Can you give some information about Interreligious Dialogue and Islam-Christian Dialogue according to Badiuzzaman Said Nursi?

The yeast of the universe is love. It is obvious that we cannot get anywhere through harshness and acrimony. It is seen clearly that when a person is approached with love and respect, the way to dialogue is opened and it is possible to tell people about the values one represents.
There is a saying attributed to Mawlana: One of my feet is in the center, observing the religious fundamentals, and my other foot is together with people from seventy-two nations.(1) Actually, this thought summarizes the situation of a Muslim: as a fundamental principle, to get on well with everybody, to be in dialogue with everybody and to have relationship and contact with everybody as much as the circumstances are convenient.

Of course, there will be a criterion of being in dialogue with everybody. If a person is devoted to Islamic principles, that is, one of his feet, as in the simile of Mawlana, is firm on the religious, Islamic ground, those dialogues are useful. Otherwise, if a persons life is not based on Sunnah, he may go astray.
We are the children of a culture that has the following exemplary personalities: its Prophet, just before he died, said the following: I entrust the People of the Book, that is Christians and Jewish people, to you; its Caliph, while he was in his deathbed because he was stabbed, said I entrust the minorities among you to you, fear Allah about them and deal with them justly; after beating the commander of the enemy army that he fought at close quarters, its commander-in-chief and sultan entertained that commander in his tent and sent his men to accompany that commander to reach Constantinople, the capital city of his state, safely; and its sultan went to his tent at night and cured the commander of the Crusaders, Richard, who came to Jerusalem after killing a lot of Muslims and who fought him near Jerusalem. That is, we are the successors of the deepest, most comprehensive and universal culture of tolerance. This understanding and consideration are expanding today like the sea waves and reaching to every corner of the world. We believe that years to come will be years of tolerance and love; we will make the world gain many things. Let alone the fights among us, the problems that cause fights, controversy and conflicts with people from other worlds will be completely settled; we will understand the strength of love and will welcome everybody with love and affection, will embrace everybody and will realize the important issues like dialogue and tolerance that the world needs the most today with the help of Allah.

We should be at ease in terms of dialogue both in our country and abroad. Developments like globalization, entering Customs Union and European Union will not make us lose anything in terms of religion, nation and culture. Our belief in the strength of our dynamics that keep us standing is absolute. We have no doubt that the Quran depends on heavenly revelation and that it will solve all of the humankinds problems. Therefore, only those that resist the reviving climate of the Quran should be afraid of dialogue. They look for alternative ideas because the system they have do not meet their needs, and they are afraid of anxious about their own people by saying, What shall we do if those searches lead mankind to Islam?. We can say that what lies beneath their acrimony today is that thought.

Yes, it is very important that we show respect to human rights and freedoms that one part or one religion of the community is not in conflict with another part or religion and that they live together in peace that the tolerance and dialogue attempts should be enhanced and that all of the democratic developments should be supported.

For Muslims, the intellectual foundations of tolerance, dialogue and living together are existent. If Muslims want to apply those foundations and have an active role in the shared life of the world, they should make that understanding, whose fine examples we saw in history, a current issue, evaluate and consider it again.

In our world that got smaller thanks to the feasibilities provided by science and technology and became like a large village, it has become an inevitable obligation for individuals, communities and civilizations to have dialogues with one another. We should give importance to interreligious dialogue if we do not want the thesis and theories based on the clash of civilizations to be in demand.

The wars caused by the exploitation of religion in history and today have images that wring peoples hearts. Human beings should be responsible only to the Creator; but the fact that some people or groups try to impose what they think as true on other people in the name of Allah cause a lot of discontent in our world that is getting smaller. It is a natural behavior that religious leaders should negotiate and work without including religious differences and problems in the agenda and without fighting about them in order to stop inhumane agonies and ensure the world peace today, when social relations have become more intense. Today, the work to develop mutual tolerance and understanding without fighting about the differences between religions is carried out under the name of Dialogue among the Members of Religions or Interreligious Dialogue.

