Practical Wisdom of Pastoral Theology in Muslim Tradition

  • Shumaila Majeed
Keywords: pastoral theology, human tribulations, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Risale-I Nur



This paper sheds light on the meaning and treatment of a Christian doctrine ‘pastoral theology’ whose addressee is human soul and one of the objectives is to enable an individual to courageously face the trials and troublesome situations of life. Hence one can observe this purposeful training of an individual among the objectives of Muslim theologians as well. Though this term is not among recognized disciplines in Muslim theology, it does have an illustrious history in the writings of Muslim thinkers and scholars. This paper aims to study the examples of pastoral theology in the Muslim tradition, particularly the methodology of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (A Turkish Muslim Revivalist of 20th century) as he described in his magnum opus Risale-I Nur (a thematic exegesis of the Quran). Nursi focused on the training of human soul in order to enable it to take the trials and tribulation of human life as coming from the Divine will to spiritually strengthen it. Firstly, the term pastoral theology will be briefly examined. Secondly, a brief introduction of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi and his Risale-I Nur will be given. Thirdly, the answer to the question why Nursi addressed this aspect of human life and assigned treatises on different human tribulations would be explored. Fourthly, the examples of such kind of trainings of individuals will be studied from Risale-I Nur. The methodology of research adopted in this paper is qualitative. The findings of the paper show that pastoral theology is in accordance with the teachings of Islam; Nursi’s elaborate explanation of this concept in his Risale Nur is unprecedented in the Muslim tradition; and despite the recent efforts there is a dire need that Muslim scholars explore this discipline further.


For details see Ibrahim J. Long and Bilal Ansari, "Islamic Pastoral Care and the Development of Muslim Chaplaincy," Journal of Muslim Mental Health 12, no. 1 (2018), accessed July 30, 2020,

See Henry Clarence Thiessen, Lectures in systematic theology (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1979), 1, accessed July 30, 2020,

Elaine Graham, "Pastoral Theology in an age of uncertainty." HTS: theological studies 62, no. 3 (2006): 845, accessed July 30, 2020,

See Elymas Davidson Newell, "Pastoral Theology in the Study of Religions" (PhD diss., Atlantic International University, 2013), accessed July 30, 2020,

Turner explains “The Revival of the Sciences of Religion (Ih. yā ‘ulūm al-dīn) is regarded by many Muslims as arguably the greatest readily accessible work of Muslim spirituality, and one which has, for centuries, been the most read work after the Quran in the Muslim world. The Ih. yā is divided into four parts or ‘quarters’, each containing ten chapters. The first part deals with knowledge and the practical requirements of religion, such as ritual purity, prayer, charity, fasting, pilgrimage, recitation of the Quran and so on.; the second concentrates mostly on man and society, covering issues such as etiquette relating to eating, marriage, earning a living, friendship and the like.; and parts three and four are dedicated to the inner life of the soul and discuss first the vices that man must battle against in himself and then the virtues that he must strive to achieve.” See Colin Turner, The Qur'an Revealed: A Critical Analysis of Sa’īd Nūrsī 's Epistles of Light (Germany: Gerlach press, 2013), 466.


For details see Sukran Vahide, "The Life and Times of Bedi’uzzamān Sa’īd Nūrsī," The Muslim World 89(1999); Sukran Vahide, Islam in Modern Turkey: An Intellectual Biography of Bedi’uzzamān Sa’īd Nūrsī (Albany: SUNY Press, 2012); Colin Turner and Hasan Horkuc, Makers of Islamic Civilization: Sa’īd Nūrsī (London: I.B.Tauris, 2009).

For details see Vahide, Islam in Modern Turkey, 190-91; Niyazi Berkes, The Development of Secularism in Turkey (London: Hurst and company, 1998), 464-66; Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), 266-74; Serif Mardin, "Religion and Secularism in Turkey," in The Modern Middle East: A Reader, ed. Albert Hourani, Philips S. Khouri, and Mary C. Wilson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 364-65.

For further details see Thomas Michel, Insights from the Risāle-i Nūr (USA: Tughra Books, 2013), 112-15.

Turner, The Quran Revealed, 466.


Bedi’uzzamān Sa’īd Nūrsī, The Letters, trans. Sukran Vahide (Istanbul: Sozler, 2006), 97.

See for details Nūrsī, The Letters, 97-99.

Ibid., 99; For further explanations see Turner, The Quran Revealed, 500-504.

Bedi’uzzamān Sa’īd Nūrsī, The Flashes, trans. Sukran Vahide(Istanbul: Sozler, 2010), 265.

Michel, Insights,117.


Ibid., 109.

Thomas Michel (a Catholic Christian Priest) shared his experience how he was introduced with Risālah -i Nūr. After having a bypass surgery he was getting recovered when encouraged by the sympathy of various Risālah readers who also shared with him some of the insights which they discovered in the writings of Nūrsī. Thomas relates that this pushed him to study Risālah more deeply in order to understand what Nūrsī approach to sickness and human infirmity might discloses about his Quranic spirituality. See Michel, Insights,108-09.

Ian S. Markham, Engaging with Bedi’uzzamān Sa’īd Nūrsī: A Model of Interfaith Dialogue(England: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2009), 18.

Nūrsī, The Flashes, 266; for explanation of these points see Michel, Insights, 118; Bilal Kuspinar, "The Chief Characteristics of Spirituality in Sa’īd Nūrsī 's Religious Thought," in Spiritual Dimensions of Bedi’uzzamān Sa’īd Nūrsī 's Risāle-i Nūr, ed. Ibrahim M. Abu Rabi(Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008), 141.

Nūrsī, The Flashes, 266.

Ibid., 21.

Turner, The Qur'an Revealed, 490.

Qur’an 21:83.

See Nūrsī, The Flashes, 22-23; for explanation Turner, The Qur'an Revealed, 490.

Nūrsī, The Flashes, 268.

Ibid., 23.

Ibid., 25.

Turner, The Qur'an Revealed, 491.

Nūrsī, The Flashes, 26.

Ibid., 27.

Cited in Vahide, Islam in Modern Turkey, 217.

See Turner, The Qur'an Revealed, 496-97.

Nūrsī, The Words,162.

Names of places where Nūrsī was imprisoned.

See Turner, The Qur'an Revealed, 500.

Ibid., 471.

For details see Nūrsī, The Flashes, 286-94.

Ibid., 300.

Ibid., 292.

Ibid., 310.

Ibid., 312-13.

Bedi’uzzamān Sa’īd Nūrsī, The Rays, trans. Sukran Vahide(Istanbul: Sozler, 2006), 244; also see Nūrsī, The Words, 110.

Nūrsī, The Words, 185-190.

Michel, Insights,98.

Qur’an 8:25.

Nūrsī, The Words, 186.

Ibid., 187; for further explanation see Michel, Insights, 97-106.

See for example Long and Ansari, "Islamic Pastoral Care," 3-4.