GÃ¼lenâsÂ InterpretationÂ ofÂ SufismÂ
UniversityÂ ofÂ HoustonÂ
GulenÂ andÂ the movementÂ named afterÂ hisÂ name hasÂ become anÂ interestÂ subjectÂ of socialÂ scientistsÂ inÂ the West. Especially itsÂ educational and interfaithÂ activitiesÂ had attracted theirÂ attentions.Â MovementâsÂ interpretation of Islam, itsÂ openness toÂ WestÂ and itsÂ successÂ inÂ combiningÂ traditionÂ and modernity have led people whoÂ have encountered withÂ the membersÂ of the movementÂ as aÂ solutionÂ toÂ theÂ conflictÂ betweenÂ WestÂ andÂ Islam.Â ResearchersÂ had tried toÂ defineÂ theÂ elementsÂ of the movementÂ and itsÂ dynamics. YavuzÂ (2004) seesÂ thatÂ the GÃ¼lenÂ MovementÂ representsÂ aÂ newÂ model of IslamÂ inÂ Turkey,Â atÂ peace withÂ democracyÂ and modernity, whichÂ alsoÂ reflectsÂ the AnatolianÂ understanding of Islam.Â .Â Aras and Caha, (2000)Â suggested thatÂ the OttomanTurkish1Â understanding had shaped GÃ¼lenâsÂ interpretation of Islam,Â butÂ othersÂ tied itÂ toÂ the leadership of GulenÂ himself.Â ResearchersÂ 2Â whoÂ studied the movementÂ agree thatÂ thatÂ Sufi conceptionÂ of morality isÂ atÂ the centre of the movement.Â According toÂ Gokcek (2005) GÃ¼lenÂ doesÂ notÂ establishÂ aÂ Sufi orderÂ inÂ itsÂ commonÂ meaning3Â ,Â butÂ he laysÂ downÂ basicÂ principlesÂ forÂ aÂ Sufi life inÂ modernÂ world.Â TheÂ relationÂ and the similarities thatÂ the movementÂ hasÂ withÂ Sufi tradition,Â butÂ theÂ distinguished characteristics itÂ showsÂ fromÂ the Sufi tariqahs led some of the scholarsÂ toÂ call the movementÂ as âquasiSufi,â,Â âSufiorientedâ (Kim,Â 2005)Â orÂ âpostSufismâ (Yavuz,2004).Â OnÂ theÂ otherÂ hand,Â WilliamsÂ (2005)Â and Yavuz (2004) defineÂ the followersÂ as âsocialÂ movementâÂ ratherÂ thanÂ aÂ Sufi tariqah.Â ElisabethÂ OzdalgaÂ (2005) alsoÂ approachesÂ toÂ the movementÂ asÂ aÂ social network whichÂ isÂ differentÂ thanÂ traditional Sufi lodges. EvenÂ thoughÂ theÂ amountÂ of influence of SufismÂ differsÂ according toÂ researchers, theyÂ agree onÂ SufismÂ beingÂ anÂ importantÂ figure inÂ shaping the movement.Â However,Â itÂ isÂ impossibleÂ forÂ thisÂ one variable toÂ defineÂ the movementÂ andÂ itsÂ dynamics.Â
1Â ArasÂ and Caha (2000)Â explainsÂ the OttomanTurkishÂ understanding asÂ follow:Â
