June 11, 2016

Interview with Fethullah Gulen in Kenya's Daily Nation

1. What is your mission statement? How can you explain your message to the people of the world?

I don't believe that I have a special mission. I am trying to be able to be a human being among other human beings. The honor God has granted us as "humanity" is sufficient for me.

God has created humanity of the best stature, on the best pattern of creation, and given it a comprehensive potential. We are here on the earth as a miracle of the Divine Power and creation's ultimate pinnacle.

We see that there are essential differences between us and the species of being just below us, namely the animals. The primary difference lies in the observable fact that animals are sent here as if taught and trained in another world. They begin walking as soon as they are born and quickly adapt to their surroundings, as if they knew them beforehand. However, a human being needs at least one year to learn how to walk and spends his/her whole life learning how to live and what is beneficial and harmful. This shows that learning is fundamental to human life and progress.

Humanity is a very complicated being. We resemble seeds, for each of us has the potential to engender and attain perfection. A seed is endowed by the Divine Power with great potential and is destined to put it into effect. If that seed abuses its potential to attract harmful substances, soon it will rot away in its narrow place. If it uses its potential properly, however, it will emerge from its narrow place and grow into a fruitful tree. In addition, its tiny and particular nature will come to represent a great and universal truth.

Our essence also is equipped by Power with great potential. If we use our potential and intellectual and spiritual faculties in this narrow world under the soil of worldly life only to satisfy the fancies of our carnal, evil-commanding selfhood, we will become corrupt, lile a rotten seed, for an insignificant pleasure during a short life. Thus we will depart from this world with a heavy spiritual burden on our unfortunate souls.

But if we germinate the seed of our potential under the "soil of spirituality" with the "water of belief and worship", and if we use our spiritual faculties for their true purposes, we will grow into eternal, majestic trees whose branches extend into eternity. We will yield fruits of virtue in the world and eternal happiness in the next world. We will be favored in Paradise with infinite perfections and countless blessings.

All this means that we have been sent to the world to be perfected through knowledge and belief. And due to our special position among other beings, we have been entrusted with improving the earth through knowledge and belief and establishing justice on it. This imposes on us duties toward our Creator and other beings. The Prophet Muhammad declares that the best in God's sight is one who believes in Him without associating any partners with Him and serves humanity. He also declares that the master of a community is one who serves them. So, like every human being, I feel myself entrusted with the same duties.

2. How can we use religion to promote democracy, understanding and human rights in the world?

3. In the face of all inequalities in the world today, how would you rate the role of religion in conflict resolution and social understanding?

Religion is not only used to promote democracy, understanding and human rights, but we can say that these values can also be guaranteed through religion.

God chose religion for humanity's individual and collective welfare in both worlds. It is based on belief in and worship of One God. Such belief and worship require all believers to be concerned deeply with all of creation, whether animate or inanimate. The deeper their belief in and submission to God, the deeper their concern for all creatures.

Religion, which is in fact, a contract between God and humanity all of whose conditions favor and benefit us, is based on submission to the Divine system to which all creatures, except humanity, have submitted. That is, the vast universe, including our own world, obeys a set of laws established by God and so displays a coherence and harmony. Unlike the rest of creation which obeys God willingly or unwillingly, we have free will. We have this gift of freedom and its accompanying obligation to harmonize our life with the rest of nature in the realization that such harmony is the path of our exaltation and progress. This is the path upon which God has created human nature:

God does not approve of wrongdoing and disorder, for He wills that we live in peace and according to justice. Thus all believers in and worshippers of God are expected to work to secure peace, brotherhood/sisterhood, and justice in this world.

In general terms, religion means for human social life the knowledge, discipline, and science of humanity's rights and obligations and of what is good and bad for humanity on the individual and collective levels. Thus the religious view of life consists of a set of rights and obligations by which the followers of religion are expected to live. Broadly speaking, religious law deals with our life in terms of our relationship with our Creator, ourselves (our rights upon ourselves), other people, and our natural environment (the rights of the resources that God has given to us for our benefit). As a result, regardless of to what extent they are observed in practical life by its followers, values that are generally accepted today like love, respect, tolerance, democracy, human rights, forgiveness, mercy, peace, brotherhood/sisterhood and freedom are all values exalted by religion.

Religion teaches that all people are as equal as the teeth of a comb. It does not discriminate based on race, color, age, nationality, or physical traits. Religion declares: "You are all from Adam, and Adam is from earth. So O servants of God, be brothers [and sisters]."

