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Türkçe - ‫ ﻋﺮﺑﻲ‬-
Aphorism of Today :
One who does not have the strength to raise and turn the earth and all the stars
and suns as though they were beads of a tesbih cannot lay claim to creating
anything in the universe. For everything is tied to everything else. (Seeds of

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What is The Risale - i
Who is Bediüzzaman
Said Nursî ?
Nursi in the Writings of
Scholars Kadir Canatan*
Article of The Week
Books on Nursi 1. Introduction
Risale - i Nur Collection
Since the 1960's everywhere there have been wide-ranging discussions on the ecological changes and
Pictures problems. To start with, the problem appeared to be a question of modernization, like industrialization and
Contact urbanization, and it was linked to its material manifestations. Today however, it is discussed more in relation
to its intellectual and historical background. In this context, both contemporary Muslim thinkers and non-
Muslim thinkers raised in the revelational tradition, deal with the subject within the framework of
Upcoming Events On 'paradigmatic change'. They posit that parallel to this process the Western world underwent a radical
NursiStudies change in its perception of the universe, man, and God. Thus, this paradigmatic change underlies the
multifaceted crises experienced today on the global level.
SYMPOSIUM, The Before discussing the story of this paradigmatic change, which goes back to the Enlightenment, I want to
Risale - i Nur : start with testing a model which illustrates the ecological changes. I aim to achieve a synthesis of the
Knowledge, Faith, reductionist approaches which attempt to explain ecological changes with a single reason.
Morality and the Future
of Humankind (3- 5 Following this, related to the cultural dimensions of this model, I want to mention the paradigmatic change
October 2010) experienced in the West, and the story of the parallel break with traditional cosmology, which was focussed
on the relations of man-nature and God. This fundamental change which the West underwent quickly
affected neighbouring countries. Therefore, before discussing Said Nursi's approach to cosmology and
SEARCH nature, it is necessary to consider the influence of Western thought on Ottoman intellectuals.

Type Here This is the way I want to approach the main subject, that is, Said Nursi's understanding of cosmology. I
reckon his cosmological teachings will be more comprehensible when explained in this context. I want to
discuss how Said Nursi's expositions related to this question, and the subjects he made topical, which he
Search in NursiStudies
brought to modern Islamic thought, can contribute to today's search for a paradigm. In conclusion I want to
emphasize that Said Nursi put forward extensive, profound solutions for the ecological crisis of our present-
Leave Your E - mail day world, which were related to his view of the universe.
E-Mail: 2. Description of the Ecological Crisis:

A Proposed Model
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Man is a being who has relations with both his social and his physical environment, and because of these
relations, who affects his environment. His relations with the environment have undergone great changes in
the historical process. Various problems were experienced in man-environment relations in traditional
BA Theses societies, but the crisis which coincides with the present stage of history and distinguishes modern times
Master from others, has two chief characteristics: one is the crisis taking on universal proportions, and the other is
its threatening not only man's life as man, but its also posing serious threats to the ecological structure, and
PhD Theses
its thus being closely connected to the fate of animals and plants, and finally in the course of time to the
Books on Nursi planet itself.1

One may say that the ecological crisis has three main aspects. The first is the speedy pollution of the
SYMPOSIUMS and PAPERS atmosphere, in addition to nature, the earth and water, together with which we live. Although nature has its
particular "cleansing power," the pollution has reached the final limits whereat nature can cleanse itself. The
Algeria second aspect is that the unrenewable natural resources are being exhausted due to their uncontrolled and
Australia savage consumption. And the third is that the wholeness of the eco-system is being destroyed, the effects Page 1 of 10 18/06/2010 08:20

of which we will understand only in the long-term.2 All these factors show that the planet on which we live
Chad is day by day being used up. However, despite all this I shall suffice with giving a few facts showing their
Egypt concrete effects on the lives of animate beings, which illustrate more graphically the gravity of the situation.
England Life is under an extremely serious threat due to environmental pollution at the present time and the spoiling
Germany of the ecological balance, for plant and animal species are being consumed at a rate approximately ten
times greater than the natural tempo. Today in Europe, the birthplace of modernity, under threat are 18%
Indonesia of 15 species of mammals, 18% of 400 bird species, 30% of 43 species of amphibians, 45% of 102 species
Jordan of reptiles, 53% of 200 fish species, and 22% of 11,000 plant species.
Malaysia Although one may observe a serious anxiety and sensitivity on a worldwide scale on the subject of the
Morocco manifestations, effects, and extent of the ecological crisis, this does not mean that we have any clear ideas
on the reasons for the crisis or that we know what we are going to do about it. The environmental crisis
Netherlands brought its own ideologies with it. The chief characteristic of these is their offering a single reason for the
Niger ecological changes. Some theorists consider structural factors such as population increase, technological
development, economic growth, and social organization, to be at the bottom of the environmental crisis;
Philippines while others state that the lifestyle of societies and their world view and level of ecological awareness, that
South Africa is cultural factors, are determinant.

Syria In the context of structural factors, one of the oldest theories, which emphasizes population variables,
considered this to be the chief reason for ecological imbalance. This theory was favoured until the Malthus
period, and today even is found acceptable. Some experts and institutions still believe that both
Usa environmental problems and developmental problems can be solved only by restricting population. However,
the true problem in the modern world stems not from production of food being inadequate to meet the
needs of the population, just the reverse, it stems from its unequal and unjust distribution.

