Religious Connotations of the Hizmet Movement

fethullah gulen articleIn today’s secular world, most people perceive the religious concepts negatively. You don’t need to have a religious perspective to be blamed; it is enough to describe a concept using an adjective that could have some religious connotations. You are immediately labeled as dogmatic or fanatic or God forbid a fundamentalist. No matter what your religion is, and even if you did not have one, say you may were an atheist or an antagonist, you still need to be careful in defining certain things. Especially if that thing is somewhat related to Islam, then you need to double check each and every word of you use in order to avoid any misunderstandings. The civil initiatives inspired by Fethullah Gulen, and called as Hizmet Movement, are no exception.

In An Analysis of the Gulen Movement, it is made clear that the Hizmet Movement is not just a religious order even though the essential dynamics of the movement are identified by religious concepts. The author clarifies that “Max Weber’s concept of “worldly asceticism” can help analyze the Gülen movement only to a certain degree. Instead, it is a movement that has been organized by civil dynamics”, then lists the common concepts that define the Hizmet movement as “modesty, self-sacrifice, altruism, devotion, togetherness, service without expectations, and by a depth of the spirit and heart with no anticipation for personal gain for any intention or deed.”

A quick review of these concepts will show that most if not all of these are universal moral values. If the people inspired by Gulen were to keep these to themselves, and live all that in their inner worlds, then may be, they would not have received the negative comments they did in the media. But they also directed these dynamics to outside, as they went to all parts of the world to reach out to the needy and opened schools to provide quality education, and set up dialog platforms to establish bridges between people coming from different walks of life. It is then, they got the attention of media, unfortunately mostly in a negative way. Some groups accused them of proselytizing whereas some others have been looking for a hidden agenda forever now.

Religious orders usually ask individuals to remove themselves from social life and instill a rigid discipline and perspective. The Gulen movement differs in that it is inspired by a contemporary projection of the message of the historical Sufis like Rumi. In this projection, “religious motive” and “social action” work in great harmony. Fethullah Gulen’s understanding of service requires a genuine spirit of devotion and allows participation in broader and greater continuity. For instance, Fethullah Gulen instills a broad understanding of charity to include the gifts of time and effort, not just money. He similarly conveys the idea that prayer is not just for us, but also for others. Thus, taking these as his starting point, Fethullah Gulen‘s definition of “service” becomes broader and continuous, extending to human, moral, and universal values.

Likewise, other essential dynamics in Hizmet movement may have religious connotations, and may have actually originated from Islamic faith, but realization of all these principles are carried out in a much wider and broader way. As a result, Hizmet movement has become not a religious order but a much wider platform that people from all walks of life can and do participate in all kinds of activities aiming nothing but the common good for humanity.

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