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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Serving Humanity through Education

Serving Humanity through Education-Fethullah Gulen

Due to rapid developments in transportation and communication, the world has become a global village. Nations have become like nextdoor neighbors. However, we must remember that in a world like this, national existence can be ensured only by protecting the specific characteristics of each nation. In a unified mosaic of nations and countries, those that cannot protect their unique characteristics, "patterns," or "designs" will disappear.

As with all other nations, our essential characteristics are religion and language, history and the motherland. What Yahya Kemal, a famous Turkish poet and writer, expressed with great emotion in The Districts without a Call to Prayer, was that our culture and civilization had been brought from Islam and Central Asia and had been kneaded for centuries in Anatolia, Europe, and even Africa.

All people need one another. As mentioned above, we have more to give humanity than we have to take. Today, voluntary or nongovernmental organizations have established companies and foundations and are enthusiastically serving others in the name of Islam. The largescale acceptance of the educational institutions that have spread all over the world, despite the great financial difficulties that they have faced, and the fact that they are competing with, and frequently surpassing their Western peers in a very short period of time, should be proof that what we have said cannot be denied.

The Turkish people have accumulated many problems over the past few centuries. At the base of these problems lies our mistaken concentration on the exterior of Islam and the neglect of its inner pearl. Later on we began to imitate others and surmised that there was a conflict between Islam and positive science. We arrived at this conclusion despite the fact that the latter is no more than discoveries of Divine laws that manifest God's Attributes of Power and Will; it is nothing but a different expression of the Qur'an derived from God's Attribute of Speech. This neglect, in turn, led to despotism in knowledge, thought, and administration; a hopelessness that led to a disorder that encompassed all individuals and institutions; a confusion in our work; we no longer paid any attention to the division of labor.

In short, our three greatest enemies are ignorance, poverty, and an internal schism. Knowledge, workcapital, and unification can struggle against these. As ignorance is the most serious problem, it must be opposed with education, which always has been the most important way of serving our country. Now that we live in a global village, education is the best way to serve humanity and to establish a dialogue with other civilizations.

But above all else, education is a humane service; we were sent here to learn and be perfected through education. Bediüzzaman drew attention to possible solutions and the future by saying: "The old state of affairs is impossible. Either a new state or annihilation is needed." Saying that "controversial subjects should not be discussed with Christian spiritual leaders," he opened dialogues with members of other religions.

Like Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, who said: "One of my feet is in the center and the other is in seventytwo realms (i.e. in the realm of all nations) like a compass," he drew a broad circle that encompassed all believers. Implying that the days of brute force were over, Bediüzzaman said: "Victory with civilized persons is won through persuasion," thus pointing out that dialogue, persuasion, and discussion based on evidence are essential for those of us who seek to serve religion. By saying that "in the future humanity will turn toward knowledge and science, and in the future reason and words will govern," he encouraged knowledge and dialogue. Finally, by putting aside politics and direct political involvement, he drew the basic lines of the truly religious and national service in this age and in the future.

In the light of such principles, I have encouraged people to serve the country in particular, and humanity in general, through education. I called on them to help the state educate and help people to develop by opening schools. Ignorance can be defeated through education, poverty through work and the possession of capital, and internal schism and separatism through unity, dialogue, and tolerance. As the solution of every problem in this life ultimately depends on human beings, education is the most effective vehicle, regardless of whether we have a paralyzed social and political system or we have one that operates like clockwork.

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