All Muslims known for their devotion to Allah’s religion and determination on His path, sincerity and purity have been subjected to actual and verbal assaults from unbelievers. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, the Great Renewer of the 13thcentury who encountered hostility from atheistic circles in the recent past and who lived with great fortitude in the face of oppression and trouble right up until the end of his life, is one important example in this regard. Bediuzzaman, who called on people to appreciate the existence and boundless might of Allah, to reflect on the proofs of Creation in the universe, and to live by the moral precepts of the Qur’an, was subjected to slanders by people opposed to religious moral values, just like all the messengers sent over the course of history. Even though he was the Great Renewer of the 13th century he was not recognized as a renewer by the society in which he lived. Indeed, some scholars of the time failed to realize just what a superior and blessed individual he was, and opposed him and slandered him in various ways.
For these reasons, Bediuzzaman spent much of his life in prison or in exile. This worthy personage was never fully appreciated in his own time, and certain circles that wished to eliminate his wisdom-filled works attacked him with all the force at their disposal. Instead of benefiting from this worthy person’s thoughts and ideas, they aimed to silence him.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi is one of the greatest Islamic scholars of the 20th century. Throughout his 87 years of life he told people about Islam and waged a great intellectual struggle against materialist philosophy and the opponents of religious moral values and spiritual matters. His giant, 6000-page Risale-i Nur Collection is both a profound commentary on the Qur’an and also a magnificent masterpiece that demolishes materialist philosophy and reveals the signs leading to faith in an exceedingly wise manner. In his works, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi expounded on a great many subjects, including the Hereafter, death, destiny, faith and the evils of worldly desires, giving a great many wise examples and employing a profound and effective style. This sincere and wise style was a means whereby thousands of people came to believe in Allah and to deepen their faith.
In this intellectual struggle he waged in order to call people to Qur’anic moral values and to the true faith, one of the main obstacles that confronted Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was circles that regarded materialist philosophy and opposition to religious morality as a way of life. These circles made intense efforts to achieve their objective of “establishing a society far removed from religious moral values.” Bediuzzaman Said Nursi demolished such baseless philosophies, revealed that religion was not incompatible with reason and knowledge but that on the contrary it brought them together, and initiated a huge spiritual awakening in society. He describes his intellectual struggle and one of its important objectives in these terms:
... But flowers appear in the spring, and the ground has to be prepared for sacred flowers such as that. (Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, The Ratifying Stamp of the Unseen, p. 189)
I believe I am a servant of this wondrous person who will appear in the future, a rear-guard to set a background for him, and a pioneering soldier of that great commander...(Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Barla Addendum, p. 162)
As Bediuzzaman’s words make clear, he describes himself as a private soldier preparing the way for holy individuals, in other words for the Prophet Jesus (as) and Hazrat Mahdi (as). The lies and slanders set forth in order to hinder him during the time in which he lived are without doubt the most important indications of the greatness and significance of his intellectual struggle. The fact that some of these slanders are still brought up today shows how great the influence of his work is.
Circles made uneasy by the way Bediuzzaman described the existence of Allah and the importance of patriotic and spiritual values used various press organs they controlled to spread the most unlikely slanders against him. One newspaper, for instance, slandered Bediuzzaman by accusing him of “making money by deceiving the naïve.” (Daily Cumhuriyet, May 10, 1935)At another time that same newspaper published the untrue report that “Said Nursi is not someone to be considered important at all. He is someone whose aim is to accrue material and spiritual advantages.”
Bediuzzaman, who expected nothing from this world, possessed no goods or property, who described himself as one who made a career out of humility (Letters, p. 456)and lived an exceedingly modest life, was actually subjected to such totally unjust slanders as “squeezing money out of his students” or “satisfying his lust for leadership,” which were totally at odds with the true facts. For certain circles the aim behind these ugly slanders was to make Bediuzzaman “ineffective, untrustworthy and unheeded.” These slanders are similar to those made against the prophets in the past. The prophets were also accused of using the religion for their own gain. As a result of these slanders Bediuzzaman was sentenced to jail and sent to Eskisehir prison. Released from Eskisehir, he was detained in a room in a house opposite the police station in Kastamonu. Eight years later he was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment by the Denizli Court, after which he was sent to Emirdag for “compulsory habitation.”
While all this was going on, he was oppressed and tortured, and also poisoned several times. In later years, despite being old and sick, he was deliberately kept in cold, damp and airless cells. However, he responded to all this oppression with patience and submission, and everyone witnessed just how deep his faith and devotion to Allah were.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was also accused of “madness,” another of the examples cited in the Qur’an. In 1908 he was again sent to court on trumped-up grounds, and the medical committee assigned by the court reported that he was “mentally unbalanced.” In the mental hospital to which he was later transferred, the doctor emphasized the groundlessness of that diagnosis after speaking with him, saying, “If this man is mad, then there are no sane people in the world.” (Necmettin Sahiner, Bilinmeyen Yonleriyle Bediuzzaman Said Nursi [The Unknown Aspects of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi], pp. 89-95)Frequent accusations of madness were later made against Bediuzzaman in press publications belonging to the circles in question.
