Lead Article

  • Issue 104 / March - April 2015



    The Predicament of Ignorance

    M. Fethullah Gulen

    In a time of darkness and ignorance, we must challenge our preconceived notions, seeking answers in education and trust.

    It is another season of service. Our love-filled hearts are longing for Joseph but as desolate as Zaliha, and we are crying the lamentations of Jacob. Yet, we are waiting for glad tidings to arrive soon to open our eyes and lift our feelings.

    It is impossible not to feel the pain of our people when we witness their heart-breaking state while being dragged along under the debris, destructions, and disasters of these dead, dark years.

    Now please go! Go and visit all those countries that share a similar fate! I am sure you will not be able to come back without feeling painful sorrow for them! From the biggest cities to the smallest town centers; from the most crowded urban areas to the most remote villages; there are countless places that have been suffering under the dominance of ignorance and social problems. This combination is like a vortex that swallows whole communities – and sometimes whole countries. In these countries, you will witness such serious social, spiritual, and economic sicknesses. They were not healed in the first place and became chronic, and now they have become incurable.

    Among all these, however, the most irremediable illness is ignorance. Ignorance is such a chronic disease that it corrodes an entire nation and gnaws away at our existence. Ignorance is the deprivation of knowledge; it is the inability to define proper goals in accordance with the acquired knowledge; it is a life deprived of Truth and righteous thinking. Ignorance has been a calamity that has existed in every time period. As has been the case with every nation, it is necessary to dry out this stagnant swamp, illuminate the minds of the masses with knowledge, guide young people to a proper and sound state of thinking and historical awareness, and prevent the negative trends that conflict with the quintessence of humanity; otherwise it will be impossible to remove ourselves from the crises this illness causes. We will find ourselves in a vicious circle.

    Was it not ignorance that caused us to fail to cultivate our fertile lands, to foster the growth of crops and fruits on our lush plains, to benefit from our gushing rivers? Was it not ignorance that turned our paradise-like world into ruin? We have lived completely unaware of our beauties and treasures, which are like the gardens of Eden; we have not been able to reap the benefits from our fields or from our minerals. Worst of all, by drowning ourselves in the illusion that we were not capable of doing anything with our own resources, we sacrificed our hope and willpower. And ignorance, which slowly ruined our people's abilities, has reached its darkest depths today...

    In this new era, at a time when scientific and technological thinking have rapidly developed and a flash of hope appeared, indicating that we could be pulled through these calamities, people have been drawn into another vortex: completely overwhelmed and dazzled with an inferiority complex, some assumed that crushing national awareness and conscience, destroying moral values, and shedding our high virtues was the only way to reach the level of developed civilizations. They've committed serious blows upon our national spirit and identity instead of embellishing the hearts with faith and equipping the minds with science and wisdom, which would bring prosperity to every corner of the world with art and trade.

    In a way, this second type of ignorance has been even more destructive and caused greater danger. The previous ignorance melted away when confronted with knowledge and science, but this next-generation ignorance has been able to penetrate everywhere, purporting to spread in the name of knowledge and civilization. It has been approved and applauded by everyone. While the previous ignorance turned the world into ruins and brought joy only to those who like darkness, the ignorance that emerged later swept away all virtuous qualities, including spiritual nobleness, selflessness, and altruism. It left the masses dumbfounded.

    Nevertheless, mentors and educators who have undertaken the role of building the future will wage war against these two types of ignorance. They will, and must, spare no effort and no legal means to elevate people to an era of enlightenment. In order to achieve this, it is essential to announce a mobilization of culture. We must turn all parts of our world – from homes to schools, coffeehouses to barracks – into learning centers. A general mobilization should be launched against ignorance, thoughtlessness, artificialness, and unawareness of national culture and merits; while decisions made under preconceived opinions should be criticized. Answers should be sought in science and scientific research; a new and fresh perception should be acquired.

    There is no doubt that the forerunners of this blessed duty can only be teachers and educators – fortunate educators who treat their students in a wholesome manner, caring for both their physical and moral attributes. They must consider the human position and relations within the universe as a whole. They must inspire and invigorate their hearts in line with the purpose of their creation. They must be teachers who grasp the physical and metaphysical worlds as two sides of one reality!

