Hüseyin KURT - Globalization and Risale-i Nur from Barla Platformu on Vimeo.
International Nursi Symposium, Istanbul 3-5 October 2010
Huseyin Kurt, Hartford Seminary, USA.
What does the Risale-i Nur invite us to in our relationship to a constantly unfolding of our world, to the dynamic dimensions of social life and globalization? What is the gift of the Nur movement for the Muslim world in the midst of globalization; and, the globalization of Islam through the prism of the Risale-i Nur?
Towards Global Islam: Risale-i Nur Approach
The phenomenon of globalization is indeed controversial with regard to its meaning and impact on the world. Both those in favor or opposition to globalization tend to form a perspective in accordance to their own particular ideology. However, although these perspectives may begin to shape the dialogue regarding globalization, they serve only as an introduction to the far larger dimension of globalization. It is incumbent upon us to consider the variant approaches and perspectives, with consideration to the vast world view of Islam. Globalization has popularly been understood as
a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology. This process has effects on the environment, on culture, on political systems, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well-being in societies around the world. 
Donald J. Boudreaux, takes this definition and simplifies it by terming globalization as the advance of human cooperation across national boundaries. In a contemporary context, though borders between states are still in place, one could argue that borders separating people and cultures, no longer even exist. Remarkable trade and tourism traffic between countries, foreign student exchange programs, technological advancements in the field of media and internet, and other modern developments has made the impact of globalization, felt around the world. Considering this very dynamic nature of the contemporary world, there are tenets of the Risale-i Nur which may be applied as model principles for Muslim communities, with concern to globalization.
To begin, the language used in Nursis Risale-i Nur is paved with welcoming and pleasant words, inclusive of all human beings who Nursi portrays as the most precious and respected of all Gods creation on earth. Human beings were gifted with the highest rank of being servants of God, and given the ability to ponder the nature of creation, while understanding its transcendence. This reverent speech is found in all texts of the Risale-i Nur, and in essence, this opens doors for anyone needing to escape from the overwhelming pressures and burdens of life. Nursi offers in return, the ability to obtain rigorous spiritual power from the reality of Tawhid (Divine Unity).
The inclusive nature of the Risale-i Nur, aptly addresses the citizens of the world, which in itself is a powerful element for meaningful interaction. Nursi declares that For conquering the civilized is through persuasion, not through force as though they were savages who understand nothing. We are devotees of love, we do not have time for enmity. This is true not only for non-Muslims but also for different factions of Muslim societies who are sometimes at odds with one another. Today, while interfaith dialogue is understood as a necessity to build bridges and understand the other in order to develop peaceful coexistence and cooperation for a better world, we must confront the reality that Muslims have lagged in their engagement of intrafaith dialogue, which is what our communities desperately need in order to preserve the unity of the Ummah (Muslim community throughout the world). The alienation and hesitance of Muslims to commit to intrafaith dialogue has gone exponentially far in the last century. So much so that various Muslim societies and communities are no longer able to understand, appreciate or communicate with each other. These barriers yield tension and severe conflicts, as we have seen more recently in the case between Sunnis and Shiites.
The Risale-i Nur does not put undue emphasis upon the underlying differences between various groups of Muslims. Instead, Nursi makes iman (belief) the core area of Islam. He leaves aside the details rooted in the diverse practices of fiqh (Islamic law) and any slight doctrinal distinctions which do not contradict with the essentials of Tawhid. The fundamental approach of the Risale-i Nur is to gather Muslims in their entirety, together upon common grounds. This inclusive and all-embracing outlook of the Risale-i Nur is somewhat of a social plaster for the Muslim community at large and a genuine asset for the Ummah.
Moreover, in the assessment of the conditions of this globalized modern world, the Risale-i Nur promotes positive actionotherwise understood as a non-violent way of serving God. The Risale-i Nurs power comes from a solid methodology of proving the foundational pillars of faiths such as the existence of God, Divine Unity, Resurrection and the Hereafter, and etc. The Risale-i Nur is dynamically able to address the spectrum of modern human values such as freedom of thought and freedom of religion, which only serves to strengthen its legitimacy. Yet another strength of the Risale-i Nur is its key characteristic of refraining from politics. Although Said Nursi had actively been interested in politics early on in his life, he recognized its uselessness and danger and subsequently withdrew from any involvement in that realm. Eloquent as ever, Nursi explains why he chose to refrain from politics in the latter years of his life. Through the use of a very interesting analogy, he states:
In any event, service of the Quran prohibits me from thinking of socio-political life. It is like this: human life is a journey. I saw at this time through the light of the Quran that the way has entered a swamp. The caravan of mankind is stumbling forward in stinking, filthy mud. Part of it is travelling a safe way. Another part has found certain means to save itself as far as is possible from the muddy swamp. But the great majority are travelling in darkness in the midst of it. Twenty per cent suppose the filthy mud to be musk and ambergris because they are drunk, and are smearing it over their faces and eyes; they stumble on till they drown in it. However, eighty per cent understand it is a swamp and realize it is stinking and filthy, but they are bewildered and cannot discern the safe way. There are two solutions:
The First: to bring the drunken twenty per cent to their senses with a club.The Second: to point out the safe way to the bewildered by showing them a light.
