We come now to the last ten years of Bediuzzaman’s life and the last of its three main stages, in Bediuzzaman’s own words, that of the Third Said. The Third Said is generally defined in terms of changes Bediuzzaman made in the way he had patterned his life over many years and also in his involving himself more closely with social and political developments.
The emergence of the Third Said roughly coincided with the defeat of the Republican People’s Party in the general elections of May, 1950, and coming to power of the Democrat Party under Adnan Menderes, although while still in Afyon Prison Bediuzzaman wrote that he “surmised” that “a Third Said” would emerge.1 With the end of tyrannical RPP rule, the restrictions on Bediuzzaman’s movements were lifted and he spent these years largely in Emirdag and Isparta, with visits to Istanbul, Ankara and other places as was required by either the ever-expanding activities connected with the Risale-i Nur, or to make court appearances. For despite the new Government, the bureaucracy and governing structure of the country was still largely in the hands of supporters of the former regime. Thus, copies of the Risale-i Nur continued to be seized, Bediuzzaman and his students continued to suffer repression, the court cases continued; there was no halt in the struggle against unbelief and the forces working for communism and irreligion.
In the early fifties, in numerous villages and towns in many regions of Turkey Risale-i Nur Students continued to write out copies by hand and distribute and read them, while in Isparta and Inebolu it was reproduced on the duplicating machines and distributed in the form of collections. Then, in 1956, on Afyon Court reaching a final decision and lifting all legal restrictions on the Risale-i Nur, in four places but primarily Istanbul and Ankara, a new generation of young Students set about printing and publishing the entire Risale-i Nur Collection on modern presses in the new letters. This further expanded the number of its readers and students, so that they now ran into many hundreds of thousands.
Together with these developments the Risale-i Nur movement itself became established as a cohesive movement during these years and some of the changes in Bediuzzaman’s life can be seen to be directed towards training the new generation of Students who would lead it after he himself would be no longer there to do so. Of these, a number had visited Bediuzzaman and become involved with the work of the Risale-i Nur in the 1940’s and as a consequence had served terms in Afyon Prison along with Bediuzzaman. Following this, which served as a crucible refining this new generation for their work in the cause of the Qur'an, such students as Zübeyir Gündüzalp, Mustafa Sungur and Ceylan Çaliskan devoted themselves entirely to the Risale-i Nur, and, among others, it was for them that Bediuzzaman changed a number of his habitual practices. For example, after 1953, he had them living in the same house as himself, whereas previously he had lived alone allowing no one into his presence from the time of the evening prayers to the following morning.
Afyon served the cause of the Risale-i Nur in other ways, too, as had Eskishehir and Denizli before it, one of which was that it was a means of unifying the Risale-i Nur movement. For on the days of the court hearings, Risale-i Nur Students from all over Turkey flocked to Afyon to observe the proceedings and give moral support to their fellows being tried, and in this way they both got to know each other and establish firm relations, and also become better informed about Bediuzzaman and the Risale-i Nur and its method of service. Afyon thus formed an important step in consolidating the movement.2
The main apparent change in Bediuzzaman, due to which this period of his life is known as that of the Third Said, was a closer involvement with social and political life. This aspect of the Third Said was directly connected with the coming to power of the Democrat Party in 1950. However, his involvement took the form of support and guidance for the Democrats, which he described as “the lesser of two evils”, and supported in order to prevent the RPP, within which was a strong current of communism, returning to power; as throughout his life, it was in no way active involvement. He also did not permit his students to engage in active or power politics in the name of the Risale-i Nur movement. If any wished, they did so in their own names.
As has been described, while in Emirdag before being sent to Afyon in 1948, Bediuzzaman had written letters to members of the Government of the time explaining the nature and seriousness of the dangers facing the country from communism and freemasonry and urging them to restore the Qur'an and truths of belief as the ideological basis of the state in place of the imposed philosophy and irreligion, as the sole means of saving it from these threats. Now, with the coming to power of the Democrat Party, Turkey had a Government that was to take a firm stand against communism and was sympathetic towards Islam and religion; it intended to reflect the will of the nation and redress the wrongs of the twenty-five years of RPP rule. Thus Bediuzzaman concerned himself to a greater degree with political developments; he offered guidance to the new Government primarily by means of letters, his students, and some personal relations with Democrat Deputies, pointing out where the dangers lay and how, by adopting policies based on Islamic principles, they could overcome them, and encouraging them in any moves in this direction. He gave them his moral support and urged his students to support them, giving them his vote in the elections of 1957, so that the support of the Risale-i Nur movement was of no mean importance for the Democrats, especially as their popularity waned. For Bediuzzaman saw the Democrats as “assisting” the Risale-i Nur Students in their struggle against communism and irreligion, in forming a barrier against these threats and righting the “moral and spiritual damage” they had caused, and so in saving the country from the destruction which they brought about.
Thus, when Bediuzzaman considered political matters, he did so with the eye of making them serve religion. He wrote to the new President, Celâl Bayar: “In the face of those who have ill-treated us making politics the tool of irreligion in fanatical manner, we work for the happiness of this country and nation by making politics the tool and friend of religion.”3
To introduce policies favouring Islam and the strengthening of religion would also heal the breach which had been made between Turkey and the rest of the Islamic world. Bediuzzaman impressed on the Government the need to reestablish relations, for this “would gain [for the country] a reserve force within the sphere of Islamic Unity of three hundred and fifty million through the brotherhood of Islam.”4 He also supported the signing of the Baghdad Pact and setting-up of CENTO in 1955 as an important step in establishing peace in the area and among Muslim countries. In connection with this Bediuzzaman strongly urged the Government to give a religious base to the Eastern University that was being planned, which he saw as potentially playing the central and conciliatory role in the area of his Medresetü’z-Zehra that he had striven to have founded in eastern Turkey for so many years. That is, he was urging the Democrats to strengthen feelings of “Islamic nationhood” in place of the divisive and harmful racialist nationalism of the former regime.
Bediuzzaman’s attitude towards the West also changed following the Second World War, for such countries as Britain, France, and America were no longer opposed to Islamic Unity, rather, in the face of the anarchy arising from communism and atheism, they were now in need of it.5 Particularly America, which he saw as working for religion in a serious manner, he regarded in friendly terms.6 With a number of Islamic countries gaining their independence from the colonial powers in the late 1940’s and during the 50’s, and new Islamic states being formed, together with other indications, Bediuzzaman once again starts to speak at this time of the forthcoming ascendancy of the Qur'an and Islam, which he had foretold in the early years of the century. He even foresees the Islamic countries as a federation, “the United Islamic States”.7
On occasion Bediuzzaman called the Democrats, Ahrarlar, sometimes translated as ‘liberals’, but by which he meant supporters of ‘hürriyet-i Sheri'ye’, the ‘Freedom in accordance with the Shari’a’ the establishment of which he had worked for during the Constitutional Period in the early decades of the century, and which path he hoped they would take. That is to say, Bediuzzaman supported gradual change and the gradual achievement of what he believed was the inevitable future supremacy of Islam and the Qur'an. He saw ‘democracy’ as a licit means of achieving this, and attached the greatest importance to the maintenance of the status quo and public order and security. As he frequently pointed out, despite all the provocation and attempts to implicate and involve Risale-i Nur Students in disturbances by those who made it their business to disrupt order, none had been recorded. The way of the Risale-i Nur and its Students was service to belief and the Qur'an by peaceful means and “positive action”. It was peaceful struggle or ‘jihad of the word’ (jihad-i mânevî) in the face of the moral and spiritual depradations of atheism and unbelief, to instill certain belief in hearts and minds. While in many Muslim countries violent change had been brought about by revolution in which thousands of innocents were killed, the way of the Risale-i Nur was “the positive service of belief which results in the preservation of public order and stability.” The destruction caused by atheism and unbelief was of a moral, spiritual or non-material nature (mânevî), so internal jihad against it had to be of the same nature; it was to work for the spread and strengthening of belief with sincerity and “not to interfere in God’s business” that is, not to be precipitate and expect immediate results; leave the results to Almighty God.8
On being released from Afyon Prison in the early morning of 20 September, 1949, Bediuzzaman was escorted by two police officers to a house in the town which had been rented by some of his students, released earlier than himself. Among these were Hüsrev and Zübeyir Gündüzalp. Again under close surveillance, with two or three policemen permanently posted at the house who took down the names of all visitors, Bediuzzaman remained here around two months before moving back to his former house in Emirdag.9
Back in Emirdag among his many students there, Bediuzzaman took up where he had left off two years earlier when he had been arrested and sent to Afyon. In one of his first letters to his students in Isparta, he asks for one of them to go to Ankara to the Directorate of Religious Affairs to inform the Director, Ahmed Hamdi Akseki, that despite illness from poisoning, Bediuzzaman was struggling to correct the entire set of the Risale-i Nur they had requested two years before and would present it when completed. In return he requested the Director to do all he could for the Risale-i Nur’s free circulation, and also to print photographically the ’miraculous’ Qur'an Hüsrev had written showing the ’coincidings’ (tevafukat) in the word, Allah, and other Divine Names.10 Thus, despite the harm caused to Bediuzzaman and the Risale-i Nur by the negative report of the Committee of ‘Experts’ set up by them for Afyon Court, Bediuzzaman overlooked this and the first thing he did on being released was to continue to try to persuade them – and through them the Muftis and Hocas – of the extreme value of the Risale-i Nur as a commentary on the Qur'an, to use their influence to get the legal restrictions lifted, and even to publish it officially themselves. Although Ahmed Hamdi agreed in principle to publish the Risale-i Nur, this never came to fruition. And in 1956 after the Risale-i Nur had been cleared by Afyon Court, the new Director, Eyüp Sabri Hayirlioglu, was again approached on the subject, this time on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, Menderes, but the attempt again came to nothing.11
In Emirdag Bediuzzaman continued his life as before, only, some of those who knew him noted certain changes. For instance, Mehmet Çaliskan remarked how following Afyon, Bediuzzaman’s food was prepared by his students who accompanied him, rather than the Çaliskan family, and that he now had read to him two or three newspapers daily. Mehmet Çaliskan describes also how they would collect the papers from the newsagent, then slipping them into an inner pocket take them to Bediuzzaman, read him the appropriate parts, and later return them to the newspaper seller.12 With the coming to power of the Democrat Party some six months after Bediuzzaman returned to Emirdag, the restrictions on his movements were theoretically lifted and that year, in addition to sharing the joy of the whole country on the ban on the Arabic call to prayer being lifted, so too he was able to join the congregation in the Çarsi Mosque for the tarawih prayers each of the thirty nights of Ramazan.13
On the Democrats winning the elections on 14 May, 1950, Bediuzzaman sent the following telegram to the new President, Celâl Bayar:
“To: Celâl Bayar, President of the Republic.
“We offer our congratulations. May Almighty God afford you every success in the service of Islam, and the country and nation.
“In the name of the Students of the Risale-i Nur, and one of them,
To which he received this reply:
“To: Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Emirdag.
“I was exceedingly touched at your cordial congratulations and offer my thanks.
While Bediuzzaman had since his days in Kastamonu attached the greatest importance to guiding the young and the numbers of Risale-i Nur Students in their youth and early youth had steadily grown, in the early nineteen fifties there was a striking increase in their numbers – and in the importance of the role they played in the work of the Risale-i Nur. In fact, in many respects these last ten years of Bediuzzaman’s life may be seen as directing and training these young Students and preparing some of them to lead the Risale-i Nur movement in later years. And also it may perhaps be seen as symbolic that while Bediuzzaman had written to his leading students of the older generation in Isparta wanting one of them to go to Ankara to the Directorate of Religious Affairs as described above, in the event it was the young Mustafa Sungur who deputized for Bediuzzaman, both on this occasion and many subsequent occasions.
In Istanbul and Ankara in particular, young, enterprising, and devoted Risale-i Nur Students, many of whom were university students, performed great services for the Risale-i Nur and the cause of religion. In Ankara they were active among the Deputies in the National Assembly, writing letters and circulars putting forward Bediuzzaman’s views and the case of the Risale-i Nur, meeting with Deputies, and particularly one’s known to be sympathetic towards to Islam, and also pointing out and warning about various stratagems and plots of the Republican People’s Party (RPP) supporters and enemies of religion who had infiltrated the Democrat Party.
One case concerned the destruction of one hundred and seventy copies of the large collections, The Staff of Moses and Zülfikar, seized by the authorities in Isparta. This was despite their having been cleared by the Justice Minister of the Democrat Government and was evidently part of a plan of RPP supporters to arouse antagonism among the Risale-i Nur Students towards the Democrats, for whom they formed an important body of support.15This fanatical partisanship, which Bediuzzaman alluded to in a letter he wrote to the new President and also warned against on other occasions, was an additional element in the harassment and oppression which Bediuzzaman and his students continued to receive from certain sections of officialdom. These officials were supporters of the RPP, some representing the Mason and communist currents within it,16 and they continuously hatched plots by which to divide the forces working for religion and prevent them uniting. Thus, since the governing structure of the country was still largely in the hands of supporters of the RPP, the repression of Bediuzzaman and the Risale-i Nur Students continued throughout this ten years, as did the court cases. Besides the Afyon Court decision to confiscate copies of the Risale-i Nur, on other occasions copies were seized illegally. On numerous occasions Bediuzzaman was harassed and threatened on account of his dress, even being sent before the court in Emirdag in the summer of 1951 for refusing to wear a European-style hat. In early 1952, a case was brought against Bediuzzaman and a young Risale-i Nur Student who had had A Guide for Youth published in Istanbul; it resulted in acquittals. And the following year a case was opened in Samsun on the Black Sea, which Bediuzzaman could not attend due to ill health, but Mustafa Sungur stood trial; it also ended in acquittals. And in 1956, a case was brought against Bediuzzaman and eighty-nine Risale-i Nur Students in Isparta for “forming a secret society”, which was dismissed as not being proven. Then in Ankara, Isparta, and many other places were further cases against Risale-i Nur Students, all of which ended in acquittals. In the face of the confiscations and the Afyon Court proceedings in the early 1950’s, Bediuzzaman wrote a number of petitions to the President and other Ministers, and for the Appeal Court and to be distributed by his students among “religious deputies” of the National Assembly, pointing out the realities of the case.17KoreaIn addition to continuing the struggle against communism and irreligion within Turkey, Bediuzzaman supported the decision to send Turkish troops to Korea to fight the communist invasion from the north, and was delighted when his close student Bayram Yüksel was to be sent there in 1951 during his military service, saying; “I wanted to send a Risale-i Nur Student to Korea, and was thinking of either you or Ceylan. It is necessary to go to Korea to fight against atheism there.” Bediuzzaman also supported Turkey joining NATO. He gave Bayram Yüksel his own Jawshan al-Kabir prayer book and some parts of the Risale-i Nur to give to the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese army whom he knew from when he first came to Istanbul in 1907. Bayram Yüksel went to Korea with Bediuzzaman’s blessing, and fighting in some of the fiercest battles of the war, came out unscathed. He also visited Japan, and gave the parts of the Risale-i Nur to the National Library in Tokyo, since the Commander-in-Chief had departed this life some years previously.18Eskishehir and IspartaAfter years of being confined to the place he had been exiled, very often not even being allowed to attend the mosque or walk out to take exercise, Bediuzzaman was now free to move about as he wished. In October of 1951 he went to Eskishehir, where he stayed in the Yildiz Hotel. He met there with many of his students, of all classes, and the young in particular; also members of the armed forces visited him, with airmen being in the majority. After a month or so, Bediuzzaman moved on to Isparta, where he stayed for some two months, until summoned to Istanbul where a court case had been opened against him due to a student of his at Istanbul University, Muhsin Alev, having had printed A Guide for Youth.
