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How does he view those who find compatibility between Islam and violence, and what is his thesis against the interpretations advocating violence?

by Doğu Ergil on . Posted in Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen Movement in 100 questions

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Fethullah Gülen

Fethullah Gülen refers to violence as a disease which is observed in every corner of the world, in every country:

… Everywhere, murders take place. And sometimes even mass murders occur. There is this much, when this kind of murders are carried out at a larger scale by some states, they are characterized as “operations,” not “terror.” Only when powerless, weak individuals commit them, these murders are called “terror” or “murder,” and those who commit them are called “terrorists,” “murderers” or “criminals.” Assassinations and murders are sometimes directed toward individuals and they are committed by one or several individuals. Sometimes they are done by an organization, a secret association, or a government in the form of shooting down a plane, sabotage against a train or not leaving a stone over a stone in a city. In reality, in both cases whether the victim of a murder is one person or thousands of people, that event is a terror, a murder; whether those undertaking such a horrible act are one or two individuals, an organization or a government, should not make any difference, they are murderers and terrorists.[1]

No matter who commits the murder against whom, it is a murder. And every kind of murder is accursed. No matter what the crime is, the individuals cannot apply punishments; the state does. The governments have the courts at their disposal. The punishment is their duty. Therefore, no believer can condone any murder. He can never stand soft against any murder. The person murdered must have said things against Islam; it is possible that at one time, he might have extended his tongue too long, attacked this and that person, might have done some mischief. None of these can legitimize the murder committed. There is a possibility and a probability to quite down and silence the voices of these kinds of individuals just through the system of the law. Therefore, let alone for a Muslim to venture into these kinds of assassinations, it is even unthinkable for him to be in favor of it in his heart. No one has the right to say, “So and so was the enemy of religion, of the faith, of Islam, of the Qur’an, he was killed and it is good that he was, he had deserved it anyway, how nice he was killed.” A conduct like this in the face of a murder is not the conduct of a believer.[2]

Fethullah Gülen believes that it is necessary to protect all the living creatures, not just human beings:

In my lifetime, I have never, deliberately and knowingly, stepped over even an ant. I had ceased seeing and speaking to a friend of mine, who broke the backbone of a snake, for months. I have believed in the right of every living being, that all of them have a place in the eco system. I have stated that we have no right [authority] to bring ourselves to do injury to any living being. There remains the fact that the most honorable of the creatures, the most sacred is the human being. I repeatedly said that those who kill under the above-mentioned pretexts or considerations could not enter Paradise and they could not be considered as real Muslims. This is not my personal opinion. It is the voice, expression and breathes of our general considerations as Muslims; this belief has become part of our nature.

All of the acts of terror, no matter where and whom they come from, it is the gravest blow to the peace, and tranquility. No matter for what cause and to what ends they are directed, no act of terror could be condoned. Terror cannot be the form of the struggle for salvation.[3]

Under various pretexts and distorting religious texts, some murderers attempt to justify their criminal acts. But, as Fethullah Gülen points out, this is in opposition to the core of Islam, as well as the values that Muslims should internalize. Before everyone else, the Muslims must oppose the violence that others attribute to Islam:

Muslims should stand up and say: There is no terror in real Islam. This is so because; Islam equates the killing of one person with unbelief. You can not kill a human. Even during a war, you cannot touch innocent people. Regarding this matter, no one can give a fatwa [religious verdict]. … Islam has not approved wars; it has tied it primarily to the goal of defense, and then as a last resort. In addition, within the framework of the principle which is elucidated in the Qur’an itself, “… disorder [rooted in rebellion against God and recognizing no laws] is worse than killing” (Al-Baqarah 2:191) in order to prevent disorder, irregularities, oppression, and defeatism it has permitted wars reluctantly. Nevertheless, for the first time in the history of mankind, it has brought certain limitations to it, and in the earliest period, it had set forth the legal rules for it. The works on this theme were written 13 centuries ago by the Muslim scholars, experts of the field. Even at the heated moment of the war, do not take the fear of God from out of your hearts. Do not forget that without the divine guidance and assistance of God, you could accomplish nothing. Always remember that Islam is the religion of peace and love.

The courage, heroism and the taqwa of the Messenger of God should always be a model for you. “Do not step over the orchards and fields ready to be harvested. Be respectful toward the monks and hermits inhabiting the temples, and those who gave themselves to God; and do not injure them. Do not kill the civilians, do not treat the women improperly, and do not wound the feelings of the defeated. Do not accept gifts from the native inhabitants. Do not try to shelter your soldiers in the houses of the inhabitants. Do not ever miss your five time daily prayers at all. Fear God! And do not forget that at any time, death can find you, far from the battle fields. Therefore, be always ready to face death,” and the commandments like those have gone into record in history as the advices of the heads of states, reminding the commanders when they were sent to the war- zones and they have been obeyed to the letter of laws, in minute details. It would be obvious that when required, only a state, within the framework of certain principles, can resort to, as the individuals or organizations on behalf of the Muslims cannot commit a terror, without any rules and directed against the values of humanity which needs to be protected…Terror cannot have any place in Islam.[4]

Why then is there this loud cry for jihad and what really does the concept of jihad in Islam mean? Many people are disturbed when they hear the word “jihad,” worried that they might be swept up in a wave of imminent violence. According to Fethullah Gülen, numerous Islamic concepts, including jihad, have been misunderstood, due to the loss of meanings that these concepts had historically, but also due to the misrepresentation of them by some Muslims and by some who want them misunderstood. With respect to jihad, he says,

jihad, being a noun in Arabic, derived from the root jahd or juhd, means using all one’s strength within the power of humans. Therefore, jihad means making an effort resisting every difficulty. Jihad as a term means the job of attaining one’s essence. The internal struggle [the greater jihad] is the effort to attain one’s essence by using all one’s strength and power and resisting all the obstacles; the external struggle [the lesser jihad] is the process of enabling someone else to attain his or her essence.[5]

In the words of the Messenger of God, the greater jihad is a struggle against carnal soul [nafs], purification of humanity, reaching purity, acquiring the merit in the sight of God, namely the purification of the mind from false assumptions, wrong thoughts and superstitious beliefs, with the acts like worship, repentance [seeking forgiveness], austerity [little food, little drinks, little sleep], the purification of the heart, learning the Qur’an and the wisdom with the purified heart and mind, and acts of acquiring some other forms of knowledge.

The lesser jihad is not restricted to battlefronts [by fighting], for this would narrow its horizon considerably. But, the spectrum of jihad is… a vast area. Sometimes a word or silence, a frown or a smile, leaving or entering an assembly, in short, everything done for God’s sake and regulating love and anger according to His approval are all included in it. In every aspect of life, in every segment of society, in every effort maintained in order to improve [the life and society] are included in the meaning of jihad. In a sense, this jihad is material.

When both of these kinds of jihad are carried out successfully, the desired balance is established. If one is missing, the balance is destroyed. The lesser jihad is our active fulfillment of Islam’s commands and duties and the performance of what is being expected of him. As for the greater jihad, it is the fulfillment of these commandments with sincerity and conscientiousness; it is proclaiming a total war on our ego’s destructive and negative emotions and thoughts, it is a rather difficult and complicated task to perform.[6]

[1] Gülen 2005b, 203.
[2] Ibid., 207.
[3] Ibid., 207–208.
[4] Sevindi 2002, 28–29.
[5] Ünal 2002, 192.
[6] Fethullah Gülen 1998c, 206.