IslamÂ inÂ TurkishÂ politicalÂ history,Â during the reignsÂ of bothÂ the SeljuksÂ and the Ottomans,Â remained underÂ the stateâsÂ guidance and asÂ aÂ matterÂ forÂ the private sphere. The dominantÂ belief wasÂ thatÂ aÂ truly religiousÂ sultanÂ would governÂ the state according toÂ the principlesÂ of justice,Â equality,Â and piety.Â ThisÂ approachÂ of keeping religionÂ apartÂ fromÂ worldly affairsÂ led toÂ aÂ collective memory thatÂ regarded Islam asÂ aÂ flexibleÂ and tolerantÂ belief system.Â Thus,Â itÂ wasÂ assumed thatÂ religiousÂ institutionsÂ should adoptÂ flexibleÂ attitudesÂ toward the changing situationsÂ of theirÂ times.Â InÂ the OttomanÂ era,Â thereÂ wasÂ neverÂ aÂ fullfledged theocraticÂ system.Â While the principlesÂ of Shari'a (Islamic law)Â wereÂ applied inÂ the private sphere, publicÂ life wasÂ regulated according toÂ customary lawÂ formulated underÂ the authorityÂ of the state (Berkes,Â 1998).Â ThisÂ aspectÂ of the OttomanÂ politicalÂ systemÂ made religionâsÂ roleÂ lessÂ rigid.Â Moreover,Â the empireÂ accepted itÂ would be aÂ multireligiousÂ state,Â inÂ whichÂ ChristianÂ and JewishÂ subjects would continue toÂ be governed by theirÂ own laws.Â
2Â SuchÂ asÂ JohnÂ EspositoÂ &Â HakanÂ Yavuz (2003),Â IhsanÂ Yilmaz (2003),Â HeonÂ KimÂ (2005),Â ZekiÂ Saritoprak (2001),Â ThomasÂ MichelÂ (2005).Â
3Â SufiÂ ordersÂ wereÂ banned inÂ Turkey afterÂ the establishmentÂ of newÂ secularÂ state,Â butÂ the teachingsÂ live withinÂ the culture.
WhatÂ was thisÂ essentialÂ figureÂ and howÂ itÂ wasÂ defined,Â and why itÂ has perplexed the mindsÂ of researchesÂ whoÂ had difficultiesÂ toÂ name the movement,Â needsÂ furtherÂ investigation.Â DefinitionÂ of SufismÂ vary in western publicÂ and Muslim world,Â it also takes differentÂ approachesÂ inÂ the MuslimÂ world.Â AlongÂ withÂ the differentÂ approachesÂ toÂ Sufism,Â GulenâsÂ refusalÂ statementsÂ about himself asÂ being aÂ Sufi SheikhÂ 4Â and hisÂ followersÂ being aÂ Sufi tariqahÂ (ÃzkÃ¶k,Â 1995),Â takesÂ theÂ issue intoÂ aÂ more complicated level.Â
IÂ argue thatÂ the difficulty of defining GulenÂ MovementÂ and itsÂ relationsÂ to SufismÂ laysÂ inÂ the definitionÂ of SufismÂ itself.Â WhatÂ GulenÂ meansÂ by SufismÂ (Tasawwuf)Â differsÂ thanÂ theÂ commonÂ westernÂ understanding of Sufism, andÂ the MuslimÂ critiquesÂ 5Â of the term.Â Due toÂ limitsÂ of the paperÂ and the sociohistoricalÂ differencesÂ betweenÂ the westernÂ interpretation of SufismÂ and MuslimÂ critiques, inÂ thisÂ paper,Â only westernÂ interpretation isÂ the mainÂ comparisonÂ toÂ the GÃ¼lenâsÂ interpretation6Â of tasawwuf.(ArabicÂ corresponding of the termÂ SufismÂ isÂ tasawwuf,Â whichÂ are supposedly meanÂ the same.)Â
