|Prof. Dr. Zaman Stanizai|
I teach at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara.
And I am a political scientist and linguist by profession, and I also teach the Islamic traditions, primarily Sufism and tasawwuf in general.
I think the Muslim world was waiting for such a movement that would tap onto the core values of Islam as a tradition rather than Islam as a religion. The problem with most movements is that they wear their piety and religiosity on their sleeve.
And what the Hizmet Movement and Gulen’s movement in general does is that they act upon what matters rather than talking about what doesn’t really matter, in my opinion. “Talk is cheap,” as they say.
We are confessional Muslims for the most part, but when it comes to action, a lot of us hold back. That is a kind of a hypocrisy that could be part of someone’s character, but it could also be part of, a kind of a group identity, and by group I mean—in this case—Islamic identity.
The Hizmet Movement is doing the thing that matters and that is to serve humanity. The Prophet had said that “the best of you is those whose fruit of labor benefits other human beings”, and the fruit of labor is labor, it's service, it's not talk.
And I think, the Hizmet Movement personifies that, not just by the name itself that it serves humanity but also by action, and I think their greatest virtue is that service is not limited to any particular religious community. It is universal.
And if we claim Islam to be a universal religion, and if we claim that the Prophet was the last Prophet sent to humanity and there is no other, then, our focus, our field of operation must include all human beings.
And I think that is where Hizmet comes into the forefront as a pioneer, as a model, that has to be emulated by many other movements. That is the only way that I think it will make some difference in the life of this turmoiled world that we live in.
The Prophet had another sunnah, which most people have forgotten, and that sunnah, if I can define it in terms of our 21st century American life style, was the sunnah of the interfaith.
The prophet, in his short life as head of state in Medina during the period of roughly one decade was able to communicate with more than 13 heads of states. This was unprecedented for his time.
With the limitations on means of communication and all that but he was able to have an interfaith dialogue at the head of state, at the summit level. He also received missions from various religious communities on the Arabian Peninsula. That would make it an interfaith gathering at the tribal level; let’s put it that way…
But, more importantly his favorite activity was to meet with the non-Muslim community, heads, scholars, wise men and people of knowledge within Medina to come together on a regular basis and sit on a patio. And because of that the group that was getting together on this patio was called: Ashab-i Suffa.
So, that was nothing but an interfaith dialogue and interfaith discourse, where he exchanged ideas with them, learned from them, and taught them about Islam.
This is much more important as a Sunnah, not because the Prophet did it, but because we need it so badly in our times.
Most of the problems that we experience today in the East-West conflict and the South-North conflict, economic and political, they are due to the lack of communication.
And unfortunately, the Islamic movement, “Islamic Movements’’ throughout the “Muslim World” today, they are stuck on traditions that do not necessarily serve us much and we have ignored completely the greatest traditions that the Prophet exemplified, that if he came to us as mercy to the worlds as the Quran attests to that and the worlds is said in plural.
So, when it says “Alemin”, we could define Alemin at one level as “the various communities”, because each community has its own ALEM to itself.
And the Prophet was not sent only to one, but to all of them.
And for us, to be claiming to be Muslims and followers of the Sunnah of the Prophet, those are the models we have to emulate, those are the models we have to follow, because the greatest virtue and the greatest reward in it would be that which God has said, ‘You be kind to people amongst you, so God can be kind to you from high up’.
And whether we take this in literal sense or in essential ways, we have forgotten to be kind to our souls and to our various communities in our human family.
I think it is incumbent upon Muslims to have a dialogue with those with whom they differ.
I think education is where we have to invest. Because, like I said, not only is it the safest investment, but it is the only way out of the doldrums where we now, as the Muslim society—again in my opinion—is sinking into its own dark ages.
Europe was in the dark ages, it came out of it through education. Yes, they went to the Muslim lands through the various crusades.
The battles of the crusades may have been won or lost, but the battles that they won were those where they learned in what areas they were behind and how to catch up with the Muslim world.
I think we can do a role reversal in the 21st century by realizing that the Muslim world is behind because we do not have enough education.
The reason we, our “Islamic Movements” are so backward, so rigid, so xenophobic, so self-centered is because we don’t even know our own religious ways.
I give you the example of the Sunnahs of the Prophet; pretty much the same thing applies in respect to our understanding of the Qur’an.
In other words, we have to become educated. Through good education we can realize and recognize our own true Islamic virtue.
So, in order to become good Muslims, we must, we must go through education, and it has to be public, and it has to be universal, without any restrictions.
So, that is why if the Hizmet movement or the Gulen Movement, in general, is pursuing social reform through education, I don’t think there would be any sound mind to object to that.
**Profile: Prof. Dr. Zaman Stanizai is a Professor of Mythological Studies at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California. He also teaches Political Science at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He has written on political theory with emphasis on the viability of third world states encountering globalization, and on political identity.
*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!