Third International Scholars Conference on Nursi Studies held in Turkey

Introduction about Third International Scholars Conference on Nursi Studies

In the third week of June 2011, on 18 and 19, the Istanbul Foundation for Science and Culture (a leading research-based educational institute in Turkey) arranged a “Third International Scholars Conference on Nursi Studies”. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was a contemporary of Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal. Both of them “were two stars of the 20th century”. And “although they never met and [probably] were not aware of each other’s ideas, they put forward similar views on many subjects”. Said Nursi was a sufi saint, and the most distinguished Muslim thinker of the twentieth-century in Turkey. Bediuzzaman’s endeavour throughout his long life was focused on the betterment of the Islamic world, and their happiness in this world and the next. These he believed to lie in the Qur’anic teachings. So, with his deep knowledge of both the religious and modern sciences, Bediuzzaman opened up new ways to the Islamic ideology through Risale-i Nur, a collection of 6000-page commentary on the Quran.

Session for Arab participants in the conference

University professors and research scholars from around 40 countries, where research work on Bediuzzaman Said Nursi’s personality is in progress, participated in the conference on Nursi studies. Dr Ali Akbar al-Azhari, an associate professor at the Minhaj University and director research at FMRi, represented Pakistan and spoke on the occasion. During his 10-day research tour, he closely observed the educational and training centres for the propagation of Islamic values in the progressive Turkish society.

Session for English speakers in the conference

It is hoped that Dr Azhari’s visit to turkey will open new channels for introduction of MQi to the Turkish nation. The contents of the speech he made before the participants of the international conference is given below.

Speech by Dr Ali Akbar Azhari: The “Nursi” of our age

At the outset, I would like to take this opportunity to felicitate the organizers and participants of the excellent arrangements. I would also take this opportunity to greet the people of Turkey in general and Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Science in particular on behalf of my own self, my alma mater Minhaj University, Minhaj-ul-Quran International and the people of Pakistan.

I am also deeply thankful to my respectable brother in Islam, Mr Muhammad Mashooq, on this rare occasion, who introduced me to Bediuzzaman Said Nursi in Masjid al-Haram, Mecca, two moths ago.

Dr Ali Akbar Azhari making the speech in English

Dear and respectable audience! We, people in Pakistan, have deep respect and love for the people of Turkey and vice versa. We have been sharing one another’s joys and sorrows and have stood by one another in times of crises. This mutual relationship is based on faith, whose edifice has been erected on the foundation-stone of the concept of brotherhood provided by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and this would stay intact till the Last Day.

I am representing my alma mater Minhaj University, which is an educational project of Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI). MQI is a great movement of the Islamic world, which is engaged in the struggle for promotion of peace, dialogue, love and interfaith harmony across the world through various initiatives. Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, who is the founding leader and patron-in-chief of this movement, is a leading authority on Islam in the contemporary world. He has authored hundreds of books on diverse topics in English, Urdu and Arabic languages besides delivering over 6000 lectures. When I came to know the philosophy and ideas of Said Nursi through his books, I felt in my heart of hearts that Allah Almighty has blessed the Muslims with another Said Nursi in the person of Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri. The 600-page fatwa against terrorism and suicide bombings authored by Shaykh-ul-Islam is a gigantic effort at defending Islam and conveys the real Islamic teachings to the western world.

Because of this intellectual and practical similarity, we have included the books of Said Nursi in the syllabus of Minhaj University.

Session for Arab participants in the conference

One of the greatest trials of our age is corruption in Islamic beliefs. Some Muslim countries are exporting their own version of beliefs abroad. Under the circumstances, the introduction of exalted and moderate personalities just like Said Nursi and Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri is itself a jihad. And, by the grace of Almighty Allah, We have initiated this jihad.

I have come from the city of Allama Dr Muhammad Iqbal. The souls of Said Nursi and Mawlana Roomi would not be pleased if I do not make mention of this great poet, thinker and philosopher of Islam here. Iqbal and Noorsi are both contemporaries, have the shared message and believe in the employment of love and harmony to spread the message of Islam. There is another aspect of resemblance between both. According to Allama Iqbal, his spiritual and intellectual development owes itself to Maulana Room whom he dubs as his mentor and guide. Likewise, the greater personalities to whom Imam Nursi has expressed his devotion include Hazrat Mujadid Alf Sani at the top of the list, who lies buried in Hindustan and with whom Iqbal was also greatly attached. These mutual spiritual relations stay intact even today.

Dr Azhari with Arab scholars on the first day     ---   Dr Azhari with English scholars on the first day

After this introductory talk, I want to present a few submissions to the youth. I would like to congratulate them, for Allah Almighty has chosen them for the propagation of religious knowledge and historic research. These youths are the real asset of the great Turkish nation and the Muslim community. The future of Islam appears bright from your radiant faces; here the spiritual eye of Mawlana Room and Said Nursi seem at work.

As you know, Islam is a combination of faith and practice. Faith is our internal strength and is a motivating factor for action. This faith, which comes into being through unification of devotion and love, also guarantees the acceptance of a deed. The Muslims have extreme love and devotion for Allah Almighty, His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), the Companions and holy personages. If devotion and love merge, faith comes into being. Devotion is wanting without love and faith is incomplete without action. Therefore, all of us must establish a relationship of love with Allah Almighty and hold the respect, dignity and obedience to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) dear to our heart. The same must be our conduct with the Companions and the saints.

