Professor: Elmira Akhmetova
International Islamic University Malaysia.
Professor: Adibah Binti Abdul Rahim
International Islamic University Malaysia.
This paper analyses the ideas of Said Nursi (1876-1960) on the importance of moderation (wasatiyyah) in the way of combatting extremism, racism and radicalism, which are sharply escalating in our days both in the East and the West. The first part of the paper finds that, according to Nursi, moderation was the main principle of the Islamic way of life, capable to provide well-being and happiness for humanity. The next part of the paper highlights the positive role of moderation in creating unity and solidarity as a solution, which is capable to provide happiness and security for all humans regardless of their religious, ethnic or social backgrounds. It, also, suggests that Nursi identified nationalistic and patriotic sentiments as radical and extremist, which were artificially evoked among the Muslim nations and are alien to the Islamic approach of moderation. After studying the Risale-i Nur approach towards the followers of other mazhabs and non-Muslims, the paper concludes that Nursi condemned all types of extremist ideas and actions as they were harmful for healthy progress and well-being of humanity.
Key words: moderation, Risale-i Nur, Said Nursi, extremism, nationalism, unity, racism, relations with non-Muslims
الاعتدال والقومية السلبية والتطرف من وجهة نظر رسائل النور
تتناول هذه الورقة أفكارالإمام سعيد النورسي (1876-1960) حول أهمية الاعتدال (الوسطية) في طريق مكافحة التطرف والعنصرية، والتي تتصاعد بشكل حاد في أيامنا في الشرق والغرب. يخلص الجزء الأول من الورقة إلى أن الاعتدال كان وفقًا لمنهج النورسي، وهو المبدأ الرئيسي لطريقة الحياة الإسلامية، وهو قادر على توفير الرفاهية والسعادة للإنسانية. يبرز الجزء التالي من الورقة الدور الإيجابي للاعتدال في خلق الوحدة والتضامن كالحل، وهو قادر على توفير السعادة والأمان لجميع البشر بغض النظر عن خلفياتهم الدينية أو الاجتماعية. كما يشير إلى أن النورسي حدد المشاعر القومية والوطنية على أنها متطرفة ومتطرفة، والتي أثارت بشكل مصطنع بين الدول الإسلامية والغريبة عن النهج الإسلامي للاعتدال. بعد دراسة مقاربة رسائل النور تجاه أتباع المذاهب وغير المسلمين الآخرين، خلصت الدارسة إلى أن النورسي أدان جميع أنواع الأفكار والأعمال المتطرفة لأنها كانت ضارة بالتقدم الصحي ورفاهية الإنسانية.
الكلمات المفتاحية: الاعتدال، رسائل النور، سعيد النورسي، التطرف، القومية، الوحدة، العنصرية، العلاقات مع غير المسلمين
Extremism and violence are universal phenomena that have existed throughout human history, and not particular to any specific religious, social or ethnic groups. Yet, radicalism is expanding sharply in our days, people are becoming more radical and much brutal. Extremist acts are ,today, committed as much by transnational and supranational groups as by official state parties and organisations, both in the West and the Muslim world. According to the Global Terrorism Index 2017 prepared by the Institute for Economic Development and Peace, “two out of every three countries in the Index, or 106 nations, experienced at least one terrorist attack” in 2016. Thus the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) suggested in 2018 that “terrorism has become an unprecedented threat to international peace, security and development, feeding off violent conflict. As conflicts have grown in intensity and number over the past decade, terrorist attacks have also increased and spread.” No one is immune from becoming a victim of hate crimes or terrorist acts, regardless of in which country does he/she live and what ideologies does he/she follow. Sicknesses of racism and Islamophobia are escalating in democratic Europe and the U.S.A as well. Violence and radicalism are spreading like a cancer in the failed states of the Middle East, North African regions, and South Asian countries. The Arab Spring – where people fought for genuine democracy and good governance – has morphed into a hot bed of extremism across swathes of the Middle East and North Africa. The safety and well-being of the entire Muslim world has been jeopardised by the so-called Islamic State or ISIS (DAESH). This extremist militant group has committed brutalities and transgressions which violate the core principles of Islam and humanity. The radicalisation of Muslim youth within Western societies has also become a reality, turning the former against the common values and ideals of their new homelands.
