Said Nursi (1876-1960) was the most influential figure in twentieth century Muslim scholarship. He was the founder of what is arguably Turkey's most important popular religious grouping, the Nur Movement ('Nurculuk'), which sought - and seeks - to foster Islamic sensibilities through a system of education based on Nursi's ideas. But for many of his disciples, who number now in their millions, Said Nursi represents a great deal more than just a religious instructor. As they see it, he was also the prophesied 'renewer', the 'mujaddid', who - according to Muslim tradition - would appear at the beginning of each century to revive Islam and reinterpret the tenets of the Qur'an according to the needs of the day.Yet for all who revere him, Nursi has as many detractors. To some, he was a hypocrite and a liar: a man whose life was full of contradictions. To others, a Kurd in the pay of the Communists and an overt proponent of anarchy. In so many ways his life and what he stood for echo the increasingly dangerous polarisation in Turkey between Islamic traditionalism and the secularism established by Ataturk.
This short book offers a sure guide to the fierce debates surrounding Said Nursi's life, thought and major writings. It will be indispensable reading for all those interested in Turkey, and in the bitter power struggles within the country between 'religionists' and 'secularists'.
Colin Turner is Lecturer in Islamic studies and Persian at the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies in the University of Durham. His several books include 'The Muslim World' (2000), 'Islam Without Allah' (2001) and 'Challenging Islamic Fundamentalism' (2006). Hasan Horkuc is a Research Fellow in the same institution.