While in Isparta and Istanbul Bediuzzaman wrote a number of letters which he subsequently brought together and published as a small book under the title, A Key to the World of the Risale-i Nur.19 Before going on to describe the Guide For Youth court case in Istanbul, it is worth mentioning briefly these letters, since the small collection they form was the last piece to be added to the Risale-i Nur, and illustrate further one of the most important aspects of the Risale-i Nur; its relating science to the truths of belief as described in a previous chapter, and its showing that rather than their conflicting in any way, if considered in the light of the Qur'an, science may broaden and strengthen belief. One of the pieces included in this collection, Bediuzzaman was inspired to write by the radio. The radio, which Bediuzzaman listened to from time to time, inspired him to write a brilliant exposition of the element air and its “duties” which so decisively proves Divine Unity and disproves that ‘nature’ or ‘chance’ could have had any hand in its creation that he reckoned that the objections to A Guide for Youth, in which it was first included, stemmed from this. Indeed, explanations of Divine Unity and the other truths of belief related to science and technology in this way, Bediuzzaman was most concerned to convey to the young and his students among university and school students. To mention these letters here also redresses the balance somewhat, for while Bediuzzaman concerned himself to a greater degree the last ten years of his life with social and political matters, the essence and basis of his endeavour and its main purpose and aim was the service of the Qur'an and belief through the publication and spreading of the Risale-i Nur.
The ‘Guide for Youth’ Trial – 1952In January, 1952, Bediuzzaman went to Istanbul his first visit since he had stayed there on his way to exile twenty-seven years earlier. The previous year a number of his students at Istanbul University had had printed two thousand copies of A Guide for Youth in the new letters, as a result of which the Public Prosecutor had opened a case against Bediuzzaman. The summons came for him to attend Istanbul First Criminal Court in January, 1952. The charges, under the ‘elastic’ Article 163 of the Criminal Code, were that A Guide for Youth was “religious propaganda, which, contrary to the principle of secularism, had been written for the purpose of adapting the state system to religious principles.”20Coming from Isparta, Bediuzzaman was in court for the first hearing on 22 January, 1952. It took place on an upper floor of the Court House, which now serves as the Main Post Office. For the two months or so he was in Istanbul, Bediuzzaman stayed first in the Akshehir Palas Hotel, close to the court in Sirkeci, then he moved to the Reshadiye Hotel in the Fatih district. During his stay he was visited by a constant flood of visitors; hundreds of old friends and acquaintances, Risale-i Nur Students, some well-known figures, and many others, including large numbers of young people. The three court hearings – and particularly the second and third – attracted literally thousands. Once again the trial served to publicize Bediuzzaman and the Risale-i Nur movement in a way those who had instigated it can scarcely have wished.
The courtroom and corridors were filled to overflowing for the first hearing. The indictment and ‘experts'’ report were read, then Bediuzzaman was questioned. The matters with which Bediuzzaman was accused by the report in regard to A Guide for Youth demanded a prison sentence of five years and included matters additional to exploiting religion for political purposes, such as, “supporting religious education”, “supporting Islamic dress and conduct for women”, and “attempting to secure personal prestige and influence.”21 Three Istanbul lawyers undertook Bediuzzaman’s defence for the trial. Following Bediuzzaman’s reply, the Court was adjourned till 19 February at 2 o’clock.
In addition to this trial, Bediuzzaman was further questioned for a part of A Guide for Youth which appeared in the magazine Volkan, but since the work had been acquitted by Denizli Court in 1943, in this case the decision was taken that retrial was not permissible.22The news had got around by 19 February and from an early hour hundreds of well-wishers and Bediuzzaman’s students started to fill the Court Building in order to see Bediuzzaman and follow the proceedings. By the time Bediuzzaman and the lawyers and judges arrived the crowd was so dense inside the court that in the courtroom itself, the spectators had occupied even the space round the judges’ bench, while outside the building the buses could not pass for the throng, and were re-routed.23 In the Court the police seemed incapable of doing anything, neither was any attention paid to the judge, who ordered the crowd out. It was not till at the judge’s request, Bediuzzaman turned and made a sign that the crowd moved back out of the room and the trial could begin.24The statements of the printer who had printed A Guide for Youth and the police were heard, then Bediuzzaman’s objections to the ‘Experts’ Report. The defence lawyers criticized it in severe terms and at length. Then, on Bediuzzaman requesting permission to perform the afternoon prayers as the time was growing short, the Court was adjourned till 5 March. Bediuzzaman left amid cheers and applause and was driven to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.
When it came to 5 March the police were out in force to prevent crowds forming in the Court Building. Nevertheless the Court was packed to hear first Muhsin Alev, the student who had had the work printed, then the defence speeches of first Bediuzzaman, then his three lawyers.
Once again Bediuzzaman pointed out that what he was and had been accused of principally was “opposing the regime”, but on condition public order was not disturbed in any way, to do so could not be considered a crime. On the contrary, to oppose wrong, oppression, and unlawfulness was licit and a genuine element of justice. Secondly was the charge of disturbing public security, but six courts and in six provinces having been unable to produce any evidence for this proved that Nurju’s – Risale-i Nur Students – were preservers of the peace. As for exploiting religion for political ends, again the courts had cleared him of this and to accuse someone of over eighty years of age who was “at the door of the grave” and owned nothing in the world was entirely unjust and wrong. Bediuzzaman concluded his speech by saying:
“And so, respected judges, for twenty-eight years they have oppressed and wronged me and my students in this way. And the prosecutors in the courts did not hold back from insulting us. We met it all with patience and continued on the way of serving belief and the Qur'an. And we forgave the officials of the former regime for that tyranny and oppression of their’s, for they met the end they deserved, while we gained our rights and our freedom. We thank Almighty God for giving us this opportunity to speak these words before just and believing judges like yourselves...”25
Bediuzzaman’s three lawyers then presented their defences26 and the judges withdrew to deliberate. Their unanimous decision was announced; once again, acquittal. The announcement met with resounding applause from Bediuzzaman’s students and the spectators.27 In later years the chief judge of the case said of that day:
“He was an intelligent person. He foresaw the result of the trial from the way it was going. He did not display the slightest trace of anxiety or excitement, and was relaxed and at ease as though speaking with his friends in his house. He spoke with an Eastern accent.”28
Akshehir Palas and Reshadiye Hotels
There are numerous accounts of visits to Bediuzzaman in the Akshehir Palas and Reshadiye Hotels from among the many different people who visited him during his brief stay of two to three months. Also there are descriptions by a number of his close students, who remained with him and attended to his needs. One of these is Muhsin Alev, Bediuzzaman’s fellow-accused in the trial. He wrote that “when Ustad came to Istanbul, it was as though its entire populace poured into the Akshehir Palas Hotel. Every day hundreds of people visited him. Among them were many well-known people.” Muhsin Alev goes on to describe visits by first the famous poet and writer and producer of Büyük Dogu magazine, Necip Fazil Kisakürek,29 and then, in the Reshadiye Hotel, Osman Yüksel Serdengeçti, who wrote for and published Serdengeçti magazine.30 In fact, it was articles appearing in these and other publications of the ‘Islamic’ press such as Eshref Edip’s Sebilürreshad that had contributed to informing particularly the young educated classes about Bediuzzaman and the Risale-i Nur, and continued to do so. Muhsin Alev himself had been active in this field. One of the most descriptive of these accounts is by one of three youths, then students at Galatasaray Lycée, who had benefited from these publications. The student in question, Mehmet Shevket Eygi, himself went on to bring out various newspapers and publications in subsequent years. These three friends, who secretly read hand-written duplicated copies of the Risale-i Nur in school, decided to visit him. His description shows the modest conditions Bediuzzaman chose, even when staying in a hotel, together with the interest he showed these boys.
“We entered the small room in which Bediuzzaman was staying on the top floor of the hotel. It had a low ceiling and small windows. Ustad was sitting cross-legged on the bed, and was wearing something like a scarf of coloured material as a turban. There was a small radio made of ‘baccalite’ on a shelf on the wall. There weren’t any other things. We sat on the floor.
“Ustad spoke Turkish with an Eastern accent... He was pleased we were Galatasaray students, and spoke to us giving us advice. He dwelt particularly on the dangers of bolshevism. Communism was not all that widespread in Turkey at that time.... and it was truly great far-sightedness his perceiving that it would be such a problem for Turkey in the future....”31
Just as visits such as this led directly to increased coverage and support of Bediuzzaman and the Risale-i Nur movement in the ‘Islamic’ press, so too at this time Bediuzzaman’s Istanbul visit afforded the opportunity for a number of young Risale-i Nur Students to visit Bediuzzaman for the first time who subsequently became close students of his and among the most active members of the Risale-i Nur movement.
In his account, Muhsin Alev also describes Bediuzzaman’s trips around the city of Istanbul visiting places he had frequented in earlier days, such as the old War Ministry which now houses Istanbul University, where he faced the wrathful pashas in the Court Martial set up after the 31st March Incident in 1909.32 Another student who went to visit Bediuzzaman in the Reshadiye Hotel describes the sprightly way Bediuzzaman walked, stepping lightly up onto the pavement opposite the hotel “like a youth of twenty”, and how, when he emerged from the great Fatih Mosque after attending the prayers, he was mobbed by such a large and enthusiastic crowd, all wanting to kiss his hand, that he could only be saved by jumping into a taxi.33Nevertheless, as ever, Bediuzzaman’s enemies were not idle and a further attempt to poison him was made while staying at the Akshehir Palas Hotel in Sirkeci. The incident was described by Ibrahim Fakazli, one of Bediuzzaman’s students from Inebolu, who had taken over the night in question from Muhsin, Zübeyir, and Ziya Arun. Poison was thrown in Bediuzzaman’s food, which he had left outside the window to cool. When he understood what had happened, he raised the Hotel staff, and it was learnt that among the occupants of the adjacent room was an Armenian ‘Tashnak’ militant. He was caught and confessed to Bediuzzaman that he had come that day from Edirne with the intention of carrying out the cowardly crime. Ibrahim Fakazli witnessed this.34EmirdagBediuzzaman returned to Emirdag soon after the acquittals in March of 1952, writing in a letter that much as he wanted to meet with his many friends who wished to visit him, due to his age, ill health and weakness from poison, so long as it was not essential, he no longer had the strength and could not speak much. “However”, he wrote,
“I tell you certainly that each part of the Risale-i Nur is a Said. Whichever part you look at you will benefit ten times more than meeting me in the person, and also you will have met with me in true fashion.”35
Again on his return to Emirdag Bediuzzaman was subject to unlawful harassment,
which led to a further court case. This time it was at the hands of some
gendarmes and concerned his dress. One day in the month of Ramazan, which
in 1952 began towards the end of May, Bediuzzaman went out of the town
into the surrounding country to take some exercise. Though alone, he was
followed by three gendarmes and a sergeant, who, when he was sitting alone
in the hills, approached him and told him to remove his turban and put
on a hat. They then forcibly took him back to Emirdag to the police station.As
a result of this entirely arbitrary infringement of his liberty, Bediuzzaman
wrote a petition to the Justice and Interior Ministries in Ankara by way
of a complaint, wanting his students in Ankara to give copies also to sympathetic
Deputies. One of his students there sent a copy also to a newspaper printed
in Samsun called Büyük Jihad. On the newspaper
printing the petition, the Samsun Public Prosecutor opened proceedings
against Bediuzzaman, and a summons arrived in Emirdag ordering him to appear
in Samsun Criminal Court. Bediuzzaman wrote a reply referring them to his
extensive and unrefuted defences of five previous cases since they were
repeating the same old charges.36 He also obtained medical reports stating
he was unfit to travel. In the meantime, on 22 November, 1952, the ‘Malatya
Incident’ occurred, in which an attempt was made on the life of a well-known
journalist, Ahmet Emin Yalman. It was blown up out of all proportion by
the leftist press, and finally the Government bowed to pressure and closed
down Islamic newspapers and arrested many supporters of religion. Among
these were the Büyük Jihad and its owner, and also
Bediuzzaman’s close student Mustafa Sungur, who was in Samsun and had also
had an article published in the paper. Mustafa Sungur was held in Samsun
Prison and first convicted and sentenced to one and a half years, much
to Bediuzzaman’s wrath,37 but the Appeal Court subsequently
reversed the decision, and on the Court reconvening, was acquitted.38Samsun
Public Prosecutor insisted on Bediuzzaman’s attending the Court to answer
the charges against him, so finally the seventy-five-year-old Bediuzzaman
decided to make the journey. He reached Istanbul, but here was taken ill
and obtaining further medical reports requested to be permitted to give
his defence in Istanbul Criminal Court. Once again the case resulted in
acquittal. However, it served as a cause to bring Bediuzzaman to Istanbul
a second time, and on this occasion he stayed three months.
The Pakistan Deputy Education Minister’s Visit
Before describing Bediuzzaman’s stay in Istanbul, there are one or two events which occurred previously and should not go unmentioned. One of these was the unofficial visit to Bediuzzaman of the Deputy Education Minister in the Pakistan Government, Seyyid Ali Akbar Shah, who was on an official visit to Turkey. This visit was made at the suggestion of the Turkish Education Minister, Tevfik Ileri, and occurred according to Bediuzzaman’s student who accompanied him, in 1952. Bediuzzaman describes the visit in a letter congratulating those he was writing to on the occasion of the Prophet (PBUH)’s birthday, which that year fell on 28 November.39In Salih Özcan’s description of the visit, Bediuzzaman requested him to act as interpreter, since their common language was Arabic.