The clash-of-civilisations narrative, along with the spread of extremism and violence in the Muslim world, often draws the focus of experts and pundits on the religion of Islam itself as being the sole explanation of extremism in the Muslim world. In the current political climate, especially after the tragedy of 9/11 in 2001, Islam has increasingly been seen as subversive and synonymous with extremism, violence, and terrorism. Too often, Islam is portrayed negatively and as a monolithic entity, which poses a growing threat to world peace. The War on Terror has become a “war on everything” that is related to Islam. This paper suggests that such bias interpretation of Islam as a source of extremism and radicalism should be re-evaluated as soon as possible. In that regard, studying of the ideas of a famous Turkish scholar, Said Nursi, on the principles of Islam and its attitude toward extremism may serve to spread the authentic image of Islam, which exposed itself as a religion of moderation, committed to establishing a system of truth and justice that shuns laxity on one side and extremism on the other. This paper, accordingly, discusses the moderate nature of Islam on the light of the example of the tradition of Muslims in dealing with different groups of people, including non-Muslims.
Moderation As an Islamic Way of Life
Said Nursi described moderation as an Islamic way of life, which condemns any types of extremism, wastefulness and fanaticism. In the part of his Risale-i Nur, entitled the Flashes Collection, while describing the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a model for entire mankind, he considered moderation as the main feature of his noble character that, “Since the Noble Prophet (Upon whom be blessings and peace) was created with a most moderate character and in the most perfect form, his actions and rest all proceeded on moderation and equanimity. His biography shows clearly that in all his actions he proceeded with moderation and equanimity, avoiding excess and negligence.” (Said Nursi, 2010, 92)
He further explained that,
Yes, the Noble Prophet (Upon whom be blessings and peace) conformed completely to the command: Therefore stand firm [in the Straight Way] as you are commanded; and therefore moderation is apparent in all his acts, words, and conduct. For example, free of wiliness and stupidity, which are the excess and negligence, like the corruption and darkness, of the power of reason, his reasoning faculty always worked from the point of wisdom, the middle way and means of moderation. So too, far from rage and cowardice, which are the corruption of the power of anger and its excess and negligence, his power of anger always acted with sacred courage, which is the middle way and means of moderation of that power. And so too, purified of licentiousness and frigidity, which are the excess and negligence of the power of animal appetites and its corruption, his power of passion always took chasteness, the means of moderation of that power, as guide, at the degree of maximum virtuousness. And so on… In all his Practices, daily conduct, and injunctions of his Shari’a, he choses the way of moderation, and avoided excess and negligence, and wastefulness and prodigality, which are wrongdoing and darkness. He avoided wastefulness absolutely and took frugality as his guide in his speech even, and in eating and drinking. (Ibid., 92-93)
For Nursi, the sacred way of the Noble Prophet (PBUH) was “based on the important principles of action, moderation, prudence and foresight, worship, and smashing the domination and independence of the evil-commanding soul.” (Ibid., 116)Thus, while Nursi was asked the question of “What has it (Islam) given to life and thought?” he replied, “To thought, the affirmation of Divine unity; to life, moderation and the middle way.” (Said Nursi, , 2012), 780)
Moderation for Nursi was the way of achieving happiness and balance, and the way to success. On the example of youth, he explained that if a “youth demonstrates through moderation and obedience, his gratitude for the pleasing, delightful bounty of youth, it will both increase it, and make it eternal, and make it a pleasure. Otherwise it will be both calamitous, and become painful, grievous, and a nightmare, and then it will depart. It will cause him to become like a vagrant, harmful for both his relatives, and his country, and his nation.” (Ibid., 162)
Nursi considered that “man is destined for eternity, and for everlasting happiness and perpetual misery.” ( Nursi, The Flashes, 188) On the Day of Judgment, he will receive either reward or punishment. Therefore, in order to reach everlasting contentment, man’s most fundamental need is the need for religion; the need to differentiate the good and evil, to recognise and worship God and to obey His laws. The main aim of mankind in this world is to establish true civilisation, founded on the positive truths of revelation. According to Nursi, true civilisation should comprise the real happiness of all, or at least the majority. The scope of happiness will include all humanity, regardless of their religious or ethnic backgrounds. On the example of Islamic civilisation, Nursi described the fundamental principles of true civilisation accordingly,
