Understanding Muslim Internal Conflicts: Some Inspirations From Badiuzzaman Said Nursi*
This article discusses Nursi's ideas on the causes and cures of Muslim internal conflicts with particular reference to The Flashes Collection and The Damascus Sermon. It suggests that internal conflicts have become an "appalling disease" that makes Muslims all around the world disunited, powerless, hopeless, painful, disgraceful, alienated, enslaved, and unable to implement their mission to spread love on earth (rahmatan lil 'alamin). It also suggests that, Muslim internal conflicts can be avoided if they work hard to attain and maintain sincerity, break their ego, avoid dispute and losing heart, be strong, and wise in social life, work together for the sake of virtue and piety, be tolerant, and be self-critical. They also need to maintain mutual respects, improve cooperation, develop multi-dimensional understanding of Islam, intensify their communication, being open-minded, develop better education and higher intellectual capability, and improve consciousness to respect differences.
Introduction: Ideals and Reality about Muslims
This article discusses why internal conflicts occur among Muslim believers, what are the impacts of the conflicts on Muslim society, and how to cure them with particular reference to Nursi's ideas as described in The Flashes Collection, especially The Twentieth Flash on Sincerity and The Damascus Sermon.
There is no dispute among scholars of religious studies that man's most fundamental need is the need for religion, the need to recognize and worship Almighty God, and to obey His laws. Religion can be ideological and cultural, affecting social relations. It can be both integrating and disintegrating forces. It can be a cultural self expression that produces alienating elements, legitimates the existing power relations, and be the glue or the common bond that keeps a community together.1 As an integrating force, religion can provide its followers or a community of believers with guidance for developing a peaceful and harmonious life, make them become a peace and harmony makers, and enable them to manage differences and conflicts. All religions suggest that harmony is an essential element for developing good social life and that tension and conflict are harmful to society. All religions consider every person or group who triggers and causes conflict as a trouble maker. If the believers fail to utilize the integrating force of their religions, they will gradually create what Johan Galtung (1996) describes as destruction and deculturation, and what Durkheim describes as "anomie."
Social relations among the believers, especially in a pluralistic society, at local, regional, national, and international level is always up and down. Harmony and disharmony always come and go, depending on the capability of the believers to control the integrating and disintegrating forces of their religions. This may be the reason why, despite the noble teachings of every religion, such as harmony, peace, mutual respect, and togetherness, the social, cultural, economic, and political reality among the believers has not met these teachings. In many places and cases, religion becomes a disintegrating force, a prime source of tensions, conflicts, and violence, with religious leaders, scholars, and activists as the main actors involved, not as an integrating force.
One of the fundamental teachings of Islam is to spread love on earth (rahmatan lil alamin). Islam admits religious pluralism,2 promotes religious freedom,3 encourages religious harmony,4 allows fair competition in promoting goods,5 being cooperative with other religions,6 advises its followers to be just to other believers7 and protects all religious centers.8 These characteristics of Islam are reflected in the principles of the Madinah Charter.9 With these principle teachings, Muslims all around the world are guaranteed to be united in the spirit of brotherhood and cooperation. They can live in harmony and become the best community of believers (khoiru ummah) that live with the spirit of love. Islam wants its followers to live in love and avoid enmity. Good Muslims promote and defend love, unity, peace, and harmony and avoid hatred, conflict, and disunity.
In reality, however, Muslims all around the world frequently involve in tension, hatred, disharmony, and conflicts internally and externally. There are continuous tension and conflict between imams, kyais,10 Sufi leaders, Mullahs, Islamic organizations, Islamic political parties, and madzhabs. There are also continuous conflicts between the traditionalists and the modernists, between the extremists and the moderates, and between the orthodox and the progressive groups at local, national, and international level. Internal conflicts have been one of the most disturbing problems in Muslim society. Although many explanations have been given regarding the causes of the conflicts and many measures have been taken as the cures, the conflicts continue to occur and reoccur, spreading at individual, organizational, local, national, and international levels, causing disunity, isolation, frustration, hopelessness, and despair in Muslims' religious, social, economic, and political life.
This reality shows that for many Muslims, Islam has not been an integrating force, but rather a disintegrating force. Indeed, it opposes the very mission of Islam as a peace and love maker on earth (rahmatan lil alamin) and makes Muslims disunited, powerless, and hopeless. Internal conflicts have triggered social, cultural, and political conflicts among Muslims. They have been one of the sad sites of the history of Muslim society all around the world. Internal conflicts have spread and damaged their life and reputation. They make social relationships among Muslims fragile, weaken their political life, and destroy their religious life. Furthermore, internal conflicts have created a negative image about Islam and Muslims. Many people, including some Muslims, begin to see Islam as a major cause of social and political problems and Muslims are trouble makers, not love and peace makers. Certainly, Muslims do not have the respect to spread love and promote peace.
