Another Unıversıty Model:
Proposer of the Model: Bediuzzaman

Prof. Dr. Ahmet Battal,Translation: Dr. Faruk Soylu

Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was born in 1877 in a village nearby the Lake
of Van located in the Northern Mesopotamia, a land at the conversion of
different cultures. He died in 1960 in Sanliurfa, another city located in the
same lands.
Throughout his life he lived through two different periods of the Ottoman
Empire (absolute monarchy and constitutional monarchy) and the
succeeding three periods of the Turkish Republic (the founding period, the
Kemalist one-party period, and the democratic republic period).
Bediuzzaman received the education of the Quranic sciences and the
other religious sciences at the medrese (a traditional educational institution
at tertiary level) during his childhood and youth period, but he never
acted like an ordinary medrese student, as he also studied modern sciences
and the concerning available resources at the time. Even then he was able
to see the dead end of the education in terms of aims and method and attempted
to solve the problem.
Later he set up his own medrese in Van, a city in the Eastern Anatolia
and taught Quranic and Islamic sciences. His school was not a classic medrese.
He improved a new model of education and attempted to apply that
model at a larger scope with the help of the state.Unfortunately he couldn’t
succeed to carry out that project due to the break of the First World War.
He could not realize that project after the Turkish Republic was set up either,
because the state abolished the medreses and followed a strict secular
educational policy.
Bediuzzaman put forward theories concerning various problems of the
region where he was brought up, of the Ottoman State and of the Muslim
world. He wrote a collection of books what he called Risale-I Nur (the Booklets
of Light) and with which he explained and strengthened the bases
of belief and morality. He set up a school of belief and life and he educated
disciples who essentially aimed at thinking and living in a manner consistent
with the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace
be upon him). His followers continue to read and study his works and especially
to improve the ideas on his unique educational model.
Bediuzzaman’s theory on education: an education with multi-means
to one end
As a Muslim scholar, Bediuzzaman first of all studied and got influenced
from the Quran greatly. He believes that the Quran is a divine guiding
book giving satisfactory answers to the needs of all ages. Therefore consistent
with this belief, he improved new models and theories, one of which
is related to education.
Man asks various questions varying from the simplest ones to the most
complicated ones and wants answers for them. Education is a way of fulfilling
the need for knowing.
Man can become happy by solving puzzles and playing mind games on
the forms and differences of existing things. But these can never satisfy and
make man happy completely. Because mind and reasoning is not the only
source and addressee of the knowledge. Man does not only consist of mind.
Man has also conscience and the conscience becomes satisfied only
when it reaches the goal of its existence. Questions like “Why am I here?
Where did I come from? Where am I going to?” can be answered by man
only by means of conscience.
Man has also heart. Heart understands and rejoices through love. It becomes
depended to the one it loves and never wants to get separated from
the beloved one. Heart becomes an enemy of everything that would separate
it from the beloved. Death for someone who does not believe in the Hereafter
is a separator that can never be understood. For someone who finds
Allah as the eternal God, and believes in reaching the Heaven and Allah in
the Hereafter, separation from the beloved ones is ephemeral.
Therefore the knowledge that must be obtained through education and
science should not only satisfy the mind but must also appeal to the conscience
and the heart.
A University Appealing to Mind, Conscience, and Heart:
Universe is a book. No book can exist without an author. It is necessary
to read the book of universe in such a manner to see its author and aim.
Knowledge should answer “how” that is cause and effect as well as “why”
that is the aim. Otherwise a learner would not only contend with seeing the
material causes as “necessary” for the material effects, but also as “enough”
and would become a materialist.
Therefore education should not satisfy with a causal reading/analysis
but it should also serve to a teleological reading/analysis.
Mind gets its light from (is enlightened by) modern sciences like biology,
astronomy, etc. But reading only modern sciences is not enough to
read the universe in such a way to also show the purpose of the author. On
the contrary going deep in the material/concrete means getting superficial
in the meaning/abstract and even further may cause to deny the meaning
and spirit and give unhappiness.
The light of the conscience is religious sciences. But the book of the universe
can’t be read correctly only with religious sciences. Otherwise such a reading
would be superficial and piety would turn into dogmatism and fanaticism.
Therefore it is necessary to combine and reconcile religious sciences
withmodern sciences. It is necessary to study both sciences for the same
purpose and with the same point of view.
How can this be made possible?
In the traditional medrese education, both the scientific approach and
modern sciences were neglected, which made the medrese old-fashioned
and backward. That is why as alternative to medrese “western type” schools,
mekteps (schools) and darulfununs (universities) were set up. However these
schools excluded to a great extent the content of the religion if not its
name. Therefore these schools were in fact born as secular educational institutions.
For this reason, they were not embraced by the society and they
didn’t develop in the true direction.
Tekke too, the institutions aimed at training and satisfying the heart, lost
power under the influence of the duality and contradiction between traditional
medreses and modern schools.
Meanwhile in the West the “idea of university” and the “concept of science”
has completed its development and partially started to dominate the
world. However the secular viewpoint prevalent in the West in terms of the
purpose of science prevented the dissemination of this “idea of university”
and “concept of science” in the world, because the “scientific knowledge”
that enlightened the mind was inadequate in satisfying the conscience and
the heart. Because of this and other reasons, the idea of “university” began
to be questioned in the West.