The principles of Qur’anic civilisation are positive. Its wheel of happiness turns on five positive principles: its point of support is truth instead of force, and the constant mark of truth is justice and balance. Security and well-being result from these, and villainy disappears. Its aim is virtue instead of self-interest, and the mark of virtue is love and mutual attraction. Happiness results from these, and enmity disappears. Its principle in life is co-operation instead of conflict and killing, and its mark is unity and solidarity, and the community is strengthened. Its service takes the form of guidance and direction instead of lust and passion. And the mark of guidance is progress and prosperity in way of benefitting humanity. The spirit is illuminated and reflected in the way it requires. The way it unifies the masses repulses racialism and negative nationalism. It establishes in place of them the bonds of religion, patriotic relations, ties of class, and the brotherhood of belief. The mark of these bonds are sincere brotherhood, general well-being; defense in the case of external aggression. (Nursi, 2012, 745-746)
In the Letters Nursi stated that the principle of the Islamic Shari’ah is mutual assistance, the mark of which is accord and solidarity. (Said Nursi, Letters: 2001), 548.) He strongly believed that unity and moderation are the Islamic way of life which is capable to make all citizens happy. Accordingly, adopting the principles of extremism or moderation for Nursi was a benchmark to judge civilisation and societies as right or wrong.
The Ideology of Nationalism as Extremism
In the previous pages it was suggested that Nursi considered moderation as the main principle of Islamic way of life. Islam exposed itself as a religion of moderation, committed to establishing a system of truth and justice that shuns laxity on one side and extremism on the other. Nursi condemned both edges, laxity and extremism, as extremely harmful and damaging for human progress and well-being. Nursi indicated three major causes of extremism: ignorance, poverty, conflict or disunity. Thus the remedy which is capable to treat these three causes would be the right education, providing well-being of the entire community, and establishing peace and unity. In this paper, we would like to focus mainly on the last cause of extremism, i.e. conflict and disunity, and display how conflict and disunity cause extremism on the example of the modern ideology of nationalism.
In fact, the words ‘nation’ (millet) and ‘nationhood’ (milliyet) in the writings of Said Nursi were used in accordance with their Arabic meanings. It is well-known that the word millet was originally used by Muslim scholars to denote a religion and membership of it as a synonym of the word ummah. However, sentiments of nationalism (milliyetçilik) were divided by Said Nursi into two types: positive nationalism which is based on moderation and serves the ideal of Islam, and the negative type, which causes extremism, violence and enmity.
In Sünūhat Nursi stated that, “The awakening of nationalism is either positive, in which case it is aroused through compassion for one’s fellow men, and is the cause of mutual recognition and assistance; or it is negative, in which case, being aroused by racialist ambitions, it is the cause of antipathy and mutual hostility. And this Islam rejects.” Furthermore, the part of his Risale-i Nur Collection, entitled Mektübat (Letters) elucidates this idea more comprehensively. Said Nursi believed that negative nationalism, which considers a particular race to be superior, or gives priority to race over religion is “inauspicious, and harmful; it is nourished by devouring others, persisting through hostility to others, and is aware of what is going. It is the case of enmity and disturbance.” ( Nursi, Letters, 380)
The positive nationalism, on the other hand, “arises from an inner need of social life and is the cause of mutual assistance and solidarity; it ensures a beneficial strength; it is a means for further strengthening Islamic brotherhood.”( Nursi, Letters, 381) Nevertheless, this positive nationalism is not in the stand of demanding the superior loyalty of Muslims, but it only occupies an inferior position after Islam as a source of identity. Furthermore, this idea, according to Said Nursi, “must serve Islam, it must be its citadel and armour; it must not take the place of it. For there is a hundredfold brotherhood within the brotherhood of Islam which persists in the Intermediate Realm and World of Eternity. So however strong national brotherhood is, it may be like a veil to it.” (Ibid., 381-382) But to establish it in place of Islamic brotherhood, as Nursi asserted, is a “foolish crime like replacing the treasure of diamonds within the citadel with citadel’s stones, and throwing the diamonds away.” (Ibid., 382)
Nursi believed that humanity, being divided into different tribes and ethnic groups should lead to solidarity and mutual assistance, but not to hatred, conflicts and enmity. Thus considering a particular race to be superior or giving priority to race over religion is an artificial conception that destroys harmony in society; therefore, it is extremely harmful for the entire mankind. To demonstrate harmfulness of negative nationalism and racialism, Nursi presented the verses from the Sacred Qur‘an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH), including some experiences from human history. ( Ibid., 380-381, and 76)
Said Nursi did not consider nationalism as a contemporary occurrence, but it, as he believed, has existed throughout history of mankind in the shapes of tribalism and racialism. It was Islam that abrogated these causes of enmity and extremism prevailed in the pre-Islamic Arabia and replaced such divisive tendencies with a sacred positive Islamic fervor. ( Yazbeck Haddad, “2003), 244.)
