obtained his diploma. He became famous for both his prodigious memory and his unbeaten record in debating with other religious scholars. Another characteristic Bediuzzaman displayed from an early age was an instinctive dissatisfaction with the existing education system, which when older he formulated into comprehensive proposals for its reform. The heart of these proposals was the bringing together and joint teaching of the traditional religious sciences and the modern sciences, together with the founding of a university in the Eastern Provinces of the Empire, the Medresetü’z-Zehra, where this and his other proposals would be put into practice. In 1907 his endeavours in this field took him to Istanbul and an audience with Sultan Abdulhamid. Although subsequently he twice received funds for the construction of his university, and its foundations were laid in 1913, it was never completed due to war and the vicissitudes of the times.
Contrary to the practice of religious scholars at that time, Bediuzzaman himself studied and mastered almost all the physical and mathematical sciences, and later studied philosophy, for he believed that it was only in this way that Islamic theology (kalām) could be renewed and successfully answer the attacks to which the Qur’an and Islam were then subject.
Bediuzzaman himself described an event in his youth which was decisive in giving him direction. It was learning of the explicit threats to the Qur’an made by the British Secretary for the Colonies. The Minister’s stated intention to descredit the Qur’an, since it was the only way the British could truly dominate the Muslim peoples and achieve their inauspicious ambitions aroused an overpowering reaction in Bediuzzaman. He vowed: “I shall prove and demonstrate to the world that the Qur’an is an undying, inextinguishable Sun!” From that time he strove to employ his superior knowledge of both the traditional religious and the modern sciences in the service of the Qur’an; to prove its miraculousness, defend it against the attacks which were largely in the name of science and progress, and relate its truths in the light of modern advances in knowledge. He sought to prove that contrary to the claims of its enemies, the Qur’an was the source of true progress and civilization, and in addition, since this was the case, Islam would dominate the future, despite its relative decline and regression at that time.
The years up to the end of the First World War were the final decades of the Ottoman Empire and were, in the words of Bediuzzaman, the period of the ‘Old Said.’ In addition to his endeavours in the field of learning, he served the Empire and Islam through active involvement in social life and the public domain. In the War, he commanded a militia