Fethullah Gülen’s prospects for inter-religious dialogue

Fethullah Gülen and Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron shaking hands during a visit aimed at developing inter-religious dialogue.
Fethullah Gülen and Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron shaking hands during a visit aimed at developing inter-religious dialogue.


Date posted: November 2, 2007

DOUGLAS PRATT*

Fethullah Gülen has emerged as one of the most persuasive and influential voices in the Muslim community calling for dialogue as a step toward peace.

Indeed, he offers “a way to live out Islamic values amidst the complex demands of modern societies and to engage in ongoing dialogue and cooperation with people of other religions.”

In what way does Gülen signal new perspectives and transitions for contemporary Islam in a world of manifest religious plurality? I suggest that, from Gülen, we may derive seven elements for a possible contemporary Islamic paradigm for inter-religious relations and dialogue.

1. Distinction of values: primary and secondary

Indeed, it is clear that for Gülen, primary values such as “peace, love, forgiveness, and tolerance are fundamental to Islam,” whereas values such as jihad are regarded as a secondary matter. Keeping these categories of primary and secondary value distinguished and in proper perspective is critical, for as Gülen avers, “failure to establish a proper balance between what is primary and what is secondary leads others to conclude that Islam advocates malice and hatred in the soul, whereas true Muslims are full of love and affection for all creation.”

2. Intentionality: a principal perspective

Intentionality is also an important element of Islamic thought and a key to Gülen’s perspective: “In every task undertaken, there should be a certain meaning, sincerity should be sought, and reason and good judgment should be the priority.” Gülen remarks that the “Prophet of God said: ‘Deeds are judged by intentions,’ and he emphasized that the intention of the believer is more important than the act itself.” Intentionality is applied naturally to the sphere of interfaith engagement.

3. Tolerance: an inherent element

Gülen argues that: “Society has to uphold tolerance. If we don’t announce jihad for anything else, we should announce it for tolerance.” Tolerance — together with forgiveness — is a virtue enjoined throughout the Quran such that, in the contemporary context of today, Gülen is quite clear: Muslims are to “behave with tolerance and forbearance” in the interfaith arena. In his critique of certain Muslim propensities he asserts that “the method of those who act with enmity and hatred, who view everyone else with anger, and who blacken others as infidels is non-Islamic, for Islam is a religion of love and tolerance.”

4. Dialogue: an expression of a divinely inspired love

Gülen arguably regards interfaith dialogue as an expression of a divinely-inspired love, for the primary theological verity that binds together all peoples of the Book — Jews, Christians and Muslims especially — is the belief in God as Creator. The act of creation is not that of arbitrary whim but intentional love of the Creator for the creature. Gülen is himself succinct and to the point: “Those who seek to build the happy world of the future on foundations of spiritual and moral values should arrive first at the altar of belief, then ascend to the pulpit of love, and only then preach their message of belief and love to others”. The complementarity of tolerance and love as being not just human virtues but in reality indicators of primary values which the Creator imbued the creation underscores an essential oneness of human existence that itself suggests dialogue is the right and proper mode of interaction.

5. Reconciliation: the essence of religion

The motif of religion as a force for and of reconciliation is very strong with Gülen. Indeed, love, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness are at the heart of all religions. It is thus of the nature of religion to promote the values and virtues that engender reconciliation. Specifically, for Islam, the Quran itself enjoins reconciliation with the wider religious context of the Peoples of the Book, a view that Gülen derives directly from Sura al-Baqara.

6. Hermeneutical authority for dialogue

Gülen recognizes the need to read the Quran carefully and intelligently when it comes, for example, to the issue of specific relations with Jews and Christians. Some expressions in the Quran regarding Christianity and Judaism are indeed very sharp and rather negative, even hostile in some cases. At best there seems to be a measure of revelatory paradox. But such paradox may be the effect of taking things out of context, or at least not taking context sufficiently into account. As Gülen himself remarks, it was not Christianity or Judaism that was the subject of condemnation but rather “the Quran goes after wrong behavior, incorrect thought, and resistance to the truth, creation of hostility, and non-commendable characteristics.” Rather than counting against dialogue, a careful and correct contextual reading of the Quran would seem to be advocated by Gülen. In this way a proper interpretive Muslim authority for dialogue may be discerned.

