Fethullah Gülen, 1998
27 April 1941 |
|Main interests||Mainstream Islamic thought, education, interfaith dialogue among the People of the Book, Sufism|
|Notable ideas||Service (hizmet); interfaith dialogue; civil society; peacebuilding through education|
Muhammed Fethullah Gülen (born 27 April 1941) is a Turkish writer, former imam  and preacher  and Islamic opinion leader. He is the founder of the Gülen movement. He currently lives in a self-imposed exile in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, USA.
Gülen teaches an Anatolian (Hanafi) version of Islam, deriving from Sunni Muslim scholar Bediüzzaman Said Nursi's teachings and modernizes them. Gülen has stated his belief in science, interfaith dialogue among the People of the Book, and multi-party democracy. He has initiated such dialogue with the Vatican and some Jewish organizations.
Gülen is actively involved in the societal debate concerning the future of the Turkish state, and Islam in the modern world. He has been described in the English-language media as "one of the world's most important Muslim figures." In the Turkish context Gülen appears relatively conservative and religiously observant.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Theology
- 3 Service to the common good
- 4 Views on contemporary issues
- 5 Publications
- 6 Reception
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Gülen was born in the village of Korucuk, near Erzurum. His father, Ramiz Gülen, was an imam. Gülen started primary education at his home village, but did not continue after his family moved, and instead focused on informal Islamic education. He gave his first sermon when he was 14. He was influenced by the ideas of Said Nursi and Maulana Jalaluddeen Rumi.
Comparing Gülen to leaders in the Nur movement, Hakan Yavuz said, "Gülen is more Turkish nationalist in his thinking. Also, he is somewhat more state-oriented, and is more concerned with market economics and neo-liberal economic policies."
- "Gülen put Nursi's ideas into practice when he was transferred to a mosque in Izmir in 1966. Izmir is a city where political Islam never took root. However, the business and professional middle class came to resent the constraints of a state bureaucracy under whose wings it had grown, and supported market-friendly policies, while preserving at least some elements of a conservative lifestyle. Such businessmen were largely pro-Western, because it was Western (mainly U.S.) influence, which had persuaded the government to allow free elections for the first time in 1950 and U.S. aid, which had primed the pump of economic growth."
Gülen retired from formal preaching duties in 1981. From 1988 to 1991 he gave a series of sermons in popular mosques of major cities. In 1994, he participated in the founding of "Journalists and Writers Foundation" and was given the title "Honorary President" by the foundation. He did not make any comment regarding the closures of the Welfare Party in 1998 or the Virtue Party in 2001. He has met some politicians like Tansu Çiller and Bülent Ecevit, but he avoids meeting with the leaders of Islamic political parties.
In 1999 Gülen emigrated to the United States for medical treatment, though arguably it was in anticipation of being tried over remarks (aired after his emigration to US) which seemed to favor an Islamic state. In June 1999, after Gulen had left Turkey video tapes were sent to some Turkish TV stations with recordings of Gulen saying, "the existing system is still in power. Our friends who have positions in legislative and administrative bodies should learn its details and be vigilant all the time so that they can transform it and be more fruitful on behalf of Islam in order to carry out a nationwide restoration. However, they should wait until the conditions become more favorable. In other words, they should not come out too early." Gülen complained that the remarks were taken out of context, and questions were raised about the authenticity of the tape, which he accused of having been "manipulated". Gülen was tried in absentia in 2000, and acquitted in 2008.
Gülen does not advocate a new theology but refers to classical authorities of theology and takes up their line of argument. His understanding of Islam tends to be conservative and mainstream. Though he has never been a member of a Sufi tarekat and does not see tarekat membership as a necessity for Muslims, he teaches that Sufism is the inner dimension of Islam and the inner and outer dimensions must never be separated.
