C H A P T E R E I G H T
RETURN AND APPOINTMENT TO THE DARÜ'L-HIKMETI'L-ISLAMIYE
The Escape and Return Journey
Bediuzzaman never described in detail either the manner of his escape or his journey back to Istanbul, nor did he permit his nephew to write it, as we have seen. However, in June 1918, Bediuzzaman returned to Istanbul by way of Vienna and Sofya, and certainly the last past of the journey was by train. In Sofya he was given a passport by the Military Attaché. Dated 17 June 1918, it gives these details of Bediuzzaman on the front face:
Name : Said Mirza Efendi
Rank : Honorary Lt. Colonel
Detachment: Volunteer Kurdish Cavalry Regiment
Point of Departure: Sofya
Destination: Istanbul (Dersaadet)
Reason for journey: Returning from captivity
Date: 17 June 1918
And the back of the passport bears a copy of the photograph of Bediuzzaman taken by the German authorities, and states that the train fare is to be charged to the Army’s account.7
Bediuzzaman’s arrival in Istanbul was announced in several of the newspapers. The Tanin dated 25 June 1918 carried this short announcement:
“Bediuzzaman Said-i Kürdi Efendi, one of the Kurdistan ‘ulama, who fought in the War on the Caucasian Front together with his students and fell prisoner to the Russians, has recently arrived back in our city.”2
Bediuzzaman was given a hero’s welcome on his return to Istanbul. Enver Pasha introduced him to the leading military personnel in the War Ministry saying: “Do you see this Hoja? This was the person who withstood the Russian Cossacks in the East!” He received invitations from prominent Pashas and dignitaries, or was visited by them. He was offered various positions and honours, and was awarded a War Medal. Molla Süleyman, one of his students, recounted the following exchange between Enver Pasha and Bediuzzaman to Necmeddin Sahiner:
“I read of Bediuzzaman’s return in the Tanin, and visited him in Sultan Ahmet and kissed his hand. Later Enver Pasha, the Minister of War, invited him to visit the War Ministry. He said to him there: ‘How are you? What are you doing these days, Hoja?’ Bediuzzaman replied: ‘If you are offering me work for some worldly gain, I do not want it. If there some duties concerned with knowledge and learning, that would be different. But for now I am in need of rest, for I received much harsh treatment and suffered great hardship while I was a prisoner.’”3
Also at this time Bediuzzaman was endeavouring to have his commentary on the Qur'an, Signs of Miraculous, published. Wanting to show his great appreciation of the work and of Bediuzzaman’s service in the War, Enver Pasha offered to publish it for him. So Bediuzzaman suggested he might get the paper. Not easy to find in war-time Turkey. Thus, Enver Pasha provided the paper for Signs of Miraculous, and Bediuzzaman had it published.4
Bediuzzaman was not given the opportunity to rest and regain his strength. On 12 August 1918, the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye, a learned council or Islamic academy, was set up in association with the Office of the Shaykhü’l-Islam, and without his knowledge, Bediuzzaman was appointed as the nominee of the Army. However, before continuing, in order to understand better the problems this institution faced and Bediuzzaman’s attitude towards it, and indeed all his thought and activities at this time, we include here a brief outline of the main events of these difficult years.
An Outline of Events from 1918 to 1922
Indeed, through bringing the Ottoman Empire into the War on the side of the Central Powers, the leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress had secured its final demise. For, on its defeat, the victors and Britain in particular, were able to realize their long-cherished designs of finally breaking up the Ottoman Empire and vanquishing their ancient foe, the Turk. On hearing the terms of the Mudros Armistice, signed by Turkey and Britain on 30 October 1918, the Sultan was heard to murmur: “This is not an armistice; it is an unconditional surrender.”5 The day following its signature, the leading members of the CUP fled the country for Berlin. On 13 November a fleet of fifty-five ships belonging to the victors anchored off Istanbul, including four Greek warships which was contrary to the agreement, and on 8 December, a military administration was set up. While there can have been nothing more galling for the Muslim Turks than to see the Allied forces enter Istanbul as conquerors, the Ottoman Greeks, Jews, and Armenians of the city greeted them rapturously. The French General, Franchet Despérey, even, riding through the streets of Istanbul to the French Embassy on a white horse, in the style of some conquering king or emperor.6
A number of secret war-time agreements had been signed by the Entente Powers concerning the partition of the Ottoman Empire.7 When Russia renounced her claims following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, her place was taken by Italy. And when, in a timely move, the Greek Prime Minister, Venizelos, brought his country into the War the same year, it was or the promise of Izmir and a portion of Aegean Turkey. The same area had, incidentally, already been promised to the Italians.
