Q: Many writers in the United States and the West relate the development of the West to the Renaissance. Is it possible for there to be a renaissance in the Islamic world? Is a renaissance necessary? What are your thoughts?
Fethullah Gülen: The Renaissance is known as a New Birth, Revival, and Awakening. Some people say that it was a movement reviving the formal and spiritual values of ancient times or it represents a current of returning to the sources and rereading and evaluating them. Some also say that the focus of this movement was on the political, judicial, and moral values of ancient times through focusing on classical writings in the field of thought and focusing on legendary mystics.
If the Renaissance is all of this, though parts may be praiseworthy, one could not accept all aspects of it. If the Renaissance was a revolt against the dominance of religious authorities under the leadership of philosophers such as Jules Michelet, and if it is understood as pro-freedom, it is critically and totally anti-religion under the format of individualism. Although some trace the development of this movement to Italy and connect it to the philosophers such as Dante and Giotto di Bondone, one hardly can see this as beneficial to humanity and thus can hardly accept the movement in this format. Another interpretation that one cannot accept is that some thinkers who were quite confused as a result of chaotic thought in the West have accepted Humanism in extreme form as a religion and caused another imbalance in thought.
Islam achieved a Renaissance in its third and fourth centuries and, to a certain extent, it became a paradigm for the European Renaissance. With all sincerity, we support a Renaissance that would consist of the rediscovery of lost human values and the rapprochement of humanity with universal human morals. Again, we support a Renaissance that allows the questioning of dictatorship and the end of dictators, and working towards a democratic society. A Renaissance that fosters great achievements in the fine arts and promotes a careful reading of the book of the universe, which has been lost for a long time is greatly applauded. We support a Renaissance which promotes a longing for research, a passion for knowledge, and the articulation of religion in accordance with the understanding of our century in a new style and new manner.
We are in search of an awakening of reason, as well as heart, spirit, and mind. Yet, it is not possible to assume a harvest of fruits of efforts and works resulting from this. There is an appropriate time for everything. We will wait and see. “Before the sun rises, who knows what will come out from the darkest night?”
This article is taken from “An interview with Fethullah Gülen for the Muslim World Journal” The Muslim World Journal, Volume 95 – Number 3- July 2005. page 457-458
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