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Sincerity at the Heart of Gülen’s Theology

The Theological Dimension of the Thought of M. Fethullah Gülen (Part 2)

“Sincerity” in the Islamic Tradition Ikhlas is a Qur’anic concept that is variously translated as “sincerity” or “purity of intention,” and Gülen’s understanding of this term covers both aspects of the Qur’anic concept. In ordinary parlance, “sincerity” indicates the notion of honesty or freedom...
| Thomas Michel | Issue 141 (May - Jun 2021)

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The Theological Dimension of the Thought of M. Fethullah Gülen (Part 2)

In This Article

  • In his treatment of sincerity (ikhlas), Gülen builds upon what was elaborated in the tradition and applies these insights to the contemporary needs of communitarian life and the broader society.
  • At the deepest level, sincerity can only be understood in the mystery of the relationship between God and God’s faithful servant.
  • Without sincerity to animate deeds spiritually, all human endeavors would remain lifeless, ephemeral, and ultimately worthless.

“Sincerity” in the Islamic Tradition

Ikhlas is a Qur’anic concept that is variously translated as “sincerity” or “purity of intention,” and Gülen’s understanding of this term covers both aspects of the Qur’anic concept. In ordinary parlance, “sincerity” indicates the notion of honesty or freedom from dissimulation and hypocrisy. A sincere person is one whose external words or deeds are in accord with their interior thoughts or feelings. A sincere person does not pretend to be expressing one thought or emotion while in reality his interior dispositions are to the contrary. Thus, a sincere person is not self-promoting, hypocritical, pretentious, two-faced, or devious. The sincere person neither flatters nor manipulates others. This straightforward transparency of speech and motivation is one aspect of ikhlas.

The second aspect of the Qur’anic notion of ikhlas, which brings together the notion of “purity” with that of “dedicating, devoting or consecrating oneself” to some activity, is a key virtue in Islamic practice [1], and is the aspect of ikhlas most often stressed by Gülen. Ikhlas is an eminently interior disposition by which the faithful Muslim performs all external actions in a spirit of service and directed solely toward pleasing the Divine Lord. In fact, in Islam the perfection of one’s witness to faith can be gauged by the double standard of ikhlas (purity of intention) and ihsan (goodness).


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