Book Excerpt: Said Nursi and the Sultan’s Advisor

Clip taken from biopic "Hur Adam". The discussion which took place between Nursi and M. Kemal prior to his arrest is also extremely interesting.
I know I tend to go on about Nursi in this blog, but however overlooked, I think he was one of the most important figures in Turkish history, and to be tried and proven innocent in several political trials during the fascist one-party era of Turkish history demands an extremely capable intellect.

In this excerpt, related in Vahide’s biography and documented in the Yıldız Palace archives, dated June 26 1908, shows a discussion between Şefik Paşa, the Sultan’s advisor and one ‘Vanlı Said Efendi’. In this meeting he is offered a salary of 1000 kuruş to leave Constantinople and go back to the East quietly dropping his campaign for a university to be built in his homeland. His principle of refusing to take gifts from anyone is one of the things that kept him free, independent and a constant burden on government officials, whether Ottoman or Republican, as we can see below.

"The minister: The Sultan sends his greetings. He has assigned you a thousand kuruş as a salary. He said that later, when you return to the East, he will make it twenty to thirty liras. And he sent you those gold liras as a royal gift.

Said’s reply:  “I’m not a beggar after a salary; I couldn’t accept it even if it were a thousand liras. I didn’t come to Istanbul for myself. I came for my nation. Anyway, this bribe you want to give me is hush money.
The minister: “You are rejecting an imperial decree. An imperial decree cannot be rejected”.

Said’s reply: “I am rejecting it so that the Sultan will be annoyed and will summon me, and I can tell him the truth”.

The minister: “The result will be distasterous”.

Said’s reply: “Even if the result is the sea, it will be a spacious grave. If I am executed, I shall rest in the heart of a nation. And when I came to Istanbul, I bought my life as a bribe; do whatever you like. I say seriously that I want to give a practical warning to my fellow countrymen that if one has relations with the government, it should be to serve it, not in order to grab a salary. And someone like me serves the nation and government through advising and admonishing. And that is through making a good impression. And that is through expecting nothing in return. And that is through being unprejudiced, which is through being without ulterior motives, which is through renouncing all personal benefits. As a consequence, I am excused from not accepting a salary.”

The minister: “Your aim of spreading education in Kurdistan is being discussed be the cabinet”.
The reply: “According to what rule do you delay education and speed up salaries? Why do you prefer my personal benefits to the nation’s personal benefits?”

The minister grew angry.

Nursi: “I was free. I grew up in the mountains of Kurdistan, the place of absolute freedom. There’s no point in getting angry; don’t tire yourself for nothing. Send me into exile; be it Fezzan or Yemen, I don’t mind. I would be saved from falling from a height.

The minister: “What do you mean?”

Nursi: “You have drawn a veil as thin as a cigarette paper over everyone in the face of all these seething ideas and emotions, and called it law and order. Underneath everyone is groaning at your oppression like moving corpses. I was inexperienced, I didn’t go in under the veil, I remained top of it. Then one time it was rent in the palace. I was in an Armenian’s house in Şişili; it was rent there. I was in the Sweetmakers’ Han; it was rent there too. I was in the mental hospital. And now I am in this place of custody. In short, you do so much patching up that I’m annoyed as well. I was well aquainted with you while I was in Kurdistan, and now my experiences here have taught me your secrets. Especially in the mental hospital, it gave me a clear understanding of them. So I thank you for these experiences, because I used to always think favourably instead of distrusting.”

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