Fethullah Gulen’s conception of Knowledge and Reflection



[Fethullah Gulen | Gulen Movement | Hizmet Movement | Klas Grinell]

Religious Studies Perspectives on the Hizmet Movement was the topic of the fourth panel at the “International Conference on the Gulen Movement: Paradigms, Projects, Aspirations” held at the International House of University of Chicago in 2010.

In the panel, Dr. Klas Grinell of the Gothenburg University of Sweden presented his paper on Islamic Movements and Gulen’s Conception of Knowledge. Below are some excerpts from Dr. Rausch’s presentation:

In my reading at least, the central point is tafakkur (reflection). Without reflection, knowledge is nothing in itself; but if it is through reflection, it might be transformed and used for good purposes, for the soul, for the creation, for society. Gulen describes link between all these different concepts, showing a link between real knowledge through faith and right conduct.

So there is a cause-and-effect between those things; and being a historian of philosophy, I come to think Socrates that claims right conduct and knowledge goes together: “You can’t do wrong, if you have the truth.” To me, that’s one of the arguments on why education is so important. If you have a good education, you’ll have sound knowledge which will lead to right conduct; so there is an ethical side of that.

Gulen also says that a good education should lead the students to, what he calls “wholeness of the thought and contemplation.” So even if doesn’t talk that much about reflection in a Sufi way, in his writings on education it is there. That is a very nice coherence in his writing and his thinking where these practices and actions are present.

What we can find on this connection from the Emerald Hills of the Heart is that this is something that he takes from the Islamic tradition very clearly. I would say it is a parallel, not influences from either side, it is rather parallel. He is in tune with society, so he sees the same kind of problems, and the ideas are responses to the contemporary problems.

Thinking individually, reflecting individually using the traditions they have in hand to find the solution and the solution will be similar even though the materials are different. I think that is also something that is very interesting and something we have a lot to learn from; that we can mine different traditions but this doesn’t lead to different conclusions. If it is wisely done, if it is true reflection, it will be answers that are compatible with contemporary problems.

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