Many Muslim intellectuals argued for taking as model the Western idea
of university in order to come over the dead-end concerning educational
system and scientific approach in the Muslim world. Bediuzzaman, on the
other hand, realized that adopting verbatim (exactly the same) the Western
idea of university and educational model would be a mistake, as it lacked a
true purpose and satisfactory means. Therefore he improved a new integrated
idea of university and a synthesized model of education, which makes
him a “school founder”.
The essence of Bediuzzaman’s proposal is this: to unify the triad of mektep,
medrese and tekke and to teach together and harmoniously in the educational
institutions the modern and religious sciences for the same purpose.
By combining the heart prevalent in the East and the mind dominant in
the West, Bediuzzaman aimed at making man happy and having a purpose.
Thus the East would meet its need for the knowledge and science from
the West and the West in return would fulfil its quest for the “huzur” (bliss/
peace/tranquility/joy) of the heart from the East.
In practical terms those coming from the East would bring together
their “religious bliss” and give it to the West; and those coming from the
West for religion and mysticism would bring together their “scientific approach”
and give it to the East. Thus both sides would share their possessions
and complete their lacking assets. In this way both wings of man would
combine and would fly man to perfection; the world would unite and become
“uni-versus” or “uni-versalis” and thus university would serve to find
the unique.
Instructional Material at Medresetuzzehra:
The Collection of Risale-I Nur
The Collection of Risale-I Nur is an exegesis (interpretation) of the
Quran, written between 1925 and 1950. It is quite different from the classical
exegeses of the Quran. It is not an exegesis “interpreting in a certain
sequence all the verses of the Quran” as used by scientists for reference. Bediuzzaman
as a scholar studying the modern sciences, in Risale-I Nur he
uses the scientific knowledge to prove that the Quran is the words of Allah
and also to demonstrate that the universe is a work created as well as a
book written by Allah.
The works of Risale-I Nur also contains Islamic views on social and political
issues, but their essential characteristic is disproving the opinions and
evidence of the materialist ideology. Because of this feature these works
were banned for a long time by the Kemalist regime, under the pretext that
they contained certain political texts. But this oppression couldnot prevent
the needing readers either to reach these books, or to translate them to major
languages spoken in the world.
Risale-I Nur in fact contains the outline of the instructional material
of Medresetuzzehra as planned by Bediuzzaman. Especially the nature of
the approach to the scientific knowledge which is required to serve “humanity”
and human beings’ “servitude to the Creator” has been explained with
examples. These instructional materials have been continuously improved
by Risale-I Nur readers through new works.
The main features of these materials are as follows:
– There are three faces of the world: The first face is a means of entertainment
and pleasure of the materialist (the mundane people) who assumes
this worldly life as the only life. This face is bad. The second face helps
us to recognize Allah with His names and attributes. This face can be read
by means of knowledge and leads man to Allah. The third face of the world
symbolizes the field of the Hereafter. Whatever man saws in this world, so
shall he reap in the Hereafter.
– Man is a guest in this world. A guest must think of his/her route
and destination and must not get attached to the guesthouse of the world.
This world despite all its adornment is like a dungeon for a man believing
in Allah and the Hereafter.
– If reading the world connects man to the Creator, then it is a true reading.
If science serves to this sort of reading then it helps to reach the goal.
– The result of an appropriate reading of the created is recognizing the
Creator properly.
– The result of recognizing the Creator properly is to love and admire
Him. The result of this love and admiration is worshipping and prostrating
in His presence.
Bediuzzaman’s proposal for the educational Medium: Medresetuzzehra
The educational medium where science is combined with religion is called
Medresetuzzehra by Bediuzzaman. The name, Medresetuzzehra, refers
to the famous Medreset al-Azhar or Jamiat al-Azhar (the Azhar University)
in Egypt. In Arabic azhar is masculine and zehra is feminine and prolific.
Therefore medresetuzzehra is productive, reproductive and procreative.
First of all medresetuzzehra is multilingual, multicultural and has many
agencies. It aims at awakening the Middle East and re-making it the centre
of the world and then expanding all over the world and uniting it around
“the One.”
Furthermore, medresetuzzehra has a multiple method educational model
and renders formal and non-formal forms of education.
Medresetuzzehra is “very beneficial.”
It provides man knowledge and education; expertise and diploma; morals,
bliss, happiness, comfort and peace.
Medresetuzzehra teaches democracy and freedom to society. Since true
freedom is a characteristic and a result of believing in the Creator, it saves
man from the slavery of the self/soul, the society and the state. It makes
man sincere. Democracy too transforms all sorts of social structures into
voluntary organizational structures that are able to have true relationships
with each other.
Bediuzzaman was able to put into practice not the Medresetuzzehra itself
but its prototype. He promoted the establishment of civil and voluntary
locations (initially houses) where the works of Risale-I Nur were read
and discussed as guidebooks. Also the newspapers, journals, books and the
other publications considered as the interpretations of Risale-I Nur were
used as reference sources. These locations that were called Medrese-I Nuriye
can be considered as the nuclei of medresetuzzehra.