The Neighbour Next-door By Cemal Yigit

The heart is the engine of very human being. It also plays that significant role in shaping our actions and inactions in the mold of our social interactions, our tolerance level, and accepting people the way they are. In the Holy Bible in Luke chapter 6 verse 45, its states “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

For every human action and inaction, there are motives. For being kind, and also being irrational or wicked. That is the fundamental principle of life. Have we wondered why there are so much strife and hatred in the world today? Have we paused to ask ourselves what the issues are?  This brings me to the concept of altruism, and how it can solve a whole lot of societal problems.

The Hizmet movement has at the core of its values what is called irthar, the Islamic term for altruism, which means preferring others over oneself. Some might be wondering why I decided this line instead of the usual happenings in Turkey since the July 15th coup attempt. I figured out that I had dissipated so much energy on these issues without mentioning the probable causes of President Erdogan actions.

So, in deep thoughts, the concept of altruism struck me, and I placed one and two together and understood Erdogan’s actions against the Hizmet movement. I must state that the Hizmet movement is being persecuted not for plotting a coup or instigating violence of any sort. But simply because Erdogan has lost every sense of altruism there is, and he is no longer the neighbour next door that he pretended to be in the early stages of his administration.

As a start, Fethullah Gulen’s preaching and writings have the concept of altruism as the central theme. He emphasizes that “people with pure hearts will at the same time be full of feelings of beneficence and compassion toward humanity. And instead of living for themselves, they will try to make others live in the real sense by awakening their hearts to God.”

This altruistic attribute is what welcomes you upon encounter with a Hizmet, movement participant. This is so not because there is a creed somewhere that stipulates and religiously demands that, but because the Qur’an draws attention to the virtue of ithar (altruism) as follows: “…They prefer others over themselves, even though poverty be their lot” (al-Hashr 59:9). Erdogan’s actions are the opposite of the spirit of irthar despite claiming to be an advocate of religiosity.  But I promise not to dwell on Erdogan and his atrocities in this article.

Altruism is anchored on five pillars, and they are as follows:  Sacrificing one’s soul in God’s way (for God’s cause), being able, when it is necessary, to renounce a (rightful) claim to leadership or similar top position for the well-being and unity of society, preferring the welfare of others over one’s own, allowing others to benefit from one’s knowledge and ideas without expecting anything in return, giving to others out of one’s income-this includes responsibilities for the giving of the prescribed and voluntary alms (zakah and sadaqa), and showing warmth, speaking soft and kind words, being of use to others. These are some of the values of the Hizmet movement, hence the emphasis on dialogue, love, and tolerance.

Fethullah Gulen in his writings and teachings has suggested altruism as the antidote for the various conflicts ravaging the world. And that was why it is such a hard-sell to insinuate that a man who has spent over 50 years of his life preaching and teaching the values of peace, mutual respect, and altruism as being the mastermind of the coup in Turkey. And he says “Today, we desperately need the spirit of altruism, which is very closely related to faith, the religious life of the heart, being close to God, compassion, and helping others live in the real sense. What we need today are chivalrous souls who will push aside the world and its contents which appeal to fancies and desires; souls who will solely live for the sake of making others live, and will pray as such:”

And the life he has lived readily buttresses this concept. For instance, He has never had personal wealth to the level of sponsoring educational projects. Even though the impression in some quarters is that Fethullah Gulen owns most of the schools and hospitals operated by Hizmet movement participants. Far from it, I bet you he doesn’t even know some of the owners of the institutions or has met them before. These are only people his teaching and writings have inspired to place premium and invest in sound and quality education. On very many occasions he has been quoted to have said “I have no power, capital, or army—only an unstoppable love and enthusiasm for service. All I can do is explain this, tell those who will listen, and suggest.”

In a nutshell, the world would be a better place if we can imbibe the spirit of altruism.” Today, a transcending responsibility that falls on our shoulders is to rekindle the altruistic desire to let others live in the hearts of our fellow citizens…” Fethullah Gulen

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