Global Terrorism and Islamic Radicalization: Analyses from Fethullah Gulen’s Perspective

Gulen deems terrorism as the greatest blow to peace, democracy, and humanity and he always condemns any terrorist activity no matter by whom it is carried out or for what purpose it is committed. He issues statements in this regard on various media platforms. He stressed on the fact that terrorism must be condemned without any excuses. He even labelled the suicide bombers as the companions of hellfire.

Global Terrorism and Islamic Radicalization: Analyses from Fethullah Gulen’s Perspective

Dr. Recep Dogan

First published on December 2017

In order to protect one’s faith, person, family, property and land against aggressors, Muslims can resort to physical force but it is one of the many meanings of jihad. However, declaring a war against an enemy can only be done by a government and if individuals or groups resort such method, it is considered as terror and Islam applies the severest punishment to prevent it. Prominent Islamic scholar and community leader Fethullah Gulen argues that no Muslim can approve of any terrorist activity and terror has no place in a quest to achieve independence or salvation for it takes the lives of innocent people.12 He brings some evidences from the Qur’an to support his view:

“He who kills a soul unless it be (in legal punishment) for murder or for causing disorder and corruption on the earth will be as if he had killed all humankind; and he who saves a life will be as if he had saved the lives of all humankind.”13 Even when Muslims have to resort war to defend their country, Prophet Muhammad brought many limitations to war although it is for a just cause:

“Do not betray, inflict injustice, plunder, or defile the bodies; do not kill children, the elderly, or women; do not cut down the date orchards or burn them; do not cut down trees that bear fruit; do not kill sheep, cattle, or camels unless it is for food. You may come across people who have retreated into monasteries on your way; do not touch them or interfere with their worship.”14 

Gulen maintains that such commandments are the historical records that warn the heads of states against any kind of injustice and reminds them of that they will be taken to account on the Judgment Day for their acts.15 However, extreme groups find young minds and radicalize them to employ their terrorist agenda. While imposing their extreme ideas, they misinterpret the Qur’an and Sunnah by their partial approach and disconnecting religious texts from their context. Moreover, they use Islamic concepts such as jihad to mask their terrorist actions and increase the support of the general Muslim population.

Islam has always favored defense over offence and the importance of mercy towards enemies, therefore Fethullah Gulen has repeatedly stated that “a real Muslim” who understood Islam in every aspect could not be a terrorist.24 He stressed on the fact that terrorism must be condemned without any excuses. He even labelled the suicide bombers as the companions of hellfire. However, religious extremists are ignorant of their faith, therefore they have hijacked Islam just as it has periodically occurred with Christianity and other religions throughout history.25

Gulen’s Statements on Recent Terror Attacks

Gulen deems terrorism as the greatest blow to peace, democracy, and humanity 38 and he always condemns any terrorist activity no matter by whom it is carried out or for what purpose it is committed. He issues statements in this regard on various media platforms. Upon the recent terrorist attack that took place in Paris, he stated,

“I strongly condemn the terrorist attacks on French magazine Charlie Hebdo and in Paris suburbs. These revolting acts of terrorism are deplorable – they serve no purpose but to bring about destruction, sorrow and grief. I reiterate my condemnation of all forms of terror regardless of its perpetrators or their stated purposes. I share my deep condolences with the victims‟ families, loved ones and the people of France.”39

Gulen sees radical groups a real threat for the entire world and therefore openly rejects their claims on the basis of primary Islamic sources. His statement on ISIS terror group was published in New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times on 22 August 2014. In his statement, he used very strong language to condemn their evil acts:

“I deplore the brutal atrocities being committed by the ISIS terrorist group hiding behind a false religious rhetoric and join the people of conscience from around the world in calling for these perpetrators to immediately cease their cruel and inhuman acts. Any form of attack, suppression or persecution of minorities or innocent civilians is an act that contradicts the principles of the Qur’an and the tradition of our Prophet upon whom be peace and blessings. ISIS members are either completely ignorant of the spirit of Islam and its blessed messenger, or their actions are designed to serve their individual interests or those of their political masters. Regardless, their actions represent those of a terrorist group and they should be labelled as such and be brought to justice.40 Gulen published very strong condemnation message when September 11 terror attack happened in USA. He deemed the terror attack as the most bloody, condemnable one, and an assault against world peace as well as against universal democratic and humanistic values.41 He stated that those who perpetrated this atrocity can only be considered as being the most brutal people in the world.”42