Bediuzzaman explained the Risale-i Nur and its method of service to his visitor, but when the discussion became more complex, Salih Özcan had difficulty in interpreting. “Whereupon”, he writes, “Bediuzzaman straightened himself up onto his knees [on the bed on which he sat] and began to speak in the most eloquent Arabic. I had never before heard spoken such fluent and eloquent Arabic.”
The Deputy Minister was exceedingly pleased at the visit and spoke his appreciation in the most fulsome terms on returning to the hotel they had put up at in Emirdag, wanting to visit Bediuzzaman again in the morning before leaving. Bediuzzaman did not consent to the second visit. However, as the bus they were to take to Ankara was about to leave, Bediuzzaman appeared to see the Minister off, and travelled in the bus some seven or eight kilometres sitting next to the minister before alighting. Ali Akbar Shah was most happy at this. In Ankara, he addressed a gathering of university students on the subject of Bediuzzaman and the Risale-i Nur, and on returning to Pakistan did much to make them known. He had in fact invited Bediuzzaman to Pakistan offering him access to all the media, but Bediuzzaman replied that “the front” was in Turkey, since the fundamental sickness had started there.40 Seyyid Ali Akbar Shah was subsequently appointed Rector of Sind University and together with corresponding with the Risale-i Nur Students in Turkey, continued to serve the cause of the Risale-i Nur.41During the 1950’s the Risale-i Nur found numerous new Students and readers in many different parts of the world, including Pakistan. The last section of Bediuzzaman’s ‘official’ biography, first published during his lifetime in 1958, is devoted to these developments and includes letters from Risale-i Nur Students from as far afield as Finland and Washington, as well as various Islamic countries. Articles began to appear in such countries as Iraq42 and Pakistan.43 Also some of Bediuzzaman’s students travelled to foreign countries for the purpose of making known the Risale-i Nur and establishing relations, for example, to the Hijaz, Syria, and Iran.44 In 1954 Bediuzzaman sent his close student Muhsin Alev to Germany,45 to have printed there the ‘miraculous’ Qur'an, since repeated attempts to have it printed in Turkey had come to nothing. He remained in Berlin, actively serving the cause of the Risale-i Nur. Bediuzzaman previously had sent to Germany the collection, Zülfikar, and other parts of the Risale-i Nur, which met with a good reception.46 Bediuzzaman also received visits from religious scholars and figures from the Islamic world.47 Links were reforged as one of his ultimate aims began to be realized: the renewal and strengthening of relations between Muslims in Turkey and in other parts of the world by means of the Risale-i Nur. In fact it was Selahaddin Çelebi from Inebolu who, with Bediuzzaman’s permission, in 1950 sent Zülfikar to the Imam of Berlin Mosque. He also sent copies to al-Azhar in Egypt, the Pakistani ambassador, and to the Pope in Rome. In response to this last, Bediuzzaman received a letter of thanks from the Vatican dated 22 February, 1951.48 As has been pointed out previously, although Bediuzzaman always upheld and struggled for the independence of the Islamic world against the West and the maintenance of its cultural integrity, he foresaw the co-operation of Islam and sincere Christians in the face of aggressive atheism.49 It is in this light also that Bediuzzaman’s visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Istanbul, Patriarch Athenagoras, should be seen, which he made during his visit to Istanbul in the spring and summer of 1953.50IstanbulBediuzzaman came to Istanbul from Emirdag, probably between the 20th and 25th April, 1953,51 on his way to Samsun. He stayed first in the Marmara Palas Hotel in Bayezit, then stayed one night in Çamlica on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, after which he moved to Üsküdar, where he stayed three nights. Finally, on the invitation of one of his young students in Istanbul, Mehmet Firinci, Bediuzzaman moved to his house in the Draman district, close to Fatih. The family moved to another house next to their bakery, and being unable to complete his journey, Bediuzzaman stayed three months in their modest, but pleasant, old wooden house. It was exactly what he had been looking for.52Beside obtaining medical reports and then making his defence in Istanbul Criminal Court,53 Bediuzzaman attended the celebrations marking the five hundredth anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmed in 1453 during his stay, received many visitors, and was able to make excursions by bus around Istanbul. He also wrote a number of important letters, one of which on the radio was included in A Key to the World of the Risale-i Nur. Another letter, described as a fruit of Bediuzzaman’s trips in and around Istanbul, reflects his attitude towards modern life and its encouragement of wastefulness, extravagance, and idleness. Part of it is included here:
“.... Since modern Western civilization acts contrary to the fundamental laws of the revealed religions, its evils have come to outweigh its good aspects, its errors and harmful aspects its benefits; and general tranquillity and a happy worldly life, the true aims of civilization, have been destroyed. And since wastefulness and extravagance have taken the place of frugality and contentment, and laziness and the desire for ease have overcome endeavour and the sense of service, it has made unfortunate mankind both extremely poor and extremely lazy. In explaining the fundamental law of the revealed Qur'an: Eat and drink, but waste not in excess,54 and, Man possesses naught save that which he strives,55 the Risale-i Nur says: Man’s happiness in this life lies in frugality and endeavour, and it is through them that the rich and poor will be reconciled. I shall here make one or two brief points in accordance with this explanation.
“The First: In the nomadic stage, man needed only three or four things, and it was only two out of ten who could not obtain them. But now, through wastefulness, misuse, stimulating the appetites, and such things as custom and addiction, present-day civilization has made inessential needs seem essential, and in place of the four things of which he used to be in need, modern civilized man is now in need of twenty. And it is only two out of twenty who can satisfy those needs in a totally licit way. Eighteen remain in need in some way....“Second Point: Since the wonders of modern civilization are each a Dominical bounty, they require real thanks and to be utilized for the benefit of mankind. But now we see that since they have encouraged a significant number of people to be lazy and indulge in vice, and have given them the wish to heed their desires in ease and comfort, they have destroyed these people’s eagerness for effort and endeavour. And by way of dissatisfaction and extravagance, they have driven them to dissipation, wastefulness, tyranny, and what is unlawful.
“For example, as it says in A Key to the World of the Risale-i Nur, although the radio is a great bounty and demands thanks in the form of being used for the good of mankind, since four fifths of it are used on stimulating desires and unnecessary, meaningless trivia, it has encouraged idleness and depravity, and destroyed the eagerness for work...
“In Short: Since modern Western civilization has not truly heeded the revealed religions, it has both impoverished man and increased his needs. It has destroyed the principle of frugality and contentment, and increased wastefulness, greed, and covetousness. It has opened the way to tyranny and what is unlawful. And through encouraging people to take advantage of the means of dissipation, it has cast those needy unfortunates into total laziness. It has destroyed the desire for effort and work. It has encouraged depravity and dissipation, and wasted their lives on useless things. Furthermore, it has made those needy and lazy people ill. Through abuse and prodigality, it has been the means of spreading a hundred sorts of diseases.”56
During Bediuzzaman’s stay in Istanbul, an English orientalist came to Istanbul University for the purpose of giving a series of lectures. Muhsin Alev, who was about to graduate from the Philosophy Department, and Ziya Arun, attended the first of them. The visiting orientalist proceeded to deny the Qur'anic verses stating there are “seven heavens”,57 saying that today astronomy had made great advances and no seven “layers” have been found in the skies or in space; the verse was therefore contrary to science. Muhsin Alev and Ziya Arun went to Bediuzzaman and told him of this, whereat he compiled a letter on the subject, from pieces taken from the Risale-i Nur, and the following day they went to the university and distributed copies of it before the lecture. It was read to the orientalist, who as a result cut short his lecture that day and abandoned his remaining one’s.58That year there were tremendous celebrations for the five hundredth anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul. These reached their climax on 29 May, with the Mehter bands, the traditional military bands of the Ottoman Armies, marching in traditional dress and playing original instruments from Topkapi at the city walls to Fatih. The population of Istanbul turned out to watch and follow them. The culmination was a ceremony at the great mosque in Fatih where Fatih Sultan Mehmet’s tomb is situated. Here a platform had been erected outside the mosque and tiers of benches for the spectators. When Bediuzzaman arrived he was given a seat on the platform next to the Governor of Istanbul,59 from where he followed the proceedings with real pleasure, particularly the Mehter bands.60Although Bediuzzaman was now theoretically free now to go where he pleased, he was still constantly watched and followed by the police. Mehmet Firinci describes how they were alarmed at losing his traces when he first arrived in Istanbul. After Bediuzzaman moved to the house in Draman, there was a policeman permanently posted in front of the house. They told Mehmet Firinci, who was questioned at length at Bediuzzaman’s staying in his house, “We are responsible for him and have to protect him.”61 One of Bediuzzaman’s visitors there, the chairman of the local branch of the Millet Party, Hüseyin Cahid Payazaga, relates how a chief inspector had been assigned the job of watching the house and noting down all who visited it. Bediuzzaman was followed by police even when going to the mosque, or when making his excursions. Payazaga also writes that they were frightened of Bediuzzaman’s going to Aya Sophia at the time of the Conquest celebrations, for there were rumours that he was going to walk there from Fatih.62 In fact, as the writer Münir Çapanoglu wrote, the reason the authorities perpetually drove Bediuzzaman from exile to exile and prison to prison was that they were frightened of him. “They were frightened of Said Nursi... of his person, of his ideology, of the fact he would raise to life the Islamic cause... from the time of the Constitutional Revolution and ever after...”63Of the many recollections of Bediuzzaman at this time, the following two may also be mentioned. Hüseyin Payazaga recalls how in Draman was a non-Muslim Greek grocer and it was there Bediuzzaman used to do his shopping. Dimitrios as he was called used to show Bediuzzaman great respect. He told Payazaga: “You do not know who this person is. If he was in Greece, they would make him a house out of gold.”64 Muhsin Alev also relates how one day they went to Bakirköy to what was then open countryside to take some air, and there a Christian from Beyrut called Suleyman hurried up to Bediuzzaman. Bediuzzaman did not turn the man away, but talked with him for a while, even accepting the coffee he gave him.65It was the month of Ramazan while Bediuzzaman was in Istanbul, and Mehmet Firinci notes that Bediuzzaman did not sleep for the whole month, spending the nights in worship and prayer while continuing his usual daily activities of reading the Risale-i Nur and teaching his students, correcting proofs, receiving visitors, and so on. At night the local people would gather in the house opposite to watch Bediuzzaman, as he continued his worship in bright electric light till the morning. On their finally closing the windows, the people objected saying, “Why have you closed them, we too were reciting our prayers and supplications along the Hojaefendi?”66
Bediuzzaman returned to Emirdag towards the end of July, and after one week moved to the Yildiz Hotel in Eskishehir. Then in August, again towards the end of the month, travelled to Isparta. Here, after staying one week in the hotel of one of his students, Nuri Benli, he moved to the rented house which, although he continued to return to Emirdag and Eskishehir for visits, now became his base. Indeed, he loved Isparta above all places and wanted to spend his last years there among his numerous students. The house he took had garden on two sides and was also spacious, with sufficient rooms for both himself and those of his students who now stayed permanently with him.
Bediuzzaman’s now having four or five of his closest students living with him was an important change in the way he had ordered his life over many years. It had also been his unchanging rule to admit no one into his room from sunset, the time of the evening prayers, till the following morning, and had had his door locked on both the outside and the inside. Now his students, most usually Zübeyir Gündüzalp, Tahiri Mutlu, Mustafa Sungur, Bayram Yüksel, and Ceylan Çaliskan saw to his personal needs, and were allowed to enter his room if the need arose. Nevertheless, it was still Bediuzzaman’s practice to be constantly occupied, and their room and activities remained separate. Thus, on the one hand they saw to all his needs, for Bediuzzaman was now approaching eighty years of age, and on the other, he was training these students in the way of the Risale-i Nur for their important future roles in the movement.
It was at this time that Bediuzzaman starting holding readings and study of the Risale-i Nur (ders) as a group. This practice was followed by Risale-i Nur Students all over the country and became the hallmark and central feature of the Risale-i Nur movement. Bediuzzaman and his students held these readings after the morning prayers and very often they would continue for as much as five or six hours. All present would read out loud in turn from one of the books of the Risale-i Nur, and Bediuzzaman would explain and illustrate it. Bayram Yüksel, who has provided the most details of these years, writes that Bediuzzaman “had the energy and youth of someone of twenty, growing younger the more he read”, while his young students did not have the endurance to keep going for that length of time.67In his account,68 Bayram Yüksel gives many personal details about Bediuzzaman, about his food, his dress and his cleanliness, the awe-inspiring manner in which he performed the five daily prayers – always just as the time for each had been entered, how he was never idle, the importance he attached to the prompt and efficient carrying out of any matter in hand, and to the correction of proofs and hand-written copies of the Risale-i Nur. He describes his extreme frugality, and also his kindness to animals. In connection with this last he writes that when going for excursions in the countryside, Bediuzzaman would study ‘the Great Book of the Universe’, and urge them to study it. He had affection for all creatures and extraordinary compassion for them. This interest and compassion extended to all the creatures they encountered from dogs to ants. He also tells of how in the house in Isparta, which was a traditional house made of wood, the mice used to eat all the books and papers they put in the loft for safekeeping except copies of the Risale-i Nur. Bediuzzaman used to say that the mice would not harm them, and indeed they did not. Bayram Yüksel goes on to say that he witnessed many things of this nature, but that he did not record them as Bediuzzaman did not wish attention to be drawn to kerametler, or his powers of this sort.
