TO THE BRITISH AND MOVE TO ANKARA
Before continuing with the story of Bediuzzaman’s life, it is appropriate to relate the following story of his dagger, which he gave at this time to Ghazi Ahmad Mukhtar Pasha. Having first been compelled to carry a dagger when attacked by fellow students jealous of his fame and success in scholarly debate in Siirt in 1309 Rumi/1891, Bediuzzaman had followed this local custom ever since. The writer and historian Ibrahim Hakki Konyali described to Necmeddin Sahiner how he came across the ivory-handled dagger:
“There are many mementos of great value, old and new, in the Military Museum, and among them I found an ivory-handled dagger while classifying the weapons. It had the name Said-i Kurdi engraved on it. I made enquiries as to how and when it had come to the Museum. Formerly known as Said-i Kurdi, Said Nursi had been appointed as a member of the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye in the years following the Great War. I knew him personally. He used to go around in the vicinity of _ehzadeba_i and wore a turban wound round a long cap and the local dress of eastern Anatolia with a dagger at his waist. According to what I learnt, the great scholar and historian and second founder and curator of the Military Museum, Ahmad Mukhtar Pasha, had got to know Said Nursi, and had acquired great respect for him because of his learning. Thus, he had taken his dagger for the Museum as a memento, and had numbered it and put it away.”1
Bediuzzaman Opposes an Autonomous Kurdistan
Bediuzzaman’s undergoing great inner changes at this time did not prevent him from combatting the British occupying forces in whatever ways he could. Described above are some of his activities concerning this in the Darü’l-Hikmet, the area of learning, and in various other fields. In addition to this, Bediuzzaman opposed the British openly in the press, above all warning against their intrigues in the field of politics and efforts to sow discord among the ‘ulama. Before looking at this more closely though, another subject of importance concerning the British and with which Bediuzzaman was also concerned should be mentioned, and this was the question of Kurdistan.
It will be remembered that when allotting the spoils of the Ottoman Empire, Britain – and also France – had laid claim to the geographical region of Kurdistan and the oil-fields of Mesopotamia. In order to further its interests in the area, British plans included the setting-up of an autonomous Kurdistan, and provision for this was contained in the Treaty of Sèvres. And so, following the war, the promise of autonomy was used by the British as a means of instigating the inhabitants of the area to rebel against Ottoman authority, and also, incidentally, to hamper the National Forces. A number of political societies with the same aim were founded at the same time, one of which was the Society for the Advancement of Kurdistan (Kürdistan Teali Cemiyeti).2 Bediuzzaman was again approached in the hope of gaining his support and access to his considerable influence, but as before and after, he refused absolutely and condemned any action which would damage unity with the Turks. One of those who approached him was Seyyid ‘Abd al-Qadir, the president of the above society. Bediuzzaman is reported to have given him this reply:
“Almighty God says in the Holy Qur'an: God shall produce a people whom He will love as they will love Him.3 I pondered over this Divine declaration and I understood that this people is the Turkish nation, which for a thousand years acted as the standard-bearer of the Islamic world. I shall not follow a few brainless racialists rather than serving this heroic nation, in place of four hundred and fifty million true Muslim brothers.”4
Necmeddin Sahiner also quotes another passage from the same work, which, since it includes a firsthand description of Bediuzzaman besides illustrating further the point in question, we give it in full. It is related by Konsolidçi Asaf Bey, a well-known writer:
“One day while sitting in the printing office a man entered. He was wearing a strange outfit and had some sort of long cap on his head. On seeing him, Mevlânzâde rose to his feet and pointed to me. He said:
“‘This is our leader-writer, Konsolidçi Asaf.’ Then addressing me, he said:
“‘This is Bediuzzaman Said Efendi, one of our greatest religious scholars.’ So from that point I started to have conversations with Bediuzzaman. And truly, I benefited enormously from his knowledgeable conversation. After this he used to come frequently to our press and we would talk. Sometimes we would even go out together and go round the town.
