Dignitaries and delegates of the conference posing for a group photograph at the Ansari Auditorium; Thursday Feb. 7, 2013 (Photo: Manzar Imam)
Dignitaries and delegates of the conference posing for a group photograph at the Ansari Auditorium; Thursday Feb. 7, 2013 (Photo: Manzar Imam)

Int’l Conference on Perspective of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi on Islam and Modernity

The Zakir Hussain Institute of Islamic Studies (ZHIIS), Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) in collaboration with the Istanbul Foundation for Science and Culture (IFSC), Turkey started a three-day International Conference beginning Thursday 7th February 2013 on the theme of “Islam and Modernity: The Perspective of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi” here at Dr. M.A. Ansari Auditorium, JMI.

Dignitaries and delegates of the conference posing for a group photograph at the Ansari Auditorium; Thursday Feb. 7, 2013 (Photo: Manzar Imam)
Dignitaries and delegates at the conference posing for a group photograph at the Ansari Auditorium; Thursday Feb. 7, 2013 (Photo: Manzar Imam)

A 20th century scholar, Said Nursi’s ideas about modern science and logic as the way of the future has highly influenced people in modern Turkey and outside. Nursi had advocated teaching religious sciences in secular institutions and modern sciences in religious schools. He inspired a movement that played a key role in the revival of Islam in Turkey and won millions of followers worldwide.

The three-day conference will deal in detail about life, works, ideas and impact of Nursi’s magnum opus Risala-i-Nur which is considered a major commentary of the Quran. Scholars from different Indian and Turkish research and academic institutions will present papers on a variety of topics to highlight Nursi’s perspective on those subjects.

In his welcome address Prof. Akhtarul Wasey, Director, ZHIIS briefed about the linkages, similarities and convergences between India and Turkey and said that one of the girls’ hostels of Jamia Millia was dedicated to a famous 20th century woman scholar of Turkey named Khalida Adeeb Khanam. Nursi’s approach was very much in line with the scientific approach, Prof. Wasey said. Nursi argued that “religion is the universal body of truth that shines brighter by the passage of time.”

While offering a brief outline of Nursi, Prof. Faris Kaya, secretary general of IFSC said that Nursi wrote about 6000 pages of commentary on Quran that tell us about his views about life, mankind, humanity, hereafter, etc. His writings are about how to lead a God-centric life. They tell us about his concept of enmity and love. According to Nursi, Prof. Kaya said, “men have three enemies: ignorance, poverty and conflict. The only enemy according to Nursi is ignorance and the byproduct of ignorance is conflict and poverty.” We are created to love, love and to hate, hatred.

K. Rahman Khan, Minority Affairs Minister speaking at the Ansari Auditorium; Thursday Feb. 7, 2013 (Photo: Manzar Imam)
K. Rahman Khan, Minority Affairs Minister speaking at the conference in the Ansari Auditorium; Thursday Feb. 7, 2013 (Photo: Manzar Imam)

K. Rahman Khan, the Union Cabinet Minister for Minority Affairs, Government of India started with a famous remark made by a British Secretary of Colonies; he quoted: “So long as the Muslims have the Qur’an, we shall be unable to dominate them.” This had made Nursi declare “I shall prove and demonstrate to the world that the Qur’an is an undying, inextinguishable Sun!” Khan said that the reason why Muslims were dominated in present times was because “we have forgotten Quran.” I believe that the role of a Muslim is to guide humanity, to convey the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. A Muslim is not only a human being; he is also a person who is entrusted with the duty to provide guidance to humanity.

Khan said that in the context of secular society, the views of Said Nursi were very clear: how the non-Muslims should be treated, their rights protected. This is what is required today. This notion of secularism cannot be achieved without religion, said Khan adding that secularism was a value to respect human values. He further said that modernity is an understanding, a bent of mind and moderation. Accept the human values beyond your own views and thinking. There is a need for this message to be spread.

Tariq Anwar, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing Industries, Government of India said that Nursi had a great patience for Nature. Nurisi urged his disciples to read the Quran. Risala-i-Nur, the epicenter of it is that it never compromises its rule of taking the Quran as a guide and it explains what, why and how, the universe should be seen and felt. Nursi regards animals as divine officials, Anwar said adding that everything from the heavens to the earth, from the stars to flies, from angels to fission, from planets to particles prostrates, worships and glorifies God. The ministered termed the theme of the conference as very important.

Prof. Ibrahim Özdemir, Vice Chancellor of Hasan Kalyoncu University, Turkey emphasized the need for deep understanding between the two countries. Today we need an enhanced and deeper understanding of each other, he said. He also appreciated the role of Jamia Millia Islamia for providing a platform for better understanding of a common heritage as human beings and as members of multicultural societies.

E. Ahamed, Minister of State for External Affairs speaking at the Ansari Auditorium; Thursday Feb. 7, 2013 (Photo: Manzar Imam)
E. Ahamed, Minister of State for External Affairs speaking at the conference in the Ansari Auditorium; Thursday Feb. 7, 2013 (Photo: Manzar Imam)

In his presidential address, E. Ahamed, Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India raised some questions pertaining to modernity and asked to what extent people actually were modern. He said that the conception of modern itself was contested. Throughout history every new idea, every new way of life has been termed as modern compared to the previous one.  What is modern today will become outdated tomorrow, he said.

Instead of all technological advancement, Ahamed said, “there are certain human values which are constant like peace, equality, quest for knowledge, respect for life, compassion. Islam regards them as core values.” He said that Islam must be understood in the context of these core human values. The minister argued that Islam had encompassed the validity of the doctrines and concepts such as modernity. Islam intervened to give equal rights to women. It was only through Islam that women for the first time in human history got property rights and economic independence. Islam gave women the right to remarry much before the reforms that took place in 19th century India.

The minister said that knowledge was half of faith. Either seek knowledge or perish, he said. The concept of knowledge has produced great people in Islamic societies. He also dwelt on Islamic concepts of zakat and sadaqah and remarked that these were given much before the notion of a welfare state came into being.

Prof. Burak Akcapar, Turkish Ambassador to India, speaking at the Ansari Auditorium; Thursday Feb. 7, 2013 (Photo: Manzar Imam)
Prof. Burak Akcapar, Turkish Ambassador to India, speaking at the conference in the Ansari Auditorium; Thursday Feb. 7, 2013 (Photo: Manzar Imam)

Islam is a peaceful doctrine, he said. “Those who are behind creating the misconceptions like Islamophobia about Islam will not succeed in their efforts,” he stated.  It has become fashionable to say Islam is in danger and it is outdated. While quoting Nursi, he said, “Islam is like the inextinguishable sun which will always shine and give light.”

Prof. Burak Akcapar, the Turkish Ambassador to India; Prof. S.M. Rashid, Pro Vice-Chancellor, JMI; İhsan Kasim Salihi, a special guest from IFSC, Turkey also spoke on this occasion.

The day-one programme which started with the recitation of  Quran by Ali Katöz, a famous Qari ended with the formal vote of thanks by Prof. Iqtidar Mohammad Khan.

About Manzar Imam

Manzar Imam (class of 2014) is a staff writer for Jamia Journal, and an M.Phil student in the MMAJ Academy of International Studies. He can be reached via email at: manzarkhalil [at] gmail.com

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