Sufism and Dialogue in the Hizmet Movement
Heon C. Kim, PhD
East Stroudsburg University
This article examines the relationship between Sufism and dialogue in the Hizmet movement. The Hizmet movement is one of the most significant global Islamic movements in the world today. Among its many aspects, its worldwide activities of dialogue have gained much attention in academia. Yet what drives its dialogue activities remains little examined except for some sketchy implications and suggestions. By analysing Fethullah Gülen’s thinking and the Hizmet movement’s activities, this article draws out an inseparable and intrinsic relationship between Sufism and dialogue, which is proposed to be called ‘dialogic Sufism’. By dialogic Sufism, this article hopes to contribute toward a deeper understanding of the Hizmet movement in general and its dialogue activities in particular, while adding to academic discussion a little-examined but considerable piece of Sufism and religion.
A survey of The 500 Most Influential Muslims has signified the Hizmet movement as “one of the best connected and therefore most powerful of the networks that are competing to influence Muslims around the globe, making it likely to have an enduring impact on the modernization of Islam and its engagement with Western ideas” (Esposito & Kalın 2009: 44). In fact, the movement has shown a successful expansion to global proportions within twenty years and has grown to have millions of supporters today. This success has led a good number of studies, which can be called ‘hizmet studies’, to consider the movement as a major case for defining the contemporary global Islamic experience. Many aspects of the movement have been examined and, in particular, its worldwide activities of dialogue, which try to create bridges between people of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, have been underlined as a primary factor of the movement’s success. But little research has been done to uncover what drives the movement to focus on dialogue activities.
In this context, this paper examines the relationship between Sufism and dialogue in the Hizmet movement. A close look at the existing hizmet studies makes salient Sufism and dialogue the two most frequently discussed topics. In fact, a glimpse of Gülen’s writings enables the reader to readily note the two topics as the most dominant elements in his thought and intellectual framework. It is therefore no wonder that Gülen is considered in the scholarship to be a Sufi generally and a contemporary Rumi more specifically, while simultaneously being regarded as a promoter of inter-religious dialogue. It is, however, interesting to note that the relationship between Sufism and dialogue – specifically as reciprocal-complementary concepts – in Gülen’s thought and the activities of the Hizmet movement have received little attention. In comparison with the considerable attention which has been given to Sufism and dialogue as a distributive concept, the relationship between the two remains almost unexamined except for some sketchy implications and suggestions. This may be primarily because the discourse within the secularist Turkish context has presented Sufism (more properly tariqah, a Sufi order, as a divisionary sectarian movement) and dialogue to be incompatible concepts with each other. As a result, this trend has prevented access to an intrinsic dimension of the Hizmet movement’s dialogue activities.
In examining the relationship between Sufism and dialogue, I shall demonstrate that at the heart of Gülen’s teaching of dialogue lies his conviction that Sufism is a constructional and constructive factor of dialogue. I propose to call these two compatible concepts of dialogue and Sufism in combination ‘dialogic Sufism’. In detail, I shall present dialogic Sufism in three ways: a) as an inherited and accumulated tradition of Turkish Sufism; b) as an embedded spirituality in hizmet (service for humanity); and c) as a practicizing Sufism in the dialogue activities of the Hizmet movement.
Along with a textual analysis of Gülen’s works and hizmet studies, I am taking Sufism itself as a methodological lens. I hold that Sufism-related phenomena can be best understood from the perspective of Sufism itself, without necessarily reducing them to any other discipline. This stance is particularly significant for a proper placement of Gülen’s thought and the Hizmet movement in their own contexts, not in the politically-confined discourse that many of the early studies of the Hizmet movement in Turkey in the 1980-90s employed to present the movement as a divisional sect of the Sufi order and as a threat to the secular regime of the Turkish Republic. Success in this attempt would provide a deeper understanding of the Hizmet movement, exposing the inner dynamics involved in the dialogue activities of the movement.