Violence is a Disease

Gulen deems violence as a disease that can be observed in every corner of the world.43 Every kind of murder is accursed no matter who commits it. Terror cannot be rationalized on any basis. Insulting Islamic values does not legitimize the murder; therefore, Muslims cannot support any terror activity in their heart. Gulen argues that it is antithetical to the creed and conduct of a believer to say, “so-and-so was an enemy of religion, of faith, of Islam, of the Qur‟an; it is good that he was killed, for he deserved it anyway”.44 Gulen believes that life is a sacred trust and it is necessary to protect all living creatures. His view on life and its value can be understood better from his following statements:

“In my lifetime, I have never deliberately and knowingly stepped on even an ant. I did not see or speak to a friend of mine for months, for breaking the backbone of a snake. I have believed in the rights of every living being, that all of them have a place in the ecosystem. I have stated that we have no right or authority to harm a living being. It is a fact that the most honorable and most sacred of all creatures is the human being. I have repeatedly stated that those who murder under these pretexts or intentions cannot enter Paradise, and cannot be considered Muslims. This is not my personal opinion. It is the voice, expression, and breath of the ethos of Islam; this belief is part of our nature.”45

In order to support his view, Gulen brings the statement of the famous Qur’anic exegete Abd Allah ibn Abbas on this verse. For him, the repentance of those who kill a believer purposefully will be denied, and they will be doomed to eternal Hell.47 Gulen concludes that considering the life of human kind is the most honorable, Islam regulated many rulings to protect it against any kind of violence and harm.

He severely condemns terrorist people who use vehicles loaded with bombs and kill innocent people in the name of Islam. For him, this is completely against the message of the Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet and such events truly embarrasses and grieves Muslims.64 He maintains that Muslims must always act in compliance with the principles of Islam, no matter what the circumstances are and never forget that lawful ends must only be sought through lawful means.65 Killing innocent people is a grave sin in Islam, therefore Imam Abu Ḫanīfa (669-767 CE), the founder of Ḫanafī school of thought ruled that it is not lawful to march upon a group of people if their intention is not known.66

Gulen argues that Prophet Muhammad was the man of love and peace and his mission was to communicate the faith as he had been enjoined by God, therefore, he visited the most hard-hearted unbelievers many times without displaying any resentment.67 He wanted all people should be able to feel Paradise in their hearts by inviting them to the faith; „pronounce there is no deity but God and be saved.‟68 In order to support his argument Gulen mentions the conquest of Makka by the Prophet and his attitude towards his enemies. People of Makka persecuted Muslims for long time and killed some but now they were defeated and in fear. However, the Prophet gathered them and addressed them as follows:

“I say to you as Joseph (Prophet) once said to his brothers. There is no blame for the actions that you have performed before. God will forgive you, too. He is the Most Merciful of the Merciful. Go, you are all free.”69 He forgave them all even his bitterest enemies and did not force them to accept Islam. He left them free to choose whatever they could believe. Another time, he raised his hands to pray for those who stoned him, broke his teeth, wounded his cheek, and caused his head to be covered in blood: “My God, grant guidance to my people, for they do not know!”70 When we examine the evil acts of ISIS, it is clear that there is no connection or similarity between their horrible crimes and the noble act of the Prophet. Therefore, the terrorist groups who use Islamic concepts such as jihad to attract young minds delude people and blacken the bright face of Islam.

In order to stop their delusions, there is an unquestionable need for a true leader who is able to fulfill the hope and aspirations of individuals, groups of followers and communities, whilst respecting the followers of other faiths, people of diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds.71 In this regard, Gulen and his followers showed remarkable creativity and activism with regard to interfaith dialogue in world politics, establishing over 50 interfaith centers in the United States alone.72 For Gulen, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and even Hinduism and other world religions, accept the same divine source for themselves, and they, with the nontheistic religions such as Buddhism, “pursue the same goal”.73

Source: Journal of Islamic Studies and Culture. December 2017, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 1-12

Note: Please visit the articles original web page for the footnotes.

Dr. Recep Dogan: Center For Islamic Studies and Civilization, Faculty of Arts, Charles Sturt University, Sydney, Australia

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