Religion also upholds the following fundamental principles:

• Power lies in truth, a repudiation of the common idea that truth relies upon power.

• Justice and the rule of law are essential.

• Freedom of belief and opinion, and rights to life, personal property, reproduction, and health (both mental and physical) cannot be violated.

• The privacy and immunity of individual life must be maintained.

• No one can be convicted of a crime without evidence, or accused and punished for someone else's crime - even this someone else be his or her closest relatives.

• People should co-operate for a peaceful co-existence.

Religion also teaches us that whoever kills a person unjustly is like one who has killed all humanity, and whoever saves a person's life is like one who has saved all humanity (Qur'an, 5:32). This is so because every individual represents the humankind and the rights of every individual are as much valued as the rights of all humanity. In addition, the murder of one person gives the idea that any person can be killed.

All rights are equally important, and an individual's right cannot be sacrificed for society's sake. Religion considers a society to be composed of conscious individuals equipped with free will and having responsibility toward both themselves and others. As religion holds individuals and societies responsible for their own fate, people must be responsible for governing themselves. The duties entrusted to modern democratic systems are those that religion refers to society.

The social life religion envisages seeks to form a virtuous society and thereby gain God's approval. It recognizes right, not force, as the foundation of social life. Hostility is unacceptable. Relationships must be based on belief, love, mutual respect, assistance, and understanding instead of conflict and realization of personal selfish interest. Right calls for unity, virtues bring mutual support and solidarity, and belief secures brotherhood and sisterhood. Encouraging the soul to attain perfection brings happiness in both worlds.

Religion also teaches that there are two cardinal causes of social turmoils in the world: the ideas or attitudes of "let everyone work so I can eat," and "I don't care if others die of hunger so long as I am full." Religion eliminates the first by banning all unjust dealings and transactions involved with bribery, oppression, usury, exploitation and cheating, and the second through prescribed alms-giving and charity, which serves as a bridge between a society's various economic levels.

Again, religion teaches that people are God's creatures and therefore no one enjoys any superiority coming from birth (race, family, and color, etc).

The rule of law is indispensable to a social order. No one is above the law or can transgress its limits. The law is to be enforced without discrimination, and courts are to be free of outside pressure.

Religion also provides for the freedom of opinion. Promoting virtue and preventing vice is more than just a right for people-it is their essential duty. Freedom of conscience and expression of thought n is the pivot that ensures the correct functioning of a virtuius society and administration.

Religion regards the public treasury as a trust. Everything should be received through lawful sources and spent only for lawful purposes. Rulers have no more control of the public treasury than trustees have over what is entrusted to their custody.

Religion also teaches:

The theft and plunder, murder and rapine, injustice and cruelty, and all the vices are sins in God's eyes. Speak the truth. Be just. Do not rob anyone, but take your lawful share and give that which is due to others in a just manner.

Treat your parents extremely kindly. Give your relatives their due. Help the needy and do not be wasteful. Do not kill your children because you fear poverty or for other reasons. Avoid adultery, for it is indecent and evil.

Fulfill the covenant, because you will be questioned about it. Do not cheat when you measure and weigh items. Do not act arrogantly on the earth. Speak kind words to each other, for Satan uses strong words to cause strife. Do not turn your face in scorn and anger toward others.

God does not love those who boast, so be modest in bearing and subdue your voice. Do not make fun of others, for they may be better than you. Do not find fault with each other or call each other by offensive nicknames. Avoid most suspicion, for some suspicion is a sin. Do not spy on or gossip about each other. Be staunch followers of justice, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents and relatives, regardless if they are rich or poor. Do not deviate by following caprice. Be steadfast witnesses for God in equity, and do not let your hatred of others seduce you to be unjust toward them.

Restrain your rage and pardon the offences of others. Good and evil deeds are not alike, so repel the evil deed with a good one so that both of you can overcome your enmity and become loyal friends. Avoid alcohol and games of chance, for God has forbidden them.

You are human beings, and all human beings are equal in God's eyes. The only high and honored people are the God-conscious and pious, true in words and deeds. Distinctions of birth and glory of race are no criteria of greatness and honor.

One day you will die. You will appear before a Supreme Court and account for all your deeds, none of which can be hidden. Your fate will be determined by your good or bad actions. In the court of the True Judge there can be no unfair recommendation and favoritism. True faith and good deeds alone will benefit you at that time.

In short, if taught correctly and practiced in individual and social life, religion will guarantee the basic human values and freedoms and humanity's ensuing happiness in both worlds.