“I do not know how long it was after this, Said Nursi left Istanbul. I cannot remember now whether he went to his home region or some other place. Anyway, Germany and its allies had met with a crushing defeat. The country was divided up and they started to create new states in every corner of it. Armenia was one of these. One day, Mevlânzâde Rifat Bey said to me:
“‘They are setting up an Armenian state. So, since the Empire is falling apart, we ought to set up a Kurdish one.’
“When I looked at him in astonishment, he said to me:
“‘I am not a traitor. And it is not me who broke up the mighty Ottoman Empire. God curse those who did destroy it; they have all fled like thieves. For sure there are the National Forces, but they do not offer much hope. We are not living in the age of miracles. I’m going to write to Bediuzzaman about the matter, because he is very influential. He is thought a lot of, so I shall write to him and ask him to join us.’
“Mevlânzâde wrote and sent the letter. Then, about ten days or two weeks later we were sitting in the printing office with some guests. There was Cakali Hamdi Pasha, who was Minister of the Navy at the time, and also the Chief of the Military Court. We were talking of this and that when the postman came in, left a letter, and went. Rifat Bey’s face darkened as he read the letter, it was clear he was angry. After reading it through, he flung it at me, saying:
“‘Read this and see. Bediuzzaman rejects my proposal and says he does not support my idea.’
“It would have been rude to read the letter to myself, so I began to read it out loud. Cakali Hamdi Bey and Mustafa Pasha, the Chief of the Military Court, listened. Although I do not remember exactly how the letter went, Bediuzzaman rejected Mevlânzâde’s proposal to set up [an independent state of] Kurdistan, and said: ‘Rifat Bey, let’s not set up Kurdistan, let’s revive the Ottoman Empire. If you accept to do this, I am willing to sacrifice even my life for it.’
“After listening to this, Mustafa Pasha turned to Mevlânzâde and said:
“‘You are wrong, Rifat Bey, and Bediuzzaman is right. It is not Kurdistan that should be formed, but the Ottoman Empire that should be re-formed and revived.’”5
Indeed, Bediuzzaman continued to support any attempts to strengthen
unity between the Kurds and the rest of ‘the nation’. As before, this was
particularly in the fundamental area of education. In 1919 a society was
founded to this end of which he was one of the fifteen founder members.
Called The Society for the Propagation of Education Among Kurds (Kürd
Neshr-i Ma'arif Cemiyeti), it was non-political, independent, and concerned
solely with education. It aimed initially to set up one primary school
for Kurdish children in Istanbul, who, “of all the sons of the fatherland,
were the ones most deprived of the bounty of education”, and later as funds
permitted to found others in areas where Kurds formed the majority of the
inhabitants.6 Bediuzzaman was also going to be successful in
securing further funds from the Ankara Government for the Medresetü’z-Zehra,
his university-level ‘medrese’ in the East, as we shall see.
Bediuzzaman Combats the British
During this time, the Shaykhü’l-Islam’s Office was presented with a questionnaire on the religion of Islam by the Church of England authorities, and as a member of the Darü’l-Hikmet, Bediuzzaman was asked to prepare the answers. Outraged at this insolence on the part of the British, Bediuzzaman wrote a few succinct words which bore the meaning of insults rather than answers. His intention was to protect the honour of Islam. He later described the affair as follows:
“One time, when the British had destroyed the guns on the Bosphorus and had invaded Istanbul, the chief cleric of the Anglican Church, which is that country’s highest religious authority, asked the Shaykhü’l-Islam’s Office six questions about religion. I was a member of the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye at the time and they said to me: ‘You answer them!’ They wanted a six-hundred-word reply to the six questions. I said: ‘I shall answer not with six hundred words, nor with six words, and not even with one word, but with a mouthful of spit! Because, you can see, the moment they stepped ashore here, their chief cleric arrogantly started asking us questions. What has to be done in the face of this is to spit in his face. So spit in the face of that merciless tyrant!’”7 And in Rumuz, Signs, a work he published at the time, Bediuzzaman included the following piece entitled, Answer To a Scheming Cleric Who Wanted to Pour Scorn on Us:
“Someone has thrown you down into the mud and is killing you. Although he is pressing his foot on your throat, he asks mockingly what school of law you follow. The silencing answer to this is to feel the offence, be silent, and spit in his face. (Spit in that accursed shameless face!) So not to him, but in the name of the truth:
1) Q. What does the religion of Muhammad consist of?