If no better understanding of the causes of the conflicts are developed and no better measures are taken to cure them, we can be sure that Muslim internal conflicts will continue to spread wider and wider and bigger and bigger, gradually weakening Muslim communities. It is in this regard that, Muslims all around the world badly need inspiring sources of ideas to develop better understanding and insight about the causes and cures of their internal conflicts. It is also in this regard that, they need to find some inspirations in the works of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi , a "seminal," "committed," and "pioneering" thinker of the twentieth century.11
Nursi pays a lot of attention on the problems faced by Muslims. When he delivered sermon in the historic Umayyad Mosque in early 1911, he told the jama'ah (his audiences) what he described as "six dire sicknesses" of Muslims;
1. The rising to life of despair and hopelessness in social life.
2. The death of truthfulness in social and political life.
3. Love of enmity.
4. Not knowing the luminous bonds that bind the believers to one another.
5. Despotism, which spreads, becoming widespread as though it was various contagious diseases.
6. Restricting endeavour to what is personally beneficial.12
In order to cure these six diseases, Nursi introduced his "six 'Words',"13 including hope (the nurture a strong hope of God's mercy), eliminating despair (do not despair of God's mercy), truthfulness and honesty, love and loving, Islamic brotherhood, and mutual consultation enjoined by the Shari'ah. These cures, according to Nursi, are lessons that he learnt "from the pharmacy of the Qur'an." For him, Qur'an is "like a faculty of medicine."14 In particular, Nursi pays a lot of attention on Muslim internal conflicts. He often expresses his deep concern with widespread and continuous conflicts among Muslims and discusses the causes and cures of this particular problem with his students. He considers such conflicts as one of the most destructive problems in the life of Muslims.
Nursi's ideas regarding various problems of humanity, including Muslim internal conflicts can be found in his work, Risale-i Nur. Although most of his discussions on the causes and cures of Muslim internal conflicts refer to Turkish twentieth century experiences, his ideas and arguments are helpful to all humanity. Risale-i Nur can be a source of inspirations for Muslims and non-Muslims all around the world to understand and cure their fundamental problems. It is a book that is "uniquely fitted to address not only all Muslims but indeed all mankind for several reasons."15 It is written in accordance with modern man's mentality, a mentality that, whether Muslims or not, has been deeply imbued by materialist philosophy.16 Risale-i Nur is answers to all the 'why's' that mark the questioning mind of modern man. It explains the most profound matters of belief, which formerly only advanced scholars studied in detail, in such a way that every one, even those to whom the subject is new, may understand and gain something without it causing any difficulties or harm.17
Why Religious Conflicts? Seven Causes
Social conflicts have attracted scholars from many disciplines. Sociological and psychological studies suggest four major elements that simultaneously involved in social conflicts: facilitating context, core (roots) of conflict, fuse factor, and triggering factors.18 The impacts of conflicts in society vary, depending on the form of the conflicts. If the conflicts occur at instrumental level, their impacts can be very limited and they can be stopped immediately. If the conflicts occur at ideological level, their impacts can be widespread and they will be very difficult to manage. The impacts of religious conflicts can be very destructive and harsh, because those involved in the conflicts do not act for themselves, but for abstract goals that they consider higher and more honorable.19 In his psychological study of conflicts, Pruitt (1999) suggests that conflicts can come from three sources: psychological motivation, cognition, and culture. Conflicts, he adds, can escalate and prolong when parties involved begin to use "harsh tactics" and "prejudice."20 Sociologists are divided in explaining why conflicts occur within a society. One group introduces a consensus theory, suggesting that a society exists because its members are able to reach an agreement regarding many aspects of their daily life. Another group introduces coercion theory, suggesting that social unity does not due to consensus, but due to coercive attitude among dominant group.
Like many sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists, Nursi also pays a lot of attention on many types of religiously related social conflicts, including Muslim internal conflicts. For him, conflict among Muslim believers is an "important" and "awesome" question and an "appalling disease"21 that brings a "painful, disgraceful and awesome situation, and causes the zealous to weep."22 For him, conflicts among Muslims, especially among scholars and sufi are strange. As he questions the facts: "Why is it that while the worldly and the neglectful, and even the misguided and hypocrites, co-operate without rivalry, the people of religion, the religious scholars, and those who follow the Sufi path, oppose each other in rivalry, although they are the people of truth and concord?"23 In his view, only the hypocrites who involve in such conflicts; "agreement belongs in reality to the people of concord and dispute to the hypocrites; how is it that these two have changed places?"24
Nursi pays a lot of attention on the causes and cures of Muslim internal conflicts. He argues that Muslim internal conflicts due to lack of ikhlas (sincerity). This argument is based on verse 2 of Chapter 29 (al 'ankabut) of the Qur'an: "Verily We sent the Book down to you in truth, so worship God in sincerity, for God's is sincerely practiced religion." Nursi also bases his argument on a hadith: "All men will perish, except the scholars, and all scholars will perish except those who act in accordance with their knowledge, and all of them will perish except the sincere, and even the sincere are in great danger."25 According to him, this Qur'anic verse and hadith "demonstrate together how important a principle of Islam is sincerity."26 In relation to this understanding of sincerity, he identifies seven major causes of Muslim internal religious conflicts.
