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Fethullah Gülen is one of the most distinguished Islamic scholars of our century

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, “Scholars are heirs of the prophets.”

The Islamic intellectual, the honorable Fethullah Gülen, is one of the distinguished scholars of our century. He is one of Allah’s blessings for us. When we look at his personal life, his social life, and his services to the Islamic world, we only see his good deeds. With his notion of service, which hasn’t only been restricted to the Islamic world but has spread to 160 countries, Mr. Gülen has had an extraordinarily positive impact.

We’ve read Mr. Gülen’s books and have gotten to know him through his friends and his followers. As opposed to what some people keep repeating, we have not seen anything even hinting at terrorism in any part of his life.

This man lives a life – alhamdulillah - in close connection with Allah, which leads to a reconciliation with the hearts of the people surrounding him.

When hearts are reconciled and gathered around the love of Allah, people will be honored with Allah’s gratification and blessing, and they will start doing everything for the sake of Allah.

When we look at the people around him, the scholars, tradesmen, and people from different levels of life, we see them live their lives according to our Prophet’s Sunnah and life.

As I mentioned earlier, we have never seen or known anything about Mr. Gülen except for the way he has helped people grow closer to Allah. All we have seen is how he reconciles hearts and helps them prepare to appear before Allah.

This is how we know Mr. Gülen. And we’ve never seen any single indication of terrorism in any of his books. Such an allegation cannot be true for him or people around him.

This is my testimony about Mr. Gülen. May Allah help us, may He bestow comprehension and understanding on all who accuse him. I pray Allah that my testimony will be considered among my and Mr. Gülen’s good deeds on the Day of Judgment.

Mr. Gülen sees the whole of humanity – Muslims and non-Muslims – as his children, and he works to reconcile hearts, trying to bring together all humanity as humble servants to Allah.

I have seen him in Turkey. He was preaching as he was crying and saying, “Some people are claiming that I will found a state and I am after a sultanate.” But then he added, “Who am I to do these things? These are untrue claims. My life is evident.”

We know Mr. Gülen’s life itself has ruled out these claims.

To be clear, he put forward his beliefs with his deeds. May Allah’s help and assistance be with him.

Shaykh Muhammad Fathi Hijazi, Al-Azhar University, Egypt

This article has first been published in the special issue of the Fountain Magazine © Blue Dome Press

Hizmet is a true embodiment of the Islamic ideals of love and service to the other

I have seen many un-Islamic cults play out in the word today: ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, al-Shabab. Hizmet is not an un-Islamic cult. From my interaction with the volunteers, it is anything but.

Hizmet is a group of people that I have observed carry out the best of Islamic ideals: kindness, hospitality, love, selfless service. They are mainstream in their creed, as far as the Sunni Islamic school of thought goes. They read the Qur’an; they pray five times a day; they fast. They're very spiritual people. They don't push their beliefs, their Islamic beliefs, on non-Muslims. That's not what they're out to do. They're out to serve the world, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. So in terms of being an "un-Islamic cult," Hizmet is anything but. What they really are, in my opinion, is a true embodiment of the Islamic ideals of love and service to the other. And I've never seen anything to suggest otherwise.

I'm a civil rights activist, a human rights activist; I don’t take my marching orders from demagogues whether they are domestic or foreign, whether they are elected or dictators. What I look at is the process, and what troubles me in today’s Turkey is the process. Due process is the arbiter between those who accuse and those who defend. It’s absent in contemporary Turkey. And there has to be independent judiciary; it has to be judges and a court that is not in anybody's corner. What we're seeing in Turkey, unfortunately, is a situation where government is essentially run by one party that acts as both the accuser/the prosecutor, the judge and the executioner. And those who are accused don't really have any leeway in the system to defend themselves.

Those who know Hizmet, who have interacted with Hizmet, know Hizmet is the farthest thing from violence. They've never promoted violence; they've never accepted violence; they've been the first to condemn violence, including a violent overtake of a Republic, a coup. They've condemned this coup, and they've never promoted anything close to it. They've never been involved in anything that is violent in nature.

Now that the accusation is there, we have to ask for proof. And, even if there are individuals who may be associated with the Hizmet who were involved in one crime or another, including a coup, the question becomes: at what point do you incriminate an entire movement of millions of people, volunteers who want to serve humanity through their Islamic ideals? Can we condemn a teacher, a 24-year-old woman serving in some remote part of Turkey, Pakistan, or Kazakhstan, or anywhere in the world where they build schools in areas of underserved, underprivileged communities? How are these souls devoted to service affiliated or associated with that particular crime?

