It is possible to summarize the historical background of the relationship between religion and science by starting from the 17th century, which is the beginning of “modern science”. It is important to understand to analyze the relationship between science and religion for obtaining a consistent perspective of the future.
Idea of geocentric and finite-closed cosmos which is developed in the Middle Ages through the Aristotelian system and its combination with the book-based religions such as Judaism, Christianity has been replaced with idea of heliocentric and infinite-open universe in the 17th century. Idea of organic, holistic, and therefore living, lively dynamic universe has turned into an idea of lifeless, static, mechanistic universe in which each element consists of its basic particles which is like a working mechanical clock.
The modern understanding has started to become part of common sense and reaching the masses in the 18th century has turned into a positivist dream in the 19th century. Remaining ideas from metaphysical fragments about the ancient understanding on universe are turned to be mechanicalized and the dream that human mind enlightened by “the light of the new science” will encompass all areas in the future, show overstepping of the modern man who has attempted to replace the Creator by himself.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, every attempt that the scientific effort made enthusiastically resulted in confusion and disappointment. In the macro area, the universe had a gigantic magnitude that could be calculated with millions of light years, exceeding one’s imagination. Furthermore, this gigantic structure was expanding. On the other hand, while the final basic building blocks of the matter were expected to be solved in the microscopic field, on the contrary, the subatomic world consisting of numerous sub-particles, and its complex structure and infinite depth left all kinds of experiment-observation and measurement tools helpless. Like the socialization of the 17th century scientific revolution in the 18th century, the 20th century scientific revolution will also become socialized in the 21st century that we are in and continues to take shape.
At this point, it should be remembered that the historical accumulation of Islamic thought, and the approach of Risale-i Nur, which is the last updated and renewed version of this accumulation, have an important potential to overcome these discussions. The approach of Risale-i Nur has a great importance in terms of putting the relationship between science and religion on a healthy basis, and making Islamic tradition of thought functional and renewable according to our time. The author of Risale-i Nur who recognized early on the serious dangers of “modern science” as non-religious universe and human understanding, criticizes the problems that must be cleaned in Islamic tradition of thought, while simultaneously trying to stand up to these attacks in a sharp and determined manner.
One of the most important methodical tools used by Risale-i Nur is the use of “proportions” and “representations” in the analysis of issues of concept pairs such as Allah-humankind, the universe-Qur’an, reason-revelation relations, which are difficult for the human mind to render. When this approach is applied to the relationship between science and religion, it has led us to a new and balanced conclusion that we cannot see. For example, it is possible to carry the analogy, which is frequently used in related places, to the relationship between science and religion while examining the relationship between human ego, which is also called as sense of self, and Divine Being, or the relationship between nature and divine will. According to this, like everything else in the cosmos, in the universe, science and its laws vary in terms of its nature and its results and it leads us to different directions when it is looked at from the point of “meaning indicating the Author” or the point of “self original meaning” (looking at the events through the way of formation).
Nowadays, the common practice in analyzing the relationship between science and religion in both the scientific and theological circles is the tendency of studying religion from the point of science and in this way attributing a meaning to it. Acceptances of the various scientific discoveries directly proving some verses or concerning some principles of faith are from this sentence. This general tendency, which appears like tempting at first glance and seems to support religious statements, takes the easy way out to explain religious and mystical propositions based on “the gaps left by science”, when it is looked from a different standpoint. For example, “black holes” in the macro field, such as “quarks” in the microscopic field or “the uncertainty principle” that cannot be solved by the current science, “metaphysical gaps”, which may not be solved theoretically, are sometimes interpreted as actual indicators of divine will in the physical world. However, explaining the divine will by reducing it to such metaphysical gaps has the risk of basing an absolute and infinite will on the basis of a categorically temporal and finite theory, apart from limiting the creative will of the being that has responsibility and purpose at every moment and at every level. As emphasized in the historical process, the concepts such as conflict of religion and science, or the reconciliation of religion and science, cannot be valid for heavenly and original pristine teachings. First of all, it should be emphasized that science and religion are not two choice points. Science is a tool that leads us to the divine. In a sense, it is the evidences and interpretations that help us understand the divine reality. For the adoption of a conflict or compromise, what the two sides say must be constant, fixed and precise. However, the facts revealed by the basic sciences are not fixed and immutable. Aside from the laws that operate in the universe, we see that the so-called “scientific truth” is relative. Christianity and Judaism, which are the two heavenly religions except Islamic religion, have been corrupted; they have been exposed to superstitions in time. It is not healthy to adopt an assumption that may apply to other religions in this respect and to transform it into a universal norm. In our country, Risale-i Nur has presented original approaches against populist science concerns and materialist expansionism based on false interpretations of religion that put pressure on education.
