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Discursive Democracy and Said Nursi

By Prof. Dr. Bunyamin Duran

Wednesday, 27 January 2010 21:49


Rereading of Nursi's democracy idea in the light of Habermasian notion of Discursive Democracy

In this survey I will focus firstly on the conception of Habermasian theory of discursive democracy and then I will cite some Islamic principles by which a legal democracy can be possible in an Islamic culture in which general election and more political parties are possible, finally I will analyze Nursi's notion of democracy in the introduced framework.

The question of what constitutes a democracy is perhaps as old as idea of democracy itself from Aristotle to Habermas. In fact there is no sharp distinction about essence of democracy among scholars, democracy means in broader sense, power sharing, in contrast to the rule of one or the few. In other words democracy is generally thought to bring with it political freedom from arbitrary rule and oppression. This definition can be a starting point to understand the core of democracy. Generally to say, democracy is a political system by which people participate to form of government. In democratic process periodic election, political equality, competing two or more political parties are necessary. There is no distinction among scholars about constitutes of democracy, while there are, of course, many doctrines and approaches about attributes of democracy. I want to cite here Habermasian discursive democracy as a model to examine Nursi’s idea of democracy.

There would raise here very crucial questions how can be possible to compare very different thinkers, namely Habermas and Nursi, Habermas is a secular philosopher, while Nursi is a Muslim theologian? Another problem in this study is the problem of anachronism. Nursi has developed his own idea regarding the political and social issues of the beginning of the twentieth century, while Habermas is developing own ideas witnessing post modern and post secular periods in the late capitalist civil society. However, this study would be intellectually worthy, to show the ability of Islamic ethical and juridical framework to establish a democratic society, similar what Habermas suggested. Let me examine briefly the theory of discursive democracy of Habermas and then the Islamic general principles concerning democracy.


Critical tradition and Jürgen Habermas

Habermas is fully aware of the capitalistic civil society and its colonization of men and nature. Following Hegel and Max Weber, Habermas emphasizes that the atmosphere of capitalist civil society is too icy cold to which only two kinds of people can adopt himself; thoughtless experts, and senseless hedonist. (Siebert, 1985, 247). He also knows that the general polities of instrumental- rationality of bourgeoisie class has caused to insturmantalization of social and natural sources and it ultimately lead to reification and alienation of people. He shares Weber’s idea of new polytheism. (Habermas, 1984, voI., 247)

According to Weber the cognitive-instrumental rationalization, namely insturmantalization of all social and natural sources by capitalist strata to attain money and power, leads people to a new polytheism:

Many old gods arise from their graves, disenchanted and in the form of impersonal forces; they strive to gain power over our lives and resume again their eternal struggle with one another. (Weber 1992, 180)

For Weber, this issue is a result of differentiation of value spheres; art, economy, politics, science, ethics and religion. Each sphere function according to their inner logic, independent from a higher designer; religious-metaphysical world views, as does before. In this case there is no inner binding connection between value spheres; instead, there is an antagonism among them. Actually the modern bourgeois world is dominated by orders of life, in which the two complexes of instru-mental rationality, the economic and political subsystems, come into dominance. The specialist and hedonist are best adapted to the icy cold atmosphere of the economic and political subsystems of late capitalistic society.

Following Weber, like Horkeimer and Adorno before, Habermas continues to criticize the instrumental rationality of bourgeois and its pathology, caused by an onesidedly developed and as such alienated instrumental or functional rationality, and its barbarous injustices in late capitalistic society.

Habermas tries to overcome the pathological functionalistic one-sidedness of bourgeois modernization by complementing it with his new paradigm of practical, communicative rationality, communicative action and brotherly-sisterly communication community. (Habermas, 1984, v.I, 273f) Although Habermas says that his theory of communicative action is based on post-metaphysical notion, but some scholar, such as Siebert, assert that the communicative society is remembrance of the Jewish-Christian messianic, eschatological-apocalyptic brotherly-sisterly communication community (Siebert 1985, 6). Actually one can also find many similarities between the relevant theory and the mystical dimension of Islam. This parallelism reflects itself, for example, in the content of speech act, in the brotherly- sisterly relations, in the universal solidarity and finally in the practical rationality. In fact these parallelisms need extra studies which transcend the limits of this survey. I will limit myself only to the theory of communicative action and its necessary reflection, discursive democracy.


Discursive democracy

According to Habermas democracy is not simply matter of selecting among competing elites, nor simply a matter of ensuring, thorough such a selection, a protected framework of private liberties. Instead democracy is a form of self-rule, and requires that the legitimate exercise of political power trace to the free communicative action of citizens.

Of course, Habermas is fully aware of the fact that the current speech of people is not real communication, since the real speech situation is systematically distorted by manipulation and domination of the bourgeois class. The real speech act which based on communicative action is an action by which one only aims to understand other. (Habermas, 1984, v. I, 273f) A speech act which aims success and other interests is strategic action. Habermasian real speech act is remembrance what content of the famous Qur’ans verse:

‘O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Surely the most honorable of you in the sight of God is the most pious of you. Indeed God is All-knowing, All-Aware.’ (The Quran, 49/13)

For Habermas, society must resolve their own problems by the means of communicative action and discursive democracy. In discursive democracy every men is equal and free. In real speech act and communicative praxis every member of society must be able to participate in all political discussions. As I will cite later, not only secular community, but also religious community has a chance to participate in all discussions. Everybody must be enabled to open up a discourse and to continue the dialogue in talk and counter talk. Everybody must have the same chances to set up assertions, to give explanations and to put them to discussion. Everybody must be able to express his feelings without fear of action compulsion or repression. There must be equality in that everybody has the chance to give orders, to resist, to give promises and to receive them, to give an account and to ask for such an account. (Habermas, 1996, 305-306)

Obviously these communications can only be realized in an idealized a new life form. This life form is also similar what the Qur’an is demanded from people. To attain such a communication, a well-established and assimilated moral rules, that is justice, freedom and equality are necessary. (Siebert, 1985, 19)

For Habermas, discussion must be argumentative and rational. This means that there shouldn’t be any external coercive and manipulation in discussion process as well as any dogmatic imposition. According to Habermas secular and religious community must open their heart to understand each other and to learn something from each other. Habermas obviously knows that secular community has very deep prejudices about religion and religious community. For Habermas secular community see religious views and argumentations as archaic relics of pre-modern societies that continue to exist in the present, they will understand freedom of religion as the natural preservation of an endangered species. From their viewpoint, religion no longer has any intrinsic justifications to exist. (Habermas, 2009) But that idea is not true , according to Habermas. When religious community translates their religious argumentation into secular concepts and generally accessible language, secular community may find many important elements in religious arguments:

The force of religious traditions to articulate moral institutions with regard to communal forms of a dignified human life makes religious presentations on relevant political issues a serious candidate for possible truth contents that can then be translated from the vocabulary of a specific religious community into a generally accessible language. (Habermas, 2009)

Therefore, Habermas invites secular society to open their minds to the possible truth content of those presentations and even enter into dialogues from which religious reasons then might well emerge in the transformed guise of generally accessible arguments. (Habermas, 2009)

Habermas recognizes the important role of religion in discursive democracy. According to him, religions can play a substantial role in global capitalism. It prevents the denizens of the modern post-secular societies from being overwhelmed by all-encompassing demands of vocational life and worldly success. Religious convictions encourage people to treat each other as ends in themselves rather than as mere means. (Richard, 1993)

But not all religious community, only those who fulfill some condition have right to participate in all democratic deliberation according to Habermas. He entails to participate in democratic deliberation what follows:

“Certainly, in the view of the liberal State, only those religious communities deserve to be called "reasonable" which by virtue of their own reasoning do not attempt to impose their religious truths by force. This reasoning is due to a three-fold reflection on the part of the faithful with regard to their position in a pluralistic society. Religious awareness must first of all deal cognitively with encountering other denominations and religions. Secondly, it must adapt itself to the authority of sciences which have the social monopoly on world knowledge. Finally, it must agree to the premises of a constitutional State that justifies itself on the basis of a profane morality.” (Habermas, 2001)

Thus, according to Habermas religious community who act under the democratic values, have right to present their own world views without any restriction in informal and formal public spheres.


Public spheres

Habermasian notion of discursive democracy is formed within two spheres; the informal and formal public sphere. The informal sphere is a political environment in which all political matters can be freely discussed by free and equal citizens. Newspapers, journals, universities, political clubs, literary salons, public assemblies, pubs and coffee houses, meeting halls and so forth can function as an informal public sphere. Informal public sphere doesn’t have any authoritative collective decision. This sphere involves an open discussion of all issues of general concern. The public sphere thus presupposed freedoms of speech and assembly, a free press, and the right to freely participate in political debate and decision-making. (Habermas, 1996, p.360ff)

Instead, the formal public sphere consists of organs by which the general election, the legislation, the decision-making and the execution take place such as parliament, bureaucratic organs, government and courts. In formal public sphere, candidates and elected legislators deliberate about political issues, make authoritative decision by translation the opinions which formed in the informal spheres into legal regulations, and monitor the execution of those decisions by administrative bodies.

In Between Facts and Norms Habermas sums up the idea of Joshua Cohen as a basic criteria for democratic deliberation: a- Process of deliberation take place in argumentative form, that is, through the regulated exchange of information and reasons among parties who introduce and critically test proposals. b- Deliberations are inclusive and public. No one may be excluded in principle; all of those who are possible affected by decisions have equal chances to enter and take part. c- Deliberation is free of any external coercion. The participants are sovereign insofar as they are bound only by the presuppositions of communication and rules of argumentation. d- Deliberations are free of any internal coercion that that could detract from the equality of the participants. Each has an equal opportunity to be heard, to introduce topics, to make contributions, to suggest and criticize proposals. The taking of yes/ no positions is motivated solely by the unforced force of the better argument. (Habermas, 1996, 305-306)

In short, Habermas lays very importance stress to human equality and freedom in decision-making procedure. In this context, in a given Islamic interpretation, Islam gives similar possibilities to participate people in all social and political discussions to find best solution to their own problems.


Islam and democracy

After examining the theory of discursive democracy of Habermas, I want to handle now main subject, that is, Islam and democracy. In order to understand the relations between Islam and democracy, first of all we have to pay attention here to some presumptions concerning Islam and democracy. Islam is a religion which based on revelation. Its main sources are the Qur’an, Sunna, and Ijma, consensus of scholar and Qiyas, religious studies of scholars as an analogy between Text and new issues and Maslaha, common good, (public interest, social cohesion). In these matters there are of course, many different approaches and doctrines among Muslim scholars towards the reading of the Text. Soma scholars read Text to establish a religious framework in which human freedom and dignity can be perfectly protected, while others have no merely sensibility to these issues. According to later group the Text literally itself is vital and central, human freedom and dignity can be seen as a secondary aims. In the style of the understanding of the Text the structure of mass culture, historical experiences, economical and technological development and the level of mass education are increasingly important. In a well-developed economy and technology the demands of people, of course, would be different from that of a society is living still under-developed economical condition. Regarding this situation one may easily argue that the interpretation of Text can vary in accordance with culture and socio-economical development.

With regard to democracy it is said that it’s a political system by which government is formed through a general election system. (Noah, 2003, 31). It does in nature can apply for all cultures in which election system is prevail. I am entirely aware of the fact that there are many confusion in the mind of people concerning democracy and religion, whether democracy possible or impossible in a religion-oriented cultural environment which is generally determined by revelation. This confusion emerges from a misunderstanding of some content of conceptions. They are the conception of ‘secular’ and ‘secularism’. There is an essential difference between these conceptions. Secular or secularization means in general sense, urbanization, democratization, industrialization and rationalization, while secularism is an anti- religious ideology which has some specific world views and doctrines peculiar to it. (Turner 1991:134-135). Although many people are thinking that there is an identity between democracy and secularism, while in fact, there no identity between democracy and secularism. Democracy is a political regime by which government comes in power with a general election for a certain period. Instead, secularism is a philosophical doctrine. On the other hand, we are witnessing today that some regimes are based on secularism, but they are no democratic, such as former Soviet Union and contemporary China and Cuba as well as former Saddam’s regime. Thus there is no identity between democracy and secularism. Starting from relevant reality one can argue that a democratic regime can be established within the framework of an Islamic culture which allows the general election and the competing political parties.

Therefore, of course there must be some institutions within Muslim society on which all social and political relations have to rest such as civil society, public sphere, and freedom of cultural, religious and economical activities. Democratic regime can only be possible within a community in which relevant institutions are developed.


Islam and political regime

There is no a given political pattern in the Qur'an and the Sunna. Since the Qur’an and Sunna don’t address not only one and a given community as well as to a given age, but further to all times and communities, hence the political structure logically would be left to the initiative of the people. People have to reestablish a political regime which based on wisdom and justice that are conceived in every age. It is important to note here that also wisdom and justice are general terms and didn’t define obviously by revelation; therefore they left also to human reason. Thus, the main problem is of course, the problem of interpretations of the Text. Those who have democratic inclination he tries to interpret the Text in the direction of democratic values. In contrary, those who have authoritarian character, his understanding of the Text largely would be in authoritarian character. This means that there is a necessary relation between rereading of the Text and the inclination of a persona.