Negative nationalism played its disastrous role once again and “has caused an untold harm in the history of Muslims” (Nursi, Letters, 380) during the Umayyad rule (661-750). Nursi stated that, “Due to their combining some ideas of nationalism with their politics, the Umayyads vexed the World of Islam, and in addition drew many calamities on themselves.” ( Ibid., 380-381) By planting the Islamic State on Arab nationalism and putting the bonds of nationalism before those of Islam, as Nursi pointed out, they caused harm in two respects. Firstly, they offended the other nations and frightened them off. Secondly, since the principles of racialism and nationalism do not follow justice and right, they imposed tyranny toward other races. In fact, according to the thinker, “for a ruler of racialist leanings prefers those of the same race, and cannot act justly.” (Ibid., 76)Consequently Said Nursi concluded that “the bonds of nationalism may not be set up in place of the bonds of religion; if they are, there will be no justice; right will disappear.” (Ibid.)
According to Said Nursi, the ghastly events of the First World War as well as “the perpetual and ill-omened enmity of the French and Germans”( Ibid, 381) have once again demonstrated how negative nationalism is harmful for humanity. While elaborating foundations and values of the modern civilization, he came to a conclusion that it is mainly based on negative principles; and its principle for relations between peoples is racialism, which “flourishes through harming others and is nourished through devouring others.” Then he asserted that: “The mark of negative nationalism and racialism is ghastly clashes, disastrous collisions, and their result, annihilation.” (Nursi, The Words, 745)Thus, concluded Nursi, to be antagonistic towards Muslim brothers and sisters is destructive. He declared: “Eternal and permanent Islamic nationalism cannot be bound onto temporary unstable racialism and drafted onto it.” ( Nursi, Letters, 513)
Nursi accordinglycriticised the Turkish government for precisely imitating Europe in every respect. Firstly, according to Nursi, European ideas such as nationalism or racism were simply not suitable for Turkey or other Muslim nations as he described the idea accordingly, “Every nation requires a dress suitable to its particular stature. Even if the material is the same, the style has to be different. A woman cannot be dressed in a gendarme’s uniform. And like an elderly hoja (teacher) cannot be clothed in the dress of a tango-dancer.”( Ibid., 382-383) Then Said Nursi concluded that “blind imitation very often makes people into laughing-stocks.” ( Ibid., 383)
Besides, Nursi identified nationalistic and patriotic sentiments as radical and extremist, which were artificially evoked among the nations in Turkey. He declared to those who “display excessive patriotism and negative nationalism” accordingly, “If you truly love this nation and are compassionate towards it, be patriotic in such a way that the compassion is directed towards the majority of its members. For if you serve the temporary heedless social life of the minority, who are in no need of compassion, in a way that is the reverse of compassion for the majority, that is not patriotism.” ( Ibid., 385) Nursi consequently condemned patriotic actions performed with the idea of negative nationalism as they may be useful for a small minority for the short time while ignoring the majority who are in need of a blessed, patriotic hands too. According to Nursi, there was only one solution, which empowered all Muslim peoples of the world with an eternal and extensive success, and that was Islam rather than the foreign imported ideas of nationalism and racism. Thus Nursi called for a strong unity of the Muslim ummah and the entire humanity, and follow the path of moderation against any extremist occurrences.
