– I try and read as much as time permits. Regardless of whether the subject is religion or not, I try and read not less than 200 pages a day. [Ertugrul Ozkok, Hurriyet daily, 1/23-30-95]
Love of reading
– Where does your love of reading come from?
– In my childhood, accounts of the heroic deeds of the Companions were read at home. I read many books like the one about Abu Muslim al-Khurasani, which can be considered as legends from Islam's early period. In later years, around the age of 18-20, I inclined more toward books on jurisprudence and philosophy. I also read about Darwinism and relevant subjects. Some books led me to other books, and it continued like this. When I was in the military, I had a very wise commander. He had a deep knowledge of Sufism. He had read both Eastern Islamic and Western classics. He advised me to read Western classics. This caused me to read many famous Western writers such as Rousseau, Balzac, Dostoyevski, Pushkin, Tolstoy, the Existentialists, and others. [Eyup Can, Zaman daily, August, 1995]
Western writers who influenced Gülen
- Which writers in the West influenced you?
– It's impossible not to admire Kant. Although Russell criticized Kant bitterly and described him as one who turned the history of philosophy upside down, Kant was an important philosopher. Kant was well-known among theologians in Turkish theology schools. If you like, I'll relate to you an interesting anecdote related to Kant.
In the examination for preachers and muftis that I took, they asked "In his book, A Critique of Pure Reason, the German philosopher Kant separated intelligence into two types practical and theoretical. He said that theoretical intelligence could not know God and that practical intelligence could. What do you understand from this view, and how do you evaluate it?" Those who had not studied philosophy couldn't answer this question. In fact, one of my friends who was entering the exam apparently didn't understand the question. He asked me jokingly "What is this Kant?" I told him in jest "Put some sugar in hot water, stir it well, squeeze a little lemon in it, and you'll have a kant." (In Turkey, this kind of beverage is called kant.)
Descartes caught my interest due to his theological approaches. In recent times, many people who amaze me. For example, although he is a pantheist, I admire Sir James Jeans very much. Before 1960 I carefully read his Unknown Universe. As his view of the universe resembles Muhiddin ibn-i Arabi's a little, I liked him very much. Eddington, his astrophysicist contemporary, is also very important.
- The writers you mentioned are related to either philosophy or physics. How about literary writers?
– For a long time I've nurtured great admiration for Shakespeare. Besides him, one of the writers I greatly appreciate is Victor Hugo, who was exploited by the communists. I read his novels when I was just a child. I also read Tolstoy at a very early age, and admired Dostoyevski and Pushkin. [Eyup Can, Zaman daily, August, 1995]
– We know you write poetry. Let's talk a little about literature. Which writers and poets you like?
– There are definitely people I prefer due to their weight on the horizon of thought. Generally, I like the works of all talented people and artists. Just as I've been amazed at someone's film, I feel wonder at Picasso's pictures. In literature, such people as Shakespeare, Dostoyevski and Pushkin amazed me.
In Turkey, there are several literary men whose poetry and prose I appreciate. However, I admire Yahya Kemal, Mehmed Akif, and Necip Fazil in poetry. In both prose and poetry, Sezai Karakoc should also be mentioned. Among the Tanzimat and the succeeding generations, Namik Kemal, Şinasi, Rajaizade, and Refik Halid were good. Tevfik Fikret wasn't difficult to read.
Among Western writers I also like Balzac. Although he's considered a realist, his Lily of the Valley shows his romanticism. There might be parallels between Iranian poetry and French literature. Among those I read from Persian literature, I can mention Sa'di, Hafiz, Nizami, and Anwari. [Nevval Sevindi, Yeni Yuzyil daily, August, 1997]
– Do you listen to music?
– Until I was 16 years old, I was in contact with some players of Sufi music while I lived in Erzurum. As is known, Sufi or our classical music was born in the dervish lodges and hostels. Hymns and similar poetry attracted me to classical music. For example, I liked and listened to Itrî and Dede Efendi. I also admired Haji Arif Bey as if he were a saint.
- Were you interested in Western classical music?
– In fact, I admire some of their musicians. Others have asked this same thing. They asked me "Can you criticize Mozart?" Even if I say certain things about him, it wouldn't be a critique. We can say that Beethoven completed his unfinished work. Western classical music's concertos and symphonies are really serious, dignified, and rich. But saying this, of course, is not a critique. However, just as I greatly admire every genius God created them with certain talents I greatly appreciate them as well. [Ertugrul Ozkok, Hurriyet daily, 1/23-30-95]
Properties and Possessions
- You don't own your own home. How about possessions?
