October 28, 2014

'The Gulen movement is one of the very few that has managed to live what it preaches.'

Fikir Atlasi*, Episode 12 (Full text)

I’m Khaled Abou Fadl**. I’m a professor of law at UCLA School of Law and an author of a number of books on Islamic theology and law.

Hizmet Movement is, in my view, an Islamically-inspired, Islamically-grounded movement, or Islamically-rooted movement, founded on the universal and fundamental principle of peace and—the essential values of Islam—peace, mercy and compassion, as normative, moral objectives and that seeks to translate these principles into—through the dynamic of ta’aruf, the dynamic of coming to know one another, especially coming to know the other—into a reality, into a living sociological and anthropological reality.

I cannot do justice to the critical importance of this thought—Gulen’s thought and theological outlook—to the contemporary Muslim world because it offers for Muslims an authentic, legitimately rooted methodology of dealing with modernity and challenges that exist in the modern world.

And so, it focuses on what you can say is the nectar of Islam, the core, the heart or the spirit of Islam itself.

It doesn’t get lost in the forest; it doesn’t get lost in the trees; it doesn’t get lost in the massive accumulations of interpretive traditions upon interpretive traditions, but, at the same time, it is not dismissive of tradition, which is very important.

It is not an arrogant movement; it is not a movement that considers itself as the exclusive voice of the Divine. And so, what I very much, not just find attractive but compelling about Gulen’s writings is his emphasis on love as a critical value, the emphasis on Islam being a state of peace, an embodiment of peace—whether it be inner or social or international—without confining this to a tariqah in itself, as in a Sufi tariqah.

So, it really becomes an attitude or a theology of embracing the Divine and embracing all that the Divine has created, embracing Allah as a transcendental Creator but considering all that God has created as valuable and worthy of love.

And that type of narrative is not, unfortunately, is not heard in the modern Muslim world often. In fact, it is quite missing.

In my view, it is a true unfortunate shame that the writings of Gulen are not widespread, especially in the Arabic-speaking world, which, in my view, badly needs this system of thought and this way of thinking and this narrative generally.

And this is, again, what I think is very special about Gulen’s thought and the Gulen Movement, in particular, is that it brings back Islam to its essential humanistic message, its fundamental invitation from the Divine for human beings to be human and to put that humanity, those characteristics of humanity—humanness—above all.

I’ve often wondered if—instead of Islam being known to the world through the various movements that commit violence and so on—if Islam was known to the world through the thought of the Gulen-like theology, so, instead of travelling around the world and finding people associating Islam with the most barbaric and cruel and harsh things, if you would find people associating Islam with the quintessential humanistic principles of mercy, compassion, love, understanding, I’ve often wondered what type of a world it would be because it would definitely be a much better world than the one we exist in.

I’d like to say the Gulen movement is one of the very few that—in our world—has managed to come out of the borders of one country and to actually talk to people, in other words, to live what it preaches, to actually show that it’s possible to do that, to cross borders, to engage others and bring people together on a common, universal, humanistic message.

From what I have observed, or from my studies, it seems that the Gulen Movement has become far more adept at constructing serious discourse and serious dialogue that is substantive, that you can actually learn from substantively because it encourages people to come and bring out what is inside of them.

Which of course… unfortunately for one of the things I remember is, I had one of my students who had read an attack on the thought of Nursi and Gulen by an Islamaphobic source, and this fellow was very puzzled by it: “Why are they attacking them?” I told him it was because they are more dangerous to religious bigots than the worst enemy because, if you’re coming from a moral paradigm, someone who is determined to live immorally will find you extremely threatening, and I think that speaks volumes in itself. That says a lot…

**Profile: Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl is one of the world’s leading authorities on Islamic law and Islam, and a prominent scholar in the field of human rights. He is the Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Professor in Islamic Law at the UCLA School of Law. He serves on the advisory board of Human Rights Watch.

*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 12), © Spectra Media, 10 April 2014, Thursday

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