Background: Several Muslim reformers and intellectuals, during the nineteenth century, struggled to integrate revealed and scientific knowledge such as Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi (1903-1979), Muhammad Abduh (1845-1905) and Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898). They believed that revealed knowledge and scientific knowledge should be combined and western sciences should be availed for the up gradation of educational curriculum. His study of science Since Nursi was not a formal student of science and he studied modern science in the same way as he studied Islamic sciences, that is, through self-study. Therefore we cannot expect from him a systematic “metaphysical and philosophical approach” to modern science. It may also the reason why he could not avoid integrating its philosophical premises into his thought. 1/
One researcher says: “Nevertheless, when it came to the knowledge of modern science, even if we accept the fact that he acquired an adequate mastery of it, it is difficult to say that he acquired it in a proper manner, that is, with full awareness concerning its philosophical premises. Therefore, he integrated them to his intellectual perspective inadvertently and suffered from its consequences”. I do not think it was so and I do not understand what people expect from luminous minds like Nursi to accomplish, theoretically .While as Nursi as well as Ghazzali have been aware about the negative sides of Science and have qualified its positive points and its negative ones succinctly. Though they, no doubt, study science and philosophy on their own, but to say that both the luminaries were not informed from consequences of their naiveté study of science is to do injustice with these towering figures of Isalmic World.
There are various views concerning this issue. WE should not forget that Nursi criticized his own conception of modern science as it was formulated during the new Said period. But he still did not deny “the utilization of the findings of modern science, especially the use of modern inventions”. Thus there was evolution in the views of Nursi’s intellectual perspective which tended to downplay the findings of modern science in the interpretation of the religious texts.2/
Nursi admitted this lapse in the later stages of his intellectual life, and held it to be an error: an error he once defined as “polishing Islam” 3/
He stated that: The Old Said and certain thinkers in part accepted the principles of human and European philosophy, and contested them with their own weapons; they accepted them to a degree. They submitted unhesitatingly to some of their principles in the form of the physical sciences, and therefore they could not demonstrate the true worth of Islam. It was quite simply as though they were grafting Islam with the branches of philosophy, the roots of which they supposed to be very deep; as though strengthening it. But since this method produced few victories and it reduced Islam's worth to a degree, I gave up that way. And I showed in fact that Islam's principles are so profound that the deepest principles of philosophy cannot reach them; indeed, they remain superficial beside them. The Thirtieth Word, Twenty-Fourth Letter, and Twenty-Ninth Word have demonstrated this truth with proofs. In the former way, philosophy was supposed to be profound and the matters of Islam, external; it was supposed that by binding itself with the branches of philosophy, Islam would be preserved and made to endure. As if the principles of philosophy could in any way reach the matters of Islam! 4/
It is true that Nursi realized some of the shortcomings of modern science, but this realization does not reflect a comprehensive critique of it. For example, Nursi arrived at the conclusion that modern science is not interested in meaning, but it is lost in dealing with the details of the material reality. He also realized the fact that modern science is literalist, but instead of relating this literalism to the quantification of science, he, rather, identified it with material causality and formulated his intellectual discourse for its refutation. 5/
However he was oblivious of the other side of science if employed without qualification, which could pose a challenge to the interpretation of the Quranic verses in the end .He was that much fascinated by the scientific precision in earlier Said stage that he thought that the traditional schools had degenerated because they had nothing like “scientific precision” available. Yet, in a more sophisticated fashion, he tried to explain this “degeneration” through human interventions and the ever-accumulating commentaries of intellectual tradition and came to the conclusion that these factors obscured the original meaning of religious texts by creating ambiguity. Since modern science appeared with a different discourse with its claim to “objectivity and universal validity,” in his eyes it rendered the traditional schools ineffective and became the chief authority in approaching the truths of the Qur’an.6/
But Said Nursi had a different perspective on science. He argued that “Islam is the master and guide of the sciences, and the chief and father of all true knowledge.” For integration of knowledge, his view is that religious subjects are taught in the new secular schools (mektebs) and that the positive sciences are taught in the religious schools (medreses). He argued that if the students are taught in this method, those in the secular schools will be saved from being without religion, while those in the religious schools will be saved from bigotry. A beautiful combination of Scientific and religious sciences as envisaged by Nursi can be seen from this statement: “The light of the conscience is the religious sciences. The light of the mind is exact sciences. Reconciliation of both manifests the truth. The student’s skills develop further with these two (sciences). When they are separated, from the former superstition and from the latter corruption and skepticism is born.”
Nursi is not depreciative of modern scientific advancement unlike many traditional clerks. Rather Nursi thinks that the scientific revolution is an exceedingly important “turning point in the history of human intellectual endeavor”, and visualized that it set the standard for the intellectual and scientific activities in modern times, encompassing even the domain of religion. This was warranted by the notion that Islam could not remain oblivious to “intellectual inquiry,” as it was itself the act of knowing.7/
He wanted to integrate thescience of modern times with Islamic thought. But his theory of integration was the new exegesis of the Qur’an to be written, almost exclusively, in light of the findings of modern science, and he tried to put it into practice with an added enthusiasm.