- Dialogic Sufism: a theological framework
Gülen regards dialogue as an activity of forming a bond between two or more parties. By ‘parties’ he does not mean any specific subjects, but instead includes all objects involved in humanity. To form a bond between parties means to Gülen to see human beings as the objects of dialogue. Thus, his concept of dialogue, rather than being a generic term, specifies the humanitarian approach to dialogue, which manifests itself with tolerance and various tolerance-based concepts such as love, compassion, forgiveness and humility. In this sense, tolerance and dialogue in his writings appear as a paired concept for humanity, as he considers them to be want he called the two roses of the emerald hills of humanity (Gülen 2004a: 50-53). This consideration is notably presented in his article on Sufism entitled ‘The Two Roses of the Emerald Hills: Tolerance and Dialogue’, which indicates Gülen’s approach to dialogue within the purview of Sufism.
In Gülen’s thinking, tolerance is indispensable to Sufism. Above all, he has signified the tolerant nature of Sufism by the three principles of Sufism, as “overflowing with Divine Love and getting along with all other beings in the realization (originating from Divine Love) that the universe is a cradle of brotherhood”, “giving preference or precedence to the well-being and happiness of others” and “being open to love, spiritual yearning, delight and ecstasy” (Gülen 1998a: xv-xvi). Further, Gülen directly related this quality of tolerance to love in describing the Sufi knowledge of God (marifa):
Knowledge of God does not consist of abstract knowledge; in its true form, it is transformed into love. We cannot remain indifferent to someone in whom we believed and then grew to know well. After belief and knowledge comes love. Love is the crown of belief in God and knowledge of Him. Love is open to everyone according to his or her level. Love, which seeks to deepen itself, always travels on the horizon of ‘increase’, asking: “Isn’t there more?” On the one hand, sacred knowledge increases, giving rise to increasing in love, which causes knowledge to increase still further. (Gülen, The Culture of the Heart in en.fgulen.com)
Tolerance, love and knowledge of God are inseparable in Gülen’s Sufism. In particular, Gülen is convinced that only by love can humanism be realized, and humanity is a sublimation of love. To him, humanity is the most valuable being in the universe as the greatest mirror of the Names, Attributes, and Deeds of God (Gülen 2006). Every human being is equally endowed with the capacity to mirror divine nature to be developed to be “greater than the universe” (Gülen 2004b: 292), thereby securing the equality of all humans, regardless of religion, race, wealth and social status. Foremost of the human reflections as a divine mirror is love. Gülen explained this as follows:
[L]ove is the rose in our belief, a realm of the heart that never withers. Above all else, just as God wove the universe like lace on the loom of love, the most magical and charming music in the bosom of existence is always love. The strongest relationship among individuals that forms family, society, and nation is love. Universal love shows itself throughout the cosmos in the fact that each particle helps and supports every other particle. This is true to such an extent that the most dominant factor in the spirit of existence is love. As an individual of the universal chorus, almost every creature acts and behaves in its own style, according to the magical tune it has received from God, in a melody of love. (Gülen 2004a: 50-51)
To Gülen, therefore, “love is the most essential element in every being” (Gülen 1998b: 59). As the most essential element, love is innate in the human heart and springs therefrom. The heart is “the polished mirror in which Divine knowledge is reflected” to an extent that it is “more valuable and honored than the Ka’ba” (Gülen 1998a: 24). In spite of this significance, Gülen warned, the heart can be “a means by which satanic and carnal temptations and vices can enter … [and] If it is commanded by the carnal (inherently evil) self, it can become a target for Satan’s poisonous arrows” (Gülen 1998a: 24). Therefore, the heart “must be protected and kept safe from infection” (Gülen 1998a: 24) by being continually polished and cleansed. In this regard, Gülen put an emphasis on the need for spiritual training and considered Sufism as a proven way to polish and cleanse the heart for its proper function of reflecting love.
This understanding of love in the purview of Sufism shaped Gülen’s tolerance-based humanism, and leads to his advocacy of dialogue as a pragmatic extension of humanism. In Gülen’s thought, dialogue is a ‘must’ for today’s world, and Sufism is a way to secure such a ‘must.’ I note this intrinsic relationship by proposing to call it ‘dialogic Sufism’.
