The Turkish “Great Teacher” – Fethullah Gülen and his Amazing Social Reforms

CBSAA visits Rumi's tomb in Konya
CBSAA visits Rumi's tomb in Konya


Date posted: October 27, 2012

The Anatolia Cultural & Dialog Centre in Hong Kong (ACDC) invited and hosted two delegations from HKU – Centre for Buddhist Studies Alumni Association (CBSAA) during July and August this summer. The ACDC is a non-governmental Turkish cultural organization that promotes cultural & interfaith dialogue exchange to promote understanding between different communities.

The Buddhist groups toured cities in Turkey, visited historical monuments, schools, media offices, charitable foundations, and private homes. The local Turkish hosts shared their hospitality, cultural heritage and Muslim practices of daily life in this secular modern society. Numerous discussions were shared throughout the travels, and reciprocally the Turkish people learned more about Buddhism and Chinese values.

Buddhists and Muslims both came away with new appreciation of common virtues, shared human kinship, and mutual desire for peaceful societies in the world today. Please enjoy reading one of the reflective essays on the experience in Turkey from the Buddhist perspective:

The Turkish “Great Teacher” ─ Fethullah Gülen and his Amazing Social Reforms

Elsa Lam

Hence, there is no doubt that a person who is armoured with love needs no other weapon. Indeed, love is strong enough to stop a bullet or even a canon [sic] ball.

– Fethullah Gülen, Love Towards Humankind (p. 6)

We all live in this world and we are passengers on the same ship. In this respect, there are many common points that can be discussed and shared with people from every segment of society.

– Fethullah Gülen, Understanding Fethullah Gülen (p. 22)

M. Fethullah Gülen was born in 1941 in Korucuk near Erzurum, in Turkey. He is a devout Muslim and Sufi teacher. He is also an important contemporary thinker, educator and poet.

Since the 1960s, besides preaching about the Islamic faith, Gülen has also been actively campaigning on behalf of understanding and tolerance. Strongly opposed to violence, his work has been a conduit of social cohesion and harmony for many different people. Since 1970, Gülen has been very active and he often advocates intercultural dialogue ─ through dialogue and communication people can reach understanding and tolerance. He has long been working on the pursuit of social reforms and continuous moral education. His ideas are spread through teaching, writing, and interviews, as well as through meeting different people, especially religious figures and politicians. His ideas have a wide impact on people all over the world.

Gülen’s ideas have attracted many followers who regard him as a spiritual leader and teacher. His followers have implemented his thoughts to help others with different practices, which has developed into a social movement called the very vibrant Hizmet (Service) Movement or the Gülen Movement.

The Gülen Movement

Gülen has inspired a worldwide network of members who came together to initiate the Gülen movement. All the members are voluntary and there has never been a leader or anyone in charge behind the scenes. This movement is based on the Islamic faith that also forms the backbone of the Gülen ideology. There are clear goals to do good altruistic deeds but there are no time limits, planning or targets. People can just work together because of shared values and they can contribute what they can best offer, and they can always withdraw from activities any time. The exact number of members of the Gülen Movement is not known but it is estimated that it varies from one million to eight million.

Although admired by millions of people, Gülen refuses to be the leader or the person in charge of any organization and he just wants to remain a spiritual teacher. He points out that the true essence of Islam, in addition to faith in Allah, is to cherish and spread to humanity goodness, kindness, forgiveness, honesty, generosity, the pursuit of inner peace and social harmony etc. And people should use “intercultural dialogues” to understand and accept each other’s social, ethnic and cultural differences, including differences of beliefs and practices. He advocates that people of different religions, from different countries and with different ideologies and cultures should use intercultural dialogues to seek consensus and mutual care. He believes that humans have more in common than differences, and that all should live in harmony and work together to pursue the ideals of mankind.

The Civil Society Movement to Promote Peace

In 1980, Turkey experienced political instability. The military took over the government and implemented martial law. As more stringent laws were passed, Gülen resigned from preaching. After the parliamentary elections in 1983, martial law was phased out and Gülen could resume his work. Although he was later arrested, Gülen was soon released and he was able to continue and once again actively promote “intercultural dialogue to spread compassion, peace, and the use of gradual social reforms to facilitate social construction.

Since 1990, Gulen has met with Turkish Prime Ministers, members of Congress, various religious groups, including religious leaders like Pope John Paul II, some minority religious representatives, as well as other thinkers, teachers, businessmen and professionals. Gülen has also repeatedly talked about different religious, social, educational, political issues through media interviews to promote his ideas. Because of his far-reaching impact, Gülen was named the “great teacher (Khodjaefendi). As he promotes the doctrine of Sufi Benevolence and Fraternity, he is also known as the modern-day Rumi. Gülen’s books about Rumi and Sufism are used by some universities as textbooks on the research of world ideologies.

