July 15, 2014

'Hizmet Movement is crucial in contemporary Islam'

Fikir Atlasi*, Episode 3 (Full text)

Prof. Amir Hussain
Prof. Dr. Amir Hussain
My name is Amir Hussain**.

I’m a professor at Loyola Marymount University, which is the Jesuit, the Catholic University in Los Angeles.

And I teach courses there about Islam.

I specialize in Islam, but I also teach courses on world religion and comparative theology and interfaith dialogue.

I think the Hizmet Movement is crucial in contemporary Islam.

I teach about contemporary Islam.

I am a Muslim, I am also a scholar of Islam.

And as I understand the Hizmet Movement, I’m not a part of the movement, but the movement means service, and for me, as a Muslim, this is crucial.

This is really the heart of what it means to be a Muslim, to do service to others.

In the Qur’an, of course, the fundamental principle for Muslims is tawhid, the oneness of God . Love God first.

The second principle; love your neighbor,

And how do you love your neighbor? Through service.

So, I think, the Hizmet Movement that Mr. Gulen has inspired is phenomenal.

It’s a way of saying to, not just to Muslims but to non-Muslims especially, here’s who we are, here’s what we need to do.

I mentioned that I teach at a Jesuit and a Catholic university.

The third line of our mission statement is “the service of faith and the promotion of justice”.

That’s exactly what Mr. Gulen is doing. That’s exactly what the Hizmet Movement is doing.

You know, “how do you serve your faith?”

Well, you do justice to people..

You work for the good in the world and that’s what the Hizmet Movement is doing.

I think the Hizmet Movement is perhaps the best face that Islam can have to say, “Here we are as Muslims.”

You know, you come out of a country like Turkey where people are religious. You come out of a country like America, and people are religious. In America, in Turkey, people are much more religious than they are, let’s say, in European countries where people may not believe in God or go to church or pray.. you know..

In America, we do that, whether we’re Christian, Muslim, or Jewish..

In Turkey, we do that. The dominant religion in Turkey happens to be Islam.

And so, here you’ve got this great movement that comes out of Islam in Turkey, to say, “how is it that we are to live our lives as Muslims?”

Well, first of all, we’re supposed to be good Muslims. We’re supposed to be observant, we’re supposed to be practicing.. we do all the things that make us Muslims.

But then, how do we go out in the world as Muslims, you know.

What are the things we’re required to do?

And we’re required to do service, we’re required to do justice.

And that’s really one of the key things about the Hizmet Movement, is that it provides a vehicle for people to do that.

The nice thing about it is that you have so many layers of things.

You’ve got the schools, you’ve got television, you’ve got newspapers …

So, it’s not that to be religious you have to be an imam and lead the prayers in the masjid. You can be a journalist, you can be a photographer, you can be a teacher… you can live your life as a good Muslim.

And to do that in service to others is really the idea, so, I think that’s where the Hizmet Movement is key: providing opportunities for people to serve other people.

I think there are a number of ways in which the Hizmet Movement can be considered unique.

The key for me, and I say that as someone who works on interfaith dialogue and interfaith solidarity, is the interfaith work the Hizmet Movement does.

That it’s not just about making Turkey better for Turkish people who happen to be Muslim, it’s about making the world better for people who may be Muslim or may not be Muslim.

So, I think, the key for me, the key contribution of the Hizmet Movement, what makes it unique is the emphasis on interfaith, the tremendous work that is being done there.

The second thing, as I said, would be the emphasis on education.

That there are so many movements that are revival movements, renewal movements in Islam, and they’re all great. What makes Hizmet unique is the focus on education and I say that, again, as someone who works in education, who teaches young people at the university level.

You know, you start at a much earlier age, not the university level where they’re already sort of shaped when they get to me, they’re already formed as adults..

The Hizmet Movement is working with them when they are smaller, and there’s nothing better that you can do.

There’s a very famous Muslim teacher who once said to me, “If the search for knowledge is incumbent upon all Muslims, then teaching is a religious act.” And I never thought about that, the real crucial act that teaching represents for us as Muslims.

So, that’s really key.

So, I think, those two things for me are the unique kinds of things. There are lots of organizations that do good work; I’m not saying Hizmet doesn’t do good work, of course Hizmet does good work. There are lots of organizations that do good work.