Dialogic Sufism opposes a dialectical approach to humanity which assumes an opposing and conflicting relationship between self and others. As I have analysed elsewhere, a dialectical approach has been dominant in the modern world especially in Friedrich Hegel’s dialectic philosophy of “ideologically inferior others”, Karl Marx’s materialistic worldview of “materially alienated others” and Samuel Huntington’s theory of the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ which assumes “religiously incompatible others”. Unlike this dialectical approach to humanity, dialogic Sufism as shown in Gülen’s thinking underlines an interdependent unit of ‘self and others’ and assumes self and others as the subject/object of dialogue. To this extent, dialogic Sufism does not follow the divisional history of many Sufi orders, which has shown divisions in society. Dialogic Sufism is also far from being political. It is unlike the so-called ‘political Islam’ which, as represented by the case of “Jihad by a sword” (Jihad bis-saif) of Sayyid Qutb, tends to react to problems. Instead, it interacts with any challenging condition and context to build a dialogical bridge between the past and the present, the East and the West, rationalism/materialism and spiritualism, and between different civilizations, religions and cultures, obliterating difference and distinction between ‘self and others’.
As a foundation of dialogic Sufism, Gülen put forward the Turkish Sufi tradition. He considers the Turkish Sufi tradition as an inherited consciousness proceeded by “the collective act of saints” which, as a cultural reality, has long been accumulated and embedded through an internalizing and vitalizing process of a spirit of tolerance and love. Gülen affirmed that “Sufism has spread among the Turks in both Central Asia and Turkey. This is why Turkish Islam always has been broader, deeper, more tolerant and inclusive, and based on love” (Turgut 1997). He further asserted that:
The teaching of tasawwuf remains to certain extent in every corner of our society. Everyone took a benefit from it. The influence of tasawwuf on Turkish society is stronger and deeper than [in] any other Islamic country. A custom such as to see oneself as lower than others; to see others higher than oneself and to give priority to others over oneself was impregnated to this nation from its very beginning by Sufi authorities such as Ahmad Yasawi, Yunus Emre, Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi and Haci Bektash Veli … . That soft and inclusive worldview and attitude gain important place and value toward Allah, and become a unifying element of social life … . This understanding exists in almost all individuals in the Turkish nation. (Pope 1998)
Gülen’s appreciation of the soft, humble and inclusive Sufism initiated by Yasawi, Rumi, Emre and Bektash affirms its continuing existence as a cultural heritage of Turks.
Hizmet (Service for humanity)
Gülen does not simply adopt and repeat Turkish Sufi tradition, but further reactivates the tradition in the contemporary world. As Ergene has explained, Gülen rebuilds that inherited humanism and understanding of Turko-Islamic Sufism to serve contemporary society and meet its needs (Ergene, in en.fgulen.com). Herein lies the distinctiveness of Gülen’s dialogic Sufism which directs toward hizmet the core value of Gülen’s thought.
Hizmet is a Turkish word which is the same as khidma in Arabic, which means ‘service’. Technically in Gülen’s thinking, it denotes ‘service for humanity’, which is what defines the Hizmet movement. Gülen empathetically calls the movement to give ‘service for humanity’ and has further asserted that “for this movement, religious dimension is important. This religiosity directs not inwardly, [but] more than that, outwardly. [Thus] the concept of hizmet is significant” (Gülen 2003). This indicates that hizmet, service for humanity, appears as an outward reflection of inner personal religiosity, and as such, is in concert with Sufism. Notably, Gülen described the Suffering (Chila) of Sufis thus:
Suffering in this sense becomes, beyond our own spiritual progress, the dedication of our lives to the happiness of others in both worlds and living for others. In other words, we should seek our spiritual progress in the happiness of others. This is the most advisable and the best approved kind of suffering: that is, we die and are revived a few times a day for the guidance and happiness of others, we feel any fire raging in another heart also in our own heart, and we feel the suffering of all people in our spirits. (Gülen 2004b: 235)
In Gülen’s schema, the real path of Sufis is to seek their spiritual progress in the happiness of others by living for others. This exemplifies what hizmet is.