Although economic growth and technological development are thought to be the solution for poverty and
OTHER PAPERS backwardness, groups supporting alternative ideas consider these two structural factors to be among the
main causes of ecological imbalance. Some thinkers like Schumacher proposed small scale technology in
? stanbul ? lim ve K ? lt ? r place of large scale technology. Then again certain radical thinkers proclaim technology itself "the
Vakf ? scapegoat" and reject it outright.
A point of interest in these discussions is that some optimistic quarters believe that environmental problems
Aref Ali Nayed will be overcome by more advanced and higher quality technology, despite others making it the scapegoat.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi The truth of the matter, however, is that while economic growth and technology lead to pollution arising
from affluence and over-consumption, in underdeveloped countries the environmental problems are caused
As Qur'anic Man
more by poverty and deep-seated, ongoing contradictions on several planes.
Abd al- Aziz Barghuth
The fact that from the outset the environmental movements were restricted to the activities of an elite
The Place Of The Theory section of society forced environmental activists to undertake activities that would increase public
Of Knowledge In The awareness. The views put forward in this context moved towards a point that attracted the attention of the
Vicegerency Civilizational anthropologists, which was the connection between pollution of the environment, and culture and lifestyles.
Proces In The Thought This question probably prompts more people to give the problem thought today.
Of Bediuzzaman Said
Nursi If technology, economics, and social order, and even population are derivatives of human behaviour and
activities, they of course cannot be thought of independently of the socio-cultural environment in which the
Mahdiyya Amnuh activities developed. Every culture puts forward concepts in the questions of human-environment relations
The Qur'anic and man's role in the world and his approach to it. In which case, the problem of the environment cannot
Understanding Of be set out in all its dimensions without the concepts in this field, and the change in concepts, being studied.
Questions Related To In order to explain environmental changes in the area we have mentioned, therefore, we are obliged to
Man According To The consider structural factors together with cultural factors, as well as their mutual effects. The structural and
Risale- i Nur cultural factors do not only influence each other, as is apparent the environmental changes they give rise to
again influence and are influenced by these variables and are the cause of a 'new' vision and orientation in
Muhittin Akg ? l society. Even the ecological crisis, which is itself a dependent variable, creates changes in our opinions, and
Qur'anic Solutions For thus, paradoxically, adds to the environmental problems.
Man's Problems
[Diagram: not included here]
Abdullah Ozbek
At the point reached today, the environment problem has become 'an argument over paradigms,' discussed
The Importance Of in terms of culture and civilization projects, rather than being something that can be explained by single
Knowing Man causes and factors.
Rauf Samidli
Although many people now accept that the balance between man and nature has been spoilt, not everyone
Qur'anic Solutions For has realized that this imbalance springs from the breaking of the harmony between God and man.3 The
Man's Problems imbalance first appeared on the vertical plane, that is, between God and man, and was then reflected on
the horizontal plane. What lies at the bottom of the imbalances experienced in the present age is the
Ashrati Sulayman
radical change Western societies underwent in their cosmological paradigms as they entered modern times.
Said Nursi and The Because changes of this sort are only very rarely experienced in the history of societies, we may call it "a
Qur'an paradigmatic change." With it, traditional modes of life and relations underwent radical change.
Niyazi Beki The intellectual bases of this change go back as far as the 18th century Age of Enlightenment.
The Qur'an and Its
Method Of Guidance 3. The Change of Paradigm:

Abd al- Mu'ti Muhammad The Modern World Built by the Enlightenment
Bayyumi Page 2 of 10 18/06/2010 08:20

The change of paradigm that began with the Enlightenment was basically the story of the transformation of
How Should The Qur'an cosmology into cosmography. Cosmology is a science which deals with all the planes of formal reality. The
Be Practised In The physical plane is only one dimension of this. In traditional cosmologies, the physical world and universe is a
Present Age ? (In The phenomenon. The world of phenomena is the manifestation or extension of another (metaphysical) world.
Light Of Bediuzzaman Only through profound reflection, starting from the physical world, can one capture that mysterious world
Said Nursi's Views) beyond appearances. In Islamic cosmology in particular, it may be interpreted as the visible world (the
external dimension) and the invisible world (inner dimension) having a mutual interdependent relationship.
Imtiyaz Yusuf
By reducing existence to its external forms, the modern world view stripped them of meaning and purpose,
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi's and 'secularized' them.
Discourse On Belief In
The Existence Of God: A Since the beginning of human history, the world was perceived as abounding in the sacred. However, at the
Study Of Texts From point we have reached now in modern times, in Weber's words, it is "a world stripped of magic"
Risale- i Nur ( Entzauberung der Welt).4 In my opinion, this is the chief characteristic of modern cosmology (rather,
'cosmography'). In the long history of mankind, nature was always depicted as a sacred and wonderful
Musa al- Basit garden. For this reason, the relations between man and nature were based on a certain respect and mutual
Said Nursi's Approach To observation. On the world being stripped of magic, sacred nature relinquished its place to a mass of
physical matter that was used, changed, and consumed.
The Stories Of The
Qur'an The second fundamental characteristic of modern cosmology is its conception of the universe being that of
Ahmad Abu Zayd a mechanical universe, the foundations of which were laid by Newton. In the past everything in the
universe was bound to everything else organically as a living being, but in the modern period it was
Original Contributions transformed into a vast machine that worked according to immutable laws. The relationship between the
Made By Bediuzzaman machine and God, its Creator, was foreign to the understanding of traditional periods. For God is likened to
Said Nursi To The a clockmaker. Just as a clockmaker makes a clock and then leaves it to work, in exactly the same way God
Exposition Of The made the universe and then left it to work on its own, thereafter not intervening in it.5 With the rise of this
Qur'an's Miraculousness idea, the view of an abstract God who does not interfere in the working of the cosmos, known as 'deism,'
was adopted by theology.
Sadreddin Gumus
Interpretation (Ta'wil) In Modern cosmology, which conceives of the universe and nature as mechanical and stripped of magic,
The Risale- i Nur distanced man from nature and imagined there to be a clash and conflict between them. According to this
theory of supposed conflict, nature's function in science changed and subsequently to Bacon knowledge
M. Said Ramadan al- Buti began to be used for ruling nature and gaining control of it.6 In this respect, it is not possible not to agree
Two Splendid Truths with currents of alternative thought which claim that modern science and technology are fundamentally anti-
From God's Book ecological and anti-life.

