As both an observer and participant during his eighty—four years, he lived through the decline of the Ottoman Empire , World War I and the emergence of the modern Turkish Republic. An influential Islamic teacher and philosopher, he also endured religious oppression and suffered through prolonged periods of exile and imprisonment.
He was resilient, however, and emerged as an important teacher and philosopher who inspired generations of students who embraced his writings. The middle child in a family of seven children, he was raised in a sun—dried brick house.
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His parents were Kurdish farmers who were devout and humble. Considered an exceptionally child bright, he memorized the manuals of the classical Islamic fields of knowledge in a short time. He became a popular student with his teachers, due to his high intelligence and large capacity for learning. When he reached adolescence, he remained an enthusiastic student and continued exhibiting his characteristic sharp memory. By the time he was fourteen, he completed the traditional Turkish madrasah education. At sixteen, he could hold his own in debates with distinguished scholars.
As his learning progressed, he came to the conclusion that the traditional Turkish madrasah education was inadequate. Essentially, he believed that the world was entering a new age that would place high value on science and logic, and he felt that the classical theological curriculum was ill— equipped to remove the doubts an individual might experience regarding the Quran and Islam. According to his worldview, modern physical sciences and the Quran were not irreconcilable.
Indeed, he felt that science made it easier for people to better understand the truths revealed in the Quran. He even developed a plan to establish a university, called Medrestu'z Zehra the Resplendent Madrasah , where both of these disciplines would be taught. In , he went to Istanbul to promote the plan to Sultan Abdul Hamid. Subsequently, he received funding for the construction of the university.
However, it only got as far as the building's foundation. Further construction was halted with the outbreak of World War I.
To maintain his regiment's morale, he entered the trenches that were besieged by constant shelling. Later, he received a medal. Written in the Arabic language, the work combined religious and natural sciences. These efforts proved to be the beginnings of his major work, the Risale—i Nur Epistle of Light , which eventually was endorsed by eminent scholars. While fighting in a battle against invading Russian forces, he was captured along with ninety other officers and sent to a camp in Kostroma, in the northwestern region of Russia.
At one point during his two—year internment, he was sentenced to death by firing squad after insulting a Russian General, Nicola Nicolaevich, the commander of the Caucasian front who was Czar Nicholas II's uncle. Upon his return to his homeland, he received a war medallion and was offered a government position, which he turned down. Instead, he accepted an appointment at Dar al—Hikmat al—Islamiya, a religious academy.
But he survived and entered into what he considered the second phase of his life. In his mind, the historic period that included the end of the World War, the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the occupation of Turkey marked his existence with a deep demarcation. The next phase of his life would include isolation and spiritual solitude, not entirely self imposed. Instead, to find peace through prayerful solitude, he relocated to Van. His peace was shattered in when he was accused of participating in a rebellion in eastern Turkey.
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He was arrested and sent to Barla, a remote village located in the mountains of the Isparta province. The rebels had sought his help because of the strong influence he had over people, but he turned down their requests. The Words -The Words is the first volume of the Risale-i Nur and consists of thirty-three independent parts or Words, which explain and prove aspects of the fundamental matters of belief. Each subject is explained with comparisons and allegories, and demonstrated with reasoned arguments and logical proofs. The most profound aspects of the truths of belief, which were formerly studied only by advanced scholars, are explained in such a way that everyone, even those to whom the subject is new, may understand without difficulty.
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Also included in this collection are the celebrated treatise on Nature and discussion on Divine Self-Subsistence, which lay open the unsound basis of Naturalist and Materialist philosophies, and demonstrate in reasoned and logical manner the necessity of Divine existence and unity. While in addition to these questions, The Fruits of Belief and The Shining Proof put forward clear, irrefutable proofs of Iman pillars of belief.
As well as advising them about their defenses and directing the continuing work of the Risale-i Nur, for the most part these letters were written to guide, encourage, and comfort his students during their ordeals, to remind them to be cautious in the face of their enemies and above all to maintain their solidarity and strengthen their brotherly relations.
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It achieves this by demonstrating that all beings in the cosmos are the manifestations of the Divine Names, and that each Name logically requires the resurrection of the dead, the Last Judgment, and the hereafter. Now, when belief by imitation is no longer acceptable, this book offers readers a way to attain true and certain belief. The traveler questions first the heavens with their suns and stars; then the atmosphere, the earth, and so on, each of which proves the Necessary Existence and Unity of their Maker Allah.