Rumi Forum's blog on Hizmet, Fethullah Gulen, peacebuilding, education and interfaith efforts.

Friday, December 31, 2010

MEDIA - The New Republic: The Global Imam

The New Republic recently published a feature article by Suzy Hansen titled The Global Imam on Rumi Forum's Honorary President, Fethullah Gulen. Excerpts are below:

The Global Imam
by Suzy Hansen,  The New Republic December 2, 2010

THE LEADER OF what is arguably the world’s most successful Islamic movement lives in a tiny Pennsylvania town called Saylorsburg, at the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center, otherwise known as “the Camp.” The Camp consists of a series of houses, a community center, a pond, and some tranquil, woodsy space for strolling. From this Poconos enclave--which resembles a resort more than the headquarters of a worldwide religious, social, and political movement--Fethullah Gülen, a 69-year-old Turkish bachelor with a white moustache, wide nose, and gentle, sad expression, leads perhaps five million followers who, in his spirit if not his name, operate schools, universities, corporations, nonprofits, and media organs around the globe.

Last spring, I visited the center and was warmly shepherded around by Bekir Aksoy, the president of the Camp. Just past a checkpoint, a portly Turkish man in a “Sopranos”-esque tracksuit was stretching, preparing for a jog. Along a road leading to the pond, we encountered a group composed mostly of Turkish men who had come from Japan to see Hocaefendi, as Gülen is respectfully called by his followers; they had been escorted onto the premises by a Columbia University student in a white Mercedes. The guest of honor for the day was a professor from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. He was fishing for trout...

...Gülen’s views are moderate and modern. He is fiercely opposed to violence and enthusiastic about science. According to Gülen, “avoiding the physical sciences due to the fear that they will lead to heresy is childish.” He is emphatically not a radical Islamist. “The lesser jihad is our active fulfillment of Islam’s commands and duties,” he has written, and “the greater jihad is proclaiming war on our ego’s destructive and negative emotions and thoughts ... which prevent us from attaining perfection.” ....... His followers run nonprofit organizations that promote peace, tolerance, and interfaith dialogue, and Gülenist businessmen devote their resources to building secular schools.

It’s no surprise, then, that Gülen has many admirers in the West. “It’s a civic movement,” says Islam scholar John Esposito, one of many American academics who praise the Gülenists. “It’s an alternative elite within Turkish society, as in many Muslim societies, that can be modern, educated, and successful, but also religiously minded.” Particularly after September 11, Gülen’s movement had a lot of appeal in the United States, which was suddenly desperate for “good Muslims.” “It was 2003, two years after 9/11; we were just in the beginning of the Iraq war, and here’s this ecumenical Muslim movement that seems to be open to modernity and science and is focused on education,” said one senior U.S. government official who has had dealings with Gülenists. “It seemed almost too good to be true.”...

With the help of Turkish businessmen, Gülen began building dorms, or “lighthouses.” At the time, Turkey was urbanizing at a breakneck pace. Country kids often floundered, socially and financially, when they moved to the big cities. The “lighthouses” provided a religious community for these young people, one that offered help with academics and didn’t, say, watch porn or get carried away with leftist causes.

Within these safe havens, the Gülen movement introduced the pious to the possibilities of modern life. “My father was a teacher in a primary school. His father was a stonecutter,” says Kerim Balcı, a journalist who works for the newspaper Zaman, which is owned by Gülenists and claims to have the largest readership in Turkey. “And here I am a Ph.D. student, columnist, and academician probably earning my father’s yearly salary in a month.” Balcı’s life story--he hails from the small Black Sea city of Samsun, yet went on to receive his master’s from a university in Israel and is working toward his Ph.D. from Durham University in Britain--echoes the trajectory of many middle-aged Gülen followers from conservative families. The Turkish state had been founded on the notion that modernity meant rejection of religion--and, for a long time, it was dominated by a military and a political class that enforced this ideal, sometimes harshly. Gülen suggested there was an alternative path. “It may be possible to be both religious and a TV commentator,” Balcı says....

....Even as the movement has sprouted numerous organizations and companies, the schools have remained at the center of the Gülen orbit. Starting with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Gülen dispatched his students to the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, where he rightly suspected that they might find some post-communist youths in need of religion. But it is not just Central Asia that hosts Gülen schools. They also exist in far-flung Muslim countries like Indonesia, Sudan, and Pakistan, as well as mostly non-Muslim countries like Mexico and Japan. In total, according to Ebaugh, Gülenists operate over 1,000 explicitly secular schools and universities in more than 100 countries. They emphasize science and technology, teach the Turkish language, and, by many accounts, are very good schools. Gülenist businessmen build these institutions and sponsor scholarships to them. Whenever you ask who’s funding anything, Gülenists reply “a group of Turkish businessmen,” “a Turkish businessman,” “a Turkish-American businessman,” or “our Turkish friends.”

When I recently visited Afghanistan, I was surprised to learn that Turks had been operating schools there since the ’90s, even during the Taliban era. They currently have schools not just in Kabul, but in Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Shebhergan, and Kandahar. Behind the lovely painted-pink school in Kabul were dorms where kids from all over the country sat outside, some of them eager to say hello in English. Every Afghan I spoke to in Kabul, from politicians to cooks, told me that “the Turkish school” was the best in the city. As we left the premises, the teachers gave my Afghan translator some books by Fethullah Gülen....[continues]


The Necessity of Interfaith Dialogue

A Movement Originating Its Own Models 

Mevlana Jalal al-Din Rumi
Sufism And Its Origins



Thursday, December 30, 2010

NEW VIDEO - The Meaning of the Midterm Elections with Mark Rozell

Our latest youtube video "The Meaning of the Midterm Elections with Mark Rozel".

