February 6, 2016

The Islamic bases of Gulen’s theory of education

Muhammed M. Akdag

Fethullah Gulen assumes that education is based on three basic premises:
1. education is constructed on a manifestation of the God’s name Rabb (pedagogue and supporter).
2. It is about the ability to reach the line of true humanity (al-insān al-kāmil).
3. And it is a matter of becoming a profitable element for society and this devotion leads to good actions (Atay, 2007: 205).
Besides, Gulen ascribes more than only a theoretical role to Islam. His educational project presents a new public form and a new way of life. According to many academics he would thereby like to provide an Islamic ethos which is revealed as “a basic” idea of Islam (Vicini, 2007: 436). That is the reason why he has given big value on the verses of the Koran and ḥadīṯh, which reveal and affirm learning as a religious duty and lift it on the same level such as prayers and charity, while he built his educational philosophy (Afsaruddin, 2005). Besides, the roots of Gulen’s education are to be found in the deep Islamic tradition of Rūmī and Nursi, which define dignity as an inherent quality and therefore it survives conferring to the Koran (Graskemper, 2007: 625).

In his widespread writings Gulen stresses common values such as spirituality, honesty, relief, self-discipline, correctness, compassion, patience, tolerance and the necessities of leadership like realism, responsibility and long sightedness, which should be the attributes of the prophet. These are also taught in the schools of the Hizmet Movement as ethics. The pupils could thereby be equipped with a good character and they could devote themselves to life according to these human attributes and moral values. These moral values would be: love to mother and father, respect and honesty. Gulen looks at them as generally suitable values and assumes this from the fact that Muslims, Christians and Jews share them (Michel, 2003, S. 217).

The Hizmet movement follows the convictions of Gulen who sees the education as prominent utility for social changes and a renewal of the community. However, religion is properly understood only by extensive knowledge and only by a suitable education through which the community becomes stronger and could be able to improve. Besides, science and technology are absolutely compatible with Islam in his opinion. Knowledge of physical sciences and the universe is indispensable (Fuller, 2008: 57). Agai describes this method as “Islamic ethos of the education”, which is seen as “Islamic eager education” and secular knowledge harmonizes with spiritual knowledge and Islamic ethics (Agai, 2003: 51).

In this perspective education gets in a process of mediation of religious knowledge which is not reduced to inter-mediation from a person to another. Rather, it is a matter of forming the personality of the pupils (Ünal and Williams, 2000: 312; Michel, 2003: 78). According to Gulen, education opens the way to knowledge of the universe and this knowledge indicates individuals to a perfect apprenticeship of truth (Allah-universe-human). With this he tries to attach science, religion and dialogue (Haughey, 2008).

It is noteworthy with this background that neither the Koran nor the books of Nursi and Gulen are taught in the schools of the Movement. No religious education is aimed at the facilities, although their sponsors are motivated by Islamic thoughts. This is the case, because in his early career Gulen acknowledged that a concentration on religious lessons is infertile in a secular society, and science lessons could serve religious needs and form a base for social stability. He thought that, if children were skilled by a scientific, computer-aided education, they would accept values like nonviolence and helpfulness for their country and for their community and then also accept the essential apprenticeships of Islam and those of all other religions (Bonner, 2004: 94).

In this sense, Hermansen notes that teachers devoted themselves to the moral education of students, who were presented as true mentors, i.e. as big brothers and sisters (türk. abiler and ablalar). But she emphasizes also that the accent on religious subjects and methods which was typical for the Protestant missions has never been a subject for the schools of the Hizmet movement (Hermansen, 2007: 67). Neither the teachers of these schools declare their Islamic identity, nor do they inform the sciences from a religious perspective (Krause, 2007: 170). Indeed, in the course of the years the discourse has partially reinterpreted Islamic values as universal values (Solberg, 2005).

Excerpted from the article: Akdag, Muhammed M. “The roots of Fethullah Gulen’s theory of education and the role of the educator.” Hizmet Studies Review 
Vol. 2, No. 3, Spring 2015, 55-70

Refer to the original article for references used in the article.

Published on http://www.gulenmovement.us/the-islamic-bases-of-gulens-theory-of-education.html, 22 January 2016, Friday