He designated the project as Miraj-i Qur’anic (Qur’anic ascension), and advocated it as one of the genuine modes of approaching the Truth alongside the three traditional strands of Islamic thought and spirituality: Sufism (tasawwuf), Islamic philosophy (hikmah), and scholastic theology (Kalam).He showed the importance of precision and clarity in interpretation, which has been brought to fore by modern science while as for the first generation of Muslims only reason, was available. What needed to be done was the integration of the findings of this new science into the method of Miraj-i Qur’ani, and interpretation of the Qur’anic verses in their light.8/
He thought that his exegesis was supported by “objectivity and universal validity of modern science.” 9/
But still this project did not materialize in the manner Nursi wanted, and gave way to a different project. The Risale-i Nur project came to light as a continuation of it, though with different orientation, also ascribing itself a noticeably high level of objectives .10/
In this project, instead of relying on the findings of modern science and composing it in the form of a systematical exegesis, Nursi preferred to rely on his inspirations which, as he defined it, reflected his “close reading of the Qur’an.” 11/
However, since he did not come up with a comprehensive and systematical critique of modern science which could dismantle its shortcomings on a philosophical level, the intellectual transition Nursi underwent did go unnoticed.12/
Besides, it is important to emphasize that in writing the Risale-i Nur collection, Nursi’s purpose was not to compose a systematical work which would deal with a variety of subjects on a theoretical level. Therefore, it is paradoxical to search for a systematic treatment of modern science in the Risale-i Nur collection as it pertains to the intellectual tradition.13/
As for the details of the adoption process, it was primarily the claim of objectivity, that is, the claim of “providing certitude on the level of phenomena,” 14/
– a sort of certitude Nursi could not find among the “lengthy” commentaries he preferred to ignore during his Madrasah education – had misled Nursi in his pursuit of modern science. Since he took this claim for granted, he did not think that the study of modern science could constitute a problem in the formation of his intellectual perspective. Nursi realised and shared his confession concerning the inaccuracy of his approach in using the findings of modern science for the purpose of “strengthening the Islamic principles.” Yet, in order to show the level of trust Nursi had in the claim of objectivity of modern science during the time period he defended this perspective:…Since in the past philosophy was polluted with superstition because of ignorance, blind imitation, and the narrow capacity of minds, the scholars of earlier generations urged that philosophy be avoided. However, philosophy embedded in and informed by transmitted Knowledge based on the Divine Revelation, and which also takes into account scientific developments, will surely bring more good than evil.15/
According to Nursi the miraculousness in the Qur’anic verses is the eloquent language of the Qur’an. It is not to be searched for in Greek philosophy or, if you are a free thinker, see how ancient philosophy and science have imprisoned minds within the walls of some errors and thrown them into abjection. However, the new scientific approach has brought down the walls of that prison. It is clear that the key to the treasure of the aspects of miraculousness in the Qur’anic verses is the eloquent language of the Qur’an. It is not to be searched for in Greek philosophy 16/
For sure the greatest obstacle, which causes us to suffer misery in the world and the Westerners to be deprived of happiness in the Hereafter, and which causes the sun of Islam to be eclipsed, is the supposed conflict between some outer aspects of Islam and certain established scientific facts. This is strange, to say the least, for how can something be in conflict with the very phenomenon that has given rise to it? For it is Islam which has given shepherded [sic.] the sciences, and even given birth to many of them. Yet the fallacy of conflict between Islam and science continues to prey on our minds, driving many to hopelessness and serving to close the doors of knowledge and civilization to many Muslims...17/
In addition to the claim of objectivity, we should mention another important premise which influenced his intellectual perspective in a just as important manner: the linear conception of scientific progress.18/
Nursi approached this premise in an equally uncritical way, and he adopted it into his intellectual perspective without showing any sign of resistance. 19/
It is for this reason that many of the matters known to all today were only theoretical or even incomprehensible in the past. We clearly see that many matters of geography, astronomy, physics, chemistry, and other sciences are no longer unknown to the children of today, due to the facts and principles that have been established, the means that have been invented, and the opinions that have gained strength from one another. They were unknown even to Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and thinkers and scientists like him, although such people had a greater capacity and were far better versed in philosophy and sciences than many of their contemporaries. The deficiency lies not in Ibn Sina and his contemporaries, but in the time they lived in; we are all children of our times.20/
Therefore, he did not see any problem in declaring the traditional schools as obsolete. Had he approached the issue philosophically, he could have realized that the type of accumulation modern science appreciated was the accumulation of particular “facts “which paved the way for its emergence and, according to this perspective, Unquantifiable entities cannot be considered in this category. From the perspective of modern science, only ideas, theories, or facts which buttress its legitimacy and functionality could be considered as accumulating and, therefore, incorporated in its domain of inquiry, not the accumulated wisdom Of humanity or the truths of traditional intellectual disciplines which came to existence in light of the teachings of revealed truths. Quite the opposite, for modern science there is a deep dichotomy between the two, and they cannot be reconciled with each other by any means.21/
Yet, from Nursi’s perspective things looked different. At the time Nursi defended these views, he considered the quantification of science as an important step towards the attainment of knowledge of the Truth, the truths of Islam. He viewed the type of knowledge presented by modern science as a “source of spiritual progress” (madden-i tekemmul) and a “means of spiritual enlightenment” (medar-i tenevvur) for himself, and liberation from the hegemony (riyaset) of the clergy for the Christian West.22/
In his eyes, it was obvious that such liberation could only .23/
A careful reading of the rest of the discussion in “Second Premise,” shows the existence of a bifurcation in Nursi’s categorization between the quantifiable and non-quantifiable in terms of the intellectual perspective he adopted. More precisely, towards the end of the “Second Premise” in Muhakemat, in which he dealt with the issue of accumulation of knowledge, Nursi emphasized that the type of accumulation he talked about cannot be extended to the spiritual sciences. Despite the fact that this explanation seems to indicate that he realized the real nature of the linear, progressive conception of science he adopted, his attitude towards the traditional disciplines, especially towards Sufism, indicates that it is not. Nursi’s approach can also be seen as a sign that he embraced the compartmentalization of sciences and created a completely separate category for natural sciences apart from spiritual sciences.24/
These facts may lead the West to embracing Islamic truths. Therefore, it was of crucial importance for the Islamic world to support the cultivation of modern science. The realization of this project was the main duty of the Muslim intelligentsia of his time, and there could be no other work which could match the importance of this project in kind. In his words: I am also convinced that it is only the truth of Islam that will prevail in the future and enjoy absolute authority all around the world. It is only Islam that will be seated on the future throne of truth and knowledge. The signs of this victory have already begun to appear. In the past there were eight obstacles which prevented the light-giving Shari‘a from overcoming the despotic rule of fanaticism and blind imitation, and from sweeping aside the deceptively glittering debris of knowledge which held sway over the wasteland of human ignorance. Of those obstacles, which caused the sun of Islam to be eclipsed, four were to be found in the West: blind imitation of the clergy, ignorance, fanaticism, and the hegemony of the Church. Three of these obstacles were dominant in Muslim lands: despotism, disorder in internal affairs, and the kind of hopelessness which leads to apathy. The eighth obstacle, and the greatest of all, was to be found both among us and in the West: this was the supposed conflict between certain outer aspects of Islam and a number of established scientific facts. Thanks to the enthusiastic and courageous efforts of scientific knowledge which, out of its love for humanity, has mobilized the truths which emerge from unbiased investigation and judgment, these obstacles have begun to be destroyed.25/
Thus, modern science meant to Nursi the driving force for the emergence of a new humanity in the West as well as the seed of a new Islamic civilization in the Muslim World.26/
As far as Nursi’s intellectual background is concerned, like many other Muslim scholars of his time, he started his intellectual life by receiving a madrasah education. His preoccupation with modern science came in the later stages of his life, primarily during the time he spent in the courts of Van governors, Hasan Pasha and Tahir Pasha. This period lasted approximately fifteen years, and it played an important role in his further intellectual and political activities.