Full video can be viewed on our VIMEO site

(See previous videoPeace and Conflict Resolution in Islam with Qamar ul Huda)

An analysis of the outcome of the 2010 U.S. Midterm elections and its impact on the next two years of the Obama presidency.

Synopsis: The presentation and discussion will focus on an analysis of the 2010 election results and their implications for governing in the U.S. The analysis will center on the factors that most influenced the election and the current state of voter discontent with both political parties in the U.S.

Bio: Mark J. Rozell is professor of public policy at George Mason University. He is the author of nine books and editor of twenty additional books on various topics in American government and politics. He writes most frequently on the presidency and executive power, religion and politics, media and politics, and U.S. elections at the state and national levels.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

BELGIUM - University of Leuven establishes Fethullah Gülen Chair

The University of Leuven honors Rumi Forum's honorary president by establishing the Fethullah Gülen Chair for Intercultural Studies inaugurated on 7 December 2010.

Officials from the Catholic University of Leuven have established a chair named after Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen.
A chair named after the well-respected Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen has been established at one of Belgium’s most prestigious Catholic universities, the Catholic University of Leuven, with university officials saying it is a source of pleasure for them to have a chair named after Gülen.

The Fethullah Gülen Chair for Intercultural Studies was established with the efforts of the Brussels-based mus (IDP), whose honorary chairman is Gülen. An inauguration ceremony was held on Monday at the university. As part of an agreement signed between the IDP and the university, the chair will carry out academic research and organize conferences for five years.

Social and Cultural Anthropology Professor Johan Leman, who will be the chair holder, and university Rector Mark Waer expressed pleasure to host the chair. In a statement he released on the occasion of the establishment of the chair, Leman said that as an intellectual and spiritual leader, Gülen has encouraged his Muslim fellows to take initiatives to build bridges, particularly between Islam and modernity, science and spirituality, and reason and faith.

Noting that he has motivated millions to engage and invest in sustaining peace and improving community relations through nondenominational education and intercultural dialogue, Leman said Gülen’s recognition of democracy as the only viable political system of governance and his emphasis on diversity, equal access to human rights, freedom of belief for all, loyalty to the law of the land and the non-instrumentalization of religion in politics make his message one of the most promising calls for the future of relations between the West and the Muslim community.

“His message now has a growing influence, particularly among the second-generation migrant-origin citizens of Europe. It is our hope that this chair, inspired by this message, will contribute to the bridge-building process through promoting intercultural understanding and stimulating research on relations between Muslim communities and the wider society in Belgium and Europe,” he said. Gülen is a Turkish Islamic scholar well known for his teachings promoting mutual understanding and tolerance between cultures. One of the world’s most influential Islamic scholars, Gülen came out at the top of the list of “The World’s Top 20 Public Intellectuals” by the magazines Foreign Policy and Prospect in 2008. Now residing in the US, Gülen has pioneered educational activities in a number of countries along with efforts to promote intercultural and interfaith activities around the world. He has written nearly 50 books in Turkish, some of which have been translated into several languages....

see also


Friday, December 24, 2010

Mevlana Jalal al-Din Rumi by Fethullah Gulen

Last week on December 17 was the annual celebration of Sheb-i Arus - the wedding with eternity - the night that Mevlana Jalal al-Din Rumi passed away some 700 years ago. In remembering Rumi below is an article by Fethullah Gulen which first appeared as a foreword to the book by Sefik Can, the late Mevlevi spiritual leader [details of book are below the article]. 

There are some significant personalities who with the help of their voice and breath, their love and excitement, and their promise for humanity always remain fresh and alive over the course of centuries. Time evidently fails to make these characters obsolete. Their thoughts, analyses, explanations, and spiritual messages, which will never be lost, represent, ever anew, alternative solutions and prescriptions for today's social problems, in great variety and diversity.

Rumi is one such personality. Despite the vast amount of time that separates his life from ours, Rumi continues to hear and to listen to us, to share our feelings, to present solutions to our problems in a voice that is without equal. Despite the fact that he lived some centuries ago, he remains absolutely alive among and with us today. He is a man of light-one who receives his light from the spirit of the Master of Humanity (Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him), distributing this light in a variety of manners to just about everywhere.

He was chosen to be one of the world's saints and to be pure of heart; a blessed one whose words are outstanding among those of the heroes of love and passion. He was and continues to function as Israfil; blowing life into dead spirits. He did and continues to provide the water of life to the barren hearts of many; a spiritual irrigation. He was and continues to provide light for the travelers on their paths. He was and continues to be the perfect heir of the Prophet.

Jalal al-Din Rumi, a man of God, hastened toward God on his own spiritual journey; but in addition to this he evoked similar journeys in countless others-journeys marked by an eager striving toward God. He was a balanced man of ecstasy who sprang alive with love and excitement; he did this to such an extent that he inspired in others these significant feelings; he continues to do so. In addition to his passion for God, along with his knowledge and love of Him, Rumi is further renowned as a hero in terms of both his respect and fear of God. He was and continues to be one who beckons; whose powerful voice invites everyone to the truth and the ultimate blessed reality. Rumi was an inclusive master whose joy was a direct consequence of His joy, whose love and passion were the result of His special favors to Rumi. His life provides real evidence of the Truth. At the same time as he spoke to those of his own times in an effective manner, Rumi was even more influential in that he made his voice and breath, which reflected the voice and breath of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, continue to be heard for centuries after. He spoke with such an enchanting voice that he was able to guide not only his blessed contemporaries, but also people of our time, centuries removed from his physical existence. God bestowed upon him this important duty. For this purpose, God blessed him with impeccable inner and outer qualities so that he would prove successful in this undertaking. His heart was full of the Divine light. As such, his essence is marked by his wisdom, which shines like a light reflected through a precious gem. His inner-most self was enveloped with Divine mysteries. His inner eyes were enlightened by this special light.