Thus, on the signing of the Armistice, the French occupied parts of southern and south-eastern Turkey, while in February 1919, their troops entered Istanbul as mentioned above. On 29 April, Italian troops landed at Antalya. The British held the Dardanelles and other places of strategic importance. Plans had been made to set up a Kurdish state in eastern Anatolia. And the Armenians prepared to set up an Armenian state in the north-east of the country. While the Greeks of the Black Sea region aimed to resurrect the Greek state of Pontus. Indeed, the ultimate aim of Venizelos and many Greeks was to recreate a Greater Byzantine Empire based on Istanbul – the ancient capital of Constantinople. And when on 15 May 1919, the Greek Army landed at Izmir with the assistance of French, British, and American warships, it provided the spark that ignited the Muslim inhabitants of Anatolia to resist the invaders8 and finally after more than two years of struggle and war to rid their country of all aggressors.
But there was no united front in the face of the occupation. While the various groups based and fighting in Anatolia, ‘the National Forces’, had many supporters in Istanbul, among whom was Bediuzzaman, many of the Deputies in the Parliament, the Sultan9 and a number of prominent statesmen and ‘ulama opposed it, believing the interests of the Ottoman State would be best served by co-operation and collaboration with the occupying Powers. The supporters of the National Forces gaining strength in Istanbul, notably in the new Parliament opened in January 1920, led to a reoccupation of the city by British troops in March, and large-scale arrests and deportations. Under considerable pressure from the British, the Sultan dissolved the Parliament the following month, and a fatwa was extracted from a specially installed Shaykhü’l-Islam declaring the nationalists to be rebels and the killing of them a duty.10 An army was then formed to fight them.
In Ankara, which became the centre of the national movement, a new representative assembly was formed, and on 23 April 1920, the Turkish Grand National Assembly had its formal opening. But it was only on the Istanbul Government’s agreeing to sign the Treaty of Sèvres in August 1920 that the nationalist cause obtained the almost total support of the Turkish people. Enraged by the signature of this ill-gotten and vengeful document, which purported to legitimize the carving up of Turkey itself between the Powers mentioned above, they determined to liberate their country from its foreign invaders.11
It is beyond the scope of this book to describe the course of the War of Independence, but it may be noted that up to the Armistice, the Turks had been engaged in various wars since 1909, and in 1920 were exhausted and impoverished, with the male population decimated. On their defeat the Ottoman Army had been disarmed and disbanded by the victors. Against the heaviest odds, inspired and sustained by their faith in God and the religion of Islam, the Turks won a truly remarkable victory. Indeed, religion and men of religion played a role of the greatest importance in the War, which was proclaimed a Holy War, and one of the main aims of which was considered by all, including the Ankara Government, to be the saving of the Caliph and Sultan from enemy hands.12 Their victory was recognized by the Mudanya Armistice, signed by Britain and Turkey on 11 October 1922, and received international recognition in the Treaty of Lausanne, signed 24 July 1923.
The Turkish victory in their War of Independence was not simply the thwarting of the imperialist designs of a number of European Powers. As has already been suggested, the matter must be seen in a much wider perspective: for a thousand years the Turks had been “the standard-bearers of the Islamic World” against the Christian West. The word ‘Turk’ was synonymous with ’Islam’. When they were victorious against the West, it was in the name of Islam, and when they suffered defeat, it was at Islam, which they represented, that the blows had very often been directed. And so, when the Ottomans failed to match the material progress of the West and as a result became progressively subject to it, this was interpreted by Christian Europe as being proof of the superiority of Western civilization. And it was also seen as a kind of justification for their greed, as they vied with one another over the disposal of “the sick man of Europe’s” estate.
It was for British imperialism that Islam came to present the greatest obstacle. Though British efforts to conquer, subdue, and divide the Islamic world had been countered with some success by the Ottomans’ Caliphate Policy and Movement for Islamic Unity, which has been mentioned above. The revolt of the Arabs against the Ottomans during the First World War and subsequent setting up of separate Arab states was one result of Britain’s sustained and intense espionage and propaganda campaign against the Ottomans.