I look and see that eighty people are brandishing clubs at the twenty per cent, while the light is not properly shown to the unhappy, bewildered eighty. Even if it is shown, since those showing it hold both the club and the light in the same hand, it does not inspire confidence. The bewildered person anxiously wonders: Does he want to attract me with the light then hit me with the club? And sometimes when, due to some defect, the club is broken, the light flies away too or else is extinguished.
Thus, the swamp is mankinds dissolute social life, which breeds heedlessness and misguidance. The drunkards are those obdurate people who take delight in misguidance, while the bewildered ones are those who detest misguidance but cannot extract themselves from it. They want to be saved, but cannot find the way; they are confused. As for the clubs, they are the political currents, and the light, the truths of the Quran. Light cannot be disputed, nor can enmity be felt towards it. No one can detest it apart from Satan the Accursed. So that I might take up the Qurans light, I declared: I seek refuge with God from Satan and from politics and threw away the club of politics; I embraced the light with both hands. I saw that among the political movements are lovers of those lights in both the opposition and the supporters. No side or group should cast aspersions on or hold back from the lights of the Quran that are held up, or from the teachings of the Quran, which are far superior to all political currents and partisanship and are exempt from and free of all their biased considerations. Only satans in human form or animals in human dress would do so since they imagine irreligion and atheism to be politics and support them.
This fantastic approach explains the necessity of separation of politics and religious service. The reliability and purity of the service of faith is contingent upon the necessity to separate politics from religion. Religion must not be degraded into means for political power and religious teachings need to be pure from political propaganda. For this very approach, believers around the world find solace in Nursis Risale-i Nur, allowing the treatise to serve as their source for religious truth. It is not to say however, that the Risale-i Nur shuns or ignores the political duties duly assigned to the Muslim community. Rather, the Risale-i Nur looks at them as secondary or tertiary in comparison to the fundamental question of faith. In a letter in Kastamonu Lahikasi, Nursi explains the way the Risale-i Nur deals with social and political matters. These duties are honorably left to other groups of Muslims, who when they find a good ground to take action, they proceed. It is in the best interest of such groups to take care of these duties independently from faith based communities in order to protect the dignity of religion.
This perspective is parallel to social constructivism, which is a recent social theory
asserting that issues are socially constructed and our material reality is dependent upon such ideas and interpretations. For example, what makes an Arab state an Arab state is not the fact that the populations speak Arabic but rather there are rules associated with Arabism that shape the Arab states identity, interests, and foreign policies that are deemed legitimate and illegitimate. This suggests a commitment to a form of Idealism. This is not to say that wishing to change the world could make it so. It argues that existing beliefs and ideas comprise the current climate of the world, but if they change, then the structures and organizations will also follow in that change. Michael Barnett cleverly gives the example of how different a world full of Mahatma Gandhis would be, in comparison to a world full of Osama bin Ladens.
To conclude, as far as indigenous cultures vis-a vis globalization are concerned, Nursis actions ideally fit the principle of thinking globally while acting locally, as
Nursi promotes both modernization and progress while maintaining the cultural identity of Muslim individuals and the broader society.
 Donald J. Boudreaux, Globalization (Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., 2008), 1.
 Said Nursi, The Damascus Sermon, trans. Sukran Vahide (Istanbul: Sözler Neşriyat ve Sanayi A.Ş., 1996), 78.
 Said Nursi, Kastamonu Lahikasi, (Istanbul: Rnk Nesriyat Paz. San. Tic. Ltd. Sti., 2009), 90.
 Michel Barnett, Social Constructivism in Globalization of World Politics, ed.John Baylis and SteveSmith (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 259.
 Said Ozervarli, Modification or Renewal? Elmalili Hamdis Alternative Modernization Project in Late Ottoman Thought, in Modernity and Modernism in the Mediterranean World, ed.Luca Somigli and Demenico Pietropaolo (New York: Legas, 2006), 48.