Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education

The Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) is a non-profit, tax exempt, religious and educational organization dedicated to serve Islam with a special focus on Tasawwuf(Sufism),

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

A Comparison Between the Discourse of Ahmad Sirhindī and Saīd Nursi (PDF)

Who is Bediuzzaman Said Nursi? — Reflections

This chapter looks into the role of the 16th  century Indian Scholar Ahmad  Sirhindī
(1564-1624) and the discourse of Bediüzzaman Saīd Nursi  (1877-1960)   of Turkey.
Sirhindī, also widely known as Imām Rabbānī in Sufi circles, is among few historical
figures who still has substantial influence in Turkish society. Nursi, who passed away
more than half a century ago, is the founder of Nur Movement who is claimed to have
several  million  followers   in  Turkey.  This   study  first   analyses  the  socio-political
context where these two important figures lived and then attempts to demonstrate the
similarities and the differences between the discourse and methods of  Sirhindī  and
Nursi. It concludes that both Sirhindī and Nursi took the Sufi path of Islam as opposed
to  fundamentalist  approach  of  it  and  developed   their  respective  life  philosophies
around it.
Key   words:   Imām   Rabbānī  Ahmad  Sirhindī,   Bediüzzaman   Saīd   Nursi,   Sufism
(tasawwuf), renewer (mujaddīd), Unity of Being (Wahdat al-Wujūd), Unity of Vision
(Wahdat al- Shuhūd)
Despite the geographical distances, there are few commonalities between Turkey and
India. Arguably, any well-lettered person in Turkey would mention the name of Imām
Rabbānī  when they are asked about India. The person known as  Imām Rabbānī  in
Turkey and in the wider Islamic world is actually  Ahmad al-Farūqī al-Sirhindī. His
given name was Ahmad. Since he was born in Sirhind in Indian province of Punjab he
is also called Sirhindi. Owing to the fact that he was the direct descendent of `Umar
ibn Al-Khattāb Al-Farūq (577-644), the second caliph after Prophet Mu ammad, heḥ
became known as Ahmad al-Farūqī al-Sirhindī.
Sirhindī was not only a Sufi sheikh but also a prolific writer. His major work,
[1]  Letters  (Maktūbāt)  is  the collection  of  his 536  letters  written  to  his  students,
followers,  friends  and  officials. Originally  written  in  Farsi,  Sirhindī  expounds  on
Islamic faith and creed emphasizing on Ahl al-Sunnah. It is in Letters he discusses the
existence and entities. His letters to his students and friends has a dominant theme of
Sufism  whilst  his  letters  to  officials  have  a  general  religious  and  social  content.
Sirhindī’s other  books  are  [2]  Mabda’ wa   Ma ādʿ, which is  about  the  stations of a
Sufis’s  spiritual   journey;   [3]  Ma ārif  Ladunniyyaʿ,   which  explains  the  existence,
entities, names and attributes of God;  [4] Mukāshafāt-i Ghaybiyyah contains similar
themes as in the previous books; [5] Ithbāt al-nubuwwah  compares philosophy and
prophethood; [6]  Radd-i Shī aʿ is a rebuff to Mu ammad b. Fahr al-dīn Rustamdārīḥ
who  criticize Prophet’s  Friends  (a hābṣ);   [7]  Risāla-i  Tahīliyyah  expounds  on the
meaning of ‘There is no god but Allāh (lā ilāha illa Allāh)’; and finally [8] T alīqātʿ
bar Shar -i Rubā‘iyyāt-i Hāja Bāqī Billāhḥ is the notes on Bāqi Billāh’s poetry.
Perhaps the same person would mention the name of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi
when  asked  about  one  of  the  most   influential   people  in   Turkey  in  the   twentieth
cenury.1  Therefore   certain  academic   attention  needs   to   be  given   to   these   two
important figures who played great roles in shaping out our current world.
Like Sirhindī, Nursi spent the great majority of his adult life in prisons and
exiles. Great portion   of his  magnum opus  called  the  Risāle-i Nur  collection is  the
product of his years in incarceration. The Words (Sözler), The Letters (Mektūbât), The
Flashes (Lemalar) and The Rays  (Şualar) are all written during   the  republic  years
after   1923.   Nursi’s   early   books   such   as   Reasoning   (Mu ākamāt),   Debates
(Munā arāt) and Signs of Miraculousness (Ishārāt al-I’jāz) are written during the last


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