Who is Fethullah Gulen?
Fethullah Gülen is a Turkish Muslim scholar, thinker, author, poet, opinion leader, educational activist, peace advocate, and preacher emeritus. He is regarded as the initiator and inspirer of the worldwide civil society movement, known as the Hizmet (Service) Movement or the Gulen Movement, which is committed to education, dialogue, peace, social justice, and social harmony.
Focused on education where secular curricula are taught by teachers who aspire to “represent” high values of humanity, this social phenomenon defeats easy categorization. Volunteer participants in the movement, consisting of students, academicians, business owners, professionals, public officials, white-collar and blue-collar workers, farmers, men and women, young and old, contribute to multiple ways of service, which crystallize in tutoring centers, schools, colleges, hospitals, a major relief organization, publishing houses, and media institutions, both in Turkey and in more than 140 countries of the world. Gulen has published more than sixty books in Turkish, many of which have been translated to more than thirty languages.
Fethullah Gulen was listed as the World’s Top Public Intellectual by Foreign Policy magazine in May 2008. Fethullah Gülen is known for his philosophical and active stance for human rights, democracy, interfaith and intercultural dialogue, science, spirituality, and against violence, segregation, and turning religion into a political ideology in critical junctures of the history of his society.
Gulen’s discourse cherishes and his life exemplifies values such as empathetic acceptance, altruistic service to one’s community and humanity in general, the complementary roles of the intellect and the heart, sincerity, holistic view of the human, deepening faith and love of the creation. “Serving humanity to serve God” and “living to let others live” are the core principles of his understanding of service.
His promotion of sympathy, compassion and harmonious coexistence can best be rejected in a comparison with that of Rumi, the 13th century Anatolian Sufi and spiritual poet and one of Gülen’s sources of inspiration. Gülen started his career as a preacher and education activist. In time, he succeeded in mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people for the purpose of serving society by uniting around high human values. Despite the high regard millions hold for him, he considers himself only one of the volunteers of the civil society movement he helped originate and denounces any attribution of leadership.
Sharing the suffering of humans in every corner of the world, Gulen has always been known for his deep respect for and connection to all creation. “Living to let others live” (“yasatmak icin yasamak” in Turkish) is the core principle of his understanding of service. His promotion of dialogue, empathic acceptance, and harmonious coexistence can best be reflected in a comparison with that of Rumi, the 13th Century Anatolian spiritual poet and one of Gulen’s sources of inspiration.
He currently resides in at a retreat facility Pennsylvania and spends most of his time reading, writing, editing, worshiping, and receiving medical care.