    Yes, denying the physical aspects of the human, as is the case in some monastic ways of life and some forms of mysticism, and considering the human with only his bodily and physical aspects, as in the case in some philosophical systems, has proved harmful to humankind.

    Is it at all possible not to realize that humankind is an exceptional being, who holds a prominent position within the whole universe and is charged with very sublime missions, and hence, is a candidate for various ranks and positions?

    How can a creature, who possesses an ability to benefit from all kinds of science and knowledge, who is granted the capability of intervening in events, who is equipped with skills to perceive, comprehend, and accept all types of beauty, who can distinguish many types of delights and pleasures, and who is insistently longing for “eternity,” be without a duty and ongoing future? Regarding the human as a being who is without any duty or responsibility, and thereby deprived of an endlessly long and happy future, means to lower this estimable being to the level of most primitive creatures; to deny all their physical and mental abilities and emotions; and to push him or her to the most bitter and stressful path and turn their world into misery. I do not know whether any other cruelty or grievance could be bigger than this!

    A real teacher and a true mentor is the fortunate person who teaches his or her students – who have been sent to the world with limitless possibilities – the righteousness and unerring ways of thinking. A real teacher invigorates their emotions, triggers their eagerness and willpower, and elates their spirits. A real teacher wipes out all darkness and iniquities that block students' ways, and delivers them towards luminescent sources. In due time, everything touched by these blessed, trustworthy, and truthful teachers will gain the highest value; things regarded worthless will become like gold; the most darkened souls will reach the dawn; individuals who are completely bound to serve their carnal desires will explore and discover their own souls and become kings of their selves.

    How blessed are those teachers who devote themselves to guiding, certifying, declaring, and manifesting the truth through all disciplines of science! Who follow their pupils in every stage of their development and always carry the vigor of elevating their students to the level of real humanity! Who sometimes become tense as a lightning bolt, but soften and calm down into gentle beams of light, illuminating the hearts and minds of their students!


    In a time of darkness and ignorance, we must challenge our preconceived notions, seeking answers in education and trust.

    It is another season of service. Our love-filled hearts are longing for Joseph but as desolate as Zaliha, and we are crying the lamentations of Jacob. Yet, we are waiting for glad tidings to arrive soon to open our eyes and lift our feelings.

    It is impossible not to feel the pain of our people when we witness their heart-breaking state while being dragged along under the debris, destructions, and disasters of these dead, dark years.

    Now please go! Go and visit all those countries that share a similar fate! I am sure you will not be able to come back without feeling painful sorrow for them! From the biggest cities to the smallest town centers; from the most crowded urban areas to the most remote villages; there are countless places that have been suffering under the dominance of ignorance and social problems. This combination is like a vortex that swallows whole communities – and sometimes whole countries. In these countries, you will witness such serious social, spiritual, and economic sicknesses. They were not healed in the first place and became chronic, and now they have become incurable.

    Among all these, however, the most irremediable illness is ignorance. Ignorance is such a chronic disease that it corrodes an entire nation and gnaws away at our existence. Ignorance is the deprivation of knowledge; it is the inability to define proper goals in accordance with the acquired knowledge; it is a life deprived of Truth and righteous thinking. Ignorance has been a calamity that has existed in every time period. As has been the case with every nation, it is necessary to dry out this stagnant swamp, illuminate the minds of the masses with knowledge, guide young people to a proper and sound state of thinking and historical awareness, and prevent the negative trends that conflict with the quintessence of humanity; otherwise it will be impossible to remove ourselves from the crises this illness causes. We will find ourselves in a vicious circle.