4. In the face of increasing crime and social evils, do you think there is hope for peace in the world today?

People live in perpetual hope, and thus are children of hope. At the instant they lose their hope, they also lose their "fire" of life, no matter if their physical existence continues. Hope is directly proportional to having faith. Just as winter constitutes one-forth of a year, so the periods in a person's or a society's life corresponding to winter are also small. The gears of Divine acts revolve around such comprehensive wisdom and merciful purposes that just as the circulation of night and day builds one's hope and revivifies one's spirit and every new year comes in expectations of spring, and summer, so too the disastrous periods are short and followed by happy times in both an individual's life and a people's history.

So, I believe and hope that the world of the future will be a happier, more just, and more compassionate place, contrary to the fears of some people. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all come from the same root, have almost the same essentials, and are nourished from the same source. Although they have lived as rival religions for centuries, the common points between them and their shared responsibility to build a happy world for all of the creatures of God, make interfaith dialogue among them necessary. This dialogue has now expanded to include the religions of Asia and other areas. The results have been positive. I hope that this dialogue will develop as a necessary process, and the followers of all religions will find ways to get closer and assist each other.

I have been looking forward to a better world resembling Paradise, where humanity can live in peace and tranquility. Our world is tired of war and clashes. It direly needs mercy, affection, spiritual well-being, and peace more than air and water. I believe that people in every country are ready for such a world. In a world becoming more and more globalized, a world where telecommunication and transportation systems are increasingly making us all like people in the same house, people will feel constrained to get to know each other more closely.

Previous generations witnessed a bitter struggle that should never have taken place: science versus religion. This conflict gave rise to scientific materialism, which is largely responsible for the present gigantic industry of arms, unending armament, and the environmental pollution. Whereas, science cannot contradict religion, for its purpose is to understand nature and humanity, which are each a composition of the manifestations of God's Knowledge, Will and Power. Religion has its source primarily in the Divine Attribute of Speech, which was manifested in the course of human history as Divine Scriptures such as the Qur'an, the Gospels, the Torah and others. Thanks to the efforts of both Christian and Muslim theologians and scientists, it seems that the few-century long religion-science conflict will come to an end, or at least its absurdity will be acknowledged. I hope that this will prevent, at least restrict, science from being exploited in a way to cause the environmental pollution and mass massacres.

The end of this conflict and a new style of education that will fuse religious and scientific knowledge together with morality and spirituality, produce genuinely enlightened people with hearts illumined by religious sciences and spirituality, minds illuminated with positive sciences, characterized by all kinds of humane merits and morale values. Our old world will experience an excellent "spring-time." This spring-time will see the gap between rich and poor narrow; the world's riches distributed most justly according to one's work, capital, and needs; the absence of discrimination based on race, color, language, and world-view; and basic human rights and freedoms are protected. Individuals will come to the fore and, learning how to realize their potential, will ascend on the way to becoming "the most elevated being in the creation" with the wings of love, knowledge, and belief.

In this new "spring-time," when scientific and technological progress is taken into consideration, people will understand that the current level of science and technology resembles the stage when an infant is learning how to crawl. Humanity will organize trips into space as if traveling to another country. Travelers on the way to God, those self-immolators of love who have no time for hostility, will carry the inspirations in their spirits to other worlds. Yes, this spring-time will rise on the foundations of love, compassion, mercy, dialogue, acceptance of others, mutual respect, justice, and rights. It will be a time in which humanity will discover its real essence. Goodness and kindness, righteousness and virtue will form the basic essence of the world. No matter what happens, the world will come to this track sooner or later. Nobody can prevent this.

5. What do you consider to be Africa's real problems? How can they be tackled?

6. In your own view, how can the African continent's leaders go about solving the internal wars and crisis which bedivil the continent today?

7. Africa is dotted with spots of trouble, long time leadership crisis and war. Tribal wars in The Democratic Republic of Congo, religious differences in the Sudan and other examples in Africa. Why is the stituation so according to your assesment?

8. What do you think can help the continent in developing a peaceful continent?

The three greatest enemies of especially African and Asian peoples are ignorance, poverty, and internal schism. Knowledge, work-capital, and unification can struggle against these. Ignorance is defeated through education, poverty through work and the possession of capital, and internal schism and separatism through unity, dialogue, and tolerance. However, as every problem in human life ultimately depends on human beings themselves, education is the most effective vehicle regardless of whether we have a paralyzed social and political system or one operating with a clockwork precision.

