Fethullah Gulen: The Life Of Modern Sufi In Perspective


Erdogan was the leader of the Justice and Development Party from 14 August 2001 – 27 August 2014, Mayor of Istanbul from 27 March 1994 – 6 November 1998 and member of the Grand National Assembly from 9 March 2003 – 28 August 2014. From14 March 2003 – 28 August 2014, Erdogan was the prime minister of his country, Turkey. From 28 August 2014 – present, he has been the president of the country.

Many observed that Erdogan got some of these achievements relatively easily due to his attachment with M. Fethullah Gulen – a famous, pious and highly respected religious and political icon. Some political analysts and commentators within and outside Turkey were of the opinion that without M. Gulen, Erdogan’s political victories might not have been possible.

Then, who is M. Fethullah Gulen and what makes him famous, pious and respected?

Fethullah Gulen was born on the 27th April, 1941 at the Turkish Village of Korucuk near to Erzurum. His parent, Ramiz and Rafia Gulen were dedicated Muslims. They were satisfied with Islamic religion as comprehensive and the best way of life. Mr. Ramiz was an educated and respected Imam. Madam Rafia taught Qur’an to children and women at the Village Madrasa.

The young M. Fethullah enjoyed double advantage of learning Qur’an and Islamic Jurisprudence from his father and mother. He took part in Islamic education in some of Erzurum’s Madrasas, and at the age of 14, he gave his first sermon.

  1. Gulen, in line of his parents’ and society’s expectations, grew up to become an authoritative mainstream Turkish Muslim Scholar, thinker, author, poet, opinion leader and educational activist. He supports interfaith and intercultural dialogue, science, democracy and spirituality. He opposes violence and turning religion into political ideology. By some estimates, several hundreds of educational organisations, such as K- 12 schools, Universities and Language School have been established around the world inspired by M. Fethullah Gulen.

As a matter of fact, after the great Muslim authority, Sa’id Nursi (1878 – 1960), probably there has never been a charismatic religious personality like M. Gulen in the history of modern Turkey.

Two points to take note of about Gulen’s philosophy. First, he strongly dissuades his followers from teblig (open proselytism) which tends to cause suspicion among people, instead, he urges them to practice temsel – living an Islamic way of life at all times and places.

Second, Gulen holds that Muslims and non- Muslims once lived in peace because the Othman Turks allowed environment of tolerance.

He is the architect of Hizmet (service). Hizmet is a worldwide civic initiative rooted in the spiritual and humanistic tradition of Islam. It is a faith- inspired, non-political, cultural and educational movement whose basic principles stem from Islam’s universal values, such as love of creation, sympathy for fellow human, compassion and altruism.

In short, M.Fethullah Gulen has been living a life of service to God and humanity.

Naturally, human beings like heroes. They like people with the kind of background M. Gulen belongs to. M. Gulen is not only a great and influential citizen of Turkey but a famous global figure. He was considered one of the 100 most influential people of the world.

President Erdogan is very much aware of M. Gulen’s those beautiful credentials. He realised his influence and how well he could benefit from him. As a politician, Erdogan thought the easiest way to achieve his political ambition was through affiliation with M.Gulen. M. Gulen as a man, who believes in dignity, progress and development of his country, he enthusiastically welcomed Erdogan and gave him as much support as possible. In keeping with his orientation, Gulen sees life and people from positive perspective. He does not deceive and does not expect someone to deceive him. He does not lie and does not expect someone to lie to him. As a human being, he doesn’t know the secret of human minds. Erdogan took advantage of these wonderful qualities of Fethullah Gulen to plea for his support.

What did M. Gulen expect from Erdogan?

Among other things, Gulen expected rapprochement, respect for each other, service to people, translating into action the policies and promises made by Erdogan during his campaign rallies. However, rather than all the above, Erdogan turned his back and allowed his top government officials to engage in corrupt behaviours. Instead of appreciating the actions of the police and judiciary, Erdogan defended his ministers. For example, Erdogan defended Suleyman Aslan, Erdogan’s Halk bank chief executive when charged with taking bribes by the prosecutor while police were said to have found $4.5 dollars in cash at his home.

Rather than investigating the truth of the matter, Erdogan allowed himself to be mis-informed that the police and the judiciary were acting on the instructions of M. Gulen. He accused M.Gulen of running parallel government – an accusation he was never able to prove beyond doubt. He also said that the corruption investigation was influenced by international conspiracy. Erdogan wanted to silence Gulen and anybody that criticized his ministers’ corrupt practices by way of threat. Instead of being wise and objective as a leader, Erdogan became confused and threatened to expel US Ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone.

Everybody will expect a good and reasonable leader to motivate and support his police, prosecutor and judiciary for working hard and impartially to eradicate corruption, however, Erdogan does the opposite; he fired hundreds of them and detained many others. It was said that a video clip was seen in circulation showing Ali, nephew and bodyguard of Erdogan, instructing a police commissioner to abuse the detainees who had protested against his uncle, and hurling insult at the commissioner when he refused. Up to this day Erdogan is cracking down on anything related to the man, Gulen who paved the way for his political success; the man served as a mentor to him.

My hope is that President Erdogan realises that Fethullah Gulen is a blessing to Turkey in isolation and the world in general. The world citizens especially the so called third world nations, will be proud to have the like of Fethullah Gulen in their midst. If you don’t longer need his service in Turkey, I recommend that Nigerians should appeal to President Muhammad Buhari to award him honourary citizenship of Nigeria so that he may come and stay forever. Here Nigeria, we need his spiritual guide. We are very sure Mr. Gulen will guide our bodies and spirits, especially, towards religious tolerance, inter-tribal co-operation and political stability.

NASIR HASHIM (08135295865)