What you look at here is a witch hunt; it is “guilt by association.” These are not in the tradition of liberal justice, liberal values that democracies espouse.

And it's exactly what is happening around the world when people in power want to shut out those who are not in their pockets, those they can't control, or those whom they don't like.

When a government is moving towards autocracy, when you're becoming a demagogue, when you become the “state” (l’état, c’est moi) and when you shut out opposition, shut down media, imprison journalists, and declare organizations, schools, mosques, or associations or universities or charities, as terrorist organizations just by a signature, then I have to say, that is incorrect, and that is problematic, and that is unjust!

And I'll raise my voice, as a Muslim, as a human being, but also as a civil rights and human rights activist, because civil rights and human rights are not piecemeal. They cannot be divided; they cannot be allocated to one group and then denied to another. I believe that ideals are only good and are only meaningful if they apply to all human beings. It's a belief in blind due process, a blind independent judiciary, and having the procedures and the processes of justice apply everywhere, equally, to all people.

When I read the news that [Hizmet] schools were being shut down in Pakistan, it hurt, because Pakistan is in need of good schools, it's in need of education. We hear about radicalization, we hear about illiteracy, we hear about the lack of education in parts of the country – same in the United States, same in the world. And anyone who is putting themselves into service to build schools and educate young people is doing good in the world. As someone who built an organization, I understand how much effort this takes. I understand every wall that is painted, every nail that is hammered into that wall, every computer that is bought and connected, every chair and every table, and then all of the content that comes along with a good education. It takes so much to build a single classroom, let alone a whole organization. And here you have a school of many classrooms, and then you have a movement of many schools. One signature, for political pressure or for personal gain, shuts it all down.

It's so hard to build. It's so easy to destroy. And we, Muslim-Americans and people of conscience, have to raise our voices and say, “We don't stand for that!"

Ahmed Rehab, CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), Chicago

This article has first been published in the special issue of the Fountain Magazine © Blue Dome Press

Making a positive, wonderful difference in the world, Hizmet embraces the entire human family

I'm saddened to hear that the Hizmet Movement here is being categorized as a terror group.

I've been working with them now for the past eight years. I've had an opportunity to work closely with them and to travel with them overseas, and I see no foundation for this.

As a matter of fact, when I look at their zeal and their enthusiasm for the religion, and I look at how they practice the Qur'an and the life example of Muhammad the Prophet (upon him be peace), I'm inspired by what they do.

And they not only focus and center upon Muslims, they have great relationships with the non-Muslim community. And I would consider them to be like ambassadors for Islam.

They share Ramadan, they share neighborly needs, etc.

Muhammad the Prophet (upon him be peace) said he was one time talking with one of his companions, and he asked them if he knew one of the brothers. And then, he said, “Yes, I know so and so.”

And then the Prophet (upon him be peace) said, “Well, let me ask you something about him. Have you worked with him?”

He said, “No.”

“Have you traveled with him?”

He said, “No.”

Then the Prophet (upon him be peace) said, “Well, then you don't know him.”

I'm pleased to say that I've worked with our brothers, and I have traveled with them. And I know them well.

And to classify them as terrorists in any form is a great misrepresentation.

The other thing that I want to say is that they are very loyal and very patriotic to this nation. They work to support the good works in this nation.

They also work with all people, faith or no faith, and they show by example what the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace) taught us.

Some of us read books, some of us talk, but they actually do. And I consider it a privilege and an honor to be associated with them and to be part of the brotherhood.

I see them as wonderful human beings and as true Muslims, and I can say this as one that has studied the religion and been a leader in the religion for over 25 years. I can say this.

Also, what I want to say to you is that when people try to come against them – because some Muslims don't know about them and their movement and the good that they do in the world – I would tell them not to worry about that.

I would tell them to continue to model and be an excellent example of this religion and also build on the relationships you already have.

Myself, as one of your brothers and friends: if I know other Muslims don't know you, I'm happy to take you with me and introduce you to them and let them get to know you so they can form their own opinions.

And I have no doubt that once they get to know you and get to know your leadership, I have no doubt that they will no longer believe these outrageous allegations against you.

Muhammad the Prophet (upon him be peace) made education a top priority. You all make education a top priority.

He told us that we should be kind and considerate and respectful and hospitable to our neighbor. You all demonstrate that. You host iftars, you host various events during the month of Ramadan to educate the people.

