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Said Nursi: Modern Islam’s axe against Materialism

Said Nursi: Modern Islam’s axe against Materialism
Said Nursi conference (Jan 29 2012)

Mujeeb Jaihoon on the Said Nursi conference organized by Darul HUda Islamic University on Jan 29 2012. Fotos by Fawaz Kolakatt

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوباً وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

The Nomad traveler

Islam, as we know it today, appeared in Makkah as a total stranger. The Arabian Peninsula, barren and uncivilized, had no cultivation of any kind, material or spiritual. Yet over a period of time, Islam cultivated the seeds of culture and learning which fed the rest of humanity since then.

The glory of Islam, like Man, has been that of a nomad, never restricting itself to a single community or place. The splendor which initially shone in Madina, slowly shifted to Syria and then to Baghdad. We also saw its magnificent presence in Iran, Central Asia, Egypt, Turkey, North Africa, Spain and Portugal.

Ottoman Chapter in Islamic History.

The Ottoman Caliphate, which began in 1299 and lasted until around 1923, forms an interesting chapter in the history of Islam. It was the largest and most influential Islamic empire in the modern times. Turks were actively present in the world of Islam, right from Abbasid times, as they served the Abbasid caliphs. Turkey has produced several political and spiritual giants who are unparalleled till date. It has also been in the forefront to renew their intellectual outlook to face the challenges of modern world. As Sir Muhammad Iqbal, the Poet Philosopher, says in his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Turkey is motivated “by the realities of experience and not by the scholastic reasoning of jurists who lived and thought under different conditions of life”

Annemarie Schimmel, one of the finest orientalists who dedicated their life in studying Islamic history and culture and lived in Turkey for years, said in her Peace Prize speech at Germany, “I, a non-Muslim, was occupying Religious History chair in Ankara at a time when there were barely any chair for WOMEN in German universities”

Turkey and Malabar

Although the two cultures differ geographically and politically, they also share certain historic similarities. Both have been successful Muslim cultures, who have developed their own ‘tweaked’ version of the universal principles of Islam. Both have been tolerant towards the other communities.

Inter faith harmony

The Millet system under Ottoman Caliphate in which the Jews, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Armenian Church were given complete autonomy for education and tax collection and manage jurisdiction on marriage, divorce, and inheritance. This worked fine until the introduction of nationalism in the second half of the 19th century (Robert Guisepi).

Muslims of Malabar, though ruled by a Hindu King, were patronized by the ruling class. The then prominent scholar of Malabar, Sheikh Zainuddin Makhdum, known as the Thucydides of Kerala, says that the Muslims’ prosperity was due to the tolerance shown by the Hindu Samudiri and his men. He calls them righteous Hindus who upheld the teachings of their religion. The qazis and muezzins were paid from the ‘Hindu’ government treasury.

Khilafat Movement

Turkey has also exerted crucial influence in shaping the anti colonial freedom struggle in Malabar. The Khilafat movement, which was India’s protest against the British excesses on the Ottoman Empire, saw a better expression in Kerala, especially Malabar. There was no single other struggle after 1857 War of Independence which claimed so many human lives as the Khilafat movement. The leaders of the movement included religious scholars, lawyers, religious heads and politicians from all faiths.

Said Nursi smashed the idols of materialism.

The Poet-Philosopher who I quoted above admits that “The more genuine schools of Sufism have, no doubt, done good work in shaping and directing the evolution of religious experience in Islam” but he was also gravely concerned about its latter-day representatives “who owing to their ignorance of the modern mind, have become absolutely incapable of receiving any fresh inspiration from modern thought and experience”.

But as we study the life and mission of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1877-1963), the profound Turkish scholar and saint of modern Turkey, we are reminded once again, that despite the ruthless onslaught of Materialism, Spirituality will continue to prevail on the face of this planet. Said Nursi was Destiny’s chosen axe to smash the idols of materialism, just as Imam Al Ghazali saved the creed from the clutches of Philosophers.