The day after 9/11, Gülen immediately issued an open letter to publicly condemn any kinds of terrorism for whatever motivations. He accused terrorism of undermining world peace and destroying the reputation of Muslims, and that they were completely in violation of the Islamic beliefs.

The Multidimensional Construction of a Spiritual Society

In 1994, Gülen helped set up the Journalists and Writers Foundation and served as the Honorary President, which was aimed at promoting “intercultural dialogue” for people from all walks of life. It further established a platform known as the Abant Platform (1998) to organize in-depth discussions on political and cultural issues. Almost every year thereafter they have different topics of discussion.

Gülen has written more than sixty books and hundreds of articles. There are thousands of recordings of his speeches, which are well received by millions of domestic and foreign readers. Some of Gülen’s books have become bestsellers and have been translated into English, French, Arabic, Russian, German, Spanish, and Urdu, Bosnian, Albanian, Marathi, Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese, and more.

Education is a very important aspect of the Gülen movement and Gülen’s followers have built many middle and primary schools and universities. There are about three hundred schools in Turkey and thousands more overseas, including in southeastern Turkey, Central Asia, parts of Africa, East Asia and Eastern Europe. These schools are funded by private companies, philanthropists and parents, and the educational mission is to promote Muslim love and peace as well as to encourage sincere dialogues and exchanges between people. In war-torn areas such as southeastern Turkey and Afghanistan, these schools provide precious opportunities for students to continue studying.

The Gulen movement also inspired numerous media and organizations, such as the Zaman Newspaper, Samanyolu TV, and the international humanitarian organization Kimse Yok Mu.

Click this link to see pictures of the trip to Turkey.

Source: Buddhistdoor International Monday, 15 October 2012


Related News

3rd Dialogue & Peace Iftar Dinner

3rd Dialogue & Peace Iftar Dinner on 10th July, 2014 at Sheraton Hotel, Abuja emphasized the importance of dialogue and peace between different religion members and nations. During the program Dialogue and Peace Awards were given in various categories to the people who served for dialogue and peace recently in Nigeria.

Moderate Muslims Find Voice and Spotlight in Worldwide Gulen Movement

Jim Buie Those who’ve foolishly claimed on this blog that there’s “no such thing as a moderate Muslim” and expressed their Islamophobia should by now be fully aware of if not confronted by their own ignorance and bigotry. Did they notice that the very influential Turkish imam, thinker and writer Fetullah Gulen was quick to […]

Whistleblower reveals wiretapping conspiracy to libel Hizmet

According to the letter, a special team was established at the Prime Ministry late last year to conduct psychological warfare, including producing disinformation and false evidence to implicate the Hizmet movement in criminal activity.

Gülen-linked journalist association warns that movement’s support for gov’t can end

Erdoğan and his supporters have cast the corruption probe as a smear campaign devised by Gülen, who exercises broad, if covert, influence in the media and judiciary through his followers. In response, the government has staged an unprecedented purge of the police forces and has moved to increase its control over the judiciary. Yeşil said that all these allegations were unfounded.

Final Declaration of “Coexistence in Islamic Civilizations and Contemporary Reviews” Conference

In this century when “Alienation” has become a global and local syndrome of every society and the problems of “inability to coexist” have gained momentum, The Journalists and Writers Foundation Inter Cultural Dialogue Platform (IDP) and the Fatih University Civilizations Research and Application Center (CRAC) co-organized the “Coexistence in Islamic Civilization and Contemporary Reviews” International […]

Gursel Tekin: Gulen’s remarks on the third bridge are valuable

Hüseyin Keleş Republican People’s Party Deputy Chairman Gursel Tekin gave the daily Zaman noteworthy statements on Turkey’s heated agenda. Speaking of the controversies over naming the third bridge as “Yavuz Sultan Selim”, Tekin expressed his support for Fethullah Gulen’s remarks, saying, “Let’s not sacrifice all the bridges to build one. To me, we should not ruin the order […]

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

Mr. Gulen is trying to interpret the broad humanistic principles of the Qur’an for the modern world

Suspicious raid against Hizmet-affiliated highschool famous for its success

A Case Study In How Lobbyists For Turkish Government Manipulate The American Media on Gulen Issue

Kimse Yok Mu launches aid campaign for Gazans

IFJ representative denied permission to visit journalist Karaca in prison

Canadian Journal Interviews Erdogan’s Victims in Greece: Fleeing oppression in Turkey

Limits of political Islam: the other face of AKP (2)

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News