The Risale-i Nur
As the New Said, Bediuzzaman had immersed himself in the Qur’an, searching for a way to relate its truths to modern man. In Barla in his isolation he began to write treatises explaining and proving these truths, for now the Qur’an itself and its truths were under direct attack. The first of these was on the Resurrection of the Dead, which in a unique style, proves bodily Resurrection rationally, where even the greatest scholars previously had confessed their impotence. He described the method employed in this as consisting of three stages: first God’s existence is proved, and His Names and attributes, then the Resurrection of the Dead is ‘constructed’ on these and proved.
With these writings, Bediuzzaman opened up a new, direct way to reality (haqiqat) and knowledge of Allah which he described as the highway of the Qur’an and way of the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) through the ‘legacy of Prophethood,’ which gains for those who follow it ‘true and certain belief.’ He did not ascribe the writings to himself, but said they proceeded from the Qur’an itself, were ‘rays shining out of from [its] truths.’
Thus, rather than being a Qur’anic commentary which expounds all its verses giving the immediate reasons for their revelation and the apparent meanings of the words and sentences, the Risale-i Nur is what is known as a mânevî tefsir, or commentary which expounds the meaning of the Qur’anic truths. The verses mostly expounded in the Risale-i Nur are those concerned with the truths of belief, such as the Divine Names and attributes and the Divine activity in the universe, the Divine existence and Unity, resurrection, prophethood, Divine Determining or destiny, and man’s duties of worship. Bediuzzaman explains how the Qur’an addresses all men in every age in accordance with the degree of their understanding and development; it has a face that looks to each age. The Risale-i Nur, then, explains that face of the Qur’an which looks to this age. We shall now look at further aspects of the Risale-i Nur related to this point.
In numerous of its verses, the Holy Qur’an invites man to observe the universe and reflect on the Divine activity within it; following just this method, Bediuzzaman provides proofs and explanations for the truths of belief. He likens the universe to a book, and looking at it in the way shown by the Qur’an, that is, ‘reading’ it for its meaning, learns of the Divine Names and attributes and other truths of belief. The book’s purpose is to describe its Author and Maker; beings become evidences and signs to their Creator. Thus, an important element in the way of the Risale-i Nur is reflection or contemplation (tafakkur), ‘reading’ the Book of the Universe in order to increase in knowledge of Allah and to obtain ‘true and certain belief’ in all the truths of belief.
Bediuzzaman demonstrates that the irrefutable truths, such as Divine Unity, arrived at in this way are the only rational and logical explanation of the universe, and making comparisons with Naturalist and Materialist philosophy which have used science’s findings about the universe to deny those truths, show the concepts on which they are based, such as causality and Nature, to be irrational and logically absurd.
Indeed, far from contradicting them, in uncovering the order and working of the universe, science broadens and deepens knowledge of the truths of belief. In the Risale-i Nur many descriptions of the Divine activity in the universe are looked at through the eyes of science, and reflect Bediuzzaman’s knowledge of it. The Risale-i Nur shows that there is no contradiction or conflict between religion and science.
In addition, all these matters discussed in the Risale-i Nur are set out as reasoned arguments and proved according to logic. All the most important of the truths of belief are proved so clearly that even unbelievers can see their necessity. And so too, inspired by the Qur’an, even the most profound and inaccessible truths are made accessible by means of comparisons, which bring them close to the understanding like telescopes, so that they are readily understandable by ordinary people and those with no previous knowledge of these questions.
Another aspect of the Risale-i Nur related to the face of the Qur’an which looks to this age, is that it explains everything from the point of view of wisdom; that is, as is mentioned again below, it explains the purpose of everything. It considers things from the point of view of the Divine Name of All-Wise.
Also, following this method, in the Risale-i Nur Bediuzzaman solved many mysteries of religion, such as bodily resurrection and Divine Determining and man’s will, and the riddle of the constant activity in the universe and the motion of particles, before which man relying on his own intellect and philosophy had been impotent.
While in Barla, Bediuzzaman put the treatise on Resurrection and the pieces that followed it together in the form of a collection and gave it the name of Sozler (The Words). The Words was followed by Mektûbat (Letters), a collection of thirty-three letters of varying lengths from Bediuzzaman to his students. And this was followed by Lem’alar (The Flashes Collection), and Sualar (The Rays), which was completed in 1949. Together with these are the three collections of Additional Letters, for each of Bediuzzaman’s main places of exile, Barla Lahikasi, Kastamonu Lahikasi, and Emirdag Lahikasi.
The way the Risale-i Nur was written and disseminated was unique, like the work itself. Bediuzzaman would dictate at speed to a scribe, who would write down the piece in question with equal speed; the actual writing was very quick. Bediuzzaman had no books for reference and the writing of religious works was of course forbidden. They were all written therefore in the mountains and out in the countryside. Handwritten copies were then made, these were secretly copied out in the houses of the Risale-i Nur ‘students,’ as they were called, and passed from village to village, and then from town to town, till they spread throughout Turkey. Only in 1946 were Risale-i Nur students able to obtain duplicating machines, while it was not till 1956 that various parts were printed on modern presses in the new, Latin, script. The figure given for hand-written copies is 600,000.
Besides these powerful writings themselves, a major factor in the success of the movement may be attributed to the very method Bediuzzaman had chosen, which may be summarized with two phrases: ‘mânevî jihad,’ that is, ‘jihad of the word’ or ‘non-physical jihad’, and ‘positive action.’ For Bediuzzaman considered the true enemies in this age of science, reason, and civilization to be materialism and atheism, and their source, materialist philosophy. Thus just as he combatted and ‘utterly defeated’ these with the reasoned proofs of the Risale-i Nur, so through strengthening the belief of Muslims and raising it to the level of ‘true, verified belief,’ the Risale-i Nur was the most effective barrier against the corruption of society caused by these enemies. In order to be able to pursue this ‘jihad of the word,’ Bediuzzaman insisted that his students avoided any use of force and disruptive action. Through ‘positive action,’ and the maintenance of public order and security, the damage caused by the forces of unbelief could be ‘repaired’ by the healing truths of the Qur’an. And this is the way they have adhered to.