A Believer Confined In The School Of Yusuf Is Student And Teacher
A believer confined in the School of Yusuf is educated through the hardship he endures there, but he also educates those around him. Allah demands of believers that they command good and forbid evil. This is one of the most important duties upon the believer. He must teach others the morality of the Qur’an. In that way he leads others to the right path, that they may exchange their evil habits for ones more pleasing to Allah. He may also encourage them to perform their prayers, and remind them of the Hereafter. Allah declared, in the following verse, that He requires the presence of such a group among the believers in every era: Let there be a community among you who call to the good, and enjoin the right, and forbid the wrong. They are the ones who have success. (Surah Al ‘Imran, 104)
A believer confined in the School of Yusuf will fulfill this duty if he is disposed with the means to do so. The School of Yusuf is a place full of people who need to be warned of the Hereafter and to fear Allah. The great majority of the guilty there would not have been there if they had feared Allah and respected His limits. The only way to help them is to remind them to fear Allah, to serve Him, to be like those who abide by the morality of the Qur’an, who are gentle, peaceable, just, conscientious and compassionate. For this reason, a believer confined in the School of Yusuf, given that he has the opportunity to do so, must advise others according to the Qur’an, making the prison an “educational institution,” where they learn morality. In this way, those who enter the prison as murderers, fraudsters or as violent criminals, can leave it as Muslims, who can hope for Paradise, Allah’s good pleasure and compassion, who fear and respect Him, and who aim to do good for others.
It is the tradition set by Yusuf (as) that believers confined in the School of Yusuf call others to Allah’s path. When Yusuf (as) was in prison, before interpreting the other prisoners’ dreams, told them of Allah, His unity and religion. The relevant verses state the following:
Two servants entered prison along with him. One said, “I dreamt that I was pressing grapes.” The other said, “I dreamt I carried bread upon my head and birds were eating it. Tell us the true meaning of these dreams. We see that you’re one of the righteous.” He said, “No meal to feed you will arrive before I have informed you what they mean. That is part of what my Lord taught me. For I have left the religion of a people who clearly have no faith in Allah and who refuse to acknowledge the truth of the world to come. I hold fast to the creed of my forebears Ibrahim and Ishaq and Ya‘qub. We don’t associate anything with Allah. And that is how Allah has favored us and all mankind, but most do not give thanks. My fellow-prisoners, are many lords better, or Allah, the only One, the Conqueror? What you serve apart from Him are only names which you and your forefathers have made up. There is no mandate for them from Allah. Allah alone is qualified to judge. His order is to worship none but Him. That is in truth the straight and upright religion, but most of mankind simply do not know.” (Surah Yusuf, 36-40)
Bediuzzaman taught his students and other inmates the Risale-i Nur throughout his term in prison. In essence, they were students twice, as they received an education provided by the rigors, but also benefited from their master Said Nursi’s superior knowledge, by spending day and night with him. They were educated with Bediuzzaman’s subtle reflections, and benefited from the example of his good morality. Therefore, the education received by the Nur students, who served time with their master, was profound and benefited them towards maturing their faith and exemplary behavior.
Wherever believers go, they foster order, security, contentment and beauty. A believer’s superior morality and exemplary behavior diffuse, like electric currents, and influence all around them. Even if they were not to say a word, their behavior, demeanor, modesty, sincerity, lack of selfish ambition, their positive attitude, energy, optimism and congeniality, would nevertheless make an impact on others. For instance, if one who complains and is in despair because of his imprisonment hears a believer expounding on the countless benefits and wisdom of being in prison, that the true life is the life of the Hereafter, and therefore, that the losses suffered on Earth are inconsequential, he would ponder his message and possibly react positively and reform his behavior. A believer, who ever keeps the smile on his face, even under the most adverse conditions, who is always submissive and grateful to Allah, and in whom other believers and inmates recognize his contentment, will have a positive effect. Those who become angry, even at the slightest problem, will then be ashamed, and will improve on themselves.
A believer tries to do good for others, and tries to educate others to respect Allah’s limits. For instance, ideological movements that seek to create disorder, terror and anarchy, he refutes according to the Qur’an. The Nur efforts, in this respect, under Bediuzzaman’s leadership, are an example of this in recent history. Bediuzzaman always stated that it is irreligious movements, like materialistic ideologies, which cause anarchy, and initiated a highly effective campaign to counter them. For this reason, the Risale-i Nur students are known for their efforts in advancing the cause of Islam and establishing public order. Their efforts continued while in prison, and, particularly during their time in the Denizli prison, they helped all other inmates to become believers and accept the morality of the Qur’an. Bediuzzaman stated the following in this regard:
Yes, through the strength of certain, verified belief, in every part of this country the Risale-i Nur and its students halt the awesome corruption and efforts of anarchy to destroy public order under the veil of communism. They work to maintain public order and security so that these twenty years three or four related courts and the police of ten provinces have not been able to find or record any incidents involving the infringement of public order connected with the Risale-i Nur students, who are very numerous and found in every part of the country. And the fair-minded police of three provinces stated: “The Risale-i Nur students are moral police. They assist us in preserving public order. Through certain, verified belief, they leave in everyone’s head who reads the Risale-i Nur something that restrains them from committing misdemeanors. They work to maintain public order.” An example of this was Denizli Prison. When the Risale-i Nur entered there and the Fruits of Belief was written for the prisoners, within a space of three or four months more than two hundred of those prisoners became so extraordinarily obedient and acquired such religious and righteous conduct that a man who had murdered three or four people held back from even killing bedbugs. They became completely compassionate, harmless members of the nation. The officials were astonished at this situation and looked on in appreciation. Some youths even said before receiving their sentences: “If the Nurjus remain in prison, we shall try to have ourselves convicted so that we can be taught by them and become like them. We shall reform ourselves through their instruction.” So those who accuse the Risale-i Nur students, who are thus, of disturbing public order are surely seriously deceived, or have been fooled, or knowingly or unknowingly are deceiving the government on account of anarchy, and try to crush and repress us. 23
In another instance, Bediuzzaman said that the Nur students taught by their manner and behavior, as they were forbidden to speak with others, and offered to teach the other inmates the morality of the Qur’an:
One reason for the justice of Divine Determining driving us to the Denizli School of Joseph is both its prisoners, and its people, and perhaps also its officials and judiciary being in greater need of the Risale-i Nur and its students than people anywhere else. It is because of this that we have been put to this arduous test, with a task pertaining to belief and the Hereafter. Only one or two prisoners out of twenty to thirty performed the obligatory prayers as they should be performed; but following the Risale-i Nur students, forty to fifty without exception have begun to perform them perfectly; this is such instruction and guidance through the tongue of disposition and action, that it reduces to nothing the distress and hardship; indeed, it makes one love it. We hope from Divine mercy and grace that just as the students have taught this through their actions, so through the powerful true belief in their hearts, they will become like a fortress of steel, delivering the believers from the doubts and suspicions of the people of misguidance.
