If we were to summarize the philosophy of the Risale-i Nur movement and its method of service with a single concept, it would undoubtedly be “positive action.” Bediüzzaman Said Nursi indicated this truth with his statement, “Our profession is to engage in positive action.” Mr. Fethullah Gülen also expressed the same truth by stating, “Our path is the path of deepening faith and positive action.” They not only emphasized the importance of positive action with their words but also represented it through their lifestyles, attitudes, and behaviors.
Positive action is one of the key distinguishing features of the Hizmet (Service) movement, setting it apart from both political Islamists and other groups and communities. It is based on the Qur’anic verses and the practices of the Prophet Muhammad. It presents a style of action that is suitable, reasonable, and rational in accordance with the conditions of the time.
The word “müspet” (positive) in Turkish comes from Arabic and has similar roots as the words “ispat” (proof), “sabit” (stable), “sebat” (perseverance), among others. It conveys meanings such as established, verified, proven, solid, confirmed. Its opposite is “menfi” (negative). “Menfi” refers to what is denied, rejected, expelled, distanced. When we speak of positive action, it implies the manifestation of one’s rights and truths, advocating for what is right, being constructive, pursuing development and improvement. In contrast, negative action involves opposition, destruction, harm, conflict. The phrase “instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle” summarizes it well.
In addition to stating that positive action is the essence and requirement of the Risale-i Nur profession, Bediüzzaman (Master of his time) Said Nursi elucidated it and provided detailed explanations through various principles and guidelines. For example, he advised avoiding accusations of disbelief (tekfir) and keeping oneself and those who love him away from it, closing the door to trivial and peripheral matters that cause disagreements, preferring what can be agreed upon as good and beautiful over what is debated as better and more beautiful, stating that victory over the civilized world will be achieved through persuasion rather than compulsion, declaring that the material sword has been sheathed, emphasizing the importance of unity as a constant theme, persistently focusing on brotherhood, expressing that one who sees beauty will think beautifully and find delight in life, and calling on his students and admirers to preserve peace and security at all times. These are different aspects of positive action.
According to Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, positive action can be seen as the remedy for conflicts, which he considered one of the three main problems of Muslims. He identified the problems that cause Muslims to turn against each other, leading to conflicts, strife, and weakening, and he proposed alternative solutions. According to him, the harm caused by conflicts is a result of different sects and communities viewing the truth as exclusively belonging to themselves and replacing the principle of “love for the sake of God” with the thought of “animosity for the sake of God.” In other words, instead of living based on the love of their own profession, they develop hostility and hatred towards other professions. The partiality mindset drives people away from justice and fairness. Rather than each individual perfecting and improving their own profession and sect, they engage in criticizing others’ mistakes and shortcomings. (See Sünuhat, p. 74; Mektubat, p. 268)
According to Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, the most important way to overcome all these problems is to engage in positive action. This means that everyone should live with the love of their own profession, avoid enmity towards other professions, and refrain from engaging in their deficiencies. It entails putting aside minor disputes and emphasizing common ground. While they may see what they possess as more beautiful and defend their principles as more justified, they should not consider that only they possess the truth and beauty. (Lem’alar) Instead of attacking the mistakes of misguided individuals, they should abstain from such behavior. (Emirdağ Lahikası) Rather than criticizing and magnifying others’ mistakes, they should focus on their virtues and take pride in them. (Barla Lahikası)
Mr. Fethullah Gülen also emphasized the importance of positive action in his works and presented certain criteria as its requirements. For instance, not reciprocating negative attitudes and behaviors, avoiding engaging in negative speech and actions that consume one’s strength and energy in vain, and refraining from wasting time with idle talk; instead, they should serve in the direction of realizing their ideals through positive action. Positive action also requires staying away from Machiavellian thinking. According to Fethullah Gülen, not only must the goal be legitimate, but all means used to achieve the goal must also be legitimate, humane, moral, and in accordance with divine laws. Furthermore, those who embrace positive action solve problems through reason, logic, and diplomacy, not through force, pressure, and violence. Thus, they do not allow animosity and hatred to take root in society. Similarly, they do not turn differences into reasons for conflict and confrontation. They utilize all means and opportunities to ensure the spirit of unity among members of society. (Kırık Testi, Müspet Hareket)
It is possible to relate all the criteria given in the name of positive action to Qur’anic verses. We can provide the following verses as examples: “Do not dispute with one another, lest you lose courage and your strength departs.” (Surah Al-Anfal, 8:46) “O you who have believed, take care of yourselves. If you are guided, no harm can come to you from those who have gone astray.” (Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5:105) “(The servants of the Most Merciful are those who) pass by meaningless talk with dignity and grace.” (Surah Al-Furqan, 25:63) “Good and evil are not equal. Repel evil with what is better.” (Surah Fussilat, 41:34) “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best.” (Surah An-Nahl, 16:125)
In addition, the Qur’an commands peace, righteousness, reform, brotherhood, unity, competing in goodness, and encourages kind speech while prohibiting compulsion, oppression, mischief, and division. Likewise, the Qur’an states, “Truth has come, and falsehood has departed.” (Surah Al-Isra, 17:81) This means that there is no need to engage with falsehood; if truth is established, falsehood will naturally fade away.
As seen, the foundation of positive action is always constructive behavior, being action-oriented, pursuing development and improvement, avoiding reactive attitudes, and refraining from destruction and harm. Positive actions include presenting new ideas that will benefit humanity, developing plans and projects, creating strategies, and engaging in activities. Those who pursue positive action continuously produce new things. They work and strive in the direction of their lofty ideals. They continue on the path they believe in, regardless of adversities.
In contrast, actions such as keeping records of others’ mistakes and shortcomings, demolishing established structures and systems, engaging in suspicion and false accusations, constantly bringing up negativity to undermine people’s hopes and spiritual strength, spreading lies and slanders among members of society, are negative actions. Those accustomed to negative thinking and engaged in negative actions always focus on others. It seems as if they have found absolute truth and constantly search for others’ flaws, criticizing and refuting them. Instead of producing something, creating a work, they are preoccupied with the works of others.
A society that prioritizes a negative approach cannot progress. What one builds, others destroy. There are constant conflicts, disputes, and clashes among people. Knowledge and accumulated wisdom are wasted through useless debates. Love, respect, brotherhood, forgiveness, and tolerance are replaced with animosity, hatred, anger, and enmity. Sectarianism, factionalism, bigotry, and partiality emerge, and as a result, people move away from justice and fairness. Sometimes, it reaches a point where they perceive even others’ truths as false, magnify minor mistakes, and may even resort to slander and excommunication. There is no room for respect or politeness in their treatment of others; rudeness and uncouth behavior prevail. Unfortunately, the contemporary Islamic world is filled with examples of all these.
In conclusion, for those who seek to serve humanity, and if they want to succeed in their endeavors, there is no alternative but to engage in positive action. The duty of representatives of positive action is to continue walking on the path of construction and improvement with faith, hope, determination, and resolution, without being affected by negative events, without wasting time and energy on futile debates, without causing disagreements and division.