Wahbi Zuhayli Bacon openly recommended violence towards nature and the mistreatment of it, and it was he who laid the
foundations of modern science and philosophy. The expressions he used in connection with nature make
The Qur'an's Universality
one's hair stand on end. According to him, it was something that was "bound to serve," was "hunted by the
and Bediuzzaman Said
planets," was "a slave," and because "it resisted the scientistst," had to be "tortured to make it disclose its
Nursi secrets."7 It is clear that let alone being ecological, any scientific and technological policy based on such an
Suad Yildirim attitude to nature will of necessity be anti-ecological.
Important Principles In Modern cosmology radically changed "man's" "position" in the universe and the world. With the Age of
The Risale- i Nur For Enlightenment, the theocentric approach to the universe became anthropocentric. Although in traditional
Understanding The teachings, man was depicted as being at the peak of the hierarchy of creation, in the secular cosmology,
Qur'an's Allegorical based on a deistic conception of the universe, he was a new "type" who had in a way replaced God. This
Verses new type was defined sometimes as "the superman," sometimes as "the creative being," and sometimes as
the "superior man." If Divine power does not intervene in the universe, in a world depicted as entirely
Muhammad Zaki
secular, man would certainly attempt to reconstruct nature through his own will and initiative. In
Muhammad Khadar
consequence the well-known process was set off between man and nature, and "nature entered under
General Rules Of The man's yoke."8
Numerical Miraculousness
In The Qur'an In the secular world, nature is destroyed in order to obtain the maximum "benefits." The meaningful
relations between man and nature have been spoilt. Regretably, on the modernization process being taken
Lutfullah Cebeci to non-Western societies, modern cosmology has influenced those cultures too, and traditional cosmology
The Holy Qur'an is has been consigned to the depths of history.
Always Fresh and New
4. Echos of the Englightment here:
Resid Haylamaz
Ottoman Positivism and Materialism
Islam's Universality and
The Risale- i Nur's Method Enlightenment thought concerning nature, man, and God began to influence Ottoman intellectuals in the
Of Interpreting The 19th century. Positivist and Materialist thought in particular, which Said Nursi was compelled to combat
Qur'an's Universality throughout his life, found members of the Ottoman intelligentsia to represent it from the second half of the
19th century, and even succeeded in entering the schools. Until the Second Constitutional Period (1908),
Vehbi Karakas
Materialism was offered in a turbid intellectual atmosphere, but this subsequently clarified and it turned into
The Translation Of The a philosophical current which articulated its own concepts.
Qur'an and Question Of
Worship In The There were numerous sources of Ottoman materialism. Besides the French Encyclopaedists and Materialists,
Vernacular who had an indirect influence, the most directly influential sources were Auguste Comte's Positivism, Claude
Bernard's physiologist movement, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, and Ludwig B?chner's biological
Ziyad Khalil Muhammad materialism.9 The Ottoman intellectuals took the view of nature, which was formed of matter in motion, as
al- Daghamin a machine which worked on its own, from the French Encyclopaedists and Materialists, together with the
The Aims Of The Qur'an idea of independence from religion and tradition, and reason as self-sufficient. This view of nature, which
In Bediuzzaman's Said was nourished with Comte's Positivism, later asserted that objective reality could be grasped through
observation, experiment, and reasoning alone.
Nursi's Thought: An Page 3 of 10 18/06/2010 08:20

observation, experiment, and reasoning alone.

Nursi's Thought: An
Analytical Study The physiologist movement of Claude Bernard, who is considered the founder of experimental medicine,
Qutb Mustafa Sanu transformed the Ottoman intellectuals' view of man. With this movement's definition of man from the point
of view of his bodily functions, the non-material, spiritual image that religious thought had of man
The Aims Of The Qur'an disappeared. Moreover, with Darwin's theory of evolution, the idea that man came at the end of the process
In View Of Said Nursi of evolution severed his connection with Divine sources. The matter did not end here, materialism reached
Thought: An Analytical its final stage with Ludwig B?chner's thesis of the eternity of matter and of itself its being tied to the laws
and Comparative Study of nature in the universe.
Muhsin Abd al- Hamid Materialist thought was physically and institutionally established in the Ottoman Empire through the modern
The Theory Of Knowledge educational institutions, which successively opened in the 19th century. Virtually all the Ottoman Materialists
In The Qur'an According were educated in these institutions, and chiefly in the Mekteb-i T?bbiye (Medical School). There were also
To Risale- i Nur the ideas and translated works which students sent to Europe brought back.