On this horizon, Jalal al-Din Rumi represents the North Star, the heart of the circle of guidance for his time. He embodies the characteristics of the lamp of sainthood, taking its light from that of the truth of the Prophet. Many of God's blessed creatures are instinctively attracted to light; Rumi's light has attracted hundreds of thousands spiritual butterflies; they are drawn to the light. He represents a guide for humanity's quest for the perfection of human qualities. Rumi was a careful exegete of the truths presented in the Qur'an. A fluent interpreter of love and zeal for Prophet Muhammad, Rumi was able to use a mysterious language to guide others to a love of God. Those who enter his sphere are able to reach an ultimate sense or feeling in the presence of God. Those who examine the Qur'an by his guideposts underwent changes (and continue to undergo changes) similar to those witnessed by the people who lived in the era of the Prophet himself, peace and blessings be upon him. When the verses of the Qur'an were interpreted by Rumi's closest associates, all hearts benefited from the illumination provided by his wisdom; it was as if all of heaven's mysteries were opened by his wholehearted recitation of that one word-God.

Rumi's love for God was a fiery one, with a constant moaning and longing for the mysteries of God. He experienced a love and passion both in his solitary asceticism and his activities in the community. It was in his solitariness that he became most open to the truest union with God, and it was in such cases of separation from all things except God that he became like a ball of fire. And while such a sense of burning would prove difficult for many to bear, Rumi never showed any signs of discontent. Rather, such a burning was considered a requirement for passion, and refraining from complaint was seen to be in the tradition of loyalty. For Rumi, those who profess a love of God must necessarily accompany their statement of "I love" with a sense of furious burning-this is the price one must willingly pay for being close or in union with God. Additionally, one must engage in behavior that is to a large extent ascetic, such as moderated eating, drinking, sleeping, and a constant awareness and orientation toward God in one's speech, and one must inevitably experience bewilderment when endowed with God's bounties.

Rumi cannot understand how a lover can sleep in an immoderate way, as it takes away from the time that can be shared with the Beloved. For him, excessive sleep is offensive to the Beloved. As God instructed David, saying, "O David, those who indulge in sleep without contemplating Me and then claim to be in love are liars" so too did Rumi state; "When the darkness falls, lovers become intense." Rumi continually recommended this not only in words, but also in his actions.

The following quotation from his Divan-i Kabir best represents several droplets from the ocean of his feelings and excitement, erupting like a volcano:

I am like Majnun[1] in my poor heart, which is without limbs, because I have no strength to contest the love of God.

Every day and night I continue in my efforts to free myself from the bonds of the chain of love; a chain which keeps me imprisoned.

When the dream of the Beloved begins I find myself in blood. Because I am not fully conscious, I am afraid in that I may paint Him with the blood of my heart.

In fact, You, O Beloved, must ask the fairies; they know how I have burned through the night. Everyone has gone to sleep.

But I, the one who has given his heart to You, do not know sleep like them. Throughout the night, my eyes look at the sky, counting the stars.

His love so profoundly took my sleep that I do not really believe it will ever come back.

If the spirit of the anthology of Rumi's poems, which are the essence of love, passion, divine presence, and excitement, were to be extracted, what would exude are the cries of love, longing, and hope. Throughout his life Rumi expressed love, and in turn, he believed he was beloved because of this. Accordingly, he spoke of his love and relationship with Him. When he did so, he was not alone-he took along with him many blessed individuals who were his audience. He assumed it to be a requisite of loyalty to offer, cup by cup, the drinks presented to him on the heavenly table to others who were in his circle of light.

Thus, the following quotation represents the ambiguous chanting that is reflected in his heavenly travels:
The Buraq[2] of love has taken my mind as well as my heart, do not ask me where.

I have reached such a realm that there is no moon, nor day. I have reached a world where the world is no longer the world.

This spiritual journey of Rumi was an ascension in the shadow of the Ascension of the Prophet, which is described by Süleyman Çelebi (the author of the Turkish Mevlid-recited in the commemoration of the birth of the Prophet) in these words: "There was no space, no Earth, and no heavens." What his soul heard and watched was a special reflection of His courtesy, which cannot be seen by the eyes, cannot be heard by the ears, and cannot be comprehended by one's mind or thought. Such reflections are not attainable by all. Rumi spiritually ascended and saw, tasted, and knew all that was possible for a mortal being. Those who do not see cannot know. Those who do not taste cannot feel. Those who are capable of feeling in this manner generally do not divulge the secrets that they have attained. And those who do reveal these secrets often find them to be above the level of the comprehension of most people. As the famous Turkish poet Shaykh Ghalib said, "The Beloved's candle has such a wonderful light, its light does not fit into the lamp glass of Heaven."

The love, relationship, and warmth toward all creation as expressed by Rumi is a projection of a deeply-rooted divine love. Rumi, whose nature was intoxicated by the cup of love, embraced all of creation with a projection of that love. He was involved in a dialogue with every creature, and all of these were a result of nothing but his deep love of God and his relationship with the Beloved.

I believe that these disordered and somewhat confused explanations are far from adequate to describe Rumi. This disorder is an inevitable result of my search for a relationship with him. A droplet cannot describe the ocean, nor can an atom describe the Sun. Even so, since his light falls once again on this Earth, I would like to say, within a few sentences, some words about Jalal al-Din Rumi.

