The Defenses of Bediuzzaman Said Nursî


Bediuzzaman Said Nursî is an Islamic scholar who has been exposed to pressures, prosecutions and trials, rare in the history of law in the world, because of his ideas and works. Beginning with the Martial Law Court (Divan-ı Harb-i Örfi), in 1909, where he was tried on the charge of “You want-ed Sharia too!” and tried for the death penalty, he was constantly faced with various unjust accusations until the end of his life. And the attitude he dis-played in these trials are important both in terms of setting an example for those who render religious services and in terms of our country’s efforts to become a state of law and democratization.
The first of the trials in which Bediuzzaman Said Nursî was tried is the Court Martial, where he was brought on charges such as “asking for Sha-ria, taking part in the March 31 uprising, being a member of the Commit-tee of Union of Muhammadans”.
Shortly after he joined in the First World War as the commander of the Bitlis volunteers regiment and he was wounded and captured. His attitude in the court martial, where he was brought out because of the incident with the Russian General in the prison camp in Kostroma, is also an important defense style and stage that should be emphasized.
Bediuzzaman and his students were also accused of “establishing a secret society in order to adapt the basic regulations of the state to religious principles, being against the regime, being a cult, disrupting security and order, acting against secularism…” in Eskişehir, Denizli, Afyon and Istan-bul Courts. Arrested on April 27, 1935 and sent to Eskişehir Prison with more than 100 of his students, Bediuzzaman Said Nursî spent an import-ant part of his life either in prisons or in exile due to the court process-es and the close monitoring of the state. The number of cases in which his students were tried while he was alive and after his death has exceeded two thousand.
Although various monographs and research articles have been pub-lished about Bediuzzaman and her defenses in the courts, there are still many issues waiting to be clarified.
Here, the differences and claims of his defenses in the Court Martial (Divan-ı Harb-i Örfi) from the Republican period court defenses is a subject that needs to be studied.
A correct understanding of matters such as what attitude Bediuzzaman developed towards “the founding staff of the Republic who took a negative attitude towards the religious, legal and political institutions inherited from the Ottoman Empire, the elimination of established religious structures, the attempts to build a secular society in which religion is not visible, and the attempts to turn atheism into a state regime” and the way he followed to preserve the faith and the basic signs of religion depends on the understanding of the court processes he faced in this period.
In these defenses, how the basic emphasis on the democratic state of law was expressed by an Islamic scholar; how the ideas about the issues such as democracy, justice, rule of law, freedom, republic, secularism etc are voiced within the imagination of a society and state are also important in terms of today’s search for the state of law.
In terms of understanding the movement pioneered by Bediuzzaman; What policies did the founders develop towards Bediuzzaman and his ideas and how Bediuzzaman and his students responded to them, how the defense language and style of the Nur Disciples were formed, how the basic characteristics of Risale-i Nur Movement were mentioned in court proceedings and what differences this movement had from other Islamic structures in these respects are of great importance.
In general, it is an issue that needs to be clarified what kind of intentions and actors were behind the court phases, which were unprecedented in the history of world law. Why had Bediuzzaman Said Nursî been subjected to various accusations at all times and kept under constant pressure? Bediuzzaman’s defenses are extremely important in answering these questions and revealing the basic mentality of an era.
“What are the crimes attributed to Bediuzzaman Said Nursî, who spent his life in courtrooms; What and how did Bediuzzaman defend?”. The answers to these questions will contribute to both understanding the personality and case of a man with a cause and illuminating a period.
The emergence of the Risale-i Nur movement, its difference from the sects deemed illegal by the regime, and the question of how this modern structure was defended in the courts are also important in terms of understanding the new sociology of Turkey. In this way, the main reasons why the founders of the new regime kept Bediuzzaman under constant surveillance, which they saw as a threat, will be understood.
The fact that he always told the truth in the cases in which he was tried by the death penalty, emphasized a strong state of justice and the rule of law, and always kept the values he believed in the center was a feature that emerged in the courts as in every period of his life and this feature is worth studyind on. This is a feature that is also reflected in the defenses of Bediuzzaman’s students. From this point of view, the characteristics of the case defended is a situation that needs to be examined.
Again in this context; It should be examined together with their examples, historical background and personalities, “with what features did the Risale-i Nur become the subject of these courts, how the Risale-i Nur was defended, how the court processes worked in a logical structure, how the experts in the courts took place and how Bediuzzaman evaluated them, how he and his students benefited from the right to hire a lawyer and how
the basic features of the Risale-i Nur Movement were mentioned in these defenses”
One of the main features of Bediuzzaman’s defenses in the courts, which are of great importance in terms of our history of thought and law and universal law science, is that he makes a principled defense rather than a conjunctural one. Issues such as Bediuzzaman’s expression of fundamental rights and freedoms, especially religious freedoms, as a ground of legiti-macy, in the face of practices that restrict fundamental rights and freedoms, especially freedom of belief and his constantly reminding judges, prose-cutors and administrators of the basic principles of the rule of law are im-portant areas of study in terms of both the ideal of justice and positive legal values.
It is also interesting to see how the profile of an Islamic Scholar, who expresses his opinion on fundamental debates such as freedom, justice, equality, constitutionalism, and republic, and who produces solutions to the main problems of the Islamic world is reflected in his defenses and court decisions in the cases in which he is tried. The most striking thing in the courts is that Bediuzzaman never defended himself but always defended his case and his colleagues, drawing attention to the fundamental issues of the country and the Islamic world and presenting the Risale-i Nur as a solution proposal. Turning the court processes into an opportunity for the promotion of the Risale-i Nur, using the accused’s chair as a lecture chair against prosecutors and judges, seeing the prisons as “Madrasa-i Yusufiye” after unjust imprisonment decisions and seeing it as a ground for guid-ance activities, considering the correct understanding of the Risale-i Nur by prosecutors and judges more important than acquittal decisions are other noteworthy points.
In summary, the defenses as a whole present the personality of Bedüz-zaman Said Nursî, as well as all the features of his case, and give important messages about the ways and methods of seeking the rule of law.
In the light of these issues, we organized a desk study under the title of “The Defenses of Bediuzzaman Said Nursî” in Ankara in the past months. With this study, we aimed to encourage new academic activities in this direction and to open the issues we have mentioned for discussion. In this is-sue, we share some of the papers presented in our desk work with you. As we leave you alone with our magazine, we hope to be before you with the title of “Bediuzzaman Said Nursî’s Future Vision” in our next issue.