Yamina B. Mermer All these institutional and intellectual developments found a place for themselves during the reign of Abd?
The Hermeneutical lhamid II, and with the Constitutional Period began to spread in society. Among the chief representatives of
Dimension Of Science Ottoman Materialists were Be?ir Fuat, Ahmed ?uayb, Baha Tevfik, Subhi Ethem, and Abdullah Cevdet.
Abdullah Cevdet, who was educated in the Mekteb-i T?bbiye , was also one of the founders of the
Sami Afifi Hijazi Committee of Union and Progress. One may briefly outline the Materialists' ideas as follows: the highest and
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi's most superior value is science. Man and nature can be understood only through scientific methods. Religion
and tradition are merely shackles on nations in the struggle for progress. The conflict between God's laws
Ideas On The Qur'an and
and those of nature is basically the conflict between science and religion. The West laid the foundations of
The Book Of The modern civilization by striving against religion and tradition.
Yilmaz Ozakpinar Having glanced at all these ideas, it becomes clear why Said Nursi insistently dwelt in his writings on the
relations between man, God, and nature, that is, on cosmology. In fact, he did not do this only indirectly;
Qur'anic Civilization he challenged Materialism openly by writing the independent treatise Tabiat Risalesi ( Treatise On Nature,
Sukran Vahide published as ' Nature: Cause or Effect?). Despite its brevity, this treatise is a truly succinct and effective
manifesto which not only opposes the "secularization of nature," that is, the severing of relations between
The Book Of The God and the universe and nature, but also puts forward the ideas of a non-material ( manevi ) cosmology.
Universe: Its Place and
Development In 5. Said Nursi's Cosmological Teachings
Bediuzzaman's Thought
Between Naturalism and Pantheism
Hasan al- Amrani
Rhetorical Aspects Of In the historical and social context, Nature: Cause or Effect? has two main aspects. In one way, it is not a
purely philosophical and theoretical work, but a work which supplies answers to current questions given rise
Repetition In The Qur'an
to by materialist currents. For all the questions it deals with are concerned with the modern Materialist and
According To The Risale- i Naturalist discourse, which deifies nature. In this respect, it was answering a topical, actual need. Indeed, in
Nur the opening passage of the treatise, Said Nursi describes this as follows:
Ghanim Qadduri al-
Hamad "When I went to Ankara in 1338 (1922), the morale of the people of belief was extremely high as a result
of the victory of the army of Islam over the Greeks. But I saw that an abominable current of atheism was
The Purposes Of treacherously trying to subvert, poison, and destroy their minds."10
Repetition In The Qur'an
According To The Risale- i Said Nursi says that he wrote this treatise in Arabic in order to repulse that current of atheism, but because
Nur not many people knew Arabic, it did not have the effect it should have done and "the atheistic ideas"
developed and spread. For this reason, Said Nursi felt the need to rewrite it as the present treatise, in
Ahmad Khalid Shukri Turkish and in summary and concise form.
The Purposes Of
Repetition In The Qur'an The second aspect of the treatise is that, employing a method of persuasion used by philosophy and
According To The Risale- i rationalism, he refutes the assertions of his opponents one by one. One also should not forget that the
rationalist method is this.
Ahmad Muhammad These two noteworthy points in the treatise mark Said Nursi out from the traditional 'ulama. They also form
Muflih al- Qudat the chief characteristic of contemporary Islamic thought. According to the scholar T?rk'?ne, the chief mark
distinguishing modern Islamism from traditional Islam is, as the product of the process of acculturation
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi's which came from the West, the change in the religion's self-legitimization and justification. In this mode of
Views On The Theory Of thought, Islam proves its own veracity not by having recourse to a transcendent source, but entirely
Repetition In The Qur'an through rational justification. Nevertheless, as in traditional Islam, modern Islamism does not choose
Osman Cilaci traditional religions as rivals to itself. In the modern period, ideological threats come not from religions, but
from modern ideologies. For this reason, modern Islamism sees itself in fierce competition with modern
Comment On The Holy ideologies and currents.11 To put it another way, due to outside influences, Islam's traditional discourse has
Bible In The Risale- i Nur changed and been replaced by a modern discourse. This discourse is clearly present in Said Nursi's works. I
Abd al- Aziz Shahbar
shall return to this point a little later.

The People Of The Book When we take a closer look at Said Nursi's cosmological views, we see he follows a way between the two
and The Qur'an In The extremes. Above all, he is vehemently opposed to Naturalism, which posits that nature, or the universe,
Light Of The Risale- i Nur works on its own like a machine, independently of any transcendent source. He criticizes the three
fundamental theses put forward by the Naturalists, putting the problem as follows:
Mustafa Abu Sway
Said Nursi and The "Since beings exist and this cannot be denied... you are bound to say either that the causes in the world
People Of The Book create beings..., that is, it comes into being through the coming together of causes, or that it forms itself, or
that its coming into existence is a requirement and necessary effect of nature, or that it is created through
Kadir Canatan the power of One All-Powerful and All-Glorious. Since reason can find no way apart from these four, if the
The Paradigmatic first three are definitely proved to be impossible, invalid and absurd, the way of Divine unity, which is the Page 4 of 10 18/06/2010 08:20

