Fethullah Gülen’s approach to Qur’anic exegesis

quranic fethullah gulen

1. Introduction

Muslim exegetical endeavor in the modern period is a most interesting topic. The last two centuries have witnessed a period of great effort in scrutinizing new attitudes towards the interpretation of the Qur’an among contemporary Muslim intellectuals. Nonetheless, we must admit that many of these works do not cover the exegetical literature in various vernacular languages. Turkish exegesis of the Qur’an constitutes one of the most important missing parts of this literature.[4] In this chapter, we will focus on the exegetical works of Fethullah Gülen, one of the most influential Turkish scholars of recent times. Although Fethullah Gülen has not written a complete exegesis on the Qur’an, we will refer to his important exegetical works to show where he stands in relation to diverse modern Muslim scholarship on the Qur’an. This chapter will examine Fethullah Gülen’s re-reading of the Qur’anic text, his approach to the nature and status of the Qur’an as divine revelation, the notions of abrogation, clear (muhkam) and allegorical (mutashābih) verses, thematic unity among the chapters and verses of the Qur’an, Qur’anic narratives and the occasion of revelation. The main questions that we will tackle in this context are: what is the difference between Fethullah Gülen’s reading of the Qur’an and that of his counterparts adhering to both classical and modern approaches? Does Fethullah Gülen offer a new reading differing from others, or does he follow very well established exegetical traditions? How does he deal with modern sciences and ongoing scientific developments in relation to Qur’anic verses? Do Muslims need a new type of hermeneutics in their interpretation of the Qur’an?

2. Fethullah Gülen’s view of the nature and status of the Qur’an

In order to properly evaluate Fethullah Gülen’s exegetical approach, it is important to look at his general opinions on the nature and status of the Qur’an. We primarily focus here on his opinions about the nature of the Qur’an, the notion of revelation, its place in primordial existence, the epistemic value of the Qur’an, its universality, its authority or power in forming Muslim societies, and the role played by the Qur’an in defining the relationship between God and the creation, and as a consequence, the relationship between human beings and the universe.

There are significant similarities between Fethullah Gülen’s approaches to the above-mentioned issues and the approach of classical and modern Muslim scholars. Despite these similarities, the discourse produced by Fethullah Gülen is quite different from both his modern and classical counterparts. Moreover, we come across a variety of additional information in Fethullah Gülen’s accounts. First of all, Fethullah Gülen states that the Qur’an is a unique book that preserves its divine origin. It comes directly from the everlasting “Speech” attribute (kalam) of God and therefore, the Qur’an is the eternal Word of God. Nonetheless, Fethullah Gülen notes that God’s speech is different from the speech of His creatures, and human beings are not able to comprehend all dimensions of His speech. Following the Maturidi school of thought, he provides detailed information about inner speech (kalam al-nafsī) and outer speech (kalam al- lafzī). In normal speech we see letters, words, sentences etc. This speech is channeled into letters, words, and sentences and becomes spoken words, the kalam al- lafzī. There is another type of speech that is not spoken with sound but is spoken as inner speech to oneself; this is called kalam al-nafsī.[5] Fethullah Gülen gives many examples of inner speech from the Qur’an such as the Prophet Joseph’s speech about his brothers in verse 12:77. “They said: If he has stolen – well, a brother of his stole before. But Joseph (endured their false accusation in silence and) held it secret in his soul and did not disclose it them. He said (to himself): ‘You are indeed in a bad situation (now and say so). God has full knowledge of what you allege.”’[6] Fethullah Gülen believes that whenever the Qur’an is heard, listened to, recited or written down, Muslims understand the inner meanings in the outer words and sentences. For instance, when a Muslim reads the verse inna alladhīna kafarū (those who disbelieve …), the expression inna is composed of a hamza and a nūn. When we state or write them, we simultaneously see the existence of this kalam al-nafsī (inner speech) in the kalam al- lafzī format, and feel the weight of the Divine Word.[7] Therefore, Muslims never tire of repeating the Qur’an. Even if they get bored with the literal word and meaning of the Qur’an, they never become tired of its inner meaning. In short, we may not be able to point to this indefinite nature of the inner speech (the meaning), but we always sense it.

According to Fethullah Gülen, one cannot express pleasure with this inner meaning, whatever is said can only be amazement or astonishment.[8] Fethullah Gülen’s explanation of the nature of the Qur’an is worth examining. Clearly, he considers the inner meaning, which is embedded in the letters and words of the Qur’an, as essential. He also puts great emphasis on the incomprehensible nature of this meaning.[9] With this approach he raises his objection to two schools of thought. On the one hand, he criticizes the Mu’tazilites who hold that the speaker is the creator of the word; on the other hand, he rejects the idea of the Kharijites who claim that the Word of God is composed of letters and sounds. In conclusion Fethullah Gülen considers the Qur’an as the most precious eternal diamond of the lawh al-mahfūz (Guarded Tablets).[10]

Another important topic relating to the nature of the Qur’an is the notion of wahy (revelation). Fethullah Gülen is very cautious about several issues relating to the Qur’anic revelation such as the way in which the Prophet received the revelation, the difference between revelation and inspiration, the effects of the revelation on him, recording of the revelation, etc. Fethullah Gülen states that the manifestation of revelation in the form of Qur’anic scripture is the most suitable way to convey the message of God. He also adds that this type of revelation corresponds to the level of human understanding.[11]

Having followed the classical definition of the term wahy (revelation), Fethullah Gülen points out the richness of the meaning of this term in Arabic. Moreover, he frequently draws attention to the Prophet’s reception of the revelation. Although the Qur’an and Prophetic traditions give extensive information about the difficult nature of this process, Fethullah Gülen claims that because the Prophet is the only person who has experienced the revelation, he is the one who knows the exact details of this difficult experience. Revelation’s unique association with the Prophet makes its detailed comprehension impossible for others.[12] Nevertheless, Fethullah Gülen cautiously explains the process of revelation with an example:

For instance, receptors transfer the signal of the alphabets of Morse into everyday letters and words. Every signal is equal to the specific letter. A person who uses this receptor knows which sign is equal to which letter. In order to make the process of revelation understandable, we can use this comparison. Briefly, (may God forgive my analogy) God puts thousands of the spiritual receptors inside the nature of the Prophet to allow him to receive every divine signal as a specific word.[13]

In addition, Fethullah Gülen argues that it is not wise to claim that revelation came to the Prophet as meaning and the Prophet himself put these meanings into the form of letters (words).[14] Furthermore, Fethullah Gülen adds to the discussion by saying that because of the complete match between the receiver and the received, there is no single anecdote in the Qur’an and traditions recorded of the Prophet asking God to repeat verses while receiving them from Him. In short, denying the Divine origin of the Qur’an and reducing revelation to the limits of human understanding is an alien notion, in Fethullah Gülen’s understanding.[15] On the basis of the verse (42:51) “It is not fitting for a man that God should speak to him except by inspiration or from behind a veil, or by the sending of a messenger to reveal, with God’s permission, what God wills: for He is Most High, Most Wise,” Fethullah Gülen also argues that all the Prophets before the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, received their messages in a similar way. According to him, the word wahy connotes objectivity and this is the main difference between revelation (wahy) and inspiration (ilhām). In other words, inspiration is subjective, open to interpretation, without witnesses, and not binding; whereas revelation is subjective but binding and confirmed by witnesses. Although both revelation and inspiration come from God, the receiver of the inspiration never communicates with the Angel Gabriel.[16]

It is also noteworthy that Fethullah Gülen frequently uses two important Qur’anic concepts to show the distinct nature of Qur’anic revelation. The first one is the word furqān, which signifies the difference, uniqueness, and exceptional status of the Qur’an. In Fethullah Gülen’s theology, this means that human beings are not the Creator or sender of the revelation; therefore, they are supposed to serve their Lord.[17] The second Qur’anic term is qarin (the close one). Fethullah Gülen explains that this term identifies the relationship between God and human beings through the Qur’an. To put it another way, believers will come close to God via the Qur’an and when they come close to God, their knowledge and wisdom will automatically increase.[18]

Because of the strong association of Qur’anic revelation with the speech of God, Fethullah Gülen constantly asserts that the Qur’an itself is a blessing. Like Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, Fethullah Gülen reiterates that the Qur’an is a book of wisdom, ritual, law, prayer, contemplation, reflection, etc.[19] Because the Qur’an is a divine manifestation, Fethullah Gülen considers the Qur’an extremely important within the circular and interdependent relationship of the universe, human beings, and the Qur’an. Fethullah Gülen points out that the universe is the universe of God (kāināt Allah), the Qur’an is the Book of God (kitāb Allah), and a human being is the servant of God (ibād Allah). One of the common themes among these three entities is God (Allah) who manifested Himself in the Qur’an.[20] The attributes of God can only be known fully through this eternal speech of God. For Fethullah Gülen, the Qur’an is the brightest and most enduring miracle of the Prophet. Its language and style are beyond any description and any rules of ethics, morality, social relations and law that contain the basis of modern disciplines and sciences. Strictly speaking, Fethullah Gülen considers the Qur’an to be the shortest way to God. It is an endless source of solutions to many modern problems. So Fethullah Gülen holds the view that it is the Book from which one cannot stay away.[21]

Fethullah Gülen’s approach to the Qur’an might be reminiscent of a kind of traditional reading of the Qur’an, but in fact it is not. He simply refers to various dimensions that we can reach via the Qur’an. For a sound and authentic communication, Fethullah Gülen points out the necessity for a strong connection between the sender and receiver of the message. If there is no harmony between them, there is no relationship.[22] In various places Fethullah Gülen states that the Qur’an is a very jealous text, if you do not hold it firmly or open yourself to it completely, it is quite difficult to benefit from it.[23] The crux of the matter, according to Fethullah Gülen, lies in the correct understanding of the Qur’anic status that facilitates a relationship between human beings and God. Fethullah Gülen never sees the Qur’an as a neutral, theoretical or descriptive book, but a way of life and a prescriptive text that shapes individuals and societies. Fethullah Gülen expresses dissatisfaction with the kind of analysis that deals with the Qur’an solely on an epistemological basis. He argues that there are various levels of relationship between human beings and the Qur’an. One of them is the notion of guidance. He believes that the Qur’an is primarily a book of guidance. It is the determiner while the human, as its object, is the determined one. This perception indicates that if we accept the Qur’an as the Word of God, it means that we automatically accept that its messages are contemporary.