First, competition for moral and material rewards. According to Nursi, Muslim scholars need to dedicate themselves to all men, without expecting moral and material reward. In his words: "But as for the people of religion, the scholars, and those who follow the path, the duty of each is concerned with all men; their material reward is not set and specified; and their share in social esteem and acceptance and public attention is not predetermined."27 Expecting moral and material rewards, according to Nursi, will lead to rivalry, discord, and dispute. As he explains: "Many may be candidates for the same position; many hands may stretch out for each moral and material reward that is offered. Hence it is that conflict and rivalry arise; concern is changed into discord, and agreement into dispute."28
Second, self-fulfilling truth. "On account of difference in outlook," said Nursi, "they [the people of guidance and religion] feel no real need for the aid of the one whose outlook apparently opposes their own, and see no need for agreement and unity."29 "Indeed," he further said, "if obstinacy and egoism are present, one will imagine himself to be right and the other to be wrong; discord and rivalry take the place of concord and love. Thus sincerity is chased away and its function disrupted."30 Nursi observes that self-fulfilling truth makes many Muslims unable to be critical to one another in a fair manner. "Our worst calamity and sickness," he said, "is that criticism which is based on pride and deception."31 "If fairness utilizes criticism, it pares the truth."32 "Whereas if it is pride that employs it [criticism]," he further adds, "it mutilates and destroys it."33 "The very worst sort [of unfair criticism]," according to Nursi, "is that which is leveled at the tenets of beliefs and questions of religion."34 "For belief comprises both affirmation, and exercise of the mind, and commitment, and surrender, and compliance," he explains, "criticism of this sort [unfair] destroys the compliance, commitment, and mental exercise".35
The third cause of rivalry among the believers, according to Nursi, is being ambitious and greedy for reward in the hereafter. "Disagreement among the people of truth," he said, "does not arise from lack of zeal and aspiration, nor does union among the people of misguidance arise from loftiness of aspiration."36 "That which impels the people of guidance to the misuse of their high aspiration and hence to disagreement and rivalry," he further said, "is the desire for heavenly reward that is counted as a praiseworthy quality in respect of the hereafter, and extreme eagerness with respect to duties pertaining to the hereafter.37 This ambitious and greedy attitude, according to Nursi, is an "error," "wound," and "awesome sickness of the spirit." "Greed and precipitancy," he believes, "are the cause of loss."38 "The greedy and hasty person," he further believes, "will not act in accordance with the successive causes in creation, like the steps of a staircase, and therefore will not be successful."39 "Even if he is," Nursi adds, "since he skips some of the steps of the natural progression, he falls into despair, and then, when overcome by heedlessness, the door is opened to him."40
The fourth cause of conflicts and rivalry among the believers, according to Nursi, is loosing sense of direction and sincerity. In his words: "… the people of guidance, through the influence of truth and reality, do not succumb to the blind emotion of the soul, and follow instead the farsighted inclinations of the heart and the intellect."41 "Since, however, the fail to preserve their sense of direction and their sincerity," Nursi adds, "they are unable to maintain their high station and fall into dispute."42 He stresses that, losing sense of direction and sincerity is a "serious disease" among the believers.43
The fifth cause of conflicts and rivalry among the believers, according to Nursi, is lack of community and collective personality. "The lack of union of the people of guidance," he said, "comes from the power that results from the support provided by perfect belief, and the union of the people of neglect."44 "The people of truth," he adds, "submit to and place their reliance in the firm source of support that is belief in God; hence they do not present their needs to others or request aid and assistance from them."45 "The people of truth," Nursi further adds, "do not recognize and seek the true strength that is to be found in union; hence they fall into dispute, as an evil and harmful consequence of this failure."46 This lack of community and collective personal, he concludes, is "[a] disease of discord" that is "harmful" to Islam.47
The sixth cause of conflicts and rivalry among the believers, according to Nursi, is lack of brotherhood, love, and cooperation. "The people of truth," he explains, "are generally concerned with benefits to be had in the hereafter and hence direct their zeal, aspiration and manliness to those important and numerous matters." "Since they do not devote time -the true capital of man-to a single concern," he further explains, "their union with their fellows can never become firm." "Their concerns," he adds, "are numerous and of a wide scope."48 For him, "the people of truth are obliged to flatter and cringe before a handful of vile and lowly men of the world."49 "The person who does not understand the true meaning of co-operation," he said, "is more lifeless than a stone."50 "For some stones arch themselves to co-operate with their brother," he adds, "such a stone, despite being a stone, leans towards his brother in the dome when he leaves the builder's hand and bows his head so it touches his brother's head, and so they keep from falling."51
The seventh cause of conflicts and rivalry among the people of truth, according to Nursi, is jealousy. "The people of truth," he said, "are unable to preserve fully the magnanimity and high aspiration that proceed from the truth, or the laudable form of competition that exists on God's path."52 "Infiltrated by the unworthy," he further said, "they [the people of truth] partially misuse that laudable form of competition and fall into rivalry and disputes, causing gave harm both to themselves and to the Islamic community.53 "O people of truth given to dispute and afflicted with disaster!," Nursi advises, "it is through your loss of sincerity and your failure to make God's pleasure your sole aim in this age of disaster that you have caused the people of truth to undergo this humiliation and defeat."54 "In matters relating to religion and hereafter," he advises his fellow Muslims, "there should be no rivalry, envy or jealousy."55 "Indeed," he emphasizes, "there can be none of these [rivalry, envy, and jealousy) in truth."56
What are the Cures?
