M. Fethullah Gulen
Our young people are living in and through a most distressing period. The neglect of past centuries has brought us to the calamities we are experiencing now. The young have been buried under a heavy burden of anxiety with nothing of use, nothing whatever of any spiritual value, coming to them from their fathers and mothers, from the home or the school.
The young, having been deprived of all traditional values, were crushed by the pressures of materialism. They showed no signs of purity or profundity of mind, nor depth of feeling, nor spirituality. Such a thing was not at all unexpected given that the experience and traditions cultivated over a thousand years had been sacrificed to an adulterated, cosmopolitan culture.
The most painful and heart-rending aspect of the situation is that the intelligentsia, those who were expected to guide the community, readily adapted to the new low standards. It is difficult for us to comprehend how they could prefer an adulterated culture to the traditional one so subtly formed over the centuries.
In just such conditions our young confronted the problems of coming to age! They were under great pressures resulting from the neglect of centuries. Their bewildered community had left the traditional ways, and a new force had appeared, but one that, not having suffered pangs of birth, was immature. The poor youth could not decide whom to foIlow. And how could they decide, since they had never been given good examples, and had only seen those who fled from themselves in one way or another.
In a society going astray, which had suffered a serious reverse, some went so far as to consider all ideas and traditions that had elevated their ancestors into a great nation as exhausted values. If only the young who were deprived of all the finer feelings had been able to understand what was happening around them!
That being the situation, what we should do is to uplift a generation who has been turned from their origins, and to inject new life into them.
We have no right merely to complain about them or to criticize them for not reading or thinking. They were until very recently given no help at all, although they would have welcomed such help. We may not deny that some of them show a real desire to do serious researches or to learn. Others express that hunger by reading piles of newspapers or listening to the radio or watching television for hours–to kill time or satisfy trivial desires. Also, although some of them gather around preachers to receive what there is to be received, we have, alas, been unable so far to give them anything worthwhile.
When have we guided the young to do the good and to choose the right? When have we been able to teach them to be virtuous? Do we have the ability to speak to them about a message given to make them think, study and reason? Can we be sure of the altruism of those who claim to lead and guide them to higher levels? How many men are there of stature and high standing that we can look up to, men who have renounced material and spiritual pleasures? They were waiting for a ‘Hercules’ who could say ‘I have known nothing of worldly pleasures in my life of over eighty years’, who would not change his life-style until death. We need to find soldiers of Allah who will take on the sufferings of their generation without even thinking of the pleasures of paradise. Alas, we have yet to find guides who would even give up worldly pleasures for the sake of young.
It is true that we have not been able to help the young. We have not been able to find proper schools for them, nor to teach them the right way to integrate with the universe. They have been ground down by the teeth of events and, inevitably, have stood up in rebellion against those who put them in their state of wretchedness.
As in the picture showing a beheaded Goliath, they stand before those who took away their heads, demanding only the return of their souls. For them, to regain what they have lost is the most important thing.
Who will assume the heavy responsibility of returning to them what they have lost? The home? The society or its educational institutions? Under present circumstances none of these are up to the task, albeit certain individuals deserve to be encouraged. If we fail to provide facilities for the young to enable them to build their own world in accordance with the conditions of the real world, our failure will lead on to their destruction. The present state, notably of our educational institutions, is by no means promising. Neither our system of education, which has been degenerating little by little for centuries, nor our homes which are no more than kitchens and bedrooms, nor the society in general, which has been in chaos, hold out much promise for the young.
The only way out is to develop a new understanding of science and to stimulate determination based on morality and insight, together with the cultivation of godliness. The new generation must be guided by a unity of mind, and take the true path in life, and they must regain their original, true identity. Besides, we must realize that we can only enable the young to reach such heights, and so save them from idleness and indifference, by inspiring them with idealism; by urging them to renounce merry-making in favour of the trials of ‘becoming’; by turning them away from self-indulgence and towards a love of others and of the homeland.
We salute the fortunate ones who will shoulder so heavy a responsibility.