One of the most dangerous kinds of separatism in our time is ethnicism. During a period when the world is increasingly becoming a global village and countries come together to form unions and when universal objectives attract people from all corners of the world, such a separatism is extremely strange, baseless, and ridiculous.

Other factors that strengthen divisions are the imbalances in the economic field, unfilled gaps in earning and distribution of income and the absence of institutions that can serve as a bridge between groups and individuals. The reasons for the pain we are suffering can also be better understood in view of such factors as there being no established separation of powers in the administration, democracy not functioning well and the balance of law-power-wisdom not being established at a desirable level. Other factors are partisanship and arbitrariness, many things being designed according to the impulses of individuals and deficiencies and mistakes in administrative and political fields.

As another danger threatening the existence of Asian and African communities, moral erosion, which is like a contagious disease that has engulfed all communities, is moving along at a level capable of destroying all the principles that keep a society on its feet. The segments of society that have been brought to a state of disrespect for sacred values by this erosion are in a position of becoming the victims of the absence of intellectual and spiritual bases.

So, taking into account all these divisive and destructive factors, there is an intense need to consult on the common points of union and take this matter into consideration with reason and logic. For the sake of union, which is the foundation stone of a community's material/spiritual existence and happiness, there is a compelling need for peace and cooperation. To this end everyone should try to be saved from, first of all, such types of bigotry as seeing the truth always on one's own side coming from ego-centricism, and showing no respect for the truth and goodness realized at the hands of others. They should also try to eliminate the reasons that separate people, such as egoism, self-interest, and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and language.

No one should not move excited by impulses and emotional factors but everyone should move according to the requirements of a social contract. That will be by reviewing once again all the common points and the vital elements which necessitate unity and balancing them with factors that separate peoples, societies and countries. Compared with the common points, the things that require separation are extremely insignificant.

The continued existence of African peoples and countries, and especially their becoming a continent with some say in the existing balance of power in a globalized world, is only possible through alliances among, first of all, neighbors and then, the countries with which there is much in common, without arising any enmity from other countries. Establishing natural alliances and being surrounded by a circle of friends rather than enemies would benefit everyone.

Particularly the nations and countries sharing a common geography, history, and even destiny can be considered a large society. I see Africa as such a society. Within each country and as an African society, there are many things in common. By giving sufficient importance to neighborly, friendly, and even brotherly/sisterly relationships on the basis of such a shared consciousness, they can establish compatibility, peace, and harmony. In an increasingly civilized world that is growing ever-smaller, every type of hostility should be discarded, and respect should be felt for every individual's and society's, nation's, country's, freedom to exist. Non-interference in each other's internal affairs, assistance, and cooperation should be the norm. Existing and future problems should be solved diplomatically based on mutual goodwill. In addition, neither international problems should be misused for internal political interests, nor internal interests for international problems, as so often happens today.

Hope is essential in approaching and handling every problem, no matter how great it seems or really is. Crises and turmoil resemble snow, blizzards and storms. In respect to their results they are frequently good. Crises force a society to new birth and form, and as a result of crises a society better comprehends the age it is living in. If a community does not know the historical period it is living in, and if its actions and reactions are not a part of that period's events, then it is not possible to count that as a living society for it is on the way to certain decline.

It is hoped that that behind the agitations Africa is suffering today there is preparation for new birth and formation, which will be aided by internal and external pressure shaking the walls of inactivity. A community that can come out of these disturbances without much harm will get its share of what has been promised by this process and it will build a new world.

9. The Israeli-Palestine problem has persisted for a long time. At the same time, Muslims and Christians in the Middle East mistrust each other. How can the problem be sorted out so that people live in peace and understanding?

The Israel-Palestine issue is in fact one which involves the whole region at least, and concerns the global peace.

The PLO is questionable whether it really represents an Islamic movement. This same doubt can be raised concerning other organizations claiming representation of an Islamic Palestinian struggle. This I would like to emphasize because many strategies and activities led by them can be attributed to Islam, although they are really not. For example, suicide attacks causing the death of many innocent civilian people cannot be approved of. The struggle staged is first of all a national one. Especially the PLO has struggled on with many ups and downs from the very beginning of its existence, and so have other organizations. So I am not certain whether during this nightmarish period something has been gained and will be gained for the Palestinian people. It can even be claimed that the potential for clear thin¬king about the situation has been eroded by the leading clique.