Nursi helped millions to sail safely and smoothly through the rivers of modern science and ancient religion. He harmonized the ambitions of science with the ideals of Religion.
And as an Indian Musalman, I find it personally inspiring that our great reformer, Mujaddid Alf Thani Imam Rabbani Ahmed Sirhindi is among the spiritual mentors of the Turkish scholar. Indeed, I have myself witnessed the delegation of Turkish admirers of the Imam Rabbani visiting his tomb in Sirhind in Punjab while I was there in 2009.

To interact is to contribute

This conference is a remarkable initiative to further acquaint the modern Malabar minds about the great reformer. Earlier, Dr. Zubair Hudawi, a scholarly product of the Darul Huda Islamic University, had presented his paper on Nursi at a seminar held in Turkey.

We have conventionally interpreted the verse quoted in the beginning to mean that Allah made us into tribes and nations to know one another. But an alternative interpretation of the word “Li Taarafu” could also mean to exchange information or knowledge. Accordingly, we could understand its meaning as Allah has divided us into different tribes in order for us to learn from one another. We learn more when we interact with one another. When we interact, we can contribute.

Said Nursi never interpreted Islam in an exclusive environment. He always drew a universal picture of the Faith and its Holy Prophet. In fact regarding the latter, he says in Risal-i-Noor, that “if such a person did not exist in such a wonderful universe, the universe’s existence would not be necessary”. The religion of Islam is the spiritual capital which the Holy Prophet gave us. And Our life is the profit we owe to him.

I suggest the biographies and works of luminaries outside Kerala such as Said Nursi be incorporated into the syllabi of our excellent institutions such as DHIU.

Presenters included:

Scholars for Paper Presentations

Onampilli Muhammad Faizy- Secretary SKSSF
Reading Said Nursi in the Context of Indian Philosophy
Prof. Dr. Colin Turner, University of Durham, UK
The Mecca-Madina paradigm: the Nursian perspective on reform
Dr. Faisal Hudawi – Assi. Prof. Aligarh University, Malappuram Centre
Nursi’s Approach: A Paradigm Shift in Muslim Sociopolitical Thought
Riza Akçali- Turkish Ex minister and Member of Parliament
Sustainability concept in the light of tawhid: The Risale Perspective
Prof Dr Thomas Michel-Georgetown University,USA, Inter-Faith Dialogue-Vatican
Worship of God as the Basis for Human Peace and Harmony: a Risale-i Nur Perspective
Dr. Bahauddeen Muhammad Hudawi -Director, NIICS, DHIU, Kerala
Influence of Ahmad Sarhindi in the Thoughts of Said Nursi
Prof Dr Alpaslan Acikgenc Head of PG Studies at Yildiz Technical University,Istanbul,Turkey
Conception of Human As The Ground Of Social Tranquility: A Qur’anic Perspective as Reflected in the Risale-I Nur
Dr. Saeed Hudawi Nadapuram (Hamdard University)
Nursi’s Madrasatu Zahra and Islamic Education in Indian state of Kerala
Ihsan Mustafa-the Translator of Risale Into Arabic,IFSC
Rasailun-Nur: Unmozajun Mutakamilun li taqdeem il islam ila insan il iswi (Arabic)
Prof Dr Bilal Kuspinar -lecturer at Mc Gill Univ –CANADA
The importance of spirituality to lead a peaceful life in plural society: nursi’s perspective
Ali Katioz,IFSC
The Dawah Methodology Applied in the Risale-I Nur
Prof Dr Irfan Omar Lecturer at Marquette University, USA
An Agenda for Peace: Shaykh Said Nursi and Maulana Wahiduddin Khan in Comparative Perspective.
Dr. Sayed Abdul Muneem Pasha, Dept. of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi
The Relevance of Inter-Faith Dialogue in Contemporary Times: A Nursi Perspective



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