So the Hizmet Movement is, I think, vital to the Muslim community, and they are also showing us how to apply the wonderful, universal, timeless concepts of Islam in the 21st century.

My imam, my teacher, taught me that you never change the principles. You never change the logic in Islam.

He said, but it's OK to change the way you express the logic. And we have to look at our current set of circumstances and our reality here in the West and apply the best application of this faith.

I see them doing that, and I see them embracing the entire human family and making a positive, wonderful difference in the world.

They're a benefit to the Muslim community and humanity as a whole.

Imam Omar Shakir, Resident Imam at Masjid Bilal ibn Rabah of San Antonio, Texas

This article has first been published in the special issue of the Fountain Magazine © Blue Dome Press

The Hizmet Movement of Fethullah Gülen and the Common Good – A Perspective from the UK

The Hizmet (service, in Turkish) movement associated with the Turkish teacher Fethullah Gülen [b. 1941] is part of the emerging “European Islam” which has its own diversity in the expression of Turkish-Muslim identity. The movement is active globally in education, media, inter-religious dialogue, finance, and relief work. In Britain, Hizmet has been particularly active in education and interfaith dialogue, and has made a significant contribution to the common good over the past twenty years. Hizmet is a living expression of Mevlana Rumi’s assertion that faith in the One God is far from being “… a Caravan of Despair” (Citlak & Bingul 2004, 8).

This article is being written at a time of national stress in the UK and Turkey. In the latter, following the July, 2016, coup attempt, Hizmet followers have faced extraordinary pressure, most of it illegal, from the ruling AKP government. Without providing any evidence, the government has claimed Hizmet – a hitherto benign, pro-social, pro-democratic, and apolitical movement – plotted and carried out the coup attempt. Thousands of citizens suspected of association with the Hizmet movement have been imprisoned, exiled, or dismissed from their professions by the AKP government. A critical analysis of such hostility is essential.

In the UK, the same time period has been marked by a divisive Referendum on the nation’s membership in the European Union, four terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, and a housing tower block fire in London, which claimed over 80 lives, including those of many immigrants.

When looking at the UK, one must examine the key role faith communities such as Hizmet have played in uniting divided societies over racism, Islamophobia, economic inequalities, and weakening public services. Christian, Muslim, and Jewish national and local leaders have come together to establish a common platform of accord and mutual respect. Hizmet, with its educational and inter-faith dialogue centres in major English cities such as London, Birmingham, and Manchester, has offered both spaces and opportunities for mutual engagement, as well as Qur’anically based understandings of the dynamics of successful religio-socially plural national cultures.

Islam, a rich and strong tradition that thrives across many diverse societies, is both a living faith and has enabled generations of Muslims to address social developments, justice, and both corporate and individual questions of identity and ethics. Drawing on the Qur’an, Hadith, Sunnah, and fiqh, new Islamic social movements have constantly formed fresh public spaces in which new identities and lifestyles could emerge, not least in the UK.

Some of the finest expressions of Islam have occurred under the most pluralist, religio-social circumstances, where intellectual discourse, educational achievements, and social harmony have flourished. Amongst contemporary Islamic thinkers who are professedly concerned with interpreting historical sources and practicing their faith in an "Islamically correct" manner, Fethullah Gülen is the spiritual father of what is probably the most active Turkish-Islamic movement of the late 20 th and early 21st centuries.

In considering Hizmet, one soon realizes that Fethullah Gülen is neither an innovator with a new and unique theology nor a revolutionary. His understanding of Islam is oriented within the conservative mainstream, and his arguments are rooted in the traditional sources of Islam. They stand in a lineage represented through al-Ghazali, Mevlana Jalal ud-Din Rumi, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, and in company with Muhammad Asad and Muhammad Naquib Syed Al-Attas, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

This movement – one amongst many on a spectrum which verges from pro-social civic based groups to aggressive factions – is distinctive in emphasizing high quality educational institutions, both in Turkey and internationally. Schools have been founded and staffed by Turkish nationals in developing states as well as in powerful, economically developed countries such as the USA and the UK. Hizmet members have also organized many academic conferences throughout the last 20 years, drawing international panels of academics and researchers to explore issues of human exploration and co-operation.

While Hizmet members have been organizing these schools and conferences, the current AKP government has adopted an aggressive version of “Political Islamism,” which brooks no contrasting expressions of a benign Islam, asserting its autocratic style by dismissing academics, teachers, judges, public servants, and military officers, amongst others, in an effort to consolidate its power over the Turkish state. This has led to a “state in exile” for many suspected of association with the Hizmet approach.

