But they never lost heart if they met with disaster in God's way, nor did they weaken [in will] nor give in."38 They also never abandoned their duty in pursuit of trivial things. For the Prophet (PBUH) said: "It is a fine mark of Islam for a person to give up what does not concern him."39 Ustad Said Nursi said the following in this connection:
• The duty of conveying the message and offering guidance is greater than all other matters on earth, no matter how great
"My dear brothers! You should be certain that the duty with which the Risale-i Nur students are occupied is greater than all the matters of importance on earth. Therefore, do not look at worldly, curiosity-arousing matters, and become slack in your duty."40
• We must concentrate all our strength, curiosity, and time on our sacred duty
"We have to concentrate all our strength and curiosity and time on our sacred duty. We should know that everything outside of it is trivial, and not waste our time on it. For we have in our hands light, not clubs. We cannot attack others, and if we are attacked, we show light. Our duty is a sort of luminous defence..."41
• When those who work sincerely become slack, they receive a compassionate blow
"When those who work sincerely at this service become slack, they receive a compassionate slap, and coming to their senses, reapply themselves to their service. "42
9. Altruism or unselfishness
Altruism is to think of others, and to prefer their rights and interests to one's own. It is the distinguishing characteristic of spiritual guides. The person engaged in da'wa thinks always of his da'wa and not of himself, and speaks of it on every occasion. Anyway the concepts of guidance, conveying the message, and da'wa hold the meaning of thinking of the salvation and advantages of others. Those who perform these duties should sacrifice themselves, both materially and immaterially. "... and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the [latter], but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their [own lot]."43
• I have sacrificed my comfort, honour, and self-respect, and would sacrifice my life even
"For fifty to sixty years I have sacrificed my comfort, honour, and self-respect, and would sacrifice my life even to serve religious belief in the face of absolute disbelief; to save this nation from anarchy, its result; to preserve public order, a product of the sincerity arising from the service of belief; and to save ten innocents suffering oppression due to one criminal; for these I have endured in patience all the persecution and all the other meaningless, unnecessary things. Thus, although this thirty to forty years they have made mountains out of molehills as far as I am concerned, caused a storm in a teacup and pestered me incessantly, I have patiently endured it to serve belief in this way, and for its results, public order and security."44
• Abandoning egotism when conveying the message and offering guidance
"Since it is my certain conviction that our way and serving the truth at this time is possible only on giving up egotism completely, this last twenty years my evil-commanding soul has been compelled willy nilly to conform to that way..."45
10. Patience in the face of difficulties
The most accurate gauge of the strength of a guide's character is the patience and fortitude he shows in the face of hardships, difficulties, and tribulations; his excellence is manifested in the face of tribulation.
A spiritual guide who advises patience and fortitude must himself have suffered hardship and persecution, which necessitate them. Only then may he guide others. However severe the tribulations, relying on God he persists in his guidance in patience and fortitude.
Patience is a religious obligation for Muslims. More than ninety Qur'anic verses mention it. Bediuzzaman practised patience to the very highest degree, and enjoined it on his students and those who convey the message.
• Patience in the face of difficulties
"Since we are working for the sake of and on the way of an unshakeable truth, which is most elevated, and is the greatest and most important truth and is priceless, for which if a person gave his life and all he had, it would still be cheap; certainly we should respond with total steadfastness to all calamities and difficulties and enemies."46
• Responding with patience and thanks to all difficulties
"My dear brothers! Our duty is to act positively, it is not to act negatively. It is only to serve belief in accordance with Divine pleasure and not interfere in God's concerns. We are charged with [responding with] patience and thanks to all difficulties [we may encounter] in the positive service of belief, a result of which is the preservation of public order."47
11. Conveying the message is possible when public order and security are maintained
Through his elevated self-sacrifice, courage, kindness, and compassion, in his strivings of nearly a century, Bediuzzaman restrained his students from any action that might lead to disorder, corruption, dissension, or conflict, or anything that would disturb public order and security. He absolutely forbade them to do anything that would cause conflict among Muslims. He also did not neglect to warn those governing at that time about these vitally important matters.