Rumi was born in the city of Balkh in 1207, at a time when all of Asia was suffering from social, political, and military problems. His father, Muhammad Baha al-Din al-Siddiqi, was part of the tenth generation of the descendants of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the first caliph of Islam. According to Tahir al-Mevlevi, Rumi's mother was also from the descendants of the Prophet. He was the blessed fruit of a hallowed family tree. Being known as the Sultan al-Ulama (the Leader of Scholars), his father was a man of truth and an heir of the Prophet. Like many friends of God, he was persecuted and eventually compelled to migrate. Accordingly, he left the land of Khawarzm, where he was born, and underwent a lengthy journey that encompassed various destinations. First, he and his family visited the Holy Land, the cities of Makka and Madina. From here, he traveled and remained for some time in Damascus, where he met many pious persons, such as Ibn al-'Arabi, and exchanged spiritual enlightenment with them. Accompanying his father, the young Rumi, six or seven years in age, witnessed these and other events; his inquisitive senses enabled him to experience all of these with remarkable clarity. The young Rumi was able to understand his environment even at such a tender age and he was able to penetrate into the secret world of Ibn al-'Arabi. As an endowment of his presence with Ibn al-'Arabi, the child received kindness and favors. Despite the unfortunate circumstances surrounding their migration and the many difficulties that accompanied them, the family's journey provided them with a variety of favors and inspiration. Like Abraham, Moses, and the Prophet of Islam, may God's blessings be upon all of them, Rumi was able to continuously find these blessings and favors. Welcoming what fate gave him, he became a receiver of numerous bounties provided by God.

The journey took this blessed family to the city of Erzincan, and later to that of Karaman. It was during his time in the latter city that Rumi studied, for a short period, in the Halaveye School. In addition to this school, he studied Islamic Sciences in several religious schools in Damascus and Aleppo. After graduating, he returned to the city of Konya, which he considered his hometown and a place of special regard. It was there that he married Gevher Khatun, the daughter of Shams al-Din Samarqandi. After some time Rumi's father, Sultan al-Ulama, died, returning to God. Under the supervision of Burhan al-Din al-Tirmidhi, Rumi began his long spiritual journey. After several years, at the suggestion of Rukn al-Din Zarqubi, Rumi met with Shams-i Tabrizi who was then on a visit to Konya. It was through his meeting with Shams that he furthered his spiritual journey and eventually developed into the person who is now known the world over for his spiritual depth. What has been mentioned so far, in fact, represents an attempt to open a few small windows on the life of an exceptional personality in this creation, whose capacity is open to the lofty world. This is also an attempt to present the life of an important representative of the Muhammadi spirit (i.e. the practice of the Sunna)-displaying several snapshots of a man determined to dedicate his existence to the world of the afterlife.

It is not my intention to stir the waters that comprise the lives of such remarkable and pure personalities with debates and questions that ultimately will only agitate and obscure. However, one must wonder whether Rumi opened the horizon of Shams or whether Shams took Rumi to the world of the unseen. Who took whom to the realty of realities-the peak of love and joy? Who directed whom to the real Besought and the real Beloved? Answering these questions is beyond the capacity of most ordinary people. One can say, at least, the following: During this period of time, two skillful and acute spirits came together, like two oceans merging into one another. By sharing the Divine bounties and gifts received from their Lord, they both reached peaks that most people would not be able to reach easily on their own accord. Through their spiritual cooperation, they established camps on the peaks of knowledge, love, compassion, and joy for God. As much as they enlightened those of their own age, they also influenced all centuries to follow; an effect that is still present today. The spring of sweet water which they represent continues to nourish the thirsty. They have been continuously remembered over the centuries for their beautiful contributions to countless lives. Here it is important to note that Rumi was informed by numerous sources in the flow of ideas, including his father, the great master of scholars. During his journey, he seemed to leave many of his contemporaries behind-his love and compassion flowed like the waters of the world's oceans; so much so that while continuing to live physically among humans, he managed to become ever closer to God. It seems he never elevated himself above others except through his writings, both during his life and after his entering the life of eternity; he provides a star of guidance that echoes the spiritual life of the Prophet of Islam. Accordingly, he is among the few people who have exerted a great influence through both space and time.

Rumi, the Master, was not a pupil, a dervish, a representative, or master as is known amongst traditional Sufis. He developed a new method that was colored with revivalism and personal independent reasoning by taking the Qur'an, the Sunna, and Islamic piety as his points of reference. With a new voice and breath, he successfully brought both those of his generation and those of times to follow to a new divine table. As far as his relationship with God is concerned, he was a man of love and passion. As for those who turn to him for the sake of God, he represents a compassionate bearer of God's divine cup of love. Yes, as the rains of mercy fall forth from the clouds of the sky, if the collections of his poems were to be wrung out, God's love and the love of His Messenger would gush forth in showers. His Mesnevi, exuberant with his spirit, a book which is in part didactic and was put in the form of a book by his disciple Husam al-Din Chelebi, represents his largest, most monumental treatise. While it stems from his involvement with the floods of a high level love and passion, it was presented in smaller waves so that their essence might be understood by a larger part of humanity who did not share the same capacity. His other work, Divan-i Kabir, is both informed by and presented in this higher level of love and passion and better represents his own abilities.