A. The Qur'an.
2) Q. What has it given to life and thought?
A. Divine Unity and moderation.
3) Q. What is the remedy for man’s troubles?
A. The prohibition of interest and usury and the obligatory payment of zekat.
4) Q. What does it say concerning the present upheavals?
A. Man has nought save that which he strives.8 And those who amass gold and silver and do not spend it in the way of God; announce to them a most grievous punishment.9,10
Bediuzzaman’s most effective work at this time, however, was a short work called The Six Steps, in which he pointed out six ways in which the British, and the Greeks, sowed discord and dissension in the Muslim community. It has at its head the verse: And do not follow in the footsteps of Satan,11 and Bediuzzaman later described it as having “turned the Istanbul ‘ulama’s opinions against the British and in favour of the national movement”,12 and as having “spoilt the fearsome plan of the commander of the British forces occupying Istanbul.” This plan was “to prepare the ground for the defeat of the National Forces and victory of Greeks through sowing strife among Muslims, and even deceiving the Shaykhü’l-Islam and some of the ‘ulama and inciting them against each other, and through making the supporters of the two main political groupings contend with each other [that is, those of the by then disbanded Committee of Union and Progress and those of the Freedom and Accord Party].”13
To illuminate this further, it should be mentioned that the source of the conflict lay in the fact that, according to the official account, Sultan Vahideddin,14 the Istanbul Government, some of the ‘ulama, and others, opposed the national movement in Anatolia absolutely. They considered those involved in it to be either members of the Committee of Union and Progress or people of a like kind, that is to say, bandits, whom they held responsible for entering Turkey into the War, and for its defeat which had dealt the death-blow to the Empire. Although it never came to power, the old rivals of the CUP and now dominant political party, the Freedom and Accord Party, also considered those involved in the national movement to be the chief enemy rather than the foreign aggressors.15
In addition, many Western-inclined intellectuals opposed the nationalists, and the distorted writings of these combined with the propaganda of the British aiming to widen and play on divisions, were a cause of confusion among the people, shaking their faith even, and weakening their resolve to withstand the enemy. Thus, in his writings, Bediuzzaman pointed out the distortions, and in The Six Steps in particular, showed with his usual clarity how the British were playing on their differences and answered their insidious suggestions so summarily and witheringly that it both illuminated its readers and heartened them.
Bediuzzaman also severely condemned those who disparaged their own nation and thought that “the interests and ambitions of the British nation were consistent with the interests and dignity of Islam” and accepted British protection.16 When asked which society or grouping he belonged to and why he was severely critical of the opposition, that is, the Freedom and Accord Party, he replied:
“I belong to the society of martyrs. It is inauspicious to either deny or belittle a single saint. So it is the most inauspicious of all inauspiciousness to deny two million martyrs who are saints, and to consider their blood to have spilt in vain. Because the opposition say that we were wrong to enter the [First World] War, and that our enemies were right; that it was not a jihad. Thus, such a judgement is to deny the martyrdom of two million martyrs. In my opinion the prayer we should utter most is: O God, do not put harm amongst us!