The type of knowledge he attained during this period came to form the basis of his intellectual perspective and made a significant level of contribution to his reputation.
In “Social and Ethical Thought of Bediüzzaman Said-i Kürdi,” Arslan defended the view that, contrary to what might be thought, during the old Said period Nursi’s “cause was not to save the Ottoman Empire;” it was rather to lay “the intellectual and ethical foundations of a new Islamic civilization.”27/
Needless to say, Nursi’s civilization project was a reaction to the rise of the modern West, and it sought to facilitate the process of “progress” in the Muslim world. This conviction found its meaning in the idea that “the West progressed and the Muslim world fell behind,”28/ it was not the reaction, but a mature response to the progress made by the west in science. Nursi acknowledged it and said also that Islam had also provided impetus to the developlement process of Science and as one of the ardent defenders of this idea, he was determined to the something for the reversal of this situation. In Muhakemat he related this “decline” to the weakening of the bonds between the Qur’anic knowledge and the Muslim community, 29/ and he believed that the solution is hidden in the restoration of the ideal relationship between the Muslim community and the Qur’an. If this restoration were to be achieved, Muslim world could progress and reach the ideal level of civilization it has deserved since its inception.Since.30/
Since Nursi held the traditional schools partly responsible for the weakening of the ideal relationship between the Qur’an and the Muslim community, from his perspective the restoration of this relationship meant a new exegesis which would interpret the Qur’anic verses to the public in a more intelligible way. 31/
He chose the findings of modern science as the basis of his new exegesis primarily for this reason, and defended it with a great vigor, but without realizing that this choice gave his exegesis project an exaggerated impression of being political in nature.32/
Besides, this was a popularization attempt of the Qur’anic knowledge through a process of rationalization, 33/, and by resorting to the findings of modern science Nursi had chosen the most “suitable” instrument for this project. 34/
Through these findings, he could make use of the “objective-natured”, “factual” knowledge modern science presented, and provide a solid exegesis to the Muslim community. Thus, they could strengthen their bonds with the Qur’an and take the necessary steps towards progress. 35
Nevertheless, Nursi interpreted the picture in a different way, and propounded the Exegesis project as an endeavor which reflects the divine purpose behind the revelation of the Qur’an.36/
God’s primary purpose for sending His wise Book is the guidance of people. All human beings are not on the same level of understanding, nor are they specialists in every branch of science. Therefore, God speaks in His scriptures in a way understandable to everyone. Those of a higher level of understanding and having expert knowledge can benefit from anything that is addressed to all people. But when a work addresses only scholars, things may become difficult for common people. Furthermore, people cannot easily abandon their habits or be freed from the things they have been familiar with for a long time. People often find it hard to deal with abstractions, but find it easier to understand things expressed with metaphors and similes, as these are closer to everyday life. For this reason, truths are usually presented in familiar terms or forms and thereby effectively presented for guidance. 37/
Despite the fact that in the succeeding statements he did not neglect to emphasize the existence of the esoteric meanings hidden in the Qur’anic verses, in the chapter he mostly kept his focus on the popularization of the Qur’anic knowledge, and concluded his argument in the following way: The Qur’an of Miraculous exposition has considered how people can easily understand it and has used styles that are suitable to be presented in this way. The Qur’an is God’s address to. The following expressions are examples of this: He has established Himself on the Supreme Throne (7:54); God’s Hand is over their hands (48:10); Your Lord comes (89:22); He saw it (the sun) setting in a spring of hot and black,muddy water (18:86); The sun runs the course appointed for it (36:38). That is how the Qur’an is, and there can be no doubt that it is God’s Word.38/
To approach the issue more theoretically, what led Nursi to develop a politically motivated intellectual discourse to the extent of including the composition of a new exegesis was his unquestioned adoption of the idea of progress. His unreserved sympathy towards the cultivation of modern science was mainly related to this adoption. 39/
Some other well-known figures of the nineteenth century Muslim world, such as Jamal al-Din Afghani and Muhammad Abduh 40/
positioned themselves in the same way, and their intellectual perspective exerted a significant level of influence on Nursi’s thought. Aside from the nuances in their mutual discourses, the common source of inspiration for these figures was their conception of the West, which was primarily based on the idea of a “contest of civilizations.” This perspective created a paralyzing effect on their thought, and they developed their notion of the cultivation of modern science with the focus of anything else, but mostly, for the attainment of power the West had attained. 41/
Since this conception marked relegation in the real meaning of the pursuit of
Knowledge, it created a negative impact on the totality of the activities related to the domain of thought and spirituality. Expectedly, such a one-dimensional perspective influenced negatively the totality of activities related to the domain of thought and spirituality in the Islamic world, 42/ and bestowed modern science a level of authority beyond its epistemological and methodological limitations.
He wrote: We will prevent the sins and the decadence of [modern] civilization from transgressing the boundaries of our conception of freedom and from entering our civilization through the sword of Sharia; the youth of our civilization and its years of youth, its elixir [will] be protected through Sharia. In the acquisition of the tenets of [modern] civilization, we can follow the example of Japan because of the fact that they preserved their values, which is essential to
ensure the continuity of every nation, in the process of attaining the positive aspects of [modern] civilization from Europe. Since our values blossomed within the universe of Islam, we are obligated to cling to them in two respects 43/The example of Japan’s modernization was popular at the time when Nursi made these statements, and it was still popular in the mid-1990s Turkey. Yet, it is problematic to claim that Japan still does, or that it ever did constitute a useful model for a comprehensive understanding of the modernization process. The type of resemblance Nursi tried to set up between Japan and the Ottoman Empire with respect to their attempts to modernize, without making any reference to their cultural and religious differences, does not indicate a profound understanding of the modern paradigm shift involved. 44/
It, rather, points to an understanding which concerns itself with its practical consequences and, strangely enough, by searching for them in a very distant geography. It clearly excludes the originator of the paradigm shift from the analogy, and tries to create an understanding of it without resorting to its influences on its originator.45/
In the later years of his life, Nursi also accepted the inaccuracy of this approach and reformulated his views accordingly, but without fully being able to relate it to the choice made by the promethean man in stealing the knowledge of gods from the heavens, and in using it for the creation of a technology which poses a threat to the continuity of life on earth in many ways.46/
Therefore, the question of what kind of conception of being modern science is based and the type of technology this conception of being led to remained unanswered.
To quote a pertinent paragraph in which he provided a response to the questions of “Why do you speak of contemporary ‘civilization’ as a civilization that has nothing civil in it? Had you not attempted to convince the Nomads of the advantages of civilization and progress?” Nursi stated: Because Western civilization as it stands today has contravened the divine fundamental laws; its evils have proved greater than its benefits. The real goals of civilization which are general-well being and happiness in this world have been subverted. Instead of economy and abstemiousness (kanaat) we have waste and debauchery, instead of work and service we have laziness and sloth. Thus humanity has simultaneously become very poor and very lazy. The fundamental law of the Qur’an, which originated in the firmament (semavi), is that happiness in life of humanity is in economy and in concentration on work and it is around this principle that the masses and the elite can come together. And to explain this principle which is already in the Risale-i Nur let me add one or two points.
First: In the state of nomadism people only needed three or four things. And those who could not obtain these three or four products were two out of ten. The present oppressive Western civilization in consequence of its consumption and waste and the stimulation of its appetites has brought nonessentials to become essentials and because of mores and habituation this so called civilized man instead of four has twenty needs. And yet he can only obtain two of these twenty.
He still needs eighteen. 47/
Therefore, contemporary civilization impoverishes man very much…Second: As the Risale-i Nur points out, while the radio is a great boon (nimet), which has partly been used for social purposes (and, therefore, should elicit our gratefulness) on the other hand, four fifths of it is being devoted to fancy, to superficial matters…48/
Bediuzzaman wa conscious that “mind, knowledge and science became dominant in this age” 49/
Even if teachers do not mention Allah, he attracts attention to the properties of each science showing Allah; he shows the events in the branches of science like economy, astronomy, philosophy, physics and chemistry as evidence of the existence of Allah through detailed explanations.50/
Only this view of Said Nursi shows that he has a philosophy that sees belief and science, and the education of them as interrelated.51/
Said Nursi observed all scientific events through the eyes of a theologian and he explained his approach successfully within the boundaries of the reasoning of the mind. He stated that the Qur’an included exact sciences and encouraged them. The decree of Islam about the outcomes of science is important in that it shows what causes those results.
The approach of science that neglects belief in Allah and overlooks the place and function of religion brings about “literal meaning”, that is, viewing beings on behalf of themselves, in terms of causes. The scientific approach that takes into consideration the power of creation and effect of Allah is related to “signified meaning”. That is, viewing things on behalf of Allah is the correct approach.
“We should mold the science brought from Europe and America, which, in fact, belongs to Islam, with the light of oneness and view it from the point of view of the contemplation and signified meaning mentioned by the Quran, that is, on behalf of its maker and master.”52/
To carry out scientific studies with the name of Allah does not mean that mind is put aside or neglected. On the contrary, mind should step in to see the creative power of Allah. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi expresses this as follows:
“If you cannot encompass this elevated order, adorned with bezels of wisdom, with your sight, and you are incapable of understanding it through inductive reasoning, look through the prying eyes of the sciences – which are the senses of your species and are formed through the meeting of minds and conjunction of ideas, and are like the ideas of the human race – for you will see an order that dazzles the mind. You will know too that each of the physical sciences discloses through the universality of its principles, the order and harmony, the more perfect than which cannot be conceived of. For there is a science to study every area of the universe, or there will be. Science consists of universal principles, and this universality demonstrates the beauty of the order. All the sciences demonstrate a total, all-embracing order; each is a shining proof pointing to the benefits and fruits hanging in bunches from the links of the chains of beings, indicating too the instances of wisdom and advantages concealed in their changing states. The sciences raise the banner of divine unity and testify to the Maker’s purpose and wisdom.”53/
When sciences are accepted as evidence for the existence of Allah, the union and inseparability of religion and science become obligatory. This principle should form a basic starting point in terms of education policy. Bediuzzaman draws attention to two sources in searching the truth; prophethood; that is, the truths that prophets convey and the views that philosophy puts forward. According to him, whenever philosophy is based on religion,
It is known that only material development is not enough to reach real civilization and that spiritual development parallel to it is also necessary. Bediüzzaman makes a social determination emphasizing that in Asian countries religion and heart surpass matter: “Most of the prophets appearing in Asia, and most of the philosophers emerging in Europe is a sign of pre-eternal Divine Determining that in Asia it is religion and heart that will make the people of Asia wake up, develop and administer themselves. Philosophy and wisdom should help the religion and the heart; they should not replace them.”
After asking the question, “Why should the world be a place of progress for everybody but a place of decline for us?” Bediüzzaman states that we progressed when we stuck to Islam and that we went backwards when we slackened off:
“Indeed, the facts that European civilization is not founded on virtue and guidance but rather on lust and passion, rivalry and oppression, and that up to the present the evils of civilization have predominated over its virtues, and that it has been infiltrated by revolutionary societies like a worm-eaten tree are each like powerful indications and means for the supremacy of Asian civilization. And in a short period of time it will prevail.
How is it that while there are such powerful and unshakable ways and means for the material and moral progress of the believers and people of Islam, and although the road to future happiness has been opened up like a railway, you despair and fall into hopelessness in face of the future, and destroy the morale of the Islamic world? And in despair and hopelessness you suppose that “the world is the world of progress for Europeans and everyone else.” However, “it is the world of decline only for the unfortunate people of Islam!” By saying that, you are making a grievous mistake. Since the inclination to seek perfection has been included in man’s essential nature, for sure, if doomsday does not soon engulf man as a result of his errors and tyranny, in the future truth and justice will show the way to a worldly happiness in the world of Islam, Insha’Allah, in which there will be atonement for the former errors of mankind.