Gülen’s account of Sufism for hizmet characterizes dialogic Sufism as social, sober and activist Sufism. In detail, he holds Sufism to be an “Islamic spiritual aspect, which constitutes the essence of religion, fosters its belief and leads one to being a perfect human being” (Pope 1998). Thus, Sufism can by no means be confined to the domain of Sufi orders, which “are almost beyond number” (Gülen 1995: 154), and whose focus on the master/disciple relationship, intoxication (sukr) and theopathic locutions (shathiyyat) have led many Sufis either to deviate from the true path or to be left stranded halfway. To Gülen, Sufism must not remain a way of personal inner purification, but should be reflected in society. Individuals who have followed a spiritual journey “toward, in and with God”, come back “from God” to perpetuate the experience through constant ‘God-consciousness’ in society (Gülen 2004b: 244-262). A society is a sphere in which the spiritual travelers firmly set up their newly-acquired spiritual experiences, and deepen their God-consciousness through daily life and by doing service for others (hizmet). In this way, a Sufi rationalizes his/her spiritual and emotional experience and directs his/her life to be self-disciplined in and for this world. In this context, Gülen appreciates ‘genuine Sufis’ as those who are not aloof from society, but actively participate in this-worldly matters by organizing their lives with self-supervision (muraqaba) and self-criticism (muhasaba). Accordingly, Gülen’s Sufism is ‘activist Sufism.’ In other words, it is, as Elisabeth Özdalga put it in terms of Weberian theory, “pietistic activism” in which the ‘man of action’ (aksiyon insani) “is inclined to work his or her best until this world is turned into a paradise” (Özdalga 2000: 88-89). In fact, Gülen identified the ideal Sufi ascetic as a “man of action and thought” (aksiyon ve düşünce insanı). In his conviction, any spiritual journey is vitalized by action, and action is in turn vitalized by constant God-consciousness.
This social, sober and activist Sufism characterizes Gülen’s Sufism, converging into dialogic Sufism for hizmet. When it is understood in this way, dialogic Sufism for hizmet is perceived as a tool to solve human individual and collective problems in the world. Gülen is convinced and convincing on this issue:
If we can spread globally the Islamic understanding of such heroes of love as Niyazi Misri, Yunus Emre and Mawlana Rumi, and if we can extend their messages of love, dialogue and tolerance to people who are thirsty for this message, everyone will run toward the embrace of love, peace and tolerance that we represent. (Gülen 2004a: 60-61)
In Gülen’s diagnosis, most of the problems that contemporary human beings face result from the loss of true humanism, which causes and appears with widespread hatred and enmity. Hatred and enmity generate “beasts who have lost their humanity” and these beasts in turn accelerate the loss of humanism (Gülen 2000). As a cause of the loss of true humanism, Gülen has pointed out the rise of excessive materialism. To him, “there are any material shortages in the world” but inequitable distribution, which originates from the self-egoism of the material-centric mind (Gülen 2004b: v). Following this diagnosis, Gülen is convinced that the only way to disentangle the real and critical danger to human beings is to revitalize humanism by means of love and tolerance. He finds in the Sufi tradition such humanism and necessitates its reactivation. In this sense lies the significance of dialogic Sufism as a way of recovering humanism and spirituality in a material-centric context. In Gülen’s schema, dialogic Sufism is not a way of rejecting this world, but a way of protecting and empowering a person’s spirituality against his/her egoistic carnal-self (nafs), which gives rise to a greedy mind and constant conflict with others. In this way, dialogic Sufism leads one to recognize others as equal beings not as anti-beings, and to acknowledge mutual existence and the need for tolerance and dialogue.
- Practising Sufism toward dialogue
The Hizmet movement’s dialogue activities
The Hizmet movement has focused on dialogue activities in the framework of hizmet, which aims to facilitate personal spiritual growth and communal well-being. This is what Gülen’s dialogic Sufism implies. Just as the concept of hizmet is built upon Sufism, the activities are directed toward, in Ergene’s expression, “the individual’s personal virtue and maturation, and the maturation of social relations” with “the Sufi, moral and spiritual depths that requires each believer to be modest and patient in his/her familial and social relationships” (Ergene en.fgulen.com).
Following Gülen’s teaching and his exemplary practice of dialogue with different religious leaders, the movement has expanded its dialogue activities from Turkey to the rest of the world. It has established a number of institutions as advance bases for dialogue activities such as dialogue institutes and cultural exchange centers. These institutions, albeit with different titles, all focus on interfaith and intercultural dialogue activities. Significantly, almost all of these institutional activities are hosted by the local hizmet communities from planning, providing financial support and organizing to eventual opening. In fact, dialogue activity serves not only to bridge between different religious/cultural people but also to reflect the inner religiosity of individual members and a local community. In other words, it is an activity that involves local members whose voluntary labor, time and donations are essential to actualize plans as the outward reflection of inner religiosity. To draw out the common characteristics of dialogue activities, it may suffice to note two examples which well represent dialogue activities both in Turkey and in the United States, and both from the Hizmet movement’s perspective and the outsider’s viewpoint.
