Hayrunnisa Okur / Australia
After my cousin's wife told me that visiting Barla changed her perspective of the Risale-i Nur and brought her closer to it, I began to wonder what feelings a trip of my own would conjure up. A few summers after that discussion, a Risale-i Nur reading camp became the pretext to my visit to Barla.
We stayed at the Yeni Asya Barla Recreational Facility which was a hub for smiling brothers and sisters who were all in some way or another students or friends of the Risale-i Nur. Each night we were there, we made sure to gather around a bench in the garden, sipping tea and eating sunflower seeds, and most importantly delving into topics in the Risale-i Nur that interested us.
The feeling of “uhuvvet” (brotherhood) Bediuzzaman often refers to could certainly be felt here. That is not to say we only experienced these sentiments in the facility. Wherever we went, sisters would offer a welcome and want to know where we were from and how our stay was going. At Bediuzzaman’s house and Cennet Bahcesi (Garden of Paradise) groups would intermingle and as long as someone was presenting a ‘ders’ (lesson), people passing by were keen to join in
. One of our lessons was even attended by a cat which congenially sat and seemed have to benefitted from the discussion by sleeping through it. Bees also joined in, as well as a couple of squirrels which leaped from tree to tree above us. It really felt like their presence was also giving us a lesson in itself. It was as if they had been reminding us with their dispositions of the reality of the verse in the Qur’an وَاِنْمِنْشَىْءٍاِلاَّيُسَبِّحُبِحَمْدِهِ (There is not a single thing that does not glorify his praise. [Al-Isra: 44] ) which was the first verse to have become apparent to Bediuzzaman in Barla almost a century ago. Barla was in fact a perfect location for celebrating Allah’s praise.
What was perhaps most striking and special about the place was how normal it felt to be a Risale-i Nur student here. Everyone knew what you were talking about in reference to the Risale-i Nur, it was relevant and it felt like everyone was on the same frequency with each other.
At the same time I felt a sense of validation of my identity as a Risale-i Nur student. This provoked me to think about how maybe it is important to visit places that validate positive parts of your self, as well as stay far away from places that cause your negative aspects to develop.
Upon all of these reflections what came to me as a surprise was when we met a graveyard watchman who was kind enough to guide us to the location some of the graves of students of the Risale-i Nur we could not find.
After showing us the graves of brothers, BayramYüksel, Ali Uçar, Sıddık Süleyman Kervancı and Hafız Ali he revealed that despite seeing Bediuzzaman Said Nursi twice in the flesh, he had not in fact read a sentence of the Risale-i Nur. To me this was shocking. To be surrounded by such abundance and yet to have not read a sentence! I was quite affected by this.
However, after recovering from an initial state of judging this poor man, I came to realise that many of us are not too different than him. Don’t we take for granted the blessings that are at an arm’s length to us? It was easy enough for me to render this man ignorant for not being more knowledgeable in regards to the Risale-i Nur, but not so easy to recognise my own ignorance, my own deficiencies in appreciating and making use of blessings directed towards me.
Although I had only spent a few days in Barla, it felt as if I had been there for a lifetime.This short pocket of time had left its mark on me and meanings that I had not come across before they opened themselves up for reflection. I might have been reading into things but I cannot help but note that while waiting for the bus to part with Barla, while experiencing feelings of sadness, out of all things the graffiti on the bus stop came as a solace.
Three words “Barla, bitmedi and bitmez” (İt is not over, it will not end) were symbols to say that this experience will live in my memory, and it will inshaAllah will remain a source of motivation for me. With that thought I invite whoever is reading this to visit Barla, and share what meanings are to be found.