“There is a fact before which the most uncivilized and even the most savage bow their heads in submission and respect, and that is, when confronted by an external enemy, two hostile clans of a tribe lay aside their own enmity instinctively. It is astonishing therefore that those who are considered to be civilized and enlightened are far inferior to those savages; when confronted by external hostility, they intensify internal enmity. If civilization and science are thus, then man’s happiness lies in savagery and ignorance!”17
The Six Steps was published shortly before the reoccupation of Istanbul by the British in March 1920, and as they came to realize Bediuzzaman’s effectiveness in opposing them, the British authorities determined to get rid of him. However, they were told that if they attempted to assassinate him, the inhabitants and tribes of eastern Anatolia would never forgive the British, and it would earn them their eternal enmity. There are various sources which corroborate the fact that the British wanted to do away with this vehement enemy who so persistently and successfully foiled their attempts to annihilate Islam and the Turkish nation through their plots and propaganda. One such incident was related by Bediuzzaman’s student, Molla Süleyman:
“... We set off in the direction of the Divanyolu, and Misirli Said Molla was there. He was the second president of The Friends of England Association. He had no religion, and whether he was a Mason or what he was, I do not know. This man used to inform on Bediuzzaman to the British; he used to tell them about his appearance, features, dress, and where he lived. This was because Bediuzzaman used to make dreadful attacks on them in the press. He used to publish articles in the Tanin and other newspapers which said things like: ‘Spit in the shameless face of the accursed British!’ And, ‘You dogs, who are more basely and utterly dog-like than any dog!’
“Then one day, soldiers of the occupying forces were waiting for Bediuzzaman in the square by Aya Sophia, they were going to seize him. I was terrified and he said to me: ‘You follow close behind me, Süleyman, and don’t fall behind.’ Then he recited the verse from Sura Ya. Sin.: And We have put a bar in front of them and a bar behind them, and further, We have covered them; so that they cannot see,18 and they did not see us. We passed right by them and came to the house. I knocked on the door, and when it was slow in opening, I said to my friend inside: ‘Come on open it quickly; Bediuzzaman is with me!’ He opened it immediately and we went in. Bediuzzaman sat down on the divan, and I pulled off his boots. Then he asked me:
“‘What did you understand from all that?’
“‘I do not know’, I replied. So he said:
“‘They had received the order to shoot me, and I did as I did in order to save you. I pitied you because you had no weapon. Otherwise I would have lined up ten of them and taken my aim. I would have killed at least ten of them before being killed myself.’”19
Another account of Bediuzzaman at this time has been given by Tevfik Demiroglu, who later served as the Deputy for Van for many years. He provides a number of details concerning Bediuzzaman’s life, and recalls particularly his own adventures with Abdurrahman when distributing The Six Steps secretly under the noses of the British. The work was printed secretly “through the efforts of Eshref Edip.”20 Tevfik Demiroglu also notes that Bediuzzaman was closely associated with Eshref Edip, and with Mehmet Akif and the magazine Sebilürreshad – as indeed he had been before the War, and that they used to meet for long conversations in the Yusuf Izzeddin Pasha Pavilion in Çamlica, where Bediuzzaman stayed for some time. He also describes his adventures in stealing breech-blocks from the arsenals so as to make the British heavy guns unusable, while others would steal rifles and other weapons.21
Bediuzzaman’s enemies were not restricted to the British. Some thirty years later he wrote in a letter that a fellow member of the Darü’l-Hikmet, Seyyid Sadeddin Pasha, had warned him of another plot to kill him. The Pasha had told him: “I have learnt via certain means that an aggressive atheistic organization [zindika komitesi] which is here but whose roots are abroad has read one of your works, and has declared that so long as its author remains in this world, they shall be unable to impose their ideas, that is, irreligion, on this nation, and that he shall have to be eliminated. So guard yourself well!” Bediuzzaman wrote that in reply he said to Sadeddin Pasha: “I place my trust in God! Death only comes once, and the time of its coming cannot be changed.”22
In recognition in these services to the national cause, and particularly through The Six Steps, the national leaders in Ankara invited Bediuzzaman to join them there. However Bediuzzaman declined to “flee” from Istanbul.23 Mustafa Kemal Pasha himself, who had been elected as President of the Grand National Assembly, sent three messages in cipher summoning Bediuzzaman. These were repeated on numerous occasions by various people including Marshal Fevzi Çakmak; this is corroborated by ‘National Defence Imam’ and Regimental Mufti, Osman Nuri Efendi.24 But Bediuzzaman told them:
“I want to fight where it is dangerous; I do not like fighting behind trenches. I consider here to be more dangerous than Anatolia.”
