Exegeting Sūra al Fātiḥa for the Masses: Bediüzzaman Said Nursi and Haji Muḥammad Saʿīd bin ʿUmar


Peter G Riddell


Purpose: This article considers exegetical perspectives on the best known Sūra of the Qur’ān from two exegetes who lived in diverse contexts in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Caliphate. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi is arguably the most influential theologian to emerge from  in Ottoman Turkey in its long history. Haji Muḥammad Saʿīd bin ʿUmar, by contrast, enjoys a local reputation as a scholar in the Malay-Indonesian region but is unknown outside of that area.

Methodology: This research is based on a comparative analysis of the exegesis of both scholars on Sūra al-Fātiḥa, exploring the techniques they used to reach ordinary Muslims with their exegesis, not just highly educated Muslims.

Findings: Said Nursi and Muḥammad Saʿīd bin ʿUmar came from quite different backgrounds and contexts. Moreover, their exegetical styles were fundamentally different, with the former’s being more thematic and the latter’s being more literalist. Nevertheless, each succeeded in producing exegesis that reached the masses, thereby meeting their overall goals of reinforcing the commitment to faith and dynamic spirit of Muslims in their respective contexts.

Originality: This research is original in various ways. First, comparative studies of Said Nursi and Malay-language exegetes are few in number. Second, the identification of similarities in the results of studies on exegesis despite the use of different methods requires greater scholarly attention. This article should stimulate interest in further studies on the matter.



Said Nursi
Sūrah al-Fātiḥa
Risale-I Nur

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