Turkey Seeks a Spiritual Leader’s Secret Grave

By SUSANNE GÜSTEN

ISTANBUL — On the night of July 12, 1960, tanks rumbled into Urfa, the military imposed a curfew on the town, and armed troops cordoned off the shrine of Abraham at the heart of the city.

As the town in southeast Turkey held its breath, soldiers forced their way into the shrine, smashed open a marble tomb with sledgehammers and removed a shrouded body. The body was lifted onto an army truck, driven along heavily guarded streets to an airfield outside town, loaded onto a military plane and never seen again.

The date was six weeks after the Turkish coup d’état of 1960, in which a military junta had seized power in Ankara. This was the first of a series of coups that was to rack the country for the rest of the century.

The body was that of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, a charismatic Islamic scholar, whose grave had been drawing thousands of pious mourners to Urfa since he had been laid to rest there in March of that year.

“The military rulers were afraid that Nursi would become a symbol of dissent, his grave a shrine to anti-Kemalism,” Ihsan Yilmaz, an expert for Turkish Islam at Fatih University in Istanbul, explained in an interview last week.

The ploy of removing his body worked in the short term, Mr. Yilmaz said, as followers were discouraged from openly showing their support for the teachings of a man who had clashed with the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, over the role of religion in society.

But in the long run, it did not work. Through his writings, collected in the “Risale-i Nur,” or “Epistles of Light,” and clandestinely photocopied and distributed by his students, Mr. Nursi’s ideas continued to resonate in Turkey, inspiring a uniquely Turkish Islamic identity and a powerful faith-based movement that shapes the country’s society and politics to this day.

“It is no exaggeration to say that Nursi is the most influential theologian of the Turkish Republic,” Mustafa Akyol, another expert on Turkish Islam, said in an interview in Istanbul.

Now, with the shadow of the military removed from the country and immunity from prosecution for all its dealings lifted by a popular referendum two years ago, a parliamentary commission investigating the coups has called for Mr. Nursi’s secret grave to be revealed at last.

The call was included in a list of recommendations issued by the commission in its final report this month, along with more obvious measures such as subjecting the armed forces to democratic control, purging school curriculums of militaristic ideology, and renaming streets and buildings that were named for coup leaders.

“The state owes Nursi an apology,” Selcuk Ozdag, a member of Parliament for the ruling Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., and member of the commission, said by telephone from Ankara. Finding the body was “vital to reconciliation between the people and the state,” he added.

To this end, the commission interrogated surviving members of the 1960 junta and searched the state archives for information about Mr. Nursi’s final resting place. But Ahmet Er and Numan Esin, who sat on the 38-member junta and are now aged 85 and 83, told the commission that even they had not been privy to that information.

Only Alparslan Turkes, a former junta member who died in 1997, had known, Mr. Er said in his testimony. And neither police records nor the archives of the prime minister’s office or local governors’ offices turned up any clues as to the whereabouts of the remains, the Interior Ministry reported to the commission.

“We will not leave it at that, we are going to find that information, because it is documented somewhere,” Mr. Ozdag vowed.

The coup commission has recommended that Parliament follow the issue up in a new committee charged with righting the wrongs of the coup era, he said.

The hearings have triggered a popular quest for Mr. Nursi’s grave, with new witnesses coming forward in the media and contributing pieces to the puzzle.

On television, one such witness, a former editor of the Hurriyet daily, this month recounted a night of tension and turmoil at the Afyon Air Base, where he was serving as a recruit at the time and where the plane carrying Mr. Nursi’s remains is thought to have landed.

“A noncommissioned officer later told me they had buried a body near the highway between Afyon and Isparta that night,” the witness, Erol Turegun, said.

via Turkey Seeks a Spiritual Leader’s Secret Grave – NYTimes.com.

more : http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/20/world/europe/turkey-seeks-a-spiritual-leaders-secret-grave.html?_r=0

International Conference on Risale-I Nur held at Darul Huda

International Conference on Risale-I Nur held at Darul Huda

By Ayoob Rahman,

Kozhikode: Darul Huda Islamic University hosted a one day international conference on Risale- i Nur and Islam in modern Turkey on 29 January at Taj Convention centre, Chemmad in Malapuram district. The conference was organized in collaboration with the Istanbul Foundation for Science and Culture [IFSC], Turkey.