Likewise, it is possible in the concept of the universe revealed by Risale-i Nur that there may be similar or even overlapping parts of modern science with the vision of nature. But it should not be forgotten that Risale-i Nur shows the difference methodologically in the message from the beginning, and attributes a meaning to science and other mental inferences from the point of religion, instead of attributing a meaning to religion from the point of science. In doing so, it neither ignores science for the sake of religion nor does it leave religion to the mercy of science. On the contrary, Risale-i Nur makes us understand science and religious reality in the dimension of knowing Allah.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi’s approach to science and technology is important in this respect. Said Nursi believes that effectiveness of science will be gradually increased and that the future will be an information age, and he makes all his emphasis in this direction: “Of course, humankind will tend towards sciences and the basic sciences at the end of the world. They will take their all strength from science. Science will have provision and power.” Another issue is that some of the open-ended expressions in Qur’an and the hadiths, which are the main references of Islam, are perceived as in the text by some Muslims and that these interpretations conflict with the events and knowledge that are valid in the universe, and just because of that, it is not healthy to consider that the religion of Islam conflicts with science.
Science must be the Tool of Ingenuity
In Surah Adh-Dhariyat (verse 56), the Holy Qur’an explains the intention behind the creation of humankind with the following expression: “I created the jinn and humankind, only for them to worship Me”. This truth of the verse emphasized in different places is emphasized in many parts of Risale-i Nur. The part, which is explained as to “worship” in meaning, is interpreted as “recognizing the Creator of all beings and believing in Him and worshipping Him” in Risale-i Nur. In the following sentence, “knowledge of Allah” is explained as “to assent to His Being and unity in submission and perfect certainty”.
Every man keeps and should keep up the occupation of Prophet Adam, who is superior to the angels being the Caliphate, with the help of “Ta’leem al-Asma” (teaching of the names to Prophet Adam by Allah). Man, who has the life, the conscious, and also the responsibility, has to base on “Asma al-Husna” (The Most Beautiful Names of Allah) in science and has to work leaning on the divine names of Allah in order to prove his suitability to the high degree above all creatures. “All attainments and perfections, all learning, all progress, and all sciences, each have an elevated reality which is based on one of the Divine Names”. Otherwise, sciences would deviate from “Divine wisdom” and swamp into “misguidance of Nature” and become a “deficient shadow”.
Risale-i Nur tells us about Allah’s knowledge and power, and speaks about the descriptors that introduces the Lord. In this respect, it is seen that the descriptors are grouped under four main headings in Risale-i Nur:
At the very beginning, it describes Qur’an as a work of art of Allah and the interpretation of universe. A description and interpretation of the Holy Qur’an is Prophet Muhammad. The universe book is the realm of being. Humankind can best understand this great book under the guidance of the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet. While the Holy Qur’an describes the reality of the realm of beings, the Prophet appears as the finest teacher.
Risale-i Nur describes the universe as a large book or a great person. Every word of this book, even every letter, is created in such a miraculous way that an infinite power is needed to create the entire universe in order to create even the smallest of its particles.
The Holy Qur’an, while presenting the universe as the greatest, the most infinite evidence of the oneness of Allah, offers more attention to the evidences that every person can easily understand. The creator wanted to create on the basis of cause and effect relation that we can understand the universe so that we can recognize Him. The creator does not need causes to create effects; but we are in need of causes to understand how He created. Actually, this is a fact of the world of test. Risale-i Nur adopts this method and this path as a guide to itself. Through the divine aspect described as “showing the manifestation of oneness within the assistance of unity”, it is described that all of the beings, from particles to stars, are the obvious evidence of the existence of the omnipotent Creator.
This profession that Risale-i Nur acquires directly from the Holy Qur’an is the shortest way towards the knowledge of Allah. Through this way, man neither gets drowned by dwelling on the causes nor does he ignore the universe. It says that there is a way that leads to Allah in everything and thus says that we can attain the knowledge of Allah. According to Risale-i Nur, the truth of each thing, in other words, the science is based on the names of Allah. Each of the arts is a mirror of Allah’s names. It is expressed that man’s effort to understand the universe should be for reading and understanding these names. Other approaches have no meaning. In this respect, especially the researches of scientists about the events and laws in the universe have not reached their main purpose, and have remained as half, incomplete and even distorted studies.