Conference dinner in joint session

Imam Said Nursi is also included in this category of people whose life is worthy of emulation for the youth of today. All spiritual and religious leaders including Imam Nursi are the source of inspiration and motivation for us. Said Nursi’s extraordinary interest in acquiring knowledge at a tender age, his intelligence, passionate feeling for the Muslim community during his young age and his selfless sacrifices for the Muslims are the proud heritage of the Turkish Muslims. The recent results of elections in Turkey once more elevated Recep Tayyip’s mildly Islamist Justice and Development party. This political development is also openly attributed to the ideology of Imam Nursi.

That Turkish nation has steadfastly resisted the secularism in the face of all the odds, and promoted the Islamic values, contains a message for the rest of the Muslim world how to spread the message of Islam with strategic wisdom. And this courage came to them through Imam Said Nursi’s unwavering determination and great achievements. Imam Nursi’s life illustrates that the real greatness and excellence is the one which Allah bestows upon His subjects. This greatness is permanent and universal, which has nothing to do with time and space. This is a shared legacy of all members of the Muslim community without any discrimination of creed and race. To pay homage to you, the great Turks, and your spiritual leader, I travelled all the way from Lahore to Istanbul.

Group photo with the organizers of the conference

Those who dedicate their life for higher ideals in life, have their deep faith in Allah Almighty and are prepared to face any hardship and difficulty in their way, Allah places their remembrance and thoughts in our hearts. These people are the beloveds of Allah and He also loves those who love such people. As the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stated:

إِذَا أَحَبَّ اللهُ الْعَبْدَ نَادَى جِبْرِيلَ: إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ فُلَانًا فَأَحْبِبْهُ، فَيُحِبُّهُ جِبْرِيلُ، فَيُنَادِي جِبْرِيلُ فِي أَهْلِ السَّمَاءِ: إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ فُلَانًا فَأَحِبُّوهُ، فَيُحِبُّهُ أَهْلُ السَّمَاءِ. ثُمَّ يُوضَعُ لَهُ الْقَبُولُ فِي الْأَرْضِ..

“If Allah loves a person, He calls Gabriel saying, ‘Allah loves so and-so; O Gabriel! Love him.’ Gabriel would love him and make an announcement amongst the inhabitants of the Heaven. ‘Allah loves so-and-so, therefore you should love him also,’ and so all the inhabitants of the heaven would love him, and then he is granted the pleasure of the people on the earth.’” (Reported by Bukhari and Muslim.)

Said Nursi is not present among us today but his thought, courage and passion can be felt. The spring has set in the garden of his love and devotions. His journals are the repository of knowledge, gnosis, intellectual and spiritual arguments. The number of those who benefit from his knowledge would continue to increase with the passage of time.

Dr Azhari receiving a shield from one of the  ----      Dr Azhari with the scholars from Arab universities
oldest student of Said Nursi                                                                                                 

In the end, I would like to give a message to the youth who are working for the Muslim community in this very difficult age. We have been getting bogged down in a crisis, which struck us 500 years ago. A large number of organizations and movements are working to disseminate the Islamic teachings in the world today. The Muslims fritted away their energies over their mutual and sectarian fights. But Saeed Noorsi was the key thinker and preacher who fought against the enemies of Turkey in war, and when he was asked to wage a war against the secular government of Turkey in 1925, he refused to shed the blood of Muslim brethren. He refrained from taking part in a fight which he dubbed as inconclusive civil strife. His conduct has proven out to be so true after the passage of one century. Those who have employed violence, hatred and barbarism, as means to serve Islam, have only damaged the cause of Muslims and rendered no service except bringing disrepute to the sacred name of Islam, a religion of peace, harmony and love.

Today, some people have misunderstood the real Islamic perception of jihad, and restrict it to physical fight with weapons, whereas the fact remains that it is a wider concept. Jihad has many kinds and those who engage in physical jihad neglect the 90% of the conditionalities attached with such kind of holy war and become instrumental in creating hatred between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. We cannot broadcast our religion by putting arguments, knowledge, science and technology at the backburner. This approach is not destined to succeed. Therefore, peaceful, scholarly, intellectual and spiritual struggle of Said Nursi promises to produce positive results in this age.

An outside view of Mulana Room's tomb

An inside view of Mulana Room's tomb  ----  The blessed grave of Shams Tabrez,
                                                                             the spiritual guide of Mawlana Room

Dr Azhari outside Mulana Room's tomb

The mosque of Abu Ayyub Ansari, a Companion of the Holy Prophet --- The study session of Rasail-e Nur at a training centre

Dr Azhari with a delegation of Afghan teachers in Turkey

Dinner for Dr Azhari by the Nuri business community --- Dr Azhari is welcomed by the young Nuri students
                                                                                               at one of their training centres in Konya

Dr Azhari exchanging views with the Nuri spiritual students at another training centre in Konya

A view of the mosque of grand sultan Suleiman 1 in Istanbul  --- Intellectual discussion with scholars in Green Park Hotel

A view of old Istanbul city

A view of Konya, the city of Mawlana Room

A view of Istanbul where its European and Asian parts merge and the bridge divides them