On these insistent demands, Bediuzzaman sent three of his students, Tevfik Demiroglu, Molla Süleyman, and Major Refik Bey to offer their support to the National Government. He himself finally went on being invited by his old friend, the Deputy and former Governor of Van, Tahsin Bey.25
Necmeddin Sahiner writes that he travelled by train, arriving a week before the ‘Id al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifices, known in Turkey as Kurban Bayrami, which that year, 1922, fell on 4 August, and relates a conversation between Bediuzzaman and the Deputy for Siverek, Captain Abdülgani Ansarî. On the eve of the festival Bediuzzaman told the Deputy that the following day his head would be cut off. The Deputy looked aghast, so Bediuzzaman explained; if the letter Sin is removed from the word Said, the word ‘Id remains, which means festival!26
The War of Independence was reaching its climax, and on 22 August there began what became known as the ‘Great Offensive’, which by 29 September had resulted in the Turkish victory and liberation of Anatolia. In October, the Mudanya Armistice was signed.27 These were also the last days of the Ottoman Empire. The Armistice had been signed with the Ankara Government, but the Sultan’s Government was still nominally functioning in Istanbul. And so to solve the problem, on 1 November 1922, at the prompting of Mustafa Kemal, the Grand National Assembly voted to abolish the Sultanate and retain only the Caliphate. The right to choose the Caliph would rest with the Assembly. The deposed Sultan Vahiddedin left the country on a British warship on 16 November, and his cousin Abdülmecid was appointed as Caliph by the Assembly.28 The Caliphate was finally abolished on 3 March 1924 after being held for 407 years by the Ottoman House.29
With all these momentous events, it was not till 9 November, 1922, that Bediuzzaman was given an official ‘welcoming’ in the Assembly. The ceremony was recorded as follows in the minutes of that day:
“Welcome for the religious scholar Bediuzzaman Said Efendi Hazretleri.
“Speaker: The Deputy for Bitlis, Arif Bey, and his friends have a motion.
“We propose to the Illustrious Presidency that a welcome is given to Bediuzzaman Molla Said Efendi Hazretleri, one of the well-known ‘ulama of the Eastern Provinces, who has come here from Istanbul in order to visit the gazis of Anatolia and this Exalted Assembly and is at present in the Visitors’ Gallery.
Bitlis Bitlis Mus Mus Siirt Bitlis Ergani
_____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____
Arif Dervish Kasim (Ilyas Sami) Salih Resul Hakki
“Rasih Efendi (Antalya): We request him to honour the platform and offer prayers.”30
Whereupon Bediuzzaman mounted the platform, then congratulated the veterans of the War of Independence and offered prayers.
Despite the warm reception he was given and the rejoicing at the triumph of Islam and the Turks over their enemies, Bediuzzaman was dismayed to find a lax and indifferent attitude towards Islam and their religious duties among many of the Deputies in the Assembly. His intention in coming to Ankara had been to encourage those in power to set up a form of government based on the Qur'an and the Shari’a. Through Divine assistance, the Turks had totally defeated those who had wanted to destroy Islam and themselves. It was the beginning of a new era and exactly the time to marshal their forces to make the new Republic the means for bringing about a renaissance of Islam and Islamic civilization, and make it a centre and source of support for the Islamic world.31 But rather than this, in addition to an indifference towards religion, he found that atheistic ideas were being propagated. He described it like this:
“When I went to Ankara in 1922, the morale of the people of belief was extremely high as a result of the victory of the army of Islam over the Greeks. But I saw that an abominable current of atheism was treacherously trying to subvert, poison, and destroy their minds. ‘Oh God!’, I said. ‘This monster is going to harm the pillars of belief.’”32
That is to say, once the victory had been won, the old differences came to the fore once again. Up to the final victory it would have been considered traitorous of any Deputy in the Assembly to assume any position opposed to Islam, but once it was secured those who favoured Westernization and the abandoning of religion, began to show their true colours. Indeed, since its inception there had been various opposing groups in the National Assembly.
