Benevolence in the Gulen Movement

The concept of benevolence is very important part of Gulen Movement. Turkish speaking community calls Gulen Movement as Hizmet Movement. The word hizmet, which translates as service from Turkish, refers to public activities conducted by the followers of movement for the wellbeing of other people. It is important to notice that through their benevolent service to people the followers of Gulen Movement hope to please and become closer to God. In such a way, benevolence lies at the essence of the Hizmet Movement and comprises its inalienable part.

Literally meaning disposition to do good or an act of good will, benevolence is a complex and multidimensional concept in Gulen Movement. Three important dimensions of benevolence are pure altruism, intention to please the Almighty and serving everybody who needs help. Let’s look at these three dimensions more closely.

There is a conventional wisdom that if a person does an act of good to someone, this act will definitely return to him/her or to his/her children, relatives or friends. It may not necessarily be the same act of good; it can take different forms and dimensions; however, almost everybody expects that if he/she does something good to others, he/she will eventually be rewarded sooner or later in this life. In Gulen Movement the concept of benevolence is based on pure altruism, in other words, the absence of expectation that good will somehow be back like a boomerang.

Fethullah Gulen advocates serving the humanity expecting nothing in return in this life. The followers of Gulen Movement live with a hope that they will be rewarded after this life and their biggest desire is to become closer to God through their service to humanity.

In addition, it is very important that together with expecting nothing in return for their good deeds the followers of Gulen Movement have an ultimate goal of pleasing God. This is another distinction of Gulen Movement since many people often seek to please somebody or themselves through their acts of benevolence. Even if their primary goal is not to please others, they wish to create image of benevolent individuals through their good deeds. Gulen inspires his followers to get rid of such earthly desires and to think first and foremost about pleasing God through their service. As I mentioned before, followers themselves call the movement the Hizmet Movement and perceive themselves as humble servants rather that actors expecting applauds of gratitude from the audience.

Since teachings of Gulen advocate doing good only to please God and expect nothing in return, there is no selectivity criterion in doing service for people. In other words, followers of Gulen movement do not choose who they will serve; they do good acts of will for everybody regardless of race, ethnicity, education, religion, cultural background, gender, social status or age. The main idea of Gulen is to serve the humanity, which consists of billions of very different individuals; and the goal of Gulen Movement followers is to reach out to as many people as possible. The only criterion which exists in choosing community to serve is the degree of neediness of that specific community. It is important to notice that neediness is not determined solely by the level of poverty; it may be any kind of need such as needs resulting from disasters; educational needs; material needs; spiritual needs, etc.

In such a way, benevolence is a powerful force which drove the followers of Gulen Movement to open schools and other educational institutions in all corners of the world, to establish relief organization which rush to help wherever their help is needed, to engage in intercultural and interfaith dialogue only to improve the atmosphere of peace and tolerance in the world and to do many other great things. Nowadays when “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” philosophy is quite common in many countries, it is very difficult to prove people otherwise. And the fact that Gulen-inspired institutions are active and also appreciated in more than 110 countries shows that benevolence is a key factor in building trust and understanding among people.

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