    Was it not ignorance that caused us to fail to cultivate our fertile lands, to foster the growth of crops and fruits on our lush plains, to benefit from our gushing rivers? Was it not ignorance that turned our paradise-like world into ruin? We have lived completely unaware of our beauties and treasures, which are like the gardens of Eden; we have not been able to reap the benefits from our fields or from our minerals. Worst of all, by drowning ourselves in the illusion that we were not capable of doing anything with our own resources, we sacrificed our hope and willpower. And ignorance, which slowly ruined our people's abilities, has reached its darkest depths today…

    In this new era, at a time when scientific and technological thinking have rapidly developed and a flash of hope appeared, indicating that we could be pulled through these calamities, people have been drawn into another vortex: completely overwhelmed and dazzled with an inferiority complex, some assumed that crushing national awareness and conscience, destroying moral values, and shedding our high virtues was the only way to reach the level of developed civilizations. They've committed serious blows upon our national spirit and identity instead of embellishing the hearts with faith and equipping the minds with science and wisdom, which would bring prosperity to every corner of the world with art and trade.

    In a way, this second type of ignorance has been even more destructive and caused greater danger. The previous ignorance melted away when confronted with knowledge and science, but this next-generation ignorance has been able to penetrate everywhere, purporting to spread in the name of knowledge and civilization. It has been approved and applauded by everyone. While the previous ignorance turned the world into ruins and brought joy only to those who like darkness, the ignorance that emerged later swept away all virtuous qualities, including spiritual nobleness, selflessness, and altruism. It left the masses dumbfounded.

    Nevertheless, mentors and educators who have undertaken the role of building the future will wage war against these two types of ignorance. They will, and must, spare no effort and no legal means to elevate people to an era of enlightenment. In order to achieve this, it is essential to announce a mobilization of culture. We must turn all parts of our world – from homes to schools, coffeehouses to barracks – into learning centers. A general mobilization should be launched against ignorance, thoughtlessness, artificialness, and unawareness of national culture and merits; while decisions made under preconceived opinions should be criticized. Answers should be sought in science and scientific research; a new and fresh perception should be acquired.

    There is no doubt that the forerunners of this blessed duty can only be teachers and educators – fortunate educators who treat their students in a wholesome manner, caring for both their physical and moral attributes. They must consider the human position and relations within the universe as a whole. They must inspire and invigorate their hearts in line with the purpose of their creation. They must be teachers who grasp the physical and metaphysical worlds as two sides of one reality!

    Yes, denying the physical aspects of the human, as is the case in some monastic ways of life and some forms of mysticism, and considering the human with only his bodily and physical aspects, as in the case in some philosophical systems, has proved harmful to humankind.

    Is it at all possible not to realize that humankind is an exceptional being, who holds a prominent position within the whole universe and is charged with very sublime missions, and hence, is a candidate for various ranks and positions?

    How can a creature, who possesses an ability to benefit from all kinds of science and knowledge, who is granted the capability of intervening in events, who is equipped with skills to perceive, comprehend, and accept all types of beauty, who can distinguish many types of delights and pleasures, and who is insistently longing for “eternity,” be without a duty and ongoing future? Regarding the human as a being who is without any duty or responsibility, and thereby deprived of an endlessly long and happy future, means to lower this estimable being to the level of most primitive creatures; to deny all their physical and mental abilities and emotions; and to push him or her to the most bitter and stressful path and turn their world into misery. I do not know whether any other cruelty or grievance could be bigger than this!

    A real teacher and a true mentor is the fortunate person who teaches his or her students – who have been sent to the world with limitless possibilities – the righteousness and unerring ways of thinking. A real teacher invigorates their emotions, triggers their eagerness and willpower, and elates their spirits. A real teacher wipes out all darkness and iniquities that block students' ways, and delivers them towards luminescent sources. In due time, everything touched by these blessed, trustworthy, and truthful teachers will gain the highest value; things regarded worthless will become like gold; the most darkened souls will reach the dawn; individuals who are completely bound to serve their carnal desires will explore and discover their own souls and become kings of their selves.

    How blessed are those teachers who devote themselves to guiding, certifying, declaring, and manifesting the truth through all disciplines of science! Who follow their pupils in every stage of their development and always carry the vigor of elevating their students to the level of real humanity! Who sometimes become tense as a lightning bolt, but soften and calm down into gentle beams of light, illuminating the hearts and minds of their students!

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