Thus, the defeat of the Ottomans in 1918 was seen by the victors as the final triumph of the West over Islam, of Western civilization over Islamic civilization, of the Cross over the Crescent. It is in this light that the occupation of Istanbul should be seen,13 and also the extremely harsh terms of the peace treaties, which were far harsher than those imposed on the other defeated nations.14
But the desire of the British and French in particular to venge themselves on their ancient foe did not stop there. Appointing officials to oversee the various Ministries, the Government itself was no more than a puppet. And having for many years spurred on the Christian minorities to rebel against the Ottoman state, they now proceeded to encourage them to take over all positions of authority in local government and state officialdom. This discrimination against Muslim Turks in their own country went so far that only Christian children could attend state schools. The Armenians and Greeks also massacred thousands of Muslims, while the occupying forces turned a blind eye.15
The problems associated with the occupation of foreign armies are many. But in this case the situation was thus exacerbated by these deep-seated attitudes of the victors. Here it was not only the gall of defeat and excesses of occupying troops relaxing in “the flesh-pots of Constantinople” that had to be borne, an insidious policy of Christianization through attempts to discredit Islam on the one hand, and on the other, of attempts to sap the moral fibre of the Turks through the deliberate encouragement of immorality, the drinking of alcohol, and other “evils of civilization” had to be combatted. As Bediuzzaman later told the deputies in the Ankara National Assembly: “Although for a long time the Western world has been attacking the Islamic world with its civilization, its philosophy, its sciences, its missionaries, and all the means at its disposal and has conquered it materially, it has not been able to conquer it in religion...”16 Now, it seemed, the stage was set for it to pursue this inauspicious and unachievable aim.
Bediuzzaman and the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye
It may be seen from the above description how great the need was for a learned body with the authority of the Darü’l-Hikmet. The bill proposing its establishment had been introduced in Parliament at the beginning of the year, and it was envisaged that it would perform various functions. Just as it was to find solutions for problems confronting the Islamic world, so was it to answer in a scholarly manner the attacks made on it, combatting attempts to discredit the religion of Islam. It was to have the power to refer the open flouting of Islamic morality to the relevant authorities. Furthermore, it was to serve the Muslim people of Turkey, answering questions, informing them concerning internal and external dangers, and generally meeting their religious needs with various publications. To this end, branches were opened in all provinces and major towns. At any one time, it was composed of nine members, a principal, and various officers. Mehmed Akif was appointed as its first Secretary (Baskâtip). The members, all of whom were prominent ‘ulama, were divided into three committees: jurisprudence (fiqh), ethics (ahlak), and theology (kalâm).17 Bediuzzaman remained as a member of the Darü’l-Hikmet for the four years of its short existence. It was closed in November 1922 when the Sultanate was abolished by the Ankara Government. However, as we shall see, despite the great need for the Darü’l-Hikmet, and the efforts of its members, the situation did not allow for the full accomplishment of its aims.
A number of Darü’l-Hikmet documents concerning Bediuzzaman are still extant. Below are the Shaykhü’l-Islam’s memo concerning his appointment to the rank of Mahrec,18 and the Caliph’s edict ratifying the appointment. Firstly is the War Ministry’s request that he be appointed, signed by Enver Pasha, referred to in the Shaykhü’l-Islam’s memo.
“Exalted permission is requested that, on account of his patriotic efforts in mobilizing the tribes to fight and his distinguished and witnessed public-spirited services to the fatherland, Bediuzzaman Said Efendi, who took part in the fight against the Russians at Bitlis, was taken prisoner, and has recently returned, be appointed to a rank in the religious establishment conformable with the dignity of his learning.
“10 Agustos 1334 (10 August 1918)
“Deputy of the Commander-in-Chief
“and Minister of War,
“The Office of the Shaykhü’l-Islam
“It has been made known by the Illustrious Ministry of War that Bediuzzaman Said-i Kurdi, who took part in the battle with the Russians at Bitlis, was taken prisoner, and has recently returned, has been honoured with a grade in the religious establishment on account of his patriotic efforts in mobilizing the tribes to fight and his distinguished and witnessed public-spirited services to the fatherland. The Imperial Rescript considering it suitable that the above-mentioned, who has recently been appointed to the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye, be honoured with the rank of Mahrec, has been set out and presented. In whatever way, therefore, the Caliph’s Imperial Decree is concerned with the matter, it is evident, Sir, haste will be made to carry it out.
