Fethullah Gülen: Following in the Footsteps of Rumi

Abstract

The writings of Jalal al-Din Rumi, the thirteenth-century mystical poet and founder of the Mevlevi Sufi confraternity, have influenced the thinking and behaviour of many Muslims down to our own times. One of the modern Muslims who have appropriated Rumi’s attitudes and integrated them into their own understanding of Islamic faith and practice is the Turkish scholar and religious leader, Muhammad Fethullah Gülen. The correspondence of Mevlana to Gülen is that of kindred spirits who, across the centuries, share an interpretation of the Qur’anic message as well as a commitment to communicate that message effectively to people of their respective ages. In his sermons and written works, Gülen frequently cites Rumi’s behavior and attitudes to illustrate his message; in the book Toward a Global Civilization of Love and Tolerance, Gülen cites Rumi over 15 times to exemplify his themes of civilizational dialogue. In his work on the Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, Gülen cites Mevlana more often than any other saint or spiritual writer as he seeks to initiate the seeker into the mysteries of God’s love. What does Mevlana mean for Fethullah Gülen? Where does he see the affinity between his own understanding of Islam and that expounded and exemplified by Rumi? What are the lessons that can be learned from Rumi? Why does Gülen consider Rumi a worthy exemplar for the modern Muslim? The answers to these questions can be found in four areas. Firstly, for Gülen, Rumi is one of the great figures of tolerance and dialogue in Islamic history; modern Muslims can learn from Rumi’s ‘compass openness’. Secondly, Rumi is a model of holiness, one of the great saints produced by Islam. Thirdly, Mevlana’s longing for God makes him an instructive example for all those who thirst for a relationship of greater intimacy with God. Finally, Rumi is the teacher of the many virtues need by conscientious Muslims at all times. (tag: hizmet, hizmet movement, gulen movement)

by Dr. Ali Ünsal