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Gulen is a Contemporary Scholar-Intellectual

The Islamic Majority in Turkey

 

There are three different types of Islamic structures in Turkey: cultural, social, and political. Within these structures is a very rich production of design.

What is "Nurcuism?"

People who read Said Nursi's collection of works and shape their interpretation according to it are called Nurcu. This name was produced by the courts. To fill the vacuum in the field of morals left by the Republican reforms, a local discourse that was flexible and compatible with the contemporary discourse was needed. This discourse was Nurcuism. Said Nursi understood that there wasn't going to be period of awakening along the madrasa-teacher and sheikh axis, and so became a forerunner of a movement on a book axis.

Why is Nurcuism the strongest Islamic movement?

It is a period of passing from imitative belief to investigative belief. Doubt demands proof. In short, religion is being rationalized, and a drive to base it on human intelligence is taking place. Believers must understand why they believe if their faith is to be firm. Another reason the Nurcus are successful is that they avoid politics as much as possible. Contrary to claims, Said Nursi never called for an Islamic state or Islamic revolution; rather, he criticized these, for his goal was always humanity, not the state. Islam was revealed to humanity, not to the state. The aim of his Kulliyat (Collection of Works) was to raise people's consciousness so they could construct a peaceful, harmonious, and contented individual and society. As this would be realized by establishing harmony and balance between our inner awareness and lifestyle, there was no concept of Islamic state or Islamic revolution.

Was Said Nursi a democrat?

Said Nursi defended movements of freedom against Abdulhamit's absolutism. In fact, in 1908 he made a speech supporting the Young Turks in Salonika. When we examine this speech, we see that he saw freedom as a necessary condition of faith. In other words, faith cannot be built in the absence of freedom. For him, building one's faith was a necessary prerequisite for the different ethnic groups of the Ottoman society to live together in peace. He opposed the concept of an Islamic state being used by political parties. If we understand democracy to mean ruling society according to its own heritage, protecting differences, and valuing human beings, then he was a democrat and an advocate of civil society.

Do you agree that Gulen has developed an interpretation of Islamic democracy in accordance with Said Nursi's interpretation, in which human rights and freedoms are compatible with modern science?

Really, Fethullah Hodja's tolerance and the importance he gives to people is commendable. I went to the Fergana valley and studied his work in the schools there. It was a source of pride for me. Gulen's interpretation of Islam can answer today's needs. He is a contemporary Islamic scholar-intellectual with his ears turned to the Qur'an and the Sunna, and his eyes to daily issues.

What kind of relationship is there between the Refah Party and the Nur movement?

The Nurcus know Necmettin Erbakan well, and so are keeping their distance. This distance is based on the experience of 1973-77. The Milli Nizam party and the Milli Selamet party had received Nurcu support. But they quickly saw that Erbakan considered Islam a political vehicle and that he was opportunist enough to cooperate with the CHP. As a result, they avoided this movement and continue to do so. [Interviewed by Nilgun Cerrahoglu, Milliyet 9/18/96]