Table of contents for A dialogue of civilizations : Gulen's Islamic ideals and humanistic discourse / B. Jill Carroll.

Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog.

Note: Contents data are machine generated based on pre-publication provided by the publisher. Contents may have variations from the printed book or be incomplete or contain other coding.

Chapter 1
Gulen and Kant on Inherent Human Value and Moral Dignity
Chapter 2
Gulen and Mill on Freedom
Chapter 3
Gulen, Confucius, and Plato on the Human Ideal
Chapter 4
Gulen, Confucius, and Plato on Education
Chapter 5
Gulen and Sartre on Responsibility
In December 2004, I traveled to Turkey for ten days as the guest of the Institute for 
Interfaith Dialog (IID) based in Houston, Texas. With me were about twenty other 
professors, clergy, and community leaders from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. None of 
us had been to Turkey before, and none of us really knew what to expect. Each of us, in 
one way or another, had been approached by one or more Turkish young men at school, 
church, or somewhere else in the community and asked if we would travel on an 
interfaith dialogue trip to Turkey as a guest of their organization. Some of us got to know 
a few of the young men and their wives a little better by having dinner at their homes or 
by attending community fast-breaking dinners that IID sponsored during Ramadan. All of 
us had accepted the invitation based on our sense that these young men, their wives, and 
the organization were trustworthy.
What I did not know as I began the trip, but soon came to learn, was that the founders and 
volunteers at IID, and the organizers of our trip both in the United States and in Turkey 
were all members of a transnational community of people inspired by the ideas of a 
Turkish Islamic scholar named Fethullah Gulen. Gulen's sermons and lectures have 
circulated throughout Turkey and beyond for several decades now since he became a 
state-authorized preacher in 1958 and was appointed to a post in Izmir in southwestern 
Turkey. We visited many of the schools, a hospital, and an interfaith organization 
founded by people in the Gulen movement. We shared meals with Turkish families in 
their homes and, on each occasion, I asked our hosts how they had come to hear of 
Gulen's ideas and what particularly had inspired them to get involved in the movement. 
They all gave essentially the same answer. The older people had been living in Izmir 
when Gulen began his ministry and were impressed and convinced by his message of 
education and altruism. Younger people with school-aged children came to know of the 
movement through nearby schools, which have excellent educational reputations, and 
became committed to the vision of global peace and progress through education and 
interfaith dialogue. A few others had been students themselves at schools founded by 
people in the Gulen movement and were now supporting the schools and other interfaith 
work in various ways as sponsors. In each case, the person had been touched deeply by 
Gulen's message and vision, and had committed to spreading it in the world
I returned to Houston, the home base of IID, and deepened my relationship with the 
organization. The Boniuk Center for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance 
at Rice University, for which I work, hosted a conference in November 2005 on Gulen's 
ideas which was attended by scholars from the United States, Europe, and Central Asia. 
We have collaborated with IID on a number of other projects, lectures, and panel events. 
I returned to Turkey again in May 2005 and July 2006 and met more people from the 
Gulen movement, increasing my understanding of Gulen's ideas and the impact they 
have on individuals in Turkey and on Turkey itself. Since my first trip to Turkey I have 
read much of Gulen's translated work and have had a great many conversations with my 
Turkish friends about his work. I am far from an expert on Gulen's ideas, on modern 
Turkish history, or on Sufism. I am, however, a specialist in religious studies (continental 
philosophy of religion), a comparativist in world religions, as well as a generalist in the 
discipline of the humanities. I have taught generalist, or "survey," courses in humanities 
in both undergraduate and graduate curricula for nearly fifteen years. These courses 
include world comparative literature, ethics, ancient and classical philosophy, modern 
political philosophy, as well as "great books" courses in both western and eastern 
historical, philosophical, religious, and literary traditions. My generalist competency 
extends to "eastern" thought as well as the "western," largely because of my specialty in 
religious philosophy. Consequently, when I first began reading Gulen's sermons and 
articles in translations, bells began ringing in my mind because of the deep connections I 
see between his work and that of some of the great thinkers and philosophers of world 
intellectual history.
My task in this book is to place the ideas of Fethullah Gulen into the context of the larger 
humanities. Specifically, I seek to create a textual dialogue between printed versions of 
selected articles, sermons, or speeches by Gulen, on the one hand, and the texts of 
selected thinkers, writers, philosophers, or theorists from general humanities discourse, 
on the other. These individuals from the humanities include Confucius, Plato, Immanuel 
Kant, John Stuart Mill, and Jean Paul Sartre. The location of their respective ideas within 
the larger discipline of humanities, as opposed to the sciences, prompts me to identify 
these figures, including Gulen, as humanistic thinkers, even though such a designation 
