The Views of Said Nursi (Bediuzzaman) on Ramadan

The Views of Said Nursi (Bediuzzaman) on Ramadan

Zubair Hamid

Said Nursi a Turkish theologian, who was conferred the honorific title of Bediuzzaman (Nonpareil of the Age) , lived during the final decades of the Ottoman Empire and witnessed its collapse. He was a scholar of the highest standing who had studied not only traditional religious sciences but also mastered the modern sciences as well. An exemplary life of selfsacrifice and struggle left behind nothing other than the legacy of Risale-i Nur (Epistles of Light), a modern Quranic Commentary spread on around six thousand pages.

Nursi was an intellectual who advocated throughout his life to ascertain a visionary way of life for Muslim Ummah. Said Nursi highlighted the spiritual aspect of Ramadan in his Epistles (Rasail). The spirit becomes active as the heart takes its share rather than the intellect. Being one of the five plinths it is one of the greatest marks and observances of Islam consisting of many purposes and instances of wisdom related to the social life of the individuals. It draws the believers like that of a well drawn-up army responding to the Sovereign of Pre-Eternity and Post- Eternity in a comprehensive and orderly manner. Ramadan is the key to a sincere and universal thankfulness and to value the bounties while experiencing hunger and to understand the degree of bounty in a piece of dry bread what is testified when it is time to break the fast.

Nursi states that a price is required for the foods a tray-bearer brings from a royal kitchen but to suppose those priceless bounties to be valueless is the greatest foolishness. Human soul forgets its Creator, wallows in dissipation and misconduct but in this month the instinctual soul of everyone, from the richest to the poorest, may understand that it does not own itself, but is totally owned; that it is not free, but is a slave. It understands that if it receives no command, it is unable to do the simplest and easiest thing as it cannot even stretch out its hand towards water. Its imaginary is therefore shattered; it performs its worship and begins to offer thanks, what is its true duty. This month is an extremely profitable market, says Nursi, for the trade of Hereafter, and a fertile piece of land for the crops of Hereafter. Man is required to rise above animality and approach the angelic state and withdraw from trivia.

This month is a healing physical and spiritual diet of the most important kind. When man’s instinctual soul eats and drinks just as it wishes, it is both harmful for man’s physical life from the medical point of view, and when it hurls itself on everything it encounters without considering whether it is licit or illicit, it quite simply poisons his spiritual life. Ramadan makes an individual’s life disciplined and cures for impatience and lack of endurance. Nursi makes a comparison of the organs of human body, with that of the factory workers, where the organs are connected to the stomach. If the instinctual soul does not have a rest from activity during the day for a month, it makes the factory’s workers and those organs to forget their particular duties.

It makes them busy with itself so that they remain under its tyranny. It also confuses the rest of the organs in the human body with the clangor and steam of the factory’s machinery. It continuously attracts their attention to itself, making them temporarily forget their exalted duties. The believers experience enlightenment, fruitfulness, and spiritual joys which differ according to their degrees and their subtle faculties, such as the heart, spirit, and intellect, make great progress and advancement in this blessed month by means of fasting. May Allah guide us to unveil the veil of heedlessness and to display an active attitude by responding to the Compassionate and Universal Mercy!

—The author is doing a PhD from Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at: