Bediuzzaman’s Vision of Education and His “Madrasat-uz Zahra” Project
RELIGION AND SCIENCE FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF EDUCATION
“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.”
Relationships between Religion and Science
Stating that mind, knowledge and science became dominant in this age, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi expressed his views in terms of both content and methods related to how to learn science, and demonstrated some of the principles. One of his most important views related to education is the approach of uniting religion and (experimental) sciences. He especially indicated that mankind would turn towards knowledge and science completely in this age and that would obtain strength from them. Although he was a religious scholar, he presented exceptional originality through his views that showed his familiarity with exact sciences in the name of religion…
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.”
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.”
As it is seen, the sciences that humanity finds through the mind are not in conflict with religion but rather they act as a means of knowing and finding the existence of Allah. The development and outcomes of those sciences show that everything is handled by a single creator with a purpose and will. That is, Islam is always in harmony with science, which is the product of the mind.
Inseparability of Religion and Science
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,
“The world of humanity has experienced a brilliant happiness and social life. However, when they have become separated, goodness and light have been drawn to the side of the line of prophethood and religion, and evil and misguidance to the side of the line of philosophy.”
Prophets have always been messengers that have shed light to humanity. The principles of philosophy that regard only the mind as the guide lead communities to darkness and crises.
Science and the religion of Islam are never in conflict. Islam protects and encourages exact sciences. The following expression of Said Nursi has a very original view: ‘All the sciences make known the Creator, each with its own particular tongue.’
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.”
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 specialization 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”
The Qur’an encourages “being specialized in science; that is, to be perfect in one’s branch and to have profound knowledge and experience.
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.
It is known that only material development is not enough to reach real civilization and that spiritual development parallel to it is also necessary. Bediuzzaman 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?”, Bediuzzaman 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, inshaAllah, in which there will be atonement for the former errors of mankind.
Indeed, consider this: time does not run in a straight line so that its beginning and end draw apart from one another. Rather, it moves in a circle, like the motion of the globe of the earth. Sometimes it displays the seasons of spring and summer as progress. And sometimes the seasons of storms and winter as decline. Just as every winter is followed by spring and every night by morning, mankind, also, shall have a morning and a spring, inshaAllah.
You may expect from Divine Mercy to see real civilization within universal peace brought about through the sun of the truth of Islam.”In this sentence, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi gives some good news about the future and states that there will be universal peace and widespread civilization in the future.
Education of Students
It is an important issue to educate students by taking the psychological conditions of students into consideration. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi states the following in one of his books:
“When an adult who talks to a child talks in childish language, he will make the child more alert. The capacity of the understanding of the child will start to be familiar with his words. He will listen to and understand what the adult says. Otherwise, there will not be an exchange of information between them. What is understood from those sentences is that the lesson given to students should not contain academic words only; it should be given in a language they understand and through simple sentences. When necessary, the topic should be made clear through examples because concrete examples facilitate understanding.
Said Nursi, who wants the students to be treated with encouragement, guidance, advice and grace regards arousing the feeling of curiosity and interest one of the conditions of success in education. It is natural that it is necessary to treat students tolerantly not forcefully in order to arouse the feeling of curiosity and interest.
It is insistently stated that madrasahs should abandon the old style (memorisation) of studying and start a new method and content. He points out that it is necessary to test students and guide them based on the results they obtain. He recommends group and unit works stating that it is necessary to work based on division of labor or specialisation for students. He also finds it necessary to teach in the form of debating so that students will develop constructive, synthesizing and discovering intelligence. With this view, Said Nursi implies teaching in the form of question and answer.
It is essential that the lesson given to students should not be theoretical only. Therefore, the lesson should address the heart and the eye in order to achieve positive outcomes. He states that teaching should not be in the form of thoughts only; it is necessary to include feelings.
Bediuzzaman criticises scholars who live among the pages of the books only and do not proceed beyond theory; he wants scholars to give importance to application and experiments in education. Therefore, he rejects the education approach based on memorization and wants to introduce an education approach that gives responsibility to students.
Bediuzzaman attracts attention to the importance of repetition; it is necessary to repeat so as to fix a topic to be learnt in the brain, that is, so as not to forget it, in accordance with the teaching method of the Quran. It is necessary to repeat the most crucial and important points in terms of didactic attribute of education.
He expresses the following views in one of his books: “To do something in order can only be achieved through science. A person who does something artistically through measuring and weighing does it based on a strong science.”
The teacher who educates should adapt the topic he instructs into life, should make the lesson lively through attractive examples and should convince the students that the knowledge he gives will be needed in 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.
Bediuzzaman believes that humanity can be saved from the vicious circle and ethical crisis it is in through education of belief. The following concise sentence belongs to him:
“The heart disease of the nation is religious weakness; it can be treated through strengthening it.”
Mehmed Akif Ersoy, the great poet who is his close friend and who has the same ideals as him, attracts attention to the importance of the gem of belief in the following couplet:
“O Allah! Belief is the gem that is very big,
A rusty heart that has no belief is a burden for the body.”
Nursi never kept his knowledge to himself; he never stopped conveying his Qur’anic thoughts to the community and the administrators of that period taking the appropriate place and time into consideration despite all kinds of hardships and difficulties.
The works of Nursi were acquitted and started to be printed in printing houses in the period of the late Prime Minister A. Menderes, who came to power by defeating the previous period of irreligiousness. This became the beginning of great achievements. When a delegation of three people from the Democratic Party in power came to visit him in 1957 to take some advice from him, he said, “my single aim is to raise a youth which has belief and high ethics and I would like the government to work for it.”
His view of an education that will help the country develop is that religious and exact sciences should be taught together in harmony.
He states the following in another concise expression:
“Our enemies are ignorance, poverty and disagreement. We will fight against these three enemies with the weapons of art, knowledge and unity.”
To declare that ignorance is the leading enemy and to think that this enemy can be eliminated only through education shows that Bediuzzaman Said Nursi presents a well-educated model of community.
Ali Nureddin (MTCA)
 Hutbe-i Şâmiye, (Damascus Sermon) p. 23.
 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) 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. Only this view of Said Nursi shows that he has a philosophy that sees belief and science, and the education of them as interrelated.
 Sözler (Words), p. 275
 Tarihçe-i Hayat (Biography of Nursi), p. 127.
 İşârât-ül İ’caz (Signs of Miraculousness), p.88-89
 Sözler (Words), p. 571
 Divan-ı Harb-i Örfi, p. 27
 Muhakemat, p. 47
 İşarât-ül İ’caz (Signs of Miraculousness), p. 164.
 Sözler (Words), p. 50.
 Muhakemat, p. 47.
 Münazarat, p. 79
 Mektubat (Letters), p. 248.
 Emirdağ Lâhikası, Vol. I, p.40
 Münazarat, p. 77.
 Divan-ı Harb-i Örfi, p. 14.