A number of questions were directed towards Bediuzzaman in his own day from his disciples and those around him regarding whether or not he was the Mahdi (as). In fact, similar questions had been put to other revivers (mujaddids) before Bediuzzaman, and their followers claimed that these people were the Mahdi (as). They also told their students, with proof, that they were not the Mahdi (as), and that their attributes were incompatible with his. They gave detailed descriptions of when and where the Mahdi (as) would appear, the kind of features he would possess, his struggle, and how he would cause Islamic moral values to prevail. They made statements, in the light of the hadiths of our Prophet (saas), along the lines of “I am not the Mahdi, because the Mahdi will be aged such and such, appear from such and such a place, possess such and such features, and be a sayyid.”
Bediuzzaman gave two kinds of response to those asking for his thoughts on the subject;
1) He made it clear that he was not the Mahdi (as) and wrote pages of statements regarding why he was not the Mahdi (as) aimed at those who claimed that he was.
2) He also responded to those who ascribed the rank of Mahdi (as) to him by saying, “assumptions have been around for a long time, that cannot be denied;
therefore, I had no quarrel with those holding such assumptions, and yet told these people that “he rejected claims regarding the rank of Mahdi”.
1) Bediuzzaman said, “All my brothers bear witness that I never accepted the rank of Mahdi (as)” (Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Rays, p. 365) and proved this over hundreds of pages in the treatises.
The answer provided by Bediuzzaman, when asked about a subject is important, and he clearly stated that he was not the Mahdi (as). In his works, Bediuzzaman stated that he was not the Mahdi (Emirdag Addendum, p. 266), that the Mahdi (as) would appear a century after him (Kastamonu Addendum, p. 57), that he was a private soldier and a member of the vanguard of the Mahdi (as) (Barla Addendum, p. 162), that he had prepared the way for the Mahdi (as) with his work and books (The Ratifying Stamp of the Unseen, p. 189), and that it was an error and a confusion to imagine that he and the Treatise of Light were the Mahdi (as) (Emirdag Addendum, p. 266).
He also stated that the Mahdi (as) would be a sayyid (Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, , the Rays, p. 365), that he will perform three tasks in the worlds of politics, authority, and religion at once and at the same time (Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, the Rays, p. 456) (Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Rays, p. 590) (Emirdag Addendum, p. 259-260), that the Mahdi (as) will reanimate the essence of Islamic moral values by bearing the titles of the successor of our Prophet (saas) and the spiritual leader of all Muslims (The Ratifying Stamp of the Unseen, p. 9), that he will bring peace and justice to all the world (Emirdag Addendum, p. 2590; Letters, pp. 411-412), that he will bear the title of “the Great Reviver” (Tilsimlar Magazine, p. 168), that he will bring about Islamic Union (Emirdag Addendum, p. 260), that he will receive the support of all Islamic scholars, sayyids descended from our Prophet (saas), and all Muslims (Emirdag Addendum, p. 260), that he will forge an alliance with the Christian world (The Ratifying Stamp of the Unseen p. 9), that he will pray together with the Prophet Jesus (as) (Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Rays p. 493), and that he will install the moral values of the Qur’an over all the world and encourage all people towards the true path (The Ratifying Stamp of the Unseen, p. 9) (Letters p. 473).
In Bediuzzaman’s day, “no Islamic Union collecting all Muslims under a single roof had been established, and nobody bore the title of spiritual leader of all believers,” “justice and dominion had not been brought to the entire world,” and “Islamic moral values did not prevail all over the world.” Nobody bore the title of the Great Reviver and Ruler; nobody enjoyed “the support of all Islamic scholars, sayyids descended from the line of the Prophet (saas), and all Muslims,” and nobody had performed such a great service to the faith as communicating the message of the moral values of the Qur’an, dedicating his life to and risking everything for it.
He fulfilled the role of reviver of his own century in the most honourable manner. Yet, his message was communicated, not with force and imposition, but in the face of difficult physical and spiritual circumstances and enormous difficulties. He did not assume the position of commander; on the contrary, he was oppressed and spent his life as a captive, faced with physical troubles and difficulties. He received no widespread support, but was rather subjected to various injustices, oppressed, and spent much of his life under such harsh circumstances as prison and exile. He reported that the means and responsibilities to be discharged as listed above, would belong to the Mahdi (as), the reviver of the century following his.
2) Bediuzzaman stated with full supporting evidence that he was not the Mahdi (as), but that he had no quarrel with people who harbored such misconceptions:
There were people close to him in his day who held misconceptions about Bediuzzaman being the Mahdi (as). Indeed, Bediuzzaman added some mentions of these attitudes of his followers to various parts of his treatises.
However, as we know, pleasing thoughts about a person are no proof that they actually reflect the truth. Bediuzzaman also stated this in his treatises, saying there may be people who hold pleasing assumptions about himself; these have been around for a long time, that cannot be denied, but they are in fact an error and a confusion. One extract in which Bediuzzaman sets this out reads:
... They rightly personally regard the spiritual entity of the Treatise of Light as a kind of Mahdi (as). Since they imagine the mere interpreter of this spiritual entity to be therepresentative of this spiritual entitywhich comes from the students of Light, , they sometimes give him that name (the Mahdi). This is, in fact, a confusion and an error, but not one for which they are responsible; suppositions have been around for a long time and cannot be objected to. Since I regard what my brothers do as a kind of prayer, a hope, and a reflection of the pure conviction of the students of Light, I made no great objection. (Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Emirdag Addendum, p. 248)
Bediuzzaman states that it is sometimes imagined that as the spiritual entity of the Treatise of Light and the author of these works he was considered to be the Mahdi (as), but that this is an error and confusion. He says that people who think along those lines make an analysis with regard to describing the truths of faith, but that they do not take into consideration that the Mahdi’s (as) other two duties - “establishing an Islamic Union, being the leader of the Islamic world, and causing Islamic moral values to prevail over the world, are absent from him.” Therefore, equating the role of Mahdi (as) with the Treatise of Light and with himself is merely a “supposition.”