M. Fethullah Gulen
The Islamic world continues to squirm in the vicious grasp of error, unable to turn to its own spirit and essence for succor. Two steps forward lead to several steps backwards being taken and then one gets lost. As a result, our world has deteriorated beyond recovery, and the wheels of states and nations turn against their own selves.
Therefore, we must work within the Islamic world with its understanding of faith; its own acceptance and interpretation of Islam; its consciousness of the good; its zeal and yearning for spiritual ecstasy; its reason, logic, mode and system of thinking; its style of expressing and communicating itself; and its own institutions, which will lead to a comprehensive renewal. The fundamentals of our spiritual life, religious thought and imagination are responsible for our past success. Religion gives meaning to humanity and the universe, explains us to ourselves, and embraces and influences every aspect of our individual and collective life.
The axis of all believers' acts is worship, which is directed toward the Hereafter and seeking God's good pleasure. There is no "this world/that world" or "mind/heart" dichotomy, for the believers' emotions and reason are united and their understanding does not ignore their inspiration. So in their mental world, experience stretches up to the mind and knowledge is a high bastion, reinforced with understanding, wisdom, and intuition. Their understanding contains no gap.
Religion does not contradict science and reason and cannot be blamed for clashes among social sections. Such conflicts arise from ignorance, ambition, or vested interests. Clashes between religious people occur because they do not have the same degree of belief and so cannot preserve sincerity or overcome their feelings. Indeed, such conflicts can be avoided only by establishing religion and its institutions in our daily life so that it becomes our society's life-blood.
The Islamic community needs to be revived by combining serious efforts to preserve Islam's original principles with the Qur'an's extensiveness and universality, so that it meets the needs of all people in all times and places, and so that it embraces all facets of life. Islamic history has recorded many renewals, reforms, and revivals. Legal schools represented new developments in jurisprudence and law, Sufi orders turned paths to the heart and the soul into broad highways, and our schools and colleges sought to make sense of the universe and its inhabitants. This latest renewal and revival must combine all of these, for without turning to certainty in faith, sincerity in deeds, and excellence in thought and feeling, it will not occur.
All acts of worship should be performed completely and as outlined in the Qur'an and Sunna. Words should be the means of prayer, and soul and sincerity are essential; the Sunna should be the guide and consciousness a necessity. Only God should be the goal, for if these acts are not performed as required, how are they different from comparable mundane activities?
Somehow, we must mobilize ourselves to raise the physicians of the soul and essential reality who can fill this vacuum in us, eradicate our weaknesses, rescue us from being slaves to our body and carnal desires, and direct us to a level of life in the heart and the soul. We need physicians of spirit and essence, spirit, and reality, physicians whose hearts are open to all fields of knowledge and all spiritual inspirations and Divine blessings. In short, we need whole comprehensive minds.
Such people must be in constant contact and interaction with the atoms, molecules, and particles of the people, just as the mind is in constant contact with the body. They will embrace everyone. By conveying the messages of their soul to all and elevating them to the level of people who have knowledge, skills, and genius for the future, they will present them for the common good and society's benefit. They will purify everyone of the foulness of the age and guide them toward human perfection.
Moreover, they will transform the media into the voice and breath of social and religious life, and use it to teach the owners of the darkest feelings, thoughts, and voices how to become human. And they will save our educational and training institutions by once again making them open and responsive to the requirements of the present, reorder and organize them according to historical perspectives, and raise them, through the use of styles, methodologies, and planning of a high standard, to a higher level.
Thus we will rise as a society from the misery of rigid and empty formalism to true scientific understanding; from dignifying diverse vile and disgraceful works with the title of "art" to true art and aesthetics; from customs, addictions, and obsessions of unknown origin to the consciousness of a morality based on history and religion; from the snares of various gnawing thoughts in our hearts to the oneness of service, submission, consciousness, and resignation.
Capitalism, communism, socialism, the hybrids of social democracy, and liberalism have nothing new to offer. Our world is open to the new world order. It might even be our renaissance. This revival will make our world of thinking and feeling, and also our understanding of art and aesthetics, gain a heretofore unknown depth and variety. We will find our own aesthetic pleasures, reach our own music, and discover our own romanticism. In short, we will secure our people's future.