Many studies have been done to develop better understanding of religiously related conflicts and better ways to stop them. In his review of sociological studies on conflict resolution, Mudzhar identifies five sociological ways to resolve conflicts. The first way is through winning-losing struggle. In this way, conflict is resolved by using political and physical pressures that end with a winning party and a loosing one. This way is also known as a zero-sum game. The second way is bargaining, that all parties involved are trying to reach an oral or written agreement by accepting each other's demands. The third way is mediation. A third party is invited to involve, not to make a decision, but to assist bargaining process. The fourth way is arbitration. All parties involved authorize a third party to make a binding decision. The fifth way is adjudication, that all parties let a court to make a decision.57 Among these five ways, said Mudzhar, sociologists believe that bargaining and mediation are the most peaceful solution.58
Another sociological perspective on conflict resolution is given by Imam Tholkhah when he introduces what he describes as a community based conflict resolution. In order to implement this approach, he suggests, there are four principles that need to be adopted: (1) developing the tradition of dialogue, (2) nurturing genuine social brotherhood, (3) nurturing social creativity and innovation, and (4) developing social trust to government.59 Governmental and non-governmental organizations, he further suggests, must play roles as motivator and facilitator.60 These organizations, he argues, can provide community leaders with multicultural education; assisting the leaders to identify and analyze their social situation as well as developing their social awareness; and assisting community leaders to develop the tradition of dialogue (p. 12). In his study, Pola Kerukunan di Tanah Deli, another sociologist, Karim identifies three major causes of religious conflicts: (1) the willingness of a group to impose their unique characteristics, (2) the expansive attitude of a certain group of religious followers, and (3) the use of religion to justify and defend vested interests.61
With regard to the first cause of Muslim internal conflicts, competition for moral and material reward, Nursi suggests that the cure is "sincerity." He advises Muslims to work hard to attain sincerity by worshipping God. In his words: "sincerity may be attained by preferring the worship of God to the worship of one's own soul, by causing God's pleasure to vanquish the pleasure of the soul and the ego."62 This effort, said Nursi, is the manifestation of the meaning of the following verse of the Qur'an: "Verily my reward is from God alone." Nursi also suggests that sincerity can be developed by renouncing the material and moral reward to be had from men. This way, he explains, is manifesting the meaning of the following verse: Naught is incumbent on the Messenger but conveying the message.63 The third way to attain sincerity, Nursi further suggests, is "by knowing that such matters as goodly acceptance, and making a favourable impression, and gaining the attention of men are God's concern and a favour from Him, and that they play no part in conveying the message, which is one's own duty, nor are they necessary for it, nor is one charged with gaining them." In this way, he believes, a person will be successful in gaining sincerity, otherwise it will vanish.64
In relation to the second cause of Muslim internal conflicts, self-fulfilling truth, Nursi suggests "nine commands" as the remedy:
1. 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.
2. To unite within the fold of Islam, irrespective of particular outlook, remembering those numerous ties of unity that evokes love, brotherhood and concord.
3. To adopt the just rule of conduct that the followers 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.
4. To consider that union with the people of truth is a cause of Divine succour and the high dignity of religion.
5. 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.
6. In order to preserve truth from the assaults of falsehood.
7. To abandon the self and its egoism.
8. And give up the mistaken concept of self-pride,
9. And cease from all insignificant feelings aroused by rivalry.65
Nursi believes that adopting these nine commands will enable Muslims to maintain and develop sincerity. "If this nine fold rule is adhered to," he suggests, "sincerity will be preserved and its function perfectly performed."66 "At this time of doubts and hesitation," he further suggests, "it is necessary to look favourably on the positive ideas and encouraging statements that emerge from luminous, warm hearts, and to foster and strengthen the exercise of the mind and commitment."67
With regard to the third cause of conflicts among Muslims, being ambitious and greedy for reward in the hereafter, Nursi suggests Muslim believers to realize that the success of their worldly deeds is not determined by worldly benefits, but by the extend to which the deeds are sincerely done and accepted by God. In this regard, he wants all Muslims to remember one principle: "God's pleasure is won by sincerity alone, and not by a large following or great success."68
With regard to the fourth cause, losing sense of direction and sincerity, the cure and remedy, according to Nursi, "is to be proud of the company of all those traveling the path of truth, in accordance with the principle of love for God's sake; to follow them and defer leadership to them; and to consider whoever is walking on God's path to be probably better than oneself, thereby breaking the ego and regaining sincerity."69
To cure the fifth cause, lack of community and collective personal among the believers which he described as "a disease of discord" and "harmful" fact to Islam, Nursi suggests the people of truth to make one's rule of conduct, do not fall into dispute, do not lose heart, be strong,70 be wise in social life, and work together for the sake of virtue and piety. He stresses that dispute is harmful to Islam and "helps the people of misguidance to triumph over the people of truth."71 Instead, he suggests, the people of truth must wholeheartedly and self-sacrificingly join "the caravan of the people of truth, with a sense of his own utter weakness and importance."72 Nursi further suggests that, "one must forget his own person, abandon hypocrisy and pretension, and lay hold of sincerity."73
Abandoning hypocrisy is also a major theme in the Damascus Sermon that Nursi delivered in the Ummayyad Mosque in 1911. According to him, "truthfulness is the basis and foundation of Islam, and the bond between people of good character, and the basis of elevated emotions."74 He added that truthfulness and honesty is the cure of moral and spiritual sicknesses among Muslims.75 "Yes," he said, "truthfulness and honesty are the vital principles in the life of Islamic society."76 "Hypocrisy, "he further said, "is a sort of actualized lying."77 "Flattery and artifice," he explained, "are cowardly lying."78 "Duplicity and double-dealing," he further explained, "are harmful lying. And as for lying, it is to slander the All-Glorious Maker's power."79 For Nursi, truthfulness and honesty is the substance of belief; "Unbelief in all its varieties is falsehood and lying. Belief is truthfulness and honesty. As a consequence of this, there is a limitless distance between truth and falsehood; they should be as distant from one another as the East from the West."80
With regard to the sixth cause of Muslim internal conflicts, lack of brotherhood, love, and cooperation, Nursi suggests Muslims to be tolerant and appreciative to one another; "O people of truth! O people of the law, people of reality and people of the path, all worshipping God! Confronted by this awesome disease of discord, overlook each other's faults; close your eyes to each other's shortcomings! Behave according to the rule of courtesy established by the criterion that is the Qur'an."81 Nursi stresses that Muslims need to regard such efforts as their primary duty and use brotherhood, love, and cooperation as the essentials ingredients. As he suggests: "Practice the brotherhood, love and cooperation insistently enjoined by hundreds of Qur'anic verses and traditions of the Prophet! Establish with all your powers a union with your fellows and brothers in religion that is stronger than the union of the worldly! Do not fall into dispute!82 For Nursi, efforts to develop brotherhood, love, and cooperation are the practice of "moral jihad"83 and Muslim brotherhood must be Islamic brotherhood.