The Turkey Interfaith Trip is one of the common dialogue activities among many organizations of the Hizmet movement. With its sponsorship, a local hizmet organization can invite local people of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds to Turkey, and with the voluntary help of local members of the Hizmet movement in Turkey, the participants visit several cities, including Istanbul, Konya, Antalya, Izmir, Gaziantep and Urfa, all of which maintain traditions of Turkey’s cultural diversity.
The Institute of Interfaith Dialog for World Peace records in its official website (www.interfaithdialog.org) several descriptions written by participants in the Turkey Interfaith Trip. Notably, a professor of religious studies in the United States remembered the hospitality of a local community of the movement. He wrote that “[B]eneath all of the passion for life embedded in this country, there runs a river of authentic hospitality that cannot be ignored. A people who are so kind and generous gifted us with their lifestyle reveals gracious hospitality and devoted service to humanity. I was changed by this experience because I believe for the first time in my life I saw in action what I have always been taught: devotion to God, service to humanity” (cited from www.interfaithdialog.org). This hospitality also impressed a reverend so profoundly that he wrote:
As I recall that trip, my heart overflows with gratitude to Allah for having led me to encounter the members of a movement which is having such an impact on Turkey and other countries. Never have I been so flooded with love and hospitality as I was on this trip … . The sponsors of the trip and of the schools we visited, together with the students we met, radiate the intellectual acumen and the light and love that are and will be the only means of healing this troubled, broken and violent world. And even though the schools we visited are held to the secularist educational standards of the state, the community of believers who sponsor them and constitute their faculties bring an overwhelming witness to the truth that the One God is great, all compassionate and merciful. The intellectual pursuit is at the service of God. (cited from www.interfaithdialog.org)
That writer considered the hospitality of the local supporters of the movement as the fruits of love and light, which echoes Jesus Christ’s teaching of “by their fruits you will know them”. He further remarked that “the visit to these places captured for me the essential dispositions of heart necessary for us to have true interreligious dialogue” (cited from www.interfaithdialog.org).
These descriptions exemplify the dialogue activities of the Hizmet movement, demonstrate the embedded and embodied vision of Gülen’s dialogue and hizmet, and to that extent, illustrate the practice of dialogic Sufism.
Another notable dialogue activity as a manifestation of dialogic Sufism is Rumi-related activity. Many institutions of the Hizmet movement in the world organize conferences on Rumi and sema performances. A representative institution is the Rumi Forum. Founded in Washington DC in 1999 with Gülen as its honorary president, it seeks “to foster interfaith and intercultural dialogue, stimulate thinking and exchange of opinions on supporting and fostering democracy and peace all over the world and to provide a common platform for education and information exchange” (cited from www.rumiforum.org). To depict this mission and as its official title, the forum has taken the name of Rumi. Presenting Rumi as a symbol of love, tolerance and dialogue, and following the spirit that Rumi showed in his famous message “Come, whoever you are, come”, the forum endeavors to invite “everyone who has a desire to explore ‘the other’ in the spirit of mutual respect and tolerance” (cited from www.rumiforum.org). In a similar way, many other institutions such as the Turkish Cultural Center in New York have organized sema performance to introduce Rumi’s humanitarian worldview to local people. It is also worth noting that Turkey Interfaith Trips in nearly all cases include a visit to Konya, the final resting place of Rumi. A contribution of such Rumi-related activities was well described in Ihsan Yilmaz’s report in the Zaman daily newspaper about an international conference entitled ‘Mevlana and Civilizations Dialogue’. The conference, in which people from more than 30 countries participated, underlined that against the current recurrence of threats of the absolute annihilation of humankind and the collapse of civilizations and violence that marked the age of Rumi, Rumi’s inspiration of tolerance and compassion is “once more needed in our turbulent global village, which is full of students of the ‘clash of civilizations’ and neo-assassin terrorists” (Yilmaz 2007).
