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IMAM BEDIUZZAMAN SAID NURSI’S CONCEPT OF TOLERANCE AS A PILLAR OF WASATIYYAH (MODERATION) AND UNITY

IMAM BEDIUZZAMAN SAID NURSI’S CONCEPT OF TOLERANCE AS A PILLAR OF WASATIYYAH (MODERATION) AND UNITY

Rahmah Binti Ahmad H. Osman

The world is in a state of disarray. While humankind has developed and ‘progressed’ into an era of being a global village and technologically astute, it seems that the human condition has disintegrated into that of being foam on the ocean[1]. Technology, material gains, social status and power, even though having been a human endeavour from the beginning of recorded history and documentation of the first murder in this world, with so many experiences that human beings have gone through as a species and the vast access to information as compared to just a few decades ago, one would have expected us to know better. Looking at the landscape of the world, with its media manipulation, war bent communities, extremist ideologies, greed and basic human rights violations, results in a very pessimistic outlook. As Georg Hegel purported that we do not learn from history (Hegel, Hoffmeister, Nisbet, & Forbes, 1975).

Islam in the message of the final messenger our master Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) has been bestowed upon existence as a mercy for all the worlds (Quran, 21:107). Its ultimate goal is the innate benefit that corresponds with nature and human nature. As Allah states in the Quran (2:143), “we have made you a moderate people”, i.e. people of the middle way. This moderation is in terms of a people following a religion, but it transcends beyond that to the fundamental individual level, societal level, the Muslim community (ummah) level, the human race level and the universe level. This verse does not cease there, but proceeds further stating that we are a moderate community “in order to be a witness of or bearing testimony unto people,” clearly indicating once again that moderation is not only restricted to us as a community but involves interaction with others as well.

Wasatiyyah

Before engaging further into the subject, we shall clarify the meaning of the term Wasatiyyah (moderation). Tan Sri Professor Dr. M. Kamal Hassan (2011; 2014), a great scholar of Malay world, uses the term Wasatiyyah, as bearing the meanings of Justice, Excellence and Balance with reference to Quranic verses and Prophetic narrations.

The attribute of justice is based on a Sunnah that was reported by Ahmad on the authority of Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri that the Prophet interpreted the word “wasat” in 2:143 to mean “justice” (al-`adl). Although “justice” connotes “balance,” “equilibrium” or “moderation” that is similar to the third attribute, it appears, to mean more than that and thus deserves to be a separate attribute. “Justice” requires an objective mind that is not swayed by emotions, biases or prejudice that would favour any of the disputing sides in making judgments, decisions or solving disputes. This is supported by the meaning derived from the word found in another verse of the Quran that has the same root with wasat (2:143), “Said one of them (awsat-uhum): ‘Did I not say to you, Why not glorify [Allah]?’” The word awsat in the verse, has been interpreted by many commentators of the Quran to mean “the most just (`adl) amongst them.”

The basis for incorporating excellence into the meaning of wasatiyyah is due to its usage in the Arabic language and a Sunnah. This scholar pointed to the fact that Arabs understand the word wasat (from which wasatiyyah is derived) to mean “the best” or “excellence” too. This can be understood from the term Awsat Al-`Arab to describe the Quraishy tribe to which the Prophet belongs. The term means “the best” or “noblest” tribe among Arabs. A similar point can be found also in a Sunnah that reports that the Prophet was the wasat among his people, which scholars have interpreted to mean “the noblest among his people genealogically.”

The relevance of the third attribute of “balance”/ “moderation” is not an issue for debate, for it has been widely accepted and used by Arabs in the past, and continues today. In fact, it is the most explicit meaning that one can derive from the word wasat, which explains its popularity and prominence. However, its popular and prominent use also masks the other two attributes that are essential and important for the right understanding and practice of wasatiyyah. Prof. Hassan observes that the qualities of justice and goodness/ excellence are being neglected, sidelined or forgotten due to the over-emphasis on moderation. Not only that, he also observes certain skewed understandings of moderation that require correction, for they cannot be said to represent wasatiyyah, which incorporates all three attributes. (Hassan, 2011; 2014)

The word ‘moderation’ is used throughout this article to stand for ‘wasatiyyah’ in its broad meaning as expounded in Hassan (2011; 2014).