In the Mesnevi, feelings and thoughts are put in such a way that they do not confuse our intelligence and in such a style that it does not surpass our understanding. As for the Divan-i Kabir, everything is like an erupting volcano. Its meaning is not easily understood by most. A careful investigation will show that this great book of Rumi's thought will explain such concepts as baqa billah maallah (to live by God with God) and fana fillah (annihilation in God) in the context of a larger understanding of the world of the unseen. Those who are capable of realizing this excitement in Rumi's Divan will find themselves in extreme bewilderment before a flood of love and ecstasy that is comparable to an erupting volcano. In these poems of the master, which are not easily accessible for most people, the limits of reason are surpassed, the meanings of the poems are elevated above the norms for humanity, and the eternal nature of the unseen world shadows the ephemeral colors and forms of what one encounters in their physical being.

Jalal al-Din Rumi was nourished by the fruit of numerous sources of ideas, including religious seminaries, Sufi lodges, and Sufi hermitages associated with strict Sufi asceticism. Rumi attained an understanding of the Ultimate Reality. He cultivated the heavenly through his own methods. Eventually, he became a central star, the North Star, in the sky which houses sainthood. He was like a bright moon that rotates on its own axis. He was a hero who reached the places where he should have reached and stopped where he should have stopped. He read carefully what he saw and evaluated well what he felt. He never displayed or participated in any improper behavior during his journey to God. Even though the numbers were vast, Rumi never lost any of the bountiful gifts he received from the world of the unseen, not even to the weight of an atom. Like many of his predecessors, he voiced these divine bounties through his poetry in an impressive manner. He often voiced his love and excitement in seemingly magic words which resembled the finest of precious gems. Within the vagueness of the poetry, he mastered the art of explaining his ambiguous statements in ways that opened their meaning to friends, but remained obscured to outsiders.

These statements which were at times both clear and ambiguous are the voice and breath of his own horizon-he was not acquainted with other pens or the wells of ink which supplied them. Although one can find a few foreign words or works falsely attributed to him, Rumi's anthology represents a warmth, the music of his own heart, a music which brings all who hear it under its influence with a captivating control.
Rumi possessed a very delicate disposition, often appearing more compassionate than a mother to her child. In short, he was an exceptional personality, particularly in his projection of the spirit of God's Messenger in his own time. This is illustrated in his collected works, including Mesnevi, Divan-i Kabir, some collected letters associated with familial relations, and his special behavior with friends. Those who witnessed this were greatly excited to see the perfect heir of the Prophet and would say with great humility and respect, "This is a grace from God. He gives it to whom He wants."[3]

Rumi was a man of genuine sincerity and loyalty. He lived by what he felt in his heart as long as it did not contradict the teachings and laws of religion. While making his faith the focus of his life, while showing the others the way of life, while blowing into the ney, while dancing like a butterfly, his heart was burning with love and longing; it had always ached and moaned like the monotone ney. Those who were not aching could not understand him. Those who were rude and tactless could not feel what he felt. He said, "I want a heart which is split, part by part, because of the pain of separation from God, so that I might explain my longing and complaint to it." Saying this, he searched for friends who had similar longings and complaints.

Throughout his life Rumi witnessed and experienced many difficulties. Yet, he never acted in a harsh manner or tried to hurt others in response. While proclaiming the bounties of God, Rumi roared and was fearless. In his personal engagements, he was always meek and humble, willing and ready to embrace everyone with great compassion. Bad characteristics, such as selfishness, pretentiousness, arrogance, or aggressiveness, found no quarter with him; they could not even come close to him. He was extremely respectful to all, especially those with whom he had the closest associations: he referred to his friend, Shams-i Tabriz, the man from whom he lit his own candle, as his "Master"; he called his pupil and spiritual representative, Salah al-Din Zarqub, "Spiritual Leader," "Master," and "Sultan"; he always mentioned Husam al-Din Chelebi with great respect. His behavior toward his family members mirrored the behavior of the Prophet toward his own family. His community of followers was open to everyone, like that of the Prophet-and he was close to even those who were farthest from him, so much so that his greatest enemies were compelled, unwillingly, to throw themselves upon his compassionate embrace. Once having entered this circle, no one ever abandoned him.
Rumi, the Master, on the one hand, had a specific intimate relationship with the world of the unseen, but on the other hand, especially as far as his relationship with people was concerned, he never promoted any sense that he was greatly different; this was because of his utmost sincerity and humility. He lived amongst the people as one of them. He would listen to them, eat, and drink with them; he would never disclose the secrets cultivated between him and God to those who could not truly appreciate their value. Being a guide, he lived by what he believed and always tried to find a way to penetrate the hearts of those around him. He would call his gatherings "Talks on the Beloved," thus making an effort to constantly draw attention to Him. He would say, "Love," "Longing," "Ecstasy," and "Attraction" to try to share with others the gushing excitement and feelings that were inherent in his spirit. He would show everyone who passed by his climate the horizon of real humanity. He never allowed his eyes to rest on worldly possessions, but would rather distribute any accumulated possession or any money that was beyond his own needs amongst those who were in need. When he the food was scarce in his house, he would say, "Thank God as today our house resembles the Prophet's house." Accordingly, it was through thankfulness and patience that he made his spiritual flights into the world beyond. Rumi did not accept charity or alms; in this way he was able to avoid a feeling of indebtedness-he suffered from hunger, lived modestly, and yet would never let others be aware of such situations. He did not want to stain his service of guidance for God by accepting gifts or presents.
In addition to his ascetic life, his fear of God, his chastity, his divine protection from sinfulness, his self-sufficiency, and his pure life that was directed toward the world of the unseen, Rumi's knowledge of God, his love of God, and his utmost longing for God kept him, throughout his life, rising as one of the moons that illuminates the sky of sainthood. His love for God was one that surpassed the normal bounds of love-it was a transcendental love. He thoroughly believed that he was also loved by Him. This security did not result, for him, in losses-neither in a lack of fear nor in a loss of respect for God. This was the horizon of faith and accountability, and Rumi would hint at this balance between fear and hope as an expression of the bounties offered by God. We can rightly call this sense of balance "The Declarer of the Gifts of the Eternal Sultan."