The Paradigmatic
Background To The fourth way, will necessarily and self-evidently and without doubt or suspicion, be proved true."12
Ecological Crisis and Said If noted carefully, here Said Nursi is using a (philosophical) method of proof based entirely on reason. First
Nursi's Cosmological the possibilities are listed, then the first three are refuted in accordance with reason, and the correctness of
Teachings the remaining thesis is posited. He is not admonishing in the style of the traditional 'ulama, by saying
Davud Ayduz something like: "O Muslims! Beings were brought into existence by God. All views outside this are false.
Beware of them!"
The Approach To The
Environment Questions Of A further point should be made clear here. In his work on Said Nursi, ?erif Mardin claims that he was
The Qur'an and Its influenced by the Newtonian world view.13 And when proving this, methodologically he employs an analysis
Contemporary of his literary style. He puts forward as evidence for his claim, the frequent use in the Risale-i Nur of
Commentary, The Risalei metaphors like "machinery," "the factory of the universe," and so on. In my opinion, it is oversimplifying the
Nur profundity of Said Nursi's thought to conclude from the expressions of this sort one encounters in his
writings, that he had a mechanistic world-view. A thinker may speak in modern language on the level of
Sadik Kilic style, but it does not necessarily mean that his ideas are modern as well. Here I want to suffice with saying
The Message Of The that analysis of literary style can only be superficial and restrictive. As I shall explain a little later, Said Nursi
Risale- i Nur In The most certainly does not accept the idea of a "God Who does not intervene."
Ecological Context Said Nursi finds the idea of the Unity of Existence ( Vahdat-i Vujud ), which identifies the universe with God,
Ibrahim Ozdemir and considers God to be immanent in the universe or recognizes no real world outside the Necessary
Existent, to be contrary to Islam and therefore harmful. According to him, this way comprises a significant
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi's truth which is that ..
Approach To The
Environment "by the existence of the Necessarily Existent One being dislosed to the degree of 'absolute certainty'
Oliver Leaman
through the strength of belief and unfolding of an elevated sainthood, the existence of contingent beings is
so diminished that nothing remains in its view other than imagination and non-existence; it is as though it
Nursi's Place In The Ihya' denies the universe on account of the Necessarily Existent One."14
Although Nursi considers the Unity of Existence and Naturalism to be opposing currents, he says that there
Irfan Abd al- Hamid is a possibility of their turning into each other:
The Communion Of Ideas "This century, materialism is so widespread, materiality is thought to be the source_of everything. If in such
Between Hujjat al - Islam an age, the elite believers consider materiality to be so unimportant as to be non-existent, thus furthering
al - Ghazali and Servant Of the way of the Unity of Existence, the materialists will lay claim to it, saying: 'We say the same thing.'
The Qur'an Ustad Said Whereas, among all the ways in the world, the way furthest from that of the materialists and nature-
worshippers, is the way of the Unity of Existence. For the followers of the Unity of Existence attach so
much importance, through their belief, to the Divine existence that they deny the universe and beings.
John Obert Voll Whereas the materialists attach so much importance to beings that on account of the universe they deny
God. How can the two come together or be compared?"15
Renewal and Reformation
In The Mid - Twentieth After comparing these two ways as above, Said Nursi mentions three of the dangers present in the Unity of
Century: Bediuzzaman Existence.
Said Nursi and Religion
In The 1950's Firstly, the universe and matter are God's works and they have a reality. The realities outside ourselves are
not imaginary or shadows, as the followers of the Unity of Existence state. Denying God's works may lead
Dale F. Eickelman us to deny the Necessary Existent as well, Who acquaints us with Himself by means of these works.
Qur'anic Commentary, Secondly, similarly, this idea, which is an elevated philosophical view held by the elite, may easily lead to
Public Space and 'nature-worship' among the mass of believers. Since there is nothing other than God, we may conceive of
Religious Intellectuals In everything we see around us as being a part of His Being, and without doubt this is a sort of 'nature-
The Writings Of Said worship.' And thirdly, this belief may lead to misconceptions of God and misunderstandings about the
Nursi contingent world.16

Seyyid Vali Reza Nasr This means that just as it is not possible for there to be a Creatorless universe, so too it is not possible to
conceive of a God without His works. So what is nature and the universe is his view? And what is man's
Qur'anic Commentary and
place in these worlds? And more importantly, what sort of relationship is there between God and the world
Social Change: Modern of existence? The answers to these questions will at the same time make clear Said Nursi's cosmological
South Asian Tafsir and ideas.
Risale- i Nur In
Comparative Perspective Whichever part of the Risale-i Nur we open, there is always a particular subject, and that is, in the narrow
meaning "nature," and in the broad meaning "the universe." This double concept holds a central place in
Durmus Hocaoglu
Said Nursi's thought. What places nature or the universe so centrally in his thought is the importance he
Islam and Modernity gives them in the perception of God. In Said Nursi's view, nature is not some ordinary thing existing of
itself. And it certainly is not a material mass of lifeless matter.
Amer Al - Roubaie
An Assessment Of The 1. According to Said Nursi, nature is a "book;" he "reads" nature just like a book. And this reading is such
International Economic that just as man may reach God by reading the Qur'an as a revealed book, so he may reach Him by
Sanctions Against reading the book of nature. In his words, the universe is "the mighty book" which the Qur'an "expounds"
Muslims In The Light Of ( tefsir ).17
Said Nursi's Teachings
2. The book of nature, which was made by God, is not some ordinary book; it is a wonderful work of art.
Again his words: "The thing they call nature is at the most a work of art; it cannot be the Artist. It is an
embroidery; it cannot be the Embroiderer."18 In which case, by looking at the work of art, we may gain
some idea about its Maker.

3. To put it another way, the universe and nature is a "mirror." Everything here reflects God's Most
Beautiful Names: Page 5 of 10 18/06/2010 08:20

"...the universe is a mirror. The true nature of each being is also a mirror. All beings are subject to Divine
creation through Pre-Eternal Power. In one respect, all beings are sorts of mirror to one of the Names of
the Pre-Eternal Sun, displaying one of its embroideries."19

Nature which thus reflects God as a mirror is surely fundamentally meaningful and sacred. However, this is
a question of how it is looked at. For some people, nature may perform the function of being a "veil"
concealing reality. Especially those who cannot take their eyes off the workings of nature and the universe
and look on them as working on their own like a clock - for them it is a veil. One has to pass beyond all
the events and appearances and look in such a way as to see somewhere there beyond, the wisdom and
the Divine creative power.

4. Nothing at all in the universe has been left to its own devices. Everything proceeds within an order, and
there are laws which sustain the order. This is nothing other than "Sunnatullah ". The One Who created it
also gave it a form. Functioning within a specified order from minute particles to the sun, the universe
makes known God's existence with this aspect of itself as well.20

5. Within the universe, man holds the highest position. He is the fruit of the tree of the universe, its
farthest part. Everything exists for the formation and development of the fruit. For this reason, man is the
heart and centre of the universe. Thanks to man, in comparison with the universe, the earth resembles the
tiny fruit of a huge tree, and is equal to all the heavens.21 Man is also a mirror. He reflects God both with
his insignificant knowledge, power, and sight, etc., given him, and through his works of art. Moreover, with
his infinite impotence and weakness he is a being who seeks a powerful point of support.22

6. With respect to make-up and position man has the capacity to both progress and retrogress. In one way
he resembles the angels, and in another he resembles the animals. The ascent and descent between these
two is the story of man's adventures on the earth. His instinctive soul drags him down, while knowledge of
God and worship of Him raise him up.23

7. Neither the macrocosm, the universe, nor man, the microcosm, are independent of God's disposive
power. Although God is not anywhere visible, He is omnipresent and everything is dependent on Him. He
has no partners in His sovereignty.