Moderation & Witness and the Duties of Muslims

The adherents of Islam are to be exemplary as well as torch bearers where moderation and witness bearing are concerned. Reflecting on and observing the present circumstances of the Muslim community across the world there is an evident disparity between Islam and Muslims. We just have to look at the murderous relations between different groups, like the ongoing ISIS onslaught (al-Yaqoubi, 2015). It is once again the month of Muharram and the celebration of ‘Ashura brining without a doubt the Pakistani yearly blood bath of Sunni, Shia relations (Ahmed, 2012). We do not have to look far in our past where the proponents of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the 18th century exterminated peoples of the same testament of tawhid (Commins, 2009). Even traditional ‘Sunni’ Islam and the four schools of thought were not saved from moving to the extreme stance of fighting one another in areas like Rayy and Isbahan the fights between the Shafi’is and Hanafis for example (al-Athīr & Richards, 2006). One would assume that after a millennium and a half of internal disagreement between certain factions of the Muslim community, with issues that will never be agreed upon, since it has not come to some conclusion in all this time, a form of coexistence with an internal agree to disagree and an external front of unity would have been established. Especially once the seat of Islamic power had been dissolved and Muslims are now the dhimmis under many governments and forces of power (Rahman, 2001; Rogan, 2015). At face value, even Muslims display the characteristics of the rest of humanity who are unable to learn from the past with the effort of engaging the present and moving forward to the future. 

Having said that, the outlook is not that bleak albeit the pessimistic tone of the previous few paragraphs. Let it not be that we just focus on the conflicted times and let the negatives outweigh the positives. Within our Islamic tradition, moderation has been a goal throughout the ages. Thus, we as a community have and still do enjoy many stages of peace in the last one and a half millennium not only within the Islamic community but also with the numerous groups in the world at large. These facts are attested to by history in the Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Hindu’s, Buddhist and even atheists enjoying the peace under the rule of Muslim countries (Watt, Education, Unesco, & Hamdard National Foundation, 1973). The previous paragraphs thus highlight a time where intervention is once again required to bring the ummah back to a state of balance and moderation. Scholars too numerous to mention are engaging in this dialogue and as we should always have hope, a possibility does exist for a positive change in the landscape of the Muslim community within our lifetime.

IMÓM BADÔÑUZZAMÓN SAÑÔD NURSÔ (1877 – 1960)

The Imam was a Turkish scholar who lived in the period of the late 19th early 20th century, which makes the Imam a person of recent history or a contemporary scholar (Altinbasak, 2010; Hayrat, 2016). This is paramount, since many of our celebrated scholars are of the golden age of Islam, or the Andalusian period. The argument that referral to this scholar as being to ‘ancient’ to address modern issues is redundant, even though an argument can be made that the argument itself is baseless as golden age scholars are still being revived now to tackle modern problems. We just have to look at the discourse on the Islamicisation of knowledge to see once case in point, or the Shatibian Maqasid discourse in contemporary issues (Auda, 2008; Hassan, 2011).

What can also be highlighted about this period is that it gave us thinkers like, Muhammad al-Tahir ibn Ashur (1879 – 1973), Sayed Qutb (1906 – 1966), Muhammad Abduh (1849 – 1905), Rashid Rida (1865 – 1935) and Muhammad Iqbal (1877 – 1938), who with the exception of Muhammad Iqbal all were involved with the exegeses of the Quran. In addition to that they also were engaging different issues in the Muslim ummah being classified as reformists and revivalists (Hunter, 2014). All except for Allama Iqbal were of Arab origin facing the disintegration of the ottoman caliphate and engaging modernity, secularism from the Arab landscape perspective.

Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida went the route of embracing modernity and attempted assimilating secularist concepts into Islam (Hunter, 2014). Ibn Ashur and Allama Iqbal seem to be calling for a return to origin and deep contemplation and reflection of the internal issues facing Muslim and redefining Islamic thought and understanding (El-Mesawi, 2009; Ibn ÑÓshËr, 2006). While their works and thought are celebrated, these two scholars left a legacy of intellectual discourse and scholarship that is still being benefited from until present. Whilst Sayed Qutb has also left an intellectual heritage like the previous two scholars, Sayed Qutb is distinct that in addition to the scholarship in the form of written works and thought the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen is also associated with him (Jabar, 2015; Quṭb, 2006). To what extent the Ikhwan has implemented Sayed Qutb’s teachings and how their movements are based on Sayed Qutb’s thought is still a matter of research and debate (Jabar, 2015). This paper is not on the Ikhwan and the researcher is not clued up with this domain to comment much on it. The legacy of scholarship and implementation of that scholarship in a distinct group is similar to Imam Bediuzzaman, thus it is mentioned here.

