Muhammed Fethullah Gülen

Alparslan Açıkgenç

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online March 2011 | | DOI:
Muhammed Fethullah Gülen

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Gülen (pronounced as ‘geulan’, “eu” as in French “u”) is a religious leader from Turkey. He was born in a small village, Korucuk, in the province of Erzurum in 1941. He belonged to a family of traditional religious scholars. Thus, he was taught in the medrese (traditional Islamic schools and seminaries) style first by his father and then by other traditionally medrese-trained scholars in the nearby villages. Gülen may be considered a self-trained intellectual because—after completing his madrasa education—he applied himself to a strict study of works of contemporary thinkers of the Orient and the West. After the 1960s, he began his official career as a preacher but has always been active in community affairs. In 1966, Gülen decided to volunteer as the administrator of a Qurʾan school near a mosque in İzmir where he was a preacher. Thus, he began his educational activities at the dormitory of this Qurʾan school. The people who were inspired by his sermons and private lessons sponsored his educational activities. By about the early 1980s, hundreds of educational dormitories were opened. In his work Gülen emphasized that one must always renew oneself with fresh ideas, with new insights into community service in particular, and humanity in general. This is his ideal and understanding of life, which the Turkish call hizmet. After 1979, Gülen entered the world of publication also. In a journal called Sızıntı (Droplets), he wrote editorials explaining the meaning and purpose of his educational activities. In the early 1980s, the first high school was established in İzmir by Gülen. More new schools were built in Turkey, and soon thereafter, in many parts of the world, schools were established according to the same model. In the 1990s, this educational venture was topped by the establishment of universities that embodied the aspiration toward world-class scientific achievement oriented toward improving the plight of humanity—particularly those most in need of every category of assistance. Those inspired by Gülen’s ideals continued to establish multimedia structures, such as daily newspapers, radio and TV stations, as well as banks and other economic establishments that operate around the globe. His overall role seems to be that of a spiritual guide and advisor on how to maintain and constantly activate ethical standards in all spheres of life. Hocaefendi (pronounced as hodja effendi, meaning “revered master), as Gülen is called in Turkish, may be more specifically described as an opinion leader in Turkey—an intellectual, poet, and religious scholar who dedicated himself to the betterment of humankind not only in this world but, in his own words, “above all in the life to come.”

Article.  6786 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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