In 1954, Bediuzzaman returned to Barla, his first visit since he had left there twenty years earlier, and wept with emotion as he entered his first ‘Risale-i Nur Medrese’, where he had lived for eight years, and saw the mighty plane tree which stands outside it, for it was here and in the gardens and mountains of Barla that the greater part of the Risale-i Nur had been written.69
With Bediuzzaman’s increasing years these trips became difficult for him, and every day he felt the need to go out into the countryside to take the fresh air. So finally in 1955 his leading students from Isparta, Inebolu, and Emirdag clubbed together and bought first a jeep, and then, when it was seen this was too uncomfortable for Bediuzzaman on the rough roads of that time, they exchanged it for a 1953 Chevrolet. This he then used for his remaining years.70
The Publishing of the Risale-i Nur and Other Activities
Prior to the final Afyon Court decision in 1956 to return all the confiscated copies of the Risale-i Nur, hand-written copies continued to be reproduced on duplicating machines in Isparta and Inebolu. These were still for the most part in the Ottoman script. In Ankara and other places young Risale-i Nur Students also reproduced copies, some of which were in the new letters, but this was on a small scale. An important part of the work now was also reproduction of the Bediuzzaman’s letters – the Lahika or Additional Letters. Up to 1953 these were copied out onto waxed paper by Hüsrev in Isparta, and then taken to the village of Sav, where they were duplicated and then distributed countrywide. The large collections, also duplicated there, were sent to Istanbul to be bound, then returned in book form. The Risale-i Nur Students, and particularly Hüsrev, were constantly watched by the police. They still had to act with extreme circumspection, always on the alert against possible raids and harassment of other sorts.71
Following Bediuzzaman’s visit to Istanbul in 1953, young Risale-i Nur Students including Mehmet Firinci in whose house Bediuzzaman had stayed, formed themselves into a group and by degrees undertook similar activities for the publishing and distribution of the Risale-i Nur as far as their limited means allowed. Finally they were given the use of a house near the Süleymaniye Mosque where they were able to install duplicating machines, all in the greatest secrecy. This house became the first ‘Risale-i Nur Study Centre’ (dershane) in Istanbul, and these students also formed the nucleus of Risale-i Nur Students in Istanbul, holding the communal readings of the Risale-i Nur in many places throughout the city and with groups of people from all walks of life.72
Bediuzzaman attached the greatest importance to these activities, particularly to the publication. He himself correcting copies, and after they were printed, the proofs. Those in the new letters, he would correct together with one of his students. It often happened that when out in the country he would suddenly decide to return, and he and his students would find one of the Istanbul or Ankara students awaiting him with proofs to be corrected. Bediuzzaman would immediately correct them and do nothing else till they were completed. Bediuzzaman also gave much importance to these young students, most of whom were well-educated, reading to them and teaching them from the Risale-i Nur and encouraging them to study it.
Bediuzzaman was seeing now the fruition of the labours of thirty years of exile, imprisonment, and torment. Especially after the Risale-i Nur began to be printed on modern presses in the new letters at the end of 1956 or 1957 in Ankara and Istanbul, he declared: “Now is the time of the Risale-i Nur’s festival. My duty is finished. This is the time I have long waited for. Now I can go.” He was so filled with joy, he could not stop in one place, wanting to all the time make excursions to Egridir and its lake, to Barla, and to all the many places of beauty around Isparta, whether by horse, donkey, or car.73
Firstly, Bediuzzaman had wanted the Prime Minister, Menderes, to print the Risale-i Nur officially, and one of the Isparta Deputies, Dr. Tahsin Tola, had approached him on the matter. Menderes had great respect for Bediuzzaman and had met the suggestion favourably, telling Dr. Tola to organize it through the Directorate of Religious Affairs. The attempt did not get further than that, however, and it was at that point that Bediuzzaman instructed his students to have it printed.74 Dr. Tola was able to secure the paper through the Democrat Government, at a time of shortage, and first of all they had printed Sözler, The Words. Taking advantage of his parliamentary immunity, Tahsin Tola then supervised the sending of it to Istanbul to be bound. The Risale-i Nur Students still worked under constant fear of police intervention. Following this, the other main collections of The Flashes (Lem’alar), and Letters (Mektûbat) were printed.75 At the same time, the Students in Istanbul started printing, with ten thousand copies of The Short Words, two thousand five hundred of which they immediately posted to various places in Anatolia. Also printed were five thousand A Letter to Women.76
In 1958 a number of Bediuzzaman’s close students, primarily Mustafa Sungur and Zübeyir, prepared Bediuzzaman’s ‘official’ biography. Wanting attention to be focussed on the Risale-i Nur, Bediuzzaman cut out most of the sections describing his personal life and exploits. On its being printed, after discussions as to whether or not there should be photographs, none were included, but on Bediuzzaman’s indication a number were later added.77
Bediuzzaman gave importance to translations during these years, both from Turkish into Arabic – to further spread the Risale-i Nur in the Islamic world, and of the Arabic parts of it into Turkish. While he himself translated the Damascus Sermon into Turkish in 1951, his younger brother Abdülmecid, who was then Mufti of Ürgüp near Kayseri, translated The Staff of Moses Collection into Arabic at Bediuzzaman’s suggestion. Bediuzzaman wanted to interest many quarters in this work.78 Later, in 1955 Abdülmecid translated Bediuzzaman’s Qur'anic commentary written during the First World War, Signs of Miraculousness (Ishârâtü’l-I’jaz), and his Mesnevî-i Nuriye, from Arabic into Turkish.79 The Turkish translation of Ishârâtü’l-I’jaz was then printed in Ankara in the new letters, that is, the Latin alphabet.The Risale-i Nur’s ‘Positive’ Method of Service
and Relations with the Democrat Government
Even if still under threat of police action, the legal and open printing of the Risale-i Nur was a tremendous victory for Bediuzzaman and his students over those who for thirty years had employed every means to eliminate and silence them, and vindicated the method of service they had followed and adhered to. The Risale-i Nur and its way of ‘positive action’, the patient and silent struggle to save and strengthen belief in God and the other truths of religion by peaceful means – primarily that of the written word – and non-involvement in politics had prevailed over the forces seeking to eradicate Islam and extinguish belief, and by creating anarchy in society, to destroy it and subjugate the Turkish nation to communism and irreligion. The unique function of the Risale-i Nur in the renewal of belief and revitalization of Islam demanded this method, which had few counterparts in the Islamic world, where attempts to serve Islam were often by ‘direct’, violent, or political methods.
As described in the Introduction to the present chapter, the way of the Risale-i Nur was peaceful jihad or ‘jihad of the word’ (mânevî jihad) in the struggle against aggressive atheism and irreligion. By working solely for the spread and strengthening of belief, it was to work also for the preservation of internal order and peace and stability in society in the face of the moral and spiritual destruction of communism and the forces of irreligion which aimed to destabilize society and create anarchy, and to form “a barrier” against them. Since the Democrat Party also understood the dangers which these posed and took a positive stand against them, and furthermore took steps to strengthen Islam, Bediuzzaman described the Democrats as “assisting” the Risale-i Nur Students in their struggle and offered them their support. And he himself gave them advice and guidance on these matters from time to time.
Thus, since, unlike many groups and individuals who mistakenly aimed to further the cause of Islam by ‘negative’ means the Risale-i Nur Students followed this ‘positive’ method, the Democrat Government took a lenient attitude towards them, permitting the open publication of the Risale-i Nur after it had been cleared by Afyon Court in 1956 and not attempting to repress the movement. In view of these facts, Bediuzzaman continued to support the Democrats, and in particular the Prime Minister, Menderes, throughout the ten years they were in power, and in the face of the opposition Menderes faced from all quarters including some Islamic and religious quarters also urged his students to support them. Indeed, Menderes and the Government had to sustain opposition of the most vengeful and ruthless kind from the ousted Republican People’s Party and particularly its leader, Ismet Inönü. This support was despite Bediuzzaman and the Risale-i Nur Students continuing to be subject to various sorts of harassment at the hands of certain officials – mostly supporters of the RPP – and to be called up before the law, and also despite the fact that the Democrats were, in Bediuzzaman’s words, “the lesser of two evils” and that among them were individuals who could not be considered sympathetic towards religion. For Menderes and others of his Government who were sincere Muslims performed great services for the cause of Islam and did much to reverse the harm of the quarter century of RPP rule, so that despite the army coup which overthrew him two months after Bediuzzaman’s death in 1960, and subsequent coups, the religious freedoms he returned to the Turkish people were not subsequently lost and made possible the future blossoming of Islam, in which the Risale-i Nur played such an important part. They also afforded Turkish society sufficient strength and solidity to withstand the current of anarchy which grew and gained strength through out the nineteen sixties and seventies following the overthrow. In fact, Bediuzzaman told Giyaseddin Emre, elected as Independent Deputy for Mus to the National Assembly in 1954, who visited Bediuzzaman on numerous occasions:
“Adnan Menderes is a champion of religion; he has performed great services for religion and will perform [more]. But he won’t see the fruits of this that he wishes. I too have performed services for religion, I can’t conceal it, and like Adnan Bey, I also won’t see the results. The fruits of both will become apparent in the future.”80
Bediuzzaman’s Support for the Baghdad Pact and CENTO
It is in the light of this ‘positive’ attitude towards the Democrats of Bediuzzaman and the Risale-i Nur movement, and in those often difficult and hostile conditions their always aiming to draw them with advice and guidance towards further, more far-reaching measures favouring Islam and religion that Bediuzzaman’s letter of support for the Baghdad Pact should be seen. Indeed, this method of service enabled the movement to emerge as a significant force within the country, although the Risale-i Nur Students themselves did not participate in politics. Also Bediuzzaman’s support for the Pact shows his support of Turkey and the Islamic countries joining the Western alliance against the threat of communism, as is mentioned the Introduction to this chapter.
The Baghdad Pact was firstly signed in February, 1955, between Turkey and Iraq, and was subsequently joined by Pakistan, Iran, and Britain. In connection with this agreement Bediuzzaman wrote a letter of congratulation81 to Menderes and the President, Celâl Bayar, applauding the move as a necessary first step towards securing peace in the area, and as someone who had studied its problems for some fifty-five years, he pointed out the two solutions he had found.
Bediuzzaman supported Turkey’s agreement with Iraq and the other Muslim countries in the Baghdad Pact primarily because it realigned her with the Islamic world and was a step towards re-establishing close relations between Turkey and the Arab world, which had been virtually non-existent since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. Islamic Unity of a non-political nature was a source of strength for Turkey, particularly against communism and irreligion, which he encouraged Menderes and the Democrats to work for and benefit from in a number of letters.82
In the letter he wrote concerning the Pact, Bediuzzaman explained that the greatest danger for the area lay in racialism. Just as it had caused great harm to the Muslim peoples in the past, so again at that time there were signs that it was being exploited by “covert atheists” in order to destroy Islamic brotherhood and prevent the Muslim nations uniting. Whereas the true nationality or nationhood of both Turks and Arabs was Islam; their Arabness and Arab nationality and Turkishness had fused with Islam. The new alliance would repulse the danger of racialism, and besides gaining for the Turkish nation “four hundred million brothers”, it would also gain for them the “friendship of eight hundred million Christians.” That is to say, Bediuzzaman saw it as an important step towards general peace and reconciliation, of which all were in such need.
The two solutions Bediuzzaman had found on learning of the explicit threats to the Qur'an, Islam, and the Islamic world some sixty years previously had been the Risale-i Nur and his Eastern University, the Medresetü’z-Zehra. Both were effective and important means of establishing Islamic Unity. The Risale-i Nur served to develop “the brotherhood of belief” through the unparalleled way it served to strengthen belief; it was already demonstrating this throughout the Islamic world and beyond. So too it had defeated atheistic philosophy and other means of corruption. Thus, Bediuzzaman called on the President and Prime Minister to use the means at their disposal to make the Risale-i Nur, “this manifestation of the Qur'an’s miraculousness”, better known to the Islamic world.
As for the Medresetü’z-Zehra, Bediuzzaman intended for it to play the central and unifying role in Asia that al-Azhar performs in Africa. Besides combatting racialism and nationalism by acting as a centre of learning and attracting students from “Arabia, India, Iran, Caucasia, Turkistan, and Kurdistan” and thus contributing to the development of a sense of “Islamic nationhood”, this large Islamic university would also “reconcile the sciences of philosophy and those of religion, and make peace between European civilization and the truths of Islam.” And thus unifying secular and religious education, would be both a modern secular school and a religious school. As has been described in previous chapters, Bediuzzaman received money at various times for its construction, but due to the vicissitudes of the times, the project could not be realized.
Doubtless the main reason for Bediuzzaman’s mentioning the Medresetü’z-Zehra in his letter was that the new President, Celâl Bayar, had announced in a speech in Van in 1951 that the Democrat Government planned to build a university there in Eastern Turkey. Bediuzzaman had met the announcement with great gratification, equating it with his Medresetü’z-Zehra, and writing to inform his students of it under the heading “Some Important Good News for Risale-i Nur Students”.83 And again in the present letter, he applauded the President’s move, both for Turkey as a whole, and the east of the country, and as “a foundation stone of general peace in the Middle East.” Only Bediuzzaman stressed that for it to perform this vital function, the sciences of religion should be taken as the basis of the university. For “the destruction” was caused by external forces and was not of a physical nature, but was “moral and spiritual” (mânevî). What would counter and reverse the destruction also had to be of a moral and spiritual nature, “of the strength of an atom bomb”. As a specialist on these matters of some fifty-five years’ standing, Bediuzzaman had the right to speak concerning them.
It may be added that although the Government completed the project and the Eastern University was opened in November, 1958, it was built in Erzurum, not Van, and given the name, Ataturk University. The campaign the RPP and some newspapers conducted against the Government protesting that it was “building Said Nursi’s Medrese” may have had some bearing on this.
In connection with the Baghdad Pact, it might also be mentioned that Bediuzzaman’s students who were with him at the time of the revolution in Iraq, 14 July 1958, have recorded his extreme distress at the events there. This was not only at the brutal killings, many of the victims of which were descendents of the Prophet (PBUH), but also because the revolution “put a bomb to the auspicious developments” of the Pact and the moves towards Islamic Unity and co-operation. However it is apparent from a statement Bediuzzaman made on the fourth day after the revolution that he expected unity on a broader scale to result from such actions on the behalf of communism and unbelief, for he said:
“I was expecting Germany, Japan, India, Pakistan, America, and the Islamic world to strike together against absolute unbelief. It means the time has not yet come.”84
Other Matters on which the Third Said
Addressed the Democrats
It was because from time to time Bediuzzaman concerned himself with matters such as the Baghdad Pact that these last ten years of his life are known as the period of the Third Said. The favourable attitude towards Islam of Menderes and a number of Democrats prompted Bediuzzaman to put forward to them certain key principles which would counter the destructive moves made by “those who exploited politics for the cause of irreligion” and establish unity and harmony in society and solidarity with the Islamic world. In order to understand better this endeavour on the part of Bediuzzaman, and also the opposition he continued to receive from the RPP and the enemies of religion, which demonstrated their fear of him and his penetrating analyses of the situation, it is worth recalling briefly the nature of the struggle.