The imam started life in the Ottoman empire and witnessed the dissolution of Ottoman empire, the ending of the caliphate, the introduction of secularism and implementation of ‘science’ as a belief philosophy in Turkey, war to eradicate Islam and anything Islamic including the Arab-ottoman script and Arabic, as well as two world wars (Altinbasak, 2010).   

When one contemplates an individual, who lived through that part of history from overnight Islamic power to the attempt to destroy Islam and the effects of the world wars on a country bordering Europe, Asia and the middle east one imagines a picture of a different genre than the one Imam Bediuzzaman is.

While in this era, a common practise that has come about in making and argument or promoting an idea is to quote a scholar. Quoting a scholar is good; however, the quoting out of context seems to be the action of the day. A scholar’s thoughts are treated separately from the scholar’s life. Even hadith and Quranic verses are quoted and used in a vacuum leading to all sorts of misinterpretations.

Dealing with the Imam has to be holistic when dealing with the topic of tolerance. We have the Imam, his life and actions, the Risale-i Nur which are his thoughts, scholarship and teachings, and the implementation which are the students of the Risale-i Nur (Talib-i Nur), some of whom are the organizers of this conference.

A bold statement that can be made here is that these three aspects of the Imam played a major role if not ‘the’ role in saving Islam in Turkey. The present Turkish landscape where Islam and its revival is concerned, the idea of Muslim unity at a state level and the moderateness of the Muslims of turkey speak for themselves.      

TOLERANCE IN THE LIFE PRACTICES OF IMÓM BADÔÑUZZAMÓN SAÑÔD NURSÔ

When it comes to the Imam’s life concerning tolerance the gems overflow for the entire duration of the Imam’s time on this earth. This section will highlight four aspects, the acquisition of knowledge, the interaction with the government and politics, the interaction with non-Muslims and the non-rigidness in with regards to the printing of the Risale.

The Imam’s Acquisition and reformation of knowledge  

Like many scholars, the Imam started with acquiring the Islamic fundamentals in knowledge. Besides memorising the Quran, the Imam studied all the basic sciences of Arabic, Quranic exegeses, Kalam, Tasawwuf and all other related knowledge. It is documented that the Imam memorised 90 classical texts in all domains of knowledge. The imam is said to have been presented with the cloak of the scholar at the age of 14 however refused it at that juncture (Altinbasak, 2010; Hayrat, 2016).

The first exercising of the Imam is that unlike other communities who ran away from the engaging of “western’’ education, the imam took it upon himself to memorise and master the natural sciences as well as western philosophy (Altinbasak, 2010; Hayrat, 2016). His deep understanding of these areas of knowledge is well reflected throughout the Risale-I Nur (Nursi, 2012).

The well-rounded nature of the Imam’s knowledge acquisition and the call for tolerance can be exemplified in the intention for the imam to establish an Islamic university in Eastern Anatolia, which he named “Medresetü’z-Zehrâ.” In this university he planned for the positive and religious sciences to be studied together to raise scholars and scientists for the needs of the age. He stated that, “The light of wisdom is positive sciences; the light of conscience is religious sciences. When two are combined, truth arises thereupon (Hayrat, 2015)”

This Islamic university were to serve three goals (Hayrat, 2015):

  1. Eradicate the conflict between so-called scientific thought and religion by teaching Islamic and positive sciences together.
  2. End the conflict between the regular school (maktab), the theology school (madrasa), and the dervish lodge (takkah).
  3. Attract students from the entire Islamic world to promote the unity and solidarity      

Goal 1 clearly illustrates the imam was pushing for a moderate approach, not an either-or approach with the religious and positive sciences. Not only the combination of the two is promoted but also the expectation of the positive outcome of truth is emphasised. This does not however mean the whole-hearted acceptance of positive science in the sense of what western sciences with its philosophy entails, but a clear critique and distillation it of unislamic thought. This thinking is refreshing considering that the majority Muslims left scientific acquisition in the golden age of Islam as it was somehow discounted to be an endeavour contradictory or less in status than acquiring religious sciences. A similar idea of exploring the ayat al-Quraniyyah and ayat al-kawniyyah is in Fi Dhilal al-Quran, however not to the actualised comprehensive nature as in Risale-i Nur (Nursi, 2012; Quṭb, 2006). 