The conference opined that the best way to resist the prevailing wind of modernization and Globalization is to learn, understand and preach the teachings of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. The great 20th century scholar laid the intellectual stone for the formation of modern Turkey. The theme of conference and seminar was the life of Said Nursi and his renowned hermeneutical text of Quran, Risale-I Nur. The event was hugely successful as it maintained good standards, with highly engaging lectures and paper presentations. Various aspects of the theme were discussed and valuable comments were raised in context with the present world miseries. The audience included selected students and public, who registered their names earlier.

Ihsan Musthafa, scholar from Iraq and the translator of Risale-I Nur into Arabic inaugurated the conference while Sayed Munawarali Shihab Thangal presided over the function. Pro Dr. Faris Kaya, the Secretary of IFSC, Turkey presented the theme of conference. Mohammed Nuri Gulac, living student of Nursi and the president of IFSC and Abdulla Yegin, another living student of Nursi gave their speeches.

Later in the seminar held within two sessions, scholars from USA, UK, Canada, Turkey and India presented papers on different perspectives of Risale-I Nur and their applications in the current scenario.

Pro Dr. Faris Kaya presented the paper – ‘the concepts of morality in the life and writings of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, the Resale-I Nur.’ The paper critically analyzed Nursi’s well known Damascus sermon Delivered at Umayyad mosque in 1911. He explained those six sicknesses which grasped the humanity at large and particularly the Muslim world as told by Nursi during his sermon.

Firstly: the rise of a life out of despair and hopelessness in social life.

Secondly: the death of truthfulness in social and political life.

Thirdly: love of enmity.

Fourthly: not knowing the luminous bonds that bind the believers to one another.

Fifthly: Despotism, which spreads just like contagious diseases.

Sixthly: Restricting endeavors in accordance with personal benefits.

Prof. Dr. Colin Turner, University of Durham, UK presented the paper ‘The Mecca-Medina Paradigm: The Nursian perspective on Reform’. He said, one of the key distinguishing characteristics of Said Nursi is that he stands out from the vast majority of popular Muslim thinkers who advocate a political and thus ideological Islam which centrally aims at governance, driving inspiration out of and highlighting the Medina period of prophet’s life. After the First World War, Nursi no longer considered politics as a means for safeguarding Islam. He thought that the future of Islam depends not on someone who is ruling and instead on people reviving the faith in their hearts. The politics of the ‘people of the world’, he claimed, were inimical to the aims and objectives of Islam, which is why he rejected any kind of committed personal engagement with political or administrative affairs. For Islam to flourish, Nursi believed, religion should be communicated correctly and the light of belief should be strengthened and re- strengthened continuously. The Resale-I Nur, which was the fruit of several decades of hardship, oppression, imprisonment and isolation, was Nursi’s lasting contribution towards these aims, he said.

Dr. Faisal Hudawi Mariyad (Aligarh Muslim University) presented the paper ‘Nursi’s approach: A paradigm shift in Muslim Socio- political thought.’ Riza Akcali, Turkish Ex minister and Member of Parliament presented his paper ‘Sustainability concept in the light of Tawhid: The Risale perspective.’ Prof. Dr. Thomas Michel talked on ‘worship of God as the Basis for Human peace and Harmony: A Risale- i Nur perspective.’ He urged Muslims and Christians to stay united in the name of God.

Dr. KM Bahaudheen Hudawi talked on ‘influence of Ahmed Sarhindi in the thoughts of Said Nursi.’ Prof. Dr. Alpaslan Acikgenc, the head of PG Studies at Yildiz Technical University, Istanbul presented his paper: ‘Conception of Human as the ground for social tranquility; a Quranic perspective as reflected in the Risale-I Nur’. In the second session of the seminar, Dr. Saeed Hudawi( Hamdard University), Ihsan Mustafa, Bagdad, Dr. Bilal Kuspinar,Lecturer at McGill university, Canada, Ali Katroz, IFSC, Turkey, Prof. Dr. Irfan Omar, lecturer at Marquette University, USA, Dr. Sayed Abdul Muneem Pasha, lecturer at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi presented their papers on various topics interpreting Risale-i Nur in the present world context.

However the organizers failed to attract or invite the audience from different schools of thought within the Muslim community of the state. There were hardly any women on or off the dais. Most of the audiences were the students of Darul Huda and associated colleges.

Fr. Thomas Michel inaugurated the public conference held at Darul Huda in the evening. Sayed Hyderali Shihab Thangal was the chairperson. Ulema, ministers and the public were gathered for the concluding ceremony.

via International Conference on Risale-I Nur held at Darul Huda | TwoCircles.net.