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by Said Nursi
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Dr. Colin Turner
Dr Turner writes:
"As someone born and raised in Britain, I am often asked what we as Muslims have to offer to the West. But before I answer, I should like to ask a question myself: Are we Muslims because we believe in God Almighty, or do we believe in God beacuse we are Muslims?
"The question occurred to me during a march through the streets of London, over a decade ago, to protest against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. I'd made a formal conversion to Islam several years prior to this, and it wasn't my first demonstration. There were banners and placards and much shouting and chanting. Towards the end of the demonstration I was approached by a young man who introduced himself as someone interested in Islam. 'Excuse me,' he said, 'but what is the meaning of La ilaha illa Allah?'
"Without a moment's hesitation I answered, "There is no god but Allah."
'I'm not asking you to translate it,' he said, 'I'm asking you to tell me what it really means.' There was a long awkward silence as it dawned on me that I was unable to answer him.
"You are no doubt thinking, 'What kind of Muslim is it that does not know the real meaning of La ilaha illa Allah?' To this I would have to say: a typical one. That evening I pondered my ignorance; being in the majority didn't help, it simply made me more depressed.
"Islam simply made sense, in a way that nothing else ever had. It had rules of government, it had an economic system, it had regulations concerning every facet of day-to-day existence. It was egalitarian and addressed to all races, and it was clear and easy to understand. Oh, and it has a God, One God, in whom I had always vaguely believed. That was that. I said La ilaha illa Allah and I was part of the community. For the first time in my life I belonged.
In the many dimensions of his lifetime of achievement, as well as in his personality and character, Bediuzzaman was and, through his continuing influence, still is an important figure in the twentieth-century Muslim world. He represented in a most effective and profound way the intellectual, moral and spiritual strengths of Islam, evident in different degrees throughout its fourteen-century history. He lived for eighty-five years. He spent almost all of those years, overflowing with love and ardour for the cause of Islam, in a wise and measured activism based on sound reasoning and in the shade of the Qur'an and the Prophetic example.
Much has been said and written on the lofty ideal which Bediuzzaman pursued and his deep familiarity with the world and the age in which he lived, as well as the simplicity and austerity of his life, his human tenderness, loyalty to his friends, chastity, modesty and contentedness. Yet it is worth writing volumes on each of those dimensions of his legendary character and life.
Though strikingly simple in outward appearance, he was wholly original in many of his ideas and in his way of activity. He embraced all humanity, was deeply averse to unbelief, injustice and deviations, and never stopped struggling against all kinds of tyranny even at the cost of his life. He was as profound in belief and feelings as he was wise and rational in his ideas and approach to problems. In a manner that may seem to some paradoxical, to the same extent that he was an example of love, ardour and feeling, he was extraordinarily balanced in his thoughts and acts and in his treatment of matters. Also, he was very far-sighted in assessment and judgement of the conditions surrounding him, and in finding solutions to the problems he encountered.
Among his comtemporaries, those who knew him acknowledged, tacitly or explicitly, Bediuzzaman as the most serious and important thinker and writer of the twentieth-century Turkey or even of the Muslim world. Despite this and his indisputable leadership of a new Islamic revival in the intellectual, social and political conditions of time, he was never proud of himself and remained a humble servant of God Almighty and a most modest friend among human beings. 'Desire for fame is the same as show and ostentation and it is a 'poisonous honey' extinguishing the spiritual liveliness of the heart', is one of his golden sayings concerning humility.
Born in a small mountain village in an eastern province of Turkey, Bediuzzaman voiced the sighs and laments of the whole Muslim world, as well as its belief, hopes and aspirations. He said:
I can bear my own sorrows, but the sorrows arising from the calamities visiting Islam and Muslims have crushed me. I feel each blow delivered at the Muslim world to be delivered first at my own heart. That is why I have been so shaken.
He also said:
During my whole life-time of over eighty years, I have tasted nothing of the worldly pleasures. My life has passed on either battlefields or in prisons or other places of suffering. They have treated me as if I were a criminal; they have banished me from one town to another, and kept me under continual surveillance. There has been no persecution which I have not tasted and no oppression which I have not suffered. I care for neither Paradise nor fear Hell. If I see the faith of my nation secured, I will not care even burning in the flames of Hell. For while my body is burning, my heart will be as if in a rose garden.
Bediuzzaman lived in an age when materialism was at its peak and many crazed after communism, and the world was in great crisis. Shocked by the scientific and military victories of the West and under the influence of modern trends of thought, people all over the Muslim world were urged to break with their historical roots and many lost their faith. In that critical period when most Muslim intellectuals deviated from the Straight Path and lent their intellects to whatever would come from the West in the name of ideas, Bediuzzaman pointed people to the source of belief and inculcated in them a strong hope for an overall revival. He wrote to display the truth of the tenets of the Islamic faith and heroically resisted movements of deviation. In utmost reliance on God Almighty and unshakeable conviction in the truth of Islam, and with an infinite hope for a bright future awaiting the Muslim world, Bediuzzaman exerted a superhuman effort to defend Islam and bring up a new generation which would realize his hopes.
At a time when science and philosophy were used to mislead young generations into atheism, and nihilistic attitudes had a wide appeal, at a time when all this was done in the name of civilization, modernization and contemporary thinking and those who tried to resist them were subjected to the cruelest of persecutions, Bediuzzaman strove for the overall revival of a whole people, breathing into their minds and spirits whatever is taught in the institutions of both modern and traditional education and of spiritual training.
In the manner of an expert physician, Bediuzzaman diagnosed all the 'diseases' of Muslim communities, the diseases they had been suffering for centuries in all aspects of life, and offered the most effective remedies for them. Based on the Qur'an and the Sunna and the centuries-old Islamic tradition which originated therein, and travelling in mind through natural phenomena, which are each a sign of Divine existence and Unity, to fill his 'comb of the knowledge of God' with the 'nectar' he collected from them, Bediuzzaman concentrated first on proving the pillars of Islamic belief and then on the necessity of belief and worship, morality and good conduct, and finally on the social and economic issues which Muslims faced in this age.
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