"...most certainly, the Maker of the universe is not of the same kind as the universe. His Essence resembles
no other essence at all. Since this is so, the obstacles and restraints within the sphere of the universe
cannot hinder Him, they cannot restrict His actions. He has complete disposal over the whole universe and
is able to transform all of it at the same time. If the disposal and actions that are apparent in the universe
were to be attributed to it, it would cause so many difficulties and so much confusion that neither would any
order remain nor would anything continue to exist; indeed, nothing would be able to come into existence."24

So how does God carry out these disposals in the universe?

8. Said Nursi says that the relationship between the external ( zahir ) world and the inner, hidden ( batin )
world and the process of Divine disposal, are hidden to us, but that an acute eye and intelligence that
progress from the external to the hidden world may discover them. Causes and the things that appear to be
functioning in the visible world are basically all veils. If these veils can be rent, one will conclude beyond
them the existence of the creative power. Said Nursi draws attention to the awesome activity and motion in
the universe, and says: "Come and look all around, and note all these things! A hidden hand is working in
all these works... That means they are not working by themselves, but that a hidden possessor of power is
causing them to work."25 Here "the hidden hand" that Adam Smith said was the moving force in economic
life, in Said's world is transformed into "a hidden hand" that administers the whole universe. Said Nursi
illustrates this myterious relationship for us by means of comparisons. He gives the example of "the sun,"
which sends "its light" to our world:

"...the sun is to some degree unrestricted with regard to its luminosity, so its image is reflected in every
burnished and shining object. ... Thus, ... the manifestation of the All-Glorious Maker of the universe is
such, with all His attributes which are light and with all His Names which are luminous, that through the
mystery of the regard of Oneness, although He is not in any place, He is all-present and all-seeing
everywhere. There is no division in His regarding and acting towards the creation. He performs every task
at the same time, in all places, without difficulty, without hindrance."26

He also likens God to a powerful king who simultaneously directs unprecedented affairs in his country by
means of intermediaries.27

In short, in Said Nursi's cosmology, it is unthinkable that there should be a universe that functions without
God or man and a society that exists in ignorance of Him. The transcendent world and the immanent world,
the sky and the earth, the external world and the hidden, inner world, even all the universes, are in a
constant state of mutual influencing. God did not leave man to his own devices on the earth, without
responsibility and will. He is "testing" man in this world. This trial will have results for man. He is
responsible before his Creator, his fellow-men, and even other living beings and nature. He may not act
arbitrarily in his relations with them. Thus, the aim of the idea Said Nursi tries to communicate in all his
writings, is to make man aware of this; it is nothing else.

6. Ecological Implications of the Non-Physical Cosmology

We may now link cosmology and ecology. The rules and values that order man's relations with nature and
living beings stem from his world-view and way of life. In which case, our cosmological views are not Page 6 of 10 18/06/2010 08:20

abstract and theoretical fantasies. On the contrary, they have implications for nature and the environment.
The meaning we attach to nature, God, and man's place on earth affects also the nature of the relations we
form with them.

To give an example: according to the Red Indians, earth, water, stone, everything in fact, are "different
appearances of Mother Earth." Mother Earth is their goddess. Mother Earth is not outside nature, but inside
it. She is constantly at work. Living beings reproducing, plants growing, rivers flowing, all these are activities
of the creator which we observe directly.

If we proceed from these assumptions, nature ceases to confront us as a meaningless collection of matter
and becomes something sacred that has to be nourished with love and respect. Now, the relations we form
with a world of existence of this sort will not resemble relations based on production and consumption. The
sacred universe will be a friendly home which shelters us and raises us, and will become a creative power
which nurtures a deep love for us.

As we stated above, the modern paradigm stripped the world of sacredness. Said Nursi opposed the efforts
of the Materialists to secularize the world and insisted on seeing it as a "mirror" reflecting God, "a sacred
book" that had to be read, and "the art" and "work" of God. He strove against efforts to strip it of
sacredness, and to restore the sacredness to nature. He described man as a being who is continuously
being tested on the earth and who has to behave responsibly. Man is a world within the world. He is a
miniature summary of the macrocosm. These worlds are one within the other and exist together with each

If we examine the ecological problems from the point of view of Said Nursi's cosmological views, we see
that horizontally, the breaking of man's relations with nature arises from the breaking of his
relations with God in the vertical, fundamental, sense. According to Said Nursi, in the broad meaning

"the man who gives up worship and ritual prayer is violating in a significant manner the rights of beings...
and is in fact acting unjustly towards them. For the perfections of beings are manifested through the
glorification and worship performed by that aspect of them which is directed towards their Maker. The one
who abandons worship does not and cannot see this worship. Indeed, he denies it. Furthermore, beings
occupy an exalted position by reason of their worship and glorification, and each is a missive of the
Eternally Besought One, and a mirror to the Names of its Sustainer. Since he casts them down from their
high positions and considers them to be unimportant, lifeless, aimless, and without duties, he is insulting
them, and denying and transgressing their perfections."28