Nursi believes that Islamic brotherhood will lead to Islamic nationhood. "The foundation and spirit of our true nationhood," he argues, is "Islam."84 "All the people of Islam," he further argues, "become like a single tribe." "Like the members of a tribe," he explains, "the peoples and groups of Islam are bound and connected to one another through Islamic brotherhood. They assist one another morally, and if necessary, materially. It is as if all the groups of Islam are bound to each other with a luminous chain."85 Nursi stresses that, being united is part of the implementation of Islamic belief. In his words: "The reason for our unity is Divine Unity; our oath and pledge is belief; we are united because we affirm Divine Unity."86 According to Nursi, "unity may be achieved through Divine Guidance, not through personal whims and desires."87 He stresses that Islamic nationhood, brotherhood, and unity does not mean Islamic politics. As he warns his listeners in the Ummayad Mosque: "Beware, my brothers! Do not imagine that I am urging you with these words to busy yourselves with politics. God forbid! The truth of Islam is above all politics. All politics may serve it, but no politics can make Islam a tool for itself."88
In particular, Nursi is concerned with the danger of backbiting attitude to Muslim brotherhood. Referring to the Qur'anic verse, "would any among you like to eat the flesh of your dead brother?, he warn the backbiters with six levels of questions;
Think! Could such a thing be permitted? If your mind is not sound, look at your heart; could it love such a thing? And if your heart is not sound, examine your conscience; would it consent to destroying the life of society, as though tearing off your own flesh with your own teeth? And if you have no social conscience, examine your humanity; could it have such an appetite and such monstrous rapacity? If you have no humanity, think of fellow-feeling; could it incline towards an action that would break its own back? And if you have no humanity, is your inborn nature so totally corrupted that you tear a corpse with your bare teeth?89
Nursi concludes that "backbiting is repugnant to man's mind, heart, conscience, humanity, fellow-feeling, and inborn nature, as well as to the Shari'a, and is therefore to be utterly rejected."90
Brotherhood, unity, love, and belief are integrated and central in Nursi's discussion of the causes and cures of Muslim internal conflicts. As he said: "we are devotees of love, we do not have time for enmity."91 According to him, love is also needed at state level: "Republicanism consists of justice, mutual consultation, and the restriction of power to the law."92 Nursi also emphasized the importance of love when he responded to questions on Ittihad-? Muhammedi (Muhammadan Union). In his words: "The way of this Union is love; its enmity is only for ignorance, poverty, and strife."93 For him: "Belief demands love, and Islam demands brotherhood."94 As he explains this view:
Belief and the affirmation of Divine Unity, the causes of love, are like Mount Uhud, while the causes of enmity are like pebbles. However unreasonable it is to think of pebbles being heavier than Mount Uhud, for a believer to be hostile towards another believer is lacking in heart to the same degree. Hostility between believers may only take the form of pity."95
Nursi suggests that every jamaah (Muslim group) must not impose their understandings and practices to other jamaah (Muslim groups).96 They need to maintain mutual respects, enforce brotherhood, and develop multi-dimensional understanding of Islam.