Elaborating upon the need for change after the completion of Islam and the room for reformation in all aspects of life including legislation and education Nursi says: “Sacred laws change according to the ages. Indeed, in one age different prophets may come, and they have come. Since subsequent to the Seal of the Prophets, his Greater Shari‘a is sufficient for all peoples in every age, no need has remained for different laws. However, in secondary matters, the need for different schools has persisted to a degree. Just as clothes change with the change of the seasons and medicines change according to dispositions, so sacred laws change according to the ages, and their ordinances change according to the capacities of peoples. Because the secondary matters of the ordinances of the Shari‘a look to human circumstances; they come according to them, and are like medicine”.
At the time of the early prophets, since social classes were far apart and men’s characters were both somewhat coarse and violent, and their minds, primitive and close to nomadism, the laws at that time came all in different forms, appropriate to their conditions. There were even different prophets and laws in the same continent in the same century. Then, since with the coming of the Prophet of the end of time, man as though advanced from the primary to the secondary stage, and through numerous revolutions and upheavals reached a position at which all the human peoples could receive a single lesson and listen to a single teacher and act in accordance with a single law, no need remained for different laws, neither was there necessity for different teachers. But because they were not all at completely the same level and did not proceed in the same sort of social life, the schools of law became numerous.”54/
He says further: “If, like students of a school of higher education, the vast majority of mankind were clothed in the same sort of social life and attained the same level, then all the schools could be united. But just as the state of the world does not permit that, so the schools of law cannot be the same the traditional Islamic schools of thought and spirituality had degenerated, and they had to be replaced with a different school.55/
In Nursi’s eyes the Risale-I Nur collection came to fill this gap and he believed that it succeeded in this to a great extent synthesized thought and spirituality in a single body of work. Nevertheless, they do not provide a satisfactory answer to the question of why he came to consider the traditional schools as having degenerated. What brings this important detail into light is a series of statements made by him on the relationship between the emergence of modern science and the (lack of) efficacy of the traditional schools. The totality of these statements reflect the fundamental premises of Nursi’s thought as they were formulated during the old Said period in a clear way, and provide important.56/
Nursi was aware of the vulnerability of the impressionist minds of children of his country when he says: “The fourth group is the children. These want kindness from nationalist patriotism; they await compassion. Also, in respect of their weakness, impotence, and powerlessness, their spirits may expand through knowing a compassionate and powerful Creator; their abilities may unfold in happy manner. Through being instilled with reliance on God springing from belief and with the submission of Islam which may withstand the awesome fears and situations of the world in the future, these innocents may look eagerly to life. Could this be achieved by teaching them things concerning the progress of civilization, with which they have little connection, and the principles of lightless, purely materialist philosophy, which destroys their morale and extinguishes their spirits?”57/
He says further: “If man consisted only of an animal body and he had no mind in his head, perhaps these European principles which you fancifully call civilized education and national education could have afforded these innocent children some worldly benefit in the form of some temporary childish amusement. Since those innocents are going to be cast onto the upheavals of life, and since they are human beings, they will certainly have far-reaching desires in their small hearts and large goals will be born in their little heads”.58/
Attributing the conflicts and discords between modern schools, religious schools and dervish lodges in the last periods of the Ottoman State to the lack of information, Said Nursi presented solutions to reconcile them. Therefore, he gives great importance to his project “Madrasat-uz Zahra” (Great Islamic University).
“The people of (madrasahs) religious schools accuse the people of modern schools of weakness of belief due to their outward appearance. The people of modern schools regard the people of religious schools as insufficient and ignorant because they do not know about the new branches of science. The differences in the views and methods unsettled the Islamic ethics and prevented people from contemporary civilization.
The only solution to this is to teach religious sciences properly in modern schools, to teach new branches of exact sciences instead of ancient Greek philosophy, which is unnecessary now, in religious schools and to have very competent scholars in dervish lodges. When they are realised, those three branches will develop in harmony and reach high ranks.”
As it is seen in the proposals, Said Nursi wanted to realise unity in education and to eliminate bigotry originating from ignorance. If they were realised, a new generation that would surpass scholars, scientists and philosophers like “Plato, Avicenna, Bismarck, Descartes and Taftazani” would emerge. He went to Istanbul for the first time in order to present his proposals to the sultan and give his petition just before the proclamation of the constitutional monarchy (1908). Unfortunately, he was not allowed to talk to Abdulhamid II, the Sultan. Şefik Pasha, the Minister of Internal Affairs, talked to him. Said Nursi, did not regard this talk sufficient; he expressed his views through articles in the newspapers and his speeches. He wanted the Sultan to give importance to education instead of establishing cavalry troops and to spend the taxes collected from people on treating ignorance, the illness of the nation. He gave great importance to expressing the intense need of the community for education because “the nation thirsts for a new education system that complies with Islam.”59/
Said Nursi, who is against all kinds of despotism, does not consent to the scholarly despotism of madrasah teachers; it can be said that he gives importance to specialisation and expertise in branches judging from this view: “Scientists should not be restricted (should be left free) so that they would act on their natural motivation”60/
Nursi thinks that the Qur’an encourages “being specialized in science; that is, to be perfect in one’s branch and to have profound knowledge and experience.
The knowledge should be pragmatic and should meet the requirements of day to day life. In order to obtain positive results from students, it is necessary to make them have a feeling of responsibility and conviction that education is necessary. It is also necessary to have ethical values for a successful education career. The education and control of a child whose spiritual aspect is neglected becomes impossible in all aspects.His view of an education that will help the country develop is that religious and exact sciences should be taught together in harmony. According to him our enemies are three: ignorance, poverty and disagreement which can be combated by the weapons of: art knowledge and unity “With regard to education reformation, Bediüzzaman realized that the task and the mission he set for himself required educational reforms. Within a short time of arriving in Istanbul, in 19 Nov. 1908, Bediüzzaman set out ideas for educational reform and presented to Sultan Abdul Hamid in order to attract to the representatives of the old system of education and further train them so as to provide a new moral and intellectual leadership for humanity. His plan was to produce a kind of leadership who will be able to maneuver in political arena without losing their religious identity. He therefore, proposed to establish the Medresetuz-Zehra and restructure completely medrese education with integrated approach for securing the future of Kurdistan, the unity of the Empire and the entire Islamic world. On a wider scale, the role of Medresetuz-Zehra was to unite the three traditions, namely, medrese, mekteb and tekkes through the process of integration.