Dialogue is the conversation of two or more people from various races and cultures, different beliefs and thoughts, different political understanding and their communication in a civilized way. As for dialogue in the religious field, it is the conversation, discussion in a medium of tolerance and cooperation between both members of the different groups of the same religion and members of different religions about the common problems without attempting to make others accept their own religion by using physical or spiritual force.

When we look at the image of the history that lasted thousands of years, we see that the consciousness that hot and cold wars between religions and beliefs brought humankind nothing but catastrophes, agonies, hate and grudge is becoming stronger day by day. The need for people to know each other well and to be in dialogue with each other is becoming evident as the primary way of living in a friendly way and in peace. You cannot expect two people who live in the same room but do not talk to each other to become friends. People build bridges between hearts of each other to the extent that they understand the feelings and thoughts of each other through conversation. They will have the tendencies to solve shared problems together. It is necessary for believers to cooperate in order to protect the ethical values depending on belief and conscience more strongly from destructive currents and to contribute in bringing up the new generations better. If religions advise goodness, ethic, peace and justice, what can be more natural than their coming together for the same purpose and cooperate?

Islam-Christian Dialogue According to Badiuzzaman

One of the aims of Christian-Islam dialogue is to act together against atheism, materialism and communism all over the world.
Badiuzzaman Said Nursi said the following regarding Christian-Islam dialogue, As it is stated in a sound (sahih) hadith, during the end of time the real religious Christians will ally with the People of the Quran and resist against atheists; even today, the people of religion and the people of truth should ally sincerely not only with their co-religionists, colleagues and brothers but also with the real Christian religionists, without arguing about the controversial issues temporarily, against their common enemies, aggressive atheists. (2)

Today there are more than one billion Muslims and about the same amount of Christians in the world. If we, as the members of the two religions, concentrate on the common duty, that is, if we support justice in the world and stand against injustice, we can do a lot of things for the goodness to prevail in the world.

We should shed the enmities in history like a skin. We should bury the mistakes and errors in the past and look to the future. The problems of the world are increasing day by day and are becoming inextricable. We can solve those problems only if we work together.

In addition, we have many common values that make us come close to each other: being religious, honesty, neighbor rights, solidarity, helping the needy, looking after the poor and the diseased; the love, respect and loyalty between the family members, hospitality, etc.

Yes, we must work to find solutions to the wars and hunger wherever they are without heeding the religions and colors of the people.

a. Badiuzzamans view about Christianity

We can summarize Badiuzzamans detailed view about the members of other religions, especially Christians in three main points:

First point:

According to Badiuzzaman, the view that most of the human beings will embrace Islam is dominant. He writes about this issue in his famous Call to the People of the Book and in various places in Risale-i Nur Collection.

The Quran encourages the people of the book to believe, showing them a familiarity and ease:

O People of the Book! There is no hardship in embracing Islam for you. It should not be hard for you! It does not order you to abandon your religion completely. However, it offers you to strengthen your creed and to base it on the religious principles. Since the Quran has collected all of the beauties of the previous books and the fundamental principles of the previous Shariahs, it is the book that corrects and perfects in method. However, it brings new things in the details part that needs changes because of the changes in time and place. Therefore, the Quran changed some of their decrees that are not fundamental. That is, their time expired, now it is time for other decrees. (3)

Second point:

According to Said Nursi non-Muslims should have the same rights with Muslims in the Islamic countries and should be treated equally so that Muslims in the non-Muslim countries should be treated in the same way.

Safa Mürsel determines that issue in an interesting way in his work Bediüzzaman Said Nursî ve Devlet Felsefesi (Badiuzzaman Said Nursi and State Philosophy) by referring to Nursis work Münazarat. We see that Badiuzzaman regards giving the same freedoms to Greeks and Armenians in 1911 with the second constitutional period as appropriate to Islam:
Their freedom is not to oppress them and to leave them free. It is appropriate to Shariah (4)

It is valid for Christians too. If Muslims act in accordance with the constitution of the foreign country they live in and do not harm their religion and culture they will have the same rights as Muslims give to Christians in the Islamic country.