This point brings us to another notion, namely the universality of the Qur’an. Although the Qur’an is revealed within a known historical context, it is generally considered both as a historical and an unhistorical oral text. Fethullah Gülen thinks that if there was no Qur’an, there would be no real and valid judgments for eternity.[24] From this one should not conclude that Fethullah Gülen thinks that the Qur’an provides a legal rule for every single event or conveys a general law applicable to all local issues. For him, one of the faults of this approach is making the Qur’an solely an ethical book or a judicial book. Fethullah Gülen’s emphasis on the universality of the Qur’an is far removed from this kind of reductionism. For instance, when Fethullah Gülen comments on the verse 21:30: “Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before We clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?” He reiterates that the Qur’an uses the expression kafarū (who did not believe) not only to describe Bedouins who tried to understand the stars with their naked eyes but also to address modern faithless human beings who close their eyes to the truth.[25]

Fethullah Gülen’s frequent emphasis on the status of the Qur’an goes even further as he says that every Muslim should consider the Qur’an as if it is being revealed to him or her unceasingly. This is the first step for understanding the universality of the Qur’an.[26] Fethullah Gülen considers memorization a superficial act if the Qur’an does not allow the person who committed it to memory to re-think and re-shape his life.[27] Thus, one should read the Qur’an as if one is listening to it from God, the Angel Gabriel, and the Messenger of God.[28] As well as stressing the external dynamics of the Qur’anic recitation (competence with the language of the Qur’an, recitation in accordance with the rules of tajwīd etc.), Fethullah Gülen regularly emphasizes the necessity of serious engagement with the Qur’an, entering the mysterious world of the verses, and internalizing their meanings from the bottom of one’s heart. He also draws attention to the importance of reciting the Qur’an with immense sensitivity and humility.[29]

3. General approach to exegesis

In this section we are going to analyze Fethullah Gülen’s general attitude towards exegesis. His evaluation of traditional and rational exegesis and the issue of Qur’anic translation will also be discussed. Finally we will focus on the notion of tanāsub (harmony among the verses and chapters of the Qur’an).

3.1. Fethullah Gülen’s evaluation of exegesis

Fethullah Gülen frequently states that being the word of God does not contradict the Qur’an’s revelation in Arabic. The Qur’an itself refers to this fact several times. Two broad approaches to exegesis have been adopted by many commentators, namely textual and historical analysis of the Qur’an since the formative period of exegesis. Fethullah Gülen summarizes his own understanding of exegesis as follows:

Exegesis is produced in order to understand a text. From the Qur’anic perspective, this task is carried out via linguistic and literary analysis together with intertextuality, Prophetic traditions, and exegetical reports. In addition to all these, one also needs the light of the heart and the mind (faith) in his interpretation of the Qur’an. If the exegetes place stress on historical analysis, it is described as traditional (riwāyah), if priority is given to linguistic analysis, it is called rational exegesis (dirāyah).[30]

Fethullah Gülen discusses various exegetes whose works are classified under above stated categories. He mentions, for example, Tabarī, Samarqandī, Zamakhsharī, Rāzī, Baydāwī, Ibn Kathīr, Suyūtī, Ālūsī and some Ottoman commentators such as Abu al-Suūd, Kamalpashazādah, Muhammad Hamdi Yazır and Konyalı Vehbi.[31] While referring to continuous exegetical traditions, he also draws attention to some exegetical schools. Be that as it may, Fethullah Gülen, as a man of via media, always keeps the balance between dirāyah and riwāyah in his exegesis. In contrast to some modern thinkers who criticize the insistence of the classical exegetical works on many reports, textual analysis and specific references to detailed linguistic information, Fethullah Gülen unhesitatingly borrows methodologies from this classical heritage. For instance, we come across references in Fethullah Gülen’s Qur’anic interpretation dealing with whether a word has a definite article or not, whether the objects are prioritized or delayed, whether the verb is transitive or intransitive (i.e., the structure of the verb) as well as the meaning of the conjunctions, derivations, and many other linguistic issues. The verb ihdinā (guide us to the right path) in verse 1:5 is a good example of his methodology. Fethullah Gülen states that the verb hidāyah is mentioned in both transitive and intransitive forms. Therefore the meaning of the word changes according to its usage. Briefly, for Fethullah Gülen there are two types of guidance: with an intermediary and without an intermediary (without any means). Fethullah Gülen says that despite the presence of every possible intermediary, one cannot obtain guidance, whereas sometimes one can be guided without any assistance. Fethullah Gülen derives this interpretation from the linguistic nature of the word which is both transitive and intransitive according to its usage.[32]

Fethullah Gülen is not a simple imitator of past exegeses. He sometimes criticizes these exegetes, offering alternative interpretations.[33] According to Fethullah Gülen, there are three levels of meaning in the text: lafzī (literal meaning), aqlī (to understand some realities in the text intellectually), and finally dhawqī (goes beyond the text so as to understand, experience or to “taste” the meaning).[34] Elsewhere Fethullah Gülen explains that the Qur’an addresses people’s straightforward understanding, their minds as well as their hearts, and their inner spiritual faculties such as sirr, khafa, and akhfa.[35] If there is no contradiction in the text in relation to these levels of understanding, this text is a complete text. Fethullah Gülen argues that since the Qur’anic text is an accurate text, its interpretation should also be carried out properly.[36] At this point it is worth mentioning that unlike many modern thinkers, Fethullah Gülen lays down an undisputed condition for the correct understanding of the Qur’an, namely powerful faith in God. In order to feel every level of Qur’anic meaning, this essential element is a sine qua non of the exegetes.[37] Moreover, he also suggests that currently the interpretation of the Qur’an is beyond the skills of individuals and that it requires the collective effort of experts from various sciences.[38]

3.2. Translation of the Qur’an

Another important issue regarding the Qur’an in the modern era is the translation of the Qur’an into various vernaculars. Fethullah Gülen’s thinking on the translation of the Qur’an is full of insight. If someone studies Fethullah Gülen’s partial translation of the Qur’an in his written and oral works, one will see the significance of his approach to the subject matter. Bearing in mind the notion of i’jāz (inimitability) and ījāz (precision), Fethullah Gülen sees the Qur’an as a unique text. He claims that not only the content, but also the style of the Qur’an is a miracle. Using classical arguments Fethullah Gülen explains that the Qur’an is a miracle from three perspectives: nazm (composition), jazālah (beauty of diction − purity of speech) and tanāsub (harmony among the chapters and verses of the Qur’an).[39] On the basis of these notions Fethullah Gülen considers the Qur’an as the easiest book to read, even though it is absolutely impossible to produce anything similar to Qur’anic text.[40] Thus Fethullah Gülen believes that it is almost impossible to translate such a multi-dimensional text. Fethullah Gülen also argues that translation does not do justice to the Qur’anic text because a perfect translation should simultaneously include clarity (sarāhat) and inference (dalālah), summary (ijmāl) and detailed explanation (tafsīl), particular (khusūs) and general (umūm) meanings, unconditional (itlāq) and restricted (muqayyad) implications.[41] In fact, it is impossible to achieve everything in a translation.

Fethullah Gülen’s skepticism concerning the translation of the Qur’an is not limited to the above-mentioned arguments. Today, deficiencies introduced from various perspectives in the translations show that an exact translation of the Qur’an is impossible. Because of this limitation Fethullah Gülen insists on reading some kind of explanatory translation rather than literal translations. He also strongly advises that these explanatory translations should be carried out by experts who are familiar with the literary eloquence of the Arabic language. In addition, Fethullah Gülen explains that every translation should pass through the filters of major Islamic disciplines such as exegesis, Islamic jurisprudence, theology, and Prophetic tradition.[42] Moreover, he suggests translators benefit from cultural, sociological, psychological, anthropological, and communications research. These sciences can make important contributions to achieving a complementary meaning. Fethullah Gülen also argues that Muslims who are knowledgeable in Arabic and Islamic sciences should read some explanatory translations but ordinary Muslims should be directed to the exegetical works rather than studying the Qur’an from mere translations. The reason for Fethullah Gülen’s disapproval is quite clear since there are many mistakes in current translations. Fethullah Gülen draws attention to some dogmatic and literary mistakes in modern Turkish translations.[43] He also criticizes many Turkish translations in terms of their poor language. This is quite a complicated issue, but many Arabic words are already used in Turkish and it is difficult to translate some common Qur’anic terms into pure Turkish.[44] Fethullah Gülen also expresses his dissatisfaction with the translations of some specific names such as al-rahman and al-rahim as well as other names of God.[45]

3.3. The notion of tanāsub

There is another important issue that comes to fore in modern exegesis, the notion of tanāsub (harmony among the verses and chapters of the Qur’an). According to classical exegetes, this is the most prestigious science in Qur’anic exegesis although very few commentators have paid it sufficient attention.[46] Bearing in mind that the Qur’an was revealed over a period of twenty-three years, some scholars have questioned the existence of the notion of tanāsub in the Qur’an, while others have praised it as an important exegetical device. However, Western scholars’ criticism of Qur’anic text from the point of view of thematic and chronological order in particular, have recently encouraged a great number of modern Muslims to look at this issue in detail. Fethullah Gülen, like many modern commentators, uses this exegetical device frequently, but not as a reaction to the Western scholars or classical scholars. In his article entitled “Eternal Music,” Fethullah Gülen explains why he concentrates on the notion of tanāsub: “The Qur’anic verses and chapters are not collected randomly; they are arranged according to Prophetic order, tawqīfī.[47] This approach lets Fethullah Gülen explore the Qur’an to find the strong relationship between the verses and chapters as if they were all revealed at the same time and were concerned with one specific topic.[48] Thus, according to Fethullah Gülen, reading the Qur’an without referring to the previous and following sections or passages, but concentrating on similar narratives located in different chapters leads the reader to error.[49] While explaining the relationship between the opening chapter and the following chapters of the Qur’an Fethullah Gülen states that:

The relationship between Sūrah Fātiha and other Sūrahs is very interesting. On the one hand Fātiha stands in the Qur’an like a lonely star in the sky which has no connection with other stars and planets; on the other hand, it looks like a sun which has a strong relationship with the other stars and planets. Stars look like Qur’anic chapters and verses because one of the meanings of the verses of the Qur’an is najm (star). Like the stars of the sky which have close but different relationships among them, Qur’anic verses also have very strong, but at the same time different connections with each other.[50]

Fethullah Gülen focuses on not only the relationship between verses and chapters but also the relationship between words and letters. In addition, he sometimes gives detailed information about the ending of verses that are called fawāsil.[51] In conclusion, Fethullah Gülen finds a very interesting affiliation between verses and chapters. The reason for his concentration on the notion of tanāsub can be associated with his theological understanding of Qur’anic text, and to some extent, his relationship to Muslim exegetical traditions.