It is this spirit of love that Said Nursi tried to explain in The Damascus Sermon. He stressed that "the thing most worthy of love is love, and that most deserving of enmity is enmity."97 In his words: "That is, love and loving, which render man's social life secure and lead to happiness are most worthy of love and being loved. Enmity and hostility are ugly and damaging, have overturned man's social life, and more than anything deserve loathing and enmity and to be shunned."98 Nursi further stressed in his sermon that the main enemy of the believers is arrogance and self-worship. "Sometimes," he said, "man's arrogance and self-worship cause him to be unjustly hostile towards believers without his being aware of it; he supposes himself to be right."99 "But this hostility and enmity," he further said, "is to slight powerful causes of love towards the believers, like belief, Islam, and fellow humanity; it is to reduce their value. It is a lunacy like preferring the insignificant causes of enmity to the causes of love, which are as great as a mountain.100
"Since love and enmity are contrary to one another, like light and darkness," Nursi explained, "they cannot truly combine. The opposite of whichever is predominant in the heart cannot at the same time be truly present."101 "Indeed," he further explained, "the causes of love, like belief, Islam, humanity and fellow-feeling, are strong and luminous chains and immaterial fortresses." "One sort of the causes of enmity towards the believers," he added "are personal matters, which are like small stones." "In which case," he concluded, "to nourish true enmity towards a Muslim is a great error; it is like scorning the causes of love, which are as immense as a mountain."102 He further concluded that, "love, brotherhood, and affection are basic to Islam, and are its bond."103 "The people of enmity," he illustrates, "resemble a spoilt child who wants to cry. He looks for an excuse, and something as insignificant as a fly's wing becomes the pretext."104 He further illustrates: "they [the people of enmity] resemble too an unfair, pessimistic person who so long as it is possible to distruct, never thinks favourably. He ignores ten good deeds due to one bad deed. Fairness and favourable thinking, which mark the Islamic character, reject this."105
With regard to the seventh cause of conflicts and rivalry among the believers, jealousy, Nursi advises Muslims to take one remedy: "to accuse your own soul before others raise these charges, and always to take the side of your fellow, not your own soul."106 "If then the people of religion, the people of truth, the people of the path, and the people of learning take this principle as their guide, they will attain sincerity, and be successful in those duties that prepares them for the hereafter."107 "Through God's mercy," he further explains, "they [the believers] will be delivered from this appalling wretchedness and misfortune from which they presently suffer."108
These seven cures of Muslim internal conflicts imply that three related core elements: belief, akhlak (morality), and optimism. With regard to belief, Nursi refers to the problems of Muslims in early twentieth century, "the urgent and over-riding need [for Muslims] was to strengthen, and even to save, belief."109 "What was needed," he adds, "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'."110 By him, this jihad was implemented in the writing of the Risale-i Nur in which he explains and expounds the basic tenets of belief, the truths of the Qur'an, to modern man."111
With regard to akhlak, Nursi quotes one Hadits of Prophet Muhammad: "I came to perfect morality."112 As he describes this Hadits: "an important reason for my being sent to mankind by Almighty God was to perfect good conduct and morality, and deliver mankind from immortality and vice."113
With regard to optimism, Nursi stressed in the Damascus Sermon that "the future shall be Islam's and Islam's alone. And its ruler shall be the truths of the Qur'an and belief."114 "Therefore," he further stressed, "we must submit to Divine Determining and our fate of the present, for ours is a brilliant future, while the Europeans' is a dubious past."115 "Islam and its truths," he added, "posses the perfect capacity to progress, both materially and in moral116 and non-material matters."117 Nursi also stressed in his sermon that despair is a most grievous sickness, cancer, that has entered the heart of the world of Islam and is an obstacle to achievement.118 Nursi believes that despair among Muslims has been one of the reasons for their inability to defend themselves from colonial power. He says: "It is despair that has as though killed us so that a small state of one or two million in the West has as though made twenty million Muslims in the East its servants and their country, its colony."119 Nursi also believes that it is despair that cases moral decadence among Muslims. In his words: "And it is despair that has killed our high morals, and causing us to abandon the public good, has restricted our sight to personal benefits."120
In relation to optimism among Muslims in setting up their future, Nursi stresses the importance of mutual consultation enjoined by the Shari'ah. Referring to a Qur'anic verse: "Whose rule is consultation among themselves,"121 Nursi suggests that, "the key to Muslims' happiness in the life of Islamic society is the mutual consultation enjoined by the Shari'ah."122 For him, "orders consultation as a fundamental principle." Mutual consultation was also major theme in the pray that he expressed in Damascus Sermon: "long live truthfulness! Death to despair! Let love endure! Let mutual consultation find strength! Let those who follow their own whims and desires be the object of blame, reproach and detestation! And on those who follow right-guidance be peace and well-being! Amen."123 One of the questions asked to him was: "Why do you attach this much importance to mutual consultation? And how may the life and progress of mankind, in particular Asia, and particularly Islam, be achieved through mutual consultation?"124 Nursi replied to this question by explaining that mutual consultation will make Muslims appear bigger and stronger. In his words:
Since just consultation results in sincerity and solidarity, three 'alifs' [the first letter of the Arabic alphabet] become one hundred and eleven. Thus, three men between whom there is true solidarity may benefit the nation as much as a hundred men. Many historical events inform us that as a result of true sincerity, solidarity, and consultation, ten men may perform the work of a thousand.125
Nursi adds that mutual consultation enables Muslims to support one another, maintain their social life, and defeat their enemies. As he further replied to the question: "Man's needs are endless and his enemies innumerable, his strength and capital insignificant, and the number of destructive, harmful humans who have become like monsters through lack of religion is increasing."126 "In the face of those endless enemies and innumerable needs," Nursi adds, "man can continue his personal life only through the support and assistance proceeding from belief, and can maintain his social life only through the mutual consultation enjoined by the Shari'ah, that again proceeds from the truths of belief. It is only thus that he can halt his enemies and open up a way to secure his needs."127
Continuous and widespread internal conflicts make the life of many Muslims away from Islamic teachings. They oppose Islamic teachings on religious pluralism, freedom, harmony, and cooperation. Instead of preserving, protecting, and enriching social and spiritual life, differences have been the sources of tensions, conflicts, disunity, and disharmony among many Muslims. For them, Islam has played an enslaving and alienating role, not a reconciliating, liberating, and enlightening role. Islam has been a disintegrating force, not an integrating force for them. Instead of becoming the best social group (khoiru ummah), many Muslims become a weak and hopeless social group.