We see that Bediuzzaman insisted on his proposal of establishing an Islamic University, which would save Eastern Anatolia from ignorance and would develop it, that he demanded it from Turkish Grand National Assembly while the republic was being founded, that with the signatures of 163 members of the Parliament out of 200, a fund of 150,000 lira was allocated for it but that it was unsuccessful because the government of that period did not adopt it. However, the Democratic Party government, which came to power in1950, showed respect to the demands of people and to Said Nursi, established Erzurum University with this intention. Being glad with the opening of this university, Said Nursi said “My University” would be like he wanted in the course of time. The higher education institution that was desired to be established was going to be in the triangle of Van-Diyarbakır-Bitlis, it was going to serve primarily to Anatolia and to the Middle East countries like Iran, Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkistan and Afghanistan and it was going to render an important service to realise peace and fraternity.
Bediuzzaman had an instinctive dissatisfaction with the existing education system, which when older he formulated into comprehensive proposals for its reform. The heart of these proposals was the bringing together and joint teaching of the traditional religious sciences and the modern sciences, together with the founding of a university in the Eastern Provinces of the Empire, the Medresetü’z-Zehra, where this and his other proposals would be put into practice. In 1907 his endeavours in this field took him to Istanbul and an audience with Sultan Abdulhamid. Although subsequently he twice received funds for the construction of his university, and its foundations were laid in 1913, it was never completed due to war and the vicissitudes of the times.61/
As it is seen in the proposals, Said Nursi wanted to realise unity in education and to eliminate bigotry originating from ignorance. If they were realised, a new generation that would surpass scholars, scientists and philosophers like “Plato, Avicenna, Bismarck, Descartes and Taftazani” would emerge. He went to Istanbul for the first time in order to present his proposals to the sultan and give his petition just before the proclamation of the constitutional monarchy (1908). Unfortunately, he was not allowed to talk to Abdulhamid II, the Sultan. Şefik Pasha, the Minister of Internal Affairs, talked to him. Said Nursi, did not regard this talk sufficient; he expressed his views through articles in the newspapers and his speeches. He wanted the Sultan to give importance to education instead of establishing cavalry troops and to spend the taxes collected from people on treating ignorance, the illness of the nation. He gave great importance to expressing the intense need of the community for education because “the nation thirsts for a new education system that complies with Islam.”62/
He even gained an audience with Sultan Abdul Hamid II, 63/ in which he informed the latter about his school project and asked for his support. However, his views were not favored by the Sultan, and he returned to Eastern Anatolia, where he continued his intellectual activities without his support.
In later periods of his life, he was given the chance twice by Sultan Reşad and Said Halim Paşa to initialize his school project, “but it was not to be.” With Sultan Reşad’s support, Nursi “laid the foundations of his school, Medresetu’z-Zehra, on a site on the shores of Lake Van at Edremit, but with the outbreak of the First World War shortly afterwards, the construction was halted and never resumed.”64/
As far as Said Halim Paşa’s offer is concerned, it came after the war ended and during the time period Nursi was working for the empire as a member of Dar alhikmah (House of wisdom). However, this was a transition period from the old Said to the new Said, and therefore Nursi did not accept the offer this time.65/ In spite of this, he kept writing about the religion-science “dichotomy” and, as a result, he became one of the most prominent figures in the discussion, especially in the Turkish speaking part of the Islamic world.66/.
Thus, Nursi could not succeed in completing his modernization project, at least in his lifetime; but neither could the Ottoman Empire. The early modernization project existed concurrently with the imminent collapse of the Empire, and in 1923, when Nursi was 46; the staunchly secular Turkish Republic replaced the Ottoman Empire, with a relatively smaller territorial basis. The administrative forces of the Republic made the modernization project their central ideology, and they continued it with a more definite and secular emphasis. Expectedly, such an uncompromising secular vision created a very negative impact on Nursi’s activities and pushed him out of the political sphere. Thereupon, Nursi preferred to withdraw from public life, and he dedicated himself to his intellectual and spiritual activities, the totality of which constituted his voluminous Risale-i Nur collection.
Nevertheless, this separation did not preclude him from being one of the most important political figures in the Republic of Turkey. He had to deal with the problems he inherited from the old Said period as well as the accusations leveled at him for his intellectual activities during the new Said period. The disapproval with which the Republic viewed him led to long periods of imprisonment and house arrest. According to his memoirs, several times during his imprisonment the authorities even attempted to kill him. Despite that, he passed away in 1960 at the fairly old age of 83, just before the first coup of the Turkish Army. He was initially buried in Urfa. However, after the coup his remains were removed from his grave by the army and carried to a different location which is known to only a few people today.
It is no wonder that this chain of events was a result of friction between the governing elite of the Republic of Turkey and Bediüzzaman Said Nursi. Nevertheless, there is no consensus among the scholars concerning the source of this friction. According to one argument, it was “...because Bediüzzaman was a threat to Republican nationalism that he was isolated by the state.”67/
Another argument is that, this friction resulted from the type of the modernization project Nursi had proposed.