Goal 2 emphasises the need for unity between the different streams of education of the time. It is apparent that a moderate path between the three types of education is promoted and thus unity of knowledge. Whilst the Imam was a student to all three streams, he emulated the combination of them all in his person and personality. The scientist, the religious scholar, the spiritual mystic however not being extreme in either one of them nor displaying a dissonance between housing these three streams within one individual. There is a slight resemblance of the sort of internal dichotomy of Sheikh Hassan al-Banna (1906 – 1949) the founder of the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (Hunter, 2014). Imam Bediuzzaman however seems to be broader and more encompassing in terms of types of knowledge and outward tolerance.

Goal 3 is quite clear-cut on the Imam’s attitude toward unity.

Interaction with the government and politics

The Imam describes himself as having two eras the old Said and the new Said. The old Said period is stated as where the Imam was busy with politics. However even in this era of the Imam’s it was not to be ruling the country or forming a political party in the sense of overthrowing unsettling the country but it was more to form an Islamic stable political landscape and stable politicians of the post caliphate era. The imam was worried about the politicians and their ignorance of Islam and its fundamentals (Abu-Rabi’, 2003; Altinbasak, 2010; Hayrat, 2016).

This stance can be seen by the Imam in the following activities. He joined the Young Turks and became actively involved in constitutional reforms (Saritoprak, 2008). He went to Salonika and stayed at the house of Manyasizade Refik Bey, chairman of Committee for Union and Progress (CUP). He even delivered a speech in Salonika on freedom organized by CUP. For example, he embraced the Young Turk revolution of the CUP and its call for the establishment of a constitutional state. In the following months, he strove to put forward his ideas concerning this, educational reform, unity, and other matters in newspaper articles and involvement in public life (Abu-Rabi’, 2003). When constitutional revolution occurred in 1908, the Imam supported that with the intention to try to Islamize it as that propounded by Namik Kemal (Abu-Rabi’, 2003).

In addition, the imam was part of Muslim association known as the ‘Ittihad-i Muhammedi’ (the Muslim Union). The imam who had originally supported the constitutional movement of July 1908 while in Istanbul later lost confidence in the CUP because of its anti-religious policies. He accused the latter of a policy intimidation based on terrorism and, at the same time, of attacking Islamic institutions (Abu-Rabi’, 2003).

The Imam was also accused of inciting the 31st of March rebellion by Ittihad-i Muhammedi in 1909 and put on trial by the military Court. The imam stated categorically not being involved in this outbreak even attempting to dissuade the Eastern porters of Istanbul to abandon any ideas they might have harboured of joining the rebellion. Believing Islam to be the middle way, the Imam advocated moderation and counselled abjuring limits, referring at all times to the Prophetic tradition which has it that, “Too much or too little of anything is not good: moderation is the middle way (Abu-Rabi’, 2003).”

Imam Said Nursi was brought to trial along with other members of the Ittihad-i Muhammedi, but the court found him innocent and he was acquitted after 24 days in captivity. Stating the he does not agree with the ideals and practices of the rebellion even though being willing to give his life for the Shariah and the advocacy of Muslim unity.

We thus see that even in this stage of the Imam’s life unity and moderation was a major factor and having tolerance without going to the extremes of spilling blood (Abu-Rabi’, 2003).

The new Said period is highlighted by the stance of the Imam’s enigmatic utterance in the twenty-second letter “I take refuge in God from Satan and from politics (Nursi, 2012).” This is exemplified in the practise of the Imam. By 1960, the Imam had approximately 1.5 million students at which time the population was approximately 22 million. The Imam’s influence was also great; however, the imam did not go forth with the political course of action. This was the imam’s stance until his passing on and even his dedicated students which are over 6 million still practice this until present day (Abu-Rabi’, 2003; Altinbasak, 2010; Hayrat, 2015, 2016; Nursi, 2012).

The Imam was imprisoned and exiled many times; even in these cases, the Imam was tolerant of his captors.

