In this first critical biography of Fethullah Gülen in English, historian Jon Pahl takes us on a journey where we discover wisdom and controversy, from 1940's Turkey to the U.S. in the twenty-first century. Pahl tells the story of a pious Muslim boy from a tiny and remote Turkish village who on the one hand has inspired a global movement of millions of individuals dedicated to literacy, social enterprise, and interreligious dialogue, but who on the other hand has been monitored by Turkish police, seen as a threat by autocrats, and recently declared number one enemy by the current Turkish dictator. With lively prose and extensive research, Pahl traces Fethullah Gülen's life and thought in its contexts, states clearly his own positions, and then lets readers draw their own conclusions from the evidence about this undeniably significant historical figure.
Pahl weaves this fascinating life into a narrative marked by five key elements, patterns, or relationships in Gülen’s life: integrity of participation in the nonviolent practices of Islam; principled pluralism—manifest in a commitment to dialogue; engaged empathy—deep feeling for the suffering of the world, and willingness to engage on behalf of alleviating that suffering; a commitment to spiritual and scientific literacy; and an organizational model of social enterprise.
Dr. Pahl, a strong believer of religions as catalysts for peace, crafts through the story of Gülen and the Hizmet Movement an introduction to Islam for non-Muslim readers, for the questions he brings to Gülen’s life story are also the questions others bring to Islam more broadly.
Jon Pahl, PhD, is a historian of American religions and the history of Christianity, a public theologian, and an award-winning teacher, musician, and community activist. He is the author or editor of six books, including Shopping Malls and Other Sacred Spaces: Putting God in Place (Wipf and Stock) and Empire of Sacrifice: The Religious Origins of American Violence (NYU).
“Pahl’s book does a masterful job of rich description of the people, places and historical events that shaped the life and spirit of one of the outstanding religious scholars of the modern age and the movement he inspired.”
Helen Rose Ebaugh, PhD
Professor Emeritus, University of Houston
“This well-researched book helps us understand the form of Islamic modernism that Gülen represents and why some political leaders find it challenging.”
Mark Juergensmeyer, PhD
University of California, Santa Barbara
“Jon Pahl tells an inspiring story of a modern saint.”
Michael Zuckerman, PhD
University of Pennsylvania, Department of History