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),

Friday, April 30, 2021

IMAM RABBANI IN THE WRITINGS OF BEDIUZZAMAN SAID NURSI - Dr. Feroz Ahmad Bisati Senior Assistant Professor, Islamic University of Science & Technology, Awantipura, Kashmir, Journal of Shanghai Jiaotong University

Abstract Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1877-1960 AD) while evolving from old to new Said has been influenced by many thinkers, scholars, and Sufis. In his writings he frequently refers to personalities like Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani, Imam Ghazalli, Imam Abu Hanifa, Shah Naqashband, Maulana Khalid and many others. However, most significant among them, whom Said Nursi refers to frequently and with added emphasis, is Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, Mujaddid Alf-i Thani, whom he prefers to address as Imam Rabbani. Said Nursi quotes, invokes and refers to Imam Rabbani frequently in his writings in order to substantiate the subject under discussion in his collection of Risale-i Nur. The present paper aims to identify and highlight the references on Imam Rabbani in the Writings of Said Nursi spread over in Risale-i Nur. The Risale-i Nur will serve as the primary source and the descriptive methodology will essentially be followed. Introduction On his way to evolution to a mature thinker, scholar and a reformer of the highest order Said Nursi was influenced by many great personalities of the past and present. He mentions them in the writings spread over in Risale-i Nur. Among them the most important personality is none other than Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, Mujaddid Alf-i Thani addressed in the writings of Said Nursi as Imam Rabbani. Nursi invokes and quotes him while dealing with various theological, spiritual, Sufi, philosophical, moral or historical issues. In this paper references on Imam Rabbani in the writings of Nursi will be identified, located and annotated. However, before locating and discussing Imam Rabbani in the writings of Said Nursi it would be worthwhile to explore his link with the Naqashbandiyyah OrderDr. Imtiyaz Yusuf Prince of Songkla University, Thialand rightly puts it when he writes that “the link between Said Nursi and Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi is neither geographical nor nationalistic but a spiritual interface exhibiting the universal dimension of Islam’s Ummatic consciousness. It is founded in their Naqshbandiya fellowship, a Sufi order from Muslim Asia associated with Muhammad ibn Muhammad Bahauddin Naqshband (1317-1389 AD) of Bukhara.”1 The Naqashbandiyyah Silsilah is said to have been introduced in Turkey by Maulana Khalid Baghdadi. Maulana Khalid, from Ottoman province of Mosul, born in 1779-80 AD went to India (Jihanabad) in 1809 where he was initiated into Naqashbandiyyah Silsilah through its Mujadiddiyah (turkish-muceddidi) branch.2 The Naqashbandiyyah Silsilah spread from India to different parts of the Muslim world including Ottoman Turkey. Maulana Khalid Baghdadi, known as mujaddid of the 13th century of Islam, introduced the Naqashbandiyyah Order into eastern Ottoman Turkey, as such the order is known in Turkey as Nuksibendi-Halidi (Naqashbandiyyah-Khalidiyyah).3 His near ancestors are said to have been the members of the Naqashbandiyyah-Khalidiyyah branch.4 Said Nursi came in contact with the Naqashbandiyyah-Khalidiyyah order when in his teens through Khalidi Shayukh. With the inspiration from the achievements of these two important Naqashbandi Shayukh (Imam Rabbani and Maulana Khalid) in restoring the originality of Islam in their respective milieus Nursi positioned himself to face the modern challenges of materialism, atheism and scienticism. 