While SufismÂ had itsÂ rootÂ inÂ fifteenÂ hundredlong IslamicÂ history,Â itsÂ entrance toÂ theÂ westÂ isÂ considerably new.Â And this entrance came through aÂ selective,Â prejudiced and colonialÂ lens. Carl ErnstâsÂ (1996) examinationÂ of SufismÂ inÂ westernÂ scholarship shedsÂ lightÂ intoÂ the topicÂ and showsÂ howÂ itÂ differs fromÂ the Islamic approach.Â ForÂ Ernst,Â itÂ isÂ IslamicÂ mysticismÂ ratherÂ thanÂ Sufism.Â According toÂ Ernst,Â itÂ would be a mistake toÂ say thatÂ IslamicÂ mysticismÂ isÂ well understoodÂ inÂ the West. InÂ early studiesÂ of IslamicÂ mysticism,Â EuropeanÂ scholarsÂ meaning mostly BritishÂ ColonialÂ OrientalistsÂ approached itÂ asÂ aÂ separate category otherÂ thanÂ IslamÂ by namingÂ itÂ as Sufism.Â ErnstÂ seesÂ the endingÂ âismâÂ as aÂ signÂ of WesternÂ intentionÂ whichÂ suggestsÂ anÂ externalÂ additionÂ toÂ the sternÂ and legalisticÂ image thatÂ they assigned toÂ Islam.Â He continuesÂ toÂ suggest thatÂ the colonialÂ prejudicesÂ and racial theoriesÂ of religionÂ during thatÂ time encouraged the notionÂ thatÂ IslamÂ wasÂ aÂ SemiticÂ religionÂ that,Â like Judaism,Â wasÂ considered toÂ be antispiritual.Â Therefore any genuinely mysticalÂ orÂ spiritualÂ notionÂ has toÂ be imported fromÂ enÂ externalÂ source,Â suchÂ as Christianity,Â orÂ Buddhism.Â TheÂ tendency thatÂ SufismÂ isÂ viewed inÂ aÂ positive lightÂ butÂ understood contrary toÂ Islam,Â had found itsÂ place starting inÂ oneÂ of the earliestÂ studiesÂ of SufismÂ by Lt.Â JamesÂ WilliamÂ Graham,Â âAÂ Treatise onÂ Sufism,Â orÂ MahomedanÂ Mysticism,âÂ TransactionÂ of the Literary Society of Bombay 1Â (1819),Â whichÂ wasÂ writtenÂ uponÂ the requestÂ of anotherÂ colonialÂ official and Orientalist, General SirÂ JohnÂ Malcolm.Â InÂ hisÂ anotherÂ work ErnstÂ (1997) goesÂ furtherÂ and makesÂ hisÂ pointÂ clearÂ thatÂ the actualÂ termÂ SufismÂ wasÂ givenÂ by BritishÂ Orientalists,Â whoÂ wanted aÂ word thatÂ would referÂ toÂ the variousÂ dimensionsÂ of IslamicÂ teaching thatÂ they foundÂ attractive andÂ congenialÂ andÂ thatÂ would âavoidâ the negative stereotypesÂ associated withÂ IslamÂ itselfÂ stereotypesÂ thatÂ wereÂ oftenÂ propagated by the same OrientalistsÂ (Chittick,Â 1999).Â When discussing the originÂ of theÂ word âsofiâ orÂ âsufiâ âfollowerÂ of SufismÂ GulenÂ (1999)Â also pointsÂ outÂ thisÂ westernÂ colonialÂ approach:
4 GÃ¼len even does not accept being a leader of the movement or any group (ÃzkÃ¶k, 1995).
5 Sufism has been criticized by mainly Wahabi and Salafi Muslims as being bida- being added to Islam later and not having roots in the practices of the Prophet and his companions-. On the other hand, some seemingly Sufi practices, which do not have anything to do with Sufism, but cultural, non-Islamic practices helped them to justify their claim.
6 It will be clear to the reader that it is not GÃ¼lenâs unique interpretation; it is the common Islamic interpretation except a few critiques.
