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S*ükran Vahide’s biography of Ustadh Bediuzzaman Said Nursi may well become a classic in the field of modern Islamic Studies and Comparative Theology . In this work, the author traces Nursi’s life and thought from his birth and childhood in the eastern part of Turkey until his death in 1960. Vahide’s command of the original sources is beyond reproach, and her understanding of the modern religious and intellectual history of modern Turkey is unrivaled . As she ably shows in this book, Nursi was one of the most brilliant Islamic thinkers in the modern era, a man who consistently fought for his ideals by keeping Islam a dynamic religion in the modern world. Although some scholars overlook Nursi in their discussions of modern Islamic intellectual history, his impact on whole generations of religious Turkish intelligentsia in the post-Republican era has in fact been considerable. Since his death in 1960, Nursi’s followers have taken up the challenge of disseminating his ideas throughout the world. There exists a considerable amount of material in Western languages on Jama\l al-Dên al-Afgha\nê, Sir Ah≥mad Kha\n, Muh≥ammad ‘Abduh, Rashêd Rid≥a\, Muh≥ammad Iqba\l, and other leading intellectuals in the Muslim world. It is high time that Nursi, too, be included among these figures, and be seen as one of the most important of them. Vahide’s study aptly demonstrates why he deserves such a position in modern Islamic thought and practice. As Vahide shows in detail in the first section of this book, we must consider Nursi’s educational and religious formation in the context of the nineteenth century Ottoman intellectual tradition, which was subject to a variety of intellectual and ideological forces and currents. Our understanding of Nursi’s formative period must be anchored in such classical Islamic sciences as Qur’anic exegesis, tradition, kala\m, and mysticism, especially as the Ottoman intelligentsia developed them in the high age of the encounter between the Ottoman state and the West in the nineteenth century. Ustadh Nursi absorbed the different classical Islamic sciences such as tafsêr, Hadêth, history, and so on, and became a brilliant commentator on them by making them relevant to the demands and problems of the modern age. His theological reflections still inspire an entire generation of Muslims throughout the world. xiii Introduction Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi‘ In Vahide’s biography, Nursi emerges as an active theologian with a solid vision of uniting the fractured world of Islam. His intellectual and religious activities spanned nearly six decades of productive life, despite the fact that he was imprisoned for years during Turkey’s Republican phase. Nursi’s life is a great historical narrative that epitomizes the life not just of the Turkish nation, but of the Muslim ummah in the modern period as well. In this sense, there are a great many historical lessons and insights to be derived from following Nursi’s life as he evolved and moved from the countryside in the eastern part of the Ottoman Empire to the vibrant city of Istanbul. Nursi’s career and writings provide us with deep insight into the history of the post-Tanzimat period in the Ottoman Empire, the predicament of the traditional class of ulama, the failure of the Islamic reform movement of the nineteenth century to provide “an Islamic solution” to the encroachment of Westernization , the profound philosophical and political underpinnings of the rise of secular nationalism in Turkey, the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate in 1924, and the state of religion in Kemalist Turkey. Nursi’s magnum opus, the Risale-i Nur (henceforward referred to as the Risale), was written over a period of six decades and exemplifies the scope of his intellectual and religious dynamism. This work also reflects Turkey’s major institutional and ideological transition from a polyglot, multiethnic, and multireligious empire to a secular republic. This enormous change did not happen suddenly, but had been gradually taking place since the beginning of the nineteenth century, at least. With this as the background, Vahide traces the two periods of Nursi’s complex life, Ottoman and Turkish, and establishes the different political, social, and religious dynamics that influenced his thought in both periods. In the Ottoman period, Nursi was fully cognizant of the weakness and progressive decline of the Ottoman institutions, which he desperately tried to halt. Before World War One, Nursi considered the revival of the Ottoman Empire to be the revival of...


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