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

Lawyers, academics say ‘parallel state’ was invented to block graft probe

A total of 150 academics signed the manifesto, titled “Rule of law suspended.” The manifesto says the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government cannot ignore the corruption allegations just by making up claims of a “parallel state” — which has no meaning in political science or law — and placing the blame on the Hizmet movement, which is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, for its unlawful practices.

Turkish preacher isn’t running terrorist gang

Given the popularity of the Hizmet across the world and lack of evidence that Gülen is indeed linked to terrorism, I believe it will be unequivocally impossible to confirm that the movement is a “separatist terrorist organization,” as claimed by the Turkish president. Gülen always makes a broad social critique of violence, terrorism and racism, while promoting social justice, harmony and peace.

Former intel chief calls for use of ASALA, MOSSAD tactics to kill Gülen followers

İsmail Hakkı Pekin, a former intelligence chief of the Turkish General Staff, has suggested that Turkey make use of tactics it used against Armenian militant group, the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), and those employed by Israeli intelligence agency MOSSAD against Nazis in order to assassinate followers of the Gülen movement abroad.

Pak-Turk schools’ 17th anniversary

PESHAWAR Thursday, June 07, 2012 The Pak-Turk Schools and Colleges Chairman Unal Tosur said on Wednesday that education was an effective tool for socioeconomic development and prosperity of a nation. Speaking at a function in connection with the 17th Anniversary of the “Pak-Turk Educational Institutions,” he said quality education was considered a prerequisite for production […]

African Union president demands more Turkish schools

Being president of the Africa Union, which consist of 54 African countries, Esono said Africa can only solve its current problems through education and the demand for schools is increasing day by day, Turkish schools play an important role in meeting this demand, but more Turkish schools are needed. 18 December 2011 / AYTEN ÇİFTÇİ, […]

Turkish schools praised by Uganda’s education minister

Ugandan Education Minister Jessica Alupo commented on the success of Galaxy International Schools in Uganda during a recent trip to Turkey. Alupo stressed that the five Galaxy International Schools, which were opened by Turkish entrepreneurs and operate across Uganda with nearly 1,500 students, encourage pupils to grow as individuals.

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

Pak-Turk schools issue: Foundation moves court for fear of closure

Gulen-Inspired Schools Promote Learning and Service: A Response to Philadelphia Inquirer

Is Hizmet being subjected to genocide? (2)

The Ideal of Serving Mankind

Turkish consulate in Rotterdam seized passports of Gulen-supporters

The Armenian issue of 1915, Turkish politics and Israel

Romania denies extradition request for Turkish teacher over Gülen links

Copyright 2023 Hizmet News