In the face of the laxity and “current of atheism” which he found, Bediuzzaman wrote a work in Arabic disproving atheism called Zeylü’l-Zeyl, and another called Hubab. He noted however that, “.... Alas, those who knew Arabic were few and those who considered it seriously were rare, also its argument was in an extremely concise and abbreviated form. As a result, the treatise did not have the effect it should have done, and sadly, the current of atheism both swelled and gained strength.”33 Bediuzzaman’s main concern in Ankara, however, was urging the Deputies to adhere to Islam and perform their religious duties at this crucial time. In regard to this he published a ten point circular which he had distributed to all the Deputies. It was read to Mustafa Kemal by Kazim Karabekir Pasha.34
The circular, dated 19 January 1923, stresses in particular the necessity of performing the prescribed prayers and is of some length, so rather than giving the whole text, we shall include a translation of the last part. Firstly, Bediuzzaman is pointing out here the harm to the nation if their leaders and representatives do not perform their religious duties, and says that in truth such people are not fit to govern:
“What excuse can be found for the neglect and giving up of the religious obligations, which causes harm to matters of both religion and the world? How can patriotism permit it? Especially these mujahidin commanders and this Grand Assembly, for they are held as examples. The nation will either imitate their faults or criticize them, and both are harmful. That is to say, their religious duties concern the rights of all. True and serious work cannot be seen from those who, comprising the meaning of consensus and agreement, do not heed innumerable warnings and indications, and accept delusions arising from the sophistry of the soul and the whisperings of Satan. The foundation stones of this mighty revolution have to be firm...”
Bediuzzaman then states that due to the power invested in it by the nation, the Assembly now represents the Sultanate. It has also to represent the Caliphate, but to do this it has to both fulfil its religious obligations and see that they are fulfilled by the nation, and answer the nation’s religious needs. If it does not do these things, out of need, the nation will compel it to “give meaning” to the “name” of the Caliphate, which in effect it had undertaken as mentioned above, and will also invest the Assembly with the power to carry out the Caliphate’s functions. However, Bediuzzaman says, if due to its members’ negligence and laxity in performing their religious obligations the Assembly does not have the ability to do this, it will give rise to discord and disunion, which is contrary to the verse, And hold fast all together to the Rope of God.35
Bediuzzaman goes on to make a point which is fundamental to his ideas and that has been mentioned in several places in the present work so far. This is that the modern age is the ‘mass’ age or age of the community or social group. Communities give rise to ‘collective personalities’ or ‘spirits’. In the case of government or authority, in this complex modern age, they can only function adequately by means of ‘collective personalities’ of this sort. He mentions this here in regard to the Caliphate.
“The present is the time of community. The collective personality of a community, which is its spirit, is firmer and more capable of carrying out the ordinances of the Shari’a. The person of the Caliph can only undertake his duties through relying on [such a collective personality]. If a collective personality, the spirit of a community, is righteous, it is more brilliant and perfect [than that of an individual]. But if it is bad, it is exceedingly bad. Both the goodness and badness of an individual are limited, but those of a community are unlimited. Do not spoil the goodness you have gained in the face of external [enemies] through internal badness. You know that your perpetual enemies and opposites and foes are destroying the practices and marks of Islam. Therefore, your essential duty is to revive and preserve them. Otherwise, unconsciously you will be helping the conscious enemy. Contempt for the practices and marks of Islam shows weakness of nationhood, and as for weakness, it does not arrest the enemy, it encourages him.
