Saturday, March 2, 2013

Pope’s Resignation, Responsible Leadership and Gülen

Pope’s Resignation and Responsibility

Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign from his position came as a shock to the world. Standing down from the papacy has only happened six times in recorded history and this resignation in itself is a first in six hundred years.

The Pope is a religious authority representing the head of the Catholic Church according to Catholic doctrine. The Church maintains that the doctrine on faith and morals that it presents as definitive, remains infallible.  The Pope represents the Church as the infallible authority and now he has resigned.

I am sure Pope Benedict’s resignation has been a good example of responsible leadership, and will continue to be the topic of many discussions in many circles around the globe. 

For me personally, this incident has triggered some questions and some points of discussion which differ somewhat in their content, however, they are of no lesser importance to followers of the Hizmet Movement.  My research on the Hizmet movement and more specifically Gülen’s responsibility teachings, led me to pose the question: 

Can Fethullah Gülen Resign?

I am aware that many would not perceive this question to be relevant in many aspects to the Pope’s resignation, especially as it doesn’t expect readers to compare the two religious groups. However, it does have a very vital point in terms of exploring the definition of responsibility and its interpretation.

There is the clear distinction of course, Gülen is not appointed or instructed by anyone to carry out the work and activities that he is engaged in, therefore, he doesn’t really hold a position (or a title) from which it would be possible for him to resign.  There are those who may conclude the fact that being a social movement leader results in taking a position by default, however, this is in fact not accurate in terms of responsibilities.

Gülen has consistently and constantly thought deeply concerning human responsibilities throughout his lifetime of service.  He has always advocated that human beings are a responsible agent on Earth and that responsibility is not only defined by prescribed prayers but with the role of “Khilafa/ vicegerency” as well. This role of vicegerency (which simply means representing God on Earth according to Islamic teachings) suggests that every human being is sent as an agent of God to Earth. These agents are responsible to carry out their prescribed duties as well as responding to their social and environmental duties. God Himself will be a judge and He will ask every human being to give an account of his/her achievements (or failures) on their mission. This simple idea explains the nature of existence and purpose for Muslims and their responsibilities in this world and accountability in the Hereafter.

The mission is a lifetime test (imtihan) and nobody has the authority to finish the test earlier than the time which is prescribed for them.  So, as long as a human being is sane (not insane) and has freedom of choice, he or she remains in this test until they meet their death.  Death is the designated end of the test and it is forbidden for a Muslim to commit suicide and end his test with his will.

The result of vicegerency is that human beings are burdened with this trust (emanet) which they are supposed to carry throughout their lifetime.

Thus, Gülen doesn't have the option to halt his responsibilities and resign from his position. It is his test to continue advising and teaching people and responding to their requests all as a part of his ultimate responsibility towards God. He is responsible to use all his capacity (mental and physical) in order to fulfil his responsibilities.

He continues, with the additional responsibilities that come with being a leader (imam) of a community as well. This increases his responsibilities further.

Responsible Leadership and Gülen

Responsible leadership, according to the simplest of definitions, is about making decisions that, after taking in to consideration the interests of the shareholders, also takes into account all other stakeholders, such as workers, clients, suppliers, the environment, the community and the  generations yet to come[1].  This concept has a similar, and in fact, almost identical equivalent in Islam. If a person causes goodness to happen, then he becomes morally praiseworthy for that goodness; and similarly, if a person effects something negative to happen, he is morally responsible for his part. (A verse in the Quran[2] stresses this point in the fourth chapter and it is reaffirmed through the hadith which states, “the one who causes is like the one who makes it himself”). 

As a renowned figure, Gülen’s action or inaction can result in positive or negative repercussions for his followers – it is for this additional reason that he must take due consideration and ensure he is even more cautious and ultimately responsible with all his actions. Thus, a resignation or even a slowing down in Gülen’s account could cause stagnation within his followers and he would become responsible for that outcome. As a leader of his community, he can’t afford to cause such stagnation within the movement.

In my opinion, Gulen won’t be returning to Turkey for the same reason. If he was to return to his country at this point it would create a domino effect in the movement. Most of the teachers who migrated to different parts of the world for service would be affected by Gülen’s return. Their opinions on migration would inevitably affected by this.  Some may start thinking that migration (hijra) for service is temporary and not something which is required throughout one’s lifetime.  In the same manner, if Gülen was to continue his work and stay in the USA, or any other country for that matter, it will continue to create a positive emphasis on sustainable service around the world among his followers.

In conclusion, it seems that Gülen is burdened with vicegerency as well as the additional responsibilities as a requirement of his “responsible leadership” and therefore, in my opinion, he has no option but to continue to the best of his capabilities.  The only exception to this ‘forced’ continuation, however, is if Gulen believes that his existence or participation is becoming a burden on the service that is being carried out around the world.  If this was the case, then I believe Gulen  would consider taking retirement as his natural responsibility  (as he has already attempted to do on a number of occasions[3]).

[2] (An-Nisa 4: 85) “Whoever recommends and helps a good cause becomes a partner therein: And whoever recommends and helps an evil cause, shares in its burden”
[3] (Hisar Camii Vaazi, 24/03/1991, Izmir) There is very famous sermon on the internet where he decided to give up for similar reasons. If you want to look at it;

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