This method of guidance is also to be observed in the spiritual poles, regenerators of religion, and great mujtahids of past centuries. For example, despite suffering imprisonment, torture, and oppression, figures like Imam-i Rabbani (Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi), Imam-i A'zam Abu Hanifa, and Ahmad b. Hanbal, always persisted in their 'positive action.' "Do no mischief on the earth, after it has been set in order."48 "But they [ever] strive to do mischief on earth. And God loves not those who do mischief."49 "Do right, and follow not the way of those who do mischief."50
Bediuzzaman believed that a nation which becomes divided will never find stability, and attached the greatest importance to the preservation of public order and security. He drew attention to this in numerous places in the Risale-i Nur. A few examples are as follows:
• Belief does not disturb public order; it ensures it
"The parts of the Risale-i Nur, which consist of the science of belief, establish and ensure public order and security. Yes, belief is the source of good character and fine qualities, so certainly does not disturb public order; it ensures it. It is unbelief that disturbs public order through its bad character."51
• Halting anarchy and preserving public order through the service of belief
"Since through the complete sincerity in the service of belief, patience and fortitude are necessary to halt anarchy and preserve public order, I too sacrifice my comfort and honour.. And I forgive them."52
12. Avoidance of politics in conveying the message
In the period before he wrote the Risale-i Nur, which Bediuzzaman called that of the Old Said, he concerned himself to a degree with politics with the aim of making it serve religion. However, when he saw that it had deviated from its proper aim and been transformed into a scrum for benefits, and opened up the way to partisanship and division, he decided that the Qur'an and belief could not be served in this way, and he withdrew from the world of politics.
Another important reason he forbade his students to become involved in politics was that it caused division and was detrimental to Islamic brotherhood. His deep anxiety about this he expressed as follows:
"Beware! Don't let worldly currents, and particularly political currents, and currents which look to abroad sow discord among you. Don't let the parties of misguidance unified before you cast you into confusion. Don't let the satanic principle of 'love for the sake of politics, enmity for the sake of politics' take the place of the principle of the Most Merciful, 'Love for God's sake; enmity for God's sake.' Don't agree to the tyranny of displaying hatred for your brother and love and support for a satanic political colleague, and so in effect share in his crime."53
An incident corroborating the above made Bediuzzaman feel disgust at politics. He described it as follows:
"I once saw, as a result of biased partisanship, a pious scholar of religion going so far in his condemnation of another scholar with whose political opinions he disagreed as to imply that he was an unbeliever. He also praised with respect a dissembler who shared his own opinions. I was appalled at the evil results of political involvement. I said: 'I take refuge with God from Satan and politics,' and from that time on withdrew from politics."54
• Although we have no relations with politicians...
"That means that those who harass us are dérectly attacking belief. We refer them to Almighty God. Also they should be absolutely certain that, although we have no relations with politicians at all, the only way of saving this nation, in this country in this century, from anarchy and from absolute degeneration and decline, are the principles of the Risale-i Nur."55
• Politics is a dangerous way and an obstacle to the most important duties
"The Old Said of nine or ten years ago was involved in politics a certain amount; indeed, thinking he would serve religion and learning by means of politics, he was wearied for nothing. And he saw that it is a dangerous way which is doubtful and full of difficulties and for me superfluous, as well as forming an obstacle to the most necessary duties. It is mostly lies and there is the possibility of unknowingly being a tool in the hand of Europe..."56
13. Taking advantage of every means in conveying the message
In addition to the ability and efforts of the one conveying the message, the means employed also have a role and function in its effectiveness. He should therefore have recourse to every means that will facilitate his task and render it more effective. Bediuzzaman took advantage of various means in conveying the message, and also advocated the use of newspapers:
• Newspapers should hold an important place in Upholding the Word of God
"The true definition and outline of the Ittihad-i Muhammedî (Society For Muslim Unity) is this: It is bound with a luminous chain stretching to every corner of the world. Its unity is the affirmation of Divine Unity. Its oath and pledge is belief. Its regulations are the Sunna of Muhammad (PBUH). Its code of laws are the commands and prohibitions of the Shari'a. Its clubs and associations are all religious schools, mosques, and sufi meeting-houses. The Society's eternal, constant disseminator of ideas are all Islamic books, and its temporary disseminator of ideas are all the newspapers which have Upholding the Word of God as their aim."57
14. God helps those who serve His religion
Almighty God says: "O you who believe! If you assist [the cause of] God, He will aid you, and plant your feet firmly."58 "God will certainly help those who help His cause."59 Relying on these verses, by way of encouraging those who become slack for any reason, Bediuzzaman says that God will help those who serve His religion.