In his inner world, the various waterfalls of love flowed out at a variety of volumes and distances. His sincere approach toward the Divine and his fidelity were rewarded with divine ecstasy and attractions. He was privileged with the greatest closeness to God and he frequently sipped from the cup of divine love, cup by cup, becoming intoxicated. He wanted to see, to know, to feel, and to speak only of Him and to relate all of his work and words only to Him. He was so earnest in this regard that if his eyes turned to outsiders for even a brief moment, he would sit and cry a great many tears. He strongly desired to live in the spacious environment of togetherness with Him. He convulsively struggled to be both a lover and a beloved and spent the minutes of his life in an intoxication that emanated from both.

There were many lovers who felt these spiritual joys in a similar way who preceded Rumi in life and death. Yet Rumi's superiority is revealed by the way in which he spoke out so courageously about his feelings and thoughts in his Divan-i Kabir. In fact, since the time of the Prophet and through the periods that followed, there have been many great heroes who have been afforded superiority over Rumi by common consensus. However, Rumi's superiority lies in a special merit, whereas theirs are more general merits. Therefore, in this regard we can perceive of Rumi as the leader of this field, the finest among the fine. Rumi is an outstanding guide in leading people to the Most Beautiful of the beautiful on the path of love.

It is a lofty rank for a human to be able to love God from the depth of their heart and to always remember Him with deep love and passion. If there is a higher rank than this, it is the awareness of the fact that all love, longing, ecstasy, and attraction in human beings are the result of His kind treatment and favor. Rumi breathed God's Beautiful Names and Attributes every time he inhaled and exhaled. He was aware that his disposition was a direct result of the grace and favor bestowed upon him by God. Those whose horizon fails to achieve this unique level may not be able to understand this. According to the following anonymous poem, there is no doubt that just as words represent the shells of meanings encompassed within, the abilities and capacities of humans are simply factors and conditions that are invitations for the receiving of divine gifts and:
The works of His grace are based on the ability of creatures.

From the rain of April a snake makes poison while an oyster makes a pearl.

Some people do not consider it proper to use the phrase "love of God" in the Islamic tradition. Like many of God's lovers, Rumi, in a way that is appropriate to the holiness and exaltedness of God, courageously defended that the concept of love for God should be above all human concepts of love and relationships. He left a legacy of ambiguous divine love which was open for interpretation to the generations that followed him. Some Sufis and scholars of Islamic law questioned the use of musical instruments, such as the nay, and the music performed in the lodges, because of this ambiguity? These groups of people frequently criticized the performances of the whirling dervishes. However, Rumi, the master, had no doubts about the truthfulness of his interpretations. If he had, he would have broken the instruments and surely given up all such activities. In fact, I think Rumi's heart-felt relations with the spirit of religion and his being a faultless representative and living interpretation of the way and etiquette of Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, cannot allow others to say anything against him. Furthermore, these two concepts have been more than enough for a majority of people to accept his ways.

He was a man of complete sincerity and loyalty. He lived by what he felt in his heart, as long as it did not contradict the teachings and laws of religion. While making religion the focus of his life, while guiding others to this way of life, while blowing into the nay, while dancing like a butterfly, his heart was burning with love and longing and always ached and moaned like the monotone nay. Those who did not ache could not understand him. Those who were rude and tactless could not feel what he felt. He was saying, "I want a heart which is split, chamber by chamber, by the pain of separation from God, so that I might explain my longings and desires to it." Saying this, he searched for friends who had experienced similar longings and complaints.

In fact, it was not initially my task to write on this invaluable subject; there are many others who are more adequately prepared to address it. However, this request came from someone whom I have respected for a very long time and, therefore, I could not refuse. I took on this topic, which is, in reality, beyond my capacity.

Hundreds, even thousands, have written about Rumi. It is their job to write-and if something important is to be said, it is their job to say it. Despite this, there is nothing that prevents simple people like me from muttering a few lines-I think that this is what I have done. It would probably have been better if I had stopped earlier and directed the reader to Şefik Can's Rumi: His Life, Personality, and Thoughts, so that a meaningful engagement with the actual text might have begun. Even if it is too late now, I do not want to limit or shadow the treatment any longer with my own limited understanding. And so now I stop and bring my comments to an end.

Full article:

Originally appeared as the foreward in the below book:
Fundamentals of Rumi's Thought by Sefik Can

Visit our youtube and picasa for other new videos and photos:

twitterfacebookyoutube bloggerpicasa

Thursday, December 23, 2010

NEW VIDEO - Peace Through Education and Dialogue

This is a new video produced in London that explains the important role Fethullah Gulen (Rumi Forum's Honorary President) ideas on peace and education are having in increasing social harmony and understanding. A must see for those interested in Gulen's ideas. (total video length is 17 minutes)

Peace Through Education and Dialogue PART I

Peace Through Education and Dialogue PART II

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards - The Importance of Local and International Inter-Cultural Dialogue

New video of Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards who represents Maryland's 4th Congressional District speaking on The Importance of Local and International Inter-Cultural Dialogue

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

US-Turkey: Model-Partnership for the 21st Century? with Joshua W. Walker

The Rumi Forum hosted Joshua Walker on the very current and important topic of US-Turkey: Model-Partnership for the 21st Century? with Joshua W. Walker
For those interested in Transatlantic relations, this is a must watch. Enjoy

Saturday, December 4, 2010

VIDEOS - talks from the 2010 Peace and Dialogue Awards

The Rumi Forum was again honored in hosting numerous friends and guests as the 4th Annual Peace and Dialogue Awards reached each of the awardees. Details of the awards at these links.

