M. Fethullah Gulen
There was once a time when we enjoyed mutual love and respect. We had started to relate to one another. That was when everything looked different and cozy across the land. Even if some inappropriate and disturbing voices were occasionally heard, almost every segment of society was experiencing the excitement of spring and was having long summer dreams.
Almost all of us were embracing each other with the joy of rediscovering our golden memories and reclaiming who we once were. We were singing songs of love with the enthusiasm of learning about one another. Colorful images of a world of brotherly and sisterly love were in our ever-deepening aspirations and dreams. It was a time of friendliness, profound compassion, and universal mercy. We marched towards days in which feelings of grudge and hatred would and could not survive. We felt that our hopes and expectations had come fully alive inside of us; everything was opening to us with a magic that enveloped our whole being. We embraced the love, respect, and tolerance that were once woven into our lives, and called upon on our golden ages, which we called the prosperous “days of God.” We were filled with enthusiasm and hope as we constantly strove to become who we once used to be and moved forward to love the feeling of love, to hate the feeling of hate, and to resist the feeling of hostility in our hearts.
We needed to graft youth onto our aging spirits – to color our faded feelings with the vividness of our faith and to mark the hours with the magic of time that we still believed to be alive. We needed to release the hands of the clock, which had long been tied to a rusty spring! These were the intentions; whether these things were fully done is quite a different matter.
In our recent past we were engaged in a nationwide “dialogue,” and we felt like the season was moving towards spring; we were overjoyed with our blossoming hopes, and we lived constantly with the dreams that almost all segments of society would embrace this refined, delicate, and soft atmosphere. We evaluated every step forward as a sign of the dawn of days of love, and we were excited to be soaring towards the horizon of our dreams as if we were preparing for “a night of union with the beloved.” We were so excited that we felt our hearts could rip apart out of joy; we hoped the hours and days we had lost in the past would be returned to us.
If only we could have continued on this course! Actually, there was no apparent reason not to. However, in truth we have remained very, very much behind our hopes and dreams in this matter. We considered everything from the perspective of optimism, tolerance, and good opinion – it was beyond our imagination that enmity, hatred, rage, anger, fanaticism, and bigotry would still wait in ambush. We could perhaps be excused, because we thought that these cursed thoughts had completely died and no longer existed among the enlightened people of a civilized world. We thought that in a time when goodness, beauty, virtue, and universal values had been resurrected one after the other, these buried ideas would not come back to life again. If only we had not been mistaken! We valued respect and good opinion about others – sadly, we were mistaken.
All these bad feelings and evil obsessions, which we thought would not rise again, came back to life and reclaimed every realm like ghouls. Those overwhelmed with these obsessions were attacking everything with the delirium of a Qarmatian, cutting everything and everybody with the logic of a Khawarij, and assaulting everything with the attitude of an anarchist. They ran from one horror to another at the behest of enmity, hatred, rage, and anger; they destroyed the bridges to love and tolerance, ruined the roads, suppressed loving spirits, infused violence and rage into hearts beating with love, darkened the smiles on faces which are otherwise filled with compassion, and destroyed the points of cohesion among different circles and segments of society. They severed and tore into pieces the spirit of unity among them and scattered seeds of hostility among all the hearts they could reach.
Yes, first they shook the trust individuals felt for each other. They scattered seeds of negative thoughts and doubt among different segments of society. Then, with unimaginable slander and lies against representatives of tolerance, they twisted the most-sincere behavior and tied it to false goals and targets and set fire to all good works. They aroused suspicion regarding the most positive efforts, and they looked for different purposes in proposals that were made in the name of dialogue. They distorted and cut and pasted even the most beneficial words and statements into things that they aren’t. They displayed the most shameful examples of depredation.
Even if these satanic efforts did not have an impact on most of the people, they were sufficient to incite a marginal segment that has always been tied to violence, anger, enmity, and hatred. They rebelled and declared war on such concepts as “tolerance,” “love,” “accepting everyone as they are,” and “a world without war.” They shook the hope in hearts; destroyed the trust and confidence people had towards one another; and broke into pieces, scattered, and destroyed the basic principles tying different segments of the population together.
It is certain that they were not able to fool everyone, were not able to penetrate every bosom, were not able to arouse suspicion in every brain and were not able to seduce most people. However, their efforts to cut and sever, to divide and tear into pieces, and to smash everything were not completely unfruitful. Many people who had just recently escaped from the former days of conflict and who stood in their places unsteadily were again shaken, and all their feelings and thoughts regarding tolerance were turned upside-down. This meant that the efforts that had been put forward for years in the name of brotherhood, friendship, and dialogue were lost, and the roads leading to dialogue and peace that would be realized with efforts along this line were closed, even if temporarily.