Yes, Said Nursi emphasizes most meaningfully and brilliantly that when the relations between God and man
are broken, this will be reflected in man's relations with nature and that in the view of a person whose
relations with God are severed the world of existence will become commonplace and this will lead to his
being aggressive towards it. Said Nursi speaks confidently and clearly on this matter. Both man's state of
mind, and the manner in which he looks on the universe will define his relations with nature. He says:

"Everyone sees the world in his own mirror. God Almighty created man as a measure and scale for the
universe, and from the world He gave a particular world to each person. This world He colours for him in
accordance with his sincere beliefs. For example, a despairing, lamenting, weeping person sees beings as
weeping and in despair, while a cheerful, optimistic, merry person sees the universe as joyful and smiling. A
reflective man given to solemn worship and glorification discovers and sees to a degree the certain, truly
existent worship and glorification of beings..."29

That is to say, a person who himself submits to God, sees that other beings are doing likewise, and as
though uniting as members of the same worshipping congregation, becomes friends and equals of them
before God.

However, if it is contrary to this, "... a person who abandons worship through either neglect or denial sees
beings in a manner totally contrary and opposed to the reality of their perfections, thus transgressing their
rights."30 However, this aggression is not restricted to that single instance; it turns on the person himself
and in doing this, he wrongs himself too.31 It is a fact that the point mankind has reached today is as Said
Nursi foresaw. For as soon as nature and the universe were set on secular/profane foundations, the
ecological balance was broken and the bitter results of this are now being experienced.

So what is the solution?

According to Said Nursi, the cosmic dance, called "worship," which man performs before God in harmony
with the universe, is the key to and chief element of the solution. As in Islamic terminology, Said Nursi uses
the word "worship" in the broad meaning, and does not restrict it to the formal obligations of the five daily
prayers, fasting, etc. For him, worship expresses man's acting in deep awareness of the fact that both he
and the universe and his fellow-men have come from the same source, and that they co-exist again turned
to that source. This is also its use in Islamic terminology. In short, worship is both "reflective thought"
( tefekk?r ), and a "way of life." It is to see, feel, and ponder over the existence of proofs of God in nature
and the universe, and is a philosophy of life. It is only an approach such as this that can set to rights man's
broken relations with nature and establish friendly relations with it.

7. A New World, A New Paradigm:

From Conflict to Mutual Dependence and Co-operation Page 7 of 10 18/06/2010 08:20

Today, numerous scenarios are produced about the way the world is going. The thesis of "globalization,"
which is one them and is spoken of by even the man in the street, emphasizes that because of the scale of
growth caused by the modernization process, the world has become a small village and interdependence
has become an incontrovertible fact. If we make a connection between this view and environmental
problems, it is no longer possible to speak of the existence of different environmental systems isolated from
each other. The world has a single eco-system in which the various environmental systems have become
interpenetrated and affect each other. The environmental problems do not stem only from the
overdevelopment of the rich countries, there is an environmental problem arising from the poverty of the
underdeveloped countries. One may think of the environmental problems of the North and South as the two
sides of a single coin.

In such a world, in which interdependence has reached a peak, co-operation is insufficient for finding
solutions to global problems. Radical change is needed in our attitude to nature and in the nature of the
modern relations we have established with it. The search for alternatives in the West has been continuing
since the 1960's, when the environment crisis first began to be discussed. The New Age movement or
Holism, which was the product of that search, offers people a new hope and a new choice in a world split
up by contradictions and deep crises.

The New Age thinkers assert that insistence on the modernization process will create nothing but fresh
catastrophes. For the chief characteristic of modern culture, the syndrome of perceiving everything as
opposites, has created deep clefts between religion and science, men and women, the past and the future,
the environment and man, society and the individual, and spirit and body, and has been the cause of
universal conflict and division. This conflict and division can be overcome only through holistic thought.32

The modern world-view supposes there to be conflict between man and nature, and in this conflict teaches
man to take control of nature. In conformity with this teaching, contemporary man has to a large extent
"tamed" nature, but today this process has backfired on man and has now reached a stage whereat it
threatens him. So to still insist on the modernist project and create the myth of a happy future, is for the
person who considers his future, nothing other than self-deception.

It will be useful to mention here that Holism or the New Age movement is based substantially on eastern
mysticism and traditional religions. For contrarily to the modern world view, the traditional religions assert
that there is not opposition and contradiction between nature and man, but co-operation and mutual
influence. It is in this framework that one should consider Said Nursi's views. Following on after the
problems caused by Western modernity, we are obliged today to radically reconsider a number of things.
Said Nursi, however, while resisting Western civilization at the start of this century defined the differences
between Islam and Western civilization most acutely, as though he had foreseen the results of that
civilization. His views on civilization and Islam still preserve their originality.

In his reply as to why Islam and Western civilization could not be reconciled, Said Nursi points out that
civilization is based on five negative principles. According to him:

1. "It takes as its point of support force, which manifests itself in aggression.

2. Its aim and purpose is benefit and self-interest, after which everyone jostles and pushes without

3. Its principle in life is conflict, which manifests itself in contention and discord.

4. The tie between different groups is racialism and negative nationalism, which thrives on devouring others
and which manifests itself in ghastly clashes.

5. Its alluring service is encouraging lust and passion, satisfying desires, and facilitating the attainment of
whims. And as for lust and passion, they make man descend from the level of the angels to that of a

So long as modern civilization has these principles as its basis, it will not be possible to set up bridges of
co-operation, peace, and dialogue on the global level. In fact Huntingdon claimed recently, that "there is a
clash of civilizations. There is bound to be rivalry between different civilizations."

In the face of Western civilization's project, Said Nursi foresaw a different civilizational project based on the
universal principles of Islam. He said that this civilization had entirely positive foundations in place of the
above negative ones:

1. "Its point of support is truth instead of force, which is manifested as justice and equity.

