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Distribution of Sunnah and Mr. Fethullah Gulen

One of the most extraordinary features of Mr. Fethullah Gulen’s sermon series on our Prophet (pbuh), which later became a book titled ‘Sonsuz Nur,’ in my opinion, is its explanation of the legislative role of the Sunnah concerning both ‘hadith’ and the methodology of jurisprudence. This series, which began on January 13, 1989, and ended on March 16, 1990, did something unconventional in the Turkish preaching tradition by addressing this subject. The mosque was like a Theology Faculty, and its congregation like the students studying there.

Why do I say this?

Because of the nature of the topic and the lack of examples. I believe that if this issue had been addressed by dozens or hundreds of scholars like Mr. Fethullah Gulen in the pulpits of mosques, the information I shared about the distribution of the Sunnah would not have seemed so foreign, and people wouldn’t have reacted with ‘We’ve heard this from you as well!’

I wrote the answer in my first article, and I will write it again for the occasion; I do not find it strange or blame those who think this way. On the contrary, what I find strange and blame are professionals like myself who have taken it upon themselves to explain religion but have not explained this topic to our people. I include myself in this group. After all, I also spent a full 7 years as the official preacher of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, preaching religion on the pulpits of mosques, halls, and prison wards, but it never occurred to me to explain this topic, even though I had an example like Mr. Gulen before me.

Without further ado, let’s see what Mr. Gulen says about this topic…

The first edition of ‘Sonsuz Nur,’ published in three volumes, entirely explains this topic in its third volume. I strongly recommend reading it or listening to the sermons. That’s one.

Secondly, what he says is no different from the scholars in the history and tradition of Islamic sciences who made the 2-fold, 4-fold, 5-fold, 7-fold, and 12-fold divisions I mentioned in my first article. In fact, he enriches these with examples, taking them into consideration.

Thirdly, he addresses the topic from a much broader perspective, not only within the frameworks of hadith science but also including jurisprudence and mysticism.

Look at these assessments by Mr. Gulen: ‘The verbatim and exact transfer of life as lived during the Asr-ı Saadet (Age of Happiness) to our time and trying to apply it unchanged could lead to conflict and might not be suitable for the spirit of the religion. What needs to be done is to understand the fundamental philosophy of the Sunnah well and to find solutions to today’s problems in accordance with the time and conditions we live in, starting from the open ends left by the religion. If we look at the Sirah (life of the Prophet) with this perspective, important principles and rules for our time can be derived from the Prophet’s strategies of war and peace, methods of guidance and preaching, administrative and management understanding, or practices regarding fatwa and judgment.’

What had I said in my previous evaluation? The verbal and actual sayings and actions of our Prophet (pbuh) can only be transferred to life exactly as they are in the context of the living conditions of that time. So, let’s build cities like film platforms and live there as Muslims, I said, and then I asked if this was possible. What does Mr. Gulen say; ‘The verbatim and exact transfer of life as lived during the Asr-ı Saadet to our time and trying to apply it unchanged could lead to conflict and might not be suitable for the spirit of the religion.’

Do you see a difference between these two evaluations?

Let me continue: ‘There is no doubt that we have universal values at hand. However, what is important is to interpret these in accordance with the current conjuncture. The life we want to live today may have been lived in the past, albeit in a different line. But if you do not clearly define the line of that day and today and ignore the differences between them, you cannot achieve what you desire. We must not forget that there is a need for a change in format and that some of the ready-made solutions we have at hand need to be reconsidered.’

What more could he say?

Doesn’t he point out that what needs to be reinterpreted in the normative field is the tradition in its broadest sense, not the constants such as faith, worship, and morality, in the name of revival, renewal, reform, and independent reasoning? Hasn’t he brought this to life with his personal choices, independent reasoning, and judgments on many issues concerning our socio-cultural and economic lives, including personal attire and eating habits, until he reached the age of 85? If he had adopted an orthodox and conservative approach, would the Movement, whose intellectual leadership he undertook, have seen today?

However, after opening this door, Mr. Gulen does not fail to make this emphasis. He says: ‘Nevertheless, we must not forget that interpreting the values and fundamental disciplines we have inherited according to current conditions and conjuncture is not an easy task and that very big mistakes have been made in this regard. Especially in places where personal initiatives are used to solve problems and individual considerations come to the forefront, mistakes are frequent. The way to minimize possible mistakes is to refer this matter to the deliberation and discussion of a committee. For truths emerge through the exchange of ideas, that is, through the sharing of ideas.’

I think that’s enough. Over three articles, I have tried to clarify one issue. I have conveyed the views of some scholars from the early periods to today, Bediüzzaman, and Mr. Gulen on the subject. I don’t want to prolong it any further.

One last point: The quotes from Mr. Gulen I used were published on December 13, 2020, under the title ‘Measures for a Righteous Interpretation of Religion’ at this address. Those who wish can read the entire text there.”

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