Below you will find the talks presented by various awardees and their introductions and some introductory and concluding remarks - each set of remarks reflects the importance of the individuals and their contribution to a more peaceful and inclusive society, and this is at foundation of all of Rumi Forum's work.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ACADEMIC - Indonesian 'Fethullah Gulen conference' papers go online

The conference papers recently published from the Fethullah Gulen conference in Indonesia have gone online. These studies reflect the research that is necessary to better understand this global social and civic movement and its inspiring Fethullah Gulen

1Hisako Nakamura, " An Observation on the Gülen-Inspired Informal Education among Newly Converted Japanese Muslims"

2Prof. Dr. Mitsuo Nakamura, "Rationality and Enlightenment: A Comparison of Educational Reforms Promoted by Gülen Movement and Muhammadiyah"

3Dr. Ali Ünsal, "Gülen’s Perspective on Education: Foundations of His Ideas and Actions"
4Dr. Margaret A. Johnson, "Glocalization of the Gülen Education Model: An Analysis of the Gülen-Inspired Schools in Indonesia"
5Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman, "Gülen’s Educational Philosophy: Striving for the Golden Generation of Muslims"
6Dr. Salih Yücel, "Spiritual Role Models in Gülen’s Educational Philosophy"
7Dr. Qamar Agha, "Fethullah Gülen’s Ideas on the Relationship between Science and Religion"
8Dr. Zeki Saritoprak, "How Do Gülen’s Educational efforts contribute to Global Peace"
9Dr. Suchart Setthamalinee, "The Role of Education in Raising New Generations: A Case study of Chinese Muslim in Northern Thailand"
10Dr. Muhammed Çetin, "The Contribution of Islamic Scholarship to Democracy"
11Prof. Dr.Maniruzzaman, "Gülen’s Idea of Education for Peace"
12Prof. Dr.Leonid R.Sykiainen, "Purposes of Education in the Light of Fethullah Gülen’s Teachings"
13David Tittensor, "An Alternative Pilgrimage: Teachers Doing Hizmet Abroad"
14Prof. Dr. Choi Woo-Won, "Transformation of Philosophy and New Education for the Global Age"
15Mahsheed Ansari, "The concept of mani ism (meaning by name) and mani harf (meaning by letter) as a comprehensive theoretical tool for educational philosophy and method and the importance and impact of the Risale i Nur in Fethullah Gulen’s educational out"
16Prof. Dr. Ismail Albayrak, "Main characteristics of the Gulen movement and the importance of education in globalising world'"
17Dr. Masayuki Akutsu, "Social Revitalization through Promotion of Education : Socio-Historical Analysis of Islamic Education and Muslim Society in Pre-Modern Islamic World"
18Prof. Dr. Gumilar R. Somantri, "Keynote speech for the International Conference on Fethullah Güllen at UI"
19Prof. Dr. Adama Diop, "Fetullah Gülen's Idea on the Relationship Between Science and Religion"
20Fr. Thomas Michel, "The Thinking Behind the Gülen-Inspired Schools"
21Prof. Dr. M. Amin Abdullah, "Fethullah Gülen and Character Education in Indonesia"
22Çemen Polat, "The Functions of Gülen-Inspired Educational Initiatives As Business Enterprises in the Philanthropic Fashion"
23Ahmet Orhan Polat, "The Key Factors Behind the Success of Gülen-Inspired Schools"



Sunday, November 28, 2010

MEDIA - Imam who lives in rural Pennsylvania arouses praise, concerns - PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Another article on Fethullah Gulen (Rumi Forum's Honorary President) and the hizmet movement has appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Imam who lives in rural Pennsylvania arouses praise, concerns
By Andrew Conte

Sunday, November 28, 2010
SAYLORSBURG — Just a short drive on a two-lane road from the Dunkin' Donuts here, the Golden Generation Retreat Center hardly seems like the home of one of the world's leading Islamic thinkers.
A metal gate at the driveway stands open, and no fences or walls protect the 25-acre property from suburban homes and rolling hillsides nearby. Officials recently invited their neighbors to celebrate the opening of a three-story meeting center and share a Thanksgiving feast.
"They're friendly people," said Rod Schreck, 74, who lives within walking distance.
Bekir Aksoy, president of the Golden Generation Retreat Center in Saylorsburg, shows a view of the 25-acre property from the balcony of the retreat's new three-story meeting facility.

"Put it this way," his wife, Maxine, 69, said, "they're better to us than we are to them."
Still, mystery surrounds the center's most famous guest, Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish imam who has lived here for 11 years after arriving in the United States for medical treatments. Gulen practices Sufism, a mystical form of Islam that requires strict religious observation, austerity and abstinence, according to one of his more than 60 books.
"We are for one thing: peace and prosperity in the world for everyone," said Bekir Aksoy, president of the retreat center. "There is no 'them' for us. All humanity is one."
After coming here, Gulen was tried — and then acquitted — in Turkey on charges related to inciting an overthrow of the government. He might face criminal charges again if he returned home, a supporter in Istanbul said. And that could trigger chaos.
So Gulen remains in this rural community about 30 miles northeast of Allentown and less than a two-hour drive from Manhattan. He lives alone in one room of the large main house and owns only the toiletries and small possessions in his bedroom, Aksoy said.
Debilitated by health issues — he has heart, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure problems — Gulen, 69, was not well enough to meet with a reporter during a recent visit, Aksoy said.
The new meeting center in Saylorsburg overlooks a row of guest houses.

