I met Fetullah Gulen in Pennsylvania in late December, 2001, before my trip to Istanbul, Turkey, with a Turkish friend, Cuneyt. The first time I saw him was when everyone was performing the morning prayers. I remember him quite well for when I was introduced to him, he gave me a really tight hug and picked me off the ground. I was shocked since everyone told me he was not very healthy anymore. The man I met was very strong.
One of the things that I respect Fetullah Gulen most is how he inspired many Muslims around the world. If you meet these Muslims, you will be shocked at how much they love Hocafendi (an honorary name they give to their teacher). I met many of his followers for the first time in Kazakhstan and later in the Kyrgyz Republic. They answered to Fetullah’s call by organizing schools around the world. Some of the top students to come out of the former Soviet Union studied in these Turkish schools.
Though I was never part of his followers, I enjoyed being with this group in the US and Turkey. The Muslims I tend to relate more too were the Kazakh Muslims I met in Taraz, Kazakhstan, back in April, 1999. They were part of the Yeni Asya Vaqkfi. I attended one of their madrasah’s in Taraz where they read chapters from Said Nursi’s “Risale- Nur.” Said Nursi is a very profound writer and his book is very interesting to read.
In all honesty, if you want to get a different perspective on Islam than the one you see on TV, I highly recommend you read the works from both Said Nursi and Fetullah Gulen. You will immediately understand why these two men are influential among Turkish and Central Asian Muslims today.
For more information on Fetullah Gulen, visit: http://en.fgulen.com/
For more information on Said Nursi’s “Risale-i Nur,” visit: http://www.risale-inur.com.tr/rnk/eng/tarihce/bsn.htm
For my article on Islam in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, visit: http://www.amerasianworld.com/islam_in_kazakhstan.php