• The more one works at the Risale-i Nur, the greater the ease in living, the expansiveness of the heart, and plentiful livelihood
"One Risale-i Nur student said that a reason he did not work at the Risale-i Nur was his increasingly straitened circumstances. So I said to him: the circumstances of the your livelihood have become more difficult because you were not working at the Risale-i Nur. For all the students in this area confess, and I do too, that the more one works at the Risale-i Nur, the greater one's ease in living, expansiveness of heart, and plentiful livelihood."60
15. Mutual consultation
Mutual consultation holds an important place in Islam. This is shown by one Sura being called 'Shura', and various verses mentioning it. "... who [conduct] their affairs by mutual consultation."61 And addressing the Prophet (PBUH), "... and consult them in affairs of moment."62 Bediuzzaman also conformed to these Divine commands, and both consulted others and directed his students to do likewise.
• Save your votes from being scattered through the consultation of the Shari'a
"... it is necessary to work in perfect solidarity at this great, serious, and priceless service of the Qur'an. Beware! Be cautious! Allow no opportunity for the people of misguidance to take advantage of differences in your ways, your weak veins of temperament, and your poverty and straitened circumstances, making you criticize one another. Save your votes from being dissipated through consulting together as the Shari'a commands. Always keep in mind the principles of Ihlas Risalesi (The Treatise on Sincerity). Slight differences at this time may otherwise cause great harm to the Risale-i Nur."63
• Consultation should be practised with caution and causing no disturbance
"... You will consult with each other in whatever way is necessary, but with caution, and without fuss or causing any disturbance."64
16. Concerning the preachers, scholars, and shaykhs, and their important place in conveying the message
Preaching held great importance in Bediuzzaman's system. He described the preachers as "the teachers of the general public." By expounding certain matters wrongly -chiefly the Islamic interpretation of reliance on God (tawakkul)- this institution had played an important role in our backwardness, and had to be reformed. If that was the case, the Islamic message could be conveyed to the mass of people in more beneficial form. According to Bediuzzaman, the largest share of this duty would fall to the preachers, scholars, and shaykhs, both in communicating knowledge to the people, and by arousing their sense of religion, illuminating their ideas, and making their consciences dominant.
a. How the preachers should be
"The preachers should be both wise and reasonable. Yes, unbalanced preachers have caused the eclipse of numerous luminous truths of religion. For example, due to their tendency to exaggerate, they added to the clear and unanimously reported miracle of the splitting of the moon that the moon descended to earth -as though entering the Prophet's pocket and emerging again- thus both eclipsing that moonlike proof of prophethood, concealed like the star 'Suha' [in Ursa Minor], and opening the doors to the deniers and their pretexts.
"In short: [the following] should be observed by every lover of religion and truth: he should be content with the true value of things, and not exaggerate and exceed the limits. For exaggeration is to slander Divine power, and 'there can be nothing better than what exists in the sphere of contingency;' it is to be discontented with and to slight the perfection and beauty in creation, which made Ghazzali utter the above saying."65
b. The position of scholars in conveying the message
• Encouragement, guidance, and advice
".. Since due to the desire for power, position, and supremacy, many people assume the role of despot, they give up encouraging, guiding, admonishing, and being gracious, the marks of knowledge, and make it the means of their despotism, supremacy, and harshness. Instead of serving knowledge, they employ it. As a consequence, the duties have passed to the hands of the unqualified, and the medreses in particular have taken the way of ruination."66
c. His views on the shaykhs
• The mark of greatness is humility and modesty
"The mark of sainthood, shaykhhood, and greatness is modesty and humility; it is not pride and arrogance. That means one who is haughty is a childish phony shaykh, so don't consider such people to be great."67
• The true way of shaykhs is serving Islamic Unity
"Question: Formerly you had love for all the shaykhs, even thinking the best about those who undeservedly claimed to be shaykhs. Why do you now attack some of the former who have adopted innovations?