“17 Zi’l-Ka'de 1336/24 Agustos 1334 (24 August 1918)
“The Office of the Shaykhü’l-Islam Mehmed Vahiduddin
“Bediuzzaman Said Efendi, a member of the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye, has been awarded the rank of Mahrec.
“The Office of the Shaykhü’l-Islam is charged with carrying out this Imperial Decree.
“18 Zi’l-Qa'de 1336/25 Agustos 1334
On his return to Istanbul, Bediuzzaman had been joined by his nephew, Abdurrahman. Born in 1903 in Nurs the son of Bediuzzaman’s elder brother Molla Abdullah, he was very intelligent and able, and was described by Bediuzzaman as both student, and assistant, and friend, and amanuensis, and spiritual son. He remained with his uncle for a number of years, during which time he wrote his biography of Bediuzzaman. It was forty-five pages in length and forms the main source for Bediuzzaman’s early life. It was published in Istanbul in 1919.21 The following is a passage from an appendix to it describing Bediuzzaman’s appointment to the Darü’l-Hikmet, and something of his attitude towards it and his resulting activities.
“I have described the life of my uncle, Said-i Kurdi, the author of the Leme’at Collection, briefly in an independent work. But for the past two and a half years they have burdened him with the duty of the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye. He used to say: ‘I would have given it up, but I want to render an account to the nation.’ And now I am writing a few words about how my uncle wanted to render an account through his duties in the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye.
“It was two years ago in 1334 (1918) that without his consent, my uncle was appointed as a member of the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye. But because he was very shaken by his captivity, he obtained leave not to take up his duty. In fact, he tried to resign on many occasions, but his friends would not let him. So he continued, and now it is two and a half years.
“From the beginning I noticed that he did not spend anything on himself over and above what was necessary. In reply to those who asked him: ‘Why do you live so poorly?’, he would say: ‘I want to follow the majority of Muslims. The majority can only obtain this much. I do not want to follow the extravagant minority.’ And after putting aside the minimum amount from his salary from the Darü’l-Hikmet, he would give me the remainder, saying: ‘Look after this!’ But, relying on my uncle’s kindness towards me and his contempt for possessions, I spent all of the money which had been left over in a year without telling him. So he said to me: ‘It was not licit for us to spend that money, it belonged to the nation. Why did you spend it? But since this is how the matter stands, I dismiss you from the post of Deputy for Expenditure and I appoint myself!’ After this, he put aside twenty liras a month for me, and fifteen for himself. But other expenses were included in his fifteen. That is to say, ten or twelve liras used to remain over for him per month. He used to put aside any money that remained over and above this.
“Some time passed and it occurred to him to have twelve of his works printed in the name of religion. He gave the money which had accumulated, about one hundred liras, to cover the expense of having the works printed. Then with the exception of only one or two small one’s, he had them distributed free. I asked him why he had not had them sold, and he said to me: ‘It is permissible for me to take only just enough to live on out of the salary. Anything more than that is the property of the nation. In this way I am returning it to the nation.’
“His service in the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye was all in the form of personal enterprises like that. For he saw certain obstacles in working jointly there. Those who were acquainted with him knew that he had put on his shroud and was risking his life. It was for this reason that he resisted and stood firm as a rock in the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye. He would not let the foreigners’ influence make the Darü’l-Hikmet a tool for itself. He held out against the wrong fatwas and opposed them. When a current harmful to Islam appeared, he used to publish a work to destroy it.”22
Thus, as may be seen from this, Bediuzzaman’s main service in the Darü’l-Hikmet – and indeed the greater part of his activities in this period – was countering the divisive and corrupting influence of the occupying forces. For the situation in Istanbul under occupation did not permit the Darü’l-Hikmet to altogether fulfil its important functions. There were several reasons for this. On being asked on one occasion why he had nothing to do with politics during this period, he said: “I take refuge with God from Satan and politics. Yes, Istanbul politics are like Spanish ‘flu; they make a person delirious. We do not act of our own accord, but at the agency of another. Europe puffs, and we here dance...”23 That is to say, at a time when the British were using every means to utilize all areas of power and influence in Istanbul for their own ends, Bediuzzaman worked to neutralize their influence as far as the Darü’l-Hikmet was concerned, even if it lessened the effectiveness of the institution itself. And in another work Bediuzzaman pointed out that it was because it lacked any real power that the Darü’l-Hikmet could not put an end to serious wrongs such as immoral conduct, the drinking of alcohol, and gambling, whereas the Government in Anatolia stopped them with one command.24