may be seen as problematic, depending on the definition of "humanism." In this work, I 
choose the broadest possible definition of humanism, a definition that does not view it as 
the necessary antithesis to a religious or theistic worldview. Professional philosophers 
and intellectual historians have identified as "humanism" or "humanistic" ideas and 
systems of thought that extend to antiquity, to as far back as Protagoras, who famously 
said "man is the measure of all things." Protagoras was not an atheist, nor were any of the 
other classical Greek philosophers who, during the 5th century BCE, shifted their focus of 
inquiry away from questions about the nature and components of the cosmos (air, water, 
substance, etc.) toward questions of the meaning of life, human values, the nature of the 
good life, and the components of a just human society. These concerns are those 
commonly and broadly identified with humanism or humanistic thinking, and many 
philosophies and worldviews, both religious and non-religious, qualify as humanistic in 
this regard. 
Renaissance humanism, retrieving ideas from the classical world, moves its focus away 
from God toward humanity. In general, however, humanists of this period were not 
atheists, nor did they promote atheism as a tenet of their "humanistic" perspective. The 
focus on human ability and achievement, accompanied by a less interventionist view of 
God, simply opened the way for a scientific viewpoint to arise in the West which 
empowered humans to discover the laws of the universe, which were themselves created 
by God. European thinkers of this period, of course, came to this perspective within the 
larger theological rubric of Christianity and were indebted to Muslim scholars of 
immediately previous generations who had already defined the cutting edge of medicine, 
astronomy, mathematics, botany, and many other scientific disciplines inside their own 
theological rubric of Islam. In both instances, the humanism does not occur as a 
trumpeting of human power over God or against God's power. On the contrary, human 
beings provide witness and praise to God's power when they use their God-given 
capacities to uncover the mysteries of the universe that God created and use that 
knowledge for the progress and betterment of all human society. So, this form of 
humanism in no way undermines belief in God or religion. In fact, Muslim scholars, and 
later Christian scholars, are the chief examples of this broad form of pietistic humanism. 
Of course, other forms of humanism are completely secular or atheistic. In the post-
Renaissance modern period, subdivisions within larger humanism have emerged which 
specifically reject a religious or supernatural worldview, even to the point of being hostile 
to religion. Secular humanism is an atheistic subdivision of humanism that is 
incompatible with a religious viewpoint to a large extent. Neither Gulen, nor any other 
religious thinker, can be called a humanist inside this narrow definition of humanism. 
Nor could Kant, Mill, or Confucius; all of these men are routinely referred to as 
humanists and their ideas as forms of humanism, yet none of them are atheists. Clearly, 
then, the narrow, secular, atheistic definition of modern humanism is not the operative 
definition in this book. 
Therefore, I use a broader definition of humanism in this book, one that accounts more 
accurately than modern iterations for its long history and for the extraordinary 
achievements in religion, philosophy, literature, ethics, art, architecture, science, and 
mathematics that human beings have accomplished under its central rubric, the focus on 
or belief in human importance, power, status, and authority, a belief which in no way 
contradicts the central tenets or history of the three great monotheisms. Given this, I 
group Gulen with these other humanistic thinkers because his work, like theirs, focuses 
on central issues of human existence that have long been part of humanistic discourse in 
both its religious and non-religious forms. In other words, these thinkers are concerned 
with basic questions about the nature of human reality, the good human life, the state, and 
morality. Moreover, they reach similar conclusions regarding many of these issues and 
questions after deliberating about them from within their own traditions and cultural 
In claiming similarity here, I am not asserting "sameness." These thinkers come from a 
vast diversity of backgrounds, time periods, cultural and national contexts, religious and 
spiritual traditions and more. They differ from each other in significant ways, to the point 
that in certain passages of their respective work, they denounce each other (in the case of 
the more recent writers) or, one could imagine, they would denounce each other on many 
points if they were in a real dialogue (not merely a "constructed" one). Gulen critiques 
outright Sartre, existentialists, and other atheists many times throughout his work. While 
I limit myself in this book to placing each of these thinkers in textual conversation only 
with Gulen, not with each other, one could imagine the conversations their major 
differences would generate. Mill argues for a kind of freedom that Plato would find 
abhorrent in his ideal republic. Conversely, Mill probably would find Plato's ideal 
republic an oppressive tyranny in most ways. Sartre's work blasts any notion of a 
"heaven of ideas," utterly universal and transcendent, whether it be articulated by Plato, 
Kant, or Gulen. Confucius, coming from a sixth-century Chinese perspective, has little in 
common with ideas from Western Enlightenment or post-Enlightenment thinkers like 
Kant or Mill. 
