Who is Badiuzzaman Said Nursi? I would like to get information about Risale-i Nur movement. Is this movement a madhhab (sect)?

The Details of the Question
Who is Badiuzzaman Said Nursi? I would like to get information about Risale-i Nur movement. Is this movement a madhhab (sect)?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

It is not a madhhab. Risale-i Nur is an interpretation of the Qur’an. People who read this interpretation are called students of Nur. 

The primary addressee of this question is Badiuzzaman, the author of these works. Let us ask him and see what his answer will be. He says in his work titled “The Rays” as follows: 

“I have only one aim; it is this: at this time as I approach the grave, I hear the hooting of the Bolshevik owls in this country, which is a Muslim land. The sound is damaging the fundamentals of belief of the Islamic world. Making them lose their belief, it binds the people, and particularly the youth, to itself. Struggling against it with all my strength, I am calling the youth and all Muslims to believe. I am struggling against these unbelieving masses. I want to enter the Divine presence with this struggle of mine. This is all I do. As for those who prevent me from doing this, I am frightened that they are communists! For me it is a sacred aim to co-operate with the forces of religion who have embraced the struggle against these enemies of belief. Release me! Let me work to reform the youth, poisoned by communism, and for this country’s faith! Let me serve Divine unity!” (1)

Again, let us have a look at the following statements from the Rays:

“…and our particular duty is to teach the believers in certain, verified fashion the Qur’anic truths of belief, and save them and ourselves from eternal extinction and everlasting solitary confinement in the Intermediate Realm. We have absolutely no connection with any worldly, political, scheming society or clandestine group, or the covert organizations concerning which on no grounds whatsoever we have been charged; we do not condescend to such things.” (2) 

Moreover, what we should do and why we were created are voiced in the Letters with the following statements: 

Be certain of this, that the highest aim of creation and its most important result are belief in God. The most exalted rank in humanity and its highest degree are the knowledge of God contained within belief in God. The most radiant happiness and sweetest bounty for jinn and human beings are the love of God contained within the knowledge of God. And the purest joy for the human spirit and the sheerest delight for man’s heart are the rapture of the spirit contained within the love of God.

Indeed, all true happiness, pure joy, sweet bounties, and untroubled pleasure lie in knowledge of God and love of God; they cannot exist without them. One who knows and loves God Almighty is potentially able to receive endless bounties, happiness, lights, and mysteries. While one who does not truly know and love him is afflicted spiritually and materially by endless misery, pain, and fears. Even if such an impotent and miserable person owned the whole world, it would be worth nothing for him, for it would seem to him that he was living a fruitless life among the vagrant human race in a wretched world without owner or protector. Everyone may understand just how wretched and bewildered is man among the vagrant human race in this bewildering fleeting world if he does not know his Owner, if he does not discover his Master. But if he does discover and know Him, he will seek refuge in His mercy and will rely on His power. The desolate world will turn into a place of recreation and pleasure; it will become a place of trade for the hereafter.” (3) 

(1) see The Rays, the Fourteenth Ray, (to the Prime Ministry, to the Ministry of Interior Affairs) 

(2) see ibid. 

(3) see The Letters, Twentieth Letter, Preface 


Bediuzzaman Said Nursi 

Personality of Master Bediuzzaman shows itself truly only in the whole of his works. This outstanding person, who says “I am in the winds of belief; what blows against me is the winds of unbelief”, carried out a spiritual, metaphysical jihad, staying on the same line all his life and paved way to salvation of millions of people. The best resource to obtain information about his life from is his book named “Tarihçe-i Hayat (History of My Life). This book, which was edited by him in person, is a good answer to your question. 

Nevertheless, we are presenting a summary of the Master’s life as follows: 

Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was born in the village of Nurs in Hizan, in the city of Bitlis in the year of 1878. He received education in madrasas in the neighborhood in his childhood years. Due to outstanding intellect and memory witnessed with him, he was firstly known as Molla Said the Well-Known. Later, he became famous with the title of “Bediuzzaman” meaning “the wonder of the time”. 

In his school years, he memorized 90 books about basic Islamic knowledges. He used to repeat one of them every night. These repetitions served as a step for him to comprehend the meanings of Quranic verses deeply and he saw that each Quranic verse embraced the whole universe. 

At the beginning of 1900’s, he came to Istanbul, which was then the center of caliphate, with an idea of establishing an Islamic university named Madrasatu’z-Zahra, which taught religious knowledges and positive sciences together. He made efforts in order to reach this aim of his all his life. Although, he failed to establish a university like he dreamed, he established a wide-spread system of madrasas which had branches that functioned all over the country.

He served as a voluntary regiment commander in the east front during World War I. He was injured in war and lived as a captive in Russia for two and a half years. Taking advantage of chaos during Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, he escaped captivity. When he returned his country, he was charged with the management of Daru’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiyya, which was the highest center of religious consultation in Ottoman Empire, by the General Staff. In the years of British invasion of Istanbul, he published a book against them, titled Hutuwat-i Sitta. 

He supported the Independence War started in Anatolia. While he was busy with educational activities in Van in 1925, he was exiled firstly to Burdur and then to Isparta and Barla as a precaution during Sheikh Said Riot, although he opposed to this movement. He stayed there for eight years. He wrote most of his Interpretation of Quran named Risale-i Nur there. He was arraigned to Eskişehir Court because of his books and ideas.

He continued to write his books in Kastamonu, where he was exiled. He was arraigned to Denizli Court in 1943 and to Afyon Court in 1948. Trials ended with his exculpation. 

Religious rights and freedoms were expanded with the multiparty political system put into practice in 1950. Bediuzzaman had his books published in printing houses at that time. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi passed away to the mercy of Allah in 23rd March, 1960.

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