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The Escape and Return Journey There is no detailed account of Nursi’s escape and return journey to Istanbul. He did not permit his nephew, Abdurrahman, to give anything but the briefest facts: that “having escaped from Kosturma, [Nursi] was successful in reaching Petersburg, [then] Warsaw, and finally arriving at Istanbul by way of Vienna, was saved from captivity.”1 The journey, however, was neither direct nor quick. For his description of the long nights in the mosque by the Volga when spring was close shows that his escape, which was “several days later,” cannot have been later than March or April, and he did not arrive back in Istanbul till after June 20, 1918. Moreover, one source states that he visited Berlin,2 while his “official” biography3 and his brother Abdülmecid4 say he returned “by way of Germany.”5 Since according to his own account Nursi made his escape and journey with extraordinary ease, he must have spent time somewhere on the way, but there are no clues to this in any of his works.6 In any event, in June 1918, Nursi returned to Istanbul by way of Vienna and Sofia, the last part of the journey by train. In Sofya he was given a passport by the military attaché. Dated June 17, 1918, it gives these details of Nursi on the front face: Name: Said Mirza Efendi (Lt. Colonel) Detachment: Volunteer Kurdish Cavalry Regiment Nationality: Ottoman Point of Departure: Sofia Destination: Istanbul (Dersaadet) Reason for journey: Returning from captivity Date: June 17, 1918 131 C H A P T E R 7 The Armistice Years (1): Appointment to the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-ÿslamiye, and Opposition to the British And the back of the passport bears a copy of the photograph of Nursi taken by the German authorities, and states that the train fare is to be charged to the army’s account.7 Nursi’s arrival in Istanbul was announced in several of the newspapers. The Tanin dated June 25, 1918, carried this short announcement: “Bediüzzaman Said-i Kürdi Efendi, one of the Kurdistan ulama, who fought in the war on the Caucasian Front together with his students and fell prisoner to the Russians , has recently arrived back in our city.”8 Istanbul Nursi was given a hero’s welcome on his return to Istanbul. Enver Pasha introduced him to the leading military personnel in the War Ministry, saying: “Do you see this hoja? This was the person who withstood the Russian Cossacks in the East!” He received invitations from prominent pashas and dignitaries , or was visited by them. He was offered various positions and honors, and was awarded a war medal. Molla Süleyman, one of his students, recalled the following exchange between Enver Pasha and Nursi: I read of Nursi’s return in the Tanin, and visited him in Sultan Ahmet [Mosque] and kissed his hand. Later Enver Pasha, the minister of war, invited him to the War Ministry. He said to him: “How are you? What are you doing these days, hoja?” Nursi replied: “If you are offering me work for worldly gain, I can’t accept it. But if you have something in mind to do with knowledge and learning, that would be different. However, what I need at the moment is to rest, for I was very harshly treated while a prisoner, and I suffered great hardship.”9 Nursi was also joined by his nephew Abdurrahman, the son of his elder brother Abdullah. He may well have brought with him from the east a fair copy of Isha\ra\t al-I‘ja\z, Nursi’s wartime commentary,10 for as soon as Nursi returned he set about having it published. Wanting to show his appreciation of the work and of Nursi’s service in the war, Enver Pasha offered to publish it for him. Nursi declined the offer and suggested he might get the paper. Paper was not easy to find in wartime Turkey, so Enver provided the paper for Isha\ra\t al-I‘ja\z, and Nursi had it published.11 Advertisements for the first fascicule appeared in I‘tisam Mecmuası, nos. 5 and 6, dated December 26, 1918, and Jîn Gazetesi, January 16, 1919. The S*eyhü’l-ÿslam’s office had it distributed to all the provincial muftis.12 It was widely acclaimed. A firsthand account of Nursi in these first weeks after his return says that every day in the late...


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