In his work, Münazarat, Badiuzzaman Said Nursi also states that it is possible to be friends with Jewish people and Christians by remaining a Muslim. He says that it is possible to have friendships in political, social and economical fields without harming religious differences. Thus, Christians and Muslims can agree on the law of nations mutually. Religious differences that will not harm living together can be accepted.

This view states a nice Islamic tradition and it was applied many times in history. Badiuzzaman determined that view as a very important principle for our time to realize a real living together. This view does not go beyond a living together with tolerance.

Third point:

When we look at Christian-Islam dialogue from the point of view of Risale-i Nur, first of all, common grounds of both religions emerge. Those common grounds make it possible for Islam and Christianity to struggle against atheism, materialism, communism, etc together all over the world. Badiuzzaman Said Nursi shows the second verse of Chapter al-Maeda as evidence for this issue. It is important that heavenly religions compete in good deeds and struggle together especially against atheism.

Fourth point:

In his work Maktubat (Letters) Said Nursi says that some Christians went to the extreme in loving Hazrat Eesa (Jesus Christ) and accept him, Allah forbid, as the son of Allah. Then the Jewish people overreacted, bore enmity towards him, and denied his prophethood and his high rank. (5)

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi says the following about Christianity:

Christianity will either disappear or become purified and surrender to Islam. Christianity was torn a few times, and reached Protestantism. Protestantism was torn too, and approached Islam. It is getting ready to be torn again. It will either disappear and fade away or will see the truth of Islam that includes the principles of Christianity and surrender. (6)

According to him, Christianity and Islam cannot stand against the current of atheism alone. At a time when the current of atheism appears to be very strong, the religion of true Christianity, which comprises the collective personality of Jesus (Upon whom be peace), will emerge, that is, it will descend from the skies of Divine Mercy; present Christianity will be purified in the face of that reality; it will cast off superstition and distortion, and unite with the truths of Islam; spiritually Christianity will be transformed into a sort of Islam; following the Quran, the collective personality of Christianity will be in the rank of follower, and Islam, in that of leader; true religion will become a mighty force as a result of its joining it. (7)

The determination of Badiuzzaman about the result is as follows:

It will be the truly pious followers of Jesus who will kill the gigantic collective personality of materialism and irreligion which the Dajjal will form —for the Dajjal will be killed by Jesus (PUH) sword— and destroy his ideas and disbelief, which are atheistic. Those truly pious Christians will blend the essence of true Christianity with the essence of Islam and rout the Dajjal with their combined strength, in effect killing him. (8)

Said Nursi mentioned the issue of the relationship of the civilization in Europe and religion and its effects on the Islamic world in many places in his works. According to him Europe is two: The first one follows the sciences which serve justice and right and the industries beneficial for the life of society through the inspiration it has received from true Christianity, the other through the darkness of the philosophy of Naturalism, supposing the evils of civilization to be its virtues, has driven mankind to vice and misguidance. (9)

It is clear that the religion in Europe is a religion that moved away from true Christianity through various changes. So much so that the works within the framework of improving the religion, brought about the sect of Protestantism. Said Nursi regards that development as Christianitys taking a step towards Islam. He evaluates the reactions that Protestantism received as a result of that development as follows:

Since at the end of time there is a veil of wantonness over religion and the religion Islam to the extent of an interregnum and the true religion of Hazrat Eesa will dominate and will be shoulder to shoulder with Islam, it can be said that the oppressed Christians who are subject to Hazrat Eesa and who are in darkness like a period of interregnum and the troubles they suffer are a kind of witnessing about them.