Dialogue between people with vastly different worldviews, however, is what interests 
me. Moreover, I believe that such dialogue is vital in today's world, where globalization, 
mass communications, and technology have pushed individuals and groups together in 
ways never before seen in human history. People living in the 21st century interact with 
and are impacted more than ever before by other people and groups very different from 
them. We are increasingly confronted by people and groups whose worldviews are utterly 
different from ours, and these people are our neighbors, co-workers, schoolmates of our 
children, our in-laws, our clients, our employers, and more. Often, we may try to 
minimize our contact with those who are different from us, so that we do not have to 
extend ourselves outside comfortable boundaries. We may isolate ourselves and craft the 
arc of our lives into familiar orbits of people who look, think, speak, believe, and pray 
like us, but such isolation or minimizing of difference is not workable over time. In 
today's world of global connectedness, we must develop the capacity to dialogue and 
create relatedness with people vastly different from us. Part of that project involves 
finding ideas, beliefs, purposes, projects, and so forth, on which we can achieve 
resonance with each other. That is we do not need to be the same, but we should find just 
enough similarity between us that, for a certain distance down the road, we can hold 
hands as fellow travelers in this life, all the while mindful of our differences in myriad 
Gulen, in his career as a state preacher in Turkey and as an inspirational scholar and 
teacher to people throughout Turkey and beyond, has championed dialogue as a 
necessary commitment and activity in the contemporary world. Therefore, it is 
appropriate to place Gulen, via his texts, "in dialogue" with other thinkers and writers 
coming from very different perspectives from his. Such a project models for us as readers 
a way of becoming comfortable with difference. More importantly, though, such a 
dialogue among individuals renowned for their knowledge and gifts can help all of us 
who care about such things to focus more deeply on the enduringly great issues of human 
life. While human lives in their particularities change era to era, the deep nature of human 
life, and the questioning and anxiety it provokes, has not changed. We ask today the same 
kinds of questions as our ancestors about the meaning of existence, the value of human 
life, how we are to set up society, and what the limits of freedom are. My hope is that this 
mock interaction between Gulen and the others listed above provides an opportunity for 
us, on whose shoulders the future rests, to take seriously our charge to create ourselves, 
society, and the world according the highest and best possible ideals. 
I have organized the dialogues between Gulen and other thinkers around five major 
themes that capture central issues and concerns about human life in the world. These 
themes are: (1) inherent human value and moral dignity; (2) freedom; (3) ideal humanity; 
(4) education; and (5) responsibility. These themes are well-known to any students of 
general humanistic discourse, whether from the ancient period or the modern, whether 
from Europe, Asia, or Africa, whether from a religious or secular worldview. In each 
theme, I have identified a primary thinker to pair with Gulen in a textual interaction. I 
have chosen the primary thinkers based on the resonance their particular expression of 
the specific theme has with Gulen's expression of that same theme from within his 
Islamic perspective. I could have chosen other thinkers and fared just as well, probably, 
in terms of finding powerful expression of classic, enduring ideas and resonance with 
Gulen on these ideas. I chose the ones below because I felt they were particularly adept in 
their expression and, frankly, because of my deep admiration and respect for their work, 
having taught their ideas in college classrooms now for fifteen years. Moreover, these 
conversations discuss themes which I believe are of the utmost importance for our 
scholarly and civic consideration.
The chapters are connected to each other thematically and refer to one another on certain 
points. Such references, however, are minimal and the chapters mostly are freestanding. 
Readers may read the chapters in any order they wish, or only the chapters that interest 
them, without losing any of the coherence of the book. Readers who do this will not be 
"lost" in the text. Moreover, I have written this book for a more general audience than 
most scholarly books target. I do not assume that readers have read Kant, Sartre, 
Confucius, Plato, Mill, or even Gulen, for that matter. I do not spend any time providing 
biographical information on these authors. Such information is readily available to 
readers from a variety of sources. My goal in the book is to explain the ideas of these 
thinkers, as I interpret them, as clearly as possible for an audience of generally educated 
people who may or may not have a background in the humanities as it is studied in the 
West. For this reason, I have chosen to overlook many details and subtleties that, were I 
writing a more traditional scholarly book, would exhaust a great many pages and textual 
footnotes. As it is, I hope I have written an informative, substantial, and interesting book 
that people who are interested in the history of ideas, global intellectual history, and 
cross-cultural dialogue will find useful and even inspiring. 

Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:

Gáeulen, Fethullah -- Views on Islam.
Islam and humanism.
Islam -- 20th century.