Toward an Islamic enlightenment

Şahin Alpay
Şahin Alpay


Date posted: February 10, 2014

ŞAHİN ALPAY

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who has put forward an interpretation of Islam that advocates peace, democracy, secularism (in the sense of freedom of religion and conscience for all), science, education and a market economy, and who has supported interfaith dialogue and mutual understanding and respect for people of different ethnic and religious identities and lifestyles, has been the topic of much curiosity for native as well as foreign observers of Turkey.

The social movement he has inspired, which sponsors educational, media and business enterprises and which has built schools and universities in Turkey and in more than 120 countries has equally been a topic of curiosity.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the leader of the post-Islamist Justice and Development Party that has been in power in Turkey since 2002, and who — until very recently — spoke with great respect and admiration for Gülen and his movement, has begun to call Gülen a “false prophet,” “fake saint” and a “bogus scholar,” and the Gülen movement “a parallel state,” “a gang,” “an illegal organization” and “raving Hashashins.” He has accused the prosecutors and police who started the corruption investigation against bureaucrats, members of his government and businessmen close to him of having taken orders from Gülen. Interest in Gülen and his movement may be said to have grown exponentially.

Friends and colleagues abroad are often asking me what to read on Gülen and his movement — besides of course the columns I have written so far. Among the studies that have proliferated on the subject, I find the most notable to be those by M. Hakan Yavuz, a Turkish professor of political science at the University of Utah in the United States. He surely is the academic who has devoted most time and energy into research on this subject, and  published extensively on it. The critical views he has sometimes directed toward the Gülen movement perhaps add to the credibility of his approach.

Yavuz’s most recent book, “Toward an Islamic Enlightenment: The Gülen Movement” (Oxford University Press, 2013), is a book I find exceptionally worth reading since it provides a meticulous and comprehensive study on the background and evolution of Gülen’s ideas and the structure of the movement he has inspired. It is surely far from being the final word and is open to critical evaluation on many counts, but according to my understanding, it is the best study so far on the subject.

Its main argument, as indicated in the title and expounded on in the introductory section, is the following: There is no one, single Islam. The history of Islam, like other religions, is a history of different interpretations. Modernization and globalization processes have led mainly to two opposing interpretations. Fundamentalists reject modernization and insist on a “pure” kind of Islam based on the Quran and the sayings and practices of the Prophet. Modernists, on the other hand, have sought to free Islamic thought and practice from rigid and puritanical interpretation to meet the spiritual and temporal needs of Muslims in the contemporary world. Gülen, along with Fazlur Rahman, Alija Izetbegovic, Abdurrahman Wahid, Abdolkarim Soroush and Rachid al-Ghannouchi, belong to the latter school of thought. Enlightenment does not mean the rejection of religion; it essentially means using critical reasoning to understand society and the universe. Said Nursi (1878-1960) and Gülen are representatives of “Islamic enlightenment” who have interpreted Islam in light of reason and science to bring about reforms for the building of a more humane society.

A question posed often in Turkey and abroad about the Gülen movement is on its ultimate goal. This is Yavuz’s response: “This work has indicated that the movement is motivated neither by the desire to establish societal hegemony nor seize control of the Turkish state. Rather, it seeks to shape society and politics by developing and strengthening a sense of morality and virtue among believers and between communities, the state and humanity as a whole.” (p. 221)

The chapter in the book which discusses the criticisms raised against the Gülen movement by assertive secularists, Islamic fundamentalists, Kurdish nationalists and part of the Alevi religious minority render the book even more relevant.

Source: Todays Zaman , February 9, 2014


Related News

TV series shooting banned over controversial scene depicting the Prophet Muhammad

Controversy over a scene depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a TV series has prompted the Konya Governor’s Office to cancel permission to shoot in the Central Anatolian province.

Turkish school shows EU already chose Turkey

HASAN CÜCÜK, EMRE OĞUZ, COPENHAGEN State Minister and Chief EU Negotiator Egemen Bağış said, “We are trying to get into the EU, but as far as I can see thanks to this school the EU nations already prefer us.” The minister said every Turkish school opened abroad reflected the tolerance of Turkish culture. State Minister […]

Scapegoating: Turkish PM again blames Gülen movement for worsening economy

As the Turkish lira plunged even further on Friday, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım claimed the Gülen movement was responsible for the deterioration in the country’s economic outlook. According to Yıldırım, “separatists” and sympathizers of the Gülen movement are working hard to ruin the Turkish economy in the eyes of the world.

Lawyers highlight attempt to pin unsolved murders on Gülen

The decision by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to re-examine cases of unsolved murders that took place between 2000 and 2013 is an attempt to pin the murders on Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and the Hizmet movement, a grassroots civil society organization inspired by Gülen, the scholar’s lawyers have said.

Pakistan admits they secretly deported Turkish family wanted by Erdogan govt

The Pakistan government on Tuesday admitted before the Lahore High Court that it had secretly deported a Turkish family wanted by the Erdogan government, in violation of the court’s order.

Police officers become victims of torture in Turkey

The families of several Turkish police officers, rounded up as part of the crackdown on the Gulen community, have sought help from human rights activists in a rare example of willingness to speak out on torture allegations that have been rife since the coup attempt last year.

Latest News

Fethullah Gülen’s Condolence Message for South African Human Rights Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hizmet Movement Declares Core Values with Unified Voice

Ankara systematically tortures supporters of Gülen movement, Kurds, Turkey Tribunal rapporteurs say

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

In Case You Missed It

Erdoğan, Gülen among 10 Turkish figures in Foreign Policy 500 List

Editorial: Expulsion of Turk Teachers from Pakistan

Deporting Turkish teachers – Why can’t we separate politics from education?

9 Months imprisonment for hate crimes against Gülen Movement in Germany

Abant Platform: perspectives on Turkey

Gülen rejects labeling of Hizmet as ‘gang,’ calls it ‘traitorous’

Man gets prison sentence, fine after attack on Gülen-linked institutions in France

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News