The relationship between Islam and democracy is strongly debated among the Muslim scholars in the late twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. Some of them believe that “democracy” is a foreign concept that has been imposed by Westerners and secular reformers upon Muslim societies. They often argue that the concept of popular sovereignty denies the fundamental Islamic affirmation of the sovereignty of God and is, therefore, a form of idolatry. (Esposito and Voll, 2001)

Instead, many prominent Islamic intellectuals and groups, argue that Islam and democracy are compatible. Some extend the argument to affirm that under the conditions of the contemporary world, democracy can be considered a requirement of Islam. In these discussions, Muslim scholars bring historically important concepts from within the Islamic tradition together with the basic concepts of democracy as understood in the modern world. (Feldman, 2003, 31; Lewis, 1996; Soroush, 1999, 122-124)


Some Islamic principles concerning democracy

Since there is no political pattern in the Qur’an and the Sunna , thus, how can be derived a notion of democracy from Islamic sources? Another question here how Nursi has grounded the notion of democracy in his collection? It is true that there is no political pattern in the Islamic main sources, but this is also true that there are many secondary sources through which democracy can be legally grounded. They are, as generally asserted, consensus (al-Ijma), public interest (al-maslaha), individual preference (al-al-Istihsan) and mutual consultation (shura). Before beginning to analyze the idea of Nursi concerning democracy let me briefly examine these principles.

Possibility of Islamic democracy is very strange for who has no deep idea about Islam and its means of understanding. I would like to give very short information about Islamic basis principles by which democracy can be possible.

Most prominent scholars have acknowledged that Islamic institutions and rules are formed to provide benefits for people and protect them from risks. Since God has no need to any worship and rule, due to God is perfect, all rules and laws are produced only to the benefit and interest of human being.

There is nearly a general acceptance among Muslims that Islam is a religion of easy. This means that the main propose of Islam is to provide way, in which daily life can be realized easily. Indeed, there are many texts in the Kur’an and Sunne that advice a daily life which is based on modest and easy.

“He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion. It is the faith of your father Abraham. It is He who has named you Muslims.” (22/ 78)

‘God intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties.’ (2/185)

These verses declare very important issue that there is no difficulty in religion and ultimately Gods propose is to attain easiness to people. This reality is supported by many narrated traditions of Prophet too:

‘God didn’t sent me to be harsh, or cause harm, but He sent me to teach and to make thinks easy.’ (Al-Bukhari, 1987, number of Hadith 217, v. I, 89)

Another Hadith also emphasizes the importance of facility in religion:

‘Facilitate, don’t make thinks difficulty.’ (Al-Bukhari, 1987, number of Hadith 5774, v. I. 34)

There is a close connection between easiness and mercy. Islam is a religion of mercy for all people.

‘We sent you not, but as a Mercy for all creatures.’ (21/107)

Mercifulness requires easiness and modest life, not difficulty and complexity. At the same time according to the Kur’an Prophet must do everything in the direction of mercifulness:

'It is part of the mercy of God that you deal gently with them. If you were severe or hardhearted, they would have broken away from you' (3/ 159).

On the other hand, the main mission of Prophet is to be a model for people in moral standards. When Prophet Muhammad said: ‘I have been sent to perfect the high moral standards’ (Abu Bakr al-Bayhaqi, 1994, number of Hadith, 20571, v. X, p. 191), he proclaims this reality. Prophet showed high moral standards in his own life on the one hand, while leaving affairs of world to the human experience and costumes on the other hand. The following Hadith gives us one example of these affairs.

Talha (one of the Prophet's Companions) narrates: I was walking with the Prophet when he passed by some people at the tops of their palm trees. He asked: "What are they doing?" They answered: "Pollinating the male into the female." He replied: "I do not think that this will be of benefit."

When they were told about what the Prophet said, they stopped what they were doing. Later, when the trees shed down their fruits prematurely, the Prophet was told about that. He said: "If it is good for them they should do it. I was just speculating. So, pardon me. But if I tell you something about God, then take it because I would never lie about God." Another narrator added that the Prophet said: "You know your worldly affairs better than me." (Al-Nawewi, 1392, v.15, p.116)

Worldly affairs are changing depending on social and technological developments, while moral standards are stabile and valid in all time and spaces.

Hence, all Islamic rules and legislations must rely on the high moral quality and standard, namely on justice and wisdom on the one hand, while worldly affairs on human experience and science on the other.

Based on relevant texts scholars produced some other principles that emphasize the importance of public interest and social cohesion. These are called Maqasid al-Sharia, (objectives of Islam), generally speaking, they are the essence of Islam. Of chores there is no a specific verse in the Qur’an and a Hadith in the Sunna which handle these values. But they are derived from the totality of the Qur’an and Sunna. They are highest values by which all other sub-values are determined. In order to be valid, all rules, regulations and laws must be harmonized with these values. Otherwise they become invalid.

These principles are generally oriented to provide and to protect benefits of the individual and the community, and its sub-institutions are designed to facilitate the improvement and perfection of the conditions of human life on earth.

Maqasid is examined by scholars under the conception of Maslaha. Let me cite the conception of Maslaha very shortly.



Maslaha literally means a cause or sources of something good and beneficial; it is frequently translated in English as ‘public interest’ or ‘public good’; although it is much closer in meaning to well-being, welfare, and social cohesion. In my view the best conception which can meet what Maslaha includes is the conception of social cohesion. Social cohesion can be defined as the capacity of society to ensure the welfare of all members, minimizing disparities and avoiding polarization. It contents not only economical improvement, but also social and cultural one. Similarly Maslaha involves benefit of individual and society in terms of economical, political and cultural on the one hand, spiritual and moral on the other hand.


Content of Maslaha

The essential Maslaha are enumerated as five, namely protection of life, intellect, faith, lineage and property. But some modern Muslim thinkers, such as al-Qaradawi, has further extends this list to include human dignity, freedom, social welfare and human fraternity. (Kamali, http://www.aml.org.uk/journal/3.1/Kamali%20-%20Maqasid.pdf)I fully agree with al-Qaradawi at this point.

This kind of Maslaha is seen as absolute requirement to the survival and spiritual well-being of individuals, to the extent that their destruction or collapse would precipitate chaos and the demise of normal order in society. Islam, on the whole, seeks, primarily, to protect and promote these essential values, and validates all measures necessary for their preservation and advancement.

It is obviously clear that the content of Maslaha is regarded in other religious doctrines as a secular affair, whereas they are seen by Islam a religious matter. Thus, it can be argued that most part of secular affairs is assimilated by Islam.