Some have argued thatÂ sofi isÂ derived fromÂ sophiaÂ orÂ sophos, Greek wordsÂ meaning wisdom.Â IÂ think thisÂ isÂ aÂ fabrication of foreignÂ researchersÂ whoÂ try toÂ prove thatÂ SufismÂ hasÂ aÂ foreignand therefore nonIslamicÂ origin.Â (p.Â xxiii)Â
SufismâsÂ mispresentation toÂ the western publicÂ led the commonÂ people to aÂ similarÂ approachÂ which they had for EasternÂ philosophiesÂ suchÂ as BuddhismÂ and Yoga.Â NonMuslimÂ SufisÂ appeared inÂ westernÂ social arena,Â whoÂ meditated onÂ Sufi textsÂ butÂ did notÂ embrace Islam;Â evenÂ some did notÂ have theÂ conceptÂ of God. These nonMuslimÂ Sufi structuresÂ paved the road forÂ WahabisÂ and SalafisÂ toÂ justify theirÂ claimsÂ aboutÂ Sufism, andÂ raised aÂ cautiousÂ approachÂ toÂ SufismÂ inÂ restÂ of the MuslimsÂ world.Â ButÂ itÂ would notÂ be fair notÂ toÂ mentionÂ the changesÂ inÂ the westernÂ scholarship.Â MoreÂ recentÂ studiesÂ of SufismÂ inÂ westernÂ world have takenÂ aÂ more objective and noncolonialÂ directionÂ (suchÂ asÂ Ernst,Â LingsÂ andÂ Chittick).Â
InÂ orderÂ toÂ understand andÂ clarify the role of SufismÂ and itsÂ place inÂ the GulenÂ Movement,Â GÃ¼lenâsÂ understandingÂ of SufismÂ needsÂ toÂ be well defined starting withÂ the usage of Sufism inÂ IslamicÂ terminology.Â InÂ hisÂ twoÂ volume books Kalbin Zumrut Tepeleri (translated firstÂ as EmeraldÂ HillsÂ of the HeartÂ and thenÂ Key ConceptsÂ inÂ the Practice of the Sufism)Â GulenÂ dealsÂ withÂ the topic, butÂ heÂ neverÂ usesÂ the termÂ Sufism.Â TheÂ change inÂ the name of the translation of the book could be aÂ practicalÂ thoughtÂ of the publisher,Â since theÂ EnglishÂ readersÂ areÂ used toÂ termÂ Sufism.
Sofi,Â and sufi areÂ wordsÂ whichÂ areÂ used inÂ IslamicÂ terminologyÂ toÂ referÂ toÂ the followerÂ of Sufism. Difference arisesÂ fromÂ the differentÂ claims aboutÂ the originÂ of the word.Â Ones, whoÂ claimÂ thatÂ the word isÂ derived fromÂ sofÂ 7Â (wool),Â safaÂ (spiritualÂ delight,Â exhilaration),Â orÂ safwatÂ (purity)Â tend toÂ use sofi.Â OthersÂ whoÂ believed thatÂ the word comesÂ fromÂ suffaÂ 8Â (chamber) and wanted toÂ distinguishÂ itÂ fromÂ sofuÂ (religiousÂ zealot) use sufi ratherÂ thanÂ sofi (Gulen,Â 1999).Â Nonetheless, any of the rootsÂ of the termÂ could be the originÂ of termÂ tasawwuf (Sufism)9.Â ButÂ GulenÂ refusesÂ any relation of SufismÂ inÂ originÂ toÂ anythingÂ else otherÂ thanÂ Islam,Â suchÂ asÂ ChristianÂ andÂ HinduÂ Mysticism,Â orÂ Greek philosophy (Gulen,Â 1999).Â AsÂ itÂ mentioned above,Â some claimed thatÂ the termÂ derived fromÂ sophiaÂ or sophos,Â Greek wordsÂ forÂ wisdom.Â OtherÂ thanÂ mentioning itsÂ intentional misuse,Â GulenÂ pointsÂ outÂ the practical andÂ essentialÂ differencesÂ betweenÂ theÂ Sufi way of life and Greek philosophical life:Â
PriorÂ toÂ Islam,Â someÂ HinduÂ and Greek philosophersÂ followed variousÂ waysÂ leading toÂ selfpurificationÂ and struggled againstÂ theirÂ carnalÂ desiresÂ and the worldâsÂ attractions.Â ButÂ Sufism isÂ essentially differentÂ fromÂ theseÂ ways.Â ForÂ exampleÂ sofis
