October 24, 2014

'We see in Mr. Gulen a man teaching God’s words'

Fikir Atlasi*, Episode 11 (Full text)

My name is Daniel Skubik**. I’m a professor of Law, Ethics and Humanities at California Baptist University in Riverside, California.

Fethullah Gulen is a man that my wife and I see as one directed by God and seeking to follow that same God that we recognize, that God who is committed to the Abrahamic covenant, that God who speaks to all of His children, all of His people, from a variety of faiths.

And we seek—my wife and I—to touch that, to be involved with those sorts of interfaith activities.

We see in Mr. Gulen a man teaching God’s words, living a life that, as best we can see, is indeed directed by God, that is pointing a life and teachings that are pointed towards the Eternal, that comes from the Eternal, that is not focused so much on the temporal—on things that are passing—but on things that will last.

And we understand his teachings to those who are his students, his disciples, to be of that same kind, that is, to teach his disciples, to teach his students, to be the sort of people that are God-directed, that are Eternal-oriented and not temporally-oriented, and so, not focused on passing politics, on passing economic schemes, on anything that is, indeed, passing away in this age… but what is the fruit that will last, what is it that will be given back to God because, indeed, it comes from God, and so, we return to Him the gifts that He already has given to us.

What most strikes my wife and me—it may even sound a bit strange or even a bit silly—but what strikes us most is the holiness, the purity that we see represented in the lives of those who are associated with Hizmet.

The sincerity, the purity of the women; the sincerity, the holiness of the young men…

They are not ashamed—by any means—in what they believe, to the One to whom they have committed their lives.

That sort of holiness, that sort of purity, that sort of courage I think puts many of us Christians to shame, but it’s that that continues to draw us.

As an educator, I may be a bit biased, but I think the focus on education that we see in Hizmet, that we see in Gulen and his teachings and his being, that focus on education—which is critical to the work of Hizmet—is itself the most critical work that can be done in this age.

Education is critical for long-term solutions in this world, not just to meet current problems but to address any problems that arise in the future, or to keep problems from becoming serious problems, that they remain minor problems.

Education is the opportunity to form young people, to form personalities, to form spirits as well as minds, and it is a matter of formation, that is, it’s not properly done, a matter of teaching young people what to think and filling their minds with specific facts and doctrines. It is, of course, teaching them to think critically but, more importantly, it is teaching them also what it means to think as an individual oriented towards their Creator, not towards one another—at least not initially—but towards their Creator, towards their God, and that their responsibility is, first and foremost, to Him and then, secondarily, to one another.

It’s as they’re oriented towards Him and then towards others that they— properly formed as human beings—can take up the task of being vicegerents in this age, in this world, until the Kingdom is revealed, until Paradise.

That is a delicate task, a difficult task; it’s easy to get it wrong. It’s easy to indoctrinate. It’s easier to indoctrinate than it is to form.

It’s easy to tell people what to think, easier to tell them what to think than to help them gain the critical faculties that they need to think for themselves.

It’s easy to demand that they believe in certain dogmas or doctrines and practice religions in particular ways, much more difficult simply to say—and yet harder to say, not just simply to say—“You have God, in Him you love, Him you follow, from Him you receive all that you have, from Him you receive direction, by Him you steer your life, according to Him you give your life.”

Forming young people in that way, providing that opportunity for them to become what God will have them be, and so, for them to be useable vessels for God as vicegerents in this age... what a wonderful task, what a difficult task, what a beautiful task..

The command that we come together to know one another just because God has made us so different, and that in coming to know one another, we will be able to get past those differences and work together to solve so many of the social and other problems or conflicts that arise, we see Hizmet as representative of, and Gulen and his teachings and his very being as representative of that attitude, that orientation, that desire to come to know others, allow us into their circle to come to know us and we to know them, that we might know one another and work together, to reach out together to solve the social conflicts and other needs that are so evident in our world today.

There is one God. In that we have no doubt, and that there is the one God who has expressed Himself, and we find him through a variety of faiths grounded in the Abrahamic covenant. In that there is no doubt.

Are there differences in theology or approach or perspective between us? Of course.

And yet, there is but one God. And so, that one God commands that we come to know one another.

Coming to know means more than just book knowledge. If I’m a Christian, then, what does it mean for someone to be Jewish, what does it mean for someone to be Muslim, how do they practice, what do they think?...

To get to know someone means to sit down and break bread, to eat, to sit across a table, to engage in conversation, to learn about what’s important to that person. In their life, what do they look at, what do they look for, how do they understand the relationship with God and neighbor… that, we need to come and share.

Interfaith dialogue offers that opportunity; interfaith dinners, interfaith seminars and luncheons… gives us the opportunity to participate.

And that Hizmet has, here, not only allowed but encouraged that sort of dialogue to express itself through the Abrahamic faiths, through the monotheisms represented here in California; that is precious to us.

It is needful and it is precious.

What do we get from knowing one another? That indeed we are not foreign; one to another…

We are all human beings who share that one God, that we are human beings who share His same directive, to get to know one another, to work together, indeed to love Him and love neighbor, to love one another.

We can’t do that at arm’s length. You do that sitting across a table. You do that sitting side by side.

You do that sharing time and space, in a journey, on a trip. You do that by opening yourself to the other, being willing to speak about your weaknesses and vulnerabilities, not just your strengths; about your worries and concerns, not just what you think you know; and that God is there, in the midst, always directing that exchange, always directing that intercourse, always present and caring for us—His creatures—especially when we engage with one another.

**Profile: Dr. Daniel Skubik is Professor of law, ethics & humanities at California Baptist University. He teaches public and private international law, constitutional law, and philosophy of law. He earned his master degree in political science and his doctoral degree in philosophy.

*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 11), © Spectra Media, 09 April 2014, Wednesday

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