M. Fethullah Gulen
The modern age in which we live, despite its many beauties and its promises to mankind, has been an age of suffering and despair for the oppressed peoples of the world. Those peoples, who did not have enough intellectual, cultural, economic and psychological preparation to cope with that age, have, like a desperate lover who has not been able to attain his goal, suffered much from seeing their hopes and expectations frustrated. Muslim peoples particularly have not been able to find a way to free themselves from their pitiful condition.
Muslim peoples, who had for centuries been accustomed to having the upper hand in their relations with the other parts of the world, have felt the bitter taste of defeat in all fields of life. Shocked by successive waves of defeat and humiliation, like a gambler who, having lost the game all the time, continues to try his luck in despair, they have lost all that they had in desperate attempts to catch up with the victors. Continuing to lose, they have continued the game with new, desperate attempts to win, but to no avail.
Those whose eyes were once fixed on what would come from beyond the world, those whose hands were opened up only towards heaven, who believed that they had been created only to beg from the Creator, have all been beggars at the door of others. Mosques, which once served as platforms from which to rise to eternity, have lost their true, spiritual identity and served as places visited by ‘moving corpses’-people dead in spirit-who occasionally call in to observe ceremonies in the name of worshipping God. The institutions of education, which once served as laboratories where existence was profoundly studied like a book, and admiringly observed like an exhibition, have been reduced to places where superstitious dogmas and myths are taught. Nature, no longer able to attract their attention, has therefore been subjected to misinterpretation by others. The ecological balance has been destroyed and the natural world changed into a suffering, potentially uninhabitable, ‘hell’. Getting nothing from the mosque by way of spiritual satisfaction, or from the school by way of intellectual enlightenment, and unable to study nature-in short, with nothing to give them hope-the young have sought consolation in outlandish ventures and hysterical crazes and destructiveness. Deprived of any sublime ideals and aspirations to eternity, they have felt suffocated within the dark confines of the present time, disconnected from the past and with no promise of better in the future.
It was mere wishfulness to expect the young to be otherwise, seeing that they are offered as objectives for their energy only money, fame, show, attachment to life and egoism, in the context of the modern, artificial, dull and spiritless environments which have replaced our intimate old city quarters and traditional old homes. Spiritually and intellectually dissatisfied, the young have viewed life as consisting of only the satisfaction of bodily desires and material values, and dedicated their energies accordingly.
Some of those who, though lacking in idealism, zeal and energy, have offered themselves to the public as representatives of Islamic values, have in fact sought material rewards in return for whatever they appeared to do in the name of religion. Their attitudes have polluted the purity of Islam and led the bewildered masses to find other sources to satisfy their sincere expectations and spiritual needs. Furthermore, those who fantasize about implanting belief in hearts with ‘swords drawn’ and ‘daggers pointed’, have dragged religion down into a worldly-minded politics and distorted the meaning and content of this way leading to God and Paradise.
Despite their claims to be striving to revive the Islamic civilization on the basis of reason and scientific knowledge and Divine Revelation, those politically-oriented ones have not refrained from vengeance, hatred, violence and hostility, even going so far as to present such vicious attitudes as a requirement or condition of religious struggle. It is extremely difficult to regard them as soldiers of religion. They can only be the soldiers of their own caprices and their carnal selves. What is revealed of their intentions through their public speeches and their actions brings to our mind the image of gallows set up on the streets. Nothing else can be expected from such people as those who cherish no love, faithfulness, and respect for others in their hearts. It is vain to expect them to inspire confidence and assurance or to show respect for truth and acknowledge freedom of thought, freedom of action, for others.
Another barrier before the young has been the mass media. Either through voicing the interests of holding companies and cartels which own them, or through brain-washing in the name of certain centres of power, the mass media are largely responsible for the intellectual misguidance and moral per- versions of the young. Almost everyone, whether young or old, male or female, lettered or unlettered, is under the influence of the mass media. The mass media are capable of distorting realities and truths, presenting what is beautiful as ugly and vice-versa, and making immoralities and the satisfaction of bodily desires preferable to moral purity and lofty ideals. They also encourage backbiting, slander and gossip.
Most of the intelligentsia in the Muslim world have long given their minds and spirits over to blind imitation of the West. Putting on airs, as in the past medals were worn by the lords of the old aristocracies and monarchies, they show themselves in the forums where national or public issues are discussed and, unaware of their lack in necessary knowledge and sound judgement, behave like sycophants of foreign values and ideals. Being indifferent or even averse to their old, traditional values and with nothing of their own to offer for the well-being of the people and the future of their countries, and given that their interest in public affairs and the problems of the people is directly related to their own private interests, this class of intellectuals have nothing positive to offer that can solve the problems of the young.
But we are not hopeless, nor have we been so. It would be a disregarding of the truth not to notice and mention the growing portion of the young who, with their hope, belief, resolution, fervour and love of truth, have been doing their utmost to restore to human life its real value and dignity, to inject vigour and spirituality into mere existence, and to hold out to everyone a ‘feather’ from the ‘wings’ of angels. Unlike the masses drowned in despair and unlike those who seek to deceive people in the name of religion or of modern life and values, these noble-minded ones materialize their spirit on earth. With the colour of saints, pure scholars and Prophets on their faces, and a passionate yearning for eternity straining in their spirits, they carry the love, mercy and promise of the Prophets wherever they go and try to found a new world on the eternal values of the past, the enlightenment of true science and pure expectations from the future. Following the Prophetic Message and Divine wisdom, they are trying to tear apart the thick veils of ignorance, heedlessness, indifference to perennial values and obstinacy, striving to open the way at the end of which truth and mercy come together.
I hope that so long as they remain faithful to the One with infinite mercy ardently and with firm belief, Divine help will never leave them to manage on their own, but will open for them the way to realizing their goals. The point where aspirations are unified with lofty feelings and lofty feelings are based on Divine Revelation and sound judgement, is the point where human will is completely oriented by Divine universal Will. When its time is due, everyone will feel this orientation and come to understand that whatever was (or remains yet to be) suffered for such a result was really worth it.