Dialogic Sufism in the lives of individual supporters of the Hizmet movement
Dialogue has therefore become a major activity which not only creates bridges between different religious people but also binds together the supporters of a local Hizmet community. That is, dialogue is a communal activity that involves local supporters whose voluntary labor, time and donations are essential for turning plans into actions. The above descriptions by participants in the Turkish Interfaith Trip testify to this, and the findings of several field studies confirm the noticeable engaging in dialogic Sufism in the supporters’ lives, which secures their continual contributions to and activities for hizmet.
Elizabeth Özdalga’s empirical study depicts how deeply Gülen’s thinking is involved in the lives of individuals in the movement. For instance, she quoted an interviewee’s statement that “when they [her friends] go to places like Russia, for example, the circumstances may be such that it is not even appropriate for them to carry out their own prayers. They even have to sacrifice this part of their own lives when they go to such places. This is also the desire of hocaefendi [a Turkish honorific title of Gülen], that we should spread the message of love to other people” (Özdalga 2003: 94). Based upon this and other testimonies, Özdalga concluded that “regarding love, pietism, humility, self-criticism, professional (not political) activism, they [the interviewees] all have studied their Gülen catechism very thoroughly. But at the same time, this urge to follow in Gülen’s footsteps answers a voice within themselves that genuinely is their own and that has not been forced on them through communal pressure” (Özdalga 2003: 114). Enes Ergene agreed with Özdalga’s conclusion, considering the core virtues of Gülen’s ideas as the primary subjects of the supporters’ intellectual reflection. He particularly enumerated such virtues as “modesty, self-sacrifice, altruism, a spirit of devotion, being with the Lord although among people, living for the good of others, being of service without expectations, and depth of the spirit and heart with no anticipation for reward for any intention or deed” (Ergene, en.fgulen.com). Ergene underlined that all of these virtues are in Sufi culture and are the main constituents of the intellectual and active dynamics of the Hizmet movement.
Both Özdalga’s empirical study and Ergene’s analysis delineate an embodied and practising dialogic Sufism in the lives of individual supporters in the movement. In fact, a closer look at hizmet studies reveals how deeply dialogic Sufism plays a role in constructing the identity of an individual in the movement, bridging and binding him/her to Gülen’s thought and the movement while living in society.
Özdalga took special note of an interviewee’s expression of “becoming a part” (Özdalga 2003: 95). For that interviewee, ‘becoming a part’ did not mean becoming a mechanical part of the movement, but instead being an organic participant in hizmet. Özdalga interpreted this to mean that “becoming part of the Gülen community, therefore, does not mean that individuals are turned into passive tools in the hands of an authoritarian leadership. The Gülen ideology is strongly conservative, it is true, but that is not the same as saying that the principles of its organization are authoritarian or by any means totalitarian” (Özdalga 2003: 114). Becoming a part reflects Gülen’s teaching of being non-selfish, which is attained by constant and conscious training of the carnal ego (nafs) through such Sufi-oriented practices as zuhd, muraqaba and muhasaba. For instance, one participant underlined that “first of all, you become a slave [kul], that is, you start to criticize yourself … of course: reserve, humility, getting away from being egocentric” (Özdalga 2003: 95). This comment directly refers to self-reflection, muhasaba and muraqaba in Gülen’s Sufism, as the participant went on to clarify that “this [selfishness through self-criticism] is at the very foundation of religion, and Hocaefendi represents a very good example for us in this respect” (Özdalga 2003: 95).
In the process of ‘becoming a part’, participants in the movement learn, begin to use and become familiar with the common terminology of the movement. An interviewee in Özdalga’s study was observed to have frequently used the concept of ‘love’, and Özdalga described this as “following in the footsteps of Fethullah Gülen” (Özdalga 2003). As readily notable in various interview materials, ‘love’ and ‘tolerance’ in the participants’ testimonies refer directly to the two core concepts of Gülen’s thinking, rather than in the common or broad sense. This shared vocabulary echoes Pierre Bourdieu’s “symbolic power” (Bourdieu 1991). Similar to the way that Bourdieu saw language as an evoking factor of habitus, the core concepts of the Hizmet movement work to evoke habitus. From this similarity, Selcuk Uygur utilized Hennis’s theory of habitus as “the non-discursive aspects of culture that bind individuals to larger groups” (Uygur 2007), and Etga Ugur noted Smidt’s contention that “religion also provides a symbolic language enmeshed in the grammar of the society by speaking the language of the masses and utilizing the ‘cultural capital’” (Ugur 2007).
