The Hizmet movement began in the 1970s in Turkey to improve education and grew into a global civic movement which encourages interfaith and intercultural dialogue. It is inspired by the ideas of Fethullah Gulen, who Foreign Policy magazine listed as the “World’s top intellectual.” Gulen a scholar, educator and author who advocates a moderate brand of Islam, is best known for his quote: “A terrorist cannot be a Muslim, nor can a true Muslim be a terrorist.” He says that “Extremism will be curbed and tolerance will be promoted by education.”
Compassion and love are central concepts in Gulen’s teachings. Fethullah Gulen advocates tolerance and forgiveness as central Islamic values and he believes peaceful coexistence is not far. Mr. Fethullah Gulen, in his emphasis upon intercultural and interfaith dialogue, often refers to the harmonious inter-religious relationships that existed in the Ottoman Empire. The Empire was composed not only of Muslims, but of many Christians and Jews as well as some Zoroastrians. Until the emergence of modern national states, these religious groups lived together peacefully and productively throughout the Ottoman times.
The concept of compassion in the teachings of Gülen is one of the most important principles in Gülen’s understanding of education. In the tradition in which Gülen was brought up, his understanding is that no matter how small, every creature praises God in its own tongue, and therefore deserves its proper respect and compassion. Gülen says:
Compassion is the beginning of being; without it everything is chaos. Everything has come into existence through compassion and by compassion it continues to exist in harmony [….] Everything speaks of compassion and promises compassion. Because of this, the universe can be considered a symphony of compassion. All kinds of voices proclaim compassion so that it is impossible not to be aware of it, and impossible not to feel the wide mercy encircling everything. How unfortunate are the souls who don’t perceive this […] Human beings have a responsibility to show compassion to all living beings, as a requirement of being human. The more one displays compassion, the more exalted one becomes, while the more one resorts to wrongdoing, oppression and cruelty, the more one is disgraced and humiliated, becoming a shame to humanity.
Mr. Gulen demonstrated his own humility when he met with Pope John Paul II in February 1998. After the meeting he was criticized by a group of young Islamists who argued that he should not have humiliated himself by going to the Vatican and meeting with the Pope. Mr. Gulen responded by saying that, “Humility is an attribute of Muslims and that dialog with people of other religious traditions is an integral part of Islam”
Gülen attached himself with Jalal ad-Din Rumi’s ideology for this purpose. Poet Rumi was the founder of Sufism. But Gülen was never been a follower of Sufi thoughts or the “Tariqat”, nor did he believe in its membership to be an obligatory for the Muslims. He followed the teaching of the Quran and preached “hizmet”.(in Turkish this is a duty conferred on the Muslims by the all mighty Allah), meaning “common good” to be done towards the fellow brothers who follow the Books revealed from Allah Himself. i.e., the Jews and the Christians and humanities as a whole.
In the final section of his contribution “the necessity of interfaith dialogue”, Gülen mentions four fundamental universal values that are sustained by religion and are therefore to be promoted in interreligious dialogue. It is a matter of fact that these four words: love, compassion, tolerance, and forgiving, may be very important subject-matters in dialogue between people, because they may offer some profound spiritual teachings with regard to these values.