Muslim internal conflicts are caused by a mixture of psychological motivation, defected cognition, and disoriented culture. They occur within the context of the rising to life of despair and hopelessness and are deeply rooted in the weakening iman (belief) and the loosing sense of direction and sincerity (ikhlas). They are fused by lack of community and collective personality, competition for moral and material rewards, and self fulfilling truth and are triggered by ambition and greedy for reward in the hereafter, jealousy, and lack of brotherhood, love, and cooperation.
The best way to resolve Muslim internal conflicts is by bargaining and mediation, not by zero-sum game, arbitration, and adjudication. Peace and harmony will prevail in a Muslim community if Muslim scholars and leaders develop the tradition of dialogue, genuine and sincere social brotherhood, social trust, social cohesion, participation, justice, tolerance, and a rule of conduct. They need to act and think positively, unite within the fold of Islam, be socially creative and innovative, abandon the self and its egoism, give up the mistaken concept of self-pride, avoid disputes, and work together with the spirit of love, optimism, morality (akhlak), and mutual consultation based on strong iman (belief).
*Dr. Muhammad Sirozi is Director, Graduate Program, Palembang State Institute of Islamic Studies, Indonesia. He specializes in the politics of Islamic education and movement in Indonesia. In 2003-4 he was Fulbright Visiting scholar at Hartford Seminary, U.S.A.
* Paper presented at International Symposium on "Religion, Peace, and Globalization: Some Inspirations from Risale-i Nur," jointly organized by The Istanbul Foundation for Science and Culture and Graduate Program, Palembang State Institute of Islamic Studies, Palembang, July 25, 2004.
1. Gregory Baum 1975. Quoted in Nasikun 2002, "Peran Agama dalam Proses Reformasi menuju Transisi Demokrasi," in Harmoni, Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 39.
2. "Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve" (Qur'an, 2: 62).
3. "There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower" (Qur'an 2: 256).
4. "And argue not with the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), unless it be in (a way) that is better (with good words and in good manner, inviting them to Islamic Monotheism with His Verses), except with such of them as do wrong; and say (to them): 'We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you; our Ilah (God) and your Ilah (God) is One (i.e. Allah), and to Him we have submitted (as Muslims) (Qur'an 29: 46).
5. "And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad SAW) the book (this Qur'an) in truth, confirming the Scripture that came before it and Muhaymin (trustworthy in highness and a witness) over it (old Scriptures). So judge among them by what Allah has revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging away from the truth that has come to you. To each among you, We have prescribed a law and a clear way. If Allah had willed, He would have made you one nation, but that (He) may test you in what He has given you; so compete in good deeds. The return of you (all) is to Allah; then He will inform you about that in which you used to differ" (Qur'an 5: 48).
6. "Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity" (Qur'an, 60: 8).
7. "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as just witnesses; and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety; and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do" (Qur'an 5: 8).
8. "Those who have been expelled from their homes unjustly only because they said: 'Our Lord is Allah.' For had it not been that Allah checks one set of people by means of another, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, wherein the Name of Allah is mentioned much would surely have been pulled down. Verily, Allah will help those who help His (Cause). Truly, Allah is All-Strong, All-Mighty" (Qur'an 22: 40).
9. After migrating to Madinah, Prophet Muhammad SAW made an agreement with other religious groups. This agreement is known as Madinah Charter. One of the principles of the charter says that Prophet Muhammad promised to protect other religious groups and gave them the freedom to implement their religious teachings. The policy was continued by his successors, Abu Bakar and Umar both of whom prohibited Muslims to disturb non-Muslims.
10. This is an Indonesian word used to describe a traditional religious scholar who manage an Islamic boarding school called Pesantren.
11. These attributes of Nursi are given by Michel, S.J., Thomas 1999. "Muslim-Christian Dialogue and Cooperation in the Thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi," in The Muslim World, Vol. LXXXIX, No. 3-4, p. 325.
12. Ibid., pp. 26-27.
13. According to Nursi, the six words are the luminous bonds for Muslims the awareness of which would unite them and allow mutual consultation among them. They "the positive truths of Islam" that can cure the grievous sicknesses besetting the Muslim community. The words, Nursi believes, are the qualities that form the very foundation of Muslim society and cannot be dispensed in the face of the difficulties or threats. See Badiuzzaman Said Nursi 1996. The Damascus Sermon. (Istanbul: S?zler Publications,1995), p. 9.
15. See Introduction to Ibid.
18. See discussion in Mudzhar, M. Atho 2002. "Anatomi Konflik Sosial Bernuansa Agama: Perspektif Sosiologis dan Psikologi Sosial." I Harmoni, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 15-16.
19. See Ibid.
20. Rupert Brown and Lorella Lepore 1999 define prejudice: "the holding of derogatory attitudes or beliefs, the expression of negative effect or the display of hostile or discriminatory behavior toward members of a group on account of their membership in that group." See Antony S.R. Manstead and Miles Hewstone (eds) 1999. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Psychology. Blackwell Publishers.
21. Ibid., p. 202.
22. Nursi, Bediuzzaman Said 2000. The Flashes Collection from the Risale-i Nur Collection 3. Translated from the Turkish Lem'alar by ??kran Vahide. (Istanbul: S?zler Publications, 2000), p. 201.