The matter should, at least in the present situation, not be handled with in a religious context. Because in such a complex situation it is highly possible and even it is a fact that religion is misrepresented. Second, religion should serve peace both in the region and in the world. If it is used as a pretext for such deep conflicts, then it will only cause their deepening more and more. This will mean an overall destruction throughout the world.

We should not overlook the psychological di¬mension of the problem also. That is, the land in question is one considered as sacred place by both Muslims, Jews and Christians. Histori¬cally, this land had been the focus of the activities of many Prophets. Although many of these Prophets were raised among the Israelites, it is an essential of Islamic faith that the Muslims also must believe in them. The Muslims, Christians and Jews all recognize these Prophets. As a matter of fact, Islam, Christianity and Judaism have much more common points than the controversial ones among them. So though this requires their co-existence in peace, unfortunately some political factors may cause rifts and conflicts among them, and religion is sacrificed at the altar of these conflicts. So I think that the Israel-Palestine issue should be dealt with in the context of the international law and be solved according to it in a way to please the sides and guarantee basic human rights, freedoms and securities.

10. Some people equate Islam with terrorism and terrorism with Islam. What is your comment to such an equation?

11. How do you think we can approach the problem of terrorism and have a peaceful world?

First of all, I must state very clearly that any Divine-inspired religion, whether it be Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, never orders or condones terrorism. Life is of the utmost importance for God. All existence was programmed to produce and maintain life. Life is the name of a Divine secret that makes something alive the owner of everything. A lifeless entity, even a mountain, is lonely and its relationship with its environment is limited to its place. In contrast, a living creature, even a bee, can say "my garden" for the whole earth and can see all of the flowers as friends. Furthermore, it has a relationship with many other creations, ranging from the sun and the air to humans. Thus, life is the meeting point of all the Names of God and the center where all of them are concentrated. God, Who attaches such importance to life, decreed that life is one of the 5 basic values that must be protected. Islam treats every human individual as a species compared to other creatures. This is why it teaches that killing one person is no different from killing all people and that saving the life of one person is equal to saving the life of all humanity. Moreover, as far as the rights of humanity are concerned, based on its principle that "rights cannot be categorized as great and small," Islam sees the right of an individual as being equal to the right of community. It does not sacrifice one of these to the other, and it has introduced the principle that "if on a ship there are 9 criminals and 1 innocent person, as long as that innocent person remains on the ship, the ship cannot be sunk in order to punish the 9 criminals."

Secondly, besides requiring that the goal of a Muslim's behavior and activities must be correct, Islam delicately emphasizes that the means of achieving the goal must also be legitimate. People who attempt to realize a legitimate goal by illegitimate means will find the opposite of what they aim at. Accordingly, we can say that terrorism can never be a method to realize an Islamic goal. It should also be borne in mind here that Islam does not treat war favorably, although it is a reality of human life and one of the most eye-catching events of human history. Islam, first of all, has allowed it provided it be for self-defense, and then in the framework of the principle of the Qur'an, "dissension and anarchy causing everything to be upside down are worse than murder", sees war as a legitimate means only to prevent turmoil, disorder, and cruelty. It is Islam which has laid down important rules and restrictions for war and introduced an international law for the first time in human history. Books dealing with war within the context of an international law were published 13 centuries ago. Orders such as, "Never take the fear of God out from your hearts. Do not forget that you cannot do anything without the help of God. Remember that Islam is the religion of peace and love. The courage, bravery and taqwā (God-consciousness) of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) must always be a model for you. Do not trample crops or orchards. Be respectful to priests, hermits and people who devote themselves to God and do not harm them. Do not kill civilians, do not behave to women inappropriately and do not hurt the feelings of the defeated. Do not accept presents from the native people, neither attempt to have your soldiers stay in their houses. Remember performing your five daily prescribed prayers. Be afraid of God and never forget that death can come and find you anywhere, even if you are thousands of miles away from the front-line. So, be prepared for death" were recorded in history as principles that almost all Islamic state leaders have reminded their commanders of when sending them to the front-lines; these orders were followed to the word. An Islamic authority can do war only within the framework of such definite principles, and only a Muslim state, not certain individuals or organizations, can decide a war. So, there is no place in Islam for terrorism that supposedly intends to uphold any human value by destroying security; security is something which must be protected. Thus, as a terrorist cannot be a true Muslim, a Muslim cannot be a terrorist. A Muslim cannot be a terrorist because Islam has prescribed the most serious penalty for threatening human life and for threatening people's security. And, after denying the existence of God or assigning partners to Him, the most serious penalty in the Hereafter is to be given for the taking of a human life. A human being can never commit such a crime, the punishment of which is so serious, while being a Muslim and maintaining the attributes of Islam. Therefore, a terrorist cannot be a genuine Muslim and a Muslim cannot be a terrorist.