Nursi’s early interface with Imam Rabbani -Nursi’s early interface with Imam Rabbani, especially in his former days, took place when he had gone through a period of hesitation in quest of a way to reach the truth. In one of these hectic times, for instance, when he had been pondering upon the phenomenon of death, his heedless head, as he himself laments, had become a target of terrible and fateful blows. Such compelling situation eventually prompted him to look for a saviour who would cure his psychological illness.5 And he remarks that he found his way to the Qur’an reflecting on the advice of Shaikh Sirhindi, “Make your Qibla one,”6 meaning that take recourse to one master only and follow him strictly, and that one master he later explored to be the All-wise Qur’an. Nursi’s spiritual crisis had prompted him to withdraw from society and seek solitude in places removed from Istanbul life. He retreated to Yusha Tepesi, a high hill on the Asian side of theBosphorus near its junction with the Black Sea. Following this he took a house in Sariyer, on the European side, and it was here in an old wooden house that is still standing that Nursi’s crisis was resolved and he found what he was searching for. It was Gawth al-A‘zam, ‘Abd al-Qadir Gilani, who came to Nursi’s aid. A copy of his Futuh al-Ghayb came into Nursi’s possession “by a happy coincidence,” and on opening the pages at random, his eye fell on these lines: “You are in the Darü’l-Hikmet, so search for a doctor to cure your heart.”7 Nursi interprets this coincidence as follows: “Oh, you unfortunate! As a member of the Dar al-Hikmet al-Islamiye, you are as though a doctor curing the spiritual sicknesses of the people of Islam, whereas you are sicker than anyone. You first of all find a doctor for yourself, then try to cure others!” (. . .) So I said to the Shaikh “You be my doctor!” and I took him as my doctor and read the book as though it were addressing me. But it was terribly severe; it smashed my pride in the most fearsome manner. It carried out drastic surgery on my soul. I could not stand it. I read half of it as though it were addressing me, but did not have the strength and endurance to finish it. I put the book back on the shelf. Then a week later the pain of that curative operation subsided, and pleasure came in its place. I reopened the book and read it right through; I benefited a lot from that work of my first master. I listened to his prayers and supplications, and profited abundantly.8The second work that was instrumental in transforming the Old Said into the New Said was the Maktubat (Letters) of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, known as Imam-i Rabbani. Sometime after his “cure” through the mediation of Gawth al-A‘zam, Nursi opened Sirhindi’s Maktubat to see what it had to offer.9 He wrote:It is strange, but in the whole of Maktubat the word Bediuzzaman appears only twice and those two letters fell open for me at once. I saw that written at the head of them was: Letter to Mirza Bediuzzaman, and my father’s name was Mirza. “Glory be to God!” I exclaimed, these letters are addressing me. At that time the Old Said was also known as Bediuzzaman. Apart from Bediuzzaman Hamadani, I knew of no famous person in the last three hundred years with that name. But in the Imam’s time there was such a person, and he wrote him these two letters. His state of mind must have been similar to mine, for I found that these letters werethe cure for my ills. Only, the Imam persistently recommended in many of his letters what he wrote in these two, which was: “Take only one qiblah!” That is, take one person as your master and follow him; do not concern yourself with anyone else.”10Nursi writes that this most important piece of advice seemed inappropriate for his state of mind, and he was bewildered as to whom he should follow. In the introduction to the Turkish edition of al-Mathnawi al-‘Arabi al-Nuri, translated in the 1950s, he explained this in greater detail: “Since the Old Said proceeded more in the rational and philosophical sciences, he started to look for a way to the essence of reality like that of the Sufis (Ahl-i Tariqat) and the mystics (Ahl-i Hakikat). But he was not content to proceed with the heart alone like the Sufis, for his intellect and thought were wounded by philosophy; a cure was needed. Then he wanted to follow some of the great mystics who approached reality with both the heart and the mind. He looked, and each had different points that attracted him. He was bewildered as to which of them to follow.”11 None of the great figures, such as Imam Ghazali, Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, or Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, answered all of his needs. While in this state, “it was imparted to the Old Said’s much wounded heart” that the one true master was the Holy Qur’an. It occurred to him “through divine mercy” that “the head of these various ways and the source of these streams and the sun of these planets is the All-Wise Qur’an; the true single qiblah is to be found in it. In which case, it is also the most elevated guide and most holy master. So I clasped it with both hands and clung on to it.”12 

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