Said Nursi on Secularism, Religious Rights, Ethics, and Education
Keywords:Said Nursi, secularism in Turkey, religious education, integration of knowledge, modermisation, religion and ethics, religious rights
This paper explores the views of Turkish scholar, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1877-1960), on the ideology of secularism and its impact on identity, ethics, and social stability. It mostly covers Nursi’s interpretation of Islam in a twentieth-century secular setting. Based on Nursi’s views, the paper suggests that, in the interests of establishing a secure and balanced world, faith commitments should be allowed to manage diversity and conflict, rather than a secular semi-agnostic approach. The paper also proposes that, to establish a healthy and virtuous society, collective and individual morality and identity should be constructed using religious values and principles. The paper discusses how Nursi advocated reconciling science and religion, establishing harmony between European civilisation and the truths of Islam. As the paper establishes, there was no enmity between any branch of science and faith for Nursi, who saw both as allies in the task of building human civilisation. But he did advocate rooting education and knowledge in the truths of revealed religion, with the scientific achievements of the age merely contributing to a correct understanding of those truths. This paper also demonstrates that Nursi was an advocate of a pluralist society where all citizens, regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds, would be respected, nurtured, and protected. At the same time, he questioned the potential of secularism to provide well-being and virtue for various stratums of society. Policy recommendations are given in the last part of the paper.
Al-Attas, Syed Muhammad Naqiub. Islam and Secularism. Kuala Lumpur: IBFIM, 2014.
Aydin, Necati. ‘Virtue vs. Decadence: The Struggle of Civilisations within the Global Village.’ In Globalisation, Ethics and Islam: The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, edited by Ian Markham and Ibrahim Ozdemir. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2005.
Basgoz, Ilhan, and Howards E. Wilson. Educational Problems in Turkey 1920-1940. Indiana: Indiana University Publications, 1968.
Berghout, A. ‘The Concept of Iman Tahqiqi as a Founding Element in the Process of Muslim Unity.’ Paper presented at Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: A Contemporary Approach to Realizing Muslim Unity. Kuala Lumpur, August 2005.
Freeman, Michael. ‘The Problem of Secularism in Human Rights Theory.’ Human Rights Quarterly 26, no. 2 (May, 2004).
Hood, Ralph W., Peter C. Hill and Bernard Spilka. The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach. New York: Guilford Press, 2009.
Ismail, Nik Ahmad Hisham and Mustafa Tekke. ‘The Relations between Islam and Secularism: The Impact on Social Behavior in Turkey.’ International Education Studies 9, no. 8 (2016).
Jarullah, Musa. Islam’ın Elifba’sı. Ankara: Se-Ba Ofset Ltd., 1997.
Keyman, Fuat. ‘Modernity, Secularism and Islam: The Case of Turkey.’ Theory, Culture and Society 24, no. 2 (2007).
Mardin, Şerif. Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey: The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. New York: State University of New York Press, 1989.
——————. ‘European Culture and the Development of Modern Turkey.’ In Turkey and the European Community, edited by A. Evinand, & G. Denton. Leske, Budrich: Opladen, 1990.
Markham, Ian. ‘Secular or Religious Foundations for Ethics: A Case Study of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi.’ In Globalisation, Ethics and Islam: The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, edited by Ian Markham and Ibrahim Ozdemir. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2005.
Michel, Tomas. ‘Grappling with Modern Civilization: Said Nursi’s Interpretive Key.’ Paper presented at International Symposium on Bringing Faith, Meaning and Peace to Life in a Multicultural World. Istanbul, 2004.
Morrison, Scott. Secularism Revised: Arab Islam, Religious Freedom, and Equidistance. Kuala Lumpur: The Other Press, 2013.
Nursi, Said. Emirdag Lahikasi [Emirdag Letters II, originally published 1944]. Istanbul: Sozler, 1993.
——————. Letters: 1928-1932. Translated by Ş. Vahide. Istanbul: Sözler Publications, 2001.
——————. The Damascus Sermon. Translated by Ş. Vahide. Istanbul: Sözler Publications, 2nd edn., 2002.
——————. The Flashes Collection. Translated by Ş. Vahide. Istanbul: Sözler Publications, 2004.
——————. The Words. Translated by Ş. Vahide. Istanbul: Sözler Publications, 2004.
Olson, E. A. ‘Muslim Identity and Secularism in Contemporary Turkey: The Headscarf Dispute.’ Anthropological Quarterly 58, no. 4 (1985): 161-71.
Perry, M. Western Civilisation: Ideas, Politics and Society, 4th edition. Toronto: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992.
Renzetti, C. M., and Daniel J. Curran. Living Sociology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1998.
Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.
——————. ‘The Meaning of Secularism.’ The Hedgehog Review 12, no. 3 (Fall 2010).
Vahide, Şükran. Islam in Modern Turkey: An Intellectual Biography of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. New York: State University of New York Press, 2005.