7 In reference to cheap and simple wool dressings of Sufis.
8 Ashab-i Suffa, is the poor, scholarly companions of the Prophet who lived in the chamber adjacent to the Prophetâs mosque. Number of the people in this group was not constant; it was increasing and decreasing due to the number of guests. But, Ebu Hurayra- one of the companion of the Prophet and one of the main figure in this chamber community-mentions that he knew seventy people in this group (Ebu Nuaym, Hilyetuâl Evliya , v1, p.337)
9 From now on, I will use the term âSufismâ instead of tasawwuf for not to confuse the reader.
live theirÂ entire livesÂ asÂ aÂ questÂ toÂ purify theirÂ selvesÂ viaÂ invocation,Â regularÂ worship,Â complete obedienceÂ toÂ God,Â self control,Â and humility,Â whereasÂ ancientÂ philosophersÂ did notÂ observe any of theseÂ rulesÂ orÂ acts.Â TheirÂ self purificationÂ if itÂ really deservesÂ toÂ be considered asÂ suchÂ usually caused conceitÂ and arrogance inÂ many of them,Â instead of humility and selfcriticismÂ (Gulen,Â 1999,Â p.Â xxv)
GÃ¼lenâs understanding of SufismÂ takesÂ itsÂ shape inÂ the IslamicÂ historical development,Â ratherÂ thanÂ terminology.Â GulenÂ (1999) seesÂ SufismÂ asÂ aÂ disciplineÂ in Islamâs historical development.Â InÂ the early daysÂ of Islam,Â religiousÂ commandmentsÂ wereÂ notÂ writtenÂ down,Â rather,Â practice and oralÂ circulationÂ of regulation related toÂ belief,Â worship,Â and daily life allowed people toÂ memorize them.Â ButÂ eventually,Â scholarsÂ started toÂ compile thisÂ oralÂ and memorized knowledge intoÂ writtenÂ texts. By doingÂ so,Â they gave priority toÂ religiousÂ commandmentsÂ since they were vitalÂ issuesÂ inÂ MuslimÂ individualÂ and collective life.Â ItÂ wasÂ the beginning of IslamicÂ sciences. LegalÂ scholars collected and codified books onÂ IslamicÂ lawÂ and itsÂ rules,Â traditionistsÂ (referring the traditionÂ of the Prophet)Â established the PropheticÂ traditionsÂ (Hadith)Â and way of life (Sunnah),Â whereas theologiansÂ dealtÂ withÂ issuesÂ concerning MuslimÂ beliefs, andÂ soÂ on.Â While some scholarsÂ were dealing withÂ these outerÂ activities, Sufi mastersÂ concentrated onÂ the MuhammadanÂ 10Â TruthsâÂ pureÂ spiritualÂ dimensions. StudyingÂ withÂ the QurâanicÂ commentaries, narrationsÂ of traditionists, and deductionsÂ of legalÂ scholars, Sufi mastersÂ developed theirÂ waysÂ throughÂ asceticism,Â spirituality,Â andÂ selfpurification,Â andÂ practice of religion; and established SufismÂ asÂ an IslamicÂ science withÂ itsÂ ownÂ method,Â principles,Â rules,Â and terms. InÂ otherÂ words, SufismÂ became the spiritÂ of Shariâa,Â formerÂ regarded as pureÂ esotericism,Â while latterÂ isÂ exotericism.Â GulenÂ (2004) suggests thatÂ these divisionsÂ should be viewed asÂ the resultÂ of the natural,Â humanÂ tendency of assigning priority toÂ thatÂ way whichÂ isÂ mostÂ suitable forÂ the individual practitioner.Â These divisionsÂ canÂ be assigned toÂ differentÂ humanÂ talentsÂ and aptitudes;Â some focused onÂ practicalÂ teaching,Â some focused more onÂ intellectualÂ teachings, whereasÂ some concentrated onÂ spiritualÂ teachings. ButÂ still these divisions are derived fromÂ the PropheticÂ method,Â whichÂ dividesÂ theÂ whole religiousÂ enterprise,Â Islam,Â intoÂ three basicÂ dimensions, corresponding toÂ practice,Â knowledge,Â and interiority;Â orÂ body,Â mind,Â and heartÂ (ChittickÂ (1999).ThisÂ could be elaborated toÂ natural humanÂ perceptions;Â physical,Â mental,Â and spiritual.Â Likewise any sciences, eachÂ segmentÂ has itsÂ ownÂ related IslamicÂ science.Â InÂ orderÂ toÂ understand these naturalÂ divisionsÂ andÂ theirÂ relationÂ toÂ IslamicÂ sciencesÂ IÂ have developed belowÂ figures.
