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Turan Dursun (1934 – 4 September 1990) was first an Islamic scholar as an imam, and then a mufti in Turkey, before becoming an atheist during his study of the history of monotheistic religions. Dursun wrote a number of books about religion, which included original passages in Arabic and their translations and meanings in Turkish. He was an open critic of religion and was frequently threatened by fundamentalists.

He was eventually murdered outside his home in Istanbul. His writings and his library were destroyed and an Islamic book, not belonging to Dursun, was left on his bed.


Years as a mufti

After passing the necessary exams to become a mufti, Dursun was unable to officially become one as he did not have a primary school diploma. Dursun had to complete primary school exams without attending school and did so with understandable speed. He achieved mufti status in 1958.

Whilst the mufti of Sivas, Dursun began establishing himself as a mufti of a different kind. Using his position, he initiated a number of projects for the development of the area and its imams:

  • Organised for 50 tree plantations in the different villages of Sivas.
  • Forced plans for a mufti accommodation center to be changed for hospital to be built, with success.
  • Collected wheat from villages as aid for the hospital project.
  • Gave importance to the non-religious education of imams, through cinema and attendance of conferences.
  • Facilitated issue of school diplomas for imams through the Ministry of Education.
  • Agreed for imams to pay respects to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (the first time to be done so by Islamic clerics) in return for food packages to be supplied by the military during the imams' conference trips.
  • Put pressure on the mayor of Sivas for exhausting water supplies to be addressed.

Dursun gained a lot of followers and enemies at Sivas and was threatened on numerous occasions. He was exiled to the city of Sinop and stayed in what he called a "broken down shack". He received help from Ali Şarapçı, a teacher who was tormented and falsely labeled as communist, as Dursun was.

His mufti career ended in 1966.

First atheistic thoughts

In an interview with Şule Perinçek, Dursun recounts one of the first instances, where he began doubting the existence of God. During a time when he was in love at the age of 11, Sabo, the older sister of the girl he loved, called Safi, was disabled. Dursun felt sorry for Sabo and one night during his sleep he saw God in his dream. After making him swear that he will not get angry, Dursun asked God why he created this Earth if he also created heaven and asked why Sabo was disabled and Safi was beautiful.

In the same interview, Dursun states that he was "always questioning and rebellious towards the concept of God", but the transition to atheism was an "evolving" one. Dursun discovered what he called "Muhammed's passings on" when he began learning about the holy books that existed prior to the Koran. He states: "I did previously have knowledge of Judaism and Christianity, but through Islamic interpretations. I didn't know them from their own sources. I got to know their own sources in the 1960s."

Dursun began researching into Christianity when it was planned that he would be proudly introduced to the Pope as an intellectual mufti. To prepare for this meeting and to "be able to talk with him [the Pope] with more strength", Dursun studied Christianity but "instantly" realized the "con" as he compared his already vast knowledge of Islam with Christian information.

After coming to negative conclusions about religion, Dursun became "angry" that Mohammed took away valuable years of childhood and youth. He said: "So many people can't live their childhood properly because of him. So many people are sufferers of his disasters. So many people know what's right as wrong and what's wrong as right because they think the darkness that he chose exists. Human emotions and human creations haven't progressed in many ways, because of him."

Dursun was a theist for a short period of time before he became an atheist. First, he pronounced to himself that "if there is a God, he's not Mohammed's". He began carrying out random experiments to see if God existed or not during his mental battle with him. He began believing that humans evolved over millions of years and continued learning about anthropology. He states that his theist period lasted "two or three years".

Life as a producer and a writer

Following his resignation as a mufti, Dursun struggles to earn a living in Istanbul and even becomes a binman. The decision to quit as a mufti was a tough one, but Dursun stated that his principle was always "never to have a contradiction between what I thought and what I did".

Due to a number of friends he made as a thinking mufti, he was able to get a foot in at the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, (TRT), working firstly in basic administrative positions before taking and passing an exam to become involved in programme production.

Among his productions are, "Turks in history", "Mankind from the beginning" and "Towards the evening" (unofficially translated titles). There is also a production which has never been allowed to be broadcast, titled "Before and after the first Grand National Assembly". Dursun resigned from TRT in 1982, after 16 years of service.

In 1987, Dursun was introduced to Doğu Perinçek, a self-proclaimed socialist politician with heavy nationalist undertones, who was the editor of the magazine 2000'e Doğru (Towards 2000). Dursun contributed to the magazine with a column titled "Din Bilgisi" (Knowledge of religion). He also wrote for other publications such as Saçak, Teori and Yüzyıl. He wrote countless books in the 1980s, including a Turkish translation of Ibn Khaldun's Muqqadimah, collating his vast knowledge of Islam and languages of the Middle East, opening the religion to internal criticism through the mass media, perhaps for the first time in the religion's history.


  • The Encyclopedia of the Koran (14 volumes) (Kur'an Ansiklopedisi)
  • The Sources of the Holy Books (3 volumes) (Kutsal Kitapların Kaynakları)
  • This is Religion (4 volumes) (Din Bu)
  • Kulleteyn (An autobiography of his childhood)
  • This is Sharia (Şeriat Böyle)
  • Allah
  • Koran
  • Islam and the Nur Sectism (Müslumanlık ve Nurculuk)
  • Letters to İlhan Arsel (İlhan Arsel'e Mektuplar)
  • Letters to the Famous (Ünlülere Mektuplar)

See also


  • (Turkish) Turan Dursun website
  • (English) Turan Dursun website
  • Tabu Can Çekişiyor, Din Bu - Turan Dursun (Taboo is lingering,This is the religion)
  • Kutsal Kitapların Kaynakları - Turan Dursun (The origins of holy books)


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