The basis of the argument that had now been continuing in Turkey for over a century and a half had been over what was necessary firstly to save the Ottoman Empire, and then when the Empire collapsed, to set Turkey on the road to progress and prosperity. Simply, on the one hand, there had been those who had favoured Westernization and adopting ‘man-made’ philosophy of some sort as the ideological basis of the State and society. While on the other, there were those who believed that religion, Islam, was the source of true civilization. Among these some, like Bediuzzaman, stated that it was necessary to take science and technology from the West but nothing else. Thus, in this struggle between ‘philosophy’ and ‘religion’, Westernization and Islam, which had turned into a battle between belief and unbelief and had been so bitter in Turkey, Bediuzzaman had dedicated his life to proving that Islam and religion were superior to Western philosophy and civilization, and that mankind’s happiness and salvation were to be found only in them. In numerous places in the Risale-i Nur, Bediuzzaman proves and demonstrates this in the context of belief. Now to return to the Third Said, primarily by means of letters to Menderes and the Democrats, Bediuzzaman diagnosed some of the ills in the socio-political situation of that time, pointed out both their source and origin in philosophy, and their possible dire consequences, and at the same time, the remedies, which were in the form of basic principles taken from the Qur'an or Hadiths. The following is a brief example.
The “fundamental law”, as Bediuzzaman called these basic Islamic principles, that he most often put forward was the Qur'anic verse: No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another,85 which he used in its meaning of “No one is answerable for another’s faults or errors.”86 He frequently used this principle in different contexts as the solution for various ills in society resulting from the adoption of Western principles.
In one letter, Bediuzzaman wrote that the reason he had altogether given up politics for nearly forty years was that contrary to the basic principle of the above-mentioned verse, one of the most basic principles of “human politics”, that is, politics and diplomacy based on principles taken from “philosophy” of some sort rather than divinely revealed religion, was, “Individuals may be sacrificed for the good of the nation and society. Everything may be sacrificed for the sake of the country.” This “fundamental human law” had resulted in appalling crimes throughout history, including the two World Wars this century, which had “overturned a thousand years of human progress”, and had given the licence for the annihilation of ninety innocents on account of ten criminals. Whereas the verse taught the principle that no one was responsible for another’s crimes. And no innocent person could be sacrificed without his consent, even for the whole of humanity. It establishes true justice for man.87
The main context in which Bediuzzaman advises the adoption of the “fundamental law”, No bearer of burdens can bear the burdens of another, is in connection with the extreme partisanship among supporters of the various political parties which was then being “implanted” in Turkish life. He describes the dire social consequences of this partisanship as firstly completely destroying love and brotherhood, the foundations of unity and consensus. Moreover, through clashing, the three or four opposing forces or parties lose their power, so that the power that remains is insufficient to secure what is beneficial to the country and maintain internal order and security. This partisanship could even therefore allow the seeds of revolution to become established. So too the resulting weakness prepares the ground for foreign intervention. The above-mentioned Qur'anic principle with its meaning, “No one is responsible for the mistakes of another. Even if it is his brother, or tribe, or group, or party, one cannot be considered guilty because of another’s crime. Even if he gives it his moral support, he will only be answerable in the hereafter, not in this world”, prevents extreme partisanship. It should be taken as the rule of conduct along with other “basic principles”, such as Indeed, the believers are brothers,88 and, Hold firm to God’s rope, all together, and be not divided among yourselves.89
Bediuzzaman also examined this same question in connection with “the accusation of [political] reaction (irtija’)”, which ever since the 31st March Incident in 1909 had been a favourite means of attacking religion by “those who make politics the tool of irreligion.” It was continually used against Menderes and the Democrats throughout their ten years in power, by the RPP and Inönü in particular. It will be recalled how an outcry of “reaction” was raised against Bediuzzaman and his students by the RPP in 1934 before the Eskishehir trials. The newspapers were the usual means of these campaigns being carried out. And the imaginary ‘bogey’ of political reaction was even given as the reason for Menderes’ shameful and inexcusable execution in 1961. In connection with the matter in question, Bediuzzaman points out that the truth had been turned on its head, for those who attack religion in the name of civilization by making accusations of political reaction are in reality the reactionaries. Because, for example, the ‘human’ principle which allows individuals to be sacrificed for the good of society, permits minor wrongs when it comes to the good of the state, and has led to whole villages being wiped out on account of one criminal, and so on. And in the First World War, thirty million unfortunates perished on account of the criminal political mistakes of three thousand. Those who supported a barbaric principle which thus destroys the well-being, justice, and peace of mankind are retrogressing to a barbarism of former times. Yet, these true reactionaries pose as patriots and accuse of political reaction those who work to secure unity and brotherhood through Qur'anic principles such as those mentioned above, which are the means to true justice and progress.90
Another “fundamental Islamic law” which Bediuzzaman advised Menderes
and the Democrats to adopt was taken from the Hadith, “A nation’s ruler
is its servant.” Because, Bediuzzaman wrote, “At this time, due to the
lack of Islamic training and weakness in worship, egotism has been strengthened,
and tin-pot dictators have multiplied.” That is to say, under the former
regime, which aimed to substitute Western civilization for Islam, as a
bribe to its supporters, positions in government and the administration
ceased being service and became a means of domination and despotism. Everyone’s
rights were trampled on and justice was completely destroyed.91
As early as 1952, Bediuzzaman warned Menderes that these discountenanced
officials, many of whom remained in their positions after 1950 but were
compelled by the Democrats to serve the nation rather than oppressing and
exploiting it, formed a current of opposition ready to attack the Democrats.
A second current was the racialist nationalists.92 In fact,
both played an important role in the Democrats’ overthrow.
Further Victories and the Struggle Continues
The struggle between these various forces continued. Rather, it grew fiercer and more intense. On the one hand, the struggle between Inönü and the RPP against Menderes grew fiercer the longer the Democrat Party remained in power and introduced measures favouring Islam, and so too in the face of the spread and successes of the Risale-i Nur, supporters of the former regime, still powerful in the police, judiciary, and administrative structure, used their positions to increase pressure on the Risale-i Nur Students. There were further court cases, a campaign of vilification in the press against Bediuzzaman and his students, and Bediuzzaman himself was held under closer surveillance.
Following the general elections of October, 1957, which the Democrats again won though with a decreased majority, the opposition increased their campaign against the Government, which by 1959 had degenerated into the open incitement of disturbances throughout the country.93 In order to prevent the RPP returning to power in the face of the difficulties the Democrats were facing, Bediuzzaman openly gave the Democrats his vote in the elections,94 and urged all the Risale-i Nur Students to do likewise. Thus, the RPP, who had expected to win the elections, held Bediuzzaman responsible for their defeat. Inönü is even reported to have declared that it was the Nurju’s (Risale-i Nur Students) who defeated him.95 This was an added element in the pressure RPP supporters now endeavoured to bring to bear on the Risale-i Nur Students.
At the same time, with the publication of the Risale-i Nur having been left free officially, as well as the freedoms that had been gained with the Democrat Government, the Risale-i Nur movement had been greatly strengthened and expanded. ‘Risale-i Nur study-centres’ (dershane) were opened in every part of the country. It was the custom to bring the key of each as it was newly opened to Bediuzzaman, who would offer prayers for its success. In eastern Turkey also, through the endeavours of Bediuzzaman’s old students such as Hulûsi Bey and Çayci Emin, the Risale-i Nur spread greatly during this time, so that from one letter we learn that there were around two hundred dershanes in Diyarbakir and the east, including four or five specifically for women in Diyarbakir itself.96 On occasion in Diyarbakir as many as a thousand people would attend the derses, the readings of the Risale-i Nur. In Ankara, Istanbul, Eskishehir, and all the main centres in Anatolia, the Risale-i Nur and its associated activities flourished.
The corollary of these successes was increased pressure and harassment
from the enemies of religion. Bediuzzaman told Hulûsi Bey when he
visited him in Emirdag in 1957 that he now had to take further precautions
to protect himself in the face of the threats to himself. For a further
attempt had been made on his life, when an unknown person had entered his
house by way of the roof and thrown poison in his water jug.97
Then in April, 1958, RPP supporters in Nazilli in western Anatolia set
up a plot against the local Risale-i Nur Students, two of whom were arrested.
In concert with them, the newspapers started a furore describing the Nurjus
as “enemies of the reforms”.98 In response the Risale-i Nur
Students in Ankara wrote and published a letter answering their misrepresentations
and lies, whereupon eleven of the leading Students were arrested and held
in Ankara Prison. This was the first case the lawyer Bekir Berk undertook
for the Risale-i Nur Students, who were all acquitted.99 Bekir
Berk, subsequently famous as “the Muslims’ lawyer” was also appointed by
Bediuzzaman as his attorney.100 In Konya too, where the Risale-i
Nur Students were active, there were arrests and court cases,101
and in many other centres. At the same time the country-wide press campaign
against Bediuzzaman and the Risale-i Nur movement continued, with blatant
misreporting and misrepresentations. Bediuzzaman and his students did not
let these attacks remain unanswered and published replies, a number of
which are included in the second volume of Emirdag Lahikasi.102
This wide press coverage of all Bediuzzaman’s movements and activities
continued right up to the time of his death. It was particularly so during
December, 1959, and January, 1960, when Bediuzzaman made a number of journeys
to Konya, Ankara, and Istanbul. Just as the criminal charges made against
the Risale-i Nur Students were mostly under Article 163 and involved infringing
the principle of secularism and exploiting religion for political ends
in some respect, so too the supporters of the RPP, the press, and Bediuzzaman’s
enemies still persisted in accusing Bediuzzaman of pursuing political ends.
That is to say, although Bediuzzaman and his students had been acquitted
by courts of law on such charges on numerous occasions, in this continuing
and bitter struggle, their enemies could find no other weapon with which
to attack them.
Sincerity and Bediuzzaman’s Health and State of Mind
As we approach the end of Bediuzzaman’s life, just how baseless and far from the truth such accusations were may be further illustrated by descriptions of Bediuzzaman’s health and state of mind during these last years, both by himself and his students who were constantly with him. As has been mentioned in other contexts, the basis of the Risale-i Nur’s way is sincerity (ihlas), which was the secret of its successes and victories. That is, to follow no aim other than God’s pleasure in the service of belief and the Qur'an, and to make such service the tool of nothing. The preservation of this sincerity precluded participation in politics or the following of personal benefits of any kind. Bediuzzaman embodied sincerity in all its aspects to the highest degree. Just as throughout his life he had inclined towards and chosen solitude and especially for the last thirty or so years, had avoided inessential social intercourse and conversation, so too a second rule of his had been never to accept unreciprocated gifts, alms or charity and he had always practised absolute self-sufficiency. The letters and statements describing Bediuzzaman’s health at this time point out how, now that Bediuzzaman was over eighty years of age and in need of others and their assistance two illness had been visited on him so that he could preserve his total sincerity.
The first of these illnesses was that he was very often unable to speak; after speaking for two or three minutes, he would be overcome by a terrific thirst. He wrote in a letter that at a time when enemies even were being transformed into friends, by preventing unnecessary conversation, this helped maintain maximum sincerity.103 And the second illness was that now gifts, both material and immaterial, caused him to become ill. So much as a mouthful of food, if it was an unreciprocated gift, and even if it was from one of his closest students, would make him ill.104 So too, Bediuzzaman defined the visits paid to him by the thousands wanting to see and speak with him as “immaterial gifts” which he was unable to repay. Then at that time when the Risale-i Nur was spreading so rapidly and finding so many new readers, he had been given a state of mind, like an illness, whereby he was severely discomforted by the often excessive respect and veneration shown him and by conversing and shaking hands with his visitors, again so that he could preserve the maximum sincerity.105
Thus, Bediuzzaman was able to receive only a very few of all those who came from all over Turkey and beyond to visit him. He published letters explaining this: due to these illnesses, it was his wish to meet only those concerned with the publication of the Risale-i Nur, indeed he generally did not speak of other matters even with his students who accompanied him and attended to his needs.106 In a letter written by these students explaining this state of mind of Bediuzzaman’s to those who came to visit him and had to return without seeing him, they wrote:
“...On numerous occasions we have understood that to shake hands and have his hand kissed is as distressing for Ustad’s spirit as receiving a blow. Also he is severely distressed at being looked at and being studied. Even we may not look at him, although we attend to his needs, unless it is essential. We have understood the meaning and wisdom of this to be as follows:
“Since the fundamental way of the Risale-i Nur is true sincerity, the occurrences of the present time – speaking with people and being shown excessive respect – affect him adversely and severely, because in this age of egotism they are signs of self-worship, hypocrisy, and artificiality. For he says, if those who want to meet with him, want to do so for the Risale-i Nur and for the hereafter, the Risale-i Nur leaves no need for him; each of its millions of copies is as beneficial as ten Said’s. If they want to meet with him in respect of this world and worldly matters, then since he has earnestly given up the world, he suffers serious discomfort, because things concerning it are trivial and a waste of time. And if it is concerning the service and publication of the Risale-i Nur, it is sufficient for them to meet with his true, self-sacrificing students who serve him, his spiritual sons and brothers, in his place. He says that no need remains for him...”107
In a letter Bediuzzaman himself wrote, even, he interprets his thirty years or so of exile, imprisonment and oppression as continual Divine warnings not to make his service to religion the means to personal benefits of any kind, and so preserve this absolute sincerity. The oppression and tyranny he suffered due to the entirely false and unjust accusations of “exploiting religion for political ends” acted as a sort of “obstacle” preventing him from succumbing to “the great danger in the service of belief in this egotistical age”, which was to make that service the means to his own progress and advancement, and to salvation from Hell and earning Paradise. Bediuzzaman had been aware that something had prevented him and it was only now that he understood the real cause. For although to work for these things was perfectly licit, at the present time in the face of the ‘collective personality’ of misguidance and irreligion, the truths of the Qur'an and belief had to be taught in an effective and convincing way in order to refute and smash unbelief. And that was through such teaching being the tool of nothing. “So that those needy for belief would understand that it is only the truth and reality which speaks, and the doubts of the soul and wiles of Satan would be silenced.”