Another reason Bediuzzaman gave for the Darü’l-Hikmet being unable to perform its duties adequately was lack of harmony between its members. Their personal qualities prevented “a communal spirit” emerging. The “I’s” did not become a “We”.25 In fact, Bediuzzaman had long favoured the setting-up of a learned body such as the Darü’l-Hikmet, made up of specialists in different fields and based on the principle of consultation, to tackle the problems facing not only the Ottoman Empire, but the Islamic world as well. In Sünûhat, published in 1919-20, he discussed this in connection with the Caliphate, a subject of urgent debate at the time. Briefly, having stated that the Sultanate and Caliphate were inseparable, and that the Office of Grand Vizier represented the former and the Office of Shaykhü’l-Islam the latter, he pointed out that in modern, complex society and in the face of the myriad problems facing the Islamic world, it was beyond the capacity of a single individual to perform the duty of Shaykhü’l-Islam effectively. A voice of such strength and authority was required at that time that it could only be supplied by a learned council such as one described above. He suggested that with the addition of further ‘ulama, both Ottoman and from other parts of the Islamic world, an up-graded Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye could form its basis.26
Bediuzzaman’s efforts, and success, in preventing the Darü’l-Hikmet being subverted and becoming a mere puppet in the hands of the British should not be underestimated. For it should be remembered that the British were all-powerful in Istanbul and exerted overwhelming pressure on the Sultan and those in positions of authority to have their will carried out. Also, there were severe differences of opinion among Turks – including the ‘ulama – as to solutions to Turkey’s predicament. These ranged from acceptance of the partition of Turkey, through various mandates or protectorates, to national sovereignty and independence. Furthermore, manipulation of the Caliphate played an important part in Britain’s imperialist games. That Bediuzzaman was held in the greatest respect by other ‘ulama is attested to in the recollections of Professor Ali Nihad Tarlan, who visited him on several occasions during these years, here one night in the Medresetü’l-Mütehassisin in Yavuz Selim:
“Bediuzzaman was wearing grey. He spoke of many matters that night, scholarly and religious. I’ll tell you how he greeted me there; he met me saying: ‘Welcome, my dear brother!’ He was always thinking, always reflecting. He was a superhuman person. Babanzade Ahmad Naim Bey said of him: ‘Whenever Bediuzzaman started to speak in the Darü’l-Hikmet, we used to just listen to him in wonder.’”27
Fatwa and Counter-Fatwa
As was mentioned when describing the outline of events above, following their reoccupation of Istanbul in March 1920, the British forced Shaykhü’l-Islam Dürrizade Abdullah Efendi – installed after his predecessor, Haydarizade Ibrahim Efendi, had resigned rather than sign it – to issue a fatwa declaring the various nationalist groups in Anatolia to be rebels and the killing of them the bounden duty of Muslims. In his book on the fundamental role of religion and men of religion in the national struggle, which includes a short section on Bediuzzaman, Kadir Misiroglu describes both the coercion by which the fatwa was extracted by the British, and in some detail the counter-fatwa signed by 84 muftis in Anatolia, and a further 68 ‘ulama, of whom 11 were deputies in the Ankara Assembly. This counter-fatwa stated that a fatwa issued under enemy duress was null and void, and declared the national struggle to be a jihad, a Holy War.28
Bediuzzaman also opposed the Shaykhü’l-Islam’s fatwa, and said:
“A fatwa issued by a government and Shaykhü’l-Islam’s Office in a country under enemy occupation and under the command and constraint of the British, is defective, and should not be heeded. Those operating against the enemy invasion are not rebels. The fatwa must be rescinded.”29
In addition, Bediuzzaman opposed it on the learned grounds that since it comprised a legal judgement, the claims of both parties should have been considered before judgement had been passed. He wrote:
“It is not only a fatwa so that it might be justified. It is a fatwa that comprises a legal judgement. Because the difference between a fatwa and a legal judgement is that its subject is general, not specific, neither is it binding. Whereas a legal judgement is both specific and binding. As for this fatwa, it is both specific – whoever looks at it will necessarily understand its purpose, and it is binding, because its ultimate cause is to impel the mass of Muslims against them [the National Forces].