The ongoing mystery around Gulen breeds suspicion, particularly since the 9/11 terror attacks added to Americans' unease with Islam. Some research groups raise questions about Gulen's real intentions. Yet, some contend he is no different from any other religious leader.
Concerns in the United States about Gulen and the spread of Islam are rooted in ignorance and misunderstanding, said Terry Rey, chair of the Department of Religion at Temple University, which co-hosted a conference on Gulen with his supporters this month.
"Any religious movement that begins to draw people is a threat to someone," Rey said. "As a scholar of religion, I can contextualize it, and I cannot see it as anything fundamentally different from what has always gone on."
An enigma
Internet rumors say the retreat center was used as a militia training ground and schools started by Gulen's admirers are brainwashing children.
An article published last year by the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based policy group, suggested Gulen's supporters control $25 billion and could be plotting a religious takeover of Turkey's government, a secular republic.
Daniel Pipes, the nonprofit's director, called Gulen dangerous. Pipes said he could be "perhaps the most sophisticated Islamist leader in the world" for eschewing violence and extremism but still seeking to apply Islamic religious law.
"He's a bit of a mystery," said Steven Emerson, an expert on Islamic extremists. "The question is, is he a radical or not?"
Neighbors of the Golden Generation Retreat Center were invited to partake of a Thanksgiving feast Nov. 21 and celebrate the opening of its meeting facility.

Michael Werz, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank, described Gulen as a moderate who spoke out against terrorism and supported interfaith dialogue.
"He's a pretty middle-of-the-road guy," said Werz, who plans to speak Tuesday at an event hosted by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.
The government allowed Gulen to remain in the country as an alien worker with "extraordinary ability" since he won a court ruling in 2008 that overturned an initial denial by immigration officials.
Rumors that the retreat center is being used to create an army are unfounded, said Howard Beers Jr., chairman of the board of supervisors in Ross Township in Monroe County, home of Golden Generation. His construction company built the retreat center's facility.
"That's so far-fetched," he said. "People love to make up crap, and they know if they make that up, someone will believe them."
A state police supervisor in nearby Lehighton said the retreat center has not created problems or generated emergency calls. Gulencooperates during FBI visits, said J.J. Klaver, spokesman in the agency's Philadelphia field office.
"We have no reason to believe anything other than what he says is going on there, is going on," Klaver said.
Nothing obvious about the retreat center suggests that it could be a training ground for militants, either.
Newly constructed guest houses surround the meeting center. The houses hold up to 80 visitors, who come from around the world and stay for days at a time, said Steve Sablak, vice president of the retreat center.
The buildings appear clean and modern, with a granite countertop and plastic furniture in one kitchen. Visitors' clothes spilled out of small suitcases in a room lined with Turkish futons, and children's toys, including a Bob the Builder doll and a plastic ball, sat on the floor.
'Fantastically disorganized'
The understated campus belies the wide reach of Gulen's teachings.
Readers of Foreign Policy magazine voted Gulen the world's leading public intellectual in 2008. A report by Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst last year called him a polarizing figure in Turkey.

The number of people inspired by Gulen is estimated at more than 5 million.
Fethullah Gulen lives alone in one room of the Golden Generation Retreat Center's large main house and is said to own only the toiletries and small possessions in his bedroom.

Gulen's supporters belong to a "fantastically disorganized organization," said the Rev. Walter Wagner, a Lutheran minister and adjunct professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. They do not report to a central authority or maintain membership lists.
These people often refer to themselves as "volunteers" rather than followers. The movement — another term they shun — is typically known in the United States as hizmet, for the Turkish word for service. Turks refer to the group as cemaat, the word for a religious community.
Gulen's influence emanates from the schools founded by those inspired by his words, said Yvonne Haddad, a professor at Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in Washington. The schools, located in 120 countries, typically emphasize math and science over religion, with the goal of educating young people in poor areas.
"Conspiracy theories are everywhere," Haddad said. "I have looked at the material and interviewed people. As far as I know, it's no different than any other" school connected to a religious group.
Huseyin Gulerce, a columnist in Istanbul with the pro-Gulen Turkish newspaper Zaman, said the movement stresses three points: education, dialogue and communication.
"The first thing when I think about Fethullah Gulen and his movement is their schools," said Emin Kahveci, 25, a graphic designer in Istanbul.
Gulen's admirers started a school in Monroeville, called the Snowdrop Science Academy, in 2005. But the school closed four years later because it did not have enough students, a former administrator said..... ARTICLE CONTINUES


Friday, November 26, 2010

NEW VIDEO - How can dialogue serve as a tool of resolving protracted social conflicts?

Our latest video from our popular Rumi Forum luncheon series has been uploaded. We hope you enjoy it !

Mr. Jacevic uses various tools and approaches to build bridges between communities torn by dissent and destruction. As we increasingly face the challenges of the 21st internal stifle, in which wars are more often fought in city neighborhood than distant battlegrounds, we need to create even more innovative solutions that will build sustainable peace. While military expenditures sky rocket, we need to seek alternative forms to transform conditions that give rise to power, war and terrorism in the first place. Dialogue is therefore an essential prerequisite to enabling millions of people to live freely and productively, yet it is an underutilized and not fully appreciated method. Inter-faith dialogue is one of the various and many forms that will be discussed during this luncheon. YOUTUBE VIDEO BELOW - FULL LENGTH VIDEO at  VIMEO