Cooperation among the Muslims
The religious identity for Said Nursi was a uniting force of the entire Muslim ummah and humanity in the face of the divisive influence of the negative nationalism advocated by the European powers. Thus he called upon Muslims to keep their unity strong and considered all Muslims of the world, regardless of their different mazhabs and ethnic backgrounds, as one united family. In 1911, when he was delivering his famous The Damascus Sermon at the historic Umayyad mosque, Nursi declared that the time for enmity and hostility has finished,
Sometimes, 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. But this hostility and enmity is to slight powerful causes of love towards the believers, like belief, Islam and nationality; 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 extensive as a mountain. (Said Nursi, 1994), 39)
Thus Nursi considered the establishment of unity as the most important obligatory duty of the Muslims in his time. ( Elmira Akhmetova, , 2007, 139) This stance of Nursi towards the importance of unity had not changed even after the establishment of Turkey as a nation-state in 1923. His approach during the Said Revolt in 1925 demonstrates once more that Nursi deemed all Muslims, regardless of their different ethnic backgrounds, as one united Islamic nation. The leader of the revolt, Sheikh Said of Palu tried to gain Nursi’s support against the newly formed secular government. He sent a letter to Nursi, requesting him to join the uprising, saying that if he did so they would be “victorious.” Nursi replied accordingly, “The struggle you are embarking on will cause brother to kill brother and will be fruitless. For the Kurds and Turks are brothers. The Turkish nation has acted as the standard-bearer of Islam for centuries. It has produced millions of saints and given millions of martyrs. The sword may not be drawn against the sons of Islam’s heroic defenders, and I shall not draw mine!” ( Şükran Vahide, 2005, 182)
Nursi considered the various Muslim nations divided among the European powers following the results of the First World War as the members of the one united nationhood, Islam, and endeavoured to maintain that unity around the common ummah identity by his writings and actions. This position of Said Nursi had not changed until the end of his life. When the Baghdad Pact was signed in February 1955 between Turkey and Iraq, and was subsequently joined by Pakistan, Iran and Britain, Nursi sent a letter of congratulation to the prime minister of Turkey, Menderes and the president, Celal Bayar. In this letter Nursi explained that the greatest danger for Turkey lied in racism. Racism and negative nationalism had caused harm to the Muslim peoples in the past, and, at the present, its alarming signs are on air again and have been exploited by covert atheists to destroy Islamic brotherhood and unity. The true nationality or nationhood of Turks and Arabs, Nursi felt, was Islam; their ‘Arabness’ and ‘Turkishness’ had fused with Islam. The new alliance under the Baghdad Pact, as Nursi hoped, shall repel the hazard of racism, and, besides obtaining for the Turkish nation “four hundred million brothers” among the other Muslim nationalities, it would also gain for them the “friendship of eight hundred million Christians.” ( Ibid., 325.)