4. Issues related to the methodology of exegesis

In this subheading we will focus on some methodological issues related to Fethullah Gülen’s understanding of exegesis. First of all, we will deal with the notion of asbāb al-nuzūl (occasions of revelation), and then we will discuss the status of Qur’anic narratives and isrāīliyyāt (non-Islamic materials in Qur’anic exegesis) reports. We will also concentrate on very important hermeneutical devices in Muslim exegetical traditions, namely the notion of naskh (abrogation), muhkam and mutashābih (clear and allegorical verses of the Qur’an).

4.1. Asbāb al-nuzūl (occasions of revelation)

For classical exegesis, various reports of the occasion of revelation are very important hermeneutical devices for the interpretation of the Qur’an. Despite the high esteem with which these reports are held by classical scholars, pre-modern Muslim intellectuals have criticized them and argued that they are the main hindrance to understanding the Qur’an. Thus they express skepticism about the origin and authenticity of these reports. One of the leading thinkers to first raise the issue in the pre-modern period is Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan. He complained that the majority of the reports[52] are weak or inauthentic, and many are not directly related to the interpretation of the subject matter of the verse. He insisted on deriving the historical context of the verse directly from Qur’anic presentation, qarīna haliyyah.[53] Recently, modern Muslim Qur’anic scholarship has rediscovered the importance of these reports. The motives for such an interest stem from different aims. In particular, because of the influence of Western historical criticism, they have developed new approaches in defining the relationship between revelation and the events that occurred during the twenty-three-year period of the revelation. First of all, they generally argue that the Companions never perceived the Qur’an as a book, even though it was written down though not compiled as an ordered text. Furthermore, the dialogue between God and man during the period of revelation was so lively and immediate that people were mostly aware of the occasions of revelation. To put it another way, the Companions did not try to understand the Qur’an on the basis of textual analysis, but followed Qur’anic teachings and put what they had learnt into practice immediately. Modern Muslims asked whether the instructions that are provided in the Qur’an should be followed regardless of time, place, and circumstances. Because many of these scholars reduced the Qur’an to being only an essential religious and ethical Scripture, they claimed that if the real purpose (or cause/ illah) of the verse(s) was found, one might be justified in going beyond its literal meaning.[54]

According to Fethullah Gülen, reports of the occasions of revelation are also important, but he finds the modernists’ frequent emphasis on the reports of the occasions of revelation exaggerated, and consequently he tries to limit the role of occasion in understanding the Qur’an. Fethullah Gülen does not consider the occasion of revelation (sabab nuzūl) as the occasion of existence (sabab wujūd).[55] The connection between condition (sabab) and revelation (nuzūl) is not a sine qua non relation. According to Fethullah Gülen, it is incorrect to argue that if there is no occasion (sabab) there will be no revelation (musabbab).[56] In fact, due to its considerable theological connotation, instead of using the expression sabab al-nuzūl, Fethullah Gülen, prefers to use sabab al-iqtirān, which means that although God will send the verse(s), because of His divine wisdom, His revelation comes down in connection to a particular point in time.[57] Nonetheless, he sees the relationship between occasion and revelation from a hermeneutical point of view; namely, the occasion of revelation is an auxiliary means in the interpretation of Qur’anic verses.[58] Furthermore, Fethullah Gülen highlights the fact that many verses in the Qur’an were revealed on no specific occasion. This clearly indicates that events (conditions) in seventh-century Arabia did not determine the incidence of revelation; but on the contrary, revelation determined or shaped events. In addition, those verses that came as a direct response to specific questions should not be considered as answers to those specific queries. We can state this issue in the famous technical formula: the specific nature of the sabab (occasion) does not hinder the generality of the rule. Fethullah Gülen frequently uses this rule in his exegesis. He believes in this rule’s dynamism and that it conveys the message of the Qur’an in a timeless manner. For instance, regarding the interpretation of the verse 2:114 “And who is more unjust than he who forbids that in places for the worship of God, His name should be celebrated? …” Fethullah Gülen comments that:

Considering the occasion of revelation of this verse, it is generally stated that the verse targets those who prevented the Jewish people from reaching the temple in Jerusalem for prayer. However, if adhered to strictly, this interpretation narrows the scope of the verse. Once, Meccan pagans tortured and prohibited the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, from praying at the Ka‘bah. Consequently, this verse addresses every tyrant who hinders or impedes believers from praying in their places for worship.[59]

Although there are many other relevant examples, the limitations of space require us to focus on Fethullah Gülen’s understanding of other important features of the occasion of revelation. One of the significant aspects of these reports is to demonstrate to believers to what extent the combination of theory and praxis is important in Islam.[60] In addition, Fethullah Gülen considers these reports as databases for understanding the background of some verses. He explains that, just as with those who first heard the Qur’an, these reports provide later generations of Muslims with the means to grasp the meaning of the verse with vivid understanding of the context of the event.[61] Moreover, he regards the verses which begin with the formula “if they ask you, say …” as the most important evidence of the vitality of the occasion of revelation.[62] Fethullah Gülen points out that even God Himself, who knows everything and every event better than anyone else, refers to the specific occasion of revelation to convey a general message to a mass audience. Fethullah Gülen conveys these reports in various ways; sometimes he only mentions the report and makes no further comment (e.g., 18:28, 33:5 and 93:4), whereas sometimes he narrates these reports while warning his readers not to limit the meaning of the verses with these reports (e.g., 5:54[63] and 36:20.[64]) Fethullah Gülen adds that if a scholar cannot widen the scope of a verse or interpret it in various ways; he should not be considered a real faqīh (not in the sense of jurist, but meaning a person who has a deep understanding of Islam).[65] His comment on verse 36:20 displays this approach clearly: no matter that the verse in question concerns unbelievers, hypocrites or Jews and Christians, whether its occasion of revelation indicates this or that event, environment or people, we should find a connection between the verse and our own conditions, personality or environment.[66] For Fethullah Gülen this is the unique way to be continuously addressed by the Qur’an. Finally, he points out some verses that cannot be understood without reference to the occasion of revelation such as verse 87:9.[67] Having used linguistic and historical anecdotes Fethullah Gülen concludes that the verse says, “Advise them because your advice will definitely benefit them.” In this case the occasion of revelation is important in capturing the spirit of the Qur’an.

4.2. Qur’anic narratives and the notion of isrāīliyyāt

Qur’anic narratives constitute more than one third of the Qur’an and therefore, every Qur’anic student has to consider them. In the modern period there are two important issues concerning Qur’anic narratives; historical truthfulness and their interpretation in the light of isrāīliyyāt reports. Recently, some contemporary scholars have questioned the historic veracity of these narratives, and conclude that there is no obligation to think that these stories are historical facts. They are presented in the Qur’an as a fiction to provide strength to early Muslims at a distressing and hopeless time.[68] Others use various ways to rationalize their contents rather than denying their historical authenticity.[69] Expressing his dissatisfaction with both approaches, Fethullah Gülen reveals that he has no doubt about the historical accuracy of Qur’anic narratives. He claims that in order to deny the historical truthfulness of these stories, some people choose an unwise understanding by equating them to metaphors or similes. In fact for Fethullah Gülen, these stories are very vivid and have been taken directly from the lives of people now deceased. Similarly, Fethullah Gülen argues that nobody has the right to deny their historical accuracy by examining them through the lens of symbolism.[70]

Nonetheless, he gives very important clues regarding the manner in which one should approach Qur’anic narratives. First of all, he strongly asks the reader to enter the heart of the dialogue and narration of these stories and apply them to their own lives. Thus, he states that if contemporary Muslims perceive the characters in these narratives as significant figures mentioned in Qur’anic narratives, in the same way as Prophets and saints who lived a long time ago, one never gets real benefit from these stories. According to Fethullah Gülen, Muslims have to bring these accounts into their own daily lives, they have to internalize these figures and most importantly, they have to draw lessons from their stories within the confines of Qur’anic presentations and as far as Qur’anic narrative allows them to do so.[71] Fethullah Gülen holds the view that the main purpose of these stories is to reveal to believers a small part of the universal rules that will persist until the Day of Judgment.[72] At this stage, according to Fethullah Gülen, it is important to note that the reader should ask not only about the meaning of the narrative, but also about the effect of that narrative in their life. Fethullah Gülen’s interpretation of the verse (18:94)[73] is very illustrative. This verse talks about how Gog and Magog spoiled the land. Consequently weak people asked Dhu al-Qarnayn to set a barrier between them and Gog and Magog. Fethullah Gülen says that this barrier may be interpreted as the Great Wall of China or the Iron door in Caucasia. However, when we look at the issue in the light of other verses, it is difficult to identify it as a specific barrier only. It really needs additional serious study. Indeed, we need to look at the people behind the barrier rather than focusing on the barrier itself. As long as society stands firm with powerful and dynamic spiritual and ethical values, it will avoid Gog and Magog’s sedition and disruption. Fethullah Gülen also disputes the possible meaning of the verse and says that the main features of just rulers and the conditions for the continuity of states and similar questions should be considered in this particular narrative. Otherwise, we only achieve the narration of a story from the depths of the historical record. Indeed, the benefit of this story to the reader would be very limited.[74]