“This fatwa comprises a legal judgement, but in a legal judgement it is imperative that the enemies [both sides] hear it. Anatolia should also have been made to speak. The fatwa could have been issued after judgement had been passed on the assertions and counterclaims by a committee of politicians and ‘ulama taking into account the interests of Islam. In fact, a number of things are being reversed these days. Opposites are changing their names and being substituted for each other; tyranny is being called justice; jihad, insurrection; and captivity, freedom.”30
Green Crescent Society and Medrese Teachers’ Association
Bediuzzaman was involved with further organizations and societies at this time, one of which was the Green Crescent Society, founded on 5 March 1920. Bediuzzaman was a founder member of this non-political society, set up specifically to combat the spread of alcoholic liquor and other harmful addictions, which were being deliberately encouraged by the occupying forces. Other members were the Shaykhü’l-Islam, Haydarizade Ibrahim Efendi, Dr. Tevfik Rüstü Aras, Eshref Edip. and Fahreddin Kerim Gökay.31 Answering questions put to him in 1975 by Necmeddin Sahiner, Fahreddin Gökay quoted some minutes taken at a meeting of the Society in which “Said Efendi” [Bediuzzaman] suggested giving priority to the writing and free distribution of articles and pamphlets.32
Another society in which Bediuzzaman was involved was the Medrese Teachers’ Association (Cemiyet-i Müderrisîn), founded 15 February 1335/1919. Its main aims were “to undertake the necessary enterprises for raising the teaching profession to the high level that is in keeping with the the Islamic nation (millet) and civilization,... to produce students of the ‘ulama profession who would be thoroughly informed of the Islamic sciences and have knowledge of the modern sciences sufficient for the needs of the times... To instill the truths of religion and elevated conduct of Islam in Muslims’ spirits, strengthen bonds of brotherhood, encourage personal enterprise, and to protect the rights of medrese teachers. This society was subsequently transformed into the Society for the Advancement of Islam [24 November, 1919], with which Bediuzzaman does not appear to have been connected, in distinction to many of the initial members.33 A number of the leading ‘ulama of the time belonged to the Medrese Teachers’ Society, including Mustafa Safvet Efendi, Mustafa Sabri – twice Shaykhü’l-Islam, and Mehmet Atif Efendi. These last two together with Bediuzzaman undertook to reply to articles attacking Islam that appeared in the press. Bediuzzaman included some of his replies, on such subjects as polygamy, slavery, the position of women, and the representation of the human form, in some of his subsequent works.34 They are most reasonable and convincing, and by way of example we include here a short reply concerning polygamy and slavery:
“The ordinances of Islam are of two sorts: the first is those on which the Shari’a is based. This sort is pure and true good. The other is the modified Shari’a. That is, it removes from a most savage and cruel form, is the lesser of two evils, rectifying, practicable for human nature, and in order to make it possible to move on to pure good, has been cast in a form taken from time and place. For it would necessitate reversing human nature to suddenly do away with a matter which prevails over it. Thus, the Shari’a did not impose slavery. Rather, it reduced it from a most savage form to one which would open the way to complete freedom; it adjusted and rectified it. Also, the Shari’a did not raise the number of wives from one to four – although polygamy is conformable with nature, reason, and wisdom. Rather, it reduced it to four from eight or nine. And in polygamy particularly it imposed such conditions that no harm at all can be caused in the practice of it. And even if there is any bad in certain points of it, it is the lesser of two evils. And the lesser of two evils is relative justice. Alas, there cannot be pure good in every situation in this world!”35
As his nephew described in the piece of his biography quoted above, it was only with reluctance that Bediuzzaman had taken up his position in the Darü’l-Hikmet. He had been severely shaken by the War, but because of his sense of responsibility towards ‘the nation’, he undertook the duties imposed on him as a way of serving it. Abdurrahman wrote that he asked his uncle why he had been shaken to such a great extent, and Bediuzzaman replied:
“I can bear my own sorrows, but the sorrows arising from Islam’s grief have crushed me. I feel each blow delivered at the world of Islam to be delivered first at my own heart. That is why I have been so shaken. But I see a light; it will make those sorrows be forgotten, God willing.”36
Among the extant documents of the Darü’l-Hikmet are two requests of Bediuzzaman’s for leave of absence on grounds of ill-health. We include them here together with an identity paper dated 26 September 1921, and Bediuzzaman’s answers to an official questionnaire dated 17 October 1921. They are all included in the unpaged appendix of Sadik Albayrak’s book on the Darü’l-Hikmet.
