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NURCULUK. The modern Turkish religious movement known as Nurculuk takes its name from its founder and leader Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (18761960).
He was born in the village of Nurs in the province of Bitlis in eastern Turkey in a region with a largely Kurdish population. In the 1870s the Ottoman government had only recently established centralized administrative structures in this area, replacing a flexible, decentralized system that relied on the local aristocracy. The fall from power of the local notables gave impetus to the growth of the fideist/fundamentalist Sunni
Nagshbandi (Tk., Naksibendi) order, who took over local functions of conciliation among the tribes as the old system of law and order disintegrated. A branch of the Naqshbandiyah had established local seminaries and had spread from northern Iraq to Anatolia and to the Russian Empire in Kazan, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. It combatted the expansion of Russia and the spread of Russian Orthodox Christianity. Said Nursi was educated in a Nagshbandi circle; in Bitlis, however, his outlook was also shaped by the presence of an Ottoman administration modeling itself increasingly on western Europe. He realized that the Turkish modernization movement was establishing new criteria differentiating between the more modern Turks of western Anatolia and the Balkans and his own comparatively backward Kurdish region, and this moved him to take up the defense of his kin. An Islam that brought all Muslims under the umbrella of a common faith but added the advantages of Western technology and knowledge was his solution to this cultural bifurcation, which he considered to be a great danger for all Muslims. This foundation of his thought reappears in his later writings in diverse forms and also underlies his followers’ selfassumed task of teaching advances in knowledge.
The Young Turk revolution of 1908 led Said Nursi to hope that his sociopolitical program could be carried out, but the new rulers’ ambivalence toward Islam resulted in a series of conflicts in which he was temporarily exiled, although he later collaborated with the Young Turk regime. He eventually fought as an Ottoman patriot on the Caucasian front during World War I, and was taken prisoner by the Russians. Back in Turkey, he sided with the national resistance movement of Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk), but he was forced into exile in Bitlis when his program of religious revitalization clashed with the aims of the founder of the Turkish Republic. Accused of complicity in the Kurdish uprising of 1925, he was sent to further exile in the province of Isparta. His proselytizing and the group of disciples he was able to influence resulted in yet further exiles to Kastamonu and Denizli. He was also imprisoned several times for contravening the Turkish Republic’s laws against religious organizations. He died in 1960).
Said Nursi’s disciples are known in Turkish as “Nurcu,” or men of Nursi (or, alternatively, since nur [light] is an important symbol in the Qur’an, “men of the light”). The Turkish authorities repeatedly accused Said Nursi of having established his own religious order, an action punishable under Turkish law since the dissolution of Sufi orders in 1925. Both Said Nursi and his followers rejected this classification, indicating that their aims were the wider ones of the revitalization of Islam as a whole. Said Nursi’s own writings, collected under the title Risale-1 nut (Epistle of Light), seem to confirm this claim. The Nurculuk is better seen as a faith movement eventually having institutionalized none of the links between shaykh or pit (religious mentor) and murid (disciple) that characterize Sufi orders. The group, which originated as a religious movement in rural areas and provincial towns, has spread to larger cities and has gathered around it persons of increasingly high educational credentials, including university professors. It is extremely active in publishing the writings of Said Nursi as well as brochures explaining the foundation of modern science, and it has for many years published a newspaper, Yeni Asya. Divisiveness within the group has spawned a number of competing submovements; the rationales of these splinter groups are not easy to ascertain, and the factionalism appears to stem from leadership rivalries.
[See also Nagshbandiyah.]
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: Panel. Coordinated by Faik Bilgi. Istanbul, 1991. Proceedings of a conference on Said Nursi (in Turkish). Bruinessen, Martin van. Agha, Shaikh and State: On the Social and Political Organization of Kurdistan. London, 1992.
Mardin, Serif. Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey. Albany, N.Y., 1989.
SERIF MARDIN

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/nurculuk/
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  • writerPosted On: June 16, 2017
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