"The Answer: Hostility sometimes arises from extreme love. Yes, however much I loved them for myself, I loved them for Islam a thousand times more. A Divine colouring was given to the centres of their pure hearts, the light of reality was inscribed in their breasts. The people of truth who went into ecstasy intoxicated by the wine of Divine love, have departed this world; the hostel of the world is now empty. However, the basis of their way is the illumination and binding of hearts; that is, spiritual journeying over the virtues of Islam; that is, to be marked with Islamic zeal; that is, to live an ascetic life and give up ease for Islam; that is, to abandon personal interests out of sincerity; that is, to be turned towards establishing love generally; that is, serving Islamic Unity, and guiding towards it."68
17. The purpose of religion
There are Hadiths stating that religion consists of admonition. One of the soundest and best authenticated is "Religion is admonition, religion is admonition, religion is admonition." On being asked for whom it was admonition, God's Messenger (PBUH) replied: "It is admonition for God, His Book, His Messenger, the leaders of the Muslims, and for its people."69
• Religion consists of admonition
"Religion consists of admonition, and admonition should be effective. Effectiveness is dependent on arousing Islamic zeal and the emotions of the conscience."70
• The purpose of the Shari'a
"The real purpose of the Shari'a is instruction and guidance."71
18. The one calling to religion must be worthy
There are a number of matters that those who offer guidance and convey the message should be thoroughly aware of before embarking on their work. There can be no question of the da'wa reaping the desired results so long as this knowledge is not obtained; that is, so long as the one doing this does not prepare himself by learning the necessary things. First of all, the one conveying the message must have a thorough knowledge of the principles to which he is calling, and must have a good knowledge of all aspects of Islam. For this reason, he should consider the Qur'an and Sunna to be superior to everything, and have a good comprehension of what they contain. Having a firm grasp of Islamic culture, he must then also have a good knowledge of the environment in which he will be making the call and the circumstances and conditions of those he will address. Bediuzzaman therefore wished for those conveying the message to be fit for the task.
• The importance of the one conveying the message being worthy
"Yes, I have to admit that however precious and valuable the jewels in a treasury may be, if the one advertising and selling them is unskilled at his work, he will not be able to proclaim them to the world and set them before the public view in a way fitting and worthy of them. As a consequence, the herald of the Qur'an selling its truths in the best way this confused age -his calling out to the people of Islam not for six years but for forty, with the decree 'O you who believe! Shall I lead you to a bargain that will save you from a grievous penalty?'72 - has made all the Umma of Muhammad (PBUH), needy for the lights of belief, indebted to him and owe him thanks."73
When Jacob (UWP) sent his sons to Egypt, he ordered them to be cautious and enter the city by different gates. "O my sons! enter not all by one gate; enter by different gates."74 Bediuzzaman also recommended to his students that they always acted with caution in the face of the enemies of religion.
• It is essential to take precautions and preserve one's self-composure
"In accordance with Hadith 'Proceed appropriately to the weak among you,' the Risale-i Nur students should not speak unnecessarily with strangers, and argue about 'the hat question' and the ezan, and the titles of Dajjal and Sufyan. For to do so is extremely damaging in this confused situation, and causes both the hojas and the politicians to form a front against the Risale-i Nur and attack it. It is essential to be cautious, and necessary to preserve one's self-composure. Even a minor lack of caution to a small degree on your part affects us even here. The Risale-i Nur has levels like not one circle, but intersecting circles."75
20. Keeping secrets
Jacob (UWP) also told his son Joseph not to tell his dream to his brothers and to keep it secret: "My [dear] little son! Relate not your vision to your brothers, lest they concoct a plot against you."76 Also, the fact that in the early Meccan period, the call to Islam was done secretly shows that sometimes those who do this have to do so secretly. And in a Hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) said: "Meet your needs secretly, for others may be jealous of the bounties.77 Bediuzzaman also said that those who serve the Risale-i Nur should conceal certain things about their work and keep secrets.