REFERENCES AND NOTES:
Ghazzali had a similar experience with philosophy. Since he studied philosophy without the help of a master, his studies confused his mind, and he adopted a negative stance towards philosophy. (As mentioned by Seyyed Hossein Nasr in one of his lectures). Pp-15-16).But it is a wrong position taken about Ghazzali .Ghazzali’s understanding of Philosophy was that profound that his book became famous in the medieval Europe as Ghazzali’s Metaphysics
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, The Words, trans. Şükran Vahide (Istanbul: Sözler Neşriyat), pp. 260-276. Compare this with footnote, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Letters. trans. Şükran Vahide (Istanbul: Sözler Neşriyat), p. 516. In this excerpt, by philosophy Nursi means modern science. See also Mardin, Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey, 205.See also Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, The Flashes, trans. Şükran Vahide (Istanbul: Sözler Neşriyat), p. 305.)P-16. Despite this clear confession, Nursi’s discontent with modern science never turned into a systematic critique thereof. The issues raised in the passage above went unaddressed. Therefore, the problem of what to do with modern science was left to future generations, says Serdar Dogan, (The Influence of Modern Science on Bediüzzaman Said Nursi’s Thought By Serdar Dogan B.A. Sociology, August 2006, George Mason University A Thesis submitted to The Faculty of The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences of The George Washington University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of the Arts May 15, 2011,Thesis directed by Seyyed Hossein Nasr University Professor of Islamic Studies,p-16 )
Ibid, Nursi calls it saykal al-Islam, (The Reasonings- 5)
- Nursi, The Reasonings, 5, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Letters. trans. Şükran Vahide (Istanbul: Sözler Neşriyat, p. 516. In this excerpt, by philosophy Nursi means modern science. See also Mardin, Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey, 205.See also Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, The Flashes, trans. Şükran Vahide (Istanbul: Sözler Neşriyat), p. 305.)p-16) Basically the concern of Nursi with science was not only academic but pragmatic
5-See Nursi, Risale-i Nur Külliyatı 1, pp-49-50.
Ibid., 21,107; footnote 123.p-7
The Influence of Modern Science on Bediüzzaman Said Nursi’s Thought By Serdar Dogan,op.cit ,P-4
9-See Nursi, The Reasonings, 25,107; Ibrahim Kalin, "Three Views of Science in the Islamic World," in God, Life, and the Cosmos: Christian and Islamic Perspectives, eds. Ted Peters, Muzzafar Iqbal and Syed Nomanul Haq (Burlington: Ashgate Publishing), p. 52.15 Ibid., 21,107; footnote 123.p-7)
10. See Nursi, The Reasonings, 25,107; Ibrahim Kalin, "Three Views of Science in the Islamic World," in God, Life, and the Cosmos: Christian and Islamic Perspectives, eds. Ted Peters, Muzzafar Iqbal and Syed Nomanul Haq (Burlington: Ashgate Publishing), p. 52.15 Ibid., 21,107; footnote 123.7)
-11- M. Hakan Yavuz, “Nur Study Circles (Dershanes) and the Formation of New Religious Consciousness in Turkey,” in Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, ed. Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi'(Albany: State University of New York Press), p. 299, 314.)
12- Namely, as opposed to what has been considered so far, the Risale-i Nur collection did not emerge as the immediate product of the line of reasoning which ascribed modern science a central place in Nursi’s thought. It rather emerged as the fruit of a breakdown in his intellectual undertakings which started to conceive modern science as “spiritually deceptive,” and almost as degenerated as the traditional schools. Yet, since he came to this stage by ascribing modern science an exceedingly central place within the old Said discourse, the totality of his intellectual activities have generally been considered as the fruit of this positioning. Risale-i Nur too has been considered as the fruit of this perspective, and it was depicted as such even by those who followed in Nursi’s footsteps. It should also be noted that, Nursi’s ambiguous statements on the issue may well be the main source of the current confusion. Yet, there are recent attempts to reconstruct Nursi’s scientific perspective by relying on his critique of modern science as expressed during the new Said period. See Yamina Mermer and Redha Ameur, “Beyond the ‘Modern’: Sa’id al-Nursi’s View of Science,” Islam and Science 2, no. 2 (Winter 2004): 119-160; Metin Karabaşoğlu,"Bilime Nasıl Bakmalı? Sahibinden Kaçmış Bir Kölenin Öyküsü" Köprü, Kış 1996).
13- See also Vahide, “A Survey of the Main Spiritual Themes of the Risale-i Nur,” 5.
14-Edwin A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, (Garden City: Double Day Anchor Books), p.67.
15- Huston Smith, The Common Vision of the World's Religions: Forgotton Truth (New York: Harper Collins), p.v; Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Sufi Essays (Chicago: ABC International Group), p. 25; Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred, 325. Nursi, The Reasonings, 25. Compare to Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islam, Science, Muslims, and Technology (Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust), p. 183. (Pp-16-17)
16- Edwin A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, (Garden City: Double Day Anchor Books), p.67. See Huston Smith, The Common Vision of the World's Religions: Forgotton Truth (New York: Harper Collins), p.v; Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Sufi Essays (Chicago: ABC International Group), p. 25; Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred, 325.Nursi, The Reasonings, 25. Compare to Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islam, Science, Muslims, and Technology (Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust), p. 183. (Serdar op cit pp-16-17), and Nursi, The Reasonings, op.cit pp-74-75.
17- Nursi, the Reasonings- 4
18- See Kalin, “Three Views of Sciences in the Islamic World,” 51.
19-In many places in his works, especially in those composed during the time of old Said, we can clearly see the traces of this influence. The primary example of this is found in “The Reasonings” (Muhakemat). It is a kind of work dedicated to the explication of the Islamization of modern science as Nursi understood it and how this Islamization can help Muslim world “progress” faster. It is for this reason that many of the matters known to all today were only theoretical or even incomprehensible in the past. We clearly see that many matters of geography, astronomy, physics, chemistry, and other sciences are no longer unknown to the children of today, due to the facts and principles that have been established, the means that have been invented, and the opinions that have gained strength from one another. They were unknown even to Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and thinkers and scientists like him, although such people had a greater capacity and were far better versed in philosophy and sciences than many of their contemporaries. The deficiency lies not in Ibn Sina and his contemporaries, but in the time they lived in; we are all children of our times.Serdor op .cit .p-19. (In many places in his works, especially in those composed during the time of old Said, we can clearly see the traces of this influence. The primary example of this is found in “The Reasonings” (Muhakemat). It is a kind of work dedicated to the explication of the Islamization of modern science as Nursi understood it and how this Islamization can help Muslim world “progress” faster.
20- Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism (London: Norton & Company), pp. 310-1.
21-See Titus Burckhardt, Mirror of the Intellect: Essays on Traditional Science & Sacred Art, ed. & tr. William, Stoddart (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987),
22- See Nursi, The Reasonings, 4.
23- Nursi, the Reasonings, 14-16.