His teachings differ in emphasis from those of other mainstream, moderate Islamic scholars in two respects, both based on his interpretations of particular verses of the Quran: (1) he teaches that the Muslim community has a duty of service (Turkish: hizmet) to the “common good” of the community and the nation and to Muslims and non-Muslims all over the world; and (2), the Muslim community is obliged to conduct interfaith dialogue with the "People of the Book" (Jews and Christians). Although this does not extend to other religions and atheists. In fact he appears to be intolerant of atheism, as in 2004 Gülen commented to the effect that terrorism was as despicable as atheism. In a follow-up interview he explained he did not intend to equate atheists and murderers; rather, he wanted to highlight the fact that according to Islam both were destined to suffer eternal punishment.
Service to the common good
The Gülen movement is a transnational civic society movement inspired by Gülen's teachings. His teachings about hizmet (altruistic service to the "common good") have attracted a large number of supporters in Turkey, Central Asia and increasingly in other parts of the world.
In his sermons Gulen has reportedly stated: "Studying physics, mathematics, and chemistry is worshipping God." Gulen's followers have built over 1,000 schools around the world. In Turkey Gulen's schools are considered among the best: expensive modern facilities, equal gender treatment and English taught from the first grade. However, former teachers from outside the Gülen community have called into question the treatment of women and girls in Gülen schools, reporting that female teachers were excluded from administrative responsibilities, allowed little autonomy, and - along with girls from the sixth grade and up - segregated from male colleagues and pupils during break and lunch periods.
Interfaith and intercultural dialogue
Gulen movement participants have founded a number of institutions across the world which promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue activities. While Gülen's earlier works are (in Bekim Agai's words) "full of anti-missionary and anti-Western passages", during the 1990s he began to advocate interreligious tolerance and dialogue. He personally met with leaders of other religions, including Pope John Paul II, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos, and Israeli Sephardic Head Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron. In the late 2000s, the movement also initiated dialogue with those of no faith. For example, the Dialogue Society in London, which is inspired by Gülen’s teaching, has more atheist and agnostic members of its Advisory Board than it has Muslims.[unreliable source?]
Similar to Said Nursi, Gülen favors cooperation between followers of different religions (this would also include different forms of Islam, such as Sunnism vs. Alevism in Turkey)[according to whom?] as well as religious and secular elements within society[according to whom?]. He has been described as "very critical of the regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia" due to their undemocratic, sharia-based systems of government.[unreliable source?]
Views on contemporary issues
Gülen has criticized laicism as a politics rooted in a philosophically reductionist materialism. But he has also argued that Islam and democracy are compatible and he encourages greater democracy within Turkey[by whom?]. He argues that a secular approach that is not anti-religious and allows for freedom of religion and belief is compatible with Islam.
According to Gulen in democratic-secular countries, ninety-five percent of Islamic principles are permissible and practically feasible, and there is no problem with them. The remaining five percent are not worth fighting for.
Turkey bid to join the EU
According to Aras and Caha, Gülen's views on women are "progressive" but "modern professional women in Turkey still find his ideas far from acceptable." Gülen says the coming of Islam saved women, who "were absolutely not confined to their home and...never oppressed" in the early years of the religion. He feels that western-style feminism, however, is "doomed to imbalance like all other reactionary movements...being full of hatred towards men."
However, Gülen's views are vulnerable to the charge of misogyny. As noted by Berna Turam, Gülen has argued: "the man is used to more demanding jobs . . . but a woman must be excluded during certain days during the month. After giving birth, she sometimes cannot be active for two months. She cannot take part in different segments of the society all the time. She cannot travel without her husband, father, or brother . . . the superiority of men compared to women cannot be denied." 
Gülen condemns any kind of terrorism. He warns against the phenomenon of arbitrary violence and aggression against civilians, that is terrorism, which has no place in Islam and which militates against its very foundational tenets of reverence for human life and for all of God's creation. Fethullah Gulen was the first Muslim Leader to openly condemn the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He wrote a condemnation article in the Washington Post on September 12, 2001, just the day after the attack, and stated that `A muslim can not be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true muslim`," Gülen lamented the deplorable hijacking of Islam by terrorists who claimed to be Muslims and acting out of religious conviction. He counseled that "One should seek Islam through its own sources and in its own representatives throughout history; not through the actions of a tiny minority that misrepresent it.
