Friday, January 18, 2013

In what ways is Fethullah Gulen spiritual?

Fethullah Gulen
As a devout Muslim, Fethullah Gulen maintains the principles of orthodox Islamic spirituality taught by the Qur’an, and historically and ideally exemplified in the life of the Prophet Muhammad. This general sense of spiritual life includes observation of canonical daily prayers, consistent supplications to God, and frequent invocations of the divine names or “remembrance” (dhikr), as well as meditation. Gulen is well known to have observed all these basic spiritual practices in his deep sense of piety throughout his entire life. Since his early youth, he has adopted a spiritually-based daily life that starts an early wake up before the dawn to practice the traditional late night prayer called tahajjud and to recite various supplications. He dedicates a couple of hours to informal prayer called du‘a to ask God for goodness not only for himself, his relatives and friends, but also for all fellow believers and all humanity. Indeed, prayer and supplication comprise the very spirit of his daily discourse.

Gulen is also considered a follower of Sufism, the traditional mysticism of Islam. Sufism is not only a spiritual tradition, but also a humanistic and humanitarian one. Gulen wrote his masterpiece of four volumes on the key concepts of Sufism, which is entitled The Emerald Hills of the Heart. In this work, Gulen examines the traditional Sufi understanding of spirituality, morality, and metaphysics, with a constant emphasis on the human perfection to be realized by dedication to the eternal values of the Divine, especially mercy, compassion, love, and generosity, all expressed by the divine name of Rahman. This latter attribute of God has an outstanding significance in the spiritual system of Sufism, as it signifies the character of the ideal human being. Traditionally called al-insan al-kamil, this ideal individual is to be the greatest manifestation of the name of Rahman, namely the greatest representative of “The Most Merciful and Generous One” in the universe. Here is the necessary intersection of service to God and service to humankind and all creation. As Gulen reiterates in his article on al-insan al-kamil, the true spirituality requires the embracement of all creation, especially the human existence, as well as the dedication to the betterment of society, for the sake of the Creator, who is first of all the Lord of mercy and generosity.

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