What kind of spiritual, human, and material devices, vehicles, or means did Fethullah Gülen use in order to make a local Turkish reality an international one?

Fethullah Gülen

In Fethullah Gülen thought, the religious element (namely faith) has always had a central place. Then is the concern to harmonize faith and worldly needs. This is the sphere of ethics, and it is proposed that a relationship could be established in which, starting from shared ethical principles, there could be more altruism, more understanding, and a sharing of grievances and difficulties. This is followed by the importance of solidarity. It is accepted that poverty and destitution can be transcended together, while welfare and productivity can be increased through cooperation. What kind of means is being utilized for that end? Fethullah Gülen presents the following one by one:

  • The pleasure of God and the hereafter, the belief in Paradise and Hell, the hope and fear of them.
  • Historical heritage.
  • Our standing as Turkish and Islamic world vis-à-vis the West.
  • Every kind of material means that skill and technology has produced and left at the disposal of humanity.

Although Fethullah Gülen mobilizes material and spiritual means in order for his movement to gain momentum, he foresees the possibility that the negative feelings and energy latent in his followers can be brought out. He proposes to use these energies for positive ends. According to him, under every envy, every inaccessibility, and every sense of failure lay a great energy to counterbalance this negativity. If this energy is activated in the right direction, opportunities lost can be recovered.

Tens of thousands of people from all over the world have known Turkey through this spirit of devotion become aware of the warmness of the Anatolian people and begun feeling sympathy towards Islam. Today thousands of people have been saying, “It is you who have introduced Islam to us and made us love it,” and sustain a feeling of gratefulness towards them. So what that means is that, the people who are filled with a sense of gratefulness, got tired of hate and grudge, became thirsty for friendship, and were yearning for the atmosphere of peace, they were waiting the extension of a hand towards them. It means that they had never seen the smiling face of Islam, they had never heard of the message of Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, with its inherent beauty. When the laborers of thought stood a little closer by saying “dialog, tolerance and acceptance of one as one is” and presented our own values with a little smile on their faces, they responded, “Here it is, we have found it.” They said if you had not come, we would have never known Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

There are incredible people among these heroes who went to the remotest parts of the world in order to light up a torch. Yes, they set out in order to establish the thrones of love in hearts, in order to let humanity hear the tunes they had never heard of and to awaken sympathy for our own values. It was imperative to bring out the real face of Islam, the smiling face with all its beauties. They roamed among the people from town to town, in 72 nations [implying the diversity], in order to bring those who want to, to the constellation of faith with the principles of love, tolerance, dialog, and acceptance of everyone as they are.

... As a matter of fact, the path of tolerance and dialog was not opened for the first time through the representative of this movement. The Prophet Muhammad had used this style against the pagans in Mecca. At Hudaybiya Peace Treaty, he had dealt with the matter with practicality, he had consolidated this with the constitution of Medina. For the first time our Prophet announced to the world that no matter what religion, what race and what nationality one belongs to, the rights of belief, life, travel, proprietorship, and initiative could not be touched. He had advised to coexist and to establish the bridges of coexistence and dialog. He had repeated the same truths with a slightly different style and tone in the Farewell Speech.[1]

Fethullah Gülen states that this tradition was continued later, with the exception of oppressive rulers and sovereigns who went to extremes and committed injustices; it continued also with the Rightly Guided Caliphs, Ayyubids, Seljukids, the Ottomans, and he stresses that the Gülen Movement is the continuation and extension of this same tradition.

Therefore both the basic foundational works and the historical experiences show that the path of dialog and tolerance has not started with us. It is the essence and the consequence of our past. Yes, the things done by those people who are only expositors of our religious precepts and our civilization are not something invented by way of fabrication produced by their particular traits and as a corollary of their own nature. Saying tolerance, extending the hand of love, shaking the hands, being respectful to the special situation of others, never interfering with anyone’s religion, all these do not derive from a specific, particular nature of anyone among them, or come into existence as a result of their moderate behavior or conduct, but rather they are rooted in firm and permanent sources. For that reason, this style is not temporary or transitory; it is something to continue in the future, a permanent and durable one, because the sources on which it is based are permanent and unchangeable.

When the matter is considered from this perspective, it would become evident that the people who say tolerance and dialog are in fact reiterating one more time what they heard in the Medina Constitution and therefore they are fulfilling their duty. Yes, entering into the hearts of others through such a path, to let them hear about God, to take the name of our Prophet to every corner of the world is an obligation on the shoulders of the Muslims. Therefore those people who act as voluntary cultural ambassadors in different parts of the world are also fulfilling this duty placed on their shoulders by the religion itself.[2]

It is possible to infer several conclusions, both spiritual and worldly, from what has just been mentioned:

  1. Spreading all over the world, to imparting a modern and quality education and to teach dialog, tolerance, and the culture of living is a duty found in the essence of religion (Islam).
  2. Fulfilling this duty is for the purpose of earning the pleasure of God on the part of a Muslim, by way of following in the footsteps of the Prophet; and therefore, it is considered an act of worship.
  3. By carrying to various countries the Turkish culture and understanding of Islam, in order to disprove the characterization of violence attributed to them such as intolerance and antidemocratic stand.
  4. After displaying that Turkey and the Turkish have a place and can contribute to the process of globalization, the desire to benefit from its blessings and letting others benefit also.
  5. To prepare the spiritual setting which will motivate and equip the members of the movement with the necessary skill and knowledge, in order to carry out the global mission.

[1] Fethullah Gülen 2010f, 196–199.
[2] Ibid., 201–202.