Bediuzzaman wrote that the secret of the Risale-i Nur’s success in halting and defeating absolute unbelief in those difficult conditions in Turkey at that time where others had failed lay in this fact. And he himself was perfectly resigned at all the torments and oppression he had suffered, forgiving those who had perpetrated them. If he had not sacrificed everything, this extraordinary power of the Risale-i Nur’s would have been lost whereby the belief of some people had been saved by only a single of its pages.108
It was through this sincerity that the collective personality of the Risale-i Nur was formed, which Bediuzzaman described as a sort of Renewer or Regenerator of Religion (müceddid). For just as a Renewer was sent each century who would serve religion and belief in exactly the required way, in the present age of the assaults of secret societies and the collective personality of misguidance, the Renewer of Religion has to be in the form of a collective personality. Just such a collective personality was that of the Risale-i Nur, formed through the self-sacrificing sincerity of Bediuzzaman and its students. Indeed, Bediuzzaman described his life, himself, as a seed, out of which in His Mercy, Almighty God had created the valuable, fruit-bearing tree of the Risale-i Nur. “I was a seed; I rotted away and disappeared. All the value pertains to the Risale-i Nur, which is a true and faithful commentary on the Qur'an, and is its meaning.”109
Bediuzzaman’s Will and His Wish for an Unknown Grave
It was for the same reason, to preserve this ‘maximum sincerity’ wherein lay the Risale-Nur’s power and the secret of its success, that on numerous occasions Bediuzzaman stated that he wanted the location of his grave to remain secret, known only by one or two of his closest students. He also had this written in his will.
Bediuzzaman made his will on a number of occasions, the first being in Emirdag before being sent to Afyon in January, 1948. Pointing out that it was a Sunna of the Prophet (PBUH) to make a will since the appointed hour was unknown, in this will he named a committee of his students to which he wished his personal effects and finest volumes of the Risale-i Nur to be left.110 In his later wills, he stipulates two points, one is the question of his grave being secret and the other, the payment of allowances to those of the Risale-i Nur Students who worked solely for the Risale-i Nur and had no other means of subsistence.
Bediuzzaman stated that those who wished to visit his grave should do so only in the spirit and recite the Fatiha for his soul from afar. For, “Like in olden times, out of the desire for fame and renown, the Pharaohs turned the attention of people to themselves by means of of statues, pictures and mummies, so too in this fearsome age, through the heedlessness it produces, egotism directs all attention to this world by means of statues, portraits, and newspapers, and the worldly attach more importance to the worldly fame and renown of the deceased through the worldly future they imagine has thus been obtained for them. They visit the deceased in this way, rather than visiting them for God’s pleasure alone and their future in the hereafter. In order not to spoil the maximum sincerity of the Risale-i Nur and through the mystery of that sincerity, I enjoin that my grave is not made known...”111 Just as for this reason he had not wished to receive visitors in this world, so too he did not wish his grave to be visited.
Although at various times Bediuzzaman stated where he wished to be buried, for instance, in one letter saying that he would prefer the graveyard in the village of Sav near Isparta to Barla,112 and in one of his wills that if he died in Emirdag, his students should bury him in the ‘upper graveyard’, and if in Isparta, in the ‘middle graveyard’,113 he also said he would like to die in Urfa in south-eastern Turkey, where the Prophet Abraham is buried, and which is where in fact he did die. He told this to Salih Özcan, who recounted it like this:
“It was in 1954. In Emirdag, Mustafa Acet, Sadik and myself went up into the hills with Ustad. When we came to a tree, Ustad stopped at it for half an hour, deep in contemplation. Then he called us to him and said:
“‘Keçeli! Keçeli! No one will know my grave. You won’t know it either. I want to die in your home region [Urfa]. I want to die near the Friend of the Most Merciful [Abraham].’”114
In 1950 Bediuzzaman had sent some of personal belongings to Urfa with one of his students saying that he himself would be going there. These included Mawlana Khalid-i Baghdadî’s gown, given to him in Kastamonu. The student later handed them over to Abdullah Yegin,115 Bediuzzaman’s close student since his schooldays, who stayed some eight years in Urfa. He opened a dershane there which became an important centre of Risale-i Nur activities. Bediuzzaman was unable to visit it until the time of his death.
Bediuzzaman also wrote three additional wills directing his closest students to continue his practice of paying an allowance to those Risale-i Nur Students who had dedicated themselves to its service and who could not otherwise provide for themselves. These were probably written in 1959. It had been the Old Said’s practice to provide for his students. He describes how through “the abundance resulting from frugality and contentment”, he had been able to provide for the needs of twenty, thirty, and sometimes sixty students without breaking his principle of self-sufficiency. Now, the Risale-i Nur had begun to produce sufficient profit to do likewise. One fifth of the money obtained from selling copies of it was sufficient to pay an allowance to fifty to sixty students.
Bediuzzaman wrote that he was making plain these wishes of his in a will because, “...Personally I no longer have the strength to carry out the duties connected with the Risale-i Nur. And perhaps no need remains for me to do so. It is as though, due to being poisoned many times and because of extreme old age and illness, I do not have the endurance to continue living. Even if death, which I so long for, does not come to me, it is as though I have died outwardly...” “Since I am no longer needed at all in regard to the Risale-i Nur, to go to the Intermediate Realm [beyond the grave] is a source of joy for me. As for you, do not be sad. Congratulate me, rather, for I am going from hardship and difficulties to Mercy.”116
Bediuzzaman’s Trips to Ankara, Istanbul, and Konya
In December, 1959, and January, 1960, Bediuzzaman embarked on a series of trips to Ankara, Konya, and Istanbul, which in the light of the above descriptions of his health and state of mind show more than anything his extraordinary perseverance and self-sacrifice in continuing his struggle against unbelief and service to belief and the Qur'an through the Risale-i Nur. To visit his students and the ‘Risale-i Nur study centres’ (dershane), which was his immediate reason for the trips, when not only meeting with people and being held in esteem was such torment for him, but also his health was so poor, was truly a feat of endurance which only someone of the will and determination of Bediuzzaman could have achieved.
Bediuzzaman was now receiving repeated and insistent invitations from his students all over Turkey for him to visit them, and his trips were in response to these. At the same time they had the character of farewell visits. Ankara and Istanbul were the main centres of publication, and Konya was both an important centre of activity and where Bediuzzaman’s brother, Abdülmecid, now lived, whom he had seen only once in forty years. Bediuzzaman visited Istanbul once during this two months, Konya, three times, and Ankara, four times. His trips to Ankara had a further important purpose; he wanted to warn Menderes and the Democrats of the dangers looming before them and to suggest certain ways of averting them.
The clouds of disaster and revolution were gathering in Turkey. A coup attempt had already been uncovered and forestalled in 1958.117 Unable to abide the liberalism, religious freedoms, and resurgence of Islam which were the fruits of Democrat rule, supporters of the former regime, now represented by Inönü and the RPP, were preparing to regain power by force. For they could not do so by the vote or legal means. Mentioned above was Bediuzzaman’s warning to Menderes in 1952 of “the possible attack” of the two currents within the opposition whose interests were most harmed by Democrat policies. Now the danger was imminent and he was anxious above everything to warn them of this. For it was not only a question of saving the Democrats, it was a question of saving the country from the consequences of once again coming under the rule of forces hostile to Islam and favourable to irreligion. However, this was only one reason for the journeys, which as a citizen Bediuzzaman had a perfect right to make, just as he had the right to offer advice to politicians. Nevertheless, Inönü and the RPP seized on them as a means of further attacking and weakening the Government; besides Inönü making a series of inflammatory statements, they prompted the press to create a sensation and furore over the journeys, which resulted in over-reaction by the police and their taking extraordinary measures against Bediuzzaman wherever he visited.
Bediuzzaman’s urgent advice to Menderes and the Democrat Deputies who visited him in Ankara was to re-open Aya Sophia as a place of worship118 and to make an official announcement stating that the Risale-i Nur was not subject to any restrictions.119 That is to say, Bediuzzaman saw that the only way the Democrats could now save themselves, having fallen into a position of weakness and disadvantage before Inönü and the RPP, was to stand up and make bold statements concerning the principles in which they believed, and in the service to which their former successes and popularity lay. However, for whatever reasons, Menderes did not have the will or courage to respond to these urgent suggestions of Bediuzzaman’s, and within less than six months was overthrown by the coup Bediuzzaman had foreseen, and the country was back in the hands of its former rulers. As for Bediuzzaman, when he saw that his advice evoked no response from Menderes, he complied with the wish of the authorities and remained in Emirdag, then Isparta, making his final journey to Urfa some two months later in March.
All Bediuzzaman’s journeys were in the Chevrolet his students had bought for his use. His first trip was to Ankara on 2 December, 1959. Accompanied by Zübeyir, he stayed one night in the Beyrut Palas Hotel, then returned to Emirdag the following day.120 He continued to Isparta, where he remained two weeks, then returned to Emirdag. On 19 December he went to Konya on the invitation of his brother, Abdülmecid. It should also be mentioned that due to his various indispositions, Bediuzzaman could not remain in one place, but felt the continual need for a change of air and scene.121
On this occasion, in addition to Zübeyir, Bediuzzaman was accompanied by two of his most active Ankara students, Atif Ural and Said Özdemir. The latter described the visit. On Bediuzzaman’s car stopping in the middle of Konya, it was surrounded by a large crowd. Abdülmecid arrived and spoke with this elder brother through the open window of the car. Then the police arrived on the scene and started to break up the growing crowd by force, upon which Bediuzzaman stated he wished to perform the prayers, then visit the tomb of Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi. The Director of the Museum opened the tomb specially for Bediuzzaman since it was closed that day. Taking off his shoes, he entered the tomb and offered some prayers; he was weeping. He was surrounded by people and police even in the tomb. On emerging, he told the police:
“Thank you! It is torment for me to have my hands kissed, and you prevented it. For twenty-eight years I have served this country’s peace and security together with imprisonment, torment, detention,and oppression. You serve its order and security physically, while I serve it in a non-material way. We have served it as much as a thousand public prosecutors and police chiefs, so look upon us as fellow-officials, not in any other way. And tell your fellow police.” Bediuzzaman then returned to Emirdag,122 or more likely, Isparta.
That night Bediuzzaman set out again for Konya, and arriving at four o’clock in the morning was able to visit his brother’s house. After speaking with Abdülmecid for a while, who was then a teacher in Konya Imam Hatip School, they performed the morning prayers together, then Bediuzzaman left for Emirdag.
On the morning of 30 December Bediuzzaman arrived in Ankara for a second time, and again stayed in the Beyrut Palas Hotel. His visit was greeted with sensational headlines in the newspapers: “The Said Nursi Event has started to grow” (Cumhuriyet) “Said Nursi has again come to Ankara....”(Milliyet) “Said Nursi’s eventful visit to Konya...Thousands of Nurjus poured onto the streets to greet him: the police were compelled to break up the crowd...” Bediuzzaman received numerous visitors in the hotel: politicians and officials, including three Democrat Deputies, Risale-i Nur Students and ordinary people. The police again over-reacted and the hotel was both held in a cordon of police and gendarmes, and the inside was filled with them. That evening, Bediuzzaman gave a ‘farewell ders’, which among various subjects, impresses once again on the Risale-i Nur Students that the way of the Risale-i Nur is that of “positive action” and the maintenance of public order and security.123
Previously to Bediuzzaman’s coming to Ankara, the police had seized copies of The Ratifying Stamp of the Unseen Collection in the press while Said Özdemir and others were having it printed. In connection with this, Bediuzzaman received a request from Bekir Berk in Istanbul for a signature. At the same time he was receiving invitations from his students there. The following day he set off in his car for Istanbul.
It was the first day of January, 1960. The newspapers had got wind of his visit and by the time he and his students reached the Piyer Loti Hotel where he was to stay, there was such a thronging crowd, it was only with the greatest difficulty that they could mount the steps to enter it. Bediuzzaman had to be shielded against the barrage of flashing cameras with an umbrella. Police had taken over the inside of the hotel, and the press had set up a headquarters there. Nevertheless, that evening, with astonishing energy, Bediuzzaman gave a long ders to his students gathered in Istanbul.124 He was to have stayed several days but the following day, 2 January, a newspaper reporter climbed onto the back balcony of his room and photographed him performing the midday prayers. Bediuzzaman was exceedingly angry at this and decided to cut short his visit and return to Ankara. On this occasion he stayed three days, and not in the hotel but in a rented house in Bahçelievler. However, the police still did not leave him in peace.125
Bediuzzaman again received visitors during this stay. Three Democrat Deputies have given accounts of visits although it is not absolutely clear during which of Bediuzzaman’s stays they occurred. Said Köker, the Deputy for Bingöl, says he paid Bediuzzaman three visits, and that Bediuzzaman told him and the Deputies with him explicitly of the 27 May military coup, which he said would occur shortly. Bediuzzaman said also he had no connection with political parties and that “he only liked Menderes.”126 Other accounts are by Giyaseddin Emre, the Deputy for Mus,127 and Dr. Tahsin Tola, former Isparta Deputy. Dr. Tola, who had contributed so much to the publication of the Risale-i Nur, was in constant touch with Bediuzzaman in Ankara. He describes Bediuzzaman’s anxiety at the forthcoming calamity, and how he related Bediuzzaman’s urgent message to the Government concerning Aya Sophia and the Risale-i Nur.128 Bediuzzaman himself also stated in a letter that “an important reason” for his going to Ankara was to urge Menderes and the Government to clean up Aya Sophia and make it once more into a place of worship.129 It may also have been during this stay of Bediuzzaman’s that he gave his ‘last ders’ to his students in Ankara.
Bediuzzaman left Ankara on 6 January and went once again to Konya. On 5 January Bediuzzaman had given a long statement to the London Times correspondent, who had wanted to accompany Bediuzzaman on the journey, but Bediuzzaman had not consented, since his trip to Konya was “a personal trip”.130 Yet despite this being the case – Bediuzzaman went to his brother’s house, then again visited the tomb of Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi – he was met by a huge police presence and followed by police cars wherever he went. He stayed only two hours then returned to Emirdag.