I think what sets it apart is the emphasis on interfaith and the emphasis on education.

I think the emphasis on education that Hizmet has is crucial, and, again, I’m biased when I say that.

I’m not a member of the Hizmet Movement, but I’m an educator. I’m someone who has spent his career working in schools, as a teacher. This is who I am, a teacher.

And so, I think teaching is crucial. I think teaching is important. This is what the Hizmet Movement does through schools.

Not just schools in Turkey, but schools around the world because the Muslim world is in desperate need of this, I mean, everyone is in desperate need of this.

No one is educated enough, no one says, “I’m smart enough, I don’t need to learn anything else”, you know.

All of us need to learn something.

And that’s really one of the key features because education is transformative.

My father worked in the assembly line at Ford Motor comp, my mother worked in the assembly line making fans. The fact that I’m a professor and my sister is an engineer is education.

You don’t have to work in the factories because that’s what your father did.

You’re able to go to school, you’re able to get an education, you’re able to work in very different kinds of ways.

And I see that, you know.

Kids whose parents may be gardeners—there’s nothing wrong with being a gardener—but if you want to run your own company, it’s very nice to be able to do that if your parents came from very modest means.

That for me is the real virtue of education; that it’s an equalizer.

It’s not that your father was wealthy and therefore you can go to school; it’s not that your father was a very important person therefore you can go to school.. Everyone should be able to go to school.

It doesn’t matter who your father is, doesn’t matter if your mother is poor, doesn’t matter if your mother is rich.. and I think that’s one key that the Hizmet Movement has done, is the school system.

You come in a society where, unfortunately, the public schools may not be very good. And what do you do? You provide an alternative to those public schools.

And in those schools, you teach people, but you teach people how to socialize, how to live with each other, you know..

Are they religious schools? No, not in the sense that the students are simply learning the Qur’an, hadith, and that’s all that they learn, but, of course, if they’re religious people, then they need to have that.

I come from a Catholic university, where it’s very clear that the Catholic religious tradition is what inspires education. But, the fact that I am welcome there as someone who not only is not Catholic, but is not Christian, who is a Muslim, I think that’s crucial.

And that’s the real key, you know, with the Hizmet schools is that you are able to change people through the education.

As Muslims, we’re commanded to do this. If you look at the 4th pillar, you’re fasting in Ramadan, if you look at th 3rd pillar, you’re giving zakat..

We have an obligation, the wealthy have an obligation to the poor. And so, as Muslims, we’re commanded by God to do this.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are Muslims who don’t follow that command, who want to succeed for themselves, and not to better their societies.

That’s one of the great things about the Hizmet movement, is the charitable work that it does to say, “No, we need to, as a society, work together.” So, it’s not just individuals, it’s individuals working together as a collective, giving their money. As Muslims, we’re required to give zakat; if we have wealth, we are required to give that.

How do we do that?

How do we take that money and actually make a difference in the world?

That’s one of the great things about the charitable work that the Hizmet is doing. It provides the opportunity.

I think the other thing that’s crucial here is that so many Muslims think that zakat is only for Muslims, that as Muslims you only have an obligation to help other Muslims.

No. Other people are created by God as well.

As Muslims, we don’t say that as Muslims we’re created by God and the Hindus, the Jews, the Buddhists, they’re not created by the same God. That’s ridiculous.

It’s the same God who creates us. It’s the same God that asks us to take care of our brothers and sisters, without asking whether they’re Muslim brothers and sisters.

So, that I think is one of the real key points about the charitable work that Hizmet does, that Hizmet is not limited to Muslims.

**Profile:Prof. Dr. Amir Hussain is a Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. His area of research is the study of Islam, specifically contemporary Muslim societies in North America.

*Produced by Spectra Media exclusively for Irmak TV, Atlas of Thoughts (Fikir Atlasi) connects the scholars, politicians, jurists, religious figures, journalists, and academics reflecting on Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen and the Hizmet Movement with the audience. Each episode features a person from a different segment of the society with diverse experiences regarding the Hizmet activities and its volunteers. If you are interested to hear about the Hizmet and Mr. Gulen from these people’s perspectives, do not miss this show!
Source: Fikir Atlasi (Episode 3), © Spectra Media, 27 March 2014, Thursday

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