Practising dialogue among the supporters in the Hizmet movement with shared vocabularies provides them with a shared communal space of belonging, ensuring collective solidarity at given social margins – both in Turkey where the activities of the Hizmet movement have continually been scrutinized by secularists as well as Islamists, and in Muslim minority countries where Muslims face diverse challenges in almost all aspects of their lives. Substantially, in providing supporters with spaces for belonging, the dialogue activities of hizmet guide them to find and/or ensure a self identity. Muhammad Çetin observed such an identity:
The Gülen Movement endows individuals progressively with a capacity for action. Identity is constructed by each individual in her or his capacity as a social actor. Altruistic services always relate to human sociability and to social relationships. Relationship is formed at the level of the single individual, awakening the enthusiasm and capacity of the individual for action. Through such sociability people rediscover the self and the meaning of life. Herein lies all the distinction of the Gülen Movement. (Çetin 2007)
This identity is continually rediscovered and regained through a supporter’s altruistic service for hizmet. Further, being a part of the communal – especially dialogue – activities of the Hizmet movement secures and ensures a social identity, which eventually helps one from an identity crisis continuously oscillating between one’s ethnic enclaves and a melting pot of a multitude of ethnicities, attitudes, political agendas and religions.
This social identity is intrinsically linked to a cultural identity. As discussed earlier, dialogic Sufism refers to an accumulated Turkish Sufi tradition that serves as a pillar of hizmet. Following this accumulated tradition means to the supporters of the Hizmet movement keeping a cultural identity. The foremost figure to provide such a cultural identity was Rumi. Rumi is one of the most well-known Muslim mystics in the West, yet by the supporters of the Hizmet movement is regarded as a cultural symbol of dialogue, Turkishness and Turkish spirituality. Participating in Rumi-related activities awakens and reminds the supporters of the cultural identity that Rumi represents.
In Gülen’s thinking, such a cultural identity is of prime significance not only to keep an identity but also to engage in a true dialogue. He empathetically stated that “a community that has broken with its essential cultural values inevitably loses its identity” (Gülen 2005), and wrote that:
We should know how to be ourselves and then remain ourselves. That does not mean isolation from others. It means preservation of our essential identity among others, following our way among other ways. While self-identity is necessary, we should also find the ways to a universal integration. Isolation from the world will eventually result in annihilation. (Gülen 1996a: 86)
This self-identity refers by no means to conflict with other cultures or to annihilation in them. Rather it means to have an autonomous identity which makes cooperation and coexistence possible and further realized. To Gülen, an identity appears as a manifestation of cultural roots while integrating into society. Accordingly, it becomes a subject of cooperation in a universal integration. In this sense, and not in terms of ‘national-centricity’, Gülen put forward his idea of “Turkish Muslimness” (Türkiye Müslümanlığı). To him, Turkish Islam is an identity of Turkishness, which, with its religious/cultural/spiritual root of Sufi tradition, cooperates with other people/religions/cultures. On this basis, Gülen teaches the supporters of the Hizmet movement to integrate into Western societies fully by obeying the local laws and by supporting the liberal democratic and market economies without sacrificing their religious/cultural roots. This integration in society while maintaining self-identity means a dynamic relationship with others, acknowledging others and exchanging each other’s cultural productions. For this dynamic relationship, dialogue is indispensable; and dialogic Sufism provides the Hizmet movement with the most effective tool to make dialogue happen and to engage in it.
This article explores a salient an inseparable relationship between dialogue and Sufism in the Hizmet movement. The relationship is underlined by the proposed concept of dialogic Sufism. In the examination of this issue, Gülen’s advocacy of dialogue emerges as an externalized and pragmatized manifestation of dialogic Sufism, reactivating the inherited and accumulated Turkish Sufi tradition and thereby establishing a spirit of hizmet, service for humanity, to serve people in the contemporary world. Dialogic Sufism is deeply embedded and embodied in the Hizmet movement and its various dialogue activities over the world. It also grants individual supporters of the movement a spiritual, cultural and social identity by which they acknowledge, cooperate and engage in dialogue with people of different cultures, religions and worldviews.
This concept of dialogic Sufism provides a number of implications directly for the studies of the Hizmet movement, and broadly for academic discourse on Sufism and religion in today’s world.