“To the Illustrious Shaykhü’l-Islam
“The nervous debility with which I am afflicted as a result of both the searing difficulties I endured day and night for two years on the Caucasian Front in the present War in defence of religion and country, and the intolerable hardships I suffered in two and a half years of captivity, and the regretful conditions which we witness at the present time, has turned into neurasthenia.
“As required in accordance with the attached report giving the results of the doctors’ examination stating that five to six months’ change of air is imperative, I request the permission of the Illustrious Shaykhü’l-Islam for leave for about six months’ change of air.
“And the command belongs....
“19 Nisan 1335 (19 April 1919)
“Member of the Darü’l-Hikmet ”37
“Member Said Efendi’s request, corroborated by a doctor’s report, for five months’ leave of absence for a change of air on account of his having neurasthenia has been accepted. Since there is no obstacle in his leaving his post for that period, his petition has been noted accordingly... 17 Receb 1337 / 19 Nisan 1335 (19 April 1919)”
“To the Illustrious Shaykhü’l-Islam
“Illustrious and Munificent Excellency,
“Since, as the attached report makes clear, the illness from which I suffered earlier has returned and I am at present undergoing treatment by a specialist doctor in Sariyer, I request that permission be granted for three months leave of absence for treatment and a change of air as the report requires.
“13 Eylül 1337 (13 September 1921)
“Member of the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye
DOCUMENT CONCERNING THE CURRICULUM VITAE
OF OFFICIALS, CLERKS, AND EMPLOYEES
OF THE OTTOMAN STATE
Price ten kurush
(1) My name is Said, I am known as Bediuzzaman, my father’s name was Mirza. I am not connected to any well-known family. I belong to the Shafi’i school of law. I am a subject of the Ottoman State.
(2) My date of birth was 1293 (1877). My place of birth was the village of Nurs in the district of Isparit, attached to the district of Hizan in the province of Bitlis.
(3) I made my preliminary studies under my brother for about two years in the above-mentioned sub-district of Isparit. Later I completed the customary course of study in the study-circle of shaykh Muhammad Jalali in the town of [Dogu] Bayezit in the province of Erzurum. Later on I started to study in Van. For about fifteen years I was occupied with studying various sciences. I took part in the recent War on its declaration as a volunteer and regimental commander. I was taken prisoner by the Russians at Bitlis. I escaped from captivity and returned to Istanbul. I have been a member of the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye since it was first founded. I lost the diploma I received from the above-mentioned Muhammad Jalali Efendi while I was a prisoner-of-war. I am the author of seventeen works. Firstly, in Arabic, are the Qur'anic commentary Ishârâtü’l-I'jaz, the treatises on logic called Taliqat and Kizil Ijaz, and al-Khutbat al-Shamiya. And I have written works in Turkish like Nokta, Shua’at, Sünûhat, Münâzarat, Muhâkemat, Tulu’at, Lema’at, Rumuz, Ishârât, Hutuvat-i Sitte, Iki [Mekteb-i] Musibetin Shehadetnamesi and Hakikat Çekirdekleri. Most of my works are written as admonishments for the guidance of Muslims and to awaken the heedless. Just as I speak Turkish and Kurdish, so also do I read and write Arabic and Persian. No copies remain of Rumuz, Ishârât, Hutuvat-i Sitte, Iki [Mekteb-i] Musibetin Shehadetnamesi, al-Khutbat al-Shamiye, Münâzarat, Muhâkemat, and Taliqat. I have no certificate or diploma in science or other subjects.
(4) On the declaration of the Great War, I joined the Army for the honour of it and as a volunteer, first as a regimental müfti, and secondly as a regimental commander. While performing this duty, I was taken prisoner by the Russians at Bitlis. All these duties were undertaken as a volunteer. Only, on my return to Istanbul from captivity, as a gratuity, the Ministry of War gave me fifty liras a month for three months making a total of one hundred and fifty liras. I have one War Medal. I have no other rank or decoration. I have no foreign decorations or medals. I was appointed to the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye on a salary of five thousand kurush in accordance with the Imperial Rescript dated 26 Shevval 1336, and as required by the Imperial Decree dated 18 Zi’l-Ka'de 1336, I was honoured with the rank of Mahrec.....
17 Teshrin-i Evvel 1337 (17 October 1921)
Member of the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye38
A MEMORANDUM OF THE OTTOMAN STATE
Name: Bediuzzaman Said Efendi
Father’s name and place of residence: The late Mirza Efendi
Mother’s Name: The late Nuriye Hanim
Date and place of birth: 1295 (AH) and 1293 (Rumi) (1877-8),
the village of Nurs in the sub-district of Hizan.