What, however, mechanisms have allowed these extremist elements to emerge and seize such power? It’s worth examining, so we can fully understand the value Hizmet brings to the world.

Defensiveness is pathogenic

In today's complex and globalized world, migration and inter-culturalism have become the norm. In many countries there is no official, shared, “public” religion.

In a sociological analysis of why high rates of strict religion for developed countries such as the UK and other European states, Steve Bruce formulated the concept of “cultural transition and defence," explaining how defensiveness can bolster extreme types of religiosity, including those that advocate violence (Bruce 1996, p. 165, 197). A significant issue here is lack of a Western center of Islam that makes it necessary for Muslims to study abroad. Cesari and Ramadan assert strongly that an independent Western Islam must emerge in order to solve problems associated with radicalization (Cesari 2004, and Ramadan 2004). The Hizmet movement is in prime position to offer such a model of Islam.

The central majority of a religion often used social pressure to control extremists. If the central mass of believers dwindles in numbers, the growth of literalist and extremist factions will likely continue unchecked.

Sectarian literalism

Historically, there has always been a contention between monotheistic traditions and other traditions of faith, just as that contention has existed among themselves. While the Abrahamic religions affirm monotheism, resist deviation, and oppose constructed deities, their core values emphasize openness to diversity. Textual literalism, however, has made the new monotheism politically sectarian, schismatic and aggressive, while social and moral laws have been deemed inferior by this new emphasis. This development has heralded a new type of political order inevitably hostile to all other civic ideals (Fenn 2009, 135). This irrationality has had, and does have, serious and deadly consequences.

Typically, uncritical literalists aim to cleanse “false believers” from their midst, or to separate themselves from them. This is why literalism can lead to violence and usually leads to schisms (Harris 2004, 409). To be a literalist is to destroy the majority of depth and emotion of any written religion. The only advantage of the literalist’s uncritical attitude to scripture is that it caters to the simplistic mind craving order. Such is the strategy and mindset of the AKP leadership and its persecution of devout people influenced by Hizmet and Fethullah Gülen.

Disdaining pluralism

Extremists enforce strict moral codes in accordance with their beliefs, and sometimes, such as during the Christian Medieval periods, they violently suppress dissent. They disdain pluralism as abnormal: cuius regio, eius religio.

During such times, minority religious groups have no choice but to argue for religious plurality as a matter of self-survival. But even during less stressful times it is critical to value pluralism, which lifts up minority voices and ensures a diverse society, where different voices and beliefs are given equal footing.

When a singular political ideology such as the AKP’s Islamist ideology becomes entrenched and encroaches upon the arenas of public education and politics, a dangerous possibility emerges: its leaders, comfortable in power, will no longer see the need for pluralism, which is the seed-bed of a healthy normal society. Such an order needs to be reminded of a possible new dark age.

The need for fixed stars, for certainty in the midst of our tenuous lives on an unpredictable planet, is real and understandable. Political and religious leaders who can package and deliver absolute truths find receptive audiences, but do not create healthy societies. A movement such as Hizmet, with its openness to contemporary human enterprise, research, education, democracy, and diversity, threatens such rigidities. We need to think of such an expression of Islam as the Hizmet movement does: with support for a full menu of pluralism, democratic and constitutional freedoms, universal human rights, and religious diversity.

These beliefs are exemplified by Hizmet, a de-centralized polymorphic social movement, which in less than thirty years has made significant contributions to inter-communal and national peace, inter-religious dialogue, economic development, and education. These contributions are evident in the Movement’s activities, research, platforms, and creative influence in the UK and around the globe. In a time of anxiety and despondency, Hizmet represents a “Caravan of Hope” rather than a train of despair.


Bruce, Steve.1996. Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cesari, Jocelyne. 2004. When Islam and Democracy Meet, London/New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Citlak, M. Fatih & Bingul, Huseyin. 2007, Rumi and his Sufi Path of Love.Istanbul/New York: Tughra Books.

Fenn, Richard K. 2009. Key Thinkers in the Sociology of Religion. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Harris, Harriet A. 2004. “Fundamentalisms” in " Encyclopedia of New Religions," Partridge, Christopher Oxford, Lion Publishing.

Ramadan, Tariq. Western Muslims and the Future of Islam Oxford, Oxford University Press. 2004.

Rev. Dr. Ian G. Williams teaches and supervises research in Islamic Studies at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education / Newman University, UK.

This article has first been published in the special issue of the Fountain Magazine © Blue Dome Press

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