Fethullah Gulen


A modern Ottoman. A life dedicated to peace and humanity, Sufi cleric, author and theoretician reclusive Fethullah Gulen leads a global movement from his sick bed in self-exile just outside Philadelphia. Acknowledged as one of the world's most important figures - not only in his native Turkey, but also in a many parts of the globe, including Central Asia, Indonesia and Africa, Fethullah Gulen, one of the most potent forces in modern Islam, stands at the centre of his worldwide network. Known to his admirers as hocaefendi (or respected teacher) Gulen has a following of millions. His Hizmet ('service'), as its friends call it, has a global reach. His intensely emotional preaching and telling tearful sermons strike deep chord to his listeners. The movement he heads is remarkably pragmatic and businesslike. Its message is to embrace the Western world's opportunities, while still insisting on Islam's fundamentals. With his belief in science, inter-faith dialogue and multi-party democracy Fethullah promotes an open brand of Islamic thought. His is not a new interpretation of Islam - he believes that Islamic tenets as revealed in the Qur'an are unalterable - but he engages with modern concerns like running a successful business or how to pray while on a plane. He has also won praise from many non-Muslims. Gulen's more than 60 books, the tapes, videos and the websites, in 21 languages, of his talks, have inspired millions of people inside and outside Turkey. Many of his converts come from Turkey's aspirational middle class. To truly understand the Qur'an one needs to invest his heart and intellect, according to Gulen. And God, humanity and the natural world are all linked - a believer will love and respect humanity and the natural world as they would God. Science and technology are important to Gulen. There can be no conflict, according to Gulen, between reason and revelation, and that science should be used as a tool to understand the miracle of the Qur'an. His network in Turkey includes television, radio stations, websites, private hospitals, a university, a newspaper (Zaman) and a raft of small and large businesses and chain of dormitories for students. He publishes an English-language science magazine, the Fountain. Youngsters turn to the movement for accommodation and then agree to follow good Islamic practices. As a global force the Gulenists are especially active in fee-paying elite schools. They claim to have founded more than 1,000 affiliated schools in 100 countries. While Gulen's followers and a significant part of Turkish society respects him as a humanistic figure at the service of Islam, a large fraction of the society perceives him as a threat to the Turkey's secular ethos. Many Kemalists do not trust him, and see his support for the AK government as vindication of their stance that he is a Trojan horse for political Islam. Fethullah Gulen working in Izmir began gaining popularity and started to attract a community of followers in 1960s. He was arrested, in 1971, after a coup for allegedly leading an illegal religious community. He spent seven months in jail and after his release was barred briefly from public speaking. He has been living in the US since late 1990s. Fethullah Gulen was born in a village of Korucuk, east of Erzurum in Turkey. After a period of Islamic education he began work, in 1950, for the religious ministry as an imam until 1981.

Compiler: M. Nauman Khan

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