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The Bediüzzaman Said Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies at John Carroll University was established in 2003. As part of the programming of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, the Nursi Chair is integral to the mission of JCU as a Jesuit Catholic institution of higher learning. We aim to enrich the JCU community and the wider Cleveland community through our work. This site will provide you information about the Islamic Studies programming and faculty available at John Carroll, the various community events and programs we organize, sponsor, and host, and links to resources for the study of Islam, the second largest and fastest growing religion in the world.

Every year the Nursi Chair hosts JCU's Week of Islamic Art and Culture in the spring. The Week of Islamic Art and Culture for 2024 will be April 16-19. All events will take place on the JCU Campus. This years events include:

April 16

Hebrew-Arabic Calligraphy Workshop by Ruben Shimonov (co-hosted by the Tuohy Center for Interreligious Understanding)

Location: Jardine Room of the Lombardo Student Center

Time: 5:30pm

Regitstration is required for this event. You can register here:

April 17

Lecture: "Expressions of Islamic Spirituality in Art"

Marcia Hermansen, Ph. D. (Professor and Director of Islamic World Studies, Loyola University Chicago)

For more on Professor Hermansen see:

Location: Donahue Auditorium of the Dolan Center for Science and Technology

Time: 7:00pm

April 18

Film: Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story

Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story presents one woman’s extraordinary courage, tested in the crucible of Nazi-occupied Paris. With an American mother and Indian father, Noor Inayat Khan was an extremely unusual British agent, and her life spent growing up in a Sufi center of learning in Paris seemed an unlikely preparation for the dangerous work to come. Yet it was in this place of universal peace and contemplation that her remarkable courage was forged.

In early 1943, Khan was recruited as a covert operative into Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (SOE). Churchill’s orders were to “set Europe ablaze”. After the collapse and arrest of her entire network, Khan became the only surviving radio operator linking the British to the French Resistance in Paris, coordinating the airdrop of weapons, explosives, and agents, and supporting the rescue of downed Allied fliers.

Betrayed by a French collaborator after four months, Khan resisted brutal interrogation by the Gestapo, escaping twice – only to be recaptured and sent to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.

Narrated by Academy Award winning actress Helen Mirren, Enemy of the Reich was directed by three-time Emmy Award winner Robert H. Gardner and features a team of international scholars.

Location: Donahue Auditorium of the Dolan Center for Science and Technology

Time: 7:00pm

 April 19

Music: A presentation of Sufi Music featuring Bekir Salim. 

Location: Donahue Auditorium of the Dolan Center for Science and Technology

Time: 7:00pm

For information on one of our past events, click here.

The Nursi Chair hosts special conferences, workshops, or lectures on a periodic basis. To be kept up to date on all Nursi Chair events please join our mailing list. 

Find information on the Nursi Chair's faculty and Staff here.

Said Nursi was born in either 1876 in the isolated village of Nurs, in the province of Bitlis, in eastern Anatolia.  Due to the lack of a proper population record system in the village at the time of his birth, we don’t have details on his exact birth date. Even the year of his birth is based on Nursi’s own account throughout his writings. In his early life he was known as Said-i Kurdi, in reference to the region in which he was born. He was also given the title “Bediüzzaman,” or the “peerless of time;” by his teachers as a confirmation of his extraordinary photographic memory and his great ability of analysis. 

His early education was provided by his highly pious parents, his mother Nuriye and his father Mirza. Soon though, Nursi left his home to attend the area madrasa. According to his biographers, what other students would accomplish in nine years, Nursi accomplished in three months. Nursi would ask his teachers to teach him the beginning part of each text book of the curriculum. He would learn the rest by himself. He memorized more than eighty major books of Islamic sciences. Nursi who memorized such an amount of books, interestingly enough, did not memorize the Qur’an. Later he would explain that the Qur’an should be recited carefully and not quickly as many memorizers of the Qur’an do. 

In the first decade of the twentieth century Nursi became much more aware of the importance of education. Nursi closely followed what was going on in the west, particularly in the USA, with regard to the establishment of many universities towards the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries.  He viewed the establishment of al-Zahra University, in the city of Van, eastern Anatolia, as the greatest goal of his life. He was so fascinated by modern sciences and anxious to have both modern and religious sciences taught together in this university. He believed religion and science were the two necessary wings for students to succeed.  He met with ottoman sultans for this purpose, and received financial support from Sultan Reşad. He started the foundation of the buildings, but World War I prevented him from fulfilling his goal.  

After the city of Bitlis was captured by the Russian forces, Nursi participated in the war to defend his hometown, as a volunteer regiment commander. After being wounded in battle, he was captured by the Russian forces. He spent over two years in captivity together with Turkish and German officers.  Nursi managed to escape from captivity during the 1917 Russian Revolution. He made his way to Istanbul via Germany. In Istanbul, Nursi led a nonviolent struggle against the British occupation of the city through his writings. The leaders of the newly established Republic of Turkey wanted to honor Nursi for his nonviolent defense of Istanbul against the British occupation by inviting him to Ankara to give a speech at the parliament. After his famous speech at the parliament, a debate started between Nursi and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (d. 1938) over the content of his speech, specifically regarding the importance of faith and prayer. Nursi disagreed with Ataturk, and left the capital for eastern Anatolia, his hometown. 

One of the most remarkable decisions made at this time in Nursi’s life was his decision to live in seclusion in a cave in order to distance himself from the political life and dedicate himself to the spiritual life. However, due to some revolts in eastern Anatolia, Nursi, who never approved of any form of physical violence, was forced into exile by the government to spend the rest of his life in western Anatolia.  He faced an unprecedented persecution by the ultra-secular Turkish government of the time. Nursi spent the final 34 years of his life in and out of prison (which he called the “Madrasa of Joseph”) until his death on March 23, 1960. While in exile, Nursi continued writing books, gaining new students and becoming a major figure of a nonviolent opposition in the modern Republic of Turkey. In an obituary of March 24, 1960, The New York Times claimed that Nursi’s students numbered one million.   If one asks the strength of Nursi, probably the answer will be Nursi’s writings, what is called Risale-i Nur (Treatise of Light).  He viewed this work as a spiritual commentary of the Qur’an for the 20th century, written to prove the truth of the Qur’an against the materialism and skepticism of this age.

For more information on Nursi see Dr. Saritoprak's short biography of Nursi found in the Routledge Handbook of the Islamic World.

Find out about other events and happenings from the Nursi Chair and the TRS Department here.

..those who see the beauties of this magnificent palace and exhibition of wonders which we call the universe will certainly understand that this palace is like a mirror, decorated the way it is in order to reveal the beauty and perfection of its Maker.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (Risale-i Nur Collection, The Rays)