On 11 January, Bediuzzaman set out once again for Ankara. But now the Government had bowed to the pressure of the opposition and he was not permitted to enter the city. His car was stopped by police outside it and he was told of the cabinet decision “advising” him “to rest” in Emirdag. That is, henceforth Emirdag was his place of compulsory residence. Bediuzzaman had already heard the decision, which had been broadcast over the radio, and complied with the request on the car being stopped by the police barricades. He returned to Emirdag.131
Bediuzzaman later wrote a statement to the newspapers saying that firstly, because of his illnesses and the fact he very often could not speak, it was a Divine Mercy his being requested by the Government to remain in Emirdag. He hoped his students would not be offended at his not being able to respond to their invitations. Secondly, a proof that his journeys were nothing to do with politics was that among other things due to the rule of the Risale-i Nur taken from the Qur'an, No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another, meaning, “to disturb public order is to wrong ninety innocents on account of five criminals”, their service was extremely beneficial for the country and public security. For that reason Bediuzzaman forgave the police who had caused him difficulties. And thirdly, because the Risale-i Nur had spread everywhere and was so sought after, he had received invitations from twenty provinces, of which he had only been able to visit three. Now he was happy to be in Emirdag, but wanted to go to Isparta.132
Bediuzzaman’s Last Days
On returning to Emirdag, Bediuzzaman apparently no longer concerned himself with the plight of Menderes and the Government. He had done whatever he could to warn them, and now, through their own intervention, he was able to do no more. In fact, his student Said Özdemir reported Bediuzzaman as saying at this this point: “Menderes did not understand me. I shall depart soon. And they too will go – overturned, head over heels.”133 The Government had indeed lost its credibility by then in the face of Inönü’s attacks and the continual incidents provoked throughout the country, and its grip on the country’s affairs continued to decline from this time onwards. Inönü was visited in his house by leading members of the military. The plans were set for the coup. Menderes survived only two months after Bediuzzaman’s death. The increased surveillance under which Bediuzzaman was now held continued right up to the time of his death.
Bediuzzaman remained in Emirdag for some eight days then, in accordance with the wish he had stated to the press, on 20 January he went to Isparta. Here he stayed in his rented house till 17 March, when he returned to Emirdag for two days. The month of Ramazan began that year on 26 February. Thus it was 19 Ramazan 1379 when Bediuzzaman set off for Emirdag in his car together with Zübeyir, Mustafa Sungur, and Hüsnü Bayram, who acted as driver. His health had deteriorated considerably. Until 15 Ramazan, he had even been able to perform the tarawih prayers, then he had started to fail. The following day in Emirdag, Bediuzzaman’s students called the doctor, Tahir Barçin, himself long one of Bediuzzaman’s students, for Bediuzzaman was now seriously ill.
According to Dr. Barçin, who answered their call immediately, Bediuzzaman’s temperature was 38° and his condition was serious: he had caught double pneumonia. He gave him an injection of penicillin, then Bediuzzaman dozed off. A short while later, Bediuzzaman smiled, opened his eyes and said to those present:
“My brothers! The Risale-i Nur now prevails over this country. It has broken the backs of the Masons and communists. You will suffer some difficulties, but the end will be truly good.”134
In the morning his condition was easier, and he announced that they were returning to Isparta. The preparations were made and unlike previous occasions when Bediuzzaman had left for somewhere else, this time he bade a sorrowful farewell to the faithful Çaliskan’s and all his students in Emirdag. Still, the doctor wrote, it did not occur to them that Bediuzzaman was going to die. It was only when they later heard the news from Urfa that they realized that Bediuzzaman had been bidding them farewell for the last time.135
Later in the afternoon of 19 March, Bediuzzaman arrived back in Isparta. His students Tahiri Mutlu and Bayram Yüksel were waiting for him. An hour previously the police had come searching for him saying that they had left Emirdag. The account is now Bayram Yüksel’s.136 He states that it was with great difficulty that they got Bediuzzaman out of the back seat of the car, where he lay, and up the stairs to the house. He was running a high temperature and could not be left. That night at around two o’clock Bayram and Zübeyir were with him when Bediuzzaman suddenly said: “We’re going!” On their asking where, he replied: “Urfa... Diyarbakir.” They thought he was feverish. Bediuzzaman kept on repeating, “Urfa. We’re going to Urfa.” The car tyres needed repairing. But Bediuzzaman insisted, even if it means hiring another car, they would go. Finally, the repairs were done, the back of the car was made up as a bed for Bediuzzaman and at exactly 9 o’clock on 20 March, they were ready for the road. Two police were watching the house. Tahiri Agabey was to remain to watch the house, he was not to open the door to the police. Bediuzzaman said good-bye to the landlady, Fitnat Hanim, she also would say nothing to the police of their destination; and they set off.
It was raining. The rain grew harder and they were not seen as they passed through Egridir. Before Sarkîkaraagaç they daubed the number-plate in mud, and after it, Bediuzzaman recovered a little, got out of the car and renewed his ablutions at a spring by the side of the road and performed the prayers on a flat rock. Later his condition again worsened and he could not speak. On entering Konya they stopped and bought cheese and olives with which to break the Ramazan fast. They had all been reciting Ayat al-Kursi since leaving Isparta against the evil intentions of the Governor of Konya, whose vow that he would “rip up the Nurju’s by the roots” had been made the headlines in all the newspapers. Through Divine grace, they passed unspotted through Konya, skirting the mosque of Mawlana Jalaluddin.
They continued. Karapinar. Eregli. Now Bediuzzaman could not get out
of the car to pray. At sunset they were at Ulukisla. It grew very cold.
Bediuzzaman could eat nothing. They passed through Adana in the dark, and
reached Ceyhan, where they performed the evening prayers and Hüsnü,
the driver, slept for an hour. At the time to eat sahur, they were at Osmaniye.
Here they filled up the tank with petrol. Bediuzzaman again ate nothing.
At around 7.30 on the morning of 21 March, they reached Gaziantep. They
continued. The road was now very rough, churned up with a mixture of snow
and mud, but they passed along it without mishap. Finally they reached
Urfa at exactly 11 o’clock that morning, which was Monday.
On arriving in Urfa,137 the first place they went was the Kadioglu Mosque, where Abdullah Yegin stayed. Bediuzzaman’s student since a schoolboy in Kastamonu, he had spent nearly ten years in Urfa, helping to build it up as an important centre of Risale-i Nur activity. They learnt the best hotel, the Ipek Palas, and together took Bediuzzaman there. He was now in a very poor state. His students had to virtually carry him up to the room they took, Number 27 on the third floor. There then followed the most extraordinary tussle between the police and Government representatives on the one hand, who on the orders of the Interior Minister in Ankara, tried to compel Bediuzzaman to return to Isparta, and Bediuzzaman’s students, the people of Urfa and some officials on the other, who categorically refused to allow the extremely ill and weak Bediuzzaman to be moved anywhere.
Bediuzzaman had a joyous reception from the people of Urfa, who began to gather outside the hotel and visit him in an unending stream. Bayram Yüksel writes that he had to hold Bediuzzaman’s hands for the people to kiss. Yet despite his extreme weakness and contrary to his previous practice, Bediuzzaman received all who came. And all did come: tradesmen, army officers, soldiers, police, officials, ordinary people; they came in their hundreds. Bediuzzaman explained to Abdullah Yegin the importance of Urfa, speaking of the service to Islam of its people, who, being Turkish, Arab, and Kurdish, would be a means to unity and Islamic brotherhood. Bediuzzaman managed to keep going and receive all the people who kept coming.
Suddenly two plain-clothes police arrived and told Bediuzzaman’s students that they had to get ready to leave and return to Isparta. These were joined by eleven or so others. They informed Bediuzzaman, who declared:
“How strange! I came here to die, and perhaps I will die. You can see my condition, you defend me!”
They replied that they had their orders and brought Hüsnü together with the car round to the front of the hotel. The hotel manager began protesting at this guest being treated in this way. The crowd became excited, and started shouting and protesting. The situation became very tense. The police could no longer enter the hotel. Then the car disappeared and the crowd calmed down a little. The people continued to visit Bediuzzaman.
The police insisted, saying the order came directly from the Interior Minister in Ankara, Namik Gedik, and was final. Bediuzzaman would be sent by ambulance if they did not take him by car. Bediuzzaman’s students said it simply was not possible, and in any event, it was not up to them to relay police orders to him. The heated exchanges continued in this vein. Telegrams were sent to Menderes. Hundreds of telegrams passed between Ankara and Urfa that day. The people declared they would not let Bediuzzaman go.
The news spread that Bediuzzaman was going to be expelled from Urfa. The President of the Urfa branch of the Democrat Party heard, and going straight to the Police Headquarters, told the Police Chief in the strongest terms that Bediuzzaman was their honoured guest and that there was no question of his being treated in this way. The argument continued and the Democrat Party President banged his revolver down on the Police Chief’s desk, making it plain that if they were to resort to force, the police would have to dispose of him first.
Meanwhile a crowd of five or six thousand gathered outside the hotel. The Democrat Party President brought the Government Doctor, who examined Bediuzzaman. He had a temperature of 40°. The doctor pronounced him unfit to travel, and said a general report would be made out the following day.
It was now Tuesday evening. Bediuzzaman’s students were taking it in
turns to remain with him. They were all exhausted. Bayram slept for two
hours, then Zübeyir woke him up; he could not keep going any longer.
Then Hüsnü went and joined Zübeyir and Abdullah Yegin. Only
Bayram was left. He stayed with Bediuzzaman. The door was locked against
any possible intrusion. Bediuzzaman was running a high temperature and
was feverish. He could no longer speak. He had wanted some ice during the
day, but they had been unable to find any. Later they found some, but he
had not wanted it. His lips were parched. Bayram wiped them with a damp
handkerchief. This degree of fever was new. At two thirty in the morning
Bayram kept pulling up the covers, which Bediuzzaman kept throwing off.
He draped a cloth over the light to reduce its brightness. Then suddenly
Bediuzzaman reached up with his hand and touched Bayram’s neck; he was
massaging Bediuzzaman’s arms. Bediuzzaman put his hands on his chest and
slept. Or so Bayram thought. But Bediuzzaman had not fallen asleep, he
had departed this life and his spirit had flown to the eternal realm. It
was three o’clock in the morning of Wednesday, 23 March, 1960; 25 Ramazan,
Bediuzzaman is Buried in the Halilürrahman Dergah
Bayram lit the stove so that Bediuzzaman would not get cold, for he thought Bediuzzaman was sleeping. A while later Zübeyir and the others came. Bediuzzaman’s body was hot, but no sound came from him. It was not till they sent for Vaiz Ömer Efendi, a well-known religious figure who was visiting Urfa, who as soon as he entered the room, uttered the words, To God do we belong, and to Him we shall return, that they could accept that Bediuzzaman had died.
The news spread instantly around Urfa. Zübeyir, Hüsnü, and Abdullah went to telephone and telegraph Risale-i Nur Students in Emirdag, Isparta, Istanbul, and all over Turkey. The hotel owner came to the door, and started wailing when he saw what had happened. He met the Police Chief on the stairs and told him the news. The Police Chief had come to the hotel together with a troop of gendarmes to take Bediuzzaman by force back to Isparta; they returned to the police headquarters. The police sent a doctor to make out a report. But the doctor felt doubtful and only later wrote his report, for the body was so hot; it did not resemble the normal state of death. He did not want Bediuzzaman to be buried immediately.
Then the estate lawyer came; he noted down Bediuzzaman’s personal effects and fixed their value. According to the report in the newspaper, Ak_am, this was 551 liras 50 kurush. That is to say, apart from his watch, gown, prayer-mat, tea-pot and glasses, and a few odds and ends, Bediuzzaman owned nothing in the world. On the request of his students, Bediuzzaman’s only surviving brother, Abdülmecid, was made the sole heir to these.
As the news spread, thousands of people started to pour into Urfa. It was decided that Bediuzzaman’s body would be washed and buried in the Dergah, where the Prophet Abraham lies. He was taken there after the midday prayers. The people of Urfa closed all the shops and filled the streets. While the body was washed and wrapped in its shroud on the Wednesday afternoon thousands of white-winged pigeons and birds other sorts flocked and flew in the air above the Dergah. It was raining gently. Bediuzzaman’s body was washed by Molla Abdulhamid Efendi. Also present were Zübeyir, Bayram, Hüsnü, and Abdullah, and also the Risale-i Nur’s “first student”, Hulûsi Bey. Bediuzzaman’s body was then taken to the Ulu Mosque, where it was to rest till it was buried. The Qur'an was read continuously, and prayers were recited. The mosque was filled.
The burial was to have taken place on the Friday, but the numbers of people crowding into Urfa from all over Turkey and beyond became so great, the Governor called Bediuzzaman’s students and said that he would have to be buried on the Thursday following the afternoon prayers. They had no option but to agree. It was announced over loudspeakers.
The funeral prayers were performed in the courtyard of the Ulu Mosque, then the bier holding the body was raised up and carried on the hands of the crowd. The Governor of Urfa, the Mayor, the local Garrison Commander, the people of Urfa, those of the Risale-i Nur Students who had been able to reach Urfa in time for the burial, thousands of people crowded in and around the mosque then moved in a thronging mass to carry the body the short distance to the Dergah. Everyone wanted to touch the bier, and it was passed from hand to hand as is the custom; after close on two hours it was only with the assistance of soldiers and police, who opened up the way, that it was brought finally to the Dergah and buried.
It was still raining. That night the recitations of the Qur'an continued
unceasingly over the grave. Bediuzzaman was now resting near the Patriarch
Abraham, the Friend of the Most Merciful. The tomb in which he had been
laid had been built in 1954 by a local shaykh called Shaykh Muslim, while
repairs were being made to the Dergah. He three times had a dream
in which he was told that the tomb belonged to another, as a result of
which he ordered that on his death he be buried in the general graveyard.
And so they buried Bediuzzaman in the tomb, but it was to be only a temporary
resting-place for him.
The Military Junta Orders the Removal of Bediuzzaman’s
Remains to an Unknown Spot
The military coup Bediuzzaman had foretold occurred on 27 May, 1960. Foremost Menderes and leading members of his Government, and Democrat Deputies, officials, and sympathizers were all rounded up and placed in various camps and prisons. A campaign against the Risale-i Nur Students and movement was embarked on. Once again the searches, confiscations, arrests, imprisonment, and court cases began. Hundreds of Risale-i Nur Students were subject to this new wave of vengeful repression. The country was now governed by the so-called ‘National Unity Committee’, and the decision was taken to move Bediuzzaman’s remains to an unknown spot. They could not leave him in peace in his grave even, just as they had hounded and harassed him up to his last moments in this world. Bediuzzaman’s brother writes:
“It was in early July and three and a half months since my elder brother’s death. I had performed the midday prayers on time in the house I rented near Mawlana’s tomb in Konya when the Special Branch Chief, whose name I learnt was Ibrahim Yüksel, came. He told me that the Governor wanted me. Together we went to the Governor’s office. On our entering, there were three generals. One was Cemal Tural, and one was Refik Tulga. Refik Tulga was at that time the Second Army Commander and temporary Governor of Konya.