Since the protection of the life, intellect, religion, property, and offspring are regarded as a religious main propose, then would appear here very effective reconciliation between Maslaha and Habermasian notion of transforming of religious argumentation into secular terms. Indeed, one can find here very appropriate way to conciliate that matters. That means that in the procedure of deliberation of public affairs in formal as well as informal spheres, religious community may participate in political discussions by taking these aims as a basic standard to ground their argumentations, without referring to a religious text. This process fulfils automatically both religious and secular obligations. In this way, deliberation can be executed on the basis of secular and worldly and also very similar what Habermas suggested. It’s meaning that religious community has to develop two discourses, internal and external. In internal discourse, religious texts are absolutely vital and determinant among member of community, but in external, namely in formal and informal public spheres a secular discourse is valid to be accessible by all people.



These are, of course, universal principles, but the main question here how can these principles be applied in different times and different spaces to the social, economic and political life. Are there some sub-principles in Islam by which a notion of Maslaha in general and the democracy in particular is possible?

There are precisely, some sub-principles, which have close connection with the notion of Maslaha. They are, al-Ijma (consensus), Al-Istihsan (individual preference) and Mushawara (mutual consultation). By these sub-principles Muslim community can have a possibility to seek optimum benefits in general, and to build a democratic society in particular.



Al-Ijma is a basic source of society in the law-making procedure. It has different functions in social and religious life. Its main function is to provide social cohesion among people. It was developed and applied by scholars to mitigate the polarization of Muslims. The Prophet was sent to overcome the destructive polarization of people. He has invited Muslims to be a cohesive community: "My community shall never agree upon misguidance, therefore, if you see divergences, you must follow the greater mass or larger group (al-sawad al-a`zam)"; and "My Community shall not agree upon misguidance. Therefore, you must stay with the congregation, and Allah's hand is over the congregation" (al-Bukhari, 1987, number of Hadith, 5378, v. V, p. 2157).

These traditions obviously have some considerable implications. First of all, all of them give special importance and privilege to community that community shall never agree upon misguidance. These texts can be seen as a divine will which provide guaranty to the inclination and choice of community.

There is also a strange Arabic word, (al-sawad al-a`zam) in the Hadith; what means al-sawad al-a`zam? Its lexical meaning is not a limited number of people, instead, the massive gathering of human beings. Another saying of Prophet explores its meaning which narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas:

When the Prophet was taken up to heaven he passed by Prophets followed by their nations and he passed by Prophets followed by their groups and he passed by Prophets followed by no one until he saw a tremendous throng of people (sawad `azim) so he said: "Who are these?" and the answer was: "These are Musa and his nation, but raise your head and look up," whereupon the Prophet said: "(I raised my head and saw) a tremendous throng (sawad `azim) that had blocked up the entire firmament from this side and that!" And it was said: "These are your Nation..." (al-Bukhari, 1987, v.5, 2157)

Actually this last tradition shows that (al-sawad al-a`zam) is not only well-learned limited Muslim elites, but all Muslims.

Another dimension of traditions, mentioned above, is that these texts see human choice and election completely legal. According to the relevant texts the community totally is seen as an infallible body. That means that what chose of community is legal and it, at the same time, reflect will of God. It is obviously evident that this religious view which is given to public is extraordinary important means to establish democratic system in Muslim society.

Scholars largely argue that the al-Ijma peculiar only to religious matters, not secular and worldly affairs. But religious matter in Islamic context extends to all political and economic issues. This means that al-Ijma is valid in all social-political affairs in the Islamic framework.

There are many views among scholars about the content and the condition of al-Ijma. Some entail the agreement of all Mujtahids (well-learned scholars) in order to establish al-Ijma in a given matter, while others, like Hanafi School, see enough the agreement of majority. Further, some Islamic School limit al-Ijma only to the consensus of first generation of Medina. Therefore, these doctrines have no capability to be a modern institution of civil society. Thus, only Hanafi doctrine as a School doctrine, has a characteristic to be a modern institution of civil society. But Hanafi doctrine also has some problematic in this context. Also they argue that not all people but only well-learned scholar can participate in law-making procedure.

In order to al-Ijma operative in modern civil society one has to regard the idea of some scholars who extent procedure of al-Ijma to all people. According to these prominent scholars, like al-Baqillani, al-Joewayni, al-Amidi, not only scholars, but all people have a right to participate in public discussion in Ijma procedure. They refer, as a religious proof, to a certain tradition of Prophet. When Prophet said: ‘my community will not agree on error.’ there is no exception in the content of Prophet’s saying, according to him, between scholar and ordinary people, instead, it includes both of them. (al-Qadi al-Shawkani, 1909, 133; Levy, 1979, 178-179)

Having considered the last idea, there remains no essential difference between notion of al-Ijma and Habermasian deliberation procedure. Of course, I have no capacity as well as no intention to reestablish the traditional al-Ijma doctrine, there is no need to change it. But we can derive, as a member of modern civil society, some modern means from notion of al-Ijma, to implement it in solving modern problems. In my view al-Ijma can be a very productive means to establish a discursive democracy.

As we know the social life is very dynamic and changeable. Instead, Text is limited and static. Therefore, human social life needs dynamic reasoning to solve their daily problems. Thus, the institution of al-Ijma functions to fulfill such requirements. Of chores, not only al-Ijma, but also al-Shura as a different institution in addition to al-Ijma must be used in the procedure of discursive democracy.



The Quran stresses the Shura, consultation as an essential principle in all Muslim affairs. But there is no any specific imposing of mould in the Quran, instead it is left to the human experience and reasoning. There are two verses in the Qur’an concerning consultation (3.159; 42:38)

What is understood from relevant verses is that consultation must be used as a problem solving tool in all worldly affairs. There are many narrated traditions which say that Prophet and his companions have exercised consultation nearly in all affairs.

Indeed, first and second generation of Islam has used this principle as a main problem solving tool. In the Islamic tradition worldly affairs generally were left to the initiative of Shura, commission of consultation. (al-Sulami, 2003, 79f)

How can Shura be implemented in a modern civil society? In my opinion exercise of Islamic Shura requires very developed communicative facilities. That means that post-industrial society is just a society to realize Shura completely. Regarding religious and citizenship responsibility people have to participate in all public deliberation without fear and hesitation. This is not only a social responsibility, but at the same time, a religious responsibility too. Prophet Mohammad has stimulated people to participate in discussions to find best solution to the appeared problems, by saying that "The one who is silent about the truth is a mute Satan". (Abu Zakariyya, 1392, v. II, p.20) Actually this tradition of Prophet was main important motivation for Muslims to disclose what he/she knows. The one, who remained silent in the discussion process, has no right to make complain against the results of policy which determined by general discussion. Since he/she didn’t fulfill his/her social and religious responsibility, he/she lost their right to complain. This discussion action must be communicative and justice-oriented, more than to be strategic and self-interest.