Religion (millet): Muslim
Profession, title, and eligibility to vote: a member of the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye.
Whether married or not: single
FEATURES AND PLACE WHERE REGISTERED
Distinguishing marks: none
District: Beyoglu, European Bosphorus
Street: Fistikli Baglar
Number of residence: 18/11
Type of residence: foreigner [not local]. Originally registered in the province of Bitlis, District of Hizan, village of Nurs.
Bediuzzaman Said Efendi whose name, state, and description is written above is a national of the Ottoman Empire, and this document showing that he is recorded on the register of births is duly delivered.
26 Eylül 1337 (26 September 1921)
Ministry of Internal Affairs.
1. Tarihçe, 105-6; Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 177-8.
2. Ibid., 179-180.
3. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 182-3.
4. Ibid., 183; Sualar, 385.
5. Bahadiroglu, Y. Osmanli Padisahlari Ansiklopedisi, iii, 783.
6. Inal, Ibnü’l-Emin, Son Sadriazamlar, iv, 1717-8.
7. Shaw and Shaw, History, ii, 320.
8. Lewis, B. Emergence, 241-2.
9. Writers sympathetic to the Ottoman dynasty disclaim the official view that Sultan Vahideddin was “a base traitor” and state that on the contrary, he laid the foundations of the War of Independence and used every means at this disposal to further its cause. See, Kadir Misiroglu, Sarikli Mücahitler, Istanbul 1980, 40 ff.
10. ibid., 297-8.
11. Bahadiroglu, Y. Osmanli Padisahlari Ansiklopedisi, iii, 778.
12. Berkes, Niyazi, Türkiye’de Çagdaslasma, Istanbul, 465; Lewis, B. Emergence, 251.
13. Shaw and Shaw, History, ii, 329.
14. Tunaya, T.Z. Türkiye’de Siyasal Partiler, ii, 27.
15. Shaw and Shaw, History, ii, 329-330.
16. Tarihçe, 126.
17. Albayrak, Sadik. Son Devrin Islam Akademisi, Dar-ül Hikmet-il Islamiye, Istanbul 1973, 7-9.
18. MAHREC: One of the ranks of the ‘ulama or religious establishment, it was also known as Mahrec Mevleviyeti. Mahrec Mevleviyeti was higher than Kibar-i Müderrisin, and lower than Bilad-i Hamse Mevlevieyeti. Mahrec was the equivalent of the civil ranks of Saniye Sinif-i Sanisi and Mirü’l-Ümeralik, and of the military rank of Kaymakamlik.[Sahiner, Said Nursi, 185].
19. Albayrak, S. Yürüyenler ve Sürünenler (4th edn.), Istanbul 1989, 148-9.
20. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 185-7; Albayrak, S. Son Devrin, appendix n.p.
21. Sahiner, Said Nursi, 190,194.
22. Abdurrahman, Tarihçe-i Hayatin Zeyli, n.p.
23. Sünûhat, 48-9.
24. Tuluat, in Asar-i Bedi’iye, 105.
25. Ibid., 110.
26. Sünûhat, 36-40; Mürsel, Safa. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi ve Devlet Felsefesi, 197-8.
27. Tarlan, Ali Nihad, in Sahiner, N. Aydinlar Konusuyor, 162.
28. Misiroglu, Kadir. Kurtulus Savasinda Sarikli Mücahitler, Istanbul 1980, 297-307.
29. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 238, quoted from Eshref Edip, Risale-i Nur Muarizlari Yazarlarin Isnadlari Hakkinda Ilmi Bir Tahlil, Istanbul 1952.
30. Tulu’at, in Asar-i Bedi’iye, 105-6.
31. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 213-214.
32. Gökay, Professor Fahreddin Kerim, in Sahiner, N. Aydinlar Konusuyor, 158-9.
33. Albayrak, Sadik, Mesrutiyet Islamciligi ve Siyonizm, Istanbul 1990, 124-33. See also, Tunaya, Siyasal Partiler, ii, 382-3.
34. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 227-230.
35. Ibid., 232; Tulu’at, in Asar-i Bedi’iye, 109.
36. Abdurrahman, Appendix to Bediüzzaman’in Tarihçe-i Hayati, n.p.
37. Also in, Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 184-5;
38. See also, Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 188-190.