Similarly, after giving a brief account of the Prophet’s meeting with jinn in the interpretation of the verse 72:1−2,[75] Fethullah Gülen argues that the Prophet’s experience of living in a complex and intricate physical and metaphysical world is beyond our understanding. Moreover, it is also beyond the realms of our responsibility to discuss the issue. What is important for us to concentrate on are the lessons that we can derive from the knowledge that the Prophet’ message incorporates the group of jinn.[76] Concerning the people of Jonah in verse 10:98,[77] Fethullah Gülen also displays his view about what is important in the Qur’anic narrative: “No matter where these people live, whether in Mosul, the village of Nineveh, or any other place, it does not change the result. The crux of the topic here is to re-evaluate God’s warning and circumstantial evidence in the verse and to continually guard against any possible danger on this path.”[78]

From time to time he gives detailed analysis of the narrative to shed light on our current situation. To do so, he takes every element such as time, space, characters, and the social, political, and geographical conditions of the event into consideration.[79] This analysis allows him to make further comment on various contemporary issues. The Qur’anic verse 36:20 is worth mentioning in this regard, “Then there came running, from the farthest part of the city, a man, saying ‘O my people obey the messengers.’” Basing his view on the exegesis of classical commentaries, Fethullah Gülen elucidates the expression aqsā al-madīnah in his work. Briefly, he states that various exegetes interpret this expression in three ways; the remote part of the city, the upper class of the society and finally, influential people. Fethullah Gülen, without implying his preference, concludes that the man mentioned in the verse came from a remote part of the city where rich and aristocratic people lived as if they distanced themselves from the local way of life and its belief.[80] He sometimes displays his preferences concerning rival interpretations of the narrative on the basis of a variety of textual and contextual evidence. In the interpretation of verses 11:70−71,[81] Fethullah Gülen deals with the question of why Sarah (wife of the Prophet Abraham) was standing while her husband’s guests were giving him good news. Having mentioned four possibilities, he inclines to the last one, and notes that when she heard she was going to give birth despite being an older woman, she began to menstruate. Following on from this comment Fethullah Gülen never neglects saying that God knows best.

With regard to the isrāīliyyāt reports it is safe to assume that he takes a quite different approach from many modernist Qur’anic readers. Fethullah Gülen thinks that isrāīliyyāt reports are neither completely true nor completely false. Therefore, we sometimes see isrāīliyyāt reports in his exegesis. However, there are other accounts of isrāīliyyāt which he criticizes severely. He does not remain silent when he comes across isrāīliyyāt reports concerning Prophetic immunity from sin or any report that distorts a vital Islamic understanding. The criteria for the acceptance of these reports lie behind their conformity to Qur’anic narratives. For instance, in his explanation of Surah Naml (Ant), he says that modern thinkers should investigate the wisdom and significance of why this Surah begins with hurūf muqatta’ah (detached letters) and focus on the latest scientific developments in the study of ants. But if they forget the real purpose of God and start discussing whether it is a red or black ant or other details, the main aims behind the literal meanings of the verses disappear or die gradually.[82] Furthermore, in his exegesis he rigorously criticizes the people who use isrāīliyyāt as a tool to satisfy their own desires. While he is dealing with Korah in verse 28:76,[83] he says that some commentators attempt to find a kinship between Moses and Korah. Then he argues that the main reason for promoting this relationship is to show that despite Korah’s closeness to Moses, he never benefited from such a great Prophet. In fact, there is no single explanation in the Qur’an and Prophetic tradition to justify their connection as relatives.[84]

As stated above, Fethullah Gülen never provides the opportunity for any dogmatic misunderstanding in his exegetical approaches. His comment on verse 12:24[85] is very important in this context. Fethullah Gülen argues that some commentators hold the view that the Prophet Joseph is free from every kind of human inclination, desires or lust as if he were not human, while others portray him as a person who suffers the pressure of these desires. Fethullah Gülen, as an advocate of the middle way, says neither point of view is correct. According to Fethullah Gülen, Joseph had desires but he was able to control them with his Prophetic determination under the guidance of God.[86] At the same time, he rejects all reports and interpretations that either deify or ascribe inferior status to the Prophet Joseph.

We rarely come across references to the Scriptures of the People of the Book and isrāīliyyāt in his explanation.[87] Fethullah Gülen’s approach reflects his sincerity in preferring the mode of a more sensitive classical exegetical tradition rather than being resistant to these types of reports for political or ideological reasons.[88] Furthermore, exegesis as an Islamic discipline is more flexible than any other basic Islamic science such as Islamic law, theology or Prophetic tradition. Instead of dwelling only on asl (origin and authenticity) in exegetical reports, experts from the past to the present focus on fasl (moral lessons). So Fethullah Gülen sees no problem in following in their footsteps.

4.3. The notion of naskh (abrogation)

The denial of the phenomenon of abrogation in the Qur’an during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is another important aspect of modern exegesis. When we look at Fethullah Gülen’s exegetical works, we see that he does not engage much with important verses related to the notion of naskh. It seems that he does not want to focus on such a technical issue in his general works. Nonetheless, in his other works he deals with the notion of abrogation from different angles. Instead of concentrating on the types of naskh, their number in the Qur’an, its relation to the Qur’an and sunnah, he prefers to look at the issue from a broader perspective. First of all, Fethullah Gülen finds the theory of abrogation very meaningful. Thus discussion about whether the naskh really exists in the Qur’an is unimportant for Fethullah Gülen. His only concern is to draw a big picture about the question of what naskh really is. In a similar way to Said Nursi,[89] Fethullah Gülen gives primary importance to verse 13:39: “God erases whatever He wills, and establishes (whatever He wills). With Him is the source of ordinance.” This verse illustrates how Fethullah Gülen sees the notion of abrogation. For Fethullah Gülen, abrogation is not a simple hermeneutical device of jurists, but it is an eternal law of God in the realm of human life. Abrogation is the name of every change in our life and universe. It is related to cultures, economies, social life, animate and inanimate creatures, and is also related to their modification, adaptation, and ecological change.[90] Fethullah Gülen continues as follows:

According to Divine wisdom, God changes, annuls, abrogates what He wills in both His religious commandments (Holy Scriptures) and rules of nature. He sometimes changes societies, and systems, lets some nations perish and others exist. He manifests His names, jalālī (majesty, wrath and rage) and jamālī (beauty and blessing) in the universe. Through the manifestation of these names some people become happy, while others become sad. Similarly, He abrogates and changes some rules in His Divine law and brings forth another. Instead of the Prophet Adam’s suhuf (divine text or pages) He declares the pages of the Prophet Noah. When the time comes He announces His new revelation to the Prophet Abraham. He takes something out of the old pages and inserts a new one, and then shapes it as a Holy Scripture to be presented to the Prophet Moses. Afterwards, he brings more dimension and depth to the book with Psalms and proclaims them to be from the mouth of the Prophet David. With the Gospel, He brings a spiritual dimension to humanity in addition to the Torah. Finally, through the words of the Prophet Jesus He gives the good tidings of Ahmad who enables the biggest change in human history.[91]

Although Fethullah Gülen strongly believes that there is no change or abrogation in the fundamentals of faith, there are many changes in its secondary issues or details. To support this idea, Fethullah Gülen compares the time of the Prophet Adam with childhood (sabah/early morning), and the era of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, with middle age (asr/afternoon). He holds the view that this is completely related to the maturity of humanity.[92] Obviously, he tries to say that people at the time of the Prophet Adam are different from the people of the Prophet Muhammad’s time. Hence, change in some details is inevitable. Thus, Fethullah Gülen considers the denial of naskh (abrogation) as the denial of the history of humanity on earth.

Nonetheless, rather than referring frequently to the notion of abrogation, Fethullah Gülen is determined to see Qur’anic verses as very active and relevant. He goes even further and says that there are Qur’anic verses concerning the People of the Book that should be examined seriously by Muslims. Verse 3:188: “Think not that those who exult in what they have given, and love to be praised for what they have not done. Think not they are in safety from the doom. A painful doom is theirs,” is a very good example of this. Fethullah Gülen states that there are many important lessons and advice for Muslims to derive from all the verses of the Qur’an, even though they address non-Muslims— unless such verses are abrogated. To support his approach, Fethullah Gülen uses an important legal methodology, namely shar‘u man qablanā shar’un lanā (the laws of previous religions are also law for us). Clearly, he tries to combine the ethical dimension of the verses with their legal enactment on the basis of the notion of abrogation.[93] Thus, instead of denying the content of the verses, he prefers to use every statement of the Qur’an.

Fethullah Gülen is such a strong believer that he always finds enough mental resources to solve the various problems of modern men and women from Islamic sources. His trust in the capacity of Islamic sources brings us to another dimension of the notion of naskh, namely ijtihād.[94] In his classification of the basic Islamic sciences, naskh takes its place under the title of mutammimāt (complementary). He divides knowledge into two as aqlī and naqlī, and naqlī is also sub-divided into sections such as muāmalāt (transactions). Accordingly, naskh is found under this transaction and used in the understanding of Qur’anic law.[95] Fethullah Gülen also uses this hermeneutical device in his rational and traditional explanations to pave way for a new ijtihad. However, in his usage, Fethullah Gülen’s point of view is quite different from both pre-modern scholars who reject naskh completely and contemporary scholars who accept it to prove that the Qur’an is simply a historical text and can only be understood in this specific historical context. Fethullah Gülen is aware of the necessities of modern life and the many changes in society. Equally, he believes that Muslims can achieve advancement in modern life by depending primarily on their own tradition. Progress is not accomplished by freeing oneself from the accumulations of the past, but rather by building upon its foundations and developing its traditions by means of new solutions and discoveries. To sum up, his approach to the notion of naskh in his exegetical works is similar to the understanding of exegetes rather than that of jurists. Thus, he is interested in a more general rule of abrogation rather than a specific juristic approach.

