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In September 1919, Nursi had a “true dream” or sort of vision, which he subsequently recorded and included in Sünu\ha\t.1 He tells us there that he was at the time greatly distressed at the course of events and was “searching for a light in the dense darkness.” In his dream, Nursi was summoned by “a great assembly” made up of representatives of the leading figures of Islam from each century and called upon to give an account of the present state of Islam. Contrarily to what might be expected, Nursi’s reply pointed out positive aspects of the defeat, including the strengthening of Islamic brotherhood2 and the Ottomans being saved from being carried away to a greater extent by “the tyrannical current” of capitalism. Then, in order to show why Islam rejects modern Western civilization, which was epitomized by the ugly and exploitative capitalism and aggressive imperialism of the time, he made a comparison of the principles on which Western civilization and Islamic civilization are based and their results. This extremely interesting and original exposition was greeted with approval by the assembly in the dream, and one of the deputies declared: “Yes, be hopeful! The loudest and strongest voice in the coming upheavals and changes will be that of Islam!” The same comparison of Western and Islamic civilizations appears in different contexts in a number of Nursi’s works of the period. And from these and from other references to the same subject, we see in greater detail his views on the subject, and also the reasons for the optimism and hope for the future engendered by the dream. Nursi’s arguments will be seen in greater clarity if they are put in the wider context of the current debate, that centered on the opposing ideals of “East” and “West.”3 Briefly, following the Russian Revolution, there was a change in the meanings of these concepts, and the West began to stand for “imperialism” and the East for “that part of the world that was rising up against imperialism.”4 Both Turkists and Islamists were drawn to the Eastern ideal. According to Berkes, it became widely accepted that the West would “be defeated by the oppressed peoples of the East.” Istanbul and the Freedom and Accord Party had adopted “the West,” and according to their way of thinking, Ankara had opted for “the East” (in 1921).5 157 C H A P T E R 8 The Armistice Years (2): The Birth of the New Said, and Departure for Ankara As far as Nursi’s analysis was concerned, it should be noted that he frequently pointed out that just as modern civilization was not the product or property of Christianity, neither were decline and retrogression in keeping with Islam: “To consider civilization to be the property of Christianity, which it is not, and to show decline, which is the enemy of Islam, to be its friend, is to suggest that the firmament is revolving in the opposite direction.”6 As we have already seen, Islam enjoins progress and comprises all the necessities of civilization: “I declare with all my strength that there is nothing which is in reality good in civilization that is itself, or what is better than it, not guaranteed either explicitly or implicitly by Islam.”7 And in another work he wrote: “The things known as the virtues of civilization are each a transformed matter of the Sharê‘ah.”8 Further to this, Nursi pointed out that Islam had played a fundamental and significant role in the development of modern civilization: I cannot deny that there are numerous virtues in [modern] civilization, but they are neither the property of Christianity, nor the creation of Europe, nor the work of this century. Rather, they are common property. They are the product of the combined thought of mankind, the laws of the revealed religions , innate need, and in particular of the Islamic revolution brought about by the Sharê‘ah of Muhammad (PBUH).9 In another work he put it in even stronger terms: “The good things and great industrial progress to be seen in Western civilization are entirely reflected and derived from Islamic civilization, the guidance of the Qur’a\n, and the [other] revealed religions.”10 However, in the West, the evils of civilization had come to preponderate over its beneficial aspects. Nursi gave two reasons for this. The first was the permissive attitude of Western civilization toward “dissipation” and “the appetites of the...


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