Figure:Â ComparisonÂ of natural humanÂ perceptionsÂ toÂ IslamicÂ sciences.
10 Use of the term Muhammadan is very different than the offensive term Mohammedan in English. While Muhammadan refers to Muhammedi, which is an expression common to Sufi tradition, meaning connected or related to the Prophet; Mohammedan refers to Orientalist approach, meaning Muslim.
GulenÂ carefully actsÂ in hisÂ definitionsÂ of SufismÂ and makes itÂ clear that,Â although these sciencesÂ use differentÂ methodsÂ (naturally),Â they all have the same goalÂ âreaching Godâ:Â
Defining Sufism asÂ the âscience of esotericÂ truthsÂ orÂ mysteries,âÂ orÂ the âscience of humanityâsÂ spiritualÂ statesÂ and stations,âÂ orÂ the âscienceÂ of initiationâÂ doesÂ notÂ meanÂ thatÂ itÂ isÂ completely differentÂ fromÂ otherÂ religiousÂ sciences.Â (Gulen,Â 1999;Â xxi)Â
InÂ GulenâsÂ definition,Â heartÂ playsÂ anÂ essentialÂ role inÂ thisÂ understanding.Â AsÂ anÂ IslamicÂ science,Â SufismÂ concentratesÂ onÂ heart,Â butÂ alsoÂ respects bodyÂ and mind.Â ForÂ SufisÂ heartÂ isÂ the humanÂ truthÂ as the center forÂ all emotions, intellectual andÂ spiritualÂ faculties. SpiritualÂ healthÂ of the heartÂ isÂ vitalÂ forÂ the healthÂ of whole body.Â AÂ PropheticÂ tradition,Â whichÂ became aÂ key factorÂ inÂ Sufi understanding,Â expresses:Â
ThereÂ isÂ fleshy partÂ inÂ the body.Â If itÂ isÂ healthy, thenÂ the whole body isÂ healthy. If itÂ isÂ corrupted,Â thenÂ the wholeÂ body isÂ corrupted.Â Beware! ThatÂ partÂ isÂ heart.Â (AlÂ Bukhari,Â Iman,Â 39;Â Muslim,Â Musaqat.Â 107)Â
SufisÂ seesÂ heartÂ as the perceptionÂ pointÂ of God. OneÂ of the greatestÂ Sufi,Â IbrahimÂ Hakki of Erzurum,Â whomÂ GulenÂ isÂ inspired aÂ lot,Â putsÂ itÂ as:Â
The heartÂ isÂ the home of God;Â purify itÂ fromÂ whateverÂ isÂ otherÂ than Him.Â SoÂ thatÂ the AllÂ MercifulÂ may descend intoÂ HisÂ palace atÂ nightâ¦Â God said:Â âNeitherÂ the heavensÂ norÂ the earthÂ canÂ containÂ Me.âÂ He isÂ knownÂ andÂ recognized asÂ aÂ âTreasureâÂ hiddenÂ inÂ the heartÂ by the heartÂ itself (Gulen,Â 1999;Â 22).Â
GulenÂ (1999) regardsÂ heartÂ as the spiritualÂ dimension of humanÂ body,Â whichÂ isÂ the direct,Â eloquent,Â mostÂ articulate,Â splendid,Â and truthful tongue of knowledge of God.Â InÂ short,Â heartÂ isÂ the mostÂ essentialÂ tool inÂ searchingÂ God;Â itÂ is the cleanÂ mirrorÂ whereÂ Divine reflects.