 A chief judge who used to hear his cases later stated ‘He was an intelligent person.  He foresaw the result of the trial from the way it was going.  He did not display the slightest trace of anxiety or excitement, and was relaxed and at ease as though speaking with his friends in his house…..(Vahide, 2011, p. 413)’

Even though they were persecuting him, he exercised tolerance on their presence speaking to them as friends. 

Another example of this is the government of the time knew very well that Imam Bediuzzaman did not have any role in the (Sheikh Said) revolt 1925, yet he was arrested along with other tribal leaders and prominent figures in the eastern province and exiled together to Western Anatolia. An army detachment raided the cave which Imam Bediuzzaman used as a place for prayers and contemplation.  The leader of the detachment behaved in a very rude manner with Imam Bediuzzaman.  When the army began marching with him and walked a few yards, some of his disciples and the village folks approached him and talked in Kurdish language (which the officers did not understand).  They pleaded with him not to go with the army assuring him to sacrifice everything in their disposal to save him and take him to any unknown place or any other Muslim country.  But he did not agree with them and said, he is going with the army with complete willingness; further, he advised them to return to their homes quietly, saying there is no need for anxiety (Vahide, 2011).

Non-Rigidness with regards to the Printing of the Risale-i Nur.

Whilst the original Risale-i Nur was written in the Ottoman-Arabic script and is still today in order to preserve the script and the language. With the needs of its target population taken into account in the lifetime of Imam Bediuzzaman, in 1956, parts of it was also printed in Latin-roman script. This tradition of engaging the times while preserving the original is still on going and clearly exemplified by the availability of Risale in various languages through the students of the Risale. This is once again an indication of the tolerance of the Imam in dealing with various communities and issues (Altinbasak, 2010; Hayrat, 2016).

TOLERANCE IN THE THOUGHTS AND SCHOLARSHIP OF IMAM BEDIUZZAMAN SAID NURSI

The incidents of tolerance in the works of the Imam are varied and numerous. For the sake of briefness, just an excerpt of the general idea will be captured in this paper. From the following discussion, the proof of tolerance as a pillar of moderation and unity will be manifest from the thoughts and scholarship of the Imam. The discussion will proceed as follows. Firstly, the Imam addressing the Talib-i Nur on tolerance between each other, secondly the Imam highlighting the diseases between Muslim groups and thirdly Muslim and other relations.

Imam addressing the Talib-i Nur on tolerance between each other

The genius of the imam in intrapersonal social relations is highlighted in the 21st flash. These were and are a group of various individuals who have individual differences (Nursi, 2012). Even though committed to the same cause, the learning and transmitting of Risale I Nur, human nature and the ego are still factors. While human beings look for similarities in each other, they ultimately focus on differences. These similarities and differences can lead to strength and unity, elevation in the common cause and ultimate upliftment. Alternatively, they can lead to comparison -thinking that one is better than the other-, disarray and disunity and intolerance.

The Imam addresses the foundation of actions, which is sincerity. By awakening the consciousness of sincerity in the group of students and what their service entails the imam expertly places the ego and within group negativities on a leash.

The Imam quotes the following verses that promote unity with sincere purpose and not to compromise sincerity for meagre gains. “Do not fall into dispute, lest you lose heart and your power depart. (8:46)” “And stand before God in a devout frame of mind. (2:238)” “Truly he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it. (91:9-10)” “Nor sell my signs for a small price. (2:41. etc.)”

The imam states “O my brothers of the hereafter! And O my companions in the service of the Qur’an! You should know – and you do know – that in this world sincerity is the most important principle in works pertaining to the hereafter…(Nursi, 2012)”

By stating the hereafter one is immediately reoriented to what is important, the service of the Quran is a reiterating fact and once again highlighting sincerity which cannot be emphasised enough in various sections of the Risale. Sincerity is really presented as a cure for the diseases of the heart and the ego. This flash is required to be read once a fortnight by the talib-i nur. In between Muslim relations sincerity in the 20th flash is also a major foundation which will be addressed then (Nursi, 2012).

Imam Bediuzzaman gives four rules to gain and preserve sincerity.

  1. You should seek divine pleasure in your actions
  2. This is not to criticize your brothers who are employed in this service of the Qur’an, and not to excite their envy by displaying superior virtues.
  3. You should know that all your strength lies in sincerity and truth.
  4. This is to imagine your brothers’ virtues and merits in your own selves, and to thankfully take pride at their glory.

