Gülen: "Democracy Should Also Have a Metaphysical Dimension"

Radical Islamists, as well as some secularists, argue that Islam covers all aspects of life. For this reason, the Court of Constitution, for instance, claims that we (Turkey) cannot have a liberal secularity as in the West. For the very same reason, radical Islamists are against secularism, demanding that Islam covers the State. What does Islam cover; what does it leave to the individuals, and to the mind?

Humanity has reached a high level of civilization; today the granting of the right of belief and the right to live in accordance with one's belief is of great importance. Other attitudes might have been applied in the past, during a certain period, in order to establish the system; but today democracy has been adopted in Turkey. 10 years ago when someone said "Democracy is a process with no return," he was interrogated for this (Gülen refers to his speech in 1994 at the gathering for the opening of Journalists and Writers Foundation). Whereas now, everyone speaks of democracy in one way or another, so some solutions can be found within democracy.

What about the conflict of "Islam covering all of life"?

Such oppositions cannot be overcome because of the harsh attitudes that exist. Gentleness on one side will appease the other party as well. I think there is a concern that the EU process might be used as a means to live Islam fully. This gives birth to further tension.

How can a person who believes that the religion covers all of life manage to behave gently on certain issues?

Religion is life, and it survives as long as it is lived. For instance, the basic essentials of the religion, which we call muhkamat (the foundations), have a priority and no one can compromise them. Secondly, a Muslim should be allowed to observe the commandments of the Qur'an and Sunnah that are related to the life of the individual or the family in the way that they understand them; the extent of life should not be narrowed for them by limitations. On the other hand, those who are trying to live like a Muslim should exert a maximum effort not to confuse certain issues.

What sort of confusion?

Secondary things in the religion are being made to seem like primary essentials. For instance, daily prayers, and fasting during Ramadan are two of the foundations of the religion which are observed individually. Those who seem to be at extremes, who oppose secularism, need to look into their sensitivity in observing the individual and familial commandments of the religion. Can we really observe them at an ideal level? If we missed one of the daily prayers, or did not fast one day, then we must think first before we come up with other claims and we must be ashamed before God. These are things that cannot be compromised. Those who neglect Islam's essentials, like the daily prayers, giving to charity, fasting during Ramadan, are in a serious deficit. Those who slander, or speak in the absence of others (giybat), even if they are writing in representation of Muslims, are in a great error. The Messenger of God says giybat is a greater sin than adultery; he says slander is unforgivable. If we are occupied with such errors, it would be disrespectful to the religion to argue about the wholeness of the religion. For the sake of God, let's complete our religion first in our personal lives, in the morality of our children, in our intellectual and spiritual life.

And then …?

Let's see what the outcome of our personal experience of a complete religion is. We have to save ourselves from the contradiction of being in conflict with others for an all-encompassing religion while we are lacking in the personal dimension of our religion and are committing major sins. This is our fault. After accomplishing this we can say, "Our conscience is not confident since we cannot fully observe this or that commandment of our religion. You must avoid basing your judgments on possibilities. Let's find a solution by staying within the limits of mercy."

Do you think such a solution can be found?

Democracy today has various manifestations: Christian democrats, social democrats, liberal democrats ... Why shouldn't there be a democracy which includes Islamic sensibilities and thoughts, a democracy that has its references from Islam? We are human beings and we have certain needs. We have a feeling of eternity; we do not want to vanish. I cannot be satisfied with anything but God and the eternal life He promised. If I were not to think that there is an eternal life after this one and if I were to know that I simply vanish when I die, I would permanently suffer from anxiety and depression. I am able to breathe because I have a feeling for eternity and a meeting with God again. A humane democracy should embrace me with all of my aspects and should be developed in such a way that these needs of mine are fulfilled.

You say that democracy should also have a metaphysical dimension ...

Humanity should be cared for in every way. If people are in need of metaphysics, then they should be provided with guidance, via education, on how to meet this need. No area should be left unattended; the school, the street, the place of worship, and the family should hold on to the hands of the people. In a developed democracy, in the same way that a secular person should be provided with peace in this world, another person who believes in the hereafter should also be given an opportunity to experience the hereafter. Whoever wants to live like the Companions should be given that chance. Democracy is also in a developing process. For instance, we (Turkey) became a democracy quite a long time ago, but the Copenhagen criteria made us aware of the dimensions of our deficiency. This process will develop into perfection in time. Europeans are still in a democratization process, and it is difficult to claim that they have attained a perfect level. I believe that one day circumstances will be formed in which we will fulfill all our needs, spiritual and intellectual, under the umbrella of democracy; I can see that we are heading in that direction. I believe the tension between the secularists and Islamists—I would like to say that I have never liked these terms—will be tempered. Educated people are supposed to save themselves from false fears that arise from suspicions and they need to be understanding toward each other.

Both sides ...?

Both sides.

In what ways does the religion need the State, and the State need the religion?

People need the protection and services of the State for suitable circumstances so that they can live their religion confidently and feel themselves at peace. The State, on the other hand, needs the invincible power of the religion to help individuals attain perfection, to put families and society in order, to guide the conscience and open the gates to the heart, thereby preventing many evils. The State has to be backed by this power, which is achieved through a quality education in the religion. Human beings are not creatures of this world only; there are many other-worldly features that we possess and it is not possible for us to earn the qualities we need by the secular approach; these are possible through the religion. When a child has lost a brother or a friend, what does a person who believes in God and the Hereafter say to the child; and what would the explanation of a non-believing person be? The comfort that is provided by religion can never be provided by any other law or order. This power of religion is something that we should benefit from. The most efficient way to protect youth from drugs, terror, Satanism, and many other false paths, is to educate them with belief in God and to let them know that one day they will be held accountable for everything they have done. It is obvious that law and order is in no way sufficient. Law and order should definitely be measures for deterrence, but education is more important than all else. The religion plays a significant role in education.

Many people think otherwise, that this is against laicité.

Yes, they do. But I will repeat again that the religion is very significant in education. Just at this point, I would like to state something that is indirectly related to this: General Kenan Evren has been criticized for obstructing democracy and for many other things. But he has done a very useful thing when elective religion courses were made compulsory. Thanks to this policy of his, many of the youth have learned their share of the religion. God knows best, but in my opinion this is such a great service that even if he does no other good deed, this one may suffice to save him in the Hereafter and he may be granted with Paradise.

Our statesmen should not ignore the importance of the religion in education. Otherwise, it would be very difficult to prevent crimes committed by drug addicts or muggers (translator's note: Turkey's agenda has recently been shaken by an outbreak in burglary, rapes, and other crimes committed by drug addicts, especially those addicted to glue-sniffing). Only the fear of God can stop them. There are also many ill, crippled, and old people who are about to die. Death appears right in front of their eyes every day. What else is there other than belief in the Hereafter that can relieve the anguish in their soul? By way of using this invincible power of the religion individuals can attain a spiritual level, and this will facilitate ensuring security and order. This does not mean that when the religion is taught there won't be any need for the law, order, justice, police, or courts. These will still be needed, but the number of people causing problems will be much less. I assume a majority would agree with me in this issue.