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The War Within Islam ( 16 May 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Unique Turkish Experience of Islamic Revivalism


By Dr M. Ghitreef Shahbaz Nadwi, New Age Islam

16 May 2012

Twentieth century was marked by a revivalist wave in the whole Islamic world. This in my view is wrongly called in western discourse political Islam. During the first nine decades of Twentieth century this political Islam or revivalist Islamic movements, remained a failed case in the sense that its protagonists were not able to achieve their political and social goals even in a single Muslim county. Nonetheless, come the last decades of the century, and we see these forces fervently marching ahead in the entire Sunni world. This was preceded by Iran, the sole representative of Shia Islam, with its Islamic revolution, led by Imam Khomeini in 1979.

As far as Sunni world is concerned, the first stubborn citadel of ultra secularism fell to this force in Turkey. This Turkish mass revolution came in full secular, democratic and peaceful manner. This was a miracle in the given Turkish scenario. It was accomplished by dint of the very ideological methods and tools which, to me, seem fit to be attributed as Islamic secularism. This Turkish experience was an eye opener in many ways to other Islamic revivalist movements and specially to Ulema, who are still relying on traditional thinking and are clinging to old stereotypes.

Here we may mention three luminous Turkish thinkers who have been mainly instrumental in transforming, either directly or indirectly, the modern ultra secular and Kamalist Turkey into what it is now a role model for the rest of Muslim world in general and for Arab world in particular. These are personalities of a rare kind, men of genius and wisdom.

First was Said Nursi,(1878 -1960) a Naqshbandi Dervish, an Alim , rationalist to the core, whose first phase of life (the old Said) was full of strife, political activity and reactionary thought,bound  to traditional ways of thinking and thus was a failed case in the face of  rapidly changing of world situations. Yet in the second phase of his life (New Said) he said أعوذ بالله من السياسة (I seek refuge with Allah from the politics) and then started a new course of action for his life. With propagating Resael Nur, a collection of his explanations of Divine wisdom derived from the Quran among the youth, students and common men he was able to rejuvenate true Islamic spirit in Turkish masses. Only with this weapon this argumentative and talented man adroitly and audaciously fought Kamalism, with its own weapons: the modernity.  As he is reported to have said:"Our enemies are ignorance, poverty and conflict. We shall wage holy war against these three enemies with the weapons of industry, learning and unity.'' It can be safely said that the new Turkish generations are more influenced by Nursi's thoughts as well as his genius than any other person of past and present.

 The second man was Professor Necmettin Erbakan who also has a great stature in the series. Necmettin Erbakan (29 October 1926 – 27 February 2011) was an engineer by profession.  He eventually became a political party leader. He was the prime minister of Turkey from 1996 until 1997. He was Turkey's first Islamist prime minister after the demolition of Ottoman Caliphate in 1923.

He was a purely practical man, a man of great patience, passion, perpetual hard work. He realized ground realities. He founded his own political party, rose to be an elected prime minister, faced a great deal of hurdles in his way, posed by the trio of military, judiciary and ultra secular intellectuals and rival political parties.  For example in 1997 he was pressurized by the military to step down as prime minister and later banned from politics by the constitutional court. Then he changed the name of his party. This too was banned but he once again stood in the face of all odds with perseverance and bravery. In fact the current Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (born 26 February 1954)and Turkish president Abdullah Gull both are professor Erbakan's students  and disciples, who are inspired by the vision of their mentor, his political ideas and  his pragmatism. In the wise leadership of Erdugan who has been prime minister of Turkey since 2003 and is the chairman of ruling Justice and development party (AK Party, an of shoot of late Erbakan' s party), Turkey is now faring well in economic areas and is playing a leading role in the affairs of Ummah, and as a regional power doing good in problems facing the Arab world.

 The third person is Muhammed Fathullah Gulen, who is the founder of Hismet Movement. He too belongs to Naqshbandi Sufi sect and is basically a follower of Said Nursi, as he took his ideas from that great genius of modern Islamic world. Born on 27 April 1941 Gulen is a Turkish author, educator, who started his career as a theologian and as a religious instructor in Turkish schools run by the government, and now is a leading spiritual and social figure not only in Turkey but in other countries also. And though he does not have a political agenda, one can arguably say, that in an indirect way, his impact on new Turkish mind and body is very obvious. Gulen is now living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, USA. He supports the idea of the dialogue with the people of the book (Christians and Jews) and he even initiated such dialogues with Vatican and some Jewish organizations. These Turkish reformers and ideologues did not wage a Jihad on Secularism, Democracy and Modernity dubbing them un-Islamic. They did not even propagate to wage an unflinching war against non Muslims and unbelievers and did not ask once to impose Jizyah, (a pure administrative thing of temporary value), nor they were banking on emotional sloganeering, nor they took refuge in creating a sensational mirage to revive the old time grand Ottoman Caliphate. Rather they worked on the grassroots level and served the people and the country well and by this way won the minds and hearts of the masses and now they are ruling the country .This model of reform in Turkish paradigm, is a combination of common human values and the spirit of Islam.

Dr. M. Ghitreef Shahbaz Nadwi is the director, Foundation for Islamic Studies, C-303/3 Shaheen Bagh, Jamia Nagar, New Delhi 25