The main objective of Muslims’ unity has been clearly stated at Nursi’s very early scholarly life. In an essay entitled The Voice of Truth he defined the objectives of unity accordingly, “The aim and goal of unity is to stir into life the long, many branched, far-reaching luminous chain which binds together the centres of Islam and their places of worship, to arouse those bounds to it, and through the wishes and promptings of their consciences drive them to the way of progress.” ( Said Nursi, 2002, 80-81) Then, unity of Muslims in the view of Nursi aimed at the moral objectives, rather than political ones. When he was describing the nature of the organization of Ittiḥād-i Muḥammadī, which was thought to be the model for uniting the world-wide Muslims, Nursi stated that ninety-nine percent of the endeavours of this blessed society are not political,
They are rather turned towards good morals and moderation, which are the opposite of politics, and other lawful aims. For very few societies have adopted this as their function, although its value and importance are immense. Only one out of a hundred of its members will be connected with politics by way of offering guidance to politicians. Their swords are decisive proofs, declared Nursi. And just as their way is, so will they encourage the love included in the seed of the brotherhood between believers to grow, like a tree of Tuba. (Nursi, Damascus Sermon, 84-85)
Regarding the immediate goals of unity in his time, Nursi in Divan-i Harb-i Örfi stated that, “Our aim now is to urge everyone toward the ka‘ba of achievement and perfections on the way of progress with an eagerness and desire of the conscience through making that luminous chain vibrate. For at this time the most powerful means of upholding the World of God is through material progress.” ( Vahide, Islam in Modern Turkey, 67) In the article entitled To Dispel Any Fears Nursi again asserted that, “What we want now is the awakening and attention of believers, for the effect of public attention is undeniable. The aim of the Union and its purpose is to uphold the Word of God, and its way is to wage the ‘greater jihād’ with one’s own soul, and to guide others.” (Nursi, Damascus Sermon, 84)
Nursi very often condemned Muslims for criticising other fellow Muslims since this possibly may cause enmity and disunity among them. He saw unity and accord among members as essential factors for a healthy society. In The Flashes Collection Nursi illustrated Muslims as members of a collective personality and compared this community with different organs of one body, “Each of his members completes the deficiencies of the others, veils their faults, assists their needs, and helps them out in their duties. Otherwise man’s life would be extinguished, his spirit flee, and his body be dispersed. ( Nursi, The Flashes Collection, 214.) In the same work Nursi imagined Islamic society in the form of a factory containing many wheels and machines.( Nursi, Damascus Sermon, 43) He asserted that the components of machinery in a factory cannot compete with one another in rivalry, take precedence over each other, or dominate each other, “They rather assist each other’s motions with all their capacity in order to achieve the common goal; they march towards the aim of their creation in true solidarity and unity. Should even the slightest aggression or desire to dominate interfere, it would throw the factory into confusion, causing it to be without product or result. Then the factory’s owner would demolish the factory entirely.” (Nursi, Flashes, 214)
While discussing the question of the imamate (sainthood), and the necessity of respect for all four righteous caliphs by Sunnis and Shi’ahs in the Fourth Flash, Nursi concluded that, “too much or too little of anything is not good. Moderation is the middle way, and that is the way the Sunnis have chosen.” ( Ibid., 43.) He found the ideas of the Kharijites and atheists who consider that “since Ali did not understand politics, he was not entirely worthy of the Caliphate and could not govern” as extreme and unjust accusations thus created enmity between Sunnis and Alawis. Nursi believed that following the way of moderation will create a positive and healthy relations between Sunnis and Shi’ahs as he said,
And so, O Sunnis, who are the People of Truth, and Alawis, whose way is love of the Prophet’s 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. ( Ibid)
According to Nursi, since Sunnis and Shi’ahs are both the believers in Divine Unity, it is essential to live aside unimportant matters which necessitate division while there are a hundred fundamental sacred bonds between them which command brotherhood and unity. ( Ibid.)
Thus, according to Nursi, moderation was the way to achieve unity, while unity was the essence of Islam, and also the nature of a healthy society. Unity and solidarity among the members make the society to progress in a healthy way; and, vice versa, disunity, discord and antagonism, according to Nursi, no doubt, weaken societies and, consequently, lead to its final collapse.
Cooperation with Non-Muslims
The environment into which Nursi was born contained a mosaic-like structure of different tribes, loose tribal federations, ethnic units and religious groups. According to the figures of a survey carries out in 1889, the total population of his native Bitlis region consisted of 254,000 Muslims, 130,000 Armenians, 6,000 Syrian Jacobites, 2,600 Chaldean Catholics, 3,862 Yezidi or ‘Devil Worshippers’, 210 Greek Orthodox and 372 Copts. ( Şerif Mardin, Religion and social change in Modern Turkey), 43) When the Armenian question arose, Nursi’s main concern was explaining the stance of Islam toward peoples of other religions. Regarding the Armenian question, Nursi declared that minority rights and equality should be recognised, and asked the government to leave Armenians in peace and to recognise their freedom. (Vahide, Islam in Modern Turkey, 89-91)
Said Nursi considered universality as one of the main characteristics of unity of Muslims. He declared that the way of the Islamic Union is love; (enmity is only for ignorance, poverty, and strife. He asserted that,
Non-Muslims should feel sure that this Union attacks only those three facts. Our actions towards non-Muslims consist only of persuasion, for we know them to be civilized. And we suppose them to be fair-minded, so we should demonstrate that Islam is lovable and elevated. The lax and negligent should know that they cannot ingratiate themselves with the Europeans by being irreligious, for they only show that they are unprincipled. And no one likes unprincipledness and anarchy. Those who join this Union after due investigation, will not leave it by blindly imitating such people. (Nursi, The Damascus Sermon, 81.)