AsÂ itÂ mentioned earlier,Â itÂ wasÂ afterÂ the secondÂ andÂ thirdÂ centuries, thatÂ MuslimsÂ started toÂ focusÂ onÂ differentÂ aspectsÂ of IslamÂ and SunnahÂ of the Prophet.Â DifferentÂ IslamicÂ sciencesÂ diverged fromÂ these focuses. (i.e.Â fikhIslamicÂ law,Â hadithtraditionÂ of the Prophet,Â tefsirÂ interpretation of Qurâan,Â kalamÂ IslamicÂ theology,Â tasawwufSufism,Â etc.)Â EachÂ science concentrated onÂ related partsÂ of theÂ QurâanÂ and SunnahÂ while tryingÂ toÂ practice all.Â AccordingÂ toÂ all Islamic sciences, ProphetÂ Muhammed is the perfectÂ practitionerÂ and source of all these sciences.Â He lived and represented all aspectsÂ of humanÂ life inÂ the perfectÂ form.Â One needsÂ toÂ understand thatÂ thereÂ isÂ noÂ conflictÂ betweenÂ these sciences;Â itÂ isÂ only the meansÂ of priority,Â orÂ concentrationÂ onÂ differentÂ subjects.Â AbuÂ HashimÂ alKufi (d.Â 772Â CE)Â wasÂ the firstÂ Muslim,Â whoÂ wasÂ called as Sufi.Â According toÂ Gulen,Â atÂ thatÂ time,Â SufismÂ wasÂ characterized by spiritualÂ people seekingÂ toÂ followÂ the footstepsÂ of the Prophet,Â and hisÂ companionsÂ by imitatingÂ theirÂ life styles.Â Sufis eventually established ordersÂ underÂ differentÂ scholars, and institutionalized itÂ by establishing regulationsÂ and rulesÂ inÂ eachÂ order (tariqah).Â 11Â GÃ¼lenâsÂ Sufi understanding refersÂ the preinstitutionalized period,Â mostly toÂ theÂ firstÂ andÂ second century of Islam.Â Sarioprak (2001) callsÂ GÃ¼lenÂ âaÂ Sufi inÂ hisÂ ownÂ wayâ,Â and pointsÂ outÂ the parallel Sufi approachesÂ thatÂ GulenÂ has toÂ theÂ early Sufi scholars:Â
Ealy SufisÂ hadÂ neitherÂ ordersÂ norÂ even Sufi organizations.Â Rabia,Â Junayd,Â Muhasibi,Â Bishr,Â Ghazzali, FeriduddinÂ Attar,Â and evenÂ RumiÂ did notÂ belong toÂ aÂ tariqah.Â HoweverÂ they wereÂ Sufis.Â (p.Â 6)
According toÂ Gulen,Â SufismâsÂ practicalÂ dimension is more importantÂ than itsÂ historicalÂ orÂ terminologicalÂ definitions.Â Sufism,Â inÂ aÂ nutshell,Â isÂ the spiritualÂ side of IslamÂ orÂ the spiritualÂ life of practicing Muslims.Â InÂ GÃ¼lenâsÂ ownÂ definition, SufismÂ is aÂ lifelong processÂ of spiritualÂ development,Â whichÂ demandsÂ the individualâsÂ active participation.Â ItÂ requiresÂ the strictÂ observance of all religiousÂ obligationsÂ and Prophet MuhammadâsÂ example,Â whichÂ enablesÂ individuals,Â throughÂ constantÂ worshipÂ toÂ God,Â toÂ deepenÂ theirÂ awarenessÂ of themselvesÂ as devoteesÂ of God (GÃ¼len,Â 1999).Â The coreÂ of SufismÂ is QurâanÂ andÂ SunnahÂ (traditionÂ of ProphetÂ Muhammed),Â especially the traditionÂ whichÂ mostly stressesÂ the "greaterÂ jihad" (jihad alÂ akbar)12Â (Yavuz,Â 2004).Â AfterÂ stating differentÂ practical definitionÂ of Sufism, GÃ¼lenÂ summarizesÂ itÂ as following:Â
Sufism isÂ the pathÂ followed by anÂ individualÂ who,Â having beenÂ ableÂ toÂ free himself orÂ herself fromÂ humanÂ vicesÂ and weakness inÂ orderÂ toÂ acquireÂ angelicÂ qualitiesÂ and conductÂ pleasing God,Â livesÂ in accordance withÂ the requirementsÂ of GodâsÂ knowledge and love,Â and inÂ the resulting spiritualÂ delightÂ thatÂ ensuesÂ (GÃ¼len,Â 1999,Â p.xiv).Â
ChittickÂ (1999) explainsÂ early centuriesÂ of MuslimsÂ as whoÂ loved GodÂ andÂ therefore followed the ProphetÂ and they inÂ turn were loved by God. TheyÂ did notÂ evenÂ name whatÂ they were doing.Â 10thÂ century Sufi masterÂ Bushanji pointsÂ out:
11 For more information see (GÃ¼len,1999) and (Chittick,1999).
12 Greater Jihad is the struggle that one has with the nefs- the ego or the carnal self.
Today,Â Sufism isÂ aÂ name withoutÂ aÂ reality (hakikat),Â but itÂ used toÂ be aÂ reality withoutÂ aÂ name (cited inÂ Chittick,Â 1999,Â p.15)Â
Ghazali alsoÂ refersÂ thisÂ reality inÂ hisÂ alMunqidhÂ minÂ alDalalDeliverance fromÂ Errortranslated asÂ AlÂ GhazaliâsÂ pathÂ toÂ SufismÂ by R.Â J.Â McCarthy (2000):Â
HowÂ greatÂ a differenceÂ there isÂ between yourÂ knowing the definitionsÂ and causesÂ and conditionsÂ of healthÂ and satiety and yourÂ being healthy and sated!(p.52)Â
InÂ GulenâsÂ word (1999),Â âSufismâÂ isÂ aÂ lifelong journey of unceasingÂ effortÂ leading toÂ the Infinite One;Â itÂ isÂ aÂ marathonÂ toÂ be run without any pause,Â withÂ yielding resolution,Â and without anticipating any worldly pleasure and reward.Â InÂ practicalÂ dimension,Â SufismÂ becomesÂ the searchÂ of hakikatÂ (reality)Â and implementationÂ of thatÂ reality toÂ oneâsÂ ownÂ life.Â âSufismâÂ isÂ the spiritualÂ life thatÂ aÂ MuslimÂ lives,
GulenÂ seesÂ âSufismâÂ orÂ tasawwuf (inÂ fact)Â as the spiritual dimensionÂ of the IslamicÂ way of life.Â ItÂ isÂ inÂ particular the spiritualÂ life of the Prophet andÂ inÂ generalÂ Muslims. NeitherÂ itÂ isÂ differentÂ thanÂ IslamÂ nor doesÂ itÂ have any otherÂ origin.Â AfterÂ all,Â if itÂ isÂ asked whetherÂ GulenÂ isÂ aÂ Sufi orÂ not,Â inÂ the consideration of thisÂ paperâs analysis,Â itÂ could be said thatÂ he isÂ aÂ mutasawwif13,Â butÂ ânotÂ inÂ hisÂ ownÂ wayâ; heÂ is aÂ mutasawwif inÂ aÂ way thatÂ the ProphetÂ was and the salafsÂ 14Â were âÂ companionÂ of the ProphetÂ andÂ theÂ nextÂ twoÂ generationsÂ whoÂ followed them.Â He isÂ following theÂ example of the ProphetsÂ and their followers,Â asÂ well asÂ sincere devotees.Â He isÂ afterÂ the (hakikat)Â reality notÂ theÂ name.Â ThatÂ isÂ thisÂ reality thatÂ GulenÂ isÂ searching for.Â
InÂ thisÂ paper,Â GÃ¼lenâsÂ understanding of âSufismâÂ isÂ analyzed inÂ comparisonÂ toÂ SufismâsÂ westernÂ misinterpretation. InÂ thisÂ analysis,Â three aspects of Sufism are the main concernsÂ of thisÂ paper: terminological,Â historical,Â and practical.Â I have toÂ confessÂ thatÂ thisÂ paperÂ isÂ inÂ anÂ introductory level,Â these three aspectsÂ andÂ the principalsÂ thatÂ GulenÂ statesÂ need toÂ be analyzed inÂ depthÂ and details.
13 One who follows or studies Tasawwuf.
14 Reader needs to be aware that the term salaf and the salafi are not the same. Even though the salafis refer to salaf (group including the companions of the prophet and the first two generation followed them), it is a common phrase used by Muslim scholars to refer the same.
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