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On arriving in Van, Nursi stayed with his younger brother, Abdülmecid, a teacher of Arabic, in the Toprakkale district of the town. But we learn from Abdülmecid’s wife, Rabia, that his well-wishers and visitors were so numerous that he was obliged to move to Nurs*in Mosque. This then became Nursi’s base in Van in place of his medrese, the Horhor, which had been razed in the general destruction of the city wrought by the Armenians and occupying Russians during the war.1 Nurs*in Mosque became a center of learning, with large numbers of religious scholars and shaikhs coming to visit Nursi to pay him their respects and seek his advice. Nursi again attracted many students and began to teach, in addition to speaking with his many visitors. He remained here for the rest of that year. Eventually, however, this busy life weighed on Nursi and impinged on his inner life, so as soon as the weather grew sufficiently warm, he took a small number of his students with him, and withdrew from Van to Mount Erek, a mountain among the jagged peaks to the east of the town. Here he was able to devote himself entirely to prayer and contemplation. That he was the New Said was clear to everyone in Van. Most of those who have recorded their memories of him at this time have mentioned some aspect of the changes that had come about in him. The most apparent of these was that he had abandoned the colorful local dress of the area for clothes of a more sober nature.2 Indeed, on first seeing his destroyed medrese and the sacked and burnt city of Van, he was to relive the harrowing events of war and the deaths of so many of his students that had been instrumental in bringing about the New Said. Then, too, they saw that he had altogether turned his back on politics and the world, and those who heard him speak learned of the way of the New Said: that of saving and strengthening religious belief, which would form the basis of renewal and reconstruction. Nursi stayed on the mountain throughout the summer and autumn of 1924, inhabiting a ruined Armenian monastery and then a cave near the source of the River Zernabad, and returning to Van only for the coldest months of the winter. It was his practice to go down to the town on Fridays to give the sermon in Nurs*in Mosque. From what has been recorded of these sermons and what he taught his students, they, too, were entirely in accordance with the way of the New Said. That is to say, Nursi concentrated on explaining and teaching the fundamentals of belief, the basic tenets of faith: divine unity and 177 C H A P T E R 9 Van the resurrection of the dead and life of the hereafter. On this being questioned, for his treatment of these subjects was new and his congregations were unaccustomed to hearing these basic matters, he told one of his students: “My aim is to build the foundations of belief firmly. If the foundations are sound, belief cannot be shaken by any upheavals.”3 The same student, Molla Hamid, also quoted Nursi as saying in this connection: “Gentlemen, the Old Said is dead! But you still think of me as the Old Said. This is the New Said you see before you. Almighty God has granted him limitless blessings; ten months of the New Said’s teaching is the equivalent of what the Old Said taught in ten years, and should be sufficient.”4 The New Said’s outlook was to become fully enunciated with the Risale-i Nur and the three years till the spring of 1926 when he wrote its first parts may be seen as a time of preparation and seeking divine guidance. Also, just as the first writings of the New Said, collected together in the Mathnaw êal-‘Arabê al-Nu\rê, were the “seedbed” of the Risale-i Nur, so too at this time in Van, some of the “lessons (ders)” Nursi gave or subjects he taught were later included in the Risale-i Nur. Another student, ÿsmail Perihanog¨lu, has recorded two instances of this: Another day, Molla Resul, Kopanisli Molla Yusuf, and I went together with Ustad to Zeve, the people of which had been entirely wiped out in the Armenian massacres. Ustad paused standing, and said: “This...


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