Turkey: A Bridge between Islam and the West - III
By Dr Muzaffar K. Awan
Michigan, USA

Although Gülen is an Islamic intellectual/scholar, his accomplishments and interests have gone way beyond the field of theology. He is well versed in Islamic sciences and at the same time is also knowledgeable of Western thought. Gülen has read Hafiz as well as Goethe. He has knowledge of Peyami Safa, a well-known Turkish novelist, and Dostoyevsky. Having studied Islamic sciences in his youth, he has a great talent for memorization as well as synthesis. Even today, at the age of sixty-six, he is able to recite the whole Qur'an by heart. He is also versed in the field of hadith, the sayings of the prophet (PBUH). It would not be an exaggeration to say that Gülen has also more than ten thousand hadiths memorized in the original Arabic language.
Fethullah Gulen managed to establish a vast civil society movement through his inspirational speeches and writings. Since late 1960’s, his movement has gradually evolved and grown in various areas of social life. Avoiding partisan politics, the movement developed an enlightenment project to fight the social ills. It includes the establishment of hundreds of modern schools and several universities inside and outside of Turkey, a media network (such as a TV national channel, a weekly news magazine, Samna, a leading daily newspaper), and business organizations. Influenced by Sufi traditions, the Gulen movement's precepts of Turkish culture of tolerance have been criticized by both extreme secularists and Islamic groups. Journalists and Writers Foundation is Turkey’s first and foremost NGO; its honorary chairman is Fethullah Gulen. This NGO effectively deals with interfaith dialogue and searches for common ground.
A reputable academic journal published in the US, “The Muslim World” in its July, 05 issue, examined the views of Fethullah Gulen and his civil society movement formed around him.

This special edition ran the headline “Islam in Modern Turkey: Contributions of Fethullah Gulen” and included articles on Gulen written by academics such as Sidney Griffith, Zeki Saritoprak, Mucahit Bilici, Lester R. Kurtz, Elisabeth Ozdalga, and Thomas Michel.
Here the readers will find brief summaries of the articles from this reputable journal in the US. There was also an in-depth interview conducted with Gulen by the journal that I will not be able to include in this writing. The articles for this special issue elaborate various aspects of Gülen's personality and endeavors from different perspectives. (
In the very first paper featured in this special issue, Osman Bakar (1) focuses on Gülen's approach to the relationship between science and Islam, examining Gülen's understanding of the nature of religious and scientific truths in a comparative way. He argues that in contemporary Muslim discourse, it is uncommon to find serious scholars among theologians who reflect on issues of Islam and science. He contends that Gülen belongs to this very small group of committed theologians. Osman Bakar describes Gulen as an Islamic scholar, whose roots lay in the traditional Islamic sciences and who at the same time is quite familiar with modern Western science. Bakar notes that Gulen’s ideas on this matter have been shaped by its deep faithfulness to Sufi intellectualism, even though he is not an initiator of any Sufi order. Pointing at Gulen’s efforts to reconcile Islam and science, Bakar indicates that Gulen’s teachings seek a sincere dialogue not just between Islam and other faiths, but among religious men and scientists from different societies as well. In this regard Gulen’s views are important for the contemporary world in multiple aspects, notes Bakar. (To be continued)

 


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