These are the first sentences of each rule that basically emphasises two relationships which is with Allah and with one’s fellow human being. The seeking of divine pleasure is a fundamental principle that will alleviate the need to negatively destroy sincerity between individuals. In Allah is the acceptance factor not in the human realm. This leads to number 2 where acceptance of one’s fellow brother and to be positively conscious of one’s fellow human being, all being limbs of the same body, or machines in the same factory, one complimenting the other in order to obtain divine pleasure. The third rule “strength lies in sincerity and truth,” even supersedes the notion of strength lies in unity as sincerity and truth is the foundation for unity. The divine acceptance provides the strength. The imam takes it even a step further by quoting and stating “But give them preference over themselves. (59:9). Prefer your brothers’ souls to your own soul in honour, rank, acclaim, and in the things your soul enjoys like material benefits, and even in such innocent, harmless benefits as informing a needy believer about one of the fine truths of belief.” Thus, not thinking one is better than the other. The fourth rule goes even further that one takes pride in a fellow individual being better than you are. Here the Imam introduces an excellent concept “annihilation in the brothers.” Among brothers this is called “tefânî;” that is, “annihilation in one another.” 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.” In other words, do not be self-serving but others serving (Nursi, 2012).

The imam proceeds further to indicate that contemplating death as a reality and reflection of Allah through the creatures as means of affirmation.

The following are destroyers of sincerity,

 The First: Rivalry towards material advantages

The Second Obstacle Destroying Sincerity: This is to flatter the ego and give high status to the evil-commanding soul by attracting attention to oneself and public acclaim, driven by the desire for fame, renown, and position.

The Third Obstacle: This is fear and greed.

These are quite self-explanatory. The Imam does emphasise the collaboration of gaining divine acceptance and reward as being equal and even more reward for each individual by collaborating in doing a good action for the hereafter (Nursi, 2012).

Imam addressing Muslims on tolerance between each other

The genius of the imam in interpersonal Muslin social relations is highlighted in the 20th flash. Once again, the Imam indicates that the lack of tolerance lies in disease of the foundation of actions, which is sincerity (Nursi, 2012).

With relation to this, the Imam covers this in five points.

The first point being why others can unites but Muslims cannot. How ingenious the comparisons are between the two groups? However only the reasons for the Muslim disunity will be highlighted.

The Imam gives seven causes:

  1. Competition for moral and material reward which is, of course, overcome by sincerity.
  2. They derive dignity from their belief. When they feel weakness, they turn not toward men, but toward God and seek help from Him. On account of difference in outlook, they feel no real need for the aid of the one whose outlook apparently opposes their own, and see no need for agreement and unity. Indeed, 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.

The cure being the following nine, which are by far the most profound tenants for tolerance and thus unity.

  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.
  • 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.

f. In order to preserve truth from the assaults of falsehood,

g. To abandon the self and its egoism,

h. And give up the mistaken concept of self-pride,

  1. And cease from all insignificant feelings aroused by rivalry.
  • That which impels the people of guidance to the misuse of their high aspiration and hence to disagreement and rivalry 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. This is also only for himself and gauging this through the number of followers. The cure thus being “God’s pleasure is won by sincerity alone,” and not by a large following or great success.
  • The people of guidance, through the influence of truth and reality, do not succumb to the blind emotions of the soul, and follow instead the farsighted inclinations of the heart and the intellect. Since, however, they fail to preserve their sense of direction and their sincerity, they are unable to maintain their high station and fall into dispute. The cure and remedy for this serious disease is to be proud of the company of all those travelling the path of truth.
  • The people of truth 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. The cure Do not fall into dispute, lest you lose heart and your power depart,(8:46)  and Work together for the sake of virtue and piety.(5:3)
  • No unity on matters of brotherhood challenges, considering these challenges petty. No service for the sake of Allah is petty.
  • In matters relating to religion and the hereafter, there should be no rivalry, envy or jealousy; indeed, there can be none of these in truth.

The imam rounds this flash by giving the same advice as given in the four rules to the Talib-i Nur, i.e. sincerity, desire for your brother greatness, work together for a common purpose etc.

Sunni-Shia Relations

The conclusion to the fourth point of the fourth flash succinctly sums up Imam Bediuzzaman’s stance to the Sunni Shia relations (Nursi, 2012).

