This is a part of an interview with Fethullah Gulen by Mehmet Gundem of Milliyet Daily in January 2005.
Have you written a will?
I had written a will a long time ago. In this, I requested to be buried wrapped in my robe, and with my turban (the traditional garment of a Muslim scholar). The money in my wallet now will suffice to pay for my shroud and funeral expenses. I don't want the copyright money to be used for matters of burial; I am not sure whether it will be correct. I don't want it to be paid for by my pension, which would mean the state is paying for it, either; this is why I keep this money for my funeral. I bought some of my books with my pension; I regard them as being bought by the state; some of my books were presented to me by some publishing houses, for I am a scholar. They did this because of my position. Therefore, just as I keep the presents sent by people in my collections and present them back to the nation again, I have willed my books and personal belongings to be donated to the establishment in which they are found.
There used to be some friends who paid for the tea they drank or the food they ate. I mentioned them in my will or if they're not alive, their families; I hope that they will be pleased by being given of what I have left behind. Before I came here, I wrote that if I died somewhere away (from Turkey), there would be no need to undergo extra expenses in taking my body back to Turkey, but I am not easy about this decision. I wish to be buried in Turkey next to my father or mother.
As for the movement; neither now, nor in the future should our friends have any ambition for government, they should not be engaged in politics, even if all the power and pomp of the world is laid at their feet; my friends who love me and heed my advice should not show a moment's hesitation to push all this away with the back of their hand. I had made similar statements at other times; even if others do not understand, let them seek good pleasure of God, let them strive sincerely in the path of glorifying the Name of God without a moment's lapse. Now I want to write a new will and clarify the details of such points.
You have been in the USA for six years [as of 2005]. How do Americans look on you?
I am not a well known person here. I haven't met anybody, other than a few people whom I had to accept for courtesy's sake.
Why don't you meet people?
When I came here in 1997, I met some people, for example those who worked in Turkey as diplomats, envoys, academicians, and priests. I came here due to my illness. Then when the storms (i.e., The June 1999 cassette conspiracy against Fethullah Gulen) broke out in Turkey, I thought it would be more appropriate to continue my treatment here. It was obvious that I would not be able to bear the events in Turkey with the health problems of my heart, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. I was in America , but I stayed away from America . There were rumors like the green belt claims, and they made an association with us and America 's projects. I did not meet anybody, for I did not want to prepare ground for improper claims, I did not accept any of the offers to give conferences at universities.
My place is in my country with its earth and stone, among my nation. Recently, the Turks here have started carrying out some activities here, and expressing themselves. In this way some people have gotten to know me through some of my books. These were people who accepted Islam for the sake of our friends and said, "Muhammad is the Messenger of God." I have met some people from the intellectuals and academicians who were curious about the movement.
How have the years in America affected you?
If we express it in the terminology of Islamic Jurisprudence, my staying here was choosing the better of two evils. I did not want to come here at all, but Dr. Sait insisted, and he stated that my health could not tolerate any neglect. Even if it was hard for me, I had to either be away from my country and my people, in a foreign state, or—as one of our statesmen said—I had to consent to face a new conspiracy everyday, where they made mountains out of molehills. After having consulted with my friends, I consented to bear homesickness in order not to witness the evil that was happening and to be offended by our own people. Although I knew the conspiracy (the montage tapes) beforehand, I saw some of it when it was broadcast. I did not read what the supporters of the conspirators wrote, in order not to hold a grudge against them.
How did you know about it beforehand?
A friend from the business world had come to visit me. His phone rang. Somebody called him and said "there are a sack-full of tapes, we are making a montage. The guys here said, 'don't let him know, you will lose your job' but anyway, I wanted to call." He also said things like "I hope you will not forget this favor of mine and you won't let me down." In a way, it was blackmail.
What is it that you miss most?
I miss everything from Turkey . Traveling, having a tea-break at the cafés on the way, everything (even) the way our people dress. It may be good, it may be flawed- but I miss our architecture. The sky-scrapers here may seem majestic, but our ground-scrapers seem more attractive to me.
You miss Turkey so much, but you don't return, why?
After a certain age, your body just can't handle it. As an Arab poet expressed, I keep away but prefer being there with my heart and conscience; nothing prevents me from feeling close. Let me tell it through a simile. In Sufism, there is a certain station above that of lovers. Those who reach that station even do not want to unite with the beloved (return to God). Namely, they say let me burn inside, let me always moan with the pain of separation, but I don't want union. I feel that such a pleasurable longing, a delightful pain of separation is deeper, more faithful, and more heartfelt.
Does this mean that you will not return?
There is no legal obstacle to my return. I have never given up thinking about returning to Turkey. I have had this inquired about from people in some important positions in Turkey. They said, "There's nothing wrong, he can come." But from the way they said "he can come," I sensed that I might give them a headache if I return.
You mean some people from the state?
Yes, someone asked the question "What does his return mean to you" to a person who had retired from an important position. He smiled but said "it would be better if he didn't." It is probably thought that my return may trigger some things. Like some people will provoke others to fill the streets, and cause unrest. I do not want to open a door that will lead to the present stability in Turkey being disturbed.
There are also those who worry that you will return like Khomeini.
Even if I return, I will return like myself, the son of Ramiz Gülen who served as an imam at a Mosque in Edirne for three years. It may sound funny to you, but I wonder whether they would let me serve as an imam at that mosque again, whether I could stay there in a corner as I used to. . . or if they even do not let me be the head of a Qur'an course in the Kestane Pazari, I wonder whether they would let me stay in a wooden cabin as I used to. Another thought that passes through my mind is, with all sincerity, that there is a guest house in my village which was built in a field belonging to my grandfather; I say let me go and stay there, and die like a villager in the village where I was born and grew up.
You say you wish to go to the village in which you were born, and to die there. Will you just go to the village and keep quiet?
I did not have expectations, but I had concerns in the world. I will just keep chanting the same concerns; whatever the conditions are, I will encourage those who value my words to eagerly go to corners of the world to pursue educational activities. Even when I am being put in the grave, if I can, I will say "go establish schools, don't give up striving to make Turkish a world language.
I will tell our businessmen to go all around the world as (fresh) shoots, and be trees, to constitute lobbies, and to support Turkey. I will keep on saying that it is impossible for Turkey to be detached from the world and to stand on its own. Even if they make a special law and seal my mouth, then I will write it with my hands or feet; again I will say the same things. I have already said all these openly in my sermons in mosques, as an employee of the state. Not to my "disciples," as they say. Not like other hodjas, I may have said "Develop Turkey, let the voice of the Turkish people be heard everywhere."
In my opinion, (genuine) nationalism can only be carried out in this way, not by paying lip service to the issue. The cause of Turkey is a great one. I will keep on saying the whole nation should back it, like it did the War of Independence. I don't know any laws that will silence me in this, nor not allow me to speak so. I will keep on saying these as a debt of faith to my nation.