It is possible to conclude here soma political practices which have harmony with the structure of discursive democracy. First of all one can differentiate between the pure religious affairs, such as faith and worship and social-political matters. The first affairs must be left to the hands of well-learned scholars, together, precisely, some scientists, to reassessment worships and faiths in terms of hygiene, health, economic development, human freedom, justice ext. On the contrary the social-political matters should delegate to human initiative, that is, to the institutions which are allocated to solve new problems. This truth was proclaimed by a Prophet tradition which mentioned above: ‘you know the affairs of the world better than me.’ (Al-Nawawi, 1392, p.116) ). Thus, the second kind of affairs, beyond faith and worship should be decided after intense discussion by all member of society. Since society has no inclination to fall into error, thus, their decision would reflect finally will of God, that is justice and wisdom.



Another juridical means in Islamic law system is al-Al-Istihsan. Al-Istihsan literally means `to approve, or to deem something preferable'. It is a derivation from Arabic word hasuna, which means being good or beautiful. In its juristic sense, it is a method of exercising personal opinion in order to avoid any rigidity and unfairness that might result from the literal enforcement of the existing law.

This method was developed by Hanafi scholars based on a revelation of Prophet: ‘what regard people good, this is also by God good’. (Al-Tayalisi, nh, number of hadith, 246, p. 23)

In fact al-Al-Istihsan is a kind of analogy (Qiyas). Hanafi scholars have divided analogy (Giyas) into two categories; open en hidden analogy. Al-Istihsan has been seen as a hidden analogy (Qiyas-ı Khafi). As mentioned above, the main propose of revelation was to attain and protect individual and social benefits. In addition to this the Kur’an advises people to exercise good relations among them, but doesn’t give any detail about how these relations can be realized. These are left to the human initiative. It enters into domain of obligation of scholars. They have to find methods by which people exercise their relations based on respect, esthetic, and ethics. According to the prominent Turkish Hanafi jurist al-Sarakhsi the meaning of Al-Istihsan is to seek good, even the best method to arrange human relations. Al-Sarakhsi refers some verses of the Kur’an to ground Al-Istihsan.

‘Those who listen to the Word, and follow the best of in it: those are the ones who Allah has guided, and those are the ones endued with understanding.’ (39/18)

The word ‘the best’ is the translation of Arabic word ‘ahsan’. This means that one first of all has to listen to the Word, and then he/she has to follow what the best of in it. It’s obvious that there is no any text which gives detail about the best Word. It is left to the reason and understanding of the people. Also al-Sarakhsi refers another very effective word, ’maruf’, it also can be translated as a best way. The Kur’an refers to this word to invite people to act among them according to maruf, the best. (2/233-236)

According to al-Sarakhsi, maruf is a general term, has no specific meaning, and thus, it includes many dimensions. Hence it is left to the human understanding and reason. It has very flexible means that may be changed according to the time, as well as the space. (Al-Sarakhsi, 2005, v.II. p.199-200; Gerber, 1999, 79)

We can explain Al-Istihsan in practice as follows: When a new juridical problem appeared, jurists try to solve this problem by referring to text. If there is any text which address to this new problem, or implying the text would lead to an unfairness, in these cases scholars have to seek new ruling which it has correspondence with general propose of revelation, that is, justice, social cohesion, public interest and so on. If a scholar derives a new ruling which has conflict with individual and social benefit, another scholars have right to criticize and reject it. In order to find a juridical solution, others try to find another ratio (Illah) which is correspondent to the main aim of revelation according to these scholars. This second juridical effort is called as Al-Istihsan. Of course there is no exact guarantee that the second scientific effort is fully legal. These can also be regarded as illegal by other scholars. Thus, every scholar has to demonstrate their argumentation. In this way begins a deliberation among scholars. After a very scientific deliberation, one of them is chose as legal ruling to implement in juridical life. (Molla Khusrev, 1307, v. II, 122f )

As was understood from above, Al-Istihsan is developed by scholar, in order to Islamic law to adopt itself to the changing life. Actually it has played a prominent role in the adaptation of Islamic law to the changing needs of society in history. It has provided flexibility and growth to the Islamic law.

Actually social change poses some important questions for any legal system which based on text, be it a constitution or scripture. The main issue jurisprudents have to come to terms with is how the limited text material can be brought to bear on everyday changing life and ever-changing environment. In a legal system which is based on man-made constitution, legislators have the possibility to readopt law or constitution by means of enacting laws or constitutional amendment. In Islamic law the main sources of laws, namely the Qur’an and Sunna came to an end by the dead of Prophet Muhammad. But daily life is changing as a dynamic process.

The notion of Al-Istihsan starts from the idea of Maslaha, individual or social benefit and justice. As mentioned above, Maslaha necessities seeking and protecting of individual and social benefit and interest. It takes its legality from the Kur’an and Sunna on the one hand and from universal moral principles on the other hand. According to Hanafi-Maturidi theological school there are some universal ethical principles which are inherently good, such as belief in God, justice and wisdom (husn li zatihi). These are a kind of knowledge that can be known by intellect, even without aid of revelation. The goodness and badness of an act is tied primarily to its beneficence and harm. Hence, there is no substantial antagonism between the principles of revelation and the universal ethical one. In this sense there is a close connection between the notion of Islamic-Hanafi İstihsan and Western natural law. Indeed, both of them are inspired by fairness and human conciseness.

Based on above introduced principals one can produce a suitable doctrine, which makes all democratic deliberations possible.

These above mentioned principles are general principles, which they make democracy possible within Muslim society. In addition to the general principles, democratic regime necessities some other sub-principles such as freedom, civil society, political participation of minority in democratic process, multicultural and multi religious life, economic rationality and so on. In the following passages I will examine Said Nursi’s understanding the relevant principles concerning democracy. Let us look at the idea of Nursi related to these subjects.


The notion of democracy in the teaching of Said Nursi

Before beginning to cite Nursi’s democracy idea I want to give short biographic information on Nursi.

Said Nursi (1877 - 1960) was born in the village Nurs, in Bitlis, one of the Eastern Provinces of the Ottoman Empire, which is today a city in eastern Turkey. He was the son of a farmer, both parents were devout Muslims. He started with his studies in 1886 and studied in a series of schools (medreses). In contrast to other religious scholars of his time, Nursi studied physical and mathematical sciences, which he concluded with a study in philosophy. He believed strongly that Islamic Theology (kalaam) could be renewed He became a teacher and educational reformer. What makes the figure of Said Nursi so important is the fact that he lived through the time of constitutionalism. During this period he defined and explained the importance of freedom and democracy. Nursi was deeply involved in public life, and put forward his ideas regarding Educational reform, unity, freedom and so on in newspaper articles.