“God is enough for us, and how excellent a Guardian is He.”36, 37
This exhortation of Bediuzzaman’s had a considerable effect; it added around sixty to the number of Deputies who performed the prayer regularly and the room used as a mosque had to be changed for larger one. However, it drew an unfavourable reaction from the President of the Assembly, Mustafa Kemal Pasha. One day in the presence of a large number of Deputies in the Assembly, he shouted angrily at Bediuzzaman:
“We are in need of heroic Hojas like you. We called you here in order to benefit from your elevated ideas, but you came here and immediately started writing things about the prayers, and have caused differences amongst us.” Bediuzzaman countered this with a few words, then himself in anger, he jabbed his fingers and said:
“Pasha! Pasha! After belief, the most elevated truth in Islam is the obligatory prayers. Those who do not perform the prayers are traitors, and the opinions of traitors are to be rejected.”38
In saying these words to Mustafa Kemal, Bediuzzaman had, in his own words, “smashed an appalling idol”. Those present feared for him, certain that he would be made to suffer for his words. But Mustafa Kemal suppressed his anger and in effect apologized, for two days later he had a two hour meeting with Bediuzzaman in his office.
Just as with the Pashas in the court martial and Grand Duke Nicholas in Kosturma, Bediuzzaman did not bow before Mustafa Kemal. He took the opportunity to admonish him on the great harm to the nation, country, and Islamic world in attacking Islam and trying to eradicate its practices in the hope of gaining a reputation among their enemies. If a revolution had to be brought about, it had to be achieved through making the Qur'an the basis of it. He dwelt particularly on the great error of trying to find favour with the enemies of Islam and the Turks by attacking Islam in order to satisfy ambition and the desire for fame and position. Mustafa Kemal apparently took no offence at Bediuzzaman for these words which “wounded all his sensibilities and principles”,39 on the contrary, he tried to placate him and win him over so as to take advantage of his influence. He offered Bediuzzaman Shaykh Sanusi’s post as ‘General Preacher’ in the Eastern Provinces with a salary of 300 liras, a deputyship in the Assembly, and a post equivalent to that he had held in the Darü’l-Hikmeti’l-Islamiye, together with various perks such as a residence.40 Bediuzzaman did not accept, and before examining the reasons, it may also be mentioned that Mustafa Kemal was also one of the 163 deputies who endorsed the allotting of 150,000 liras for Bediuzzaman’s Medresetü’z-Zehra.41
Throughout the time Bediuzzaman was in Ankara, he pursued the matter of founding this university in the East. There were three points in particular that he impressed on the Deputies in regard to it, many of whom were of the belief that the religious sciences should be dispensed with and that general education should be in the Western style and concentrate on the modern sciences. Firstly was the geographical location of the Eastern Provinces; since they were like a centre of the Islamic world, it was essential to teach the religious sciences together with modern science. Secondly, the fact that most of the prophets had appeared in the East and most of the great philosophers in the West showed that the East would only be aroused by religion; progress was dependent on religion. And thirdly was the most important point that religion and the teaching of it was the only way to maintain unity. If religion was not taken as the basis, the non-Turkish Muslims of the region “would not feel true brotherhood for the Turks”, and the need for co-operation and solidarity at that time was great. Of two hundred Deputies addressed on this question, 163 endorsed the decision to set aside 150,000 liras for the project.42
One reason Bediuzzaman gave for declining Mustafa Kemal’s offers was the change that had come about in himself. As he wrote: “Their conduct and the way they were going did not accord with my own feelings of old age.” And he quoted himself as telling them: “The New Said wants to work for the next world and cannot work with you, but he will not interfere with you either.”43
In another place he wrote: “So I was compelled to leave those most important posts. And saying that nothing can be gained from working with or responding to this person, I abandoned the world and politics and social life, and spent all of my time on the way of saving belief.”44
Bediuzzaman also understood that it would be followers of the Qur'an that would combat the opposing forces, and that they would be defeated not in the realm of politics, but with the “immaterial sword” of the Qur'an’s miraculousness. Thus, he refused to work together with the new leaders and left Ankara for Van, where he retired into a life of solitude.45
When leaving, Bediuzzaman was escorted to the station by a number of
Deputies and friends. Mustafa Kemal Pasha also, who at the time was living
by the station, joined the group. It is recorded that they had a conversation
about statues, and that on the Pasha asking Bediuzzaman his opinion on
them, Bediuzzaman replied sharply: “The Qur'an’s attacks are all at statues
and idols. The statues of Muslims are monuments like hospitals, schools,
orphanages, mosques, and roads.”46 The date on Bediuzzaman’s
ticket – the ticket which took the Old Said to the New Said – shows that
it was issued on 17/4/39; that is, 17 April 1923, which was the first day
of Ramazan, 1341.
1. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 212-213; Konyali, Ibrahim Hakki, in Sahiner, N. Aydinlar Konusuyor, 316.
2. See, Tunaya, T.Z. Türkiye’de Siyasal Partiler, ii, 186-229.
3. Qur'an, 5:54.
4. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 216, quoted from Mustafa Polat, Mülakat, 37.
5. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 214-216, quoted from Mustafa Polat, Mülakat, 31-34.
6. Tunaya, T.Z. Türkiye’de Siyasal Partiler, ii, 188, 214-215.
7. Mektûbat, 390.
8. Qur'an, 53:39.
9. Qur'an, 9:34.
10. Rumuz, in Asar-i Bedi’iye, 85.
11. Qur'an, 2:168.
12. Sualar, 385.
13. Sualar, 379.
14. See Chapter 8, note 15.
15. Tunaya, T.Z. Türkiye’de Siyasal Partiler, i, 29-30, 34-35.
16. – or, the idea of a British Protectorate. Hutuvat-i Sitte, in Asar-i Bedi’iye, 117-118.
17. Ishârât, in Asar-i Bedi’iye, 96-7.
18. Qur'an, 36:9.
19. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 218-219.
20. Sualar, 379.
21. Demiroglu, Tevfik, in Son Sahitler, i, 229-231.
22. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 189-190.
23. Sualar, 379.
24. Teymuroglu, Mehmet Süleyman, ‘Muhterem Said Nursi’nin Doldurdugu Bosluk,’ Hilal Dergisi, No.13, Subat 1969; see, Sahiner, Said Nursi, 239-240.
25.Tarihçe, 124; Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 239-40.
26. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 240-1.
27. Shaw and Shaw, History, ii, 362-4.
28. Lewis, B. Emergence, 259.
29. Danismend, iv, 470.
30. TBMM Zabit Ceridesi, Vol. XXIV, p. 457, as in Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 241.
31. Tarihçe, 129.
32. Lem’alar, 170; English translation, Nature, Cause or Effect? Istanbul 1989, 13-14.
33. Lem’alar, 170.
34. Tarihçe, 124.
35. Qur'an, 49:10.
36. Qur'an, 3:173.
37. Tarihçe, 125-7; Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 242-8; Hubab, in Mesnevi-i Nuriye, 92-3.
38. Tarihçe, 128.
39. Emirdag Lahikasi, i, 242.
40. Tarihçe, 131; Sualar, 301.
41. Emirdag Lahikasi, ii, 196.
42. Tarihçe, 128.
43. Ibid., 195.
44. Sualar, 300-1.
45. Tarihçe, 131.
46. Sahiner, N. Said Nursi, 250; Aktürk, Av. Hulusi Bitlisi, Defence Speech in Afyon Court, Müdâfaalar, 447.