7. Ijtihad: the struggle for dialogue

The final element in a possible Islamic paradigm for inter-religious dialogue and relations has to do with the notion of ijtihad as meaning a proper intellectual and spiritual struggle. Gülen believes that there is a need for ijtihad in our age. He argues that Islam is a dynamic and universal religion that covers all time and space and renews itself in real life situations; it changes from one context to another and ijtihad is a major tool in enabling this. The essence of Gülen’s paradigm is nothing less than the application of ijtihad to the question and challenge of Muslim interfaith relations. Hence, “tolerance of others and genuine interfaith dialogue are not simply a pleasant ideal that will be fulfilled in some future paradise, but …[are]… at the core of what it is to be Muslim in the here and now.” Indeed, Gülen argues that dialogue is demanded by the very nature of religion as such.

Gülen certainly offers “Muslims a way to live out Islamic values amidst the complex demands of modern societies and to engage in ongoing dialogue and cooperation with people of other religions.” Dialogue with Gülen and the movement that bears his name is an avenue wherein the non-Muslim can join with Muslims in the greater journey of the dialogical quest.

* Associate Professor Douglas Pratt is the chair of the department of philosophy and religious studies at the University of Waikato, New Zealand.

Source: Today's Zaman , November 1, 2007


Related News

Assassination plot against Fethullah Gülen

According to a new book, the Turkish Revenge Brigade planned an assassination against Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen during the days surrounding the Feb. 28, 1997 military coup, when Gülen was closely followed by the West Study Group (BÇG), which was established by the Turkish Armed Forces to carry on the fight against reactionaryism and kept records of the ideological and religious background of academics and universities during the Feb. 28 military intervention process.

Philip Clayton on Fethullah Gulen and Hizmet Movement

Dr. Philip Clayton is the Ingraham Professor of Theology at Claremont School of Theology. He received dual PhDs from Yale in philosophy and theology and held posts at Williams College and the California State University, as well as guest professorships at the University of Munich, the University of Cambridge, and Harvard University. He is a leading advocate for interreligious dialogue, comparative theologies, and the internationalization of the science-religion dialogue. He authored or edited 22 books.

Symposium concludes: Hizmet (Gulen) Movement Contributes to World Peace

Professors said that Hizmet is an anti-violence group that uses education and dialogue to achieve its goals. One of the highlights of the symposium was Dr. Martha Kirk’s presentation called Iraqi Women of Three Generations. There are 32 Hizmet schools in Iraq and she said these institutions teach Iraqi women self confidence.

Fethullah Gulen’s poetry in songs calls for Peace

A new song album of Fethullah Gulen’s English-translated poems has been released. The album titled “Rise up-Colors of Peace,” featuring poems by Gulen composed into songs, has been released jointly by Nil Production and Universal Music after two years of recording. According to Kaynak Publishing press release, 12 poems out of 50 that were previously translated […]

NPR interviews Stephen Kinzer on graft probe and Fethullah Gulen

A corruption scandal has forced Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reshuffle his cabinet, but he is rejecting calls for his resignation. Three of his ministers have resigned because of the scandal. The situation today is being called the biggest threat yet to Erdogan’s 11 years in office. Stephen Kinzer, visiting fellow at the Watson Institute at Brown University, joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to discuss the unfolding situation in Turkey.

Fethullah Gulen and Gulen Movement Has No Political Agenda, Says Expert

Leading academics from various countries discussed the role of movements in the Muslim world and the experiences of the Gulen Movement at Arab League headquarters in Cairo. The conference, jointly held by Cairo University’s economic and political science faculty, Academic Studies and the Internet Foundation from Turkey, and Hira magazine.

Latest News

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

Bulgaria, the state sentenced to compensate Turkish journalist

64-year-old bedridden woman in 17th month of her imprisonment on “terror” charges

An ‘impossible’ choice: Leave 5-year-old son in foster care or risk being tortured

‘Escape from Turkey’ recounts stories of post-coup crackdown victims fleeing Turkey

This notable Pocono resident has been living here in exile since 1999

Logistics companies seized over Gülen links sold in fast-track auction

In Case You Missed It

Full-Fledged Hate Speech By Erdoğan: Gülen Movement Became ‘Unthinking Slaves’

‘Democracy’s Challenge with Turkey’ debated in Abant Platform

Fethullah Gulen: Erdogan is not Fit to be President

Hizmet Movement NGOs from 80 nations share intercultural experiences at GYV meeting

Niagara Foundation’s Peace & Dialogue Awards – Michigan 2014

40,000 people reported to authorities for being Gülen followers since July 15

Nigeria Gives 7-Day Ultimatum to Turkish Government to Release Over 50 Nigerian Students Held in Detention

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News