Gülen criticized the Turkish-led Gaza flotilla for trying to deliver aid without Israel's consent. He spoke of watching the news coverage of the deadly confrontation between Israeli commandos and multinational aid group members as its flotilla approached Israel's sea blockade of Gaza. "What I saw was not pretty," he said. "It was ugly." He continued his criticism. The "organizers' failure to seek accord with Israel before attempting to deliver aid "is a sign of defying authority, and will not lead to fruitful matters."
Syrian civil war
Gülen has authored over 60 books and many articles on a variety of topics: social, political and religious issues, art, science and sports, and recorded thousands of audio and video cassettes. He contributes to a number of journals and magazines owned by his followers. He writes the lead article for the Fountain, Yeni Ümit, Sızıntı, and Yağmur, Islamic and philosophical magazines. Several of his books have been translated into English (see: Books by Gülen Books on Gülen and the Gülen Movement and Conference papers on Gulen and the Movement).
- Erol Nazim Gulay, The Theological thought of Fethullah Gulen: Reconciling Science and Islam (St. Antony’s College Oxford University May 2007). p. 57
- Erol Nazim Gulay, The Theological thought of Fethullah Gulen: Reconciling Science and Islam (St. Antony’s College Oxford University May 2007). p. 56 (http://users.ox.ac.uk/~metheses/GulayThesis.pdf)
- Fethullah Gülen's Official Web Site - Gülen's Works
- Fethullah Gülen's Official Web Site - Fethullah Gülen in Short
- Williams, Paul L. "A visit to the Pennsylvania fortress of “The World’s most Dangerous Islamist”"
- Stakelbeck, Eric "The Gülen Movement: A New Islamic World Order?"
- Berlinski, Claire "Who Is Fethullah Gülen?"
- "How far they have travelled". The Economist. 6 March 2008. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
- Toward a Global Civilization of Love and Tolerance
- M. Hakan Yavuz, John L. Esposito, Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gülen Movement, p20
- An interview with Fethullah Gülen's primary school teacher
- The Gulen Movement: Communicating Modernization, Tolerance, and Dialogue in the Islamic World. The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 12, pp.67-78.
- "Gulen Inspires Muslims Worldwide". Forbes. 21 January 2008.
- The Journalists and Writers Foundation Official Web Site
- Clement M. Henry, Rodney Wilson, The politics of Islamic Finance, Edinburgh University Press (2004), p 236
- "U.S. charter schools tied to powerful Turkish imam". 60 Minutes. CBS News. May 13, 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
- "Turkish investigation into Islamic sect expanded". BBC News. 21 June 1999. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
- Clement M. Henry, Rodney Wilson, The politics of Islamic Finance, (Edinburgh University Press 2004), p. 236
- Gülen's answers to claims made based on the video tapes taken from some of his recorded speeches
- WorldWide Religious News-Gulen acquitted of trying to overthrow secular government
- Erol Nazim Gulay, The Theological thought of Fethullah Gulen: Reconciling Science and Islam (St. Antony’s College Oxford University May 2007). p. 1
- Robert W. Hefner, Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Schooling Islam: the culture and politics of modern Muslim education (Princeton University Press, 2007) p. 162-3.