However, if terrorist incidents occur in either the Islamic world or in other places, and if these incidents continue, this must be first be diagnosed in a sound manner, and then a treatment must be found according to this diagnosis. Concerning why some people become involved in terrorism, now a serious problem in the world, we can say the following:

a) When the national states were established in the Muslim world following the wars of independence against the colonializing powers, Muslim peoples have found it difficult to reach an understanding with their governments, which they have seen acting contradictorily to the values of Islam. Instead of teaching Islam with its true identity and essence, these governments have caused their peoples to treat Islam as a support and a shelter against them. As a result Islam has come to be regarded as an ideology, rather than a religion.

b) In many of the Muslim countries governments have not been able to develop good relations with the people. Peoples feel belittled by their governments, which seem rather oligarchies than the governments working for the welfare of the people. This causes the peoples to see their governments as if enemies to themselves.

c) Terrorism usually arises from poverty, illiteracy, class differences, and ethnic priorities. These social diseases continue to exist in many Muslim countries. In addition, some countries have not yet been able to be overcome the tribal order, which, in most cases, nourishes the feelings of harmful competition and vengeance, and internal conflicts.

d) In the Muslim countries the majority of the peoples have seen the West as the protector and supporter of their governments, and primarily responsible for oppression they suffer at their hands. They even think that it is also certain Western powers that caused the present regimes in their countries to come to power.

e) Democracy, basic human rights, information technologies, easy access to knowledge, economic welfare, justice, and balance in production and income distribution have never been completely realized in Muslim countries nor in the other regions known as the Third World. Undoubtedly, the governments of these countries and their supporters in the West are regarded as responsible for this condition by the peoples. They also consider that the same Western powers still exploit their resources. According to these people, although the Western governments claim themselves to be champions of the values mentioned just above, they only observe them in their own lands, but they ignore these values when other peoples are concerned.

f) Today, as briefly stated before, in a world that has become globalized, people are neighbors to one another, and so are the countries. It is a fact that while a few of the neighbors live in luxuries, the great majority are poor, even destitute; and many of the poor believe that the international colonialism is being carried on covertly, and in ever increasingly subtle ways; they see this as the major cause of poverty. Moreover, the same majority is incapable of meeting their most basic needs. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons for the emotions of hatred and enmity that have been aroused in them toward the others.

g) Furthermore, it is also a fact that lawlessness has become almost as much a norm as the law itself. Cheating, desire for easy money, selfishness, racketeering, international smuggling of drugs and weapons, and large mafia organizations, and the fierce, merciless competition among enormous organizations are other factors fostering the internationalization of terrorism.

h) Increasing corrosion in religious values, morals and spirituality may be viewed as the greatest reason for the unpreventable rise of terrorism. The world is going through a spiritual crisis. All of the genuine supports of humanity have been destroyed one by one. Philosophies based on depression, Satanism, and some other trends and cults that are basically materialist or naturalist have developed. These are like contagious diseases that have been shaking our world for many years. To ask questions such as why do such groups take human life, why do they use drugs, is just to feign ignorance about people who have no hope left, who see the past as if it were a looming grave and the future as if it were a bottomless pit; for them life has no meaning.

i) The final word to say on this subject may be this: The fact that a common definition and description of terrorism has not been accepted by all nations, not even by the United Nations, is a serious problem. Which activities are included in terrorism? Which are not? Who is a terrorist? Who is not? Everyone has their own answers to these questions. What is a terrorist for some people may be seen as a freedom fighter or a warrior for ideals by others. If there is to be an international struggle against terrorism - a struggle which must certainly be carried out - we should first agree on a definition of terrorism that is accepted at least by the United Nations. If this can be achieved, then the struggle with terrorism will be easier and find ways acceptable to the majority of the world peoples and countries. The same actions will be accepted as being terrorism and nobody will be able to hurl accusations at anyone else on this matter. And perhaps, this could be the first important step towards preventing terrorism.

After stating the issues that constitute important problems in our world and giving their reasons, I do not think that it would be necessary to spend too much time on discussing their solutions; the diagnosis of the problem includes the solutions.

12. Can schools be a source of peaceful existence in society? How then can we use education in our school systems to further that goal?

