The first time I heard the name of Fethullah Gülen was when I was in high school in the late 1970s. If I am not mistaken, a friend of mine had given one of his cassettes to me and this was how I had heard about him. In those days, sermons of some preachers in mosques used to be recorded and copied.
The sermons of Fethullah Gülen were impressive. Sometimes it was explaining the truths of faith with very striking examples, usually from the lives of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) and his companions. What influenced me most among his cassettes was his sermon called "Golden Generation" that was highly popular at that time. The case that he was mentioning in that sermon was briefly about an event that took place in World War II. He was explaining in detail an order that had been given by a German commander who was fighting against the Soviet Empire. He had ordered his soldiers to pass over a marsh. He had sent a few lines of tanks into the marsh and it was only in the third or fourth round that other thanks were able to pass the march marching over the first tanks that sank into the march. Of course previous tanks had sunk into the marsh together with the soldiers in them. This was a striking analogy.
¨You see,¨ said Fethullah Gülen, ¨The "Golden Generation" must be like the soldiers who went into the marsh without any hesitation. If you and we are able to be like them those people coming after us would be at ease and find peace.¨ What was mentioned here was an example of an amazing altruism and a spirit of donation. The first time I met the followers of Fethullah Gülen was in 1980 when I entered to the Bosphorus University. They were reading Epistles of Light, written by Said Nursi, but used to keep their heads down and did not join student activities we organized in the university. They used to have a world apart. Despite our efforts, we couldn't incorporate them in our social activities. When we used to have our book critic meetings, their elder brothers who were also their seniors in the Gülen movement, used to organize another program and those who wanted to attend to our meetings weren't able to so. To our short trips, in spite of our insistent invitations, only few of them could attend as if observers. We scrutinized with their older brothers on this issue many times but we couldn't break their resistance.
They used to say clearly that ¨Our friends don't take on us, don't urge us to attend such kind of activities.¨ Frankly speaking, we wouldn't understand the reason under their behavior and wouldn't like it, believed that it wouldn't be much useful to have a dispute with our friends.
In the early 1980s, there was a trend among the followers of Gülen, which was called "Service" movement, to choose basic sciences to study. Those who were studying at engineering faculties entered the university exams again and started to study basic sciences. When we asked them about this choice they told us that their elders asked them to become teachers. Later on when we saw school and other institutions of education in Turkey and abroad we understood that this was a strategy to build an organiazation of education.