Bediüzzaman Said Nursi tried to overcome the negative perception about the relationship between science and religion, by saying “The light of the mind is modern sciences, and the light of the conscience is religious sciences. When they are separated, the former breeds superstition and the latter breeds corruption and skepticism”. Thus, he tried to develop a conception of science based on the oneness of Allah (tawhid), and saw the universe from this perspective. In other words, without discrimination between religion and science, he explained that both should be perceived as a whole and that the mystery of the realm of beings must be solved in this way.
The aim of science that we can accept as the common mind of humankind, which has reached to this day, should be to comprehend and read the book written by Allah in every being, through the discovery of the laws existing in the universe. The purpose of mentioning the miracles of the Prophets in the Holy Qur’an is to encourage scientists to make and demonstrate similar ones. Therefore, there will be no conflict between religion and science, on the contrary, “Islam is the ruler and the master of the sciences, and the chief and the father of real sciences”.
It is strongly needed that scientists make science speak instead of speaking for themselves. In revealing this language, scientists need to know that the number of scientific disciplines is increasing rapidly and that they cannot have a say in many areas. There is an absolute distinction between the subjective interpretation of the scientist and the science itself. Being aware of this fact, Said Nursi responds to a group of students who came to him in Kastamonu, asked him to introduce the Creator and told him that their teachers did not talk about Allah: “Every science you are studying is constantly talking about Allah and introducing the Creator with its own language. Listen to them, not the teachers”. It is needed to pay attention to calling as “its own language”. The universe, which is seen as a living animal by classical science and a huge machine by Newtonian physics, is described as a magnificent book by Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, and likening the universe to something like “an exhibition”, “a field”, “a guesthouse” and “a palace”, and “a book”, that is to say something to be read, is particularly descriptive of Risâle-i Nur’s profession and method. It is pointed out that the relationship between the Holy Qur’an which is “the book of Divine Speech” and the universe which is “the book of Might of Divine Will”, is important in Risale-i Nur.
The expressions of Qur’an, the book of the universe, about the beings which are evidence for the existence and the oneness of Allah in the universe, draw attention of the beings that are conscious of the facts indicated by the actions and works of Allah in the regular changes in the universe, and of His actions, His names, His adjectives, the truth of resurrection and other truth of faith. Again and again Qur’an orders humankind to put emphasis on these verses, and wants them to use their mind by encouraging them to contemplate and draw a lesson. In other words, the universe is a laboratory, the prophets are teacher, and the sacred books are in the form of lecture notes.
In the eyes of Said Nursi, nature or, in its broadest sense, the universe is not ordinary and spontaneous. According to him, nature is a “Book”. It should be read like reading a book. While reading the book in question, it is not meaningful to read and study without considering the author. It is such a way of reading that if man reaches Allah by reading Qur’an as a sent Book, he can also reach the book of nature by reading. In his words, the universe is a great book, and the Qur’an is its interpretation.
The divine laws that Allah has made for the universe, which is also called as “Divine laws of creation” are called as nature by humankind and they have brought the laws of nature into the forefront as the owner of the work. In fact, nature and the related events are nothing more than the divine sharia functioning in the universe.
By discovering the universal laws that exist everywhere and all the time, the sciences reaches the truth of “pointing to the benefits and fruits hanging in bunches from the links of the chains of beings, indicating too the instances of wisdom and advantages concealed in their changing states”. Law means a constant bond that is always fixed between two or more separate events. It rains, fire burns, and water extinguishes. Two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen combine to form water. An air launched object quickly falls to the ground. Because the Almighty has established a constant ratio between the mass of the stone and the mass of the earth. We call it the law of gravity. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi states that “Divine wisdom establishes the optimum order in things, necessitating the preservation of the general balance”.
With the abolition of physical barriers separating religious and scientific approaches from each other with sharp lines, a proper basis is formed for different and holistic insights. The method and understanding of the new science, which begins with new physics and is increasingly going to spread to all social sciences, has a rich potential to make sense of the relationship between Allah-universe-humankind relations in general and science-religion relation in particular. In this framework, Risale-i Nur with its original methodology, and the current analysis and new productions obtained from it, will have an important role in the evaluation of this potential.
There is a need for correct scientific understanding and interpretation (ingenious knowledge) as there is a need for correct Islamism and accuracy that is worthy of Islam. It is one of our great wishes to maintain similar intellectual and academic studies in order to consolidate this understanding in the minds.