Moreover, Nursi in his article entitled “Reality” again pointed out that members of Islamic Union are devoted to love and they have no time for enmity.( Ibid., 78) Once he was asked if there was a possibility for the Europeans to be perturbed by Union of Muslims. Nursi replied that, “It is not they who are our enemies; what has in reality brought us this low is opposition to the Shari’ah, which is the result of ignorance, thus preventing us from upholding the Word of God; and poverty and its fruits of immorality and bad conduct; and conflict and its products of strife and hatred; the attacks of our Union are directed at these three enemies.”( Ibid., 85.) In the Middle Ages, according to Nursi, Islam was compelled to be bigoted and hostile in the face of Europeans’ savagery, but it nevertheless maintained its justice and moderation. But in this time of modern civilisation, the Europeans are civilised and powerful, and harmful hostility and bigotry have therefore disappeared. For in respect of religion, the civilised are to be conquered through persuasion, not through force, and through showing by conforming to its commands in actions and conduct that Islam is elevated and lovable. Force and enmity are only to combat barbarity of savages. ( Ibid.) Hence, attitude of Muslims toward Europeans and nature of relations with them, according to Nursi, should be based on moderation, friendship and sympathy.
Nursi always urged his students to act tolerantly and peaceably toward followers of other paths and to return any criticism or aggression with good will, and above all not to allow political differences to cause disunity and so aid irreligion.( Vahide, Islam in Modern Turkey, 241-242) Then, the paper suggests that Nursi advocated not the unity of Muslims alone, but called all religious peoples of the world for cooperation against atheism and secularism. For instance, he sent copies of Risale-i Nur to Pope in Rome; and, in response to this, received a letter of thanks from the Vatican dated February 22, 1951. Moreover, during his stay in Istanbul in the spring and summer of 1953, Nursi visited Athenagoras, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Istanbul. ( Ibid., 317)
Even regarding the colonial powers, Nursi said that the Europeans are crushing Muslims under their tyranny with the weapons of science and industry. We, said Nursi, shall therefore wage jihad with the weapons of science and industry on ignorance, poverty, and conflicting ideas, the worst enemies of upholding the Word of God. ( Nursi, Damascus Sermon, 78)
Nursi, accordingly, condemned all types of extremist ideas and actions as they were harmful for healthy progress and well-being of humanity, and this is perfectly shown in his ideas regarding the attitude of Muslims towards non-Muslims and the followers of other beliefs and mazhabs.
Today we are living in such a desperate situation, which gives no hope for the bright future of humanity unless the efficient and practical solutions shall be identified urgently. This paper accordingly suggests the following four concluding remarks. First, there is a critical need for finding solutions to make the future of humanity better and safer. Based on the principles of moderation, unity and respect towards the non-Muslims, Islamic civilisation was able to shine and progress for long centuries. Thus Nursi considered moderation as an authentic Islamic way of dealing with non-Muslims and the followers of other faiths, or other ethnicities. The Risale-i Nur approach, based on the positive role of moderation in creating unity and solidarity as a solution, is accordingly capable to provide happiness and security for all humanity regardless of their religious, ethnic or social backgrounds.
Second, the paper found that Said Nursi indicated three major causes of extremism, which are ignorance, poverty, conflict or disunity. Thus the remedy which is capable to treat these three causes would be the right education, providing well-being of the entire community, and establishing peace and unity. Throughout his life, Said Nursi endeavoured to disseminate the right education to the masses through his Risale-i Nur, as well as promote the ways to establish peace and harmony in the society.
