About Fethullah Gulen
The Gülen Institute takes its name from Fethullah Gülen, the popular Turkish author, educational activist, opinion leader, and preacher emeritus whose commitment to tolerance and altruism has inspired millions to work for peace. Like Fethullah Gülen, we at the Gülen Institute believe in the possibility of peaceful coexistence among the world’s diverse communities and strive to promote the ideals of service and civic responsibility.
In 1941, Fethullah Gülen was born into a humble family in Erzurum, Turkey, where he attended a public elementary school for three years. After his father was appointed to a village without a public school, Gülen became responsible for his own education. In 1958, he passed the exam administered by the Turkish State’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi) and was awarded a state preacher’s license. As he began to preach and teach in Edirne, a province in the western part of the country, Fethullah Gülen continued to deepen his knowledge of the Islamic tradition. He studied natural sciences and read widely in both Eastern and Western philosophy, all of which influenced his later writings.
In the 1970s, Fethullah Gülen advocated for “proportional representation” in education. Turkey’s educational institutions had long favored the wealthier students from urban centers. But through the establishment of scholarships, tutoring centers, and student hostels, Fethullah Gülen was able to inspire the entrepreneurs and many volunteers who helped the disenfranchised and financially disadvantaged rural students get an access to education, thereby transforming the social landscape of Turkey. In the 1980s and 1990s, Fethullah Gülen rejuvenated the Turkish-Muslim tradition of interfaith dialogue, which had been forgotten amidst the troublesome years of the early twentieth century, and he has notably taken pro-democracy, pro-science, non-violent stances at critical junctures in Turkish history.
In his writings, Gülen speaks of “living so that others may live” (“yasatmak icin yasamak” in Turkish) and of sharing the suffering of humans in every corner of the world. His ideal of service and insistence on education has inspired millions of volunteers to take responsibility for the well-being of their world by engaging in public life. In Turkey, the influx of civic institutions inspired by Gülen’s message has been referred to as the Gulen Movement (or Hizmet/ServiceMovement). These volunteers now run tutoring centers, schools, colleges, hospitals, relief organizations, publishing houses, and media institutions in over one hundred countries around the world.
The Gulen Movement has developed into a global, faith-based social movement. In conflict-ridden regions, such as the Philippines, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia, hundreds of Gülen-inspired schools have become bastions of inter-religious and interethnic harmony, while relief organizations affiliated with the Gulen Movement have been instrumental in bringing aid to disaster victims in South-east Asia and Africa.
A number of articles from various scholarly circles have been penned about Fethullah Gulen and the Gulen Movement so far.
At the Gülen Institute, we applaud the work of these dedicated volunteers of the Gulen Movement who share the vision of our eponym. In addition to supporting innovative approaches to education, conflict resolution, and poverty research, the Gülen Institute hopes to provide a critical introduction to the activities of this global community.