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Mr. Fethullah Gulen’s Insights: Navigating the Dynamics and Stagnations in Islam

I am putting the finishing touches on my book titled ‘From Memory to Line II (1988-2000 Turkey),’ which recounts my memories related to Mr. Fethullah Gulen. While writing, editing, and concurrently reading, I revisit notes I made during those years. On February 6, 1988, Mr. Gulen had said, “I have now renounced the things I spoke about 15 years ago. If I were to take the stage today, I would not speak in the same manner.”

These two sentences imply a change in his style of expression. But the example he gives points not just to a change in style, but also in ideological content. For instance, he mentions “the shape of the Earth.”

“Shape of the Earth” literally refers to the globe. If we take 1988 and go back 15 years, that brings us to 1973. I do not know exactly what Mr. Gulen said regarding the topic in 1973. He might have shared passages from tafsir (Quranic exegesis) books, reflecting the scientific knowledge of that era. Or he might have compared interpretations from tafsir books with scientific books he read in 1973, or he might have meant a different approach in narrative technique, style, or expression. I am only speculating here.

What leads me to this speculation is another statement he made: “In 30 years, people will laugh at what your ‘Huveycat’ says.”

For those who don’t know, ‘Huveycat’ is a diminutive form of the word ‘teacher’ (hoca), used here as an expression of humility.

What is he referring to when he says people in 30 years will laugh? Perhaps the interpretations and explanations he made within the knowledge level of his time. All of them? Certainly not. Why? Because time disproves this. Since 1966, the majority of his speeches, which were recorded and then printed, still retain their vitality and validity after 50-60 years. They continue to shape our thoughts and serve as a roadmap. This indicates that Mr. Gulen made timeless observations.

Indeed, that is the case.

I referred to “concurrent readings” above; in these readings, I also looked at his article titled “The Main Characteristic of Islamic Thought.” Pay attention to these sentences: “Islam, from its very first day, presented a completely new and unique system of life to all humanity. This system, unlike any in the past or future, was unique. It reorganized human life, bringing new interpretations to the physical and metaphysical worlds; it redefined relationships between human beings, the universe, and God from the perspective of phenomena, resolving contradictions in theology. The values it brought answered all of humanity’s expectations satisfactorily, filling intellectual, logical, and emotional gaps in the hearts and minds of its followers. It was dynamic in every aspect; evolving and expanding as it was practiced…” and I will complete the sentence with his words.

But first, I ask you to revisit the lines you’ve just read. Exquisite expressions. They vividly bring to life the era in which Islam was practiced during the Prophet’s time. Those with a bit of knowledge of Islamic history can visualize the truths described in these lines, finding themselves alongside the Prophet and his companions in the streets of Mecca and Medina.

So, what does he say next? “…and it did not say ‘come tomorrow’ to any problem it faced; it penetrated the narrowest corridors of individual, familial, social, economic, political, and cultural life, moving with the voice and breath of its era in all aspects of ‘life,’ and making itself felt more solidly than the most solid realities in each unit.”

The observations of Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) time, when the heavens and earth communicated commands, prohibitions, and recommendations through revelation, are very accurate. During everyday life, no problem remained unsolved or postponed. As Mr. Fethullah Gulen puts it, “Islam did not say ‘come tomorrow.'” This intellectual vitality continued for 4-5 centuries after the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) passing, albeit not to the extent of his era. Believers continued to find solutions to new problems under the light of revelation without saying “come tomorrow.” There were only some intellectual conflicts and different proposals for solutions, an inseparable part of the process.

What about today? What about in our times?

Here lies the problem. Unfortunately, and I say this with regret, Muslims of later periods – and we are included – have not shown the same agility, vitality, or sensitivity. We say not “come tomorrow,” but “come in five years, or five centuries,” and when the time comes, we ask for more time.

Am I not right?

Yes, today, one of the main reasons underlying the dire state of the Islamic world is undoubtedly this.

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Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.

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