A person is a creature composed of not only a body or mind or feelings or spirit; rather, he or she is a harmonious composition of all of these elements. A person is a body writhing in a net of needs. He or she is also a mind that has more subtle and vital needs than the body, and is driven by anxieties about the past and future to find answers to such questions as: "What am I? What is this world? What do life and death want from me? Who sent me to this world, and for what purpose? Where am I going, and what is the purpose of life? Who is my guide in this worldly journey?"

Moreover, each person is a creature of feelings that cannot be satisfied by the mind, and a creature of spirit, thorough which he or she acquires his or her essential human identity. An individual is all of these. When a man or a woman, around whom all systems and efforts revolve, is taken into consideration and evaluated as a creature with all these aspects, and when all his or her needs are fulfilled, he or she will be able to reach true happiness. At this point, true human progress and evolvement in relation to our essential being is only possible with education.

To comprehend education's significance, look at only one difference between us and animals, which was mentioned above in the answer to the 1st question. At the beginning of the journey from the world of spirits that extends into eternity at the earthly stage, we are weak, in need, and in the miserable position of waiting for everything from others. Animals, however, come to this world or are sent as if they have gained perfection in another realm. Within 2 hours or 2 days or 2 months after their birth, they learn everything they need to know, their relation with the universe and the laws of life, and possess mastery.

This means that an animal's essential duty is not to become perfect through learning and evolving by gaining knowledge or seeking help through showing its weakness. On the other hand, we need to learn everything when we come into this world, for we are ignorant of the rules of life. In fact, in 20 years or perhaps throughout our whole life we still cannot fully learn the nature and meaning of life's rules and conditions, or of our relationship with the universe.

This means that our essential duty, as a creation that has come to this passing guesthouse, is to reach stability and clarity in thought, imagination, and belief so that we can acquire a "second nature" and qualification to continue our life in "the next, much more elevated realms." In addition, by performing our duties as the noblest of creatures, we have the duty of making our hearts and spirits work and activating all our innate faculties. By embracing our inner and outer worlds, where innumerable mysteries and puzzles reside, we must comprehend the secret of existence and thus rise to the rank of true humanity.

We should develop an understanding of education that sees the illumination of the mind in science and knowledge and the light of the heart in faith and virtue. This understanding, which makes the student soar in the skies of humanity with these two wings and seek God's approval through service to others, has many things to offer. It rescues science from materialism, from being a factor that is as harmful as it is beneficial from both material and spiritual perspectives, and from being a lethal weapon. Such an understanding, in Einstein's words, will not allow religion to remain crippled. Nor will it allow religion to be perceived as cut off from intelligence, life, and scientific truth and as a fanatical institution that builds walls between individuals and nations.

Thanks to rapid developments in transportation and communication, the world has become a global village. Nations are exactly like next-door neighbors. However, this does not mean that nations and national differences will disappear. On the contrary, they will continue to exist but not as the things causing conflicts but contributing to the beauty of a unified mosaic of nations and countries. Among our people there is a saying: "A neighbor is in need of his/her neighbor's ashes." If you have no ashes needed by others, no one will attach any value to you. Every nation or community has things to lend others as well things it will borrow. I think one of the best ways of such a mutual helping is education and founding educational institutions.

As I stated in the answer to the questions concerning Africa, our three greatest enemies are ignorance, poverty, and internal schism. Ignorance is defeated through education, poverty through work and the possession of capital, and internal schism and separatism through unity, dialogue, and tolerance. However, as every problem in human life ultimately depends on human beings themselves, education is the most effective vehicle regardless of whether we have a paralyzed social and political system or one operating with a clockwork precision. Education always has been the most important road of serving people. Now that we live in a global village, education is the best way to serve humanity and to establish dialogue with other civilizations.

Through education we should aim to bring about a generation that will rely equally on reason and experience, and give as much importance to conscience and inspiration as to reason and experience. They will unfailingly pursue the perfect in everything, establish the balance between this world and the next, and wed the heart to the intellect.

They will think, investigate, believe, and overflow with spiritual pleasures. While making the fullest use of modern facilities, they will not neglect the moral and spiritual values. They will be truth-loving and trustworthy and having no attachment to worldly things, comforts, and luxuries, they will use their God-given talents to benefit humanity and plant the seeds of a happy future.

These new people will unite profound spirituality, wide knowledge, sound thinking, a scientific temperament, and wise activism. Never content with what they knew, they will increase continuously in knowledge. Equipped with the good morals and virtues that make one truly human, these new men and women will be altruists who embrace humanity with love and are ready to sacrifice themselves for the good of others when necessary.