- Portrait of Fethullah Gülen, A Modern Turkish-Islamic Reformist
- Thomas Michel S.J., Sufism and Modernity in the Thought of Fethullah Gülen, The Muslim World, Vol. 95 No. 3, July 2005, p.345-5
- Mehmet Kalyoncu, A Civilian Response to Ethno-Religious Conflict: The Gülen Movement in Southeast Turkey (Tughra Books, 2008), pp. 19-40
- Berna Turam, Between Islam and the State: The Politics of Engagement (Stanford University Press 2006) p. 61
- Saritoprak, Z. and Griffith, S. Fethullah Gülen and the 'People of the Book': A Voice from Turkey for Interfaith Dialogue, The Muslim World, Vol. 95 No. 3, July 2005, p.337-8
- Saritoprak, Z. and Griffith, S. Fethullah Gülen and the 'People of the Book': A Voice from Turkey for Interfaith Dialogue, The Muslim World, Vol. 95 No. 3, July 2005, p.337-8
- Fethullah Gülen and Atheist-Terrorist Comparison
- In Lester Kurtz's (of University of Texas, Austin) words, "One of the most striking operationalizations of Gulen's fusion of commitment and tolerance is the nature of the Gulen movement, as it is often called, which has established hundreds of schools in many countries as a consequence of his belief in the importance of knowledge, and example in the building of a better world. The schools are a form of service to humanity designed to promote learning in a broader sense and to avoid explicit Islamic propaganda." Kurtz also cites in the same work the comments of Thomas Michel, General Secretary of the Vatican Secretariat for Inter-religious Dialogue, after a visit to a school in Mindanao, Philippines, where the local people suffered from a civil war, as follows: "In a region where kidnapping is a frequent occurrence, along with guerrilla warfare, summary raids, arrests, disappearances and killings by military and para-military forces, the school is offering Muslim and Christian Filipino children, along with an educational standard of high quality, a more positive way of living and relating to each other." Kurtz adds: "The purpose of the schools movement, therefore, is to lay the foundations for a more humane, tolerant citizenry of the world where people are expected to cultivate their own faith perspectives and also promote the well being of others... It is significant to note that the movement has been so successful in offering high quality education in its schools, which recruit the children of elites and government officials, that it is beginning to lay the groundwork for high-level allies, especially in Central Asia, where they have focused much of their effort." See, Lester R. Kurtz, "Gulen's Paradox: Combining Commitment and Tolerance," Muslim World, Vol. 95, July 2005; 379-381.
- Spiegelman, Margaret. "What Scares Turkey's Women?". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
- Advocate of Dialogue: Fethullah Gülen
- European Muslims, Civility and Public Life Perspectives On and From the Gülen Movement
- Berna Turam, Between Islam and the State: The Politics of Engagement (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007), 125.
- Fethullah Gülen: A life dedicated to peace and humanity- True Muslims Cannot Be Terrorists
- Muslims Cannot Be Terrorists
-  Wall Street Journal, Joe Lauria, Reclusive Turkish Imam Criticizes Gaza Flotilla, June 4, 2010
- http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21578046-turkish-government-under-attack-home-its-assertive-policy-towards-syria-explosive Turkey and Syria: An explosive border
- "2008 top 100 public intellectual poll"
- "World’s 100 Most Influential People for 2013
- "The 500 Most Influential Muslims
- FORBES - Gulen Inspires Muslims Worldwide
- Interfaith Radio - Turkey's Champion of Interfaith Dialogue
- The Economist - Global Muslim networks- How far they have travelled
- The Economist- Fethullah Gulen- A farm boy on the world stage
- Reuters - Turkish Islamic preacher - threat or benefactor?
- The New York Times - Turkish Schools Offer Pakistan a Gentler Vision of Islam
- The New York Times: Fethullah Gulen profile
- Foreign Policy - Fethullah Gulen as a Top Public Intellectual
- Profile on PBS show: Religion and Ethics January 21, 2011
- The New Republic Magazine: The Global Imam
- Qantara.de: The Fethullah Gülen Movement: Pillar of Society or Threat to Democracy?
- MERIA: Fethullah Gülen and his Liberal "Turkish Islam" movement
- ME Forum: Turkish Islam's Moderate Face
- ME Forum: Fethullah Gülen's Grand Ambition: Turkey's Islamist Danger
- The Gülen Movement: a modern expression of Turkish Islam
- The Nurcu Movement in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
- Fethullah Gülen's official website
- Journalists and Writers Foundation where Gulen is founder and honorary chairman, and his **-* founding speeh
- The Gulen Institute
- Pacifica Institute
- Gulen from the Academic Perspective
- Gulen Movement News Portal offers most up to date news about Fethullah Gulen and Gulen (aka Hizmet) movement
- Gulen Movement Canada Fethullah Gulen Movement Canada website
- What is Gulen Movement?
- Conferences about Fethullah Gulen
- Gulen Articles
- The Gulen Movement
- Honorary President of Niagara Foundation
- Intercultural Dialogue Institute
|Sufism and Tariqa|