In order not to feel in my spirit the sabotage of the many beautiful deeds and efforts that have been made to date and the destruction of the many positive developments, I turn the face of my dreams on another side and, escaping from reality, I try and suppress the palpitations of my heart. More accurately, at this moment I cannot think of anything else to do with the lethal dreams that have squeezed my heart, raised my blood pressure, and opened the way to illness. But however distant I try and remain from them, still the things that have happened sneak into my thoughts by any path and sometimes pierce my heart like a poisonous arrow. Even if I don’t want to, I moan and writhe with this egregious awareness that flows into my mind, and who knows how many times a day I wail, “O God, show us the way out and to relief.”
Sometimes I am frightened by the prospect that the webs of love among different segments of the society will be torn. Sometimes I shudder at the disturbing roars that suppress calls for tolerance and dialogue. I think of the misfortune that feelings of friendship and brotherhood are groaning under the lethal blows of enmity and hatred, and I recoil. Sometimes I remain frozen in my place without thinking anything.
Every time I think of the now-faded colors of those open and warm days of brotherhood and friendship—their vividness now faded in hearts and their horizons now darkened—I seem to be witnessing the face of someone walking towards death or the state of a building that has decayed and will soon be demolished. In my helplessness, I just react by moaning and trying to cool down my heart. When a feeling, a thought, an understanding, and a philosophy has been targeted so cruelly, how can it survive and continue to fulfill its goal? Those who observe the events with some common sense can pass a judgment on this.
The claims were groundless, the assault was merciless, the commotion was frightening, the campaign was planned, the conspiracy was satanic, and the targets of all these activities were friendship, brotherhood, and love. It was another invasion, and values were destroyed. Regardless of how sensibly the people acted, something broke off from their hearts, and the trust people had for one another was shaken to a great extent. After this terrifying noise and commotion, people would not be able to love one another as before, trust one another, come together comfortably; or, if they did come together, they would not be able to embrace one another as sincerely as before. Gatherings would no longer witness an exchange of smiles, people would not be able to shake hands in heartfelt ways, hearts would not be able to beat with compassion, and those days of warmth would fall in defeat to a strange February cold. This means that the door of each heart would not be open to everyone with the same warmth, eyes would become stingy with smiles, and lips would not murmur love.
It was as if the dreams for the future were finished, fantasies of unison and togetherness were destroyed, the lights of hope in hearts were extinguished, and breaths whispering safety were stopped. May God not show this strange silence again. Everything seemed to have surrendered to an anxiety-laden hush… These chilling pictures pass before my eyes several times a day, and I am being bent over and moan about the beautiful things that had been gained but are now labeled contemptible—things such as the love that had been broken into pieces and scattered right and left, human relationships, tolerance, dialogue, and understanding one another. I am moaning about the sabotage of the successes that had been achieved through very serious efforts; the ripping and tearing of that atmosphere of love; conflict among different segments of society flaring up again; enmity and hatred coming and dominating the scene; love, mercy, compassion, and hope for the future being driven away from door after door; and hostility once again rising up. I imagine myself writhing with pain and shudder at the tombstone of many beautiful things that have been killed.
However, in spite of this much evil and betrayal to what was once achieved, there are indications that those beautiful days will return and will be given back. It is like a building, half of which has been blown off or like an incomplete verse of poetry; yet there are so many lights on the roads we walk that inspire us with determination to restart construction or to excite the pen one more time. Every piece remaining from the world of hope that was destroyed and thrown aside seems to say, “Rely on God, hold onto hard work, submit to the divine wisdom / If there is a road, it is this; I know of no other way out” (Akif). Actually, the current situation is like a broken dream. This upsets me a lot, and I resent the things that are being done. However, since the path we follow is the path of the people, regardless of what we are subjected to, we are determined to meet everything that happens to us with patience and acceptance. As we envision in our soul the happy tomorrows of our society, we will reform our yearning and sadness with the joy of living for others; we will try to give this journey its due.
Some bigoted ideas have reduced our road to a rough trail; still, as long as there exists greenery swaying all around us, we will continue to love everyone. Indeed, we will continue this love, for there are friends on the road who trigger in our hearts the excitement to move forward; people who are open to dialogue with their most humane feelings and who continue to shake hands, embrace, and throw smiles around; consciences that recognize sin; spirits that regret mistakes; and minds that want to build the future on common sense and reason. We will once again gather together the damaged systems of our spirits, and, saying “one more time,” we will continue to love everyone.
Those feelings and thoughts, wilted by artificial dirges heard from almost all sides, will be reinvigorated when the season comes, and the music of spring will be once again heard everywhere.
In view of this much ruination, destruction, and fall—and urged by what my faith necessitates me to do—I have tried to voice a cry of persecution and inspire a feeling of determination and revival. I nurture the hope that my expectations will each be considered a prayer offered to the One, the Provider of needs.
 Qarmatians were a rebellious group that emerged in the tenth century from a group of Ismaili Shiites. They went as far as to desecrate the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, killed thousands of pilgrim Muslims, and shook the Abbasid regime. They mustered some strength and ruled over some of the Middle East until the mid-eleventh century, when they were forced to surrender.
 Having adopted an extremist doctrine in the first century of Islam, Khawarijs assassinated Ali, the fourth Caliph, and violently terrorized the stability of the Islamic state.