I am someone who never concealed my identity as a ‘Nurcu’ since I was very young and proudly express this by various means.
My teachers, friends and immediate circle know that I am a member of the ‘Nur’ cemaat and that I read the Risale-I Nur. I have never been disadvantaged by this.
Nevertheless, whenever I ask advice from friends and teachers regarding life experience, many times I have been the subject of prejudice and typical conversation. In a nutshell, they all say things like; make sure you read other books, give importance to science. I knew the reason behind this type of advice was because I was a member of a cemaat and that I read the Risale-i Nur. When I pressed some of them, they admitted this. This situation truly bothered me however I never displayed an offensive or negative in response to them.
It is my understanding that the cemaat they visualized was one in which people were bereft of the capacity to think and fed dogmatic ideas, a place that was against science, despotic, opposes individuality, driven by a single figure, and submissive. Their advice was based on this perspective and they were ostensibly saving me. They were unaware of their own prejudice. I never felt the need to make a comment about this topic because I thought it was the basic prejudice of a few.
After hearing the video of a woman which went viral on the ‘Tiktok’ app and was underhandedly indoctrinating her viewers with a false perspective of freedomI felt the need tı speak up about the topic. I think all members of respective cemaats should have something to say about this.
Firstly, the aims of cemaats are neither to restrict people’s freedom nor to take their willpower as collateral. Cemaats are congregations of people with the same beliefs and they were born out of society’s need for a spiritual lifestyle. Nobody can be forced into a cemaat and no one is held captive there. If an individual sees himself as someone who is being held captive in a cemaat,this is a sign that he cannot establish himself in his own world and that he constantly requires orientation by others. Cemaats are not places of captivity. They are places where you receive the spiritual support and strength to freely live your religious lifestyle. The actual reason cemaats came about was because freedom was being taken under duress and despotic rulers were being repressive. After which these voluntary formations of association maintained their existence despite everything, and have survived until today.
From here on, I want to explain a bit about my own life. I am a member of the Yeni Asya Nur Cemaat. I believe Islam is a religion of freedom and the path of Nur is that of freedom. I came into this service of iman-of faith- and Qur’an because I wanted to with my own freewill.
Thousands of young people like me have joined cemaats and tariqas with the same sincere sentiments and freewill. The first thing that has been taught to us is to reform our own nafs (ego) and save our own iman. What I am trying to say is that my cemaat does not feed me an understanding that others are non-believers. On the contrary we learn that whoever sees himself as a Muslim must be accepted so and no one should be declared an unbeliever and that our own nafs foremostly and everyone else is destitute of the Qur'an and the truths of iman as well as the fact that there can be no prejudice nor enmity in the service of iman.
The truths of the Qur’an explored in the Risale-I Nur teach us about the love of our nation, people, religion, iman, relatives and friends. In my many years of experience with this cemaat, I have never known one which teaches enmity or to label people nonbelievers.
If an individual sees another as a non-believer based solely on their lifestyle, this is a sign of an intrinsic problem within the individual not a problem within the cemaat. In my opinion it is a way for the nafs to relieve itself by seeing others as more sinful than itself and is a sign of a distressed soul.
Cemaats actually exist to cure such distress. They help to reinforce people’s iman and for them to protect themselves from sins and so they do the job of precluding relieving oneself by seeing others as sinful.
In this regard cemaats exist to prevent people from harming themselves and others due to problems they have with religion, to remove things that society is scared of due to prejudice. However, seeing cemaats as the source of these problems is like seeing a hospital as a place where disease spreads. Cemaats are not places that make people spiritually ill but places that aim to remedy spiritual problems of especially the youth.
The fact that this flawed perception is widespread in society, especially in the fraction which know themselves to be educated, comes across as a serious problem. To understand the benefit of cemaats, one must put aside prejudices and get to know cemaats while also listening out to youth who are members of cemaats.
Bilal Said Parlakoğlu
Translation: Hayrunnisa Okur
Click here for Turkish: Cemaatler gençlere ne öğretiyor? - 1
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