Nursi served as a commander in the military on behalf of the Ottoman Empire in The First World War, and during his fight at the front against the Russians he wrote a commentary on the Qur’an called Signs of Miraculousness (Isharat al-I’jaz) (Nursi, 1978) This was only one of the many commentaries and books he would write in the following years.

After spending two years as a prisoner of war in Russia he escaped and came back to Istanbul. In 1922, after repeated invitations from the leaders of the new centre of government, Nursi finally left Istanbul for Ankara. He turned down the offer of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to work in the government of the new Republic of Turkey. In 1925 the Shaykh Said Revolt took place. Although Nursi was invited to join this rebellion against the Ankara government, he strongly advised its leaders to give it up. Nevertheless he was also sent into exile in western Anatolia for the next twenty-five years. During this period Nursi started devoting himself to expounding the Qur’an and writing the Risale-i Nur, a work of six thousand pages. (Vahide, 2005; Mardin, 2003)


Nursi and Democracy

Although many people, even many intellectuals believe that Nursi was only a theologian, he interested with only pure religious matters. Actually Nursi was not only a theologian but at the same time a mystic and partly a philosopher too. Indeed, his writings are not only addressed to theological and ethical subjects but at the same time to the political and the social affairs. Those who has no sufficient knowledge about Nursi’s collection, he/she astonishes when faced with his notion of democracy and civil society. It is obvious that one can find many themes and argumentative discussions and also strong emphasis on democracy, civil society, freedom and open society in the early writings of Nursi. (Nursi, 1960; Nursi, 1975; Nursi 1977; Nursi 1993). His later writings are devoted only to salvation and purification of men.

Here raises a spontaneous question: why Nursi strongly stressed the democratic regime and the civil society, despite he was a theologian?

First of all Nursi was a very realistic scholar. He treated the democracy in terms of human freedom, material development, social cohesion, human dignity and Upholding the Word of God. First of all he sees democracy as an opposite regime to arbitrary decision of one or few men. According to him authoritarian regime is anti-religious as well as anti-ethical. This regime has arrested spiritual and material development of Muslims in history. He strongly believed that there is no other alternative regime for authoritarian regime than democracy. He connected the democratic notion to the religious Text. Based on verses (3/159 and 42/38) he argued that the institutions of democracy are directed to attain an ideals to which Islam implicitly or explicitly addresses. Those are the sovereignty of law, in place of individual arbitrary decision; experimental knowledge, in place of individual inclination; intellectual reasoning, in place of emotional choose; public opinion, in place of individual opinion on so forth. According to Nursi the dominant factor in the time of authoritarianism was power; the one who has the power, sword and tyranny is the one who has the social prestige. However, the centre and zeal of time of democracy are intellect, knowledge, truth, public opinion and law. Only one who has knowledge, intellect, and a bright heart is the one who has prestige. (Nursi, 1993, p.23)

Nursi’s notion of democracy is not limited to only form of government, but further it extends to all social sectors. He suggests a democratic system in which all branch of life must be designed on the framework of democratic values; knowledge, family, religious community and all sectors of administration (Nursi, 1993, 60-61).


Freedom is the part of belief

Freedom is fundamental aim of the Islamic revelation. According to Nursi the main aim of revelation was increasingly to attain of freedom to people. In the beginning of Islam, namely at the period of first and second generation in fact freedom was perfect. But social and cultural environments were not sufficient to an extent that that freedom would be fundamentally protected. After second generation the social and the cultural atmospheres began to change to the direction of authoritarianism. Especially in the time of Yazid political and social climate were strictly authoritarian. Imam al-Husayn started to apprise against this authoritarian regime, but he couldn’t be success, at the end he was martyrize in fighting against authoritarian power. After this issue Muslims wouldn’t see a perfect freedom by which the Qur’an was explicitly, implicitly aimed. (Nursi, 1993, p.37)

In having treating of Islamic history about human freedom we have to aware of the fact that there was no identity between degree of authoritarian regime of Muslim societies and Western societies. In contrast to the Western history, human freedom partly protected in the history of Islam by the Ulama. In this area actually Ulama have constantly played a crucial role to protect and to defense the basic rights of the folks against civil and military administrations. This function was of major importance in order to guarantee the rights of ordinary citizens through Islamic history. But this didn’t mean a perfect freedom, but a partly freedom.

When Nursi confronted with different doctrines and activities of freedom in the Western societies he felt himself very great enthusiasms to attain same freedom among Muslim societies. Since freedom according to Nursi was a part of faith. A faith without freedom nearly is a nothing. Actually Nursi was very optimistic in this field. Parallel to the investigation of truth he thought that societies would better understand each other and in that process Qur'anic truthfulness would be seen easily by all people. For Nursi the freedom of people is necessary consequence of believe in God. There is a parallelism between freedom and believe in God. The one who chooses to be servant of God will not be enslaved by other things. S/he, who is connected to God this way and is in possession of this kind of faith will not suppress others and will not accept to be under the coercion of others. (Nursi, 1993, I n p.59-60)

According to Nursi societies were beginning to live in a very different social and political situation, for this reason all people would has to adapt itself to a new situation that is democratic situation. Not only government and administrative staff, but at the same time all scientific sector, economical and religious sectors would have to adopt himself to the principles of democracy. There was no other way to attain human freedom and human welfare. Human freedom can only be guaranteed under democratic regime. (Nursi, 1993, p.59-60)


Democracy and its power

Nursi actually has very clear idea about democratic institutions. We have no any evident data which kind of Western democratic doctrines Nursi confronted. For Nursi democracy is a sovereignty of people and also an important reason for people’s gladness. He has seen democracy not only a political regime, but at the same time as a means to economical and cultural development. Only by democracy the faculties of people and the ability to realize worldwide activities can be developed. Since democratic decisions based on public opinion, this would has unlimited power which could not be manipulated with individual press. For Nursi public opinion was like a strong iron pillar, other than any individual opinion, which is destined to change easily. Also human dignity can be perfectly realized through democratic institutions. In a well-established democracy individuals achieve perfect identity and honor, that is through democracy, not only limited groups and families; but everyone achieves the value of a king. Because democracy provides a social and political climate in which human beings can act freely. (Nursi, 1993, p. 23-24)


Islamic dimensions of democracy

We can say here that Nursi was aware of the fact that there is no alternative to authoritarian regime beyond democracy. The new problem here was whether the democracy Islamic or not. Nursi has no doubt that democracy is an Islamic institution. According to Nursi the essence of democracy is came from Islam, due to Islam has given very importance to the public opinion, the public consensus and the common good, as mentioned above. One can ground the democracy referring to these principles. Nursi stated that:

"I expounded and commented in detail on the authentic connection between the Saria and democracy in numerous speeches. And I explained that tyrannous despotism has no connection with the Sharia. For according to the meaning of the Hadith, `A nation's ruler is its servant', the Sharia came to the world in order to extirpate oppression and despotic tyranny... And I said that essentially, the true way of the Sharia is the reality of democracy in accordance with the Sharia. That is to say, I accepted democracy on proofs from the Sharia.. I claimed that it is possible to deduce the truths of democracy explicitly, implicitly, permissibly, from the Four Schools of Islamic Law."