4.4. The notion of muhkam and mutashābih (clear and allegorical verses)

Generally Qur’anic exegetes focus on three verses of the Qur’an when they discuss muhkam and mutashābih; (11:1) “a Scripture whose verses are perfected, uhkimat āyātuhū” indicates that all the verses of the Qur’an are muhkam; while (39:23) “God has sent down the fairest discourse as a Book, cosimilar in its oft-repeated, kitāban mutashābihan mathāniya,” shows that all the Qur’anic verses are mutashābih. Finally there is another type of verse (3:7) that states that some parts of it are muhkam and the others are mutashābih. The verse runs as follows:

It is He who sent down upon thee the Book, wherein are verses clear that are the essence of the Book, and others ambiguous. As for those in whose hearts is swerving, they follow the ambiguous part, desiring dissension, and desiring its interpretation; and none knows its interpretation, save only God. And those firmly rooted in knowledge say, “We believe in it; all is from our Lord”; yet none remembers, but men possessed of minds.

Fethullah Gülen deals with the notion of both muhkam and mutashābih from various perspectives. Primarily, he draws attention to the idea that one should not forget that this difficulty or ambiguity in mutashābih has nothing to do with God. Fethullah Gülen, from the beginning to the end, emphasizes this and approaches the topic from the reader’s viewpoint. Thus, only human beings are bound to muhkam and mutashābih. God, however, knows everything in all its detail. For those who want to understand the Qur’an, muhkamāt is very important, as Fethullah Gülen maintains that these verses allow the reader to distinguish between right and wrong. He implies that there are thābitāt (eternally valid or firmly fixed things) in the Qur’an that need to be referred to continuously. So Fethullah Gülen likens the muhkamāt to a searchlight that helps the reader understand mutashābihāt.[96] According to Fethullah Gülen, mutashābihāt means the verses of the Qur’an that lack clarity. However, absolute ambiguity is not intended. He argues that there are various wisdoms behind the existence of mutashabihat in the Qur’an and therefore, it is wrong to see mutashābihāt as a static term.

Since the Qur’an is a living book, the interaction between it and the reader is very important. The more one immerses oneself in the Qur’an the more one starts finding new insights in it.[97] So mutashābihāt indicates that there are abundant realities in the Qur’an, many of which are unknown to humankind. Through these verses the Qur’an forces believers to reflect upon and contemplate the Qur’an. Fethullah Gülen strongly believes that these verses are open to inspire receptive people. He believes that the existence of such verses in the Qur’an is essential evidence for the universality of the Qur’an and Islam. Because there are both very knowledgeable and ordinary believers among the Muslims, the Qur’an addresses both intellectuals and the general population. Thus, the Qur’an is sometimes very precise and sometimes very deep in meaning and can be applied to a wide variety of issues. The understanding of mutashābihāt is also conditioned by time. In other words, when the exact time comes, the meaning will be understood by those who believe. This precise time, however, is related to the gradually occurring needs of people and events.[98]

Like many of his predecessors, Fethullah Gülen divides mutashābihāt into four categories; khafī (hidden), muskhil (obscure), mujmal (concise) and mutashābih (unclear) and then narrows the scope of the absolute mutashābihāt in the Qur’an. Using the methodology of juristic language, Fethullah Gülen suggests that mutashābihāt should be read in the light of muhkamāt. Even his indirect comment on the letter waw (whether it is a conjunctive particle – waw al-catf – or a letter which shows the beginning of a new sentence – waw al-‘isti’nāf-) about verse 3:7 supports this approach. In short, he adheres to the idea that many mutashābihāt will be clarified through the interpretation of knowledgeable scholars.[99]

Besides the existence of different levels of meanings, there is another important aspect of the existence of mutashābihāt in the Qur’an, namely the allegorical language of the Qur’an concerning some anthropomorphic verses. Because it is also related to theology, this is extremely important in Fethullah Gülen’s approach to the Qur’an. Firstly he says that to remove ambiguity (majhūl) by means of another ambiguity (majhūl) is not healthy. The literary skill of the Qur’an is very important in this regard. The Qur’an uses tashbīh (metaphor) and tamthīl (similes) to clarify some verses. Concerning God’s attributes and names, miracles etc., Fethullah Gülen says that the Qur’an always employs understandable concepts in its explanation of the unknowable. For instance, for those who do not believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, the Qur’an asks them to look at the way that Adam was created.[100] Despite the Qur’an’s emphasis on mutashābihāt, many could not understand the delicacy of the issue and indulged in various discussions. Fethullah Gülen describes the issue of the interpretation of mutashabihat as mazallat al-aqdām (slipping of the feet, lapse). Thus, the correct understanding of mutahsābihāt leads people to prove the existence of God without indulging in anthropomorphic explanations or denying the truth, ithbāt bi-lā tashbīh wa tamthīl and tanzīh bi-lā ta’tīl wa inkār.[101]

Finally, it is important to note that according to Fethullah Gülen, the existence of mutashābihāt in the Qur’an is also an obstacle in facing the achievement of an exact translation of the Qur’an. Believing that the Qur’an cannot be translated, he is cautious even to use the term maāl (explanatory translation), because some verses contain muhkam and mutashābih together (there is an ijtimā’ of muhkam and mutashābih) and therefore, the meanings cannot be easily identified by any translation.[102]

5. Exegetical traditions

In this section, we will discuss Fethullah Gülen’s position in relation to various exegetical traditions in Islam. Although we are not going to go into detail, we will try to present Fethullah Gülen’s usage of mystical, theological, and legal verses in his exegesis.

5.1. Mystical interpretation of the Qur’an

Many Muslim thinkers express their dissatisfaction with the mystical interpretation of the Qur’an. One of the disadvantages of this attitude is the loss of the strong traditional connections between fiqh akbar (theology), fiqh zāhir (law) and fiqh bātin (Sufism). In contrast to many modern Qur’an readers, Fethullah Gülen offers some mystical explanations in his commentary to reconnect the inner and outer dimension of modern men and women. When we look at Fethullah Gülen’s mystical interpretations, we see that in accordance with his previous approach, he follows a moderate line. Having mentioned the Prophetic report that indicates the different levels of meanings in the Qur’an, Fethullah Gülen also argues that as with the branches and knots of trees, there are numerous deep meanings in the Qur’an.[103] Fethullah Gülen believes that after explanation of the literal meaning, it is wrong to ignore the mystical interpretation of the Qur’an, but that this does not contradict the literal meaning. Since he wrote a four-volume mystical work[104] in which he thoroughly covers the Qur’anic text and mystical concepts, we will not re-visit that but will primarily focus on his less-known book about the mystical interpretation of the Qur’an. At this point, it is important to note that Fethullah Gülen’s mystical exegesis gives priority to quality rather than quantity in terms of the numbers of verses that he has dealt with.

Where his exegetical works are concerned, one of the most interesting issues that Fethullah Gülen raises is the relationship between the reality of the Ka‘bah and the reality of Ahmad (the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him). Having analyzed verses (2:144), (5:97), and 6:124) he also gives detailed information about the concept of nur al-muhammadi (the Light of the Prophet Muhammad) in the interpretation of verses (24:35) and (48:29). Briefly, there are different dimensions in the Prophethood of Muhammad, peace be upon him; one dimension is that of being a human, and the other is a spatial dimension. For Fethullah Gülen, both the Prophet and Ka‘bah were created together (as twins) in the “world of possibility” (alam al-imkan).[105] The reason for the Prophet’s prayer and wish to direct his face to the Ka‘bah lies in this metaphysical relationship. The Prophet wishes to re-unite with his twin (the beloved). On the other hand, the Ka‘bah, the heart of the world and the space which connects the world with heaven is waiting to embrace his twin (the Prophet).[106] Fethullah Gülen explains some mystical wisdom behind the birth of the Prophet in Mecca, near the Ka‘bah and the Ka‘bah’s existence in the birthplace of the Prophet. Furthermore, he uses another mystical terminology, namely maqām jam (the place of meeting or the place that brings two into one). In short, the Prophet brings both the physical and spiritual realms together and represents some kind of middle way between two excesses. Fethullah Gülen gives the Prophet David and Solomon as examples. According to Fethullah Gülen, God allows David to deal with the physical world and provides everything for his service. Similarly, God also provides unseen creatures to assist Solomon. The reality of Ahmad, according to Fethullah Gülen, represents the meeting place or space in these two dimensions, namely the unification of the physical and metaphysical realms.[107]

Fethullah Gülen’s approach to mystical interpretation allows him to use some technical terms such as ma’iyyah (togetherness with both God and the Prophet), ubūdiyyah, ibādah and ubūdah (level of worship), qurbbu’d (closeness to God–remoteness), ridā (acceptance), sakīnah (tranquility) and the notion of tawhīd (the Unity of God) and many other Qur’anic terms. It is also interesting to note that following classical Muslim scholarship, Fethullah Gülen uses some Arabic letters or dots to derive mystical interpretations from them. This kind of interpretation is rare. We can give an example from the beginning of the basmala which starts with the letter b (preposition) and the dot under this letter.[108] In addition to his own interpretations, Fethullah Gülen also quotes from Muslim mystics such as Imām Ghazzali, Mawlānā Jalāl al-Dīn al- Rūmī, Ibn ‘Arabī, Imām Rabbānī, Ibrāhīm Haqqī, Mawlānā Khālid and Said Nursi. However, Fethullah Gülen never considers his mystical exegesis as the final interpretation of the verse. Furthermore, he is so careful that he frequently uses some precautionary expressions in his mystical interpretations.