“Cemal Tural said to me: ‘The people in the east and from beyond our southern borders are coming and visiting your brother’s grave illegally. The times are sensitive. With your co-operation, we’re going to move his grave to inner Anatolia. Please sign this paper.’
“He handed me a petition written as though by myself. I read it and said: ‘I have no such wish. At least leave him in peace in his grave.’ But they told me:
“‘You have to sign it. Don’t put us in a difficult position.’
“We climbed into the vehicle that was to take us to the airfield after signing the petition.... Finally we boarded the aeroplane. My family and children knew nothing of this. Of course they were all anxious and frightened.
“We reached Diyarbakir. After a brief rest we boarded a different plane and took off for Urfa. They took me in a military vehicle to an army building. They offered me some food, but I didn’t want it; I was exhausted. We had landed at Urfa in the afternoon. After nightfall they took me in a jeep together with a Captain and some soldiers to the Halilürrahman Dergah. There were two coffins in the courtyard of the mosque. There were a number of soldiers wandering about.”138
From other accounts we learn that this was the night of 12 July, 1960. The town had been taken over by the army. There was a strict curfew and no one was allowed on the streets. Tanks and armoured vehicles had been positioned at all key points in the town. The Dergah was surrounded by a tight cordon of soldiers. Acting on the orders they had received, soldiers entered the twin-domed building containing Bediuzzaman’s tomb, not by the door, but by breaking the iron grill on the windows. They then began to smash the marble slabs of the tomb with hammers.139
Abdülmecid continues: “A doctor came up to me and said: ‘Don’t be too anxious and upset. We’re moving Ustad to Anatolia. That’s why they have brought you here.’ I completely broke down on hearing these words of the doctor’s and I started to weep.
“The doctor told the soldiers: ‘Open that coffin and take Ustad out of it and put him in this one.’ But the soldiers held back and were frightened, ‘We can’t do it. We’ll be struck down’, they said. But the doctor told them: ‘My brothers, we have our orders. We have to do it.’ We opened the coffin altogether. I was saying to myself, ‘Seyda's bones will be all mixed up together.’ But on touching the shroud with with my hand, it felt as though he had only just died. Only, the shroud had discoloured slightly round its opening. And on the outside was a stain like from a drop of water. The doctor opened the shroud. I looked at his face; he was smiling. Again altogether we embraced the great and wronged Ustad and placed him in the large, extremely heavy coffin the soldiers had brought.140 They filled the empty space in the coffin with grasses and herbs. When everything was completed, we climbed into an army truck and went straight to the airfield. The streets were all being patrolled by soldiers with bayonets fixed.
“The coffin would not fit in the first plane. [Hours later] a second plane arrived. We put the coffin in it, and I sat beside it. I was utterly sorrowful and my eyes full of tears.”141
And to continue from another account of Abdülmecid’s which is more detailed:
“I reckon the journey was six to seven hours. We landed at Afyon near mid-afternoon. Of course, it was they who said it was Afyon. After landing, they unloaded the coffin and placed it in an army lorry. I again sat in the driver’s cab. Behind us were two jeeps and small trucks. We set off. It was a mountainous region. I don’t know where we went and in what direction, and I didn’t ask. I was as though dazed by the situation.
“We travelled slowly for I reckon about seven hours, in the late hours of the night we arrived somewhere and stopped. There were several soldiers and non-commissioned officers. They had dug a grave and were awaiting us. They immediately and hastily unloaded the coffin, put it in the waiting grave, and covered it with earth. While they were doing this, I looked around, and although I could not see very well, the place resembled a mountain-side. There was a wall about a metre in height. I climbed onto it and looked around; there was not a light to be seen. Everywhere was in complete darkness.
“They buried the coffin. The work was finished. An N.C.O. said to me: ‘Do you want to stay here tonight, Hoca, or do you want to return home?’ I thought, what shall I do if I stay here... A short time later a black car arrived. The driver was a soldier. I got in and it set off. After travelling for about one and a half hours we approached a town with lights. I asked the driver where the lights were, what town. He replied, ‘Egridir.’ We continued on our way and I returned to my house in Konya at eight or nine o’clock.”
Thus, due to this barbaric act, Bediuzzaman found his final resting-place in his beloved Isparta in accordance with his wishes, and so too, with the exception of two or three of his closest students, and a small number of officials bound to secrecy by oath, the location of his grave remains unknown.
Finally, in some couplets entitled Eddâi (The Supplicant),
included in the introduction to Leme'at, a sizeable collection of
pieces written in ‘semi-verse’ and first published in 1921, Bediuzzaman
foretold both the year of his death and that his grave would be demolished.
A literal translation is as follows:
My demolished grave in which is heaped up*
Seventy-nine dead Said’s** with his sins and sorrows.
The eightieth is a gravestone to a grave;
Altogether they weep*** at Islam’s decline.
Together with my gravestone and moaning grave of dead Said’s
I go forward to the field of tomorrow’s future.
I am certain that the skies of the future and Asia
Will together surrender to Islam’s clean, shining hand.
For it promises the prosperity of belief;
It affords peace and security to mankind.
Bediuzzaman’s footnotes are as follows; the second and third he added in the 1950’s:
* This line is his signature.
** Since the body is renewed twice every year, it means that [each year] two Said’s have died. Also, this year Said is in his seventy-ninth year. It means one Said has died every year, so that he will live to this date. [Bediuzzaman died in 1379 according to the Hijri calendar, and his grave was demolished and moved in 1380.]
*** With a premonition of the future, he perceived its present state, twenty years later.142
1. Sualar, 446.
2. Tarihçe, 537.
3. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 17.
4. Ibid., 56.
5. Ibid., 24,
6. Ibid., 178.
7. Ibid., 83; 76; 100.
8. Ibid., 213-4.
9. Tarihçe, 537-8; Pancaroglu, Hilmi, in Son Sahitler, iii, 169.
10. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 6-7.
11. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 414-5; Tola, Tahsin, in Son Sahitler, i, 158.
12. Çaliskan, Mehmet, in Son Sahitler, iv, 57; 59.
13. Güven, Hafiz Nuri, in Son Sahitler, iv, 37.
14. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 16; Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 381.
15. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 29.
16. Ibid., 25.
17. Ibid., 53-4; 23-4.
18. Yüksel, Bayram, in Son Sahitler, i, 392-6; Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 383-4.
19. Tarihçe, 569.
20. Ibid., 570; Edip, Eshref. Said Nursi, Hayati, Eserleri, Meslegi, 119.
21. Müdâfaalar, 477-80.
22. Edip, Eshref. Said Nursi, 123.
23. Birinci, M. Emin, in Son Sahitler, i, 258.
24. See also, Yürüten, Muhiddin, in Son Sahitler, iii, 80-1; Yilmaztürk, Dr. Alaeddin, in Son Sahitler, ii, 45-6.
25. Tarihçe, 575; Edip, Eshref, Said Nursi, 125-130; Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 127-8.
26. Edip, Eshref, Said Nursi, 130-152.
27. Tarihçe, 583.
28. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 396.
29. See also, Toktor, Avni, in Son Sahitler, iv, 191.
30. Alev, Muhsin, in Son Sahitler, i, 220-1; Serdengeçti, Osman Yüksel, in Son Sahitler, ii, 61-9.
31. Eygi, Mehmet Sevket, in Son Sahitler, v, 218-9.
32. Alev, Muhsin, in Son Sahitler, i, 221.
33. Ramazanoglu, Mustafa, in Son Sahitler, iv, 223-4.
34. Fakazli, Ibrahim, in Son Sahitler, v, 21.
35. Edip, Eshref, Said Nursi, 90.
36. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 146-7.
37. Firinci, Mehmet, in Son Sahitler, iii, 234.
38. For a description, see also, Birinci, M. Emin, in Son Sahitler, i, 257.
39. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 55.
40. Özcan, Salih, in Son Sahitler, iii, 130-1.41. Tarihçe, 624; 626.
42. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 138-40.
43. Ibid., 148-50.
44. Ibid., 63; Acar, Kâmil, in Son Sahitler, ii, 251-2.
45. Yavuztürk, Hakki, in Son Sahitler, ii, 269-70.
46. Acar, Kâmil, in Son Sahitler, ii, 250; Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 55.
47. For example, Mehalifçi, Ömer Adil, in Son Sahitler, v, 122-3.
48. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 62; Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 384.
49. It may be noted here that only ten years subsequent to the sending of Zülfikar, which in particular puts forward proofs of the Prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH) and the Qur'an being the Word of God, Islam was recognized by the Second Vatican Council as a genuine revealed religion and means of salvation.
50. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 405.
51. Firinci, Mehmet, in Son Sahitler, iii, 218.
52. Ibid., 218-38.
53. See, Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 135-7.
54. Qur'an, 7:31.
55. Qur'an, 53:39.
56. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 97-99.
57. Qur'an, 2:29; 67:3; 71:15.
58. Firinci, Mehmet, in Son Sahitler, iii, 226-7.
59. The Governor at that time was Fahreddin Gökay, a co-founder with Bediuzzaman of the Green Crescent Society in May, 1920.
60. Alev, Muhsin, in Son Sahitler, i, 223; Firinci, Mehmet, in Son Sahitler, iii, 234.
61. Ibid., 221.
62. Payazaga, Hüseyin Cahid, in Son Sahitler, v, 269-70.
63. Çapanoglu, Münir, in Sahiner, N. Nurs Yolu, 131.
64. Payazaga, Hüseyin Cahid, Ibid., 270.
65. Alev, Muhsin, in Son Sahitler, i, 226.
66. Firinci, Mehmet, in Son Sahitler, iii, 235.
67. Yüksel, Bayram, in Son Sahitler, i, 398; 406.
68. Ibid., 386-461.
69. Tarihçe, 596-8; Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 410-11.
70. Çaliskan, Mahmud, in Son Sahitler, iv, 68-9; Yüksel, Bayram, in Son Sahitler, i, 409-10.
71. Ibid., 414.
72. See, Firinci, Mehmet, in Son Sahitler, iii, 239-43; Birinci, M. Emin, in Son Sahitler, i, 264-6; Yavuztürk, Hakki, in Son Sahitler, ii, 267-73.
73. Yüksel, Bayram, in Son Sahitler, i, 406-7.
74. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 413-5.
75. Özdemir, Said, in Son Sahitler, v, 49-50; Birinci, M. Emin, in Son Sahitler, i, 266-7.
76. Firinci, Mehmet, in Son Sahitler, iii, 244.
77. Birinci, M. Emin, in Son Sahitler, i, 284.
78. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 36-7.
79. See, Gümüs, Ahmed, in Son Sahitler, i, 319.
80. Emre, Giyaseddin, in Son Sahitler, ii, 56.
81. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 194-7.
82. See, Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 24; 56.
83. Ibid., 35.
84. Sungur, Mustafa, in Nur - The Light, Vol. V, No. 57, September 1990, 2-4.
85. Qur'an, 6:164; 17:15; etc.
86. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 82
87. Ibid., 97-8.
88. Qur'an, 49:10.
89. Qur'an, 3:103.
90. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 81-3.
91. Ibid., 132; 143.
92. Ibid., 143.
93. Türkiye Tarihi, iv, 186.
94. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 415-6.
95. Tayyar, Ali, in Son Sahitler, v, 112.
96. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 203.
97. Yahyagil, Hulûsi, in Son Sahitler, i, 40; Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 14.
98. See, Son Sahitler, iv, 307-316.
99. See, Birinci, M. Emin, in Son Sahitler, i, 267-77; Türkmenoglu, Mustafa, in Son Sahitler, iv, 110-12.
100. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 419-20.
101. Tayyar, Ali, in Son Sahitler, v, 110-114.
102. See, pp. 153-4; 162-3; 163-6; 189-91; 202.
103. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 198-9.
104. Ibid., 172.
105. Ibid., 172-3; 155.
106. Ibid., 155-6.
107. Ibid., 183.
108. Ibid., 102-4.
109. Ibid., 120-1.
110. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 132-3.
111. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 173.
112. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 166.
113. Acar, Kâmil, in Son Sahitler, ii, 256.
114. Özcan, Salih, in Son Sahitler, iii, 131-2.
115. Gayberi, Vahdi, in Son Sahitler, iv, 12-13.
116. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 187-8; 204-5; 206.
117. Türkiye Tarihi, iv, 184-5.
118. Transformed into a mosque by Fatih Sultan Mehmet on his conquering Istanbul in 1453, for nearly 500 years Aya Sophia had been the symbol of Islamic supremacy over Christianity. It was made into a museum by secret Cabinet decision in October, 1934, and closed to worship. On the pretext of repairs, it has remained as such, having been opened to worship only partially in 1991. See, Eyice, Semavi, Ayasofya, in Islam Ansiklopedisi, iv, 206-10; Ayasofya Zulmü, in Yakin Tarih Ansiklopedisi, vii, 6-104.
119. Tola, Tahsin, in Son Sahitler, i, 160.
120. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 421.
121. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 193.
122. Özdemir, Said, in Son Sahitler, v, 53-4; Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 421.
123. See, Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 213-9.
124. See, Firinci, Mehmet, in Son Sahitler, iii, 248-9.
125. Özdemir, Said, in Son Sahitler, v, 55.
126. Köker, Said, in Son Sahitler, v, 151.
127. Emre, Giyaseddin, in Son Sahitler, ii, 57-8.
128. Tola, Tahsin, in Son Sahitler, i, 160-1.
129. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 208-9.
130. Yilmaz, Fehmi, in Son Sahitler, i, 245.
131. For an account, see, Kavukçu, Re'fet, in Son Sahitler, ii, 231-8. It includes some newspaper cuttings, one of which describes “the battle of words” in the National Assembly between Menderes and Inönü on the subject of Said Nursi.
132. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 211-12.
133. Özdemir, Said, in Son Sahitler, v, 55.
134. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 436.
135. Barçin, Tahir, in Son Sahitler, ii, 133.
136. Yüksel, Bayram, in Son Sahitler, i, 429-34.
137. The following account is taken from Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 440-51; Yegin, Abdullah, in Son Sahitler, i, 373-8; Yüksel, Bayram, in Son Sahitler, i, 434-40.
138. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 461-3.
139. Ibid., 456-7.
140. As Abdülmecid had mentioned, there were two coffins. One of galvanised metal, which was placed inside a large second coffin of zinc. They were sealed with solder on Bediuzzaman’s body being placed in them, after being treated with chemicals.
141. N. Sahiner, Said Nursi, 463-4.
142. Ibid., 466-7; Sözler, 647.