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What is Fethullah Gülen’s view of the market economy? Where would he place the state and private enterprise in the economy?

by Doğu Ergil on . Posted in Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen Movement in 100 questions

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Fethullah Gülen

Fethullah Gülen, who notes that the answer to this question should be left to the specialists in the field, expresses that he has always attached great importance to private enterprise, and he explains how religion looks at this issue:

Islam is a religion which guarantees the bliss in both worlds to its adherents. With the condition of intention that every individual who has given heart to Islam, can make worth the reward of an act of worship every moment of personal, social, family lives. If the business life is arranged in the course of service, one can also make his entire life worth the reward of a life span.

Everywhere in the world and all the time the Muslims have to be wealthy and dominant force. This is necessary because today it is not possible for the Muslim to face the challenge in the world without having superiority, economically and scientifically.

God Almighty states in the Qur’an (An-Nisa, 4:141) that “… and never will God allow the unbelievers to find a way (to triumph) over the (true) believers.” He reminds the Muslims that He is not to appreciate to see the domination of the Muslims by the unbelievers, and with a sacred manner of style at that. Concluding from this, it could be said that whether individually or collectively, it is their responsibility not to be subject to the predomination of the unbelievers.[1]

Here we have to open a parenthesis. Fethullah Gülen views all the religions as divine phenomena and encourages his followers to approach all of them with respect and tolerance. Then, what does the word “unbeliever” (kafir) mean in this verse? By this word, does he mean the definition commonly used among the public, which can be rendered as “non-Muslim”? Since the word kafir means those who do not accept the existence of God, His unity, and the createdness of the universe, this could not be meant. Christianity and Judaism, like Islam, accept these fundamental principles. Then, in Fethullah Gülen’s understanding, kafir must mean the one without any faith or who denies God or all of these religions. In that case, how are the religions outside of these three viewed? This problem seems yet to be explained in the Gülen Systematization.

Returning to the subject of economy, Fethullah Gülen has a strong reaction to laziness, inertia, and backwardness, because he sees them as the reason for being subjugated:

If always others determine the economic life in the world and we sit still where we are, and if there is no effort to escape from this poverty and disgrace, it means we are constantly committing a sin. The state in which the believers get under the domination of the unbelievers and live a life of captivity is a truth the Qur’an informs us about. For this reason, in every field a faithful has to utilize the dynamics to be able to carry him to superiority, and he has to jump to highest levels. In this world everything is subject to knowledge and science. Sometime in the past, the futurist Toffler had said it. So, any society which could not get hold of the dynamics of knowledge against the ignorance, would be knocked out by the age in which it lives and the technical developments. Likewise a society which cannot take peace and alliances on its side to fight against divisiveness would be defeated by its contemporaries.[2]

Fethullah Gülen also calls our attention to multinational associations such as the European Union, the economic unions that Asian states have established among themselves or the association between North and South America. No nation can stay aloof to these formations and retain its influence:

Looking at it from another angle, a nation which does not search for means and ways to become wealthier against poverty is bound to be under the domination of another, sooner or later. A Muslim nation which came under such domination, for being under the domination of a non-believing nation would be responsible before God, also. Starting from this fundamental thinking, every believer to be sure remaining within the legitimate boundaries has to find a way to become rich by any means possible. If need be, the capitals should be put together domestically or abroad, the investments must be made in a feasible manner and in the fields open to competition.

Through the help of people, raised with positive sciences and disciplines of religious studies, in order to embrace the future centuries and to turn the tide of time in our favor, we should not forget the impact of economy in this area. For that purpose in mind, the economic power should be snatched away from those who hold it in their hands at the moment. God almighty states in the Qur’an: “We (recorded in the Supreme Preserved Tablet and then) wrote down in the Psalms after the Torah that My righteous servants will inherit the earth.” (Al-Anbiya 21:105). Therefore, for their ignorance and not knowing how to work coordinated activities, the believers lost their place in the balance of power in the world. Now, they have to take it back. For this reason, the believers have to search for the ways inside the country as well as outside, to discover the ways to get richer, and become wealthy. These people who are locked into hizmet for human beings, with everything they got, have to earn money and save and protect it, because this might be a means to earn rewards also from God. Sometimes blessings come under disguise, some seemingly non beneficial things might be a blessing and beneficial.

In that case, every activity with the intention of contributing to the development of this country, economically and educationally, to maintain the unity among us and the Muslim countries to take their places in the balance of power among the nations, every technological and economical enterprise is tantamount to an act of worship.[3]

In Turkey, there was a need for a doctrine to state that economic development and capital and investment transactions are not mechanical phenomena. These activities raise the level of individuals and societies, engendering respect and the admiration of other nations and, therefore, good and beneficial. After Fethullah Gülen vocalized this need to his fellow believers, the message travelled a long way and today the movement has a portfolio expressed in billions. This, in turn, increased the power and credit of Turkey and its citizens.

Here, another issue to be reminded of is that the professional establishments have solidarity through good and serious organization. Yes, every member of a profession should unite among themselves, should work in an organized fashion and with the permission of God should become a force not to be transcended, overwhelmed. However, of course we have no intention to rival anyone or compete with anyone. But it is extremely important for the people who love each other and each one of them to desire for the other to earn as much as he does, who share the same thoughts and ideals to come together in unity. As in Japan, in our country the young, mature, and old people can get together, can organize camps, and seminars, and discuss profoundly the matters relating to their businesses. As a result of all these discussions, they can be a support for each other in the economic enterprises they are going to undertake inside country and outside, instead of individual ventures they can erect a collective consciousness, and under its guidance, they can march to the zenith of their professions.[4]

[1] Fethullah Gülen 2007c, 43.
[2] Ibid., 44.
[3] Ibid., 44–45.;
[4] Ibid., 44–46.