• Levels among Risale-i Nur students
"There are levels like 'pillars' (erkan), 'owners' (sahib), 'elite' (has), 'publishers' (nasir), students (talebe), and 'supporters' (tarafdar). On condition they do not support currents opposing the Risale-i Nur, one not worthy of the circle of 'pillars' should not be expelled from the circle. And on condition they do follow some contrary way, one lacking the qualities of the 'elite' may be a 'student.' And on condition they do not support them from the heart, one who acts following innovations may be a 'friend.' Therefore, do not expel a person due to some small fault lest they join the enemy ranks. But they should not make them party to the secrets and refined precautions of the Risale-i Nur's 'pillars' and 'elite.'"78
21. Things to bear in mind concerning those addressed
• It should be well established what must be explained to whom
"... Before this calamity had occurred, on many occasions I had insisted on the mountain at Kastamonu: 'My brothers, you don't give meat to the horse and grass to the lion!' That is to say: 'Don't give all the treatises to everyone, lest they use them to attack us.'"79
22. One reason for success in conveying the message is material progress
• Material progress and Upholding the Word of God
"All believers are charged with Upholding the Word of God. The greatest cause of this at the present time is material progress, for the Europeans are crushing us under their immaterial despotism with the weapons of science and industry. So we shall wage jihad with the weapons of science and industry against ignorance, poverty, and conflicting ideas, which are the most fearsome enemy of Upholding the Word of God."80
In conclusion we may say this: Bediuzzaman's method of service has lost nothing of its relevance. It is still essential and relevant to the people of this age. Those who consider themselves to be charged with conveying the message are bound to study it. This method is at the same time the anatomy of a struggle. First the goal was defined; the conditions were taken into consideration, but not succumbed to; the strategy of the struggle changed according to time and place, but the destination never changed. Elevated truths were never compromised; all means of communication were taken advantage of, such as newspapers, books, and the pulpit; a system of thought was woven around the basic principles; and the march towards the goal proceeded at all times and in all places. It cannot be said it was unsuccessful. The Risale-i Nur Collection, Bediuzzaman's legacy, is read by millions of people in Turkey and throughout the world. Millions of people have experienced the pleasures of belief thanks to that legacy.
*Assis.-Doçent Dr. DAVUD AYD?Z
Dr. Davud Ayd?z was born in Çanakkale Province in 1962. After graduating from Biga Imam-Hatip School, he enrolled in the School of Islamic Sciences in Atat?rk University, Erzurum, from where he graduated in 1986. He received his doctorate from the Theology Dept. of Marmara University in1992, and was employed as a preacher in the Istanbul islands from 1990-3. In 1993 he worked in the Theology Faculty of Harran University, and from there was appointed Assistant Doçent in Sakarya University, where he is at present. He has a published book, Isl?m Iktisadinda Mark, and writes for magazines and a newspaper.
1. Risale-i Nur M?ellifi, Bedi?zzaman Said Nursî, Hayati, Mesleki, Terc?me-i Hali (Tarihçe), Istanbul, 1976, 505.
2. Nursî, Bedi?zzaman Said, Sualar, Istanbul, Yaylacik Matbaasi 1973, 376.
3. Seyyid S?leyman Nedvî, B?y?k Isl?m Tarihi, Asr-i Saadet [Turkish trans: Ali Genceli], Istanbul 1967, ii, 404.
4. Qur'an, 3:104. See also, 3>20; 5:92, 99; 13:40; 16:35, 82; 24:54; 29:18; 36:17; 42:48; 64:12.
5. Qur'an, 3:104.
6. Qur'an, 61:2.
7. Qur'an, 2:44.
8. Tarihçe, 83.
9. Nursî, Bedi?zzaman Said, Sikke-i Tasdik-i Gaybî, 188.
10. Tirmidhi, Nadhr, 9; Ibn Maja, Fitan, 16.
11. Sikke-i Tasdik-i Gaybî, 31.
12. Nursî, Bedi?zzaman Said, Hizmet Rehberi, Istanbul, S?zler Yayinevi 1985, 114.
13. Hizmet Rehberi, 18.
14. Qur'an, 5:99.
15. Qur'an, 28:56.
16. Qur'an, 88:21-2.
17. Nursî, Bedi?zzaman Said, Kastamonu Lahikasi, Istanbul 1960, 196-7.
18. Qur'an, 11:29, 51.
19. Nursî, Bedi?zzaman Said, Lem'alar, Istanbul, S?zler Yayinevi 1976, 139 / The Flashes Collection [Eng. trans: S?kran Vahide], S?zler Publications 1995, 202.