For studies of the Hizmet movement, dialogic Sufism reveals an inner dynamic of the Hizmet movement and suggests a clue for the reasons behind the movement’s remarkable success as a global civic Islamic movement in the world today.
For studies of Sufism, dialogic Sufism in the Hizmet movement shows a clear and vivid example of the continuity of Sufism in today’s Muslim lives as opposed to the modern scholarly prediction of ‘Sufism moribund’ in the process of modernization and secularization. Dialogic Sufism not only proves the vitality of Sufism, which enables Sufism to cope with a rapidly changing world, but also represents a global manifestation of Sufism, appealing to the contemporary context where excessive materialism makes people more and more thirsty for spirituality.
More broadly but essentially, dialogic Sufism shows another vision of religion than one which is represented by religious fundamentalists and theoretically legitimated by some scholars such as Samuel Huntington as a primary source of conflict and clash between civilizations. Dialogic Sufism as evident in the dialogue activities of the Hizmet movement across the world evinces a vision of religion as a means of creating a dialogical bridge between people of different religions and cultures in the contemporary globalized and pluralistic world.
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 This article is a revision of a paper presented by the author at the Rumi Forum’s conference entitled ‘Islam in the Age of Global Challenges: Alternative Perspectives of the Gülen Movement’ at Georgetown University, Washington DC on 14-15 November 2008.
 As a representative study, see Yavuz & Esposito (2003).
 Whilst Sarıtoprak initiated a contention that “Gülen can be called a Sufi, albeit a Sufi in his own way” (Sarıtoprak 2005: 169), Ergene went further to consider Gülen as a contemporary Rumi, opening a scholarly discourse on Gülen with respect to the Turkish Sufi tradition (Ergene 2005).
 For instance, Ünal and Williams asserted that “Gülen is an adamant supporter and promoter of inter-faith dialogue” (Ünal & Williams 2000: 193-304). See also Jill Carol’s A Dialogue of Civilisation: Gülen’s Humanistic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse (2007).
 The Turkish Daily News on 14 September 2001 reported Gülen’s views of the new millennium, which included his conviction that “Interfaith Dialogue is a must”; see ‘Gülen: Interfaith Dialogue is a Must’ at http://fgulen.com/en/press/news/24638-gulen-interfaith-dialogue-is-a-must
 See Kim (2013).
 See Qutb (1990).
 See, as representative passages, Gülen, 2004b: 125 for his preference for sobriety over intoxication; ibid., 146-147, in which he recognized the state of ‘theopathic locutions’ that such famous Sufis as Bayazid al-Bistami, al-Husayn b. Mansur al-Hallaj al-Mansur and Muhy al-Din ibn al-Arabi followed, whereas he warned against it to be followed as it opens a deviation from the true path; ibid., 257 for his criticism against the master/disciple relationship over the guidance of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
 Among numerous passages, Gülen’s evaluation of ‘Privacy and Seclusion’ (Halwat and Uzlat) is the most relevant discussion for this aspect (Gülen 1998a: 16-19).
 For instance, in explaining the term ‘Self-Criticism’, Gülen asserted that “everyone who has planned his or her life to reach the horizon of a perfect, universal human being is conscious of this life and spends every moment of it struggling with himself or herself”(Gülen 1998a: 9).
 For Gülen’s extensive conceptualization of ‘action and thought’, see Gülen 1996b.
 In a similar sense, Gulay stated that “Gülen directs the Sufi concentration on inner spirituality toward the worldly realm. The taming of the corporeal body by means of spiritual transcendence, a fundamental notion in Sufi practice, is exploited to achieve mastery of the world through social activity. After achieving transcendence and constant ‘God-consciousness’, disciples are enjoined to perpetuate this knowledge of God in daily life, performing acts of service that reflect their intense subjective spiritual experience” (Gulay 2007: 55).
 For a brief account of Gülen’s meeting with diverse religious leaders and its implications, see Sarıtoprak & Griffith (2005).
 This idea was detailed in Sabah news paper, a Turkish daily, on 23 January 1997; see http://tr.fgulen.com/content/view/7885/15/ 1997
 For this prediction, see Arberry (1956), Geertz (1960), Gellner (1992) and Gilsenan (1973).