"The consensus of the community constitutes a certain proof in the Saria. The opinion of the mass of the people forms a fundamental principle in the Saria. The public wish is esteemed and re-specked in the Saria.” (Nursi, 1993, p. 38-39)

Here we are talking about a worldly and profane issue, namely general election, civil society, form of government and so on. How can these issues relate with an Islam which merely divine and sacred? Doesn’t Islam necessity a pure divine activities and institutions? Nursi was aware of the fact that of course we are acting in a worldly domain and there are an essential distinction between Islam as a religion and democracy as a political system, but we have to choose a certain form of administration. At this point we haven’t more alternatives than two regimes; democracy and authoritarian regime. Of course, democracy is a man-made system, it has many negativities. How a Muslim might tread democracy? Nursi uses as a general methodology to tread all issues; that is the criteria of Gods justice. Gods Justice judges things by comparing its positive and negative aspects. For example, in hereafter God will judge people according to volume of his/her activities. If s/he has more good activity than bed, God will treat him as a good man and vice versa.

When Nursi began to decide about a matter whether it good or not, firstly he compares different aspects of that things and then reaches a given result. He treats the democracy in a same way. He compares the democracy with authoritarian regime and at the end he decides that democratic regime is better than authoritarian regime.

According to Nursi, public opinion, various tendencies of society and the consensus of community are basic elements of Islamic religion. The essence of democracy is come from Islam. For Nursi the superiority of democracy is come from this fact that by democratic regime usually ways of corruptions can be limited. In other words authoritarian regime is open to possibilities to all corruptions. (Nursi, 1993, p.39)

Nursi was aware of the fact that an idealistic expectation about political regime leads us directly to a utopia. It's impossible to find an ideal regime, which based on pure Islamic values. That can be found only in Plato's republic. Starting from Gods justice Nursi has said that we have to use these criteria in all issues. Even one can apply these criteria to a political government and regime too. If a government has more good activity than bed, one must treat it as a good government or regime.

Although the essence of democracy comes from the Islam, it is quiet normal to be some little differences between Islam and democracy, which emerge from social and cultural changes. Nursi raises very curtail question: is there anything else in the world which hundred percent Islamic? Is there a man all whom behavior can be pure Islamic? It is impossible. Therefore also it is impossible to be a political regime which to be completely Islamic. Thus a regime can be merely sinless, this can only be in Plato's idealistic republic. (Nursi, 1993, p. 39)

According to Nursi the stability and power in law is very important issue to attain a well-established society, which based on freedom and lowly relations. Objectivity and rationality in law and mutual relations can be found in only democratic situation. In authoritarian regime individual people has privileged priority and arbitrary opinion to built economical and political decisions. But the essence of democracy doesn’t allow concentrating of power in the monopoly of the very limited people. (Nursi, 1993, p.38)


Mutual consultation

Another necessary institution to establish a legal democratic system is mutual consultation. Nursi lays very important stress on mutual consultation. According to Nursi this is not only cause of one nation’s development, Ottoman society’s, but all nations, Asian nations; not only one country’s development but all Asian continent. Nursi takes mutual consultation in broader sense and extends its limit to the human history. For Nursi, scientific development is not other than a result of consultation of people who lived in different ages. Actually Nursi gives very significant place to mutual consultation in social and development process. For Nursi the key to Muslims' happiness in Islamic social life is the mutual consultation enjoined by the Shari'a. The verse, ‘Whose rule is consultation among themselves.’(42:38) orders consultation as a fundamental principle. (Nursi, 1989, np, http://www.saidnur.com/)

Legal democratic system takes its power from participation of limitless opposite opinion and views which are supplied by different groups in the deliberation process. Through this process society would attain unlimited legal power to determine both national and international policies. Indeed, for Nursi, a social consensus, which is achieved by a democratic deliberation, has a very strong power that couldn't be manipulate with a simple political and international opposition. On the contrary, an idea of a Sultan can be easily change with a little press and an interest. A public opinion, which is formed by a hard discussion among different groups that have very differentiated interest and ideology couldn't agree with other than public good and interest. (Nursi, 1993, p.38)

Nursi seems to share the Habermasian notion of discursive democracy which lays important stress to public discussion. The common point between Habermas and Nursi is, as we saw above, the importance of public participation in decision-making procedure. Nursi sees, like Habermas later, the power of decision-making of social issues by one person, Sultan or a limited group, as a very negative political and ethical issue. Such negative situations have been arrested material and spiritual development of Muslims. This can only be solved by the power of legal democratic participation and public opinion. For this reason Nursi also gave importance along consultation to civil society. He was entirely aware of that without well-established civil society, the participation of people in political deliberation is completely impossible.


Civil society

There is no doubt that there is nearly an identity between democracy and civil society. Democracy can only be established and also survived by a well-established civil society.

Nursi more interestingly was aware of the importance of civil society. Unlike other Ulama Nursi has accredited tremendous importance to civil society. At this point Nursi can be seen as a significant reformer in the Islamic history. Before Nursi member of government and bureaucratic elite were mostly seen as a bearer and protector of religious and cultural values. In that period the conception of civil society was not known as known in the Western society. By Nursi a special attention was paid to civil society. He was nearly first scholar who repeatedly emphasized the importance of civil society.

In the beginning of twentieth century he said that the preservation and development of religious and cultural values should not be delegate to the members of civil and military staff. For Nursi the exact preserver and bearer of religion and culture are civil members of society. The members of bureaucracy are powerless to defense aggressive atheistic and materialistic attacks toward religious values. This can be attained only by a tireless energy and effort of civil society.

Nursi cites the differences between bureaucracy and civil society by comparing bureaucracy with a thin wire and civil society with a thick rope. One can easily bend and curve a thin wire whereas it is difficult to incurve a rope. For this reason, religious affairs should never be delegated to bureaucracy. Instead, all religious and cultural affairs should be handed over to the hearts and conscience of individuals.

Related to this, Nursi gives the following example of a spring/pool: Let us think of hundreds of springs which are spread around a pool and which flow and gather in this very same pool. If the water in one of the springs is dirty, the water in the pool will be affected by this and will be dirty. However, if the water in the pool is dirty, this will not affect the spring-water. According to this analogy, the pool shall describe the government, and the spring the civil society. The essence of community is civil society and not government or state. The latter is merely to serve people. (Nursi, 1993, p.43)

Nursi emphasizes the development of individual awareness in social and cultural affairs. According to him, religious and cultural issues can only be effectively developed and strengthened, if they are preserved by a well-established civil society. On the other hand, if religious and cultural affairs are left to the monopoly and the initiative of bureaucracy, this will lead to ignorance and carelessness.