2. Its aims are virtue and God's pleasure in place of benefit and self-interest, which are manifested as love
and friendly competition.

3. Its means of unity are the bonds of religion, country, and class instead of racialism and nationalism,
which are manifested as sincere brotherhood and reconciliation, and co-operation in only defending against
outside aggression.

4. The principle in life is that of mutual assistance and co-operation instead of conflict, which is manifested
as unity and mutual support.

5. In place of lust is guidance, which is manifested as progress for humanity and being perfected spiritually. Page 8 of 10 18/06/2010 08:20

It restricts the passions, and instead of facilitating the base desires of the carnal soul, it gratifies the high
sentiments of the spirit."34

After emphasizing in this way the differences between modern civilization and Islam, he predicted that there
would be great changes in the future. I too want to conclude with his words:

"Yes, be hopeful! The loudest and strongest voice in the coming upheavals and changes will be that of



Kadir Canatan was born in Nev?ehir in 1960, and graduated from the Ankara Atat?rk High School. He then
studied cultural anthropology in the Dept. of Ethnic Minorities in Rotterdam Social Academy and Vrije
University, Amsterdam. He continues his work as a researcher, consultant, and freelance writer. He is also a
research assistant in Utrecht University, Holland. His published works and translations:

G?çmenlerin Kimlik Aray??? (Migrants' Search For Identity), 1990; ?ç?nc? D?nya ve Çevre (The Third World
and the Environment) 1990; Entegrasyon Politikas? (Integration Policy) 1993; Avrupa'da M?sl?man Az?nl?
klar (Muslim Minorities in Europe) 1995; Bir De?i?im S?reci Olarak Modernle?me (Modernization as a Process
of Change) 1995; Din ve Laiklik (Religion and Secularism) 1998.

1. Bulaç, Ali, Din ve Modernizm (Istanbul: End?l?s Yay?nlar?, 1990) 20.

2. Opschoor, Hans, Na ons geen zondvloed (Kampen: Kok Agora, 1989) 26-27.

3. Nasr, Seyyid H?seyn, ?nsan ve Tabiat [Turk. trans.] (Istanbul: Yery?z? Yay?nlar?, 1982) 18.

4. Aron, Raymond, Sosyolojik D???ncenin Evreleri (Ankara: ?? Bankas? Yay?nlar?, 1986) 523.

5. van der Loo, H., ' van Reijen, W., Paradoxen ven Modernisering (Muiderberg: Dick Coutinho, 1990) 125.

6. Capra, F., Bat? D???ncesinde D?n?m Noktas? (Istanbul: ?nsan Yay?nlar?, 1989) 54.

7. Ibid., 55.

8. Nasr, 14-15.

9. I??n, Ekrem, "Osmanl? Materyalizmi," in Tanzimat'tan Cumhuriyete T?rkiye Ansiklopedisi (Istanbul, ?leti?
im Yay?nlar?) 363.

10. Nursî, Said, Tabiat Risalesi (Istanbul: S?zler Yay?nevi, 1975) 5 / Nature: Cause or Effect [Eng. trans.] (S?
zler Ne?riyat, 1997) 13.

11. T?rk'?ne, M?mtaz, Siyasi ?deoloji Olarak ?slamc?l???n Do?u?u (Istanbul, ?leti?im Yay?nlar?, 1994) 24-

12. Tabiat Risalesi, 7-8 /Nature: Cause or Effect, 15-16.

13. Mardin, ?erif, Bedi?zzaman Said Nursî Olay?, Modern T?rkiye'de Din ve Toplumsal De?i?im (Istanbul, ?
leti?im Yay?nlar?, 1992) 337-341.

14. Nursî, Said, Mektûbat (Istanbul: S?zler Yay?nevi, 1994) 431 / Letters 1928-1932 (S?zler Ne?riyat, 1997)

15. Mektûbat, 432 /Letters, 525.

16. Nursi, Said, Lem'alar (Istanbul: S?zler Yay?nevi, 1995) 284-5 / The Flashes Collection [Eng. trans.] (S?
zler Publications, 1995) 369-370; Mektûbat, 76, 431-2 / Letters, 105-6, 524-5.

17. Nursi, Said, ?ualar (S?zler Yay?nevi, 1992) 654-5 / The Rays Collection [Eng. trans.] (S?zler
Publications, 1998) 654-5.

18. Tabiat Risalesi, 27 / Nature: Cause or Effect?, 35.

19. Nursi, Said, Latif N?kteler (S?zler Yay?nevi, 1988) 53 / The Flashes Collection, 60.

20. Lem'alar, 127-8 / The Flashes Collection, 171.

21. Nursi, Said, S?zler (S?zler Yay?nevi, 1993) 169-70 / The Words (S?zler Publications, new edn. 1998)

22. S?zler, 663 / The Words, 719.

23. S?zler, 347-8 / The Words, 367.

24. Mektûbat, 239 / Letters, 296-7. Page 9 of 10 18/06/2010 08:20

25. S?zler, 273 / The Words, 288.

26. Mektûbat, 237 / Letters, 294-5.

27. S?zler, 171 / The Words, 194.

28. Tabiat Risalesi, 36 / Nature: Cause or Effect?, 44-5.

29. Tabiat Risalesi, 37 / Nature: Cause or Effect?, 45.

30. Tabiat Risalesi, 37 / Nature: Cause or Effect?, 45.

31. Tabiat Risalesi, 37 / Nature: Cause or Effect?, 45.

32. Van der Loo, H. ' Van Reijen, W., Paradoxen ven Modernisering (Muiderberg: Coutinho, 1990) 272-6.

33. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Tarihçe-i Hayat? (Istanbul: Envar Ne?riyat, 1987) 131-2.

34. Tarihçe-i Hayat?, 133.

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