February 23, 2016

Fethullah Gulen: The real conquest is not the winning of territory but the atmosphere of peace

Fethullah Gulen, the prominent Muslim cleric, has urged people of all faiths to come together to address global conflict at the first-ever US Muslim-Catholic Dialogue Conference in San Diego, CA, which seeks to promote interfaith dialogue and mutual respect worldwide.

Gulen was not able to attend the US Muslim-Catholic Dialogue Conference due to his poor health. His speech was read by Zeki Saritoprak, professor of Islamic studies at John Carroll University.

Below is full text of Fethullah Gulen’s message:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Dear Dr. Anthony Cirelli,

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi,

Dr. Sayyid Syeed,

Dr. Khurshid Khan,

Dr. Moustafa al-Qazwini,

Most Rev. Robert McElroy,

Most Rev. Donald Hanchon,

Most Rev. Barry Knestout,

I thank you for your kind invitation to make the opening remarks for the American Muslim-Catholic Dialogue Conference held at the national level for the first time this year.

That exceptional leaders from the American Muslim and Catholic communities have formed such a dialogue venue is very meaningful for the advancement of peace and tranquility in our age. I congratulate every one who has contributed to this initiative.

My health condition unfortunately doesn’t allow me to be with you in person.

However, I would like for you all to know that this invitation is very meaningful and valuable to me.

Although it may seem that the series of unfortunate events humanity has endured in recent years validate those who predicted dark scenarios in the so-called clash of civilizations framework, I have personally always been hopeful for the future of humanity.

In the shared perspective expressed in the Holy Quran and the sources of divine religions grounded in revelation, humans by nature seek the good and the beautiful.

I thoroughly believe that humankind will be attracted to the atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect, and will embrace each other. Hope is an expression of trust in God’s grace. Desperation, on the other hand, is the primary obstacle before any progress and leaves individuals crippled, unable to tap into their potential.

The Earth has never been free of those who propagate fear, hate, and enmity for various motives. Today, unfortunately, we observe examples of these individuals and groups in both the East and the West. However, undeniably, humans are tired of wars, violent conflicts, bloodshed, atrocities, and they are thirsty for universal dialogue and peace. Our globalizing world presents a historically unprecedented ground for developing affinity, integration, and mutual acceptance.

Although hostilities and conflicts in history have essentially been driven by a clash of worldly interests, sometimes nationality, class, and religion have been used as means in order to rally the masses to a certain side. In reality however, the fundamental vision of all religions that have been embraced by a significant segment of humanity, in particular, religions based on revelation, are societies whose individuals attain internal tranquility, and a world of universal peace that such societies constitute.

In the Holy Quran, eeman (faith) and amal-i-saalih (righteous deeds) are always mentioned in tandem. Amal-i Salih is the name of deeds accepted by Allah. Sulh (peace) and salih (righteous) are two words from the same root; Salih means that which leads to Sulh (or peace), and is guided by the pursuit of peace. Therefore, Islam, a religion of unity, demands his adherents to be on the path to universal peace and tranquility.

It is clear that in an atmosphere of conflict, peace cannot be served by simply opposing and reacting to the agendas of others. In this regard, at a time where core values of human civilization are cherished at least as a vision, humans, who are civilized by nature of their creation, can solve their issues only through communication facilitated by dialogue venues.

The vast majority of the world’s population adheres to Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. In the 21st century, therefore, it is an inevitable conclusion that the universal peace will depend on the dialogue among the adherents of these religions and traditions. I have stated that initiatives for dialogue are long overdue on the occasion of our meeting with his Excellency the late Pope John Paul II in 1998.

14 centuries ago, the Holy Quran called for dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians, the latter two it referred to as Ahl-Al Kitaab, or people of the book. However, in the intervening centuries periods of conflict outnumbered periods of peace due to the conditions of those times. Now, however, the following centuries should be defined by mutual respect, love, and coalescence.

By the use of the term “people of the book” the Quran is addressing not only Jews and Christians but also all individuals in contemporary society pursuing knowledge and enlightenment through reading and writing. As Bediuzzaman Said Nursi pointed out, it can be said that the people of learning and enlightenment are also invited to dialogue.

Again, the Holy Quran refers to the Hudaybiya peace treaty signed by the Muslims of Medina with the polytheist Meccans as a “conquest” as opposed to the surrender of Mecca two years later. The real conquest is not the winning of territory but the atmosphere of peace when weapons are set aside and people enter a period of peaceful co-existence and dialogue. With the Hudaybiya peace treaty, the doors to fighting were closed, and the doors to hearts were opened, and the grounds were laid for the breaking of false prejudices.

When the ideas that the Prophet Muhammad, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him, expressed in the treaty of Medina and in his farewell sermon are evaluated within their historic socio-political context, the type of civilization Islam enjoins for its adherents becomes clearer. We regard the idea of upholding the dignity of every human being, and accepting them in their respective positions as the pillars of this civilization.

The initiatives for dialogue among adherents of all world religious, especially between Muslims and Christians, taken with this consciousness are steps towards a common human civilization where peace and tranquility will reign.

If humanity’s adventure so far is any measure, it would be unrealistic to expect all conflicts on the Earth to cease anytime soon. However, it is also not wishful thinking to expect that relations among various communities around the world will become more humane, driven by access to information, the reliance on reason and the increased first-hand knowledge of each other facilitated by dialogue in our increasingly shrinking world. At the least, it is possible to localize problems and to impede their spread. The issue facing us is what we will do intentionally out of a feeling of responsibility in this context.

The ground of dialogue that you established in order for adherents of different religions to better understand each other is the reflection of the attitude of lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness. However, this activity that you have persistently continued for 20 years is symbolically much beyond a candle and instead is praiseworthy as a lighthouse and beacon of hope.

Destruction is easy whereas construction and repair are difficult. At times, in the face of burning fires of war, atrocities, stirring of hostilities, and conflicts around the world, those working to serve peace through means such as dialogue may feel defeated and fall into pessimism. Amidst the waves of grave hostilities and conflicts humans face or partake in, one might question what our efforts may signify.

However, it should not be forgotten that there is a special value in setting a good example. Humans, who are naturally disposed to beauty, will sooner or later will take interest in these good examples, and eventually embrace them. One day they will say, “up until now we tried fighting and war, now let us give a chance to dialogue and mutual acceptance.”

There are many precedents in the history of humanity where small groups influence much larger groups with the help of the centrifugal force that they generate. In this regard, the steps taken in particular by widely respected leaders of religious thought, like your selves, are crucial.

Ever since humans have existed, the struggle between compassion, love and hope on the one hand, and fear, hate, and despair on the other has continued. Just as the essence of the messages of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, upon whom all be God’s peace and blessings, are compassion, love, and hope, their life stories are also embodiments of those essences. Our world today is in equal, and maybe even greater, need for this message.

I congratulate again those who organized and participated in this conference as a collaboration of Muslims and Christians who are representatives of this message today and share their belief in the importance of dialogue.

I pray God the All-Compassionate to deliver humanity to those days where peace and tranquility reign in all continents of the Earth and human beings warmly embrace each other. And I ask God to accept this conference as an active prayer toward the same end.


Fethullah Gulen

Published on http://www.gulenmovement.us/fethullah-gulen-the-real-conquest-is-not-the-winning-of-territory-but-the-atmosphere-of-peace.html, 23 February 2016, Tuesday