Our flag will be effort and dynamism; our source of strength will be our consciousness of faith and truth. We will no longer have to look for handouts, for we will regain our honor and remain honorable only by holding fast to our own values and surrendering wholeheartedly to God.
Toward Our Own World
Many eras and lands have seen movements that claimed to be reformations and reconstructions. Such claims have always been controversial. One domain is now ripe for a genuine reformation that will embrace all creation: the Muslim world.
Once, almost all of the natural and religious sciences, from Sufism to logic, as well as from urban planning to aesthetics, were embodied in geniuses who studied phenomena in minute detail. Such names are too many to mention here. By mobilizing all of our brilliant minds and souls, Muslims may soon realize a second or third renaissance. Yes, we will start by recognizing Islam's soul and essence, spirit and reality, and reach toward the re-interpretation of existence, from the boundless Divine climates of Sufism to universal metaphysics; from Islamic self-accounting and self-control to the vigilance, circumspection, and self-possession that make humanity gain value; from the cities and urbanization, in which our inner world takes repose and breathes, to the aesthetics that will be the property of all; from the art that embroiders the soul and essence, spirit, and reality everywhere and seeks infinity in all that it embroiders, to the true pleasures of an aesthetic, which becomes more and more other-worldly and refined, and integrates with the beyond. By all of these means, we can open a new chapter.
Our spiritual life has been to a large part extinguished for many years; our religious world has become dysfunctional; our hearts' tongues have been tied as people have forgotten intense, ecstatic love and spiritual ecstasy; we have transformed all minds that read and think into minds devoted to a hard positivism; bigotry has been built instead of firmness of character, strength of religion, and perseverance in truth. Even in asking for the Hereafter and Paradise, petitioners have in mind some continuation of this world's ordinary happiness. It is therefore impossible to open a new chapter without ripping such misdirected, deep-rooted thoughts and considerations out of ourselves.
This does not mean that the foulness that has sullied our souls for centuries cannot be eradicated. However, as this foulness caused us to fall, we must get rid of it before we can make any progress. For example, we must abandon our greed, laziness, ambition for fame, selfishness and worldly-mindedness, and replace these with the spirit of contentedness, willpower and courage, modesty and humility, altruism and spirituality, piety and godliness, all of which are the essence and truth of Islam.
Fortunately, we have such heroes among us, and the renewal and change that they will bring about will be shaped by the Qur'an and tempered by human nature. Both its enemies and the masses will be unable to prevent it, for history proves that only a few individual geniuses bring about a renaissance. Such people, who have emerged with a complete spiritual awareness in almost every age, established schools of law and schools of thought, both of which breathed the spirit of reconstruction and reform into the masses. Their successors followed them and their thoughts, as did the masses that sheltered in their enlightened climate. Such great guides became the people's life-blood and soul, and lived with them like a spirit. In their absence, society and the people declined.
Now, as the days turn to spring and dawn chases dawn, we are becoming hopeful and expectant, praying to our Lord: "Grant us willpower supported by your Will, which will be the foundation of our souls. Make our hearts blossom as the flowers in Paradise, and make our souls reach the secrets of the innermost part of Your Divinity. Show our people the ways to revival in the Muhammadi line." To ask for and expect this is both our right and duty, the natural consequence of our faith. However, we must refer frequently to our glorious past and take shelter in the values that made it magnificent. This is the way that other civilizations renewed themselves.
As long as we can recover our thoughts, feelings, methodology, and philosophy, it will be enough to bring them together to find our heavenly and immortal style. Thus, we should first re-examine all of the roads that we will take, and then repair and reinforce them. We must cultivate the inspiration and fruitfulness of religious longing and desire, firmness, gravity, sobriety, and wisdom in our reasoning and logic; stability and humanity, with the freedom to be ourselves; philosophical depth, refinement, and contemplative abstraction in our arts and philosophy. All of these should be logical at their core and inspired by revelation.
God's good pleasure is the ultimate goal. The soul is before and ahead of the body. The self is an essential dynamism that will ignite the consciousness of duty under the heart's rule. The love of humanity and country is an indispensable passion, and the duty to be moral is a vital provision for the journey. We must adhere to the Qur'an, and recognize humanity's character and real human values as significant sources of power. Goals and objectives must be just, fair, and sacred, and the ways leading to them must be indicated by the Qur'an and the Sunna.