20. Nursî, Bedi?zzaman Said, Divan-i Harb-i Örfî, in Ictimaî Reçeteler, Istanbul, Tenvir Nesriyat 1990, i, 73.
21. Qur'an, 3:103.
22. Qur'an, 5:2.
23. Hizmet Rehberi, 23.
24. Kastamonu Lahikasi , 107.
25. Lem'alar, 140.
26. Hizmet Rehberi, 184.
27. Qur'an, 25:72.
28. Hizmet Rehberi, 184-5.
29. Nursî, Bedi?zzaman Said, Barla Lahikasi, Istanbul 1960, 41.
30. Hizmet Rehberi, 116.
31. Qur'an, 16:125.
32. Qur'an, 29:46.
33. Qur'an, 20:44.
34. Bahadiroglu, Yavuz, Bedi?zzaman Said Nursî, Hayati, Tefekk?r?, M?cadelesi, Istanbul, Yeni Asya Yayinlari 1993, 89.
35. Hizmet Rehberi, 68.
36. Nursî, Bedi?zzaman Said, Makaleler, in Ictimaî Reçeteler, ii, 275.
37. Nursî, Bedi?zzaman Said, Mektûbat, Istanbul, S?zler Yayinevi 1977, 30-1 / Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Letters-1928-1932 [Eng. trans. S?kran Vahide], S?zler Publications 1994, 52.
38. Qur'an, 3:146.
39. Tirmidhi , Zuhd, 11; Ibn Maja, Fitan, 12.
40. Nursî, Bedi?zzaman Said, Emirdag Lahikasi, Istanbul 1959, i, 43.
41. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 44.
42. Barla Lahikasi, 203.
43. Qur'an, 59:9.
44. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 199.
45. Hizmet Rehberi, 19.
46. Hizmet Rehberi, 184.
47. Hizmet Rehberi, 205.
48. Qur'an, 7:56.
49. Qur'an, 5:64.
50. Qur'an, 7:142.
51. Tarihçe, 198.
52. Sualar, 200.
53. Kastamonu Lahikasi, 84.
54. Mektûbat, 247 / Letters, 317.
55. Sikke-i Tasdik-i Gaybî, 149.
56. Mektûbat, 57.
57. Makaleler, in Içtimaî Reçeteler, ii, 280.
58. Qur'an, 47:7.
59. Qur'an, 22:40.
60. Kastamonu Lahikasi , 93.
61. Qur'an, 42:38.
62. Qur'an, 3:159.
63. Kastamonu Lahikasi , 178.
64. Emirdag Lahikasi , i, 141.
65. Nursî, Bedi?zzaman Said, Muh?kemat, Istanbul, S?zler Yayinevi 1977, 47.
66. Muh?kemat, 47.
67. Nursî, Bedi?zzaman Said, M?n?zarat, Istanbul, S?zler Yayinevi 1977, 19.
68. M?n?zarat, 59-60.
69. Muslim, Iman, 95; Tirmidhi, Birr, 17.
70. Nursî, Bedi?zzaman Said, ?s?r-i Bedi'iye, n.p., n.d., 393.
71. Muh?kemat, 142.
72. Qur'an, 61:10.
73. Barla Lahikasi, 56.
74. Qur'an, 12:67.
75. Kastamonu Lahikasi , 188.
76. Qur'an, 12:5.
77. 'Ajluni , Kashf al-Khafa', i, 135.
78. Kastamonu Lahikasi, 187-8.
79. Lem'alar, 250.
80. Divan-i Harb-i Örfî, in Içtimaî Reçeteler, i, 64.