Another of the slanders made against Bediuzzaman and his students appeared in one of the daily papers of the time in a series of articles called “Exploiters of Faith.” The series repeated the slanders of the unbelievers in the Qur’an and said that Said Nursi’s students had been bewitched; it was said “they are devoted to him solely out of religious fanaticism, their eyes can see nothing else, they have became devoid of understanding.” (Daily Cumhuriyet, April 21, 1964)
All the accusations made against such a great Islamic thinker as Bediuzzaman and his students are exactly the same as the slanders uttered against believers in the past. We are told in the Qur’an how believers living in the past who followed the messengers sent by Allah were subjected to such foul and baseless slanders as limited reason and shallowness of view:
When they are told, “Believe in the way that the people believe,” they say, “What! Are we to believe in the way that fools believe?” No indeed! They are the fools, but they do not know it. (Surat al-Baqara, 13)
The ruling circle of those of his people who disbelieved said, “We do not see you as anything but a human being like ourselves. We do not see anyone following you but the lowest of us, unthinkingly. We do not see you as superior to us. On the contrary, we consider you to be liars.” (Surah Hud, 27)
The fact is, however, Bediuzzaman and the believers around him were pure, rational and sincere people with a powerful faith in Allah. They behaved in the light of reason, conscience and the moral values of the Qur’an. Those who slandered them were in fact perfectly well aware of this. In fact none of these slanders could do Bediuzzaman and those around him any harm. On the contrary, as in the case of all other believers, the patience and submission they displayed in the face of these incidents, by Allah’s leave, became a means to increase their spiritual maturity and devotion to Allah.
Another of the imputations made against Bediuzzaman was that he supposedly propagated his own personal religious conception and indoctrinated those around him towards that so-called perverted faith. The aim of this provocation, which maintained that Bediuzzaman did not adhere to the Qur’an and the Sunnah of our Prophet (saas), but had established a religion according to his own lights, was to incite the public and certain religious circles who were not fully informed of all the relevant details, and thus to misrepresent Bediuzzaman to them.
However, this slander by the unbelievers also served no purpose because rational Muslims of good conscience clearly saw that this accusation of so-called “perversion” against Bediuzzaman was similar to that issued against the Prophet Noah (as) in the Qur’an, “... We see you in flagrant error.”(Surat al-A‘raf, 60)
In the Risale-i Nur, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi described the good and auspicious aspects of the prison sentence he was given as a result of the slanders made against him and of the troubles inflicted on him:
Then they arrested me during the most intensely cold days of winter on some trite pretext, and put me into solitary confinement in prison in a large and extremely cold ward, leaving me two days without a stove. Having been accustomed to light my stove several times a day in my small room, always having live coals in the brazier, with my illness and weakness I was only able to endure it with difficulty. While struggling in this situation suffering from both a fever from the cold, and a dreadful distress and anger, through Divine grace a truth unfolded in my heart. It uttered the following warning to my spirit: “You called prison the ‘Madrasa-i Yusufiya’ - the School of the Prophet Joseph (as). And while in Denizli, things like relief a thousand times greater than your distress, and spiritual profit, and the other prisoners there benefiting from the Risale-i Nur, and its conquests on a larger scale, all made you offer endless thanks instead of complaining. They made each hour of your imprisonment and hardship like ten hours’ worship, and made those passing hours eternal.” (Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Flashes, The Twenty-sixth Flash, Fifteenth Hope)
In another extract, Bediuzzaman described how believers around him who were exposed to the same slanders and oppression were unaffected by these incidents and did not fall into despair:
With all their stratagems, the dissemblers’ attacks these last ten months and their getting hold of an official has not shaken even the youngest student... such slanders from such people have virtually no effect on us, and, Allah willing, they will cause no harm to the Risale-i Nur circle... (Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Letters, Fourteenth Ray)
The attitude displayed by Bediuzzaman and the people of faith around him in the face of difficulties, slander and misrepresentation is the kind of which that all Muslims must adopt as a role model. In the Qur’an, Allah reminds us of the kind of moral values to be adopted in the face of unbelievers’ snares:
Be patient. But your patience is only by Allah. Do not be grieved by them and do not be constricted by the plots they hatch. Allah is with those who have fear of Him and with those who are good-doers. (Surat an-Nahl, 127-128)