Furthermore, Nursi states that if the protection of a flock is left to a bungling shepherd, this will attract the attacks of wolfs. However, if everyone would take the responsibility of their own sheep, the wolfs would stay away and seek for other places. (Nursi, 1993, p.45)


Multi-religious social life

It is impossible to talk about democracy without attaining the life of cultural and religious minority in a guaranty. The degree of democracy is tested by the degree of tolerance towards cultural and religious minority. Indeed, classical Islamic theology generally has formulated under the mono-culture and mono-religion, that is Muslim culture and Islam. There is no systematic Islamic theology which is regarded multicultural and multi religious life.

Admittedly Islamic law has given very important rights to cultural and religious minority, nearly equal rights what Muslims have. Millet system was an extraordinary political and cultural system by which all rights of non-Muslims strictly guarantied. It is difficult to see similar development in Islamic theologies. There is no subject of Christology, for example, in Islamic theology, although it has dealt with nearly all things. The subject of civil society is absent also in classical Islamic theologies. In my view the absent of such subjects is very important insufficiency in classical Islamic theology. In order to being operative in a developed civil society, Muslim scholars have to develop a new theology which is directed to fulfill the needs of multi-religious and multi-cultural society.

We can see Nursi at this point very active and energetic. He tried to develop a multicultural and multi religious theology, but nonsystematic manner, in which all members of religions can coexist in harmony.

We can here explain Nursi’s idea on plural social life. According to Nursi every age has a special paradigm in which certain values are dominant and valid. In every age some values raise, and subsist other values which were predominant. In the middle ages, for example, religious values were predominant factors in social and political life. All relations among people and states were determined by religious and religiously oriented ethical values. But in modern times the economy, political regime and security, in place of religious values, has become determinant factors for interrelations between people and states. Actually in the modern period the economical welfare, the freedom, the participation of people to democratic process has become basis elements of modern paradigm. Reading of the Texts has necessarily to change; there is a difference of reading Texts in a period in which religious values were predominant versus a period in which economical and political aims become determinant, like it is nowadays. (Nursi, 1993, 70)

Thus the rights and responsibilities of minorities according to Nursi must be regarded in the perspective of democratic values. These minorities, Christians and Jews, can be, for example, governor and Member of Parliament in Muslim society without any restriction. They can participate in all deliberations and in all democratic processes. (Nursi, 1993, 61-62)

When he was asked about the governorship and membership of parliament of non Muslims after the democratic period of the Ottoman State, he answered by saying that the function of governorship has fundamentally been changing in the process of democratization from a feudal statue toward a servant, in democratic society governor only a servant to citizens, therefore, there is no problem a non Muslim to be a servant for citizens.

Related to membership of non-Muslims to parliament and their participation to legislation and decision making procedure he argues that in democratic society legislation activities are generally worldly affairs, they like to the process of a machine producing or repairing. Who can better produce or repair it of course, he/she will be chosen to do. The function of members of parliament is generally discussion and arraigning the social and economic life in the direction of social cohesion, and also trying to prevent bureaucracy from corruptions. These may be effectively exercised in some cases through non Muslim expert and specialists. (Nursi, 1993, 41)

For Nursi, one has to distinguish between two spheres; theological and public spheres. There is a complete equality between Muslims and non-Muslims in public sphere, namely in transaction area. Differences can be appeared in quality and virtuous, namely in theological and moral area. Some people can be virtuous than other. But there is no discrimination in social and economic life, rights and responsibilities. Islam sees equal the rights and responsibilities of Sultan and slave. (Nursi, 1993, 68)

According to Nursi, coexistence with Armenian people, for example, is not a negative issue for Muslims, further a positive; because Armenian people, who are living in Ottoman State, have a well-developed culture in economy and in arts. They are also well-educated and well-illuminated and they usually assimilated the values of freedom and democracy. For this reason they are a very strong nation. Muslims have to take some ideas from Armenian people such as rational thinking, positive nationality, tendency of development and justice. They are widely spread nearly in all countries. They are well-integrated to all countries, and attained a lot of experiences about science, economy and development. They will return to Ottoman State and add their values to Ottoman economy and science. (Nursi, 1993, 68)

Unfortunately, due to the tragically events during the First World War and Independent War, Nursi’s project didn’t applied. But this project can be a very good model for Muslim-Non Muslim relations in multicultural and multi religious European society. Starting from Nursi’s point of view, Muslim scholars have to develop a new model in which Muslims can coexist with other people in harmony and peace.



It is possible to summarize our survey as follows:

1-Habermasian notion of communicative praxis in general and de discursive democracy in particular can be treated as a new philosophical effort to reestablish an action system in which alienation and mechanization of men can be mitigated.

2-In discursive democracy public deliberation is vital and central. In informal public sphere all groups, without any restriction, have to participate in all political discussion in a rational discourse. Regarding this deliberation the member of parliaments should arrange these views as a law in formal public sphere. In this way the public opinion would reflect directly to legislation procedure.

3-Islam is a religion that is addressed to all people and directed to provide a modest and easy way to humankind. There is no difficulty in religion. Prophet Muhammad was sent only to attain mercy and high ethical standard to people. Therefore, all rules and laws must address to provide and to protect public interest and social cohesion.

4-Legislation procedure is arranged, in a general Islamic point of view, under a framework by which public inclination and opinion can be reflected to legislation procedure by means of consensus (al-Ijma), individual preference (al-İstihsan) and mutual consultation (al-Shura).

4-Based on relevant Islamic bases principles it is possible to establish a legal democratic system in an Islamic culture in which general election and more political parties are possible.

5- Nursi was a very realistic scholar. According to him democracy is a political alternative regime to an authoritarian regime. Authoritarianism is, for Nursi an antireligious as well as an unethical system. According to Nursi, pure Islamic regime can be possible only in utopia. One has to use Gods justice to test a given political regime by treating its positive and negative aspects.

6-Nursi was entirely aware of the fact that democracy can only be possible in a cultural environment in which civil society, tolerance to minority and respect to all views must be institutionalized.

7- According to Nursi, there is a close connection, even interrelation between material development and democracy. For Nursi, all kinds of authoritarian represses were main reasons to arrest Muslims in the way of material and spiritual progress.

8-Nursi invites not only Muslim societies but, at the same time all Asian nations to establish democratic regime by using consultation to start economic and social progress.



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Last Updated on Saturday, 13 August 2011 20:52