“O Sunnis, who are the people of truth, and ‘Alawis, whose way is love of the Prophet’s (UWBP) family! Quickly put an end to this meaningless, disloyal, unjust, and harmful dispute between you. Otherwise, the atheistic current, which is now so influential, will make one of you a tool against the other, and use the one to crush the other. And after defeating the one, it will destroy the tool. As believers in divine unity, it is essential that you leave aside unimportant matters that cause division, for there are a hundred fundamental sacred bonds between you that enjoin brotherhood and unity.”

This rings so true in this day and age, where the Muslim communities are being manipulated into wars and bloodshed do to the exacerbation of external influences. Once again reiterating that we have so much we can agree upon and the things we disagree upon seems at a stale mate thus instead of evangelising each other let’s focus more on the problem at hand which is atheism, the fastest growing religion.

Muslim and Non-Muslims

A tolerance and coexistence is shown by the Imam between Muslims and non-Muslims. This is paramount with the regard to the current climate and landscape of non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries and Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries.

In the 14th Ray, the Imam states “The fact that there were Christians and Jews living under Muslim administrations and there were Muslims living under Christian and Zoroastrian shows that the opponents who do not actually interfere with the administration and security shall not be interfered with / disturbed through law. Moreover, possibilities cannot be a reason of accountability. Otherwise, as a matter of fact, it is possible that any person can kill somebody, so everybody must be brought to trial because if this possibility (Nursi, 2012).”

Elsewhere the imam sates, “In every country, there are some opponents of the administration. As long as they do not interfere with the public security, no one can be held guilty and accountable because of any method or any thought in their heart or conscience. This is because, although over one hundred million Muslims who lived for one hundred years under the British, who is a quite bigotedly religious and tyrant country, rejected the non-Muslim administration of the Britain and did not accept it, British courts did not molest them so far.”

While suggesting a peaceful co-existence with Non-Muslims in both Muslim and non-Muslim majority countries, the Imam also encourages dawa and hope that followers other religions will enter Islam as we show the beauty of Islam on our actions. (Nursi, Damascus Sermon, 2012). (Nursi, 2012). 

Further Views with regards to Tolerance

Besides sincerity the Imam suggested two pillars of tolerance, faith and forgiveness and their relevance to cultivating culture of tolerance in multi madhhab society (Mohamed, 2017). Faith is one way of developing tolerance. Obviously, all groups of Muslims share this faith, but it must be broad and rational enough, to accommodate all strands of Islamic thought. Imam Bediuzzaman belonged to this open-minded faith, which is moderate and tolerant enough to affect any conflict resolution. Faith is more precious than indulging in polemical theological debates; so we should respect those who have it, and tolerate the school they belong to, even if we disagree with it. Forgiveness is another way to develop tolerance. The highlights how to develop an ethic of restraint in the face of deep disappointments and injustices incurred by fellow Muslims. It is natural to be angry, even aggressive, towards the one who has done us wrong. However, revenge is negative emotional reaction, and not appropriate for slight injuries to the ego. Revenge will break down sound human relations, but forgiveness will build them up.

The Implementation of the Students of the Risale-i Nur

57 years after the passing of the Imam, the students of Risale-i Nur still stand firm to the principles of the Imam and the teachings of Risale-i Nur. Tolerance is exercised by them and a Muslim government is ruling Turkey at present with a deep respect for the Imam. We see them engaging in different societies worldwide peacefully with a mutual respect, tolerance and co-existence. For those who use the Risale to justify their actions which go against the Imam and the Risale-i Nur, the imam and Risale-i Nur is free of them and in our humble opinion one cannot claim to be true students of the Risale-i Nur, the imam and the Quran and contradict it at the same time.

Conclusion

The approach of Imam Bediuzzaman in tolerance as a pillar of unity and moderation has been expounded in the excerpts in this paper. There are many more detailed examples which can be found in the Risale-i Nur. Taking all of these into consideration, one can highlight a means and model of unity and moderation that can be followed by all levels of society. 

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[1] Thauban reported that the messenger of Allah said, “It is near that the nations will call one another against you just as the eaters call one another to their dishes.” Somebody asked, “Is this because we will be few in numbers that day?” He said, “Nay, but that day you shall be numerous, but you will be like the foam of the sea, and Allah will take the fear of you away from your enemies and will place weakness into your hearts.” Somebody asked, “What is this weakness?” He said, “The love of the world and the dislike of death.” (Sunan Abu Dawud 4297)