The worldly here preventing us from speaking and having contact causes no harm. The tongue of disposition is more powerful and effective than verbal speech. Since imprisonment is for training and education, if they love the nation, they should allow the prisoners to meet with the Risale-i Nur students so that in one month or even a day, they may receive more training and education than they would otherwise receive in a year, and may all become persons beneficial both to the nation and country, and useful for their own futures and their lives in the Hereafter...24
In a number of instances, Bediuzzaman addressed the inmates directly, calling them onto the path of Allah, to quit their bad habits, and to become as forgiving of others as believers are to be. Bediuzzaman stated, in the following passage, that one aspect of the wisdom behind their imprisonment could be to educate these inmates according to the Risale-i Nur:
My loyal new brothers and old prisoners!
I have formed the firm conclusion that, in respect of Divine favor, you are an important cause in our entering here. That is to say, with its consolation and the truths of belief, the Risale-i Nur is to save both you from the distress of this calamity of prison and from much worldly harm, and your life from passing profitlessly and in vain through grief and sorrow and being wasted on the winds of fancy, and your Hereafter from weeping like your world is weeping now; it is to provide you with true solace. Since the reality of the matter is this, of course you must be brothers to one another, like the Denizli prisoners and Students of the Risale-i Nur. You can see that they examine all your possessions, food, bread, and soup which come from outside so that a knife does not get in among you and you do not attack one another. The warders who faithfully serve you suffer much trouble. Also, you do not go out to exercise together, as though you were going to attack one another like wild beasts. And so, new friends, who are by nature bold and courageous, with great moral courage you should say to the group at this time: “If not knives, but Mausers and revolvers were given us, and the order to fire as well, we would not hurt our friends who are unfortunate and suffering this calamity like ourselves. Through the guidance and at the command of the Qur’an, and belief, and Islamic brotherhood, and our interests, we have decided to forgive them and to try not to offend them, even if formerly there were a hundred reasons for our enmity and hostility.” And so transform this prison into an auspicious place of study. 25
My friends who are studying together with me in this School of Joseph! Since the reality is this and the Risale-i Nur proves it so clearly and decisively, like sunlight, that for twenty years it has broken the obstinacy of the obdurate and brought them to believe; we should therefore follow the way of belief and right conduct, which is easy and safe and beneficial for both our own worlds, and our futures, and our lives in the Hereafter, and our country and nation; and spend our free time reciting the suras of the Qur’an that we know instead of indulging in distressing fancies, and learn the meaning from friends who teach them; and make up for the prayers we have failed to perform in the past, when we should have done; and taking advantage of one another’s good qualities, transform this prison into a blessed garden raising the seedlings of good character. With good deeds like these, we should do our best to make the prison governor and those concerned not torturers like the Guards of Hell standing over criminals and murderers, but righteous masters and kindly guards charged with the duties of raising people for Paradise in the School of Joseph and supervising their training and education. 26
Bediuzzaman also informed the prison warden in writing that the inmates must be educated in order for them to adopt the morality of the Qur’an, and sought his permission to do so, because, as he argued, the only power that can prevent these people, who can commit a crime without feeling the slightest guilt, from reoffending after their release is the fear of Allah. One who fears and loves Allah, and seeks His good pleasure, will not do something that He does not approve of. Bediuzzaman was aware of this fact, and he turned every prison he was sent to into an “educational institution,” in which hundreds met with faith, and where his followers were teachers as well as students there.
It is surprising that this man, who worked even in prison for the good of Islam, even under the harshest conditions, forsaking his own well-being, striving day and night, was slandered and even portrayed for much of his life as an enemy of the state.
It must not be forgotten that a similar fate was met by many devout Muslims throughout history. However, Allah always turned the circumstance to the benefit of the believers, and tying the hands of the unbelievers who sought to harm them, rewarded them manifold for every evil that was done onto them in life as well as the Hereafter. He saved His sincere servants who had been slandered and made to suffer, and granted them great spiritual as well as material rewards.
Though, the greatest reward for believers is Allah’s mercy and Paradise.
23 The Flashes 26
24 The Rays 13
25 The Words, Three Letters
26 The Rays 11