– I have a quilt, bed sheets, and books. I have a will that I made a long time ago, wherein I bequeathed my books to a foundation. As long as it exists, that property belongs to the foundation. I don't own any property. I eat wherever it's convenient. Sometimes my friends prepare food; sometimes I make it myself. I have diabetes and high blood pressure. I eat low-calorie food, between 1,200-1,800 calories a day. Sometimes I make due with cheese and olives. [Nuriye Akman, Sabah daily, 1/23-30/95]
- Who takes care of the daily tasks of a sensitive and shy person like yourself?
– Because I have been alone all my life, I've always tried to be self-sufficient. I washed my own clothes for 40 years. There was no machine; I washed them by hand. I cooked my own food. In fact, because of my mother's illnesses, I would help her prepare food during my childhood. I lived alone here and there; I lived alone for years in Edirne. In Izmir I stayed alone in a small cottage. I rented a new house 5 or 6 years later, and I was alone there, too. Guests would come and I would prepare food and tea for them. This continued until the September 12th coup. [Nuriye Akman, Sabah daily, 1/23-30/95]
- Do you cook?
– I can make ten different dishes from flour or potatoes. Some of these are my own recipes. Potato stew is made a little differently in Erzurum. I added pastry made with fried potatoes. I even made dessert from potatoes. I experimented by frying mashed potatoes dipped in egg and then pouring sweet syrup over it. [Nuriye Akman, Sabah, 1/23-30/95]
- You appear to be good-natured. Don't you ever get angry?
– I'm usually so calm and easygoing that everyone might think "If I tie a rope to him, I could lead him to water." But due to my sensitivity, I may sometimes become angry. However, I'm careful to keep my anger limited to those closest to me. In order not to hurt anyone, I exhaust my anger privately. [Nuriye Akman, Sabah daily, 1/23-30/95]
- You always emphasize that you're not a shaykh, the leader of a dervish order. Nor do you show any tendency to accept that you are a leader of a community. However, I would like to discuss your leadership.
– I've never called myself a leader. I'm an ordinary man. A leader is someone with capabilities, genius, charisma, and high performance. I don't have any of these.
– Does humility change the reality? Since a group has gathered around your name, don't you automatically become its leader?
– I insist on not saying "leader" because I expressed my thoughts for 30 years on pulpits, and people sharing the same feelings and thoughts responded. For example, I said to them "Open university preparatory courses, open schools." As an expression of their respect for me, they listened to what I said. This might be a mistake, but they listened and we met at this point. I saw that just as I was saying "schools," a lot of people were saying "schools." They come to ask about other, especially religious issues as well. Sometimes they even ask about economic matters. I tell them that "such matters require expert knowledge," and send them to experts.
- In your writings and sermons, you recommended suffering hardship to develop spiritually. You have suffered, but now people bow before you to kiss your hand. What do you feel?
– I feel extremely uncomfortable. I don't have such a principle. [Nuriye Akman, Sabah daily, 1/23-30/95]
How does he see himself?
- When you look at the mirror of fate, how do you see yourself?
– There is an attraction toward me here, and there's my own view. In my own view I am an ordinary one trying to be truly human. During my youth, there was an Alvar imam whom I admired very much. He frequently said with an Azeri accent "Herkes yakhshi men yaman; herkes bugday, men saman." (Everybody is good, I am bad; everyone is wheat, I'm straw.) I always say the same thing. [Nuriye Akman, Sabah daily, 1/23-30/95]
Follower of Fethullah
– You never liked the term "Fethullahçi." But whether you like it or not, those close to you are called "Fethullahçi." What's this all about?
– Those using this term may perceive us as a dervish order. In fact, they also call me a "leader of a religious brotherhood." I'm just as uncomfortable with that as I am with "Fethullahçi." Actually I'm bothered by such suffixes as -ci, cu, because this means division. In Islam, there is and can be no room for such definitions, for Tawhid is the essence and foundation of Islam. Muslims cannot be called even "Muhammadci" (Muhammadan), as some Orientalists do either intentionally or mistakenly. [Ertugrul Ozkok, Hurriyet daily, 1/23-30-95]
Throughout his life, Fethullah Gülen has tasted almost nothing of worldly pleasure. He has spent his bachelor life studying, teaching, traveling, writing, and speaking. Always he feels the sufferings of people coming from the spiritual wasteland of the twentieth century. In addition to his books, Gülen contributes to several journals and magazines. He writes the editorial page for Sizinti, Yeni Ümit, Yagmur, and The Fountain magazines. His sermons and discourses have been recorded on thousands of tapes and video cassettes. In addition, many books have been compiled from his articles, sermons, and answers to questions he has been asked over the years. Some of his books are as follows:
Questions This Modern Age Puts to Islam ,Emerald Hills of the Heart Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, This Era and the Young Generation, Criteria or Lights of the Way, The Golden Part of Time, Truth through Colors, Broken Plectrum, The Interpretation of Sura al-Fatiha, Prophet Muhammad, The lnfinite Light, Towards the Lost Paradise, Belief The Essentials of Islamic Faith.