24--See Peter Gay, the Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism (London: Norton & Company), pp. 310-1. See Titus Burckhardt, Mirror of the Intellect: Essays on Traditional Science & Sacred Art, ed. & tr. William Stoddert (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987), p. 14. Nursi, Risale-i Nur Külliyatı 1, 711. (Our Translation) See Nursi, The Reasonings, 4.
25- Nursi, the Reasonings, 4.
26- Ibid, 4, 34-35.
27-Arslan, “Social and Ethical Thought of Bediüzzaman Said-i Kürdi,” 3, 45.)P-31)
28-See Graham E. Fuller, The Future of Political Islam (New York: PALGRAVE MACMILLAN), pp. 4-5.
29- Nursi, The Reasonings, 1-5.
30- Serdor op .cit pp-31-32
31- Nursi, The Reasonings, 41
32- This important detail explains well why the subject of catching up with the West and the project of a new exegesis were dealt with in the same book, Muhakemat, as well as why Nursi made a very sharp turn from the old Said to the new Said as far as his political views were concerned.)
33-See Vahide, “Toward an Intellectual Biography of Said Nursi,” 2; Nursi, The Reasonings, pp- 32-35.)
34-Guénon, The Reign of Quantity & the Signs of the Times, 89-95, p-.33
35- It is important to note that in the Risale-i Nur collection, Nursi attributed this authority to his inspirations and therefore to the work itself. See Yavuz, “Nur Study Circles (Dershanes) and the Formation of New Religious Consciousness in Turkey,” 297.
36-Arslan, “Social and Ethical Thought of Bediüzzaman Said-i Kürdi,”op.cit p- 26.
37- Nursi, The Reasonings, p-41.
38- Nursi, The Reasonings, 41. On the levels of meanings hidden in the Qur’anic Verses see Kristin Zahra Sands, Sufi Commentaries on the Quran in Classical Islam, (New York: Routledge), See Serdor op.cit pp. 8-13
39-Kalin, “Three Views of Sciences in the Islamic World,” op.cit p43.
40- In Divan-ı Harbi Örfi Nursi cites these names and states that he adhered to their views in the issue of Pan-Islamism. Nevertheless, the way he formulated his intellectual perspective during the old Said period shows that this adherence did not remain limited to the idea of Pan-Islamism. Nursi, Risale-i Nur Külliyatı 2, 1922. See also Arslan, “Social and Ethical Thought of Bediüzzaman Said-i Kürdi,” 22-26.Since Abduh sought to revive Mutazilite thought, Islamic rationalism, in the twentieth century, he can be considered as a source of inspiration for Nursi’s
Exegesis project. See Richard C. Martin, Mark R. Woodward, and Dwi S. Atmaja, Defenders of Reason in Islam: Mu’tazilism and Rational Theology from Medieval School to Modern Symbol, (Oxford: Oneword), pp. 128-9. On whether or not Nursi was familiar with Abdu’s exegesis see Nursi, Risale-i Nur Külliyatı 2, 1244-1245.
41-See Kalin, “Three Views of Sciences in the Islamic World,” 43.quoted by Serdor op .cit. p-35
42-Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islam and Modern Science, http://msa.mit.edu/archives/nasrspeech1.html (accessed February 27, 2011).
43-Nursi, Risale-i Nur Külliyatı 2, 1933.
44-See Nasr, Islam, Science, Muslims, and Technology, 187, quoted in Serdor op.cit p 37)
45- This statement symbolizes the relationship between the emergence of the scientific revolution and the tendency to read the book of the universe independent from revelation. Thus, it also pertains to the fruits of this reading which correspond to modern technology in its negative impacts on the order and harmony of the nature. See Nasr, Religion and the Order of Nature, 163-190.
46-Serdor op.cit p-38
48- As quoted in Mardin, Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey, 99-100. His initial view on this issue is summarized in his words “Thank God the radio is a complete hafiz [Qur’an reader] with a million tongues which is meant to make all of humanity listen to the Qur’an.”
49- Hutbe-i Şâmiye, (Damascus Sermon) p. 23.
50- In Kastamonu, in 1936, when a group of high-school students came to Said Nursi and complained that their teachers did not speak of Allah, he said to them, “All the sciences you study continuously speak of Allah and make known the Creator, each with its own particular tongue. Do not listen to your teachers; listen to them.”See Sözler (Words), p.162-163
51- Sözler (Words), p. 275
52- Tarihçe-i Hayat (Biography of Nursi), p. 127.
53- İşârât-ül İ’caz (Signs of Miraculousness), p.88-89
54- The Words / Twenty-Seventh Word - Conclusion - p.501
55- İşârât-ül İ’caz (Signs of Miraculousness), p. 164.
56-Letters / Twenty - Ninth Letter - Sixth Section - p.496
57-Letters / Twenty - Ninth Letter - Sixth Section - p.494
58-Letters / Twenty - Ninth Letter - Sixth Section - p.496
59-Divan-ı Harb-i Örfi, p. 27-
60- Muhakemat, p. 47
61-The Flashes / A Look at Bediuzzaman's Life and the Risale-i Nur - p.481
62-Sukran VAHIDE, The Author of the Risale-i-Nur Collection Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, (Istanbul, Rehan Offset, 2004), p-xii
64-Sukran, op.cit .pp- 41-42
65- Sahiran, N. Said Nursi, 85-87, Sukran, 43
66-The main themes of Risale-i-Nur are: Tawhid, Risalah, Khilafah and Akhirah, Allah(swt), man and universe and their relationship, man’s position and the purpose of his creation on earth, freedom of religion, expression and fundamental human rights, enhancement of man’s material and spiritual and moral aspects and criteria that guide him for achieving his happiness in this world and Hereafter, no hopelessness and despair, but the desire and enthusiasm to work continuously for the success of this world and Hereafter, education reforms and integration of knowledge between revealed knowledge and human knowledge, reformation of mind, body and society, and socio-cultural-political change and struggle for self-dependent.
67- Sukran, op.cit 332
Medrsetüzzehra Sempozyumu, Van 12-14 Ekim 2012, Merak Yayınları, Risale Akademi, Bilimsel Etkinlikler Serisi: 8, s. 109-140, Ankara.