By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
03 August, 2014
Professing a certain faith does not and should not prevent its adherents from embracing universal values of other faiths that optimally benefit the humanity at large. All religions share many values with one another. We have scores of common references that the members of all faiths unanimously espouse while still adhering to myriad precepts and practices signified by different and diverse faiths. This universal togetherness, despite different faith dogmas, produces remarkable opportunities of peace for a global society steeped in a flare-up of violence.
At a time when clashes between the claimants of different belief systems and even within the ideologies of one religion are on the rise, the world needs peace and dialogue more than ever before. Never in history, had global peace been shattered so pitiably. We need a profound strategy to ensure and maintain global peace. And the very pressing need calls for developing amicability, familiarity, tolerance, respect, and social integration among different groups, religious communities through dialogue and mutual understanding.
If anywhere in the world Muslims could be seen as epitome of the above universal values, it is the spiritually-inclined and Sufi-oriented Turkish Muslim community. At a time when other parts of the Muslim world seem to be engaged in violence, sectarian and Takfiri wars, exclusivistic and totalitarian leadership, Turkish Muslims embraced universal values of peace, tolerance, inclusiveness, harmony, multiculturalism and interfaith dialogue.
In fact, it is a result of the harmonious Sufi traditions deeply entrenched in the cultural consciousness of the Turkish Muslim society. The lofty ideals of the great Sufi luminary Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi (r.a) and the Naqshbandi Sufi traditions have deeply impacted the Turkish culture and society. Maulana Rumi’s ideas of Islamic mysticism and spirituality (Sufism) are imbued with a human touch. They exhorted innate passion for divine love, sympathy, compassion and generosity for humanity regardless of caste, creed or faith.
Mr. Fethullah Gulen, a renowned Turkish Muslim intellectual and spiritual luminary par-excellence, draws inspiration from Maulana Rumi’s humanism and breadth of outlook. He is also an ardent advocate of interfaith dialogue and his views on this subject emanate from Maulana Rumi’s ideas and teachings. His lofty spiritual and scientific ideas inspired an Islamic community that is one of the most significant religious and social movements in contemporary Turkey with several million followers worldwide. Although he received his education in traditional Islamic seminaries and initially served as an Imam of a mosque, he believed that modern science and logic would be the way of the future and, therefore, reinforced the idea of teaching religious sciences in secular schools and modern sciences in religious schools.
Since Gulen was endowed not only with scholastic temperament but also with an inner spiritual spark, he was filled with passion to save Ummah from the looming crisis. To meet this end, he stressed the revival and renewal of the universal values of Islam among Muslims. With his unshakable faith and courage, vast experience and wisdom, scientific temperament and a deep insight into the Qur'anic exhortations and worldly affairs, he exerted all possible efforts to provide the global Muslim community with remedy to many problems in the modern age.
This is precisely why the great epithet of “the modern-day Rumi” has been attributed to him by many intellectuals and analysts. Just as Rumi's Sufi traditions brushed aside the distinctions of caste, creed, sect, and nationality, Gulen preaches the true Islamic principles full of compassion for all, and none of his writings peddles any kind of hatred or disdain against any community or tradition. While progressive Muslims called Gulen “the modern-day Rumi” some Western authors hold him in high regard calling him “Muslim Gandhi”.
Since Fethullah Gulen is particularly inspired by the two great humanitarians and Sufi mystics Jalaluddin Rumi, Bediuzzaman Saeed Nursi of Turkey and Shaikh Ahmad Sarhindi Mujaddid Alf-e-Sani of India, Gulen followers from Turkey have established an action and research-oriented dialogue and peace foundation in India, Indialouge Foundation. Following in his footsteps, they have embarked on a gigantic mission of transforming the world by selfless and untiring service to humanity at large.
The most important of the foundation’s clearly stated objectives is to be in dialogue with all faith communities fostering a culture of dialogue and co-existence with major focus on shared spiritual values. The followers of Fethullah Gulen at the Indialouge Foundation are adherents of love, tolerance, dialogue and peace, committing themselves to live the broader essence of Islam and bear witness to the shared universal values.
The Gulen movement, also known as Hizmet Movement, reached out to Indian communities in 2005 with the name of Indialouge Foundation. Since its inception, the organisation has been widely noted among the Indian intellectual circles for its endeavour to enhance interfaith, inter-civilisational, intercultural, inter-communal and interethnic dialogue. The activists of the Hizmet Movement in India channelize different means to stress the dire need of co-existence, tolerance, inclusiveness, mutual understanding, reconciliation, peace, national solidarity and social integration. They organise conferences, symposia, seminars, exhibitions, award functions, workshops, visits and trips, publications and engage with other intellectual, academic and social activities to achieve the noble cause of dialogue.
Recently, one of such harmonious means to foster dialogue and peaceful coexistence that the foundation adopted was organising interfaith Iftar programs consecutively on every marked day of Ramadan. It was indeed gratifying for me to have been invited on one such auspicious occasion. A number of intellectuals, writers and scholars from all faith traditions were invited to the well-spirited Iftar feast. A couple of dozen intellectuals, writers and academicians — Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and people of various other faiths — got together and shared their views on interfaith relations with a special reference to the essence of fasting in Islam and other religions.
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background. He has graduated from a leading Sufi Islamic seminary of India, Jamia Amjadia Rizvia (Mau, U.P.), acquired Diploma in Qur'anic Arabic from Al-Jamiat ul Islamia, Faizabad, U.P., and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies, Badaun, U.P. He has also graduated in Arabic (Hons) and is pursuing his M. A. in Comparative Religion from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.