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi continues as follows:

I was informed of the truth that the trouble they suffered would definitely be a compensation for the sins that came from the aberration and unbelief of the philosophy, and the debauchery and ungratefulness of the civilization. (10)

In his work, Kastamonu Lahikası (Kastamonu Addendum), Said Nursi felt extraordinarily sorry due to the affection in his nature for tortures, cruelty and death of children and women by the enemy during the Second World War. Then he expresses that he has seen through his spiritual eye that those innocent children and people who were killed went to Paradise thanks to the mercy of Allah, that even if those innocent people were unbelievers, the mercy of Allah encompassed them too, and then he continues, Even if those oppressed are unbelievers, there will be so many rewards from the treasure of the divine mercy for the troubles they suffered in the world that I know that they will say O My Lord, thank You, praise be to You if the veil of ghaib (the unseen, the unknown) is opened. (11)

b. Muslim-Christian Dialogue and Cooperation in Badiuzzamans Thought

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi made his personal efforts for compromise and friendship. In 1950, he sent his Risale-i Nur Collection to Pope XII. Pius to Rome, and on February 22, 1951 he received a personal thank you letter from the Pope as a reply. An observer states that it happened only ten years before the Second Vatican Council in which the Catholic Church declared their respect for Islam and stated that Islam really was a salvation and liberation way. (12) Similarly Said Nursi, visited the Patriarch Athenagoras in Istanbul a few years ago, in 1953, in order to make cooperation between Muslims and Christians against aggressive atheism. (13)

Said Nursi presents original and thought-provoking ideas regarding Muslim-Christian dialogue and cooperation. His central thesis is that Muslims and Christians could build a real civilization based on human honor, justice and friendship in accordance with Allahs plan. In order to do it, Muslims and Christians should base their relations with each other on love. In his famous Damascus Sermon, Said Nursi says that the fourth word civilization will be built on is love. The thing most worthy of love is love, and the quality most deserving of enmity is enmity. That is, the quality of love and loving, which renders man's social life secure and impels to happiness is the most worthy of love and being loved. (14) He reached the conclusion, The time of enmity and hostility ended.

That call to love seems to be valid even in the boundaries of a persons own religious congregation today. As a matter of fact, the happenings that have taken place since Said Nursi recited the famous Damascus Sermon in 1991 shows the importance of that message: The two world wars, conflicts between India and Pakistan, the massacres in Ruanda and Burundi, displacement of the people of Palestine, destruction of first Bosnia and then Kosovo and many other bloody battles throughout the world remind us that the only solution to the destruction that causes brothers injure and kill each other is love. The world is still awaiting Muslims and members of other religions as a congregation of believers based on belief in a Lord who is affectionate and merciful to show the way of love as a divine alternative for fury and war.

c. Badiuzzamans view regarding the verse take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors (al-Maeda, 51)

It is seen that Badiuzzaman became an issue of investigation for some people due to his desire to establish friendly relations with Christians in 1910-1911. He is faced with the limiting interpretation of some Muslims for the verse O believers! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors (al-Maeda, 51). In the light of that verse, he is asked how and why he said Muslims should be friends with Christians.

Badiuzzaman applies that principle to the above-mentioned verse and asserts that the prohibition of being friends with Jewish people and Christians is only valid when Muslims accept them as examples and imitate them in spite of Islam. According to him, not every attribute of a Muslim is Islamic and not all of the attributes of a Christian reflect unbelief. If Muslims find qualities in a Jewish person or Christian that are in agreement with Islam, they should appreciate those qualities. What will form the basis of the friendship with Jewish people and Christians will be those nice qualities. Said Nursi puts forward the question, Can a Muslim love a Jewish person or a Christian? and in the reply he gives the fact that a Muslim man can marry a woman from the people of the book as an example and says your wife is from the people of the book, you will certainly love her. (15) His argument that Muslims can be friends with Christians is based on the fact that Shariah allows a Muslim man to marry a Jewish or Christian woman; a man loves his wife and he should.

Conclusion

As the verses in the Quran command, dialogue with the members of other religions that our Prophet (PBUH) and Muslims coming after him applied in their lives is an important thing that Muslims should carry out today. We should not keep away from dialogue because they do not embrace our religion. Even if they do not embrace as a result of dialogue, the fact that a friendship will occur between us and them is something beneficial.

Dialogue negotiations are long-term projects. We should not haste and say, nothing serious is achieved, it is of no use and give up but we should go on patiently. It is certainly more useful for members of religion to exert their power and energy in useful things rather than in fights and enmity.