13. Religion is said to be a dividing factor in the world today instead of unifying humanity. Why is the situation so?

14. What needs to be rectified or done to make religion play its part in social issues?

In addition to what was stated in answering above to the questions 2 and 3, I can say the following:

Religion reconciles opposites that seem to be mutually exclusive: religion¬-science, this world-the next world, nature-Divine Books, the material-the spiritual, and spirit-body. Religion can erect a defense against the destruction caused by scientific materialism, put science in its proper place, and end long-standing conflicts among nations and peoples.

Because Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and, and even Hinduism and other world religions accept the same source for themselves, and, including Buddhism, pursue the same goal. As Muslims, we accept all Prophets and Books sent to different peoples throughout history, and regard belief in them as an essential principle of being Muslim. A Muslim is a follower of Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and all other Prophets. Not believing in one Prophet or Book means that one is not a Muslim. Thus the oneness and basic unity of religion, which is a symphony of God's blessings and mercy, and the universality of belief in religion, are undeniable facts. So, religion is a system of belief embracing all races and all beliefs, a road bringing everyone together in brotherhood and sisterhood.

Regardless of how their adherents implement their faith in their daily lives, such generally accepted values as love, respect, tolerance, forgiveness, mercy, human rights, peace, brotherhood and sisterhood, and freedom are exalted by religion. All of them are accorded the highest precedence in the messages brought by Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, as well as in the messages of Buddha and even Zarathustra, Lao-Tzu, Conficius, and the Hindu prophets or sages.

It cannot be denied that religion was sometimes used in the past as a dividing factor by some. But the fault here lay in not religion itself but in some who claimed themselves to be its followers. However, today it has been understood by many that religion is a unifying factor and therefore must function as so, and a dialogue is necessary between its followers.

Interfaith dialogue is a must today. As the first step in establishing it, we should forget the past, and as a contemporary Muslim scholar emphasizes, ignore polemical arguments, and give precedence to common points, which far outnumber polemical ones. Like Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, who said, "One of my feet is in the center and the other is in all other nations like a compass," we should draw a broad circle that encompasses not only the followers of religions but also the whole humanity. Seeing that the days of brute force should be over, we should always bear in mind that relationships with civilized persons must be through dialogue.

Our beginning point must have a religious basis. As followers of religion, we cannot act out of ideological or political partisanship and then dress it in religious garb. Nor can we represent mere desires as ideas or, worse, demands of religion. If we can overcome this tendency, religion's true image will become known.

15. What is your message to the people of the world on the new year?

I am not one who has right to give a message to others. Nevertheless, in answering to the question, I can say what follows:

In order to have a better future, we should strive to once more remember the true human values lying in the depths of the essence of humanity. To escape the stress and affliction in the psychological, spiritual, and intellectual dimensions of personal life, as well as the strain and conflict in collective affairs within and between nations, the worth of believing, loving, moral values, sound thinking and knowledge, and spiritual training should be rediscovered.

Believing means knowing the truth to be true, what and how it is; loving means living that knowledge in one's life. Those who do not believe and love are merely physical entities without true life, like mechanically animated corpses. Belief is a most important source of action, a way to embrace the whole creation in spirit; love is the most essential element and a transcendental dimension of true human thought. Therefore, those who seek to build the happy world of the future on foundations of knowledge, and spiritual and moral values, should first arrive at the altar of belief, then ascend to the pulpit of love, and only then preach their message of belief and love to all others. While seeking to achieve their aims, they should never forget that their influence depends on morality and virtuousness.

Only those who overflow with love will build the happy and enlightened world of the future. Their lips smiling with love, their hearts brimming with love, their eyes radiating love and the most tender human feelings - such are the heroes of love who can always receive messages of everything in the universe.

Those who want to reform the world must first reform themselves. If they want to lead others to a better world, they must purify their inner worlds of hatred, rancor, and jealousy, and adorn their outer worlds with virtue. The words of those who cannot control and discipline themselves, and who have not refined their feelings, may seem attractive and insightful at first. However, even if they somehow manage to inspire others, which they sometimes do, the sentiments they arouse will soon wither.

Lastly, as I stated in answering to the question 4, we should never be hopeless. Goodness and kindness, righteousness and virtue form the basic essence of humanity, and humanity will rediscover this essence and build a new world on the foundations of belief, love, compassion, mercy, dialogue, acceptance of others, mutual respect, justice, and rights.

Published on Kenya's Daily Nation, retrieved from http://fgulen.com, 30 July 2004