24. Ibid., p. 201.
25. Quoted by Nursi from al-Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa, ii, 280.
26. Nursi 2000. Ibid., p. 200.
28. Ibid., p. 201.
30. Ibid., p. 203.
31. Second Addendum, The Damascus Sermon, pp. 120-121.
37. Ibid., p. 204.
38. Second Addendum, The Damascus Sermon, pp. 119-120.
42. Ibid., p. 205.
44. Ibid., p. 206.
45. Ibid., p. 207.
46. Ibid., p. 207.
48. Ibid., p. 208.
50. Second Addendum, The Damascus Sermon, p. 122.
53. Ibid., p. 209.
57. Mudzar, ibid., p. 19.
59. Tholkhah, Imam 2002. "Memupuk Kerukunan dan Menepis Konflik Berbasis Masyarakat." In Harmoni, Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 10.
60. Ibid., p. 12.
61. Karim, Muchit A. 2002. "Pola Kerukunan di Tanah Deli: Kasus di Kecamatan Tanjung Morawa, Deli Serdang, Sumatera Utara." In Harmoni Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 78.
62. Nursi, ibid., p. 202.
63. Ibid., p. 202.
66. Ibid., p. 203.
67. Second Addendum, The Damascus Sermon, p. 121.
68. Nursi, ibid.
69. Ibid., p. 206.
70. Nursi refers to Qur'an, 8:46 that says "And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength departs, and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As-Sabirun (the patient)."
71. Nursi 2000. Ibid., p. 207.
74. Nursi 1996. The Damascus Sermon, p. 45.
81. Nursi refers to the following verse of the Qur'an: "When they pass by error, they pass by it with honourable avoidance." (Qur'an, 25:72).
84. Nursi 1996. The Damascus Sermon, p. 54.
86. Nursi 1996. "Reality," First Addendum - Third Part, The Damascus Sermon, pp. 78-79.
89. Nursi 1996. Second Addendum, The Damascus Sermon, pp. 121-122.
92. Ibid., "Reality," First Addendum - Third Part, pp. 78-79.
93. Ibid., "The Voice of Truth," p. 81.
94. Ibid., Second Addendum, p. 125.
96. Muslims' commitment to unity and brotherhood, according to Nursi, must not be limited to Muslim believers alone, but also to other believers; "Believers should now unite, not only with their Muslim fellow-believers, but with truly religious and pious Christians, disregarding questions of dispute and nor arguing over them, for absolute disbelief is on the attack" (see Michel 1999, ibid., p. 326). For him, all believers, Muslims and non-Muslims must unite to challenge their common enemy, "aggressive atheism." He advices Muslims to recognize this common enemy and work hand in hand with other community of believers to counter it. Nursi particularly stresses that "Muslims should unite, not only with their own fellow-believers, but also with the truly pious Christians" (See Lem'alar, 146, 1991. Sincerity and Brotherhood. (Istanbul), 13. Quoted in Michel, ibid). For the unity to develop, he suggests, the believers must refrain from disputes and share the common task "of offering the modern world a vision of human life and society in which God is central and God's will is the norm of moral values" (see Michel 1999. Ibid., p. 327). Nursi foresaw two great threats to religion: hostility toward the Shari'ah of Muhammad and the promotion of naturalist and materialist philosophy that can lead to the denial of God (Mektubat, p. 424). Other common enemies of the believers, according to Nursi, are ignorance, poverty, and disunity; "Our enemy, that which is destroying us, is Ignorance, his son Poverty Effendi, and grandson, Enmity Bey. If the Armenians have opposed us in hatred, Nursi reflected Turkish experience, they have done so under the leadership of these three corrupters" (Cited in Michel, ibid., p. 329). Nursi's emphasis on the importance of all believers to unite against their common enemy gained special attention from non-Muslim scholars. For example, Thomas Michel from Center for Interfaith Dialogue, Vatican, wholeheartedly shares his perspective: "at the deepest levels of spiritual striving to do God's will and build harmonious and peaceful societies, our true enemies are not other persons, but rather the powers of ignorance, poverty, and aggression that cloud our powers of perception and prevent us from acting as we should. These dark powers lie not outside us, but within our own hearts (Ibid., p. 330). Although it was delivered long time ago, Michel believes that Nursi's message is valid for own day. "The root of tension and conflict between Muslims and Christians today," said Michel, "lays not so much in the evil nature of the other as in our own egoistic desire to dominate, control, and retaliate." (Ibid).
98. The Damascus Sermon, p. 49.
106. Ibid., p. 211.
112. Nursi quoted this Hadits from Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa', p. 211. See ibid.
116. With regard to moral and non-material matters, Nursi, identified eight serious obstacles prevented the truths of Islam completely overwhelming the past: 1. The Europeans' ignorance. 2. The Europeans' barbarity. 3. The Europeans' bigotry in their religion. 4. The domination and arbitrary power of the clergy and religious leaders. 5. The fact that the Europeans obeyed and followed them blindly. 6. Despotism. 7. Degeneracy that arose from opposing the Shari'a. 8. Opposition from modern science (Ibid., pp. 32-33).
117. With regard to material matters, Nursi stressed that "Islam will also be materially dominant in the future." According to him, there are five strengths that can make Muslims achieve material progress: perfection, intense need, competition, freedom, and dignity (See further explanation on these strengths in Ibid., pp. 36-37).
118. Ibid., p. 44.
122. Ibid., p. 56.
127. Ibid., p. 58.