As a result of the interreligious dialogue negotiations it is not true to say that we should show respect to the members of other religions because they show respect to us. As Muslims, we show respect to everyone due to the order of our religion. If we show respect to everyone as a necessity of our religion today, the members of other religions will start to show respect to us tomorrow and afterwards. Thus, there will be peace among the members of religions and in the world. Of course, not only religious people but also all of the people in the world will benefit from it.

There may be some people who criticize interreligious dialogue negotiations as making friends with people who rebelled against Islam and were enemies of Islam for years. However, it is an Islamic thought and the reflection of that thought into life. The Messenger of Allah sat with and talked to Abu Jahl, who inflicted various kinds of torture on him for years, and many others like him. So what is the meaning of making criticism that cannot be explained with Islamic principles because of the negotiations with the people through interreligious dialogue? Besides, most of those people show their belief in Allah. In fact, it is the manifestation of not embracing Islam fully. If a person who is involved in dialogue negotiations said, that attitude and that style is my attitude and style, he would be arrogant and pretend as the universal rules brought by Islam belong to him. Therefore, if a Muslim meets an atheist today, he should act in the same way. It is by no means hypocrisy or two-facedness. On the contrary, it is the manifestation of Islamic attitude and thought.

So, the representatives of the divine and universal religion should be in dialogue with Christians, Jewish people, members of the other religions and even with atheists. For instance, nowadays, members of various religions are trying to contact Muslims. No matter what their real intentions are, by acting on the apparent situation, this opportunity should definitely be used in the name of world peace. It is possible to realize an integration regarding shared values that perhaps did not take place in history by leaving historical happenings aside and by accepting them as they define themselves.

Nowadays, distant places are becoming nearer, and the world is becoming a village by globalization. Therefore it seems inevitable to make contact with people from every walk of life, whether, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or atheist and to seek ways to be in dialogue and compromise with them. It will give religious people a great responsibility to avoid interreligious dialogue. In an environment where politicians produce theories like clash of civilizations in order to fill the future of mankind with blood and wars, aiming wars and conflict not dialogue, religious people should support attempts like that in order to make enlightenment and peace prevail in the future though there is very little light today. If they do not build the infrastructure of dialogue and take necessary measures, then Huntingtons theory, which is formidable for the future of humanity, will become valid.

Dialogue is an opportunity that should not be missed by Muslims. The reasons why members of the other religions pursue dialogue, whether they are political as some people say, or part of a mission as some people clearly state now, is not of great importance for Muslims. The West never had an environment where they could try to understand Islam and Muslims without any prejudice (including Andalus, where they had to live together with Muslims). So, this positive medium should be put to good use. We should spend more time for interreligious dialogue, some of whose positive results we have observed, and try to realize world peace as soon as possible.

References:
1. Bediüzzaman Firuzanfer, Mevlana Celaleddin, MEB Yayınları, 1985, Translated by Feridun Nafiz Uzluk. Preface, p.IV. Metnin aslı: Hemçü pergarim der-pa der-şeriat üstüvar/Pay-i diğer seyr-i heftad ü dü-millet miküned.
2. Bediüzzaman Said Nursî, Kaynaklı, İndeksli, Lügatli Risale-i Nur Külliyatı, Nesil Basım Yayın, İstanbul 1996, I,663, footnote.
3. Bediüzzaman Said Nursî. ibid., II,1175.
4. Bediüzzaman Said Nursî, ibid., II,1942.
5. Said Nursî, Kaynaklı, İndeksli, Lügatli Risale-i Nur Külliyatı, l,557.
6. Said Nursî, ibid., I,571.
7. Said Nursî, ibid., I,372.
8. Said Nursî, ibid., I,887.
9. Said Nursî, ibid., I,642.
10. Said Nursî, ibid., II,1615.
11. Bediüzzaman Said Nursî. ibid., II,1599.
12. Şükran Vahide, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, İstanbul, 1992, p. 344.
13. Necmettin Şahiner, Son Şahitler, IV, 307, 344; Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, Mufassal Tarihçe-i Hayat, Abdülkadir Badıllı.
14. Bediüzzaman Said Nursî. ibid., II,1968.
15. Bediüzzaman Said Nursî, ibid., II,1944.

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