Third, the stance of Said Nursi on nationalism is firm and quite critical. He identified racist ideas and excessive patriotic sentiments as radical and extremist. For him, all ideas must serve the cause of Islam, which propagates the equality of all human beings regardless of their races, ethnic backgrounds and social status. Nursi considered racism and negative nationalism as a harmful force which destroys human progress, peace and harmony, thus dangerous for the entire mankind.
Fourth, based on the ideas of Said Nursi, this paper strongly suggests that disunity and hatred among Muslim nations cause many calamities and obstacles for further progress and peaceful life. In his time Nursi also suggested that, it is because of lack of local as well as universal unity and solidarity among Muslims, European states succeeded in enslaving Muslim countries one after another. Nursi, therefore, believed that the only efficient remedy for freeing Muslims from the European hegemony was re-attaining unity and concord among Muslim nations, and in relations with the West through the way of moderation which goes beyond the parameters of boundary, religion and ethnicity. He considered unity and accord as a strength, which empowered Muslims to establish a perfect righteous society, and led them to success and development throughout Islamic history. Unity for him was not only an efficient tool in the struggle against Western Imperialism alone, but it, also, was the essence of Islam and the nature of a healthy society.
Nursi consequently considered Islamic Unity to be essential forever for the happiness in this life as well as in the hereafter. He declared that the person who does not understand the true meaning of co-operation is more lifeless than a stone. Even the stones of domes stand shoulder to shoulder so as not to fall. Accordingly, he placed on Muslims the duty of achieving solidarity defining it to be the religious obligation. He stated that belief demands love and Islam demands brotherhood.
Lastly, in order to achieve unity not only within Muslim world. per se but to include the believers of the world as a whole including the Christians and Jews, Nursi suggested to take a positive action of practising way of moderation by starting urgent reforms on religious, moral, and socio-political spheres. He, optimistically, believed in probability of Muslim unity, and, in order to accomplish it, he invited his fellow Muslims to restructure their moral, religious, social, political and economic lives on both, personal and public levels. Yet, he considered religious and moral reforms to be the most important elements in the way of achieving unity. These ideas of Nursi are very relevant today, when humanity is suffering from hatred, racism and antagonism. Therefore, the paper suggests that, returning to the fundamentals of Islam such as toleration, respect and sincerity, and other revealed religions through personal transformation constitutes a key for love and harmony. Only love and harmony may lead Muslims in particular and humanity in general towards prosperity, felicity, success, and progress.
- Abu-Rabi’, Ibrahim (Ed.). (2003). Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and Thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. USA: State University of New York Press.
- Akhmetova, Elmira. (2007). “Ideas of Muslim Unity at the Age of Nationalism: A Comparative Study of the Concept of the Ummah in the Writings of Musa Jarullah and Said Nursi.” MA thesis, International Islamic University Malaysia.
- Berghout. “The Concept of Iman Tahqiqi As A Founding Element to The Process of Muslim Unity (Ustaz Nursi’s View).” Paper presented at the 2-Day Seminar on Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: A Contemporary Approach to Realizing Muslim unity, International Islamic University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, August 2005.
- Markham, Ian & Ozdemir, Ibrahim (eds.). (2005). Globalisation, Ethics and Islam. Great Britain: Ashgate Publishing Limited.
- Said Nursi, Bediuzzaman. “Long Live the Sharī’ah of Muḥammad!.” Volkan , March 18, 1909
- Said Nursi, Bediuzzaman. (2001). Letters: 1928-1932. Translated by S. Vahide. Istanbul: Sözler Publications.
- Said Nursi, Bediuzzaman. (2002). The Damascus Sermon. 2nd ed. Translated by S. Vahide. Istanbul: Sözler Publications.
- Said Nursi, Bediuzzaman. (2004a). The Flashes Collection. Translated by S. Vahide. Istanbul: Sözler Publications.
- Said Nursi, Bediuzzaman. (2004b). The Words. Translated by Ş. Vahide. Istanbul: Sözler Publications.
- Said Nursi, Bediuzzaman. (2002). The Damascus Sermon. 2nd ed. Translated by S. Vahide. Istanbul: Sözler Publications.
- Vahide, Şükran. (2005). Islam in Modern Turkey: An Intellectual Biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. Albany: State University of New York Press.