5.2. Theological exegesis

One of the important features of modern exegesis is to place Qur’anic commentary ahead of all other disciplines and expect it to fulfill the function of every other Islamic discipline. Thus, Fethullah Gülen’s approach in this regard is worth investigating. It is safe to assume that Fethullah Gülen has great respect for the traditional division of Islamic disciplines. It is understood that he does not generally use exegesis to discuss theological issues. Instead, he repeatedly redirects his reader to theological literature. We also have a volume written by Fethullah Gülen which is specifically compiled to deal with theological issues.[109] Nonetheless, from time to time Fethullah Gülen tackles some theological questions in his exegetical works without going into details. Many of his theological explanations are provided in his work as additional information. Despite the originality of his own discourse, he seems to follow the Sunni framework in his analysis.

Fethullah Gülen’s main focus on theological issues in his exegesis is mostly related to the absence of sin in the natures of the Prophets. The Prophet Jonah’s departure from his town without waiting for God’s response,[110] and the Prophet Solomon’s smiling posture in verse 27:19[111] are important examples. Fethullah Gülen makes a great effort to analyze sensitively some dogmatic verses of the Qur’an. For instance verses of 4:142[112] and 3:54[113] which talk about God’s khud’a/makr (cheating!) can be mentioned. Fethullah Gülen criticizes some translations and focuses on the implications of these translations. In brief, he says that no one has the right to imply that God is trying to cheat people in the same way that people cheat each other. God’s aim in these verses is to convey the meaning that whoever cheats someone, will have his cheating come back to him; he will fall into his own trap or God will definitely bring his plot back to him.[114] Fethullah Gülen’s discussion of the teaching does not follow a systematic theological pattern in his exegetical works. Nevertheless, he sometimes gives detailed information about some important issues such as the relationship between the Will of God and the will of human beings. In the interpretation of verse (2:10)[115] Fethullah Gülen says that some exegetes deal with this verse from the perspective of the rule al-jazā min jins al-amal (the punishment of the person in accordance with his actions). According to Fethullah Gülen, this explanation is not satisfactory. Fethullah Gülen elucidates that some people have very bad intentions, and if they have any opportunity to put their bad intentions into practice, they immediately do so. This verse shows the vicious circle between their intentions and actions.[116] Then, he tries to provide a definition for the notion that humanity has a will based on the understanding of the Mu’tazilites and Jabriyyahs.[117]

Another important issue on which Fethullah Gülen concentrates in his exegesis is the act of repentance just before death. Fethullah Gülen points out the quality of the repentance of Pharaoh mentioned in verse 10:90.[118] He explains this verse in the light of another verse 40:85.[119] Having used some intertextual evidence such as the way of Pharaoh’s repentance, “I believe that there is no god except Him Whom the Children of Israel believe in,” Fethullah Gülen concludes that people like Pharaoh are strong materialists and it is very difficult for them to accept faith. By not mentioning Moses’ name, he conceals the truth of his messengership through whom God revealed his message at that time. Thus, Pharaoh commits a sin while he is uttering the words “I believe.”[120] Apart from these issues, Fethullah Gülen also debates some theological problems such as whether jinn know the unseen future or not,[121] the identification of the holy spirit in 2:87,[122] and the deep theological meaning of the words rahmān (in relation to wāhidiyyah) and rahīm (in relation to ahadiyyah).[123] Clearly, Fethullah Gülen maintains an understanding of classical theology, but also, in the meantime, he addresses modern readers through bringing in some new issues and different explanations. It is also important to note that the quantity of theological discussion in his exegetical works is very limited.

5.3. Legal exegesis

Although basic Islamic disciplines have very strong connections between each other and complement each other, there are also differences among them as well. The science of jurisprudence has superior status over many other Islamic disciplines. Fethullah Gülen, however, does not use this discipline in his exegesis to pave the way for his legal opinions. Although the existence of his many legal judgments assigned him the status of a mujtahid, he preferred to preserve a distinction between exegesis and jurisprudence. Nevertheless, it does not mean that he has nothing to say about legal issues in his exegesis. It has been observed that he sometimes deals with legal issues but not extensively. His legal exegesis implies that he approaches the issues from the exegetical point of view rather than juristic evaluation. For instance, he has a specific chapter (legal judgments) in his book Fatiha Üzerine Mülahazalar where he discusses the inner meaning and function of basmala from the perspective of various schools of thought. Similarly, we find his legal arguments in the interpretation of the word shatr (towards) in the verse (2:144). With regard to that verse, he discusses the direction towards Ka‘bah in accordance with traditional commentaries.[124] It is also important to note that Fethullah Gülen strikes a good balance between law and ethics (morality). His Qur’anic judgment focuses on this balance. In other words, law does not solve every problem unless it is being supported by strong ethical values. Thus he extends the meaning of the verses beyond their legal limitations. For instance, concerning interpretation of verse 2:115,[125] Fethullah Gülen argues that this verse suggests that believers not only search for the direction of the Ka‘bah before they pray but also insists on their not forgetting God at any time in their daily lives.[126]

6. Modern issues

Under this heading it is possible to discuss various issues in the context of Fethullah Gülen’s exegesis such as his frequent emphasis on social and ethical issues, psychological analysis in his commentaries, and finally various remarks and deductions that conclude his exegesis. However, there is not enough space in this chapter to show the various features of Fethullah Gülen’s exegetical analysis. Thus we are going to focus on one issue only, namely Fethullah Gülen’s scientific exegesis.

6.1. Scientific exegesis

An important aspect of Fethullah Gülen’s exegesis is his approach to scientific interpretation. While discussing his method, we will also refer briefly to the notion of the miracle that takes place in his exegesis. It has been observed that in comparison to some of his contemporaries, Fethullah Gülen displays a moderate attitude towards scientific explanation. According to Fethullah Gülen, the Qur’an is not a book of science[127] and as a result, he does not see the discussion of scientific details as the primary part of exegesis; instead, he considers it a secondary hermeneutical device that supports the essential meaning of the verses. He states precisely that the Qur’an neither rejects scientific interpretation completely, nor gives it sacred status.[128] First and foremost the Qur’an presents itself as a book of guidance, a universal message, and a book of life. So, the meaning of life and the relationship between the Creator and His creatures are more significant than scientific explanation. Therefore, Fethullah Gülen believes that the Qur’an focuses on the things that have priority in the presence of God. Nevertheless, Fethullah Gülen does not dismiss scientific interpretations in his exegesis. Fethullah Gülen holds the view that the Qur’an stems from God’s attribute of kalam (speech) while the universe and everything in it is derived directly from His attributes of qudrah (power) and iradah (will), indicating that God creates and forms everything in a perfect manner. Then he concludes that if the word and work of God are the reflections of the above-mentioned attributes, there should be a necessary harmony between them. He further argues that it is an obvious error to perceive a conflict between science and the Qur’an. In Fethullah Gülen’s perspective, it is similar to a man having two eyes that work together and never contradict each other.[129] Thus one should not disregard either of them. Interestingly, he makes a distinction between ilm (real science or knowledge) and bilim (expressed in Turkish as meaning a more materialistic knowledge). He argues that the former is the common property of Muslims that leads to Absolute Truth (God), while the latter is the product of a sheer positivistic understanding of science.[130]

Thus, the exegete should be very careful in using science in his exegesis. Because whatever advanced level may be achieved by science, no one can fully comprehend both the mystery of the universe and the Qur’an. Although Fethullah Gülen has complete trust in the scientific truthfulness of the Qur’an, he is still very careful not to read the Qur’an completely in the light of scientific developments. He argues that if we do not want to fall into error, we should believe only in facts that cannot be rejected. Therefore, we have to study science according to its own rules, but if we believe in its discoveries we should not think that we have exhausted the Power of God. There might be many things that we do not accept today but will be accepted in the future. The exegete should not hurry to bring unproven scientific developments together with the eternal words of God. Thus he insists on not narrowing the significance of Qur’anic verses. There will always be unknown things in the scientific realm, al- mawjūd (or alma’lum) al- majhūl/unknown known.[131] He also criticizes some Muslim commentators who try to associate every new scientific discovery with verses from the Qur’an. According to Fethullah Gülen, such an approach would imply that Muslims have an inferiority complex about science, which would also allow them to put the Qur’an on a secondary level.[132]

Qur’an.[133] He also strongly believes that a part of the Qur’an will be explored in every scientifically competent age.[134] He supports this explanation with the verse 41:53: “Soon will We show them Our signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the truth. Is it not enough that thy Lord doth witness all things?” According to Fethullah Gülen, the expression of sa-nurī (We will show) in the form of the future tense demonstrates clearly that the Qur’an speaks to the first addressees of the Prophet by saying, “you do not know many of Our verses and signs, We will show them in the future.” Regarding the phrase “to whom We will show them,” Fethullah Gülen focuses on the Arabic expression him which means “them” in this verse. To put it another way, the Qur’an says “not you” but “they” who will come in the future will know. Finally, he comments on the expression of yatabayyana (it becomes manifest to them) and states that the Qur’an will explain everything as time passes, and each explanation and discovery will be fulfilled through previously explored facts. Humanity’s only task is to make a serious effort to search the Qur’an for answers. In this way, the Qur’anic truth will gradually emerge.[135] Thus, Fethullah Gülen states that the Qur’an addresses not only current time but also the time up until the Day of Judgment.

At this juncture, it is important to find an answer to the question concerning the eligibility of scientific exegesis. According to Fethullah Gülen, in order to comment on Qur’anic verses from a scientific point of view, one should primarily have a very strong faith in the Qur’an. Moreover, exegetes need to explore the Qur’anic world without becoming weary of the search. One has to keep using a very well-established methodology in interpreting the Qur’an. Finally, Fethullah Gülen reminds the reader that advanced knowledge of Arabic, and expertise in social, scientific and Islamic sciences are imperative for a proper interpretation. As he repeats several times, these requirements indicate that scientific exegesis of the Qur’an is beyond the limited understanding of individuals in the modern period. Consequently, Fethullah Gülen calls for a collective effort to accomplish a scientific exegesis.[136]

When we look at Fethullah Gülen’s own scientific interpretation, it is obvious that he uses various hermeneutical and scientific devices. Although his scientific interpretation of verses is limited in quantity, they are rich in quality. For example, he gives plenty of details about the creation of everything in pairs[137] and the power of the atom in Surah Saba’ (34:3).[138] Fethullah Gülen draws attention to the linguistic analysis of the word kull (every) in verse (51:49). He explains that if the word kull becomes a noun phrase attached to the indefinite noun shay (thing), it signifies generality. On the basis of this elucidation, Fethullah Gülen concludes that everything in the universe is created in a pair. Atoms are not exceptions. Nonetheless, he assists us to understand that people who witness the revelation of the Qur’an did not know atoms, electrons, protons or neutrons. Today, we know that every creature exists as part of a pair.[139] Fethullah Gülen is always cautious in his grammatical analysis of the Qur’an in the light of modern science. He reiterates that we can never exhaust the treasures of the Qur’an as measured by today’s level of scientific developments. In fact, we do not know what atomic physics will show us in the future. Furthermore, Fethullah Gülen also comments on the above-mentioned second verse and says that the expression mithqāla dharrah (atomic weight) refers to the theory of the existence of atomic weight in every element, which has only been discovered very recently.[140] In addition, he focuses on Lorenzi’s electron theory, the explosion of neutrons, and the formation of energy after a reaction etc. and finds different scientific hints in various verses of the Qur’an.[141]

There are other verses where Fethullah Gülen’s approach is made from a scientific point of view; these include the expansion of space,[142] the circular shape of the earth,[143] its compressed nature or the earth’s polar extremes,[144] the heavens and the earth being at first one piece and their partition, the creation of every living thing from water,[145] the formation of milk in a cow’s body,[146] the rotation of the sun in its specific orbit,[147] the separation of the two seas, and so on and so forth.[148] Some of Fethullah Gülen’s scientific interpretations go beyond the limitations of the exegesis. His information about the creation of human beings and the formation of the fetus and its various stages in the womb[149] are good examples of his comprehensive interpretation. Similarly, he gives a lengthy explanation about the phenomenon of winds to fertilize clouds and bring rain.[150] But Fethullah Gülen never disregards the real reason behind all these incidents in his analysis. His strong statement concerning rain is worth mentioning here: “Whether rain is caused by positive and negative drops, clouds or any other thing; the main point is that the real formation is carried out by God. He is the One who reconciles winds and clouds, negative and positive.”[151] Thus Fethullah Gülen intentionally brings God to the attention of the reader on every occasion. After summarizing both classical and modern approaches to the verses, he focuses on the scientific interpretation.

On the other hand, he frequently warns the reader about some deficient scientific interpretations. At this point, it is worth mentioning the association of the dābbah (beast) with the AIDS virus in the explanation of verse 27:82.[152] According to Fethullah Gülen, the verse, in its content, talks about the appearance of the beast when the signs of the Day of Judgment are apparent. He analyzes several words in this verse together with many Prophetic traditions and then concludes that to confirm that the verse is referring to the AIDS virus is to narrow its scope. According to Fethullah Gülen, these kinds of interpretations are not objective and are generally contrary to the meaning of the verse.[153]

Fethullah Gülen sincerely believes that the truth is not something that the human mind produces. Truth is independent of human production, and is created by God. As the words of God manifest the works of God in the universe, the Qur’an is in complete harmony with nature. They do not contradict each other. Having said that, Fethullah Gülen then confirms the reliability of the miracles mentioned in the Qur’an. Indeed, he offers various logical explanations to strengthen the validity of the miracles. His strongest evidence for the miracles is the Qur’an itself. Thus, he criticizes many scholars who do not accept the miracles mentioned in the Qur’an and Prophetic tradition. Contrary to those exegetes, Fethullah Gülen not only accept these miracles but also provides some scientific explanations. The narrative in verse 2:73[154] about the identification of the killer is a proper example of Fethullah Gülen’s science-based explanation of the miracles. Fethullah Gülen reveals various dimensions of the verse as follows. Firstly, he acknowledges it as a miracle. Fethullah Gülen also believes that this verse encourages humanity to go further in scientific exploration. He then gives some information about how some brain cells stay alive after death. This verse should be read in the light of modern genetics, biology and autopsy practices. For example, he comments that this verse may shed light on the identification of the unknown killer in the future.[155] Although he is careful about not falling into the trap of rationalization of the miracles, he encourages modern thinkers to pay attention to the miracles attributed to the Prophets in the Qur’an, and to be inspired by them to conduct further scientific research.[156]

7. Conclusion

What is Fethullah Gülen’s place among Qur’anic exegetes? Some might see him as a stereotypical traditionalist who embellishes his exegesis with some modern discourse. For others, who approach him more sympathetically, he is a progressive Muslim intellectual who has sufficient religious and scientific background to offer changes to the interpretation of various Islamic disciplines. In the light of our analysis, it is safe to assume that Fethullah Gülen is actually a representative of the Ottoman exegetical school; he is well-acquainted with classical commentaries and established tradition and while at the same time he is also familiar with modern science. Because of this strong connection, it is inappropriate to view his exegetical efforts merely from the perspective of intellectualism.

Concerning the methodology of the exegesis, Fethullah Gülen is representative of via media. He uses reports on “the occasions of revelations” while sometimes criticizing these reports. His approach to the notion of isrāīliyyāt follows a similar pattern. When looking at his analysis of the notion of abrogation and muhkam and mutashābih, we notice his broader understanding of the issues. To sum up, we can situate Fethullah Gülen somewhere between traditionalist and modernist scholars in his evaluation of these hermeneutical devices. Fethullah Gülen stays on the middle ground while interpreting the nature of the Qur’an, the relationship between scientific developments and Qur’anic verses, etc. He also argues against the wholesale adoption of a scientific, literary, or classical approach. Instead, he suggests that Muslim scholars and interpreters of the Qur’an should use an approach that is rooted in Islamic tradition and experience, without neglecting modern developments. With regard to the mystical, theological, and legal interpretation of the Qur’an, we see his style as being moderate and following traditional literature, while giving credit to modern interpretations and scientific explorations.

Fethullah Gülen’s quotations of contemporary thinkers, philosophers, and theologians from West and East are worth exploring in a separate work. It is also important to note that Fethullah Gülen brings the idea of interfaith dialogue to his exegetical endeavor though we have not discussed it here since it is beyond the scope of this chapter. If his exegesis is considered in the light of interfaith dialogue, it would be an original contribution to the literature of modern Muslim exegesis. Finally, Fethullah Gülen’s analyses have social, psychological, cultural and philosophical dimensions that differentiate his Qur’anic exegesis from that of his many classical counterparts.

  • [4] For instance, J. M. S. Baljon regrets in his Modern Muslim Koran Interpretation (1880−1960) that he is unable to cover the commentaries of Turkish exegetes (p. vii).
  • [5] Gülen 1997a, p. 22.
  • [6] See also the verse 7:205; Gülen 1997a, pp. 22−23.
  • [7] Ibid, p. 23.
  • [8] Ibid, p. 23.
  • [9] Ibid, p. 24.
  • [10] Gülen 1989, p. 3.
  • [11] Gülen 2004a, p. 20.
  • [12] Ibid, pp. 19−20.
  • [13] Ibid, p. 20.
  • [14] See the discussion of the late Fazlur Rahman in his Islam, p. 31.
  • [15] Gülen 2004a, pp. 19−20.
  • [16] Gülen 2005a, pp. 110−111.
  • [17] Gülen 1997a, p. 56.
  • [18] Ibid, p. 55.
  • [19] Ibid, pp. 47−48.
  • [20] Ibid, p. 25.
  • [21] Gülen 2005c, pp. 4−5.
  • [22] Gülen 1997b, p. 155.
  • [23] Gülen 1997a, p. 7.
  • [24] Ibid, p. 54.
  • [25] Ibid, pp. 41−42.
  • [26] Gülen 2002, p. 97.
  • [27] Gülen 1997b, p. 155.
  • [28] Gülen 1997a, p. 14.
  • [29] Gülen 1995a, p. 195.
  • [30] Gülen 2005c, pp. 5−6.
  • [31] Ibid.
  • [32] Gülen 1997a, pp. 196−97.
  • [33] Gülen 2000a, pp. 47, 93; 2000b, p. 347.
  • [34] Gülen 1997a, pp. 97−98.
  • [35] Gülen 2000a, p. 30.
  • [36] Ibid, pp. 30−31.
  • [37] Gülen, 2000c, p. 3.
  • [38] Gülen 1992a, p. 2.
  • [39] Gülen 1997a, pp. 52−53.
  • [40] Gülen 2000a, p. 21.
  • [41] Gülen 2005c, p. 4.
  • [42] Ibid.
  • [43] Gülen 2000a, p. 199.
  • [44] Gülen 1997a, pp. 173, 196.
  • [45] Ibid, p. 90.
  • [46] Zarkashī 1990, pp. 130−32; Suyūtī 1993, pp. 976−77.
  • [47] Gülen 1997a, pp. 20−21.
  • [48] Ibid, p. 98.
  • [49] Gülen 1995a. p. 185.
  • [50] Gülen 1997a. pp. 94, 109.
  • [51] See verses 9:111 and 14:5. Gülen 2000a, p. 182.
  • [52] He names asbāb al-nuzūl (occasion of revelation) as the sha’n al-nuzūl.
  • [53] Rahbar 1956, p. 324.
  • [54] Albayrak 2006, pp. 457−69.
  • [55] Çapan 2002, p. 38.
  • [56] Gülen 2000b, pp. 180−81.
  • [57] Gülen 1995b, pp. 180−81.
  • [58] Görgün 1998, p. 149.
  • [59] Gülen 2000a, p. 66.
  • [60] Gülen 2000b, p. 182.
  • [61] Ibid.
  • [62] Tuncer 2006, p. 10.
  • [63] 5:54.
  • [64] 36:20 “Then there came running, from the farthest part of the city, a man, saying, ‘O my People obey the messengers ….”’
  • [65] Lā yakūnu ahadun faqīhan hattā yahmil al-āyah al-wāhidah ilā mahāmila muta’addidatin.
  • [66] Gülen 2000b, pp. 331−32.
  • [67] 87:9 “Therefore give admonition in case the admonition profits (the hearer).”
  • [68] Şimşek 2008, pp. 368−69; Baljon 1961, p. 53.
  • [69] Rahbar 1956, pp. 325−32.
  • [70] Gülen 2000b, p. 327; Aydüz 2001, pp. 30–41.
  • [71] Gülen 1995a, pp. 188, 195; Gülen 2000b, p. 332.
  • [72] Gülen 2000b, p. 331.
  • [73] 18:94 “They said: ‘O Dhu al-Qarnayn! Lo! Gog and Magog are spoiling the land. So may we pay thee tribute on condition that thou set a barrier between us and them?”’
  • [74] Gülen 2000b, p. 240.
  • [75] 72:1−2.
  • [76] Gülen 2000b, p. 388.
  • [77] 10:98 “Why was there not a single township (among those we warned), which believed, so its faith should have profited it, except the people of Jonah? When they believed, we removed from them the penalty of ignominy in the life of the present, and permitted them to enjoy (their life) for a while.”
  • [78] Gülen 2000a, p. 194.
  • [79] Gülen 2002, pp. 96−98.
  • [80] Gülen 2000b, pp. 329−30.
  • [81] 11:71–2 “And when he saw their hands reached not to it, he mistrusted them and conceived a fear of them. They said: ‘Fear not! Lo! we are sent unto the folk of Lot. And his wife was standing (there), and she laughed: but We gave her glad tidings of Isaac, and after him, of Jacob.’”
  • [82] Gülen 1995a, p. 188.
  • [83] 28:76 “Now Korah was of Moses’s folk, but he oppressed them ….”
  • [84] Gülen 2000b, p. 302.
  • [85] 12:24 “She verily desired him, and he would have desired her if it had not been that he saw the argument of his Lord ….”
  • [86] Gülen 2000a, pp. 199−200.
  • [87] There is very good example concerning the Prophet Solomon’s employment of jinn in 34:12 (Gülen 2000b, pp. 324−25).
  • [88] For instance, Abu Rayya considers Ka’b al-Ahbar a Zionist for the interpolation and insertion of these reports in the exegesis (Juynboll 1969, pp. 120−38).
  • [89] Gülen uses Nursi’s argument here. According to Nursi, there are two significant concepts concerning changeable and unchangeable things. One is imām-ı mubīn which is related to the realm of the unknown or the unseen, ghayb. This is a notebook of divine destiny which hides the original forms of both past and future. In addition, it is a manifestation of God’s attributes of ilm (knowledge) and amr (commandment). The other is kitāb-ı mubīn which is related to the realm of the seen, shahādah. This notebook is the manifestation of God’s attributes qudrah (power) and ījād (invention) which is related to the formation of things in the world ( Nursi 2006, p. 533).
  • [90] Gülen 2008a, pp. 104−112.
  • [91] Ibid.
  • [92] Gülen 2001, pp. 20−28.
  • [93] Gülen 1995a, pp. 181−82.
  • [94] For further discussion on ijtihād see İsmail Acar’s chapter in this volume.
  • [95] Gülen 2006a, pp. 18−23.
  • [96] Gülen 2005c, p. 2.
  • [97] Ibid, p. 3.
  • [98] Sarıtoprak and Ünal 2005, pp. 447−67.
  • [99] Gülen 2005c, p. 4.
  • [100] Gülen 2003, pp. 103−04.
  • [101] Gülen 2008a, pp. 179−83.
  • [102] Gülen 2000a, p. 140.
  • [103] Gülen 1992a, p. 4.
  • [104] See Gülen’s Kalbin Zümrüt Tepeleri IIV, Izmir-Istanbul: Nil Yayınları, 2005−2008. Also see Mehmet Y. Şeker’s chapter in this volume for more detail.
  • [105] Gülen 2000a, p. 72.
  • [106] Ibid, pp. 148, 160.
  • [107] Gülen 2000b, pp. 325−26, 354.
  • [108] Gülen 1997a, pp. 78−79.
  • [109] See Gülen 1996a, 1996b, and Zeki Sarıtoprak’s chapter on Gülen’s theology of social responsibility in this volume.
  • [110] 21:87 “And (mention) Dhu’n-Nun ( Jonah), when he went off in anger and deemed that We had no power over him, but he cried out in the darkness, saying: ‘There is no Allah save Thee. Be Thou Glorified! Lo! I have been a wrong-doer.’” Gülen approaches this verse from a theological perspective and says that the ordinary believers’ actions can be considered mistake on the part of muqarrab (the closest people to God). Because Jonah left his hometown before he received a revelation to do so, his departure is considered a lapse rather than sin (Gülen 2000b, pp. 266−69).
  • [111] The translation of the verse 27:19 is as follows: “So he ( Solomon) smiled, wondering at her (and) word, and said: ‘My Lord! Grant me that I should be grateful for Thy favor which Thou hast bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I should do good such as Thou art pleased with, and make me enter, by Thy mercy, into Thy servants, the good ones.’” According to Gülen, the Qur’an uses the term dahk for Solomon’s smile and this smile is different from excessive or louder smile of ordinary people (Gülen 2000b, p. 295).
  • [112] 4:142 “The hypocrites they think they are surpassing Allah, but he will surpass them: when they stand up to prayer, they stand without earnestness, to be seen of men, but little do they hold Allah in remembrance.”
  • [113] 3:54 “(And Unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah.”
  • [114] Gülen 2000a, p. 83.
  • [115] 2:10 “In their hearts is a disease; and God has increased their disease …”
  • [116] Gülen 1997a, pp. 184−85.
  • [117] Gülen 2000a, p. 37.
  • [118] 10:90 “We took the Children of Israel across the sea: Pharaoh and his hosts followed them in insolence and spite. At length, when overwhelmed with the flood, he said: ‘I believe that there is no god except Him Whom the Children of Israel believe in: I am of those who submit (to Allah).’”
  • [119] 40.85. But their faith when they actually saw Our mighty punishment could not avail them: (that is) God’s way (of dealing with humankind, a way) which has always been in effect for His servants. And so the unbelievers have lost altogether.
  • [120] Gülen 2000a, pp. 191−92.
  • [121] Gülen 2000b, p. 327.
  • [122] Gülen 2000a, pp. 62−63.
  • [123] Gülen 1997a, pp. 90−93. Also pp. 20, 192−93.
  • [124] Gülen 2000a, p. 75.
  • [125] 2:115 “To Allah belong the East and the West: whithersoever ye turn, there is the presence of Allah. For Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.”
  • [126] Gülen 2000b, p. 284.
  • [127] Gülen 1992a, pp. 5–6.
  • [128] Gülen 1998a, p. 40.
  • [129] Ibid, p. 34; Gülen 1997a, p. 27; 1992a, pp. 5–6.
  • [130] Gülen 1998a, p. 34.
  • [131] Gülen 2000b, p. 346. In his scientific explanation, Gülen always uses the word fihi nazar which means that this is not an absolute interpretation, there might be others (Gülen 1992b, pp. 2–5).
  • [132] Gülen 2001, pp. 128–29; 1992b, pp. 2–5.
  • [133] Gülen 1992a, pp. 5–6. In another place, Gülen likens scientific development to people’s clothes. When these scientific discoveries become old enough, people throw them away like old dresses (Gülen 1998a, p. 49).
  • [134] Gülen 1992a, pp. 5–6.
  • [135] Gülen 2000b, p. 346. Gülen points out that the Qur’anic expressions tafakkur, tadhakkur, and tadabbur which means “contemplation” encourage believers to seek scientific knowledge from the Qur’an (Gülen 1998a, pp. 43−45).
  • [136] Gülen 1998a, p. 33.
  • [137] 51:49 “And all things We have created by pairs, that haply ye may reflect.”
  • [138] 34:3 “Those who disbelieve say: ‘The Hour will never come unto us.’ Say: ‘Nay, by my Lord, but it is coming unto you surely. (He is) the Knower of the Unseen. Not an atom’s weight, or less than that or greater, escapeth Him in the heavens or in the earth, but it is in a clear Record.’”
  • [139] Gülen 1997, p. 32.
  • [140 Ibid, pp. 33−34.
  • [141] Ibid, pp. 34−35.
  • [142] 51:47.
  • [143] 70:30.
  • [144] 39:5.
  • [145] 21:30.
  • [146] 16:66.
  • [147] 36:38.
  • [148] 55:19−20.
  • [149] 22:5; 22:12−14.
  • [150] 15:22; 24:43.
  • [151] Gülen 1997, p. 39.
  • [152] 27:82 “And when the Word is fulfilled against them (the unjust), we shall produce from the earth a beast to (face) them: He will speak to them, for that mankind did not believe with assurance in Our signs.”
  • [153] Gülen 1998a, p. 48; Gülen 1996b, pp. 133–36.
  • [154] 2:73 “So We said: ‘Strike the (body) with a piece of the (heifer).’ Thus God bringeth the dead to life and showeth you His Signs: perchance